The Reasonableness and Equity of a Future Judgment
Ecclesiastes 3:17
I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.


1. Seeing all men come hither without any knowledge or choice, having their life, as it were, obtruded on them; and seeing ordinarily (according to the general complaints of men) the pains of this life do overbalance its pleasures; so that it seemeth, in regard to what men find here, a punishment to be born; it seemeth also thence equal that men should he put into a capacity, on their good behaviour in this troublesome state, of a better state hereafter, in compensation for what they endure here; otherwise God might seem not to have dealt fairly with His creatures.

2. Seeing man is endued with a free choice and power over his actions, and thence by a good or bad use thereof is capable of deserving well or ill, it is just that a respective difference be made, according to due estimation; and that men answerably should be proceeded with either here or hereafter, reaping the fruits of what they voluntarily did sow.

3. Seeing there is a natural subordination of man to God, as of a creature to his Maker, as of a subject or servant to his lord, as of a client or dependant to his patron, protector, and benefactor, whence correspondent obligations do result; it is just that men should be accountable for the performance, and for the violation or neglect of them.

4. Seeing also there are natural relations of men to one another, and frequent transactions between them, founding several duties of humanity and justice; the which may be observed or transgressed; so that some men shall do, and others suffer much injury, without any possible redress from otherwhere, it is fit that a reference of such cases should be made to the common Patron of right, and that by Him they should be so decided, that due amends should he made to one party, and fit correction inflicted on the other.

5. Whereas also there are many secret good actions, many inward good dispositions, good wishes, and good purposes, unto which here no honour, no profit, no pleasure, no sort of benefit is annexed, or indeed well can be (they being indiscernible to men), there are likewise many bad practices and designs concealed or disguised, so as necessarily to pass away without any check, any disgrace, any damage or chastisement here, it is most equal that hereafter both these kinds should be disclosed, and obtain answerable recompense.

6. There are also persons whom, although committing grievous wrong, oppression, and other heinous misdemeanours, offensive to God and man, yet, by reason of the inviolable sacredness of their authority, or because of their uncontrollable power, no justice hero can reach, nor punishment can touch; who therefore should be reserved to the impartial and irresistible judgment of God.

7. On these and the like accounts, equity requireth that a judgment should pass on the deeds of men; and thereto the common opinions of men and the private dictates of each man's conscience do attest.

8. Every man also having committed any notable misdemeanour (repugnant to piety, justice, or sobriety), doth naturally accuse himself for it, doth in his heart sentence himself to deserve punishment, and doth stand possessed with a dread thereof; so, even unwillingly, avouching the equity of a judgment, and by a forcible instinct presaging it to come.


1. It is needful to engage men on the practice of any virtue, and to restrain them from any vice; for that indeed without it, no consideration of reason, no provision of law here, can he much available to those purposes.

2. The same supposition is also needful for the welfare of human society; the which, without the practice of justice, fidelity, and other virtues, can hardly subsist; without which practice indeed a body of men would be worse than a company of wolves or foxes; and vain it were to think that it can anywhere stand without conscience; and conscience, without fear checking, or hope spurring it on, can be no more than a name: all societies, therefore, we may see, have been fain to call in the notion of a future judgment to the aid of justice and support of fidelity; obliging men to bind their testimonies by oaths, and plight their truth by sacraments; implying a dread of that Divine judgment to which they solemnly do then appeal and make themselves accountable.

3. But, further, the persuasion concerning a future judgment is, on peculiar accounts, most requisite to the support of religion and defence of piety. It is certain that no authority, on whatever reason or equity grounded, if it do not present competent encouragements to obedient subjects, if it do not hold forth an armed hand, menacing chastisement to the refractory, will signify anything, or be able to sustain the respect due to it; so it is generally; and so it is even in regard to God, the sovereign King and Governor of the world, as piety doth suppose Him: His authority will never be maintained, His laws will never be obeyed, the duties towards Him will never be minded, without influence on the hopes and fears of men; they will not yield to Him any reverence, they will nowise regard His commands, if they may not from their respect and obedience expect good benefit, if they dread not a sore vengeance for their rebellion or neglect; nothing to them will seem more fond than to serve Him who doth not well requite for the performance, than to revere Him, who doth not soundly punish for the neglect of His service. Forasmuch also as piety doth require duties somewhat high and hard, as much crossing the natural inclinations and desires of men, it peculiarly, for the overruling such aversion, doth need answerably great encouragements to the practice, and determents from the transgression of what it requireth; on which score it may also further appear that temporal judgments and recompenses here are not sufficient to procure a due obedience to the laws of piety; for how indeed can he, that for the sake of piety doth undergo disgrace, loss, or pain, expect to be satisfied here? What other benefits can he presume on beside those which he doth presently forfeit?

(Isaac Barrow, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

WEB: I said in my heart, "God will judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work."

Man's Unrighteousness Contrasted with God's Righteousness
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