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.
The wise man points out in the text one general cause of the impenitence of mankind. "The heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil." Why? "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily." This shameful, but too common, inclination we will endeavour to expose. What are the perfections of God? They are, ye answer, truth, which is interested in executing the threatenings that are denounced against sinners: wisdom, which is interested in supplying means of re-establishing order: and particularly justice, which is interested in the punishing of the guilty. I reply, your idea of truth is opposite to truth: your idea of wisdom is opposite to wisdom: your idea of justice is opposite to justice. The delay of the punishment of sinners, ye say, is opposite to the truth of God: on the contrary, God hath declared that He would not punish every sinner as soon as he had committed an act of sin. The delay of the punishment of sinners, ye say, is opposite to the wisdom of God: on the contrary, it is this delay which provides for the execution of that wise plan which God hath made for mankind, of placing them for some time in a state of probation in this world, and of regulating their future reward or punishment according to their use or abuse of such a dispensation. The delay of the punishment of sinners, ye say, is repugnant to the justice of God. Quite the contrary. The delay of the punishment of sinners will not seem incompatible with the justice of God unless ye consider that perfection detached from another perfection, by which God in the most eminent manner displays His glory — I mean His mercy. What would have become of David if Divine mercy had not prolonged his days after he had fallen into the crimes of adultery and murder; or if justice had called him to give an account of his conduct while his heart, burning with a criminal passion, was wishing only to gratify it? It was the longsuffering, the patience of God that gave him time to recover himself, to get rid of his infatuation, to see the horror of his sin, and to say under a sense of it, "Have mercy upon me, O God," etc. What would have become of St. Peter if God had called him to give an account of himself while, frightened and subverted at the sight of the judges and executioners of his Saviour, he was pronouncing those cowardly words, "I know not the man"? It was the longsuffering and patience of God that gave him an opportunity of seeing the merciful looks of Jesus Christ immediately after his denial of Him. What would have become of St. Paul if God had required an account of his administration while he was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord? It was the long-suffering of God that gave him an opportunity of saying, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?'' It was the patience of God which gave him an opportunity of making that honest confession, "I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy."
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.