Click here to learn more!
Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Fear of God; Punishment; Wicked (People); Thompson Chain Reference - Godliness; Profit and Loss; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Fear, Godly;
Verse Ecclesiastes 8:12. Though a sinner do evil a hundred times — If God bear so long with a transgressor, waiting in his longsuffering for him to repent and turn to him, surely he will be peculiarly kind to them that fear him, and endeavour to walk uprightly before him.
These files are public domain.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1832.
Compromise, despair and joy (8:1-17)
Wisdom helps people see the underlying meaning of things and teaches them that to act with pleasantness is better than to act with harshness (8:1). If, for example, people work in the king’s palace, they will do what the king says, partly because they have sworn before God to be obedient and partly because they will be punished if they disobey. But if they find the king’s command unreasonable, wisdom will show them a way out. They will wait for a suitable opportunity to act, then act in such a way that, though they do not disobey the king, neither do they sin against their conscience (2-5).
Despite the compromise he recommends, the writer knows that people remain uneasy about the outcome and about the future in general. They know they have no control over life or death. Just as there is no escape from a battle, so there is no guaranteed success to wrongdoers (6-8).
Often there appears to be no principle of justice at work in the world. The wicked go unpunished and, even when they are dead and buried, people still praise them for their achievements in life (9-10). It seems that this lack of punishment encourages people to sin (11-12a). The writer knows what the traditional teachers say: that those who fear God will be rewarded and those who are wicked will be punished (12b-13). But he also knows that often the opposite is true (14). People should not despair over these problems, but rather enjoy whatever God has given them in life (15). They should not spend weary days and sleepless nights puzzling over problems to which only God knows the answer (16-17).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2005.
His days be prolonged - i. e., in his wickedness Ecclesiastes 8:8.
“I” is emphatic, as if to mark the opposition to the “sons of men” Ecclesiastes 8:11.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1870.
Who is as the wise man? and who knows the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom makes his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed. I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him. Where the word of the king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What are you doing? ( Ecclesiastes 8:1-4 )
The king stands as the authority. You can't really come to the king and say, "Hey, what are you doing?" And the same is true of God. Paul said, "Who are you to say unto Him that has created you, 'Why hast Thou made me thus?'" ( Romans 9:20 ) The sovereignty of the king, which also speaks to the sovereignty of God.
Whoso keeps the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be? ( Ecclesiastes 8:5-7 )
So you don't really know what's going to be, when it's going to be. The future is so uncertain.
There is no man that has power over his spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it ( Ecclesiastes 8:8 ).
No man has any power over the spirit. When the time comes for you to die, you don't have any power over your spirit to retain it, to cause your spirit to remain. No power in death. The only one who really did exercise that kind of power over his spirit was Jesus Christ. When on the cross, it said, "He bowed his head and dismissed His Spirit" ( John 19:30 ). He had earlier said unto them, "No man takes My life from Me, I give My life" ( John 10:18 ). In order to keep with what He said, "No man takes My life," when He was hanging there on the cross after He cried, "It is finished" ( John 19:30 ), "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit" ( Luke 23:46 ), He bowed His head, and it said, "And He dismissed His Spirit." He said, "Okay, you can go now." And He died. He had power over His Spirit to dismiss it. We don't have that power.
All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man rules over another to his own hurt. And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity ( Ecclesiastes 8:9-10 ).
I see life moving on. People are soon forgotten after they die. Life is empty.
Now because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil ( Ecclesiastes 8:11 ).
One of the common mistakes that people make is that of misinterpreting the nature of God. One aspect of God's nature is His tremendous patience with rebelling man. God is exceedingly long-suffering. God puts up with so much. He doesn't strike immediately, but oftentimes forestalls judgment for months, for years. And thus, it appears that the evil man is getting away with his evil actions, his evil deeds. And people begin to misinterpret the long-suffering of God. Because He doesn't execute His sentence speedily, because He doesn't immediately come down to the fist of judgment upon a man, a man many times thinks he's getting away with his evil. Thinks he has put one over on God. Thinks that he has been clever and has hid his sin from God, or worse yet, thinks that God is condoning what he has done. Because I'm still blessed and I'm prosperous. "I'm a prosperous cheat, so God is condoning my cheating. It doesn't matter to God that I cheat. It doesn't matter to God that I lie or I steal or whatever because look, I'm blessed. It doesn't matter to God that I'm living an immoral life, because look at all that I have." And people begin to misinterpret God's grace and God's long suffering as God's approbation for their actions and for their lives. Not so. That's a fatal mistake to make. God does know. God does see. God does care. God will judge. But because God doesn't judge immediately, because the sentence of God isn't executed speedily, because God is giving you opportunity to turn, God is giving you opportunity to repent, God is giving you the opportunity to come out of your sin and to be saved and He's very patient with you. God's not willing that any should perish but that all should come into repentance. You see, the real delay in the return of Jesus Christ is just God's unwillingness that men should perish.
As Peter is talking about the second coming of the Lord, he said, "Hey, in the last days there are going to be scoffers that are going to come saying, 'Where is the promise of Jesus coming again? They've been talking about that for years. He hasn't come and He's not going to come. Things just continue as they were from the beginning.'" But Peter said, "God isn't slack concerning His promises, as some men count slackness, but He's faithful to usward. But He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" ( 2 Peter 3:9 ). Therefore, consider ye actually this time as God's patience in order that men might be saved.
