Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
John sees a great danger. His preaching is immensely popular. Even the insincere are drawn under the spell of his oratory, and his rousing eloquence is enjoyed on its own account by many who refuse to obey its ideas. He is the lion of the season, and society runs after him as after the latest fashion. To one in dead earnest, as John was, this must have been perfectly abhorrent. Then no doubt there were sentimental, superficial hearers who were really impressed by his preaching for the time, but on whom the effect of it was merely emotional. Such people needed to see that they must have a repentance deeper than the tears of a day.
I. REPENTANCE MUST BE IN THE WILL AS WELL AS IN THE EMOTIONS. It is easy to feel sorry for the wrong one has done; yet this feeling may not carry with it any determination not to repeat the wrong. A wave of emotion may sweep over the soul, and during its passage all love of sin may be buried, and only the most becoming ideas appear on the surface. But they will be but froth and foam melting into nothing, and they will vanish with the retreating wave, leaving the hard rock beneath quite unmoved. There is no real repentance until the will is touched, until the penitent resolves to abandon his sin and to seek a better life. He may well see that he cannot do this himself; his sin is too strong for him, and the better life is above his reach. Repentance is not regeneration, but it is a sincere desire for a new life, an honest determination to seek it.
II. TRUE REPENTANCE WILL REVEAL ITSELF IN CONDUCT. It has its fruits. No one can be really turning round from sin and setting his face towards the light without some results appearing in his behaviour. He will not immediately step on to the pedestal of the saint. He will be still down in the darkness, feeble, depressed, guilty, and conscious of guilt. But every action will show that he is trying to reach after better things, even though they may be still far beyond his grasp. Lorenzo di Medici on his death-bed sends for Savanarola and, in terror of the torments of hell, begs to be assured of the Divine forgiveness. The stern reformer bids the dying man return their possessions to those whom he has robbed, and set his imprisoned enemies free, and he consents. Then Savonarola makes a third demand, that the tyrant will restore their liberties to the Florentines. This is too much for him; he turns away in silent refusal and dies unrepentant - and therefore unshriven.
III. IT IS THE DUTY OF THE PENITENT TO CULTIVATE FRUITS OF REPENTANCE. People sometimes distress themselves with the fear that they have not repented sufficiently to receive the pardon of God. But they make a mistake if they suppose that the exciting of deeper feelings of compunction or the shedding of more tears is what God requires. Let them leave their emotions to take care of themselves, and set their attention on their conduct. This does require thought and effort. Yet the very fact that repentance must bear fruit shows that it is more than a work of man's production. Therefore it is necessary to seek the "grace" of repentance, to pray for the Spirit of God to make the true fruits appear. Lastly, let it be remembered when they do appear they are not all we need; they are only the signs of a right state of mind fur receiving forgiveness. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: