For it is a shame even to speak ... - ; compare notes, Romans 1:24-32. It is still a shame to speak of the practices of the pagan. Missionaries tell us that they "cannot" describe the images on the car of Juggernaut, or tell us what is done in the idol temples. All over the world the same thing is true. The cheek of modesty and virtue would be suffused with shame at the very mention of what is done by the worshippers of idols; and the same is true of what is done by multitudes in Christian lands, who are not worshippers of idols. Their deeds cannot be described in the circles of the refined and the delicate; they cannot be told in the presence of mothers and sisters. Is there not emphasis here in the words "even to speak of these things!" If the apostle would not allow them to name those things, or to "speak" of them, is it wise or safe for Christians now to be familiar with the accounts of those practices of pollution, and for ministers to portray them in the pulpit, and for the friends of "moral reform" to describe them before the world? The very "naming" of those abominations often produces improper associations in the mind; the description creates polluting images before the imagination; the exhibition of pictures, even for the purpose of condemning them, defiles the soul. There are some vices which, from the corruptions of the human heart, cannot be safely described, and it is to be feared that, under the plea of faithfulness, many have done evil by exciting improper feelings, where they should have only alluded to the crime, and then spoken in thunder. Paul did not "describe" these vices, he denounced them; he did not dwell upon them long enough for the imagination to find employment, and to corrupt the soul. He mentioned the vice - and then he mentioned the wrath of God; he alluded to the sin, and then he spoke of the exclusion from heaven; compare notes on I Corinthians 6:18.
Which are done of them in secret - Many have supposed that there is an allusion here to the "mysteries" which were celebrated in Greece, usually at night, and far from the public eye. Many of these were indeed impure and abominable, but there is no necessity for supposing that there is such an allusion here. The reference may be to the vices which were secretly practiced then as now; the abominations which flee from the eye of day, and which are performed far from the public gaze.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Ephesians 5:12:
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