So, because God has waited so long, because God hasn't speedily executed His sentence against the evil, people begin to assume that God has just withdrawn Himself. That Jesus isn't coming again. That all of the talk of the rapture of the church and the return of Jesus Christ is just piped dreams, a misinterpretation of scriptures. And they begin to make fun of the return of Jesus Christ. They begin to scoff at it, even as Peter said they would. It's because they are misinterpreting the patience of God waiting for men to be saved, because God is not willing that any should perish. So God is very kind. He's very loving. He's very patient. He's very long-suffering. He's giving you chance after chance after chance. But it is tragic when people misinterpret God's patience and God's kindness. And thus, they give their hearts over to evil because they think that God is too remote to care. "It doesn't really matter to God how I live. God doesn't really know." And they give their hearts and their lives over to evil to live an evil life. That is a tragic, fatal mistake of misinterpreting God's grace and God's goodness to you.
Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged ( Ecclesiastes 8:12 ),
Remember he was talking about how he saw that the ungodly man was living a long life, the righteous were dying young and the ungodly were living long. So, "Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged,"
yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him ( Ecclesiastes 8:12 ):
Now, in the end the best life is the life of fearing God, walking with God. Fear of the Lord is to depart from evil. So I know that in the long run that life is the best. It's going to be well with the man who has departed from evil.
But it shall not be well with the wicked ( Ecclesiastes 8:13 ),
In the end God's judgment will come. You can't escape it. God's judgment will come, and thus, I surely know it will be well with those that fear God. "But it shall not be well with the wicked."
neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he fears not before God. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: so I said that this also is vanity ( Ecclesiastes 8:13-14 ).
Things happen to both good and evil men. Same kind of experiences to both. A righteous man gets cancer; an unrighteous man gets cancer. A righteous man has prospered; an unrighteous man has prospered. Who makes this observation? What happens to one happens to the other. It's emptiness.
Then I commended merriment, because a man hath no better thing ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 )
And this is his human philosophy and human reasoning coming out again. Hey, it's great to be merry because a man has no better thing under the sun. And it's probably true. Under the sun, man, life is just very shallow and you live life in a very shallow level, and
under the sun the best thing to do is just to eat and drink and be merry ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 ):
Because man, that's all she wrote. That's the sum of life for you, so you might as well live it up because you're going to be burning after a while. So you know, live it up now. Life under the sun.
for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God gives him under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 ).
Might as well enjoy what you got now, because man, it's going to be tough later.
When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it ( Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 ).
A man cannot find out the work of God though you search it out. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2014.
There are two apparent inequities in Ecclesiastes 8:10. First, the wicked get an honorable burial. Second, people soon forget the godly. These verses provide instances of exceptions to the retribution doctrine.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2012.
The limitations of Wisdom 8:10-17
Wisdom can enable a person to avoid the king’s wrath (Ecclesiastes 8:2-9), but it cannot enable him or her to understand fully why God deals with people as He does (Ecclesiastes 8:10-17).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2012.
Though a sinner do evil an hundred times,.... That is ever so many times, a certain number for an uncertain; though he lives in a continued course of sin, being resolved upon the above consideration to give himself a swing to his lusts. The Targum renders it a hundred years; though be should live so long in sin, yet at last should be accursed Isaiah 65:20. This and what follows are said to check the boldness and presumption of the sinner upon the patience of God; and to make the people of God easy under the delay of justice, and the prosperity of the wicked;
and his [days] be prolonged: or rather, "and he prolongs unto him" o; that is, God prolongs unto him, not days only, but the execution of the sentence against his evil works; or defers his wrath and punishment; so Jarchi,
"and the holy blessed God prolongs to him, and does not take vengeance on him;''
and to this purpose is the Targum,
"and from the Lord is given to him space to return;''
yet surely I know; from the word and promise, and from experience, having observed it in a multitude of instances, which have abundantly confirmed the truth;
that it shall be well with them that fear God; not with a servile but filial fear, with a holy, humble, fiducial, affectionate, and an obediential fear; not through any terrible apprehension of his majesty, his judgment, his wrath now and hereafter; but under a sense of his being and perfections, and especially his mercy, grace, and goodness: it is well with such persons in all things; with respect to things temporal they shall not want what is proper for them; and with respect to things spiritual they are interested in the love, grace, and mercy of God; have much made known to them; are remembered by him; the sun of righteousness rises upon them; the eye of God is on them, and his heart towards them, and his hand communicates every needful supply to them; and they are guarded, not only by his angels, but by himself; and it is well with them at all times; in times of public calamity they are either taken from it beforehand, or preserved in it; all afflictions are for their good; it goes well with them at death and judgment; and they will be happy both in the millennium state and in the ultimate glory, So the Targum,
"it shall be well in the world to come with them that fear the Lord;''
see Psalms 34:7; with this compare Isaiah 3:10; it is added,
which fear before him: whose fear is not hypocritical, but sincere and hearty; not in show only, but in reality; not the precepts of men, and as before them, but as the sight of God; having always a sense of omniscience and omnipresence before them; and especially this fear is exercised by them when they are his house, in the assembly of his saints, attending his word and ordinances: or "which fear at his presence"; which fills them with a holy awe, as wall as with joy and gladness. The Targum is,
"which fear before him, and do his will.''
o מאריך לו "et prolongans ei", Montanus; "et prolongat in Deus dies", Pagninus; so Mercerus, Junius Tremellius, supply it "et prorogat dei Deus poenam", Piscator; "et differt Deus iram suam propter illium", Vatablus.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1999.
|The Evil of Oppressive Rulers.|| |
9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt. 10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity. 11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: 13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.
