Say you to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.…
I. WHO ARE THE RIGHTEOUS AND IN WHAT SENSE IT SHALL BE WELL WITH THEM.
1. In this mixed state, when men are neither perfectly good nor bad, the exact boundaries are not so easily fixed, especially when an application is made of these characters to particular persons, and we judge concerning ourselves, in which case prejudice and self-partiality often mislead men; and superstition, a very prevailing error among mankind, contributes to these errors by leading them to imagine that there is righteousness and religion in those things which have really nothing to do with it. In general the righteous is he in whose heart the morally good or pious, virtuous and pure affections rule, and whose practice is habitually conducted by their direction; the man who loves God above all things; not the person who is altogether free from any infirmities, which, strictly speaking, may be called sinful, and who never, through the whole course of his life, has by ignorance or surprise been drawn into those indeliberate actions, which upon a review he cannot justify. If this were the sense of righteousness, who could pretend to it?
2. In what sense it shall be well with him. The meaning certainly is not that he shall possess all external advantages in this world, whereby his condition shall be rendered more easy and prosperous than that of the wicked. That is contrary to fact and experience, as well as to many plain declarations of Scripture. The stable uniform desire of the good man, is, that God may "lift on him the light of His countenance," or grant him His "favour, which is better than life." Nor is it to be thought that Divine providence will always interpose to rescue the righteous from those calamities that come upon the world of the ungodly in which they live; it was not the intention of the prophet to assure them, that they should be preserved from the ruin of Jerusalem, and the common fall of Judah, which was to be expected because of their crying national sins, in which the righteous had no share; but that in all events they should be happy, even though they were involved in the common desolation, and perished with the multitude of sinners. We must, therefore, in order to understand fully how it shall be well with the righteous, enlarge our notion of the state of man; we must consider him in the whole of his being, his soul as well as his body and in every condition and period of his existence. It is thus we judge concerning our state within the compass of the present life, and its affairs. A man may be easy and prosperous in the main, when his principal interests are flourishing, although he meets with various disappointments in things which are of lesser moment. In like manner we may justly say, it is well with good men when their souls prosper; they enjoy inward peace and satisfaction, and their future happiness is secured, though they are liable to sufferings in this present time.
II. UPON WHAT EVIDENCE THE PROPHET'S ASSERTION RESTS, or how it appears that there is a connection between righteousness and felicity.
1. Consider the state and constitution of human nature as in fact we find it, abstracting from any inquiry concerning the Author of it and His designs and conduct towards us. Scarcely is there any man not conscious, in some measure, of the satisfaction which arises from morally good dispositions; and that this is stronger and more intense than the enjoyments which any sensible object can yield appears from this consideration, that the latter are frequently sacrificed to the other. Who doth not know, on the other hand, the pains of a self-accusing heart?
2. Consider righteousness not merely as the glory of the human mind, and the naturally felicitating exercise and attainment of its powers, but further, as it is approved and recommended to mankind by the Deity, their rightful and supreme Ruler. We have the clearest evidence that He approves the good actions of men, and disapproves the bad; whence we infer that one part of His own character is moral rectitude, which is a perfection that necessarily appears to our minds amiable, and every way worthy of the most excellent nature; and since He is our natural Governor, by whose will we exist, are preserved, and all the circumstances of our condition are determined, here is a sufficient intimation of the rule, according to which He doth, and will always proceed, in His dispensations towards us, making us happy or unhappy.
(J. Abernethy, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.