Say you to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.…
"God hangs great weights on slender wires." Thus He has made Eternity to depend on Time, and our state in heaven or in hell to be decided by our character on earth. Our whole history, in like manner, often hangs upon a trifle; and that which moulds our character, upon an incident which we hardly notice. Hence even the least actions in themselves and in their connection with others, in leading to results, forming habits and moulding character, are of the highest importance to us, and demand our most thoughtful reflection.
I. THEIR CONNECTION WITH ONE ANOTHER. No action stands alone; each is a link in a chain stretching out to eternity. Take the case of an intemperate and unchaste man; his habits are neither without a cause preceding nor an effect to follow. It is quite possible that several generations backward, some ancestor of his, through some so-called trivial accident, some casual meeting, first gave way to drunkenness. Now look onwards a few steps; we will suppose ourselves in a hospital a generation or two hence: as we pass from ward to ward we come to a descendant of the man before us — a poor creature, more miserable than any we have seen dying of some miserable disease. The cause of his suffering is to be found in the intemperance and incontinency of those who have gone before him. Step by step it may be traced back to the trifle which led his forefather to his first night of revelling and drunkenness. Take an instance on the brighter side — the thought which first hit on the art of printing. This too arose from some so-called trivial accident. We do not know what preceded it; but we may be sure it did not come without some connection in its author's mind. Every great result strikes its roots deep into the past. But what has followed? has it stood alone, unconnected, the act of one isolated mind? is not the world rather full of its consequences, one of which, perhaps the most blessed, is that men of all kindreds and nations may now read in their own tongues the wonderful works of God? Both good and evil actions fructify, and reproduce themselves in various forms. Whither their roots shall extend, and when shoot up again, whither their seed may be carried, where it may fall, and what it shall produce, who can tell? Sometimes the least promising seed will produce the most abundant return of fruit. So that we may not pronounce upon the importance of an action, for we do not see its connection; neither may we think any action trivial, for it may, I had almost said it must, lead to consequences of importance throughout eternity.
II. THE EFFECT OF OUR ACTIONS ON OURSELVES AND ON OTHERS.
1. On ourselves. Every step we take not only brings us forward, but leaves a footprint behind. Every thought, word, action, all we suffer and all we do, not only has its own importance, and leads us forward in the march of life, but also leaves its impression, its foot print upon us, and tends to form, confirm, or change our character. There is a memorable instance in point, illustrating both the weakness of yielding and the nobleness of holding fast to one's convictions, in the visit of Henry III of France to Bernard de Palissy in the dungeons of the Bastille. The King desired to give the celebrated potter his liberty, asking as, the price of his pardon the easy condition of giving up his Protestant faith; My worthy friend, said the monarch, "you have now been forty-five years in the service of my mother and myself; we have suffered you to retain your religion amidst fire and slaughter; I am now so pressed by the Guises and my people, that I find myself compelled to deliver you into the hands of your enemies, and tomorrow you will be burnt unless you are converted." The old man bowed, touched by the goodness of the King, humbled by his weakness, but inflexible in the faith of his fathers. "Sire," he answered, "I am ready to give up the remainder of my life for the honour of God; you have told me several times that you pity me, and now in my turn I pity you, who have used the words 'I am compelled'; it was not spoken like a king, Sire, and they are words which neither you, nor the Guises, nor the people shall ever make me utter: Sire, I can die." By continually yielding, the monarch had become a slave; by continually acting up to his convictions, the potter had become more than a king. "He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city."
2. Look next at the effect of our actions upon others. Not only our children, friends, servants, but all we have any intercourse with, are more or less affected by us. Everyone knows the force of example, the impulse we have to imitate. Everyone musk have noticed the contagion, as it were, of opinion, which from house to house influences a whole circle of acquaintanceship. How often have you felt the devotion or the carelessness of the person kneeling by your side in church! How frequently must you have noticed the way in which you catch the habits and manners of those you live with; the way in which you too are watched, and observed, and copied by others. So that, if you did nothing directly to influence others, the effect of your indirect influence is yet incalculable. But you have direct influence also to exercise and give account of. Everyone does act directly upon others. Everyone does hinder or encourage, lead into sin, sin with, or lead away from sin, and walk godly with, others. And where is this to stop? You ruin or, under God, save others. This goes on; their influence ruins or saves others, and so on and on forever. Solemn, indeed, are the words of our Saviour on this subject. (Luke 17:1, 2.) On the other hand, it is equally encouraging to know that no virtuous effort is ever lost. It has been said that every pulsation made in the air by the feeblest human effort produces a change in the whole atmosphere; so that the air is one vast library, on whose pages are forever written all that man has ever said or woman uttered. Is it not equally true, that the feeblest effort made for God has an influence on some heart, and that on others onwards and onwards throughout all generations? that, as the air is one vast library of whatever has moved it from eternity, so the hearts and consciences of men are a vast register of every effort made, every word spoken, every influence exerted upon them for God and for His Christ from the beginning to the end of time; a register to be read out on the last great day.
(F. Morse, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.