Solomon, in the beginning of the chapter, had warned us against having any thing to do with seditious subjects; here, in these verses, he encourages us, in reference to the mischief of tyrannical and oppressive rulers, such as he had complained of before, Ecclesiastes 3:16; Ecclesiastes 4:1.
1. He had observed many such rulers, Ecclesiastes 8:9; Ecclesiastes 8:9. In the serious views and reviews he had taken of the children of men and their state he had observed that many a time one man rules over another to his hurt; that is, (1.) To the hurt of the ruled (many understand it so); whereas they ought to be God's ministers unto their subjects for their good (Romans 13:14), to administer justice, and to preserve the public peace and order, they use their power for their hurt, to invade their property, encroach upon their liberty, and patronise the acts of injustice. It is sad with a people when those that should protect their religion and rights aim at the destruction of both. (2.) To the hurt of the rulers (so we render it), to their own hurt, to the feeling of their pride and covetousness, the gratifying of their passion and revenge, and so to the filling up of the measure of their sins and the hastening and aggravating of their ruin. Agens agendo repatitur--What hurt men do to others will return, in the end, to their own hurt.
2. He had observed them to prosper and flourish in the abuse of their power (Ecclesiastes 8:10; Ecclesiastes 8:10): I saw those wicked rulers come and go from the place of the holy, go in state to and return in pomp from the place of judicature (which is called the place of the Holy One because the judgment is the Lord's,Deuteronomy 1:17, and he judges among the gods,Psalms 82:1, and is with them in the judgment,2 Chronicles 19:6), and they continued all their days in office, were never reckoned with for their mal-administration, but died in honour and were buried magnificently; their commissions were durante vitâ--during life, and not quamdiu se bene gesserint--during good behaviour. And they were forgotten in the city where they had so done; their wicked practices were not remembered against them to their reproach and infamy when they were gone. Or, rather, it denotes the vanity of their dignity and power, for that is his remark upon it in the close of the verse: This is also vanity. They are proud of their wealth, and power, and honour, because they sit in the place of the holy; but all this cannot secure, (1.) Their bodies from being buried in the dust; I saw them laid in the grave; and their pomp, though it attended them thither, could not descend after them,Psalms 49:17. (2.) Nor their names from being buried in oblivion; for they were forgotten, as if they had never been.
3. He had observed that their prosperity hardened them in their wickedness, Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ecclesiastes 8:11. It is true of all sinners in general, and particularly of wicked rulers, that, because sentence against their evil works is not executed speedily, they think it will never be executed, and therefore they set the law at defiance and their hearts are full in them to do evil; they venture to do so much the more mischief, fetch a greater compass in their wicked designs, and are secure and fearless in it, and commit iniquity with a high hand. Observe, (1.) Sentence is passed against evil works and evil workers by the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, even against the evil works of princes and great men, as well as of inferior persons. (2.) The execution of this sentence is often delayed a great while, and the sinner goes on, not only unpunished, but prosperous and successful. (3.) Impunity hardens sinners in impiety, and the patience of God is shamefully abused by many who, instead of being led by it to repentance, are confirmed by it in their impenitence. (4.) Sinners herein deceive themselves, for, though the sentence be not executed speedily, it will be executed the more severely at last. Vengeance comes slowly, but it comes surely, and wrath is in the mean time treasured up against the day of wrath.
4. He foresaw such an end of all these things as would be sufficient to keep us from quarrelling with the divine Providence upon account of them. He supposes a wicked ruler to do an unjust thing a hundred times, and that yet his punishment is deferred, and God's patience towards him is prolonged, much beyond what was expected, and the days of his power are lengthened out, so that he continues to oppress; yet he intimates that we should not be discouraged. (1.) God's people are certainly a happy people, though they be oppressed: "It shall be well with those that fear God, I say with all those, and those only, who fear before him." Note, [1.] It is the character of God's people that they fear God, have an awe of him upon their hearts and make conscience of their duty to him, and this because they see his eye always upon them and they know it is their concern to approve themselves to him. When they lie at the mercy of proud oppressors they fear God more then they fear them. They do not quarrel with the providence of God, but submit to it. [2.] It is the happiness of all that fear God, that in the worst of times it shall be well with them; their happiness in God's favour cannot be prejudiced, nor their communion with God interrupted, by their troubles; they are in a good case, for they are kept in a good frame under their troubles, and in the end they shall have a blessed deliverance from and an abundant recompence for their troubles. And therefore "surely I know, I know it by the promise of God, and the experience of all the saints, that, however it goes with others, it shall go well with them." All is well that ends well. (2.) Wicked people are certainly a miserable people; though they prosper, and prevail, for a time, the curse is as sure to them as the blessing is to the righteous: It shall not be well with the wicked, as others think it is, who judge by outward appearance, and as they themselves expect it will be; nay, woe to the wicked; it shall be ill with them (Isaiah 3:10; Isaiah 3:11); they shall be reckoned with for all the ill they have done; nothing that befals them shall be really well for them. Nihil potest ad malos pervenire quod prosit, imo nihil quod non noceat--No event can occur to the wicked which will do them good, rather no event which will not do them harm. Seneca. Note, [1.] The wicked man's days are as a shadow, not only uncertain and declining, as all men's days are, but altogether unprofitable. A good man's days have some substance in them; he lives to a good purpose. A wicked man's days are all as a shadow, empty and worthless. [2.] These days shall not be prolonged to what he promised himself; he shall not live out half his days,Psalms 55:23. Though they may be prolonged (Ecclesiastes 8:12; Ecclesiastes 8:12) beyond what others expected, yet his day shall come to fall. He shall fall short of everlasting life, and then his long life on earth will be worth little. [3.] God's great quarrel with wicked people is for their not fearing before him; that is at the bottom of their wickedness, and cuts them off from all happiness.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1706.
