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.
Solomon had looked abroad, and had seen sin abounding; — men revelling in iniquity, vainly counting that, because God kept silence, He world never awake to judgment. Who can deny that this is true of our own day?
I. THE OPERATION OF THE PRINCIPLE.
1. It has its influence amongst merely professing Christians. It lies at the root of their indecision.
2. It has its influence upon the religiously indifferent. To them there is nothing threatening in the horizon. What may come they know not, nor are they much concerned to know. They hope to be prepared for things as they turn up upon the wheel of fortune. To them there is a powerful argument in — "All things as they were." A change may come, certainly, but there is no promise of Such change coming now. Were the penalty of transgression suspended over their heads, ready to fall upon the commission of sin, they might be restrained; but it is in the future, — how far they know not, nor do they care to inquire.
3. There is yet another class by whom the principle is embraced, and held as a part of their determined creed — the professedly infidel (2 Peter 3:3, 4). To the eye of one who cares not to analyze the past, or to indulge in serious thoughts of the future, things appear to be now as they have been, and as they must ever be; and thus present, living, undeniable facts are made to give the lie to everything predictive of a change.
II. THE EVILS OF THE PRINCIPLE.
1. It erects a false standard between right and wrong. Punished or not punished, now or in the future — or, if such a thing might be, never punished at all — such a fact could in no way affect the character of an essentially evil deed.
2. It argues a deplorable ignorance of, or dishonesty towards, other parts of the Divine administration. If God be the universal Lawgiver; if the same hand which penned the Decalogue impressed upon Nature her laws, and fixed the principles of her movements; then there is something to be apprehended from a course of sin, even though a just recompense may be long delayed. Our sky may be bright, but our sins, in the meantime, may be gathering into one big thunder-cloud on the horizon, which is destined to break upon us in one overwhelming torrent of direst woe. Even so when this life and another are taken as the periods. We may sin for a season — "sentence against an evil work" may not be "executed speedily" — but all nature joins testimony with the Bible in declaring that sin shall not go unpunished.
3. The conduct is opposed to the entire economy under which we live. Man is sinful: human nature is fallen. God designs to raise it; but in a manner consistent with His own character and the character of man. Moral agents have to be dealt with; — He therefore employs moral means. Divine patience and longsuffering are essential to probation; and thus we see that the forbearance which God exercises toward a sinner is fundamental in that gracious economy under which we live. According to the terms of the evangelical covenant, sin cannot adequately be punished at once. It would be to frustrate His own designs — to do violence to His own arrangements.
4. The conduct is abusive of the richest mercy, and the highest privileges of Heaven. We pity the blindness and impenitence of the antediluvians, who, in spite of the warnings of a righteous God, brought down the death-floods of a wakened wrath; — but ours is a more fearful portion; and a bitterer verdict awaits us if, "because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, our hearts are more fully set in us to do evil."
(J. H. Rylance.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.