For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I. THE FIRST FACT. St. Paul does not say, "The punishment of sin is death," however true that may be. He uses the word "wages." These we earn —
1. When we dishonour our bodies.
(1) We do this when we forget them, or withhold from them that on which their health, and vigour, and usefulness depend. We see this on a large scale when we face the terrible effects of preventable disease. Now, is it not a sin to allow bad air, water, drainage, filth, and overcrowding to court these fiends, and bid them come and do their work among us? We say pestilence is the judgment of God, and so it is; but it is His judgment on wilful neglect, blindness, selfishness, and wrong.
(2) When you give way to drunkenness, destroying thereby the high faculties of your manhood; when you yield to lust, surrendering yourselves to "the strange woman"; when you throw the reins on the neck of pleasure, and chase it wherever it may lead you; when in this way you lay deep and sure the seeds of premature decay, are you not learning by the bitterest experiences that "the wages of sin is death"? Trifle not with the body. Forget not it was made by God's hand, and redeemed by Christ's blood. Dishonour not that which should be the temple of the Holy Ghost. The sins of the body will bring their awful retribution. It will come as a curse upon yourselves, and, perhaps, upon your children.
2. When we stifle the voice of conscience within us.
(1) Every time you do what you know to be wrong, every time you surrender yourselves to a thought which you know to be evil, you are earning the wages of sin which are death — death to all peace of mind, to all noble feeling, to all nobility of character, to all solid success in life. You go off with companions and give way to drink. Well, what of the morning? You feel that you have lost caste at home, among the friends whose respect you value, and you hate and loathe yourself.
(2) And so it is whenever a duty is sacrificed to a selfish pleasure, whenever there is the least departure from strict integrity, for the consequence must be uneasiness of mind, a load upon the heart which cannot be laughed off or drunk away; for God has ordered it. Let me beg you not to stifle the voice of conscience. It will surely, sooner or later, be heard. If you do not heed its gentle remonstrances, it will thunder condemnation. Say not that you make good resolutions, but that you are too feeble to keep them. Ask God, by His Spirit, to make you a man, and not suffer you to be a miserable weakling. Trust to yourselves, and you are no match for the devil.
3. When we reject the offers of the gospel (Proverbs 1:24, etc.). There is no sin so awful in its character and so terrible in its results as unbelief. That sin some of you are committing every day, every hour; and its wages are death — death to that peace which a man can only know when he has been cleansed by the blood of Christ; death to that hope of a happy hereafter which a firm trust in his Saviour alone can bring to him, and the death which never dies. What I have as the consequence of my sin, either here or hereafter, I have earned, and must have. I may, by God's grace, give up my sin, but the wages of sin are shown in my shattered health, and, it may be, by the sickliness of my children. And if the death of the body sees me unsaved, how my misery will be deepened when I am constrained to say, "I have earned damnation."
II. THE SECOND FACT. Poor, lost, unworthy sinners may have eternal life in Christ, and that as a gift from God, and not as something which is to be had in another world, but something which may be had in this. See you not what a grand, brave, and noble thing it is to live in this world knowing that we belong to God, that our bodies are His, our minds His, our souls His, and that, by His grace, we are using them to His glory? Then choose ye this day whom ye will serve.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.