Shall horses run on the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for you have turned judgment into gall…
For ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock. The meaning of this is that they had turned the best things into bad use. Judgment and righteousness, the laws of right, they had made as nauseous and noxious as "gall" and "hemlock." Our subject is man's perverting power. Our blessed Maker in our constitution has endowed us with a force which no other creature under heaven seems to have, of turning things to wrong uses, and making those things which he intended to bless us the means of misery and rain. You can see man exercising this power in many departments of action.
I. IN PHYSICAL OPERATIONS. What does he do with the iron which he discovers in the depths of the earth? Forges it into implements of human destruction. What does he do with the vineyards and the corn fields? He turns them into inebriating liquids, and rolls them like rivers of poison through every district of society. What does he do with his own physical appetites? Instead of attending to them as means of relief, he makes their gratification the chief sources of his pleasure, and thus degrades his mental and moral nature. Everywhere you see man perverting nature - perverting the metals, the