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From the way some quote this text to justify their continual sinning, it seems that they have found comfort in it. If it means what some think it does, it certainly is very discouraging for the future of all Christians. If the work of Christ’s redemption cannot do more than to let one “fall seven times a day,” as it is generally quoted, and fall into sin, as is supposed, then we do not see much advantage of the follower of Christ over the unregenerate world. Is this the best Christ can do for a child of God? Is this the condition of His real followers? Then where is the blessedness of salvation? Indeed, where is salvation at all?
If this text means that the just man falls into sin seven times a day, and the words of the apostle John are true where he says, “He that committeth sin is of the devil,” then seven times a day a just man is of the devil. How would one of these pleaders for sin feel if one should say to him, “I am sorry for you, my brother, for I am persuaded that seven times a day on the average, you are really of the devil.” We wonder if he would believe the statement.
We feel sure that he would resent it. The fact is, the text is not only misquoted, but misunderstood. It is something like the one some try to quote from Job 5:7. They say, “Man is prone to evil as the sparks fly upward.” The Word neither says that, nor means that. It says: “Yet man is born unto trouble (labor, see margin), as the sparks fly upward.” More or less trouble comes into every life, even of the holiest. holiness is a comfort in the midst of it, but it does not exempt one from it. So, if these who pervert this text in our lesson would first read it, and then study it and the context, they would never honestly apply it in the direction they do.
It might be a matter of information to some to learn that there are two words wanting in the text which are supposed by many to be there; one written and the other inferred, viz., the word “day” and the word “sin.” Neither of these words are there, either by inference or by writing. What right has any one to say seven times a day, when there is nothing of the kind stated? One has no more right to say seven times a day than seven times a second. There is no time stated at all. As to the sin question, it is simply carnal, human conjecture. There is not the shadow of proof that it implies sin. To say that it means sin is to fly in the face of the inspired Word of God, and discount the power and atonement of Jesus Christ. Thank God we have a better understanding of the Word, and a better appreciation of the work and willingness and power of our Christ. We wonder that these who have such an estimate of the work of Christ as to believe the best He has for us is a constantly sinning religion, do not give up in hopeless despair. Probably their belief in “the final perseverance of the saints,” as some have thought the text to mean, buoys them up and on in their (sinful) way.
A little thought and study of the Word will convince one that there are more ways to fall than into sin. James says: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall.” Now, if to fall means necessarily to fall into sin, and if one follows James’ instruction to count it all joy, the one who sins the most frequently would then be in possession of the most joy. What a joyful set then the worst sinners in the world ought to be! But James shows us that we may fall into something else besides sin. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” The reason why we should count it all joy is because, as he adds in the next verse, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Patience is something worth possessing, and when we fall into different kinds of temptations we should rejoice at the result, which Is more patience, if we constantly look to Christ.
David once said, when he got into trouble: “Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for His mercies are great; and let me not fall into the hand of man.” Thus, we see from the foregoing Scriptures, that there may be a falling into temptation a falling into the hand of God, and a falling into the hand of man. Other places show that one may “fall into mischief,” “fall into a ditch,” “in time of temptation fail away,” “fall into the condemnation of the devil.” How are we to ascertain, then, what kind of a fall it is, when the text simply mentions the fall, without stating the nature of it? We know of no better way than to take up the context.
In the text before us we read that “A just man falleth seven times,” but it does not say what the fall is, or where it is. The same text mentions another fall, and says what that is: “The wicked shall fall into mischief.” This is certainly a different fall from that of the righteous, because it follows the word “but,” which indicates something opposite or different from the preceding statement. So, we know that the falling of the righteous here does not mean into mischief. let us see the previous verse in the context. “Lay not wait, o wicked man, against the dwelling of the right. eons; spoil not his resting place.” We see then that the righteous may suffer at the hands of the wicked. The words “righteous” and “just” mean the same thing here. He may he distressed in his resting place; he may have it all broken up; the wicked may lie in wait for him, as we read so often in the Word; he may fall many times into the hands of such men. So, when the statement is made that “the just man falleth seven times,” we may know of a certainty that it means a falling into affliction, or some calamity, or trouble, at the hands of the wicked. Adam Clarke says that the word here translated to fall is never applied to sin. Such falling may come to any Christian. Indeed, the apostle Paul assures us that “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” We may expect to suffer it in the manner mentioned in the text. And, instead of it being in favor of a sinning religion, it shows the possibilities of a salvation far beyond anything of the kind. In falling into these distresses we see that he has the power to rise again. Thank God there is nothing in this world that can come between the righteous soul and Christ to overthrow him, if he looks to Christ for help. God has provided grace sufficient to keep one under all circumstances. Paul wrote to a certain people, stating that they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods. So, when the wicked lie in wait against the dwelling of the righteous to spoil his resting place, we see that in falling into this distressing condition we may even rejoice, and be assured that we can rise out of it. Though we fall thus seven times, God will give us grace and power to rise. In the following verse we read: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart he glad when he stumbleth.” Why not rejoice when this happens? Because he has none to help him out again. O the advantage of the righteous over the wicked! Surely it pays to be a Christian.