Say you to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.…
1. "Good and evil are often so promiscuously distributed in the present life, that we cannot with certainty infer what are the principles upon which God's government of mankind is conducted. The fraudulent and wicked are frequently prosperous and rich and flattered, while the righteous are often poor, neglected, oppressed, and despised." This is frequently the fact, and were the present the only state in which mankind were to exist, and were worldly riches and honours the only and the proper reward of virtue, and were they, in themselves, that real good which mankind fancy them to be, then, this fact alone would render this whole doctrine suspicious, and the arguments adduced in support of it inconclusive. But it must first be proved that the present is the only state in which mankind are to exist; a position, which few will pretend to sustain, and against which innumerable arguments array themselves, suggested by the structure and operations of our own minds; the desires and hopes which are ever springing up within us; by our capacity of knowledge, goodness, and happiness, which here are only imperfectly attained, and also by that very unequal distribution of good and evil, in the present life, which has been objected to.
2. It is objected that "the miseries attending upon wickedness in this world are punishment enough for the vicious, and therefore they will be exempted from further suffering hereafter." It is true that, in the present life, there is much misery attending upon wickedness; but this furnishes not the least ground for the supposition that misery will ever cease to be connected with sin, as its natural and necessary consequence. On the contrary, it affords a very strong proof that this connection will ever exist, and that so long as men are wicked, so long will they be miserable. It is agreeable to the nature of things that it should be so. In the natural world, we find that fruit corresponds to the nature of the tree that bears it; the grain that is reaped to the seed that was sown.
3. It is inconsistent with the Divine mercy that the wicked should ever experience any more suffering than what they endure in this world." It savours not a little of presumption for creatures of such limited, weak, and erring minds as ours to undertake to decide, with regard to the various measures of the Divine government, what is and what is not consistent with God's mercy. No one thinks to arraign the Divine government for connecting with sin, in the present life, distress of mind, disgrace, and suffering. And were our stay on earth prolonged to millions of years it would still be thought just and right, and entirely consistent with the mercy of God, that the same evils should attend the wicked, and the same good should attend the righteous. It is an error, common to many, that they look upon the evils which attend upon sin in this life, as a punishment vindictively appointed by God, to be endured by the transgressor, as a penalty for having violated His law, and that after he has endured it, he has paid the price of his transgression; the sin for which he has suffered is expiated. and therefore he thinks it would be unjust that he should be subjected to any more suffering, although his disposition be not changed in the least. There is hardly a sentiment that can be named, more injurious in its influence than this, where it is fully entertained. This error proceeds from misapprehension of the design of God in connecting evil with sin. The miseries which are consequent upon sin are not appointed vindictively, as a punishment; but benevolently, as preventives of it. Our Maker has kindly placed at the entrance of every path of vice, pain, disgrace, and suffering, to deter us from entering therein; or if we have entered, to make us retrace our steps. Every onward step we take in a sinful course, these evils assail us.
Parallel VersesKJV: Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.