August 23, 1857 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." Ecclesiastes 8:12 .
I have heard it sometimes said by wicked men, when they would arraign the justice of the Most High, that it is unjust that God should condemn men for the use of the powers which he himself has given them. This most subtle evil has often grieved the hearts of those who are weak and ignorant, and have not seen its untruthfulness for to speak plainly of it, it is a gross lie. God does not condemn men for the use of the powers he has given them; he condemns them for the misuse of those powers; not for employing them, but for employing them as they ought not to employ them; not for thinking, not for speaking, not for doing, but for thinking, speaking, and doing, contrary to his law God damneth no man for the use of the powers which he hath given him, let that be again repeated but he doth condemn them for the abuse of those powers, and for their impudence in daring to turn those powers, which he hath given them, for his honor, against his service, and against his throne Now, my friends, there is no power which God hath given us, which may not be employed for God. I believe that David uttered a great truth, as well as a great exhortation to himself, when he said, "Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name." There is nothing in man that God has not there, which may not be employed in God's service. Some may ask me whether anger can be brought in. I answer, yes. A good man may serve God by being angry against sin; and to be angry against sin is a high and holy thing. You may ask me, perhaps, whether ridicule can be employed. I answer, yes. I believe we may even rightly employ it in the preaching of God's word. I know this, I always intend to use it; and if by a laugh I can make men see the folly of an error better than in any other way, they shall laugh, and laugh here, too; for ridicule is to be used in God's service; and every power that God hath implanted in man I will make no exception, may be used for God's service, and for God's honor. What man hath gotten for himself by the fall, cannot be employed to serve God with, we cannot bring before God Adam's robbery, to be a sacrifice to the Almighty, nor can our own carnal and sinful passions honor the Most High, but there are natural powers which God hath conferred, and none of these are in themselves sinful. I would have them, therefore, employed for the Master. Yea, even those powers with which it seems impossible to worship, such as the powers of assimilation, eating, and drinking, may be brought to honor God; for what says the Apostle? "whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Jesus Christ." Now, you will notice that fear may be yoked into the service of God. True fear, not fearing, but believing, saves the soul; not doubt, but confidence, is the strength and the deliverance of the Christian. Still, fear, as being one of those powers which God hath given us, is not in itself sinful. Fear may be used for the most sinful purposes; at the same time it may be so ennobled by grace, and so used for the service of God, that it may become the very grandest part of man. In fact, Scripture has honored fear, for the whole of piety is comprehended in these words, "Fear God;" "the fear of the Lord;" "them that fear Him." These phrases are employed to express true piety, and the men who possess it. Fear, I have said, may ruin the soul, alas! it has ruined multitudes. O Fear, thou art the rock upon which many a ship hath been wrecked. Many a soul hath suffered spiritual destruction through thee, but then it hath been not the fear of God, but the fear of man. Many have rushed against the thick bosses of the Almighty's buckler, and defied God, in order to escape the wrath of feeble man. Many through fear of worldly loss have brought great guilt into their consciences; some through fear of ridicule and laughter have not had the boldness to follow the right, and so have gone astray and been ruined. Yea, and where fear doth not work utter destruction it is capable of doing much damage to the spirit. Fear hath paralysed the arm of the most gigantic Christian, stopped him in his race, and impeded him in his labors. Faith can do anything, but fear, sinful fear, can do just nothing at all, but even prevent faith from performing its labors. Fear hath made the Christian to sorrow, both by night and day, a cankering fear lest his wants should not be provided for, and his necessities supplied, has driven the Christian to unworthy thoughts; and distrustful, doubting fear hath made him dishonor God, and prevented his sucking the honey out of the promises. Fear hath kept many a child of God from doing his duty, from making a bold profession; hath brought bondage into his spirit. Fear misused, thou art the Christian's greatest curse, and thou art the sinner's ruin. Thou art a sly serpent, creeping amongst the thorns of sin, and when thou art allowed to twist thyself around manhood, thou dost crush it in thy folds, and poison it with thy venom. Nothing can be worse than this sinful fear; it hath slaughtered its myriads and sent thousands to hell. But yet it may seem a paradox; fear, when rightly employed, is the very brightest state of Christianity, and is used to express all piety, comprehended in one emotion. "The fear of God" is the constant description which the Scripture gives of true religion. And now, beloved, I shall want you this morning to have some little patience with me whilst I try to go after certain fearing souls whose fear is of the right kind, even a fear which gendereth salvation, but who through it are now suffering some degree of torment, and are wishing to be delivered from it. An old Puritan says, "Jesus Christ would shake hands with a man that had the palsy." I must try and do the same this morning. Some of you have the palsy of fear. I want to come after you and say unto you, "Fear not;" to bid you to be of good cheer, because God would comfort you. There are five different kinds of fear, that persons are laboring under which I would now endeavor to address. I. There is, first, THE FEAR CAUSED BY AN AWAKENING CONSCIENCE. This is the lowest grade of godly fear; here all true piety takes its rise. By nature, the sinner does not dread the wrath of God; he thinks sin a little thing; he looks upon its pleasures, and forgets its penalty, he dares the Almighty to the war, and lifts his puny arm against the Eternal. No sooner, however, is he awakened by God's Spirit, than fear takes possession of his heart, the arrows of the Almighty drink up his spirit, the thunders of the law roll in his ears; he feels his life to be uncertain, and his body frail, He dreads death, because he knows that death would be to him the prelude of destruction; he dreads life, for life itself is intolerable, when the wrath of God is poured out into his soul. Many of you who are now before me have passed through that dreadful ordeal of suffering under a sense of