What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
Sin is here arraigned in all the periods of time.
I. FOR THE PAST AS UNFRUITFUL. "What fruit had ye?" Sin ought to produce something: for it costs much. Now, for a man to labour and give up all the advantages of religion for nothing is hard indeed! And is not this the case? Read the history of wicked nations, families, individuals. Does the sinner ever gain what deserves the name of "fruit"? It promises much, but how does it perform? (Job 20:11-14). Sinful gratifications continue no longer than the actions themselves; for then, consequences begin to be thought of; reason ascends the throne, and scourges; conscience awakes, and condemns. Suppose the swearer was to tell us what he has gained by his oaths, the drunkard by his cups, the sensualist by his uncleanness, the prodigal by his extravagance, the proud, the envious, the malicious, by indulging their vile tempers; suppose the sinner was to balance his accounts at the end of a year, of a week, of a day — surely he must find that his gains do not counterbalance his loss, his pleasures do not make him amends for his pains even in the lowest degree.
II. FOR THE PRESENT AS DISGRACEFUL. "Ye are now ashamed." And well ye may, for there is nothing so scandalous as sin. It is not a shame to be poor and distressed — but it is shameful to be a fool, a base coward, a traitor to the best of kings, and to be ungrateful to the kindest of friends.
1. There is a natural shame which arises from the commission of sin. This it was that made our first parents hide themselves, so closely did shame tread on the heels of guilt. This class of emotions may be in a great measure subdued by continuance in sin; for some "glory in their shame." But this is not general (Job 24:15-17). Hence they not only elude observation — which they would not do if there was anything that tended to their praise, but frame excuses. But why deny or palliate? Why plead mistake, ignorance, surprise, infirmity unless disparaging to character? The sinner is ashamed even to meet himself, and finally abandons the moral world, and mingles only with those of his own quality; for here mutual wickedness creates mutual confidence, and keeps them from reproaching one another.
2. There is also a gracious shame which accompanies "repentance unto life."(1) This does not spring from a fear of discovery, but from a sense of the odiousness of sin. The real penitent is now ashamed of things which pass uncensured in the world, and which once produced no uneasiness in himself.
(2) This will be in proportion to our perception of the glory and goodness of God. The more we think of His patience while we are rebelling, of His mercy in pardoning us and adopting us into His family after all our provocations, the more shall we be affected with our vileness in offending Him.
3. There is also a penal shame. For God has so ordered things that if a man be not ashamed of his sins, he shall be put to shame by them.
(1) How often is the transgressor dishonoured in this world! See the miser. "He is a proverb and a by-word." See the extortioner. How many "curse his habitation"! "A wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame."(2) But this will be more especially the ease hereafter. The wicked will "rise to shame and everlasting contempt" — ashamed in themselves; and contemned by each other, by saints, by angels, and by the Judge of all.
III. FOR THE FUTURE AS DESTRUCTIVE. "The end of these things is death."
1. The death of the body was the produce of sin.
2. There are many instances recorded of God's inflicting death immediately upon sinners in a way of judgment.
3. Death sometimes attends sin as a natural consequence of vice. How frequently do persons, by anger, intemperance, and such like courses, hasten on dissolution, and become self-murderers! A physician of great repute has given it as his opinion that scarcely one in a thousand dies a natural death.
4. But what the apostle principally intends is the "second death."(1) It is a dreadful end. Nothing that we can here feel or fear deserves to be compared with it.
(2) It is a righteous end. Hence the wicked themselves will be speechless.
(3) It is a certain end. From what quarter can you derive a hope to escape? The power of God enables Him, His holiness excites Him, His truth binds Him to inflict this misery. Conclusion: Mark the difference between the service of sin and the service of God. It holds in all the articles we have reviewed. If sin be unfruitful, "godliness is profitable unto all things." If sin is shameful, holiness is honourable and glorious. If sin ends in death, religion ends in "everlasting life."
Parallel VersesKJV: What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.