Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
I. HOW FAR THE INFLUENCE OF HABIT EXTENDS. Habit extends its influence over the body, the mind, and the conscience The body, considered merely as an animal frame, is much under the influence of habit. Habit inures the body to cold or heat; renders it capable of labour, or patient of confinement. Through habit the sailor rides upon the rocking wave without experiencing that sickness which the unaccustomed voyager is almost sure to feel. I might now proceed from the body to the mind, only there are some cases which are of a mixed nature, partaking both of body and mind, in which we neither contemplate the body apart from the mind, nor the mind apart from the body; and habit has its influence upon both. Such is the pernicious use of strong liquors, habit increases the desire, diminishes the effect of them. So all undue indulgence of the body increases the desire of further indulgence. The appetite by constant gratifications becomes uncontrollable; and the mind also grows debauched, is rendered incapable of purer pleasures, and altogether unfit for the exercises of religion. Nor is it only through the body that habit has its effect upon the mind. There are habits purely mental, as well as habits purely bodily. Profaneness may become a habit; a man may contract a habit of swearing, a habit of speaking irreverently of sacred things. So the anger of a passionate man is often called constitutional. Further, the Apostle Paul speaks of those whose mind and conscience is defiled. Habit has its effect on the conscience also. One would think that the more frequently a man had committed a fault, the more severely would his conscience upbraid him for it. But the very contrary is the case: his conscience has become familiar with the sin, as well as his other faculties of mind or body.
II. THE DIFFICULTY OF OVERCOMING HABITS. Even in the case of those who have been soberly and virtuously brought up, and whose life is unstained by a course of profane or licentious conduct, there is a principle of evil which keeps them far from God. They have no love to Him, no delight in Him, no communion with Him. How much more palpably impossible is it for the wretched sinner to break his chains, when sin by long indulgence has become habitual; when the body itself has been made subject to it, the mind polluted by it, and the conscience seared as with a red-hot iron! Does experience teach you to expect that these men will correct themselves! It may be that such men may change one sin for another, a new bad habit, as it acquires strength, may supplant an old one, the sins of youth may give way to the sins of age. But this is not ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well. It is only altering the manner of doing evil. With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible. Divine grace can not only take away the greatest guilt; it can also enlighten the darkest understanding, and sanctify the most corrupt heart.
III. ADDRESS TWO DESCRIPTIONS OF CHARACTERS.
1. Those who are still walking in their accustomed way of evil.
2. Those who have been delivered from it.
(J. Fawcett, 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.