the wrath of God. We, my brethren, shall never forget, to our dying day, that hour of desperate grief when first we discovered our lost estate. By the preaching of the Word, by the reading of the Scriptures, by prayer, or by some Providence, we were led to look within; we discovered the evil of our hearts, and we heard how terribly God would punish the transgressor. Do you not remember how we started from our beds in the morning, having slept uneasily, and bowed our knees in prayer, and prayed until the hot sweat ran down our brow; but rose without a hope that we had been heard? Do you not recollect how, in our business, we were sometimes so absent in mind, that those who were round about us thought that we must have been bereaved of our wits? Do you not well recollect how the best dainties of our meals seemed to have the bitterness of wormwood in them, and the sweetest draughts were mingled with gall; how all day lone we sorrowed, and went to our bed at night with another prayer, still as full of agony and still as hopeless; and by night we could not sleep, but dreamed of the wrath to come, saw dreams more horrible than we had dreamed before; each night and day the wrath of God seemed to increase, and our pangs and agonies became more terrible? Oh, we shall never forget it; those of us who have passed through the same will never let that era be forgotten, for the time of its beginning was the time of our conversion, and the time of its end was the time of our salvation. Have I any here who are in this same state this morning? I am coming after you, and in coming after you I proclaim the words of my text, "Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." Sinner, it shall be well with thee if thou art now made to fear the wrath of God on account of thy sin; if God the Spirit hath poured forth the vials of Almighty wrath into thy soul, so that thou art cast down and sore vexed. Think not thou shalt be destroyed; it shall be well with thee. Let me comfort thee now, whilst thou art suffering these things, remember that what thou sufferest is that which all God's people have had to suffer in a measure. Many poor hearts come to me when I am sitting to see the anxious ones, and at other times, and they tell me they are in such deep distress; surely never anyone felt as they feel. And when I begin to unfold to them the experience of all saints, and tell them how it is a well-trodden path which almost every traveler to heaven has had to tread, they stand astonished, and think it cannot be so. I tell thee sinner, that thy deepest woes have been felt by some one, even more keenly than thou feelest them now. Thou sayest, "I sink in deep mire where there is no standing." Why, man, there have been some that have sunk far deeper than thou hast sunk. Thou art up to thy ancles; I have known some to have been up to the loins, and there have been some that have been covered over their very heads so that they could say, "All thy waves and thy billows have gone over me." Your distresses are very painful, but they are not singular, others have had to endure the same. Be comforted, it is not a desert island; others have been there too; and if they have passed through this, and won the crown, thou shalt pass through it, and inherit yet the glory of the believer on the breast of Christ. But I will tell thee something else to comfort thee; I will put this question to thee Wouldst thou wish to go back and become what thou once wast? Thy sins are now so painful, that thou canst scarce eat, or drink, or sleep. There was a time when thy sins never haunted thee, when thou couldst drink and may with Satan and with sin as merrily as anyone. Come, wouldst thou like to be as thou wast then? "No," I hear thee say, "no; my Master, my God, grieve me more, if so it pleaseth thee, but do not let me be hardened any more." Ask the poor strickened conscience, in the first agonies and throes of his grief, whether he would like to be a hardened sinner? "No," he says; and when he hears the blasphemer swear against God, the tear is in his eye; he says, "Lord, I thank thee for my miseries, if they deliver me from hardness of heart. I can extol thee for my agonies, if they save me from such dire presumption, such rebellion against thee." Well, then, be of good cheer, your condition, you see, is not the worst of all; there is a worse state yet. Oh, it thou hast come so far, hope thou in Christ, thou shalt come further yet. But the great consolation is this, Jesus Christ died for thee. If God the Holy Ghost hath shown thee that thou art dead in sin, and if he hath revealed to thee the desperate character of thine iniquity, and broken thee in pieces with penitence on account of thy guilt hear me, I speak not now at hap-hazard, I speak with God's authority Jesus Christ died for thee; yes, for thee, thou vilest of the vile. I am no general redemptionist, I believe Jesus Christ died for as many as will be saved; I do not believe he died in vain for any man alive. I have always believed that Christ was punished instead of men. Now, if he were punished in the stead of all men, I could see no justice in God punishing men again after having punished Christ for them. I hold and believe and, I think, on Scriptural authority, that Jesus Christ died for all those who believe or will believe; and he was punished in the stead of all those who feel their need of a Savior, and lay hold on him. The rest reject him, despise him, sin against God, and are punished for their sine. But those who are redeemed, having been blood-bought, shall not be lost. Christ's blood is too precious to have been shed for men who are damned. It is too awful a thing to think of the Savior standing in a sinner's stead, and then that sinner after all having to bear his own iniquities; I can never indulge a thought which appears to be so unrighteous to God, and so unsafe to men. All that the Savior bought he shall have, all that his heavenly Father hath given him, he says, shall come unto him. Now here is something solid for thee, poor soul. I ask again, dost thou know and feel thyself to be lost and ruined? Then the Savior bought thee, and will have thee; then he was punished for thee and thou never wilt be punished again; then he hung upon the cross for thee that thou mightest not perish. For thee there is no hell, so far as thou art concerned. The eternal lake is quenched; the dungeons of hell are broken open, their bars are cut in sunder. Thou art free; no damnation can ever seize thee, no devils can ever drag thee to the pit. Thou art redeemed, and thou art saved. "What!" sayest thou, "I redeemed! Why, sir, I am full of sin." It is the very reason why thou art redeemed. "But I feel myself to be the guiltiest of all the human race." Yes, and that is just the evidence that Christ died for thee. He says himself, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." If you have got abundance of good works, and think you can go to heaven by them, you will perish; but if you