Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
I. TO EXPLAIN THE NATURE OF EVIL HABITS, PARTICULARLY THE TENDENCY OF THEM, TO RENDER MEN INDISPOSED TO MORAL GOODNESS. No habit leaveth a man in a state of indifference, it putteth a strong bias upon his mind to act according to its direction, as experience showeth in innumerable instances, and in the most ordinary affairs, and even amusements of life; how naturally and easily do we fall into the beaten track, and hold on the accustomed course, though our reason discerneth no importance in it at all! Nay, by the influence of habit, trifles are magnified into matters of great moment, at least they engage the desire, and determine the active powers as if they were, so that we find it very difficult to break them off. Again, the only rational way of reclaiming men from ill practices is, by convincing them that they are ill, and that they must be attended with unhappy consequences to themselves: but the effect of habits is to darken the understanding, to fill the mind with prejudices, and to render it unattentive to reason. How then shall they that are accustomed to do evil learn to do well, since they are biassed against it, being expert in the contrary practice, and since they have made themselves in a great measure incapable of instruction?
II. CONSIDER PARTICULARLY HOW WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND THAT DISABILITY TO DO GOOD WHICH IS CONTRACTED BY BEING ACCUSTOMED TO DO EVIL.
1. That the impotence is not total nor equal to that which is natural, will appear from the following considerations.
(1) Where there is a total disability, and equal to that which is natural, there can be no guilt.
(2) It is very well known in a multitude of instances, that men by strong resolutions, and a vigorous exertion of the natural force of their minds, have actually conquered very inveterate habits, and turned to a quite different way of living.
2. You see then where the difference lieth, that it is in ourselves, and what that impotence is which ariseth from habits, that it is no more than irresolution which is properly the fault of the mind, and to be charged wholly upon it.
3. God waiteth to be gracious to them, unwilling they should perish, if they are disposed on their part to submit to the remedy which His mercy hath provided.
(J. Abernethy, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.