From Peter Forsyth, The Work Of Christ; Cf. The Work of Christ at Amazon
There is a point in chapter iv where, in speaking freely, I have spoken loosely, and I have expressed myself with some want of caution likely to cause misunderstanding of my full meaning. I there say that the wrath of God is not to be taken as a pathos or affection, but as the working out of His judgment in a moral order. My intention was to discourage the idea that it was a mood or temper, and to connect it with the sure changelessness of God’s moral nature. But on reviewing the passage I find I have so put it that I might easily suggest that the anger of God was simply the automatic recoil of His moral order upon the transgressor, the nemesis which dogs him and makes hard his way, his self-hardening; as if there were no personal reaction of a Holy God Himself upon the sin, and no infliction of His displeasure upon the sinner. This is an impression I should be sorry to leave; for it is one that would take much of its most holy significance and solemn mystery out of the work of Christ.
Was Christ’s bearing of God’s wrath just His exposure to the action of the vast moral machine? Did He just become involved, as our rescuer, in the mechanism which regulates ethical Humanity, using at times man’s anger as its agent? This mechanism might be there possibly without the ordinance of a God that it should be so, or possibly as the institution of a deist and distant God who calmly watches His world spin with the motion He gave it. But is God not personally immanent and active in His own moral order? Did Christ just incur the automatic penalty of that order as He strove to save its victims? Was He just caught in the works? Or was there implied, and felt, also the element of personal displeasure acting through that order – the element that would differentiate wrath from mere nemesis, and infliction from mere recoil?
Granting then that there was in Christ’s suffering the element of personal displeasure and infliction, was it man’s or God’s? Was His treatment simply the reaction of sinful man against holiness, or was it the reaction of a holy God against sin? Did He Himself feel He was yielding to man’s dark will, or God’s will, darker, but higher and surer? Did He suffer, just as the holiest saint might in a wicked world, the extreme hate of men; or was God’s displeasure also upon Him? We have abundantly seen that this could not be upon Him as His own desert, not as it lies upon a guilty conscience. If He was made sin He was not made sinful; if He was made a curse He was not accursed. And have we not also seen that He who acted in our stead could act with no fitness and no precision if He took on Him the mere equivalent of what the guilty would have paid had they never been redeemed (that would have needed a generous arch-rebel), but only if he paid what was appointed as the price of their redemption? The uttermost farthing is not the last mite of their desert but of God’s ransom price. But the curse of sin’s sequel is most real whatever the amount. And it was certainly on Christ, by His freely putting Himself under it beside the men on whom it lay. That curse then – was it an infliction from God, which did not lift, did not cease to be inflicted, even when the Son put Himself in its way; or was it something that struck Him only from men below and not from God above at all?
Surely as it falls on man at least it is God’s infliction. We do not only grieve God but we provoke His anger. There is nothing we need more to recall into our sense of sin at present than this (though we must extend it, as we must extend our redemption, to a racial and solidary wrath of God in which we share). Its absence has slackened and flattened the whole tone and level of Christian life. The love of God becomes real anger to our sin, and to us as we identify ourselves with the sin, to us while, outside Christ, we are no more than members of a sinful race. Is not our satisfaction and increase in well-doing the personal blessing of God? Then surely our misery and infatuation on the other path is His personal anger. If a true evolution carries with it the personal and joyful action of God in blessing its results, is the result of degeneration a mere natural process in the moral region, secluded from God’s displeased action and infliction? Is it all His will only as a thing willed, and not as His action in willing it?