know your guilt, and confess it it is not my affirmation, but the affirmation of the Scriptures "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom," says the Apostle, "I am chief." Lay hold on that, poor soul: and then I repeat to thee the text, "Yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." It shall be well with thee yet, and black though thou art, thou shalt one day sing among the bloodwashed ones in glory everlasting. That is the first stage of fearing God; we shall now proceed to another. II. There are many who have believed, and are truly converted, who have a fear which I may call THE FEAR OF ANXIETY. They are afraid that they are not converted. They are converted, there is no doubt of it. Sometimes they know they are so themselves, but, for the most part, they are afraid. There are some people in the world who have a preponderance of fear in their characters it seems as if their mind, from its peculiar constitution, had a greater aptitude for the state of fear than for any other state. Why, even in temporal matters they are always fearing; and, when these poor souls get converted, they are always afraid that they are not so. First, they will tell you they are afraid they never repented enough; the work in their hearts, they say, was not deep; it was just superficial surface-ploughing, and never entered into their souls. Then they are quite sure they never came to Christ aright, they think they came the wrong way. How that can be no one knows, for they could not come at all except the Father drew them; and the Father did not draw them the wrong way, Still they hold that they did not come aright; then if that idea is knocked on the head, they say they do not believe aright; but when that is got rid of, they say, if they were converted they would not be the subject of so much sin. They say they can trust Christ, but they are afraid they do not trust him aright; and they always do, what you may, come back to the old condition; they are always afraid. And now, what shall I say to these good souls? Why, I will say this, "Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." Not only those who believe, but those who fear, have got a promise, I would to God that they had more faith; I would that they could lay hold on the Savior, and had more assurance, and even attain unto a perfect confidence; but if they cannot shall I utter a word that would hurt them? God forbid; "Surely it shall be with even with them that fear God, with them that fear before him." There are some of these poor creatures who are the holiest and most heavenly minded people in all the world. I have seen men who, with poor, desponding spirits, have exhibited the most lovely graces. There has not been the blushing healthful beauty of the rose; but the lily hath its beauties, sickly though it seemeth, and these, though they be faint and weak, have eminently the graces of humility and meekness, of patience and endurance, and they practice more of meditation, more of self examination, more of repentance more of prayer, than any race of Christians alive. God forbid that I should vex their spirits: there are some of God's best children who always grow in the shade of fear, and can scarcely attain to so much as to say, "I know whom I have believed." Darkness suits them best, their eyes are weak, and much sunlight seems to blind them, they love the shadows; and though they thought they could sing, "I know my Savior, I love him, and he loves me;" they go back again, and begin to groan in themselves, "Do I love the Lord; indeed, if it be so, why am I thus?" Now, I am about to utter a great paradox I believe that some of these poor fearing people have got the greatest faith of anybody in the world; I have sometimes thought that great tear, great anxiety, must have great faith with it to keep the soul alive at all. See that man drowning, there there is another in the water too, I see. He in the distance thinks he can swim: a plank is thrown to him; he believes himself to be in no danger of sinking. Well he clutches the plank very leisurely, and does not seem to grasp it firmly. But this poor creature here, he knows he cannot swim, he feels that he must soon sink Now put the means of escape near him, how desperately he clutches it; how he seems as if he would drive his fingers through the plank! He clutches it for life or death, that is his all, for he must perish if he is not saved by that. Now, in this case, he that fears the most believes the most; and I do think it is so sometimes with poor desponding spirits. They have the greatest fear of hell, and the greatest fear of themselves, and the greatest dread that they are not right. Oh, what a faith they must have, when they are enabled to throw themselves on Christ, and when they can but whisper to themselves "I think that he is mine" "Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear-before him." But I want to comfort these poor souls a little. I do not think a minister does well in killing the lambs; for where would be the sheep next year if he should do so? But at the same time it is his business to make the lambs grow into sheep if he can. And you who are fearing, I would not say a word to hurt you, but I would say a word to comfort you if I could; I would remind you that you are not fit to judge of yourself. You have been just now examining yourself, and you came to the conclusion that you really are not a child of God. Now, you will not be offended with me, but I would not give one single farthing for your opinion of yourself. Why, I tell you, you have not any judgment. It is not long ago you were a base, presumptuous sinner, and then you thought yourself all right. I did not believe you then. Well, then you began to reform yourself. You practiced many good works, and thought, surely you were mending your pace to heaven then. Then I knew you were wrong. Now you are becoming a true believer in Christ, but you are very fearful, and you say you are not safe. I know you are; you are not fit to judge. I should not like to see you elevated to the bench; you would scarcely know how to deal with other men, for you would not know how to deal with yourself; and who is he that can deal with himself? We sometimes think ourselves proud, and we are never more humble than when we feel that we are proud. At other times, we think ourselves to be wonderfully humble, and we are never more proud than then. We sometimes say within ourselves, "Now I think I am overcoming my corruptions;" that is just the time when they are about to attack us most severely. At another time we are crying, "Surely I shall be cut off," that is just the period when sin is being routed, because we are hating it the most and crying out the most against it. We are not qualified to fudge ourselves, our poor scales are so out of order, that they will never tell the truth. Now, then, just give up your own judgment, except thus far. Can you say that you "are a poor sinner and nothing at all, and that