“The punishment of our iniquity is accomplished. Remember that sin must be punished. Any theology which offers the pardon of sin without a punishment, ignores the major part of the character of God.
God is love, but God is also just—as severely just as if He had no love, and yet as intensely loving as if He had no justice. To gain a just view of the character of God you must perceive all His attributes as infinitely developed.
Justice must have its infinity acknowledged as much as mercy. Sin must be punished. This is the voice which thunders from the midst of the smoke and the fire of Sinai:
‘The soul that sinneth it shall die;’ ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’
‘Sin must be punished’ is written on the base of the eternal throne in letters of fire. And, as the damned in hell behold it, their hopes are burned to ashes.
Sin must be punished, or God must cease to be. The testimony of the Gospel is not that the punishment has been mitigated or foregone, or that justice has had a sop given it to close its mouth.
The consolation is far more sure and effectual. Say ye unto the daughter of Zion that ‘the punishment of her iniquity is accomplished.’ Christ hath for His people borne all the punishment which they deserved.
And now every soul for whom Christ died may read with exultation—’The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished.’ God is satisfied, and asks no more.
Sin deserved God’s wrath; that wrath has spent itself on Christ. The black and gathering clouds had all been summoned to the tempest, and manhood stood beneath the dark canopy waiting till the clouds of vengeance should empty out their floods.
‘Stand thou aside!’ said Jesus—’Stand thou aside, My spouse, My Church, and I will suffer in thy stead.’
Down dashed the drops of fire; the burning sleet swept terribly over His head, and beat upon His poor defenceless person, until the clouds had emptied out their awful burden, and not a drop was left.
Beloved, it was not that the cloud swept by the wind into another region where it tarries until it be again called forth, but it was annihilated, it spent itself entirely upon Christ. There is no more punishment for the believer, since Christ hath died for him.
In His dying, our Lord has satisfied the divine vengeance even to the full. Then this, too, must satisfy our conscience.
The enlightened conscience of a man is almost as inexorable as the justice of God, for an awakened conscience, if you give it a false hope, will not rest upon it, but crieth out for something more.
Like the horse-leech it saith—’Give, give, give.’ Until you can offer to God a full satisfaction, you cannot give the conscience a quietus.
But now, O daughter of Zion, let thy conscience be at rest. Justice is satisfied; the law is not despised: it is honoured; it is established.
God can now be just, severely so, and yet, seeing that thy punishment is accomplished, thou mayest come with boldness unto Him, for no guilt doth lie on thee.
Thou art accepted in the Beloved; thy guilt was laid on Him of old, and thou art now safe.
‘In thy Surety thou art free,
His dear hands were pierced for thee;
With His spotless vesture on,
Holy as the Holy One.’
Come thou boldly unto God, and rejoice thou in Him. Lest, however, while God is reconciled and conscience is quieted, our fears should even for an instant arise, let us repair to Gethsemane and Calvary, and see there this great sight, how the punishment of our iniquity is accomplished.
There is the God of heaven and of earth wrapped in human form. In the midst of those olives yonder I see Him in an agony of prayer. He sweats, not as one who labours for the bread of earth, but as one who toils for heaven.
He sweats ‘as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ It is not the sweat of His brow only, but ‘All His head, His hair, His garments, bloody be.’
God is smiting Him, and laying upon Him the punishment of our iniquities. He rises, with His heart exceeding sorrowful even unto death. They hurry Him to Pilate’s judgment-seat.
The God of heaven and earth stands in human form to be blasphemed, and falsely accused before the tribunal of His recreant creature. He is taken by the soldiery to Gabbatha.
They strip Him, they scourge Him; clots of gore are on the whip as it is lifted from His back. They buffet Him, and bruise Him with their blows; as if His robe of blood were not enough, they throw about His shoulders an old cloak, and make Him a mimic king.
Little knew they that He was the King of kings. He gives His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that pluck off the hair; He hides not His face from shame and spitting.
Oh! what shall be said of Thee, thou Son of man? In what words shall we describe Thy grief? All ye that pass by behold and see if there was ever any sorrow like unto His sorrow that was done unto Him!
Oh God, thou hast broken Him with a rod of iron; all Thy waves and Thy billows have gone over Him. He looks, and there is none to help; He turns His eye around, and there is none to comfort Him. But see, through the streets of Jerusalem He is hastened to His death.
They nail Him to the transverse wood; they dash it into the ground; they dislocate His bones; He is poured out like water; all His bones are out of joint; He is brought into the dust of death; agonies are piled on agonies.
So now that man may reach to heaven, misery is piled on misery, what if I say hell on hell! But Jesus bears the dreadful load.
At last He reaches the climax of anguish, grief could go no higher. ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!’ was the sum total of all human misery.
The gathering up of all the wrath of God, and all the sorrow of man into one sentence. And thus He dies! Say ye unto the daughter of Zion that her punishment is accomplished.
‘It is finished!’ Let the angels sing it; hymn it in the plains of glory; tell it here on earth, and once again say ye unto the daughter of Zion that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!
This, then, is the joyous note we have to sound this morning.”
–Charles H. Spurgeon, “A Message From God for Thee” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 8 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1862), 638–640. This is from a sermon on Lamentations 4:22, preached on November 16, 1862, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.