Say you to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.…
In this passage the Sovereign of the universe proclaims to all the subjects of His moral government the great sanctions of His law. Two powerful principles of action in our nature are addressed, namely, hope and fear. By the one we are allured to love and pursue that which is right; by the other, we are restrained from that which is wrong. The combined influence of both of these principles is, in most cases, necessary to the production and security of human virtue. God has established a natural and intimate connection between virtue and happiness, and between sin and misery, and in consequence of this connection, it must necessarily happen that it. will be, on the whole, well with the righteous and ill with the wicked.
I. Let us inquire what confirmation this doctrine receives from what we know of the present constitution of things, and from what we find to be THE USUAL COURSE OF GOD'S MORAL GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD, If we consult the structure and operations of our own souls, we shall find many striking intimations of this doctrine there. The Author of our nature has made us rational, free, moral, and accountable beings. For the direction and government of our conduct, He has implanted within us a principle, which we call conscience, which distinguishes actions as good or bad, and which always urges us to perform the one and to avoid the other. He has, moreover, enforced the authority of this principle, by annexing present pleasure to obedience to its dictates, and present pain to a violation of them. The passions of hope and fear ever attend on conscience; the one to encourage and reward faithful adherence to its commands; the other to restrain and punish a wilful transgression of them. Now, all this takes place in consequence of that moral constitution which God has given us, and of that intimate connection which He Himself has established between virtue and happiness and between sin and misery. So long, therefore, as the moral constitution of our nature continues the same, and so long as God continues to be the same infinitely wise, holy, and good Being, so long must it necessarily happen that, on the whole, it will be well with the righteous and ill with the wicked.
II. This doctrine receives additional confirmation from THE UNIVERSAL CONSENT OF MANKIND. In consequence of that moral nature which God has given us, by which we cannot but approve that which we know to be right, and condemn that which we know to be wrong, all men are agreed that vice (as far as they know it to be such) should be restrained and punished, and that virtue should be encouraged and rewarded. Hence, in all governments, laws are enacted against wickedness and for the protection and encouragement of the righteous.
III. A further confirmation of this doctrine is derived from what appear to be THE PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH GOD'S PRESENT MORAL GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD IS CONDUCTED. We find that, in most cases, present good is connected by Him with virtuous dispositions and habits; and present evil, with sinful tempers and practices. And although this connection is not always so intimate and inseparable, as that punishment immediately follows transgression, and reward instantly attends obedience, yet the natural retributions or effects of virtue and vice are exhibited with sufficient frequency, to show us in what light God regards them. With certain vices, we find that God has connected terrible physical evils, as their proper consequences. Intemperance, in most instances, induces disease, excruciating pains and premature death. It impairs the mind, and is generally attended with the loss of property, and invariably with the loss of reputation. With some other of the vices of sensuality are connected the most loathsome and destructive maladies, in the endurance of which the victim suffers a dreadful retribution. And with regard to other vices, it not unfrequently happens that the events of providence are so ordered in reference to the perpetrators of them that the wicked man becomes miserable, notwithstanding all his worldly possessions and honours, and all that he has can give him neither joy not quietude. On the contrary, God has connected with temperance and industry, health, cheerfulness, and competency. To the godly there is the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. This promise we see fulfilled, in part, in the general esteem and love in which the virtuous are held, and in the usual prosperity of their affairs. If they have not abundance, they have a competency; or, if they are abridged in that respect, they have friends and a contented mind. Besides, the events of providence are, in general, so ordered with regard to them, that they find "all things working together for their good." Upon these principles does the course of God's moral government of mankind appear now to be conducted. And from what is now known of the principles of His government, we may confidently infer that, during the whole of man's continuance in being, it will always be well with the righteous and ill with the wicked.
Parallel VersesKJV: Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.