Jesus Christ is your all in all?" Then be comforted. You have no right to be anxious; you have no reason to be so. You could not say that if you had not been converted. You must have been quickened by grace, or else you would not be anxious at all; and you must have faith, or else you would not be able even to lay hold of Christ so much as to know your own nothingness and his all sufficiency. Poor soul! be comforted. But shall I tell thee one thing? Dost thou know the greatest of God's people are often in the same condition as thou art now? "No, no," says the fearful soul, "I do not believe that, I believe that when persons are converted they never have any fear," and they look at the minister, and they say, "Oh, but if I could be but like that minister; I know he never has doubts and fears. Oh, if I could be like old deacon So-and-so such a holy man how he prays! Oh, if I could feel like Mr. So-and-so, who calls to visit me, and talks to me so sweetly. They never doubt." Ah, that is because you do not know. Those whom you think to be the strongest, and are so in public, have their times of the greatest weakness, when they can scarcely know their own names in spiritual things. If one may speak for the rest, those of us who enjoy the greatest portions of assurance have times when we would give all the world to know ourselves to be possessors of grace; when we would be ready to sacrifice our lives if we might but have the shadow of a hope that we were in the love of Jesus Christ our Lord. Now, little one, if the giants go there, what wonder if the dwarfs must? What if God's favourite and chosen ones, what if his valiant men, the body guard of Christ, those men whose swords are on their thighs, and who stand up for the truth and are its champions if they sometimes are weak, what wonder if thou shouldest be weak? What if the heirs of salvation and the soldiers of the cross sometimes feel their knees feeble and their hands hang down and their hearts faint, what wonder if thou, who art less than the least of all saints shouldst sometimes be in trouble too? Oh, be of good cheer; fear will never kill anybody. "Doubts and fears," said an old preacher, once, "are like the toothache nothing more painful, but never fatal." They will often grieve us, but they will never kill us, they distress us much but they will never burn the soul. Fears even do good at times. Let me not however, praise them too much. I heard a preacher say, the other day, that fear was a good housekeeper. I said, "So I have heard, but I do not believe it. She never will keep a cupboard full; she is a good doorkeeper; she can keep beggars and thieves away; she is a good housedog to guard us and protect us in the night, and warn us of dangers, lest we fall into them." The fear of anxiety then, is a good fear. Take this promise "Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." III. And now, my brethren, in the next place there is A FEAR WHICH WORKS CAUTION. When we get a little further advanced in the Christian life, our present state is not so much a matter of anxiety as our future state. We believe that we shall never totally fall from grace. We hold it as a cardinal doctrine of our religion that by no means will God ever leave his people or suffer them to perish. But we often think within ourselves, I am afraid lest I should bring dishonor on the cause of Christ; I am afraid lest, in some moment of temptation, I shall be left to go astray; I am afraid lest I should lose that hallowed peace and that delightful joy which it has been my privilege to enjoy, and shall yet go back into the world. God grant I may not prove to be a hypocrite, after all! Now, I have hundreds of persons just now in this place, who are feeling like this, and I will tell you one ill effect of this fear. These persons say, "I dare not join the church, because I am afraid I shall fall." A friend mentions to them that they hold it to be their duty, if they have believed, to make a profession of their faith in baptism. They say, "Well, I believe it to be my duty to partake of the two institutions of our Savior; I ought to be buried with him in baptism unto death; I ought also, I know, to hold fellowship with him in the Lord's supper, but I dare not join the church; for suppose I should bring dishonor upon the cause, suppose I should disgrace the church, what a sad thing it would be!" That fear is good, in itself. But do you think that you would not bring disgrace on Christ's cause as it is? You are always at the place of worship; you are never away. You were always looked upon as being one of the church, though you have not made a profession. Now, if you were to sin, would it not dishonor the church even now? You know your relatives and friends esteem you to be a Christian. You would scarce dishonor the church more if you were actually to join it; for you really are united with it. If you would be consistent, you must never go to the chapel any more. Just stop away; give up your seat; turn right down irreligious, and then you cannot dishonor the church. Do one or the other, but never think you will be saving Christ's church by dishonoring God, as you really are doing now. And then I will ask you this question, Where do you think a man is safest in the paths of obedience, or in the paths of disobedience? Now you know you are disobedient; you are quite sure of that. Do you think you are safer where your wayward will leads you, or where God's Spirit points the way? And remember this, if you cannot trust God to keep you standing, you must have a poor faith indeed. If you cannot just risk that and be united with the church, and hope that Christ will keep you, then I fear you will have some terrible fall. If you do not join the church, you will bring far more disgrace upon it by being outside it, than you would have done if you had been united with it and had been kept. Ah, friends, I believe that union with the Christian church is often a means under God, of preserving men from sin; for then they think there is a bond upon them, and a sacred claim, and many of them are more careful what they do. And I trust there would be the same check upon you. But now, I daresay that the poor creature who has been uttering this, thinks I am about to condemn her; and the poor man who has been talking so thinks I would cut him off and say he is no child of God. God forbid! My text belongs to him. You are afraid you will fall into sin "Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." If you should tell me you were not afraid of falling, I would not have you in the church for the world; you would be no Christian. All Christians, when they are in a right state, are afraid of falling into sin. Holy fear is the proper condition of a child of God. Even the most confident will not go into presumption. He that knows his love to the Savior, and his Saviour's rove to him, is yet afraid lest he should dishonor him. If there be a man who has an assurance of such a kind, as to put