What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
I. IT IS UNPROFITABLE. "What fruit had ye?"
1. Some sins are plainly mischievous to the temporal interest of men, as tending either to the disturbance of their minds, or the endangering of their health and lives, or to the prejudice of their estates, or the blasting of their good name.
2. There are other sins which, though they are not so visibly attended with mischievous consequences, bring no real advantage either in respect of gain or pleasure; such are the sins of profaneness and swearing.
3. Even those sins which make the fairest pretence to be of advantage to us, when all accounts are cast up will be found in no degree able to perform and make good what they so largely promise.
(1) Some pretend to bring in great profit, and tempt worldly-minded men; such are the sins of covetousness and oppression, of fraud, and falsehood, and perfidiousness.
(2) Others pretend to bring pleasure, which is a temptation to sensual men; such are the sins of revenge, and intemperance, and lust.
II. IT IS SHAMEFUL. Most men when they commit a known fault are apt to be ashamed whenever they are put in mind of it. Some, indeed, have gone so far in sin as to be past all shame (Jeremiah 6:15). But yet even these, when they become sensible of their guilt so as to be brought to repentance, cannot then but be ashamed of what they have done. Sin contains in it whatsoever is justly accounted infamous, together with all the aggravations of shame and reproach that can be imagined. And this will appear by considering sin —
1. In relation to ourselves.
(1) The natural deformity of sin renders it shameful. Men are apt to be ashamed of anything in them that looks ugly. Now, in regard to our souls, sin hath all the monstrousness which we can imagine in the body, and much more. It is the blindness of our minds, the crookedness of our wills, and the monstrous irregularity of our affections and appetites, the misplacing of our powers and faculties — all which is ugly and unnatural. There is hardly any vice but at first sight hath an odious appearance. Drunkenness and passion, pride and falsehood, covetousness and cruelty, are matter of shame in the sincere opinion of all mankind. And though a man, by the frequent practice of any of these vices, may not be so sensible of the deformity of them in himself, yet he quickly discerns the ugliness of them in others.
(2) It is a great dishonour to our nature.
(a) Therefore the Scripture likens it to the meanest condition among men — slavery. So that to be a sinner is to be a slave to some vile passion or irregular desire; it is to part with one of the most valuable things in the world, our liberty, upon low and unworthy terms.
(b) There is no greater argument of a degenerate spirit than to do such things as a man would blush to be surprised in, and would be troubled to hear of afterwards, and which is more, after he hath been convinced of this, to have so little self-command as not to be able to free himself from this bondage.
(c) And that sin is of this shameful nature is evident, in that the greatest part of sinners take so much care to hide their vices (1 Thessalonians 5:7).
(3) It is a great reproach to our understandings and a foul blot upon our prudence and discretion. Either men do not understand what they do when they commit sin, or, if they do know, they do not consider what they know. Did men attentively consider what it is to offend God, who "is able to save or to destroy," they would discern so many objections against the thing, and would be filled with such fears of the fatal issue and event of it, that they would not dare to venture upon it (Psalm 14:4; Deuteronomy 32:28, 29). No man can engage in a sinful course without being so far infatuated as to be contented to part with everlasting happiness and to be miserable forever. So that, if it be a disgrace to a man to do things plainly against his interest, then vice is the greatest reproach that is possible.
(4) We choose this disgrace, and willingly bring this reproach upon ourselves. We pity an idiot, but everyone despiseth him who plays the fool out of carelessness and a gross neglect of himself. And this is the case of a sinner; there is no man that sinneth but because he is wanting to himself; he might be wiser and do better, and will not.
2. In respect of God.
(1) Whenever we commit any sin, we do it before Him to whom of all persons in the world we ought to pay the most profound reverence.
(2) He likewise is incomparably our greatest benefactor, and there is no person in the world to whom we stand so much obliged, and from whom we can expect so much good.
(3) We are ashamed to be guilty of any fault before persons who are clear of anything of the like nature. Men are not apt to be ashamed before those who are their fellow criminals. Now, whenever we commit any sin, it is in the presence of the Holy Ghost, who hath no part with us in it, and whose nature is as contrary to it as can be.
(4) We are apt to be ashamed to do anything before those who detest what we do. To do a wicked action before those who are not offended at it, or perhaps take pleasure in it, is no such matter of shame. Now, of all others, God is the greatest hater of sin, and the most perfect enemy to it in the whole world (Habakkuk 1:3; Psalm 5:4, 5).
(5) We are ashamed likewise to do anything that is evil and unseemly before those who we are afraid will make known and expose the folly of them. Now, whenever we sin, it is before Him who will most certainly one day bring all our works of darkness into the open light.
(6) We are ashamed and afraid to commit a fault before those who we believe will call us to an account for it and punish us severely. Now, whenever we commit any wickedness, we do it under the eye of the great Judge, whose omnipotent justice stands by us ready armed and charged for our destruction, and can in a moment cut us off.
III. IT IS FATAL. No fruit then when ye did these things; shame now that you come to reflect upon them; and death at the last. The principal ingredients of this miserable state.
1. The anguish of a guilty conscience, "the worm that dies not." Though God should inflict no positive punishment, yet this is a revenge which every man's mind would take upon him.
2. Another ingredient. The lively apprehension of the invaluable happiness which they have lost by their own obstinacy and foolish choice.
3. A quick sense of intolerable pain aggravated by —
(1) The consideration of the past pleasures which they have enjoyed in this life.
(2) The despair of any future ease; and when misery and despair meet together, they make a man completely miserable.
Parallel VersesKJV: What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.