Man's Inability to Keep the Law Perfectly
Ecclesiastes 7:20
For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not.…

Here is the undoubted character of all the human race, fixing imperfection and sinfulness on the best of the kind in this world, and so concluding all to be liable to sin, and under it.

I. WHAT IS LEGAL PERFECTION, OR PERFECT KEEPING OF THE COMMANDS. It is a perfect conformity of heart and life to the commands of God; and implies —

1. A perfection of the principles of action (Matthew 22:37).

2. A perfection of the part, as of obedience. No part must be lacking, every command of whatsoever nature must be kept (Galatians 3:10).

3. A perfection of degrees in every part (Matthew 22:37). Sincerity is not enough in the eye of the law. In everything one must come to the highest pitch, or there is no perfection.

4. A perfection of duration or continuance (Galatians 3:10). One bad trip after a course of obedience will mar all.


1. Adam before the fall was able to have kept the commands perfectly; he might have attained it; for "God made him upright" (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

2. The man Christ, who was not a mere man, but God-man, who was not only able to keep the law perfectly, but actually did so.

3. The saints in heaven are able, and do actually perfectly obey whatever God's will to them is (Hebrews 12:23).

4. But since Adam fell, no mere man is able, while in this life, either of himself, or by virtue of any grace now given, to keep the commands perfectly (James 3:2). This inability is owing to the remains of corruption that cleaves to every one of them in this mortal state (Romans 7:2)


1. How many ways the commands may be broken.

(1) In deeds done contrary to the command of God, or not done, though required.

(2) In words, either speaking what we ought not, or not speaking what we ought, or speaking what we ought, but not in the manner commanded.

(3) In thoughts. One may sin by thinking what he ought not, by omitting of good thoughts, and by not managing good thoughts, in the manner required by the law.

2. In what respect the saints sin daily, in thought, word and deed.

(1) Negatively: not that the saints fall into gross sins daily, against the letter of the law, either in thought, word or deed. Such spots are not the spots of God's people. Christ's dwelling by His Spirit in them, the breaking of the reign of sin in them by the power of Divine grace, and their habitual tenderness and watchfulness, hold them off that way of life.

(2) Positively. Besides that saints may be surprised into gross sins in thought, word and deed, sometimes by inadvertency, weakness and violence of temptation, which is the burden of their souls, they sin every day in thought, word and deed when they keep the strictest watch and have most of the Divine assistance.

3. How these failures of theirs break the commands, while they sincerely endeavour to obey them. Why, the moral law is the eternal rule of righteousness, and in whatever state the creature be, he is bound to obey his Creator, whether in a state of nature or grace, glory or damnation. And though perfection be not attainable in this life, yet it is the saints' duty as well as that of others. So every coming short of that perfection is their sin, needing to be taken away by Christ's blood.


1. The Scripture attests that there is no man without sin (1 Kings 8:46; James 3:2). If any man set up for it in himself, the Spirit of God says he deceives himself (1 John 1:8). See an unanswerable question (Proverbs 20:9).

2. The best have a corrupt as well as a gracious principle, making the spiritual combat never ending till death give the separating stroke (Galatians 5:17).

3. We are taught always to pray for pardon, "Forgive us our debts": but sinless creatures need no pardons. This clearly shows that all sin, and so come short of perfect obedience.

4. Consider the spirituality of the law and its extent with human weakness, and you will see this clearly.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

WEB: Surely there is not a righteous man on earth, who does good and doesn't sin.

Wisdom a Protection
Top of Page
Top of Page