fear out of the question, so that he is never afraid of sinning, I will tell him he has a satanic assurance, an assurance which came from Satan and not from God for the more assured we are of our own conversion, the more careful we shall be lest we should offend God, and the more fearful lest by word or look, or deed, we should grieve God's Holy Spirit. I love your fear, and love you too for it, you are my brother and sister in Jesus, if you can truly say that you fear lest you should sin. Seek then, my friends, to grow in this fear of caution, obtain more and more of it; and whilst thou dost not distrust the Savior, learn to distrust thyself more and more every day. IV. I shall not detain you many more minutes; I have only to notice in the next mace the fear which I may call THE FEAR OF JEALOUSY. Strong love will usually promote jealousy. "Love is as strong as death;" then comes the next, "Jealousy is cruel as the grave." We cannot love strongly without feeling some jealousy I mean, not jealousy against the object of our love; for, "perfect love casteth out fear" but jealousy against ourselves. "Oh what jealousy," says the Apostle, addressing the Corinthians, "what revenge," did grace work in you when you were first converted. The true believer, when he gets his Savior in full possession, and in blissful communion, is so jealous lest any rival should intrude in his heart; be is afraid lest his dearest friend should get more of his heart than the Savior has. He is afraid of his wealth; he trembles at his health, at his fame, at everything that is dear to him, lest it should engross his heart. Oh, how often does he pray, "My Lord, let me not be of a divided spirit; cast down each idol self-will, self-righteousness." And I tell you the more he loves, the more he will fear lest he should provoke his Savior by bringing a rival into his heart, and setting up an Antichrist in his spirit; so that fear just goes in proportion to love; and the bright love is congenial, and must walk side by side with the deepest jealousy and the profoundest fear. Seek, my brethren to know the meaning of communion, and you must know, then, the meaning of fear; for fear and communion must, to a great degree go together. V. And now I will conclude by just mentioning that fear which is felt WHEN WE HAVE HAD DIVINE MANIFESTATIONS. Did you never, in the silence of the night, look up and view the stars, feeding, like sheep, on the azure pastures of the sky? Have you never thought of those great worlds, far, far away, divided from us by almost illimitable leagues of space? Did you never, whilst musing on the starry heavens, lose yourself in thoughts of God; and have you never felt, at such a time, that you could say with Jacob, "How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven." Have you never seen the craggy hills lift their summits to the skies? Have you never marked the tempests sailing o'er them, and seen the thunder-cloud burst upon the mountain, and heard the heavens shake beneath the tramp of the Most High, and seen the skies all glaring red with fire, when God hath sent his thunder-bolts abroad; and have you not trembled that God was there, and in other and happier seasons have you not in your chamber been so wrapt in devotion, have you not so manifestly known the presence of God that you were filled with trembling? Fear took hold upon you and made all your bones to shake, not because you dreaded God, but because you then saw some of his greatness. It is said of Moses, that when he saw the burning bush he feared to look upon God. God is so great a Being, that the rightly constituted mind must always fear when it approaches into his presence. The Eastern subject, when he came before his king, regarded him as a being so infinitely superior to himself, that even in the vestibule he began to shake, and as he neared the throne he began to totter and his cheek was blanched with fear. Like Esther, he would faint when he came before the king, so glorious was his majesty. And if it be so with earthly monarchs, how fearful must it be to come into the presence chamber of the King of kings, and to feel one's self near him! Why, I believe that even in heaven we shall have this kind of fear. Certainly the angels have it. They dare not look on God. They veil their faces with their wings, and whilst they cry aloud, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts yet they dare not view him. The very sight of him might destroy them, and they tremble at his presence. Now this kind of fear, if you have ever felt it, if it has been produced in your heart by contemplation of God, is a high and hallowed thing, and to you this promise is addressed "Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." And now, might I go round again this morning I cannot do it personally, yet by my voice to the poor trembling soul who is overcome with sin. Poor man, where art thou? Hath the devil got hold of thee, and have thy sins covered thee up, so that thou canst not see the face of the sun, and behold the light of mercy? Listen to me; you may never hope till you have left off hoping in yourself. You have never any right to believe, till you have nothing to believe in yourself. Until you have lost all, you have no right to take anything. But now, if you have lost all your own good works and righteousness, if you feel that there is no reason why you should be saved, that is the very reason why you should be. My Master bids me tell the naked to come to his heavenly wardrobe, and take his royal garment for their clothing. He bids me tell the hungry to haste away to his heavenly granaries, and feed upon the old corn of the kingdom to their very full. He bids me tell the thirsty that the river of life is broad and deep, and flows freely to all those who thirst after it. Now, sinner, if thou art sick of sin, and grieved at heart where thou standest, follow me in spirit in these words: "O Lord, I know my guilt, and I confess my misery. If thou dampest me to all eternity, thou wilt be just; but, O Lord, have mercy upon me, according to thy promise, which thou hast made in Christ Jesus, unto those who confess their faults." If that came from your heart, go out of that door, and sing all the way home, for you are a pardoned sinner. You shall never see death the second death, the death of the soul. Go home to your chamber! let your heart burst itself in tears of thankfulness. Go, and there prostrate yourself, and bless God that he has enabled you to see that only Jesus can do a helpless sinner good. And then, "go your way; eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart. Let your head lack no oil, and your face no ointment; for God hath accepted you; and you have a right to be happy. Live cheerfully and joyfully all the days of your life, hereafter and for ever."
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:12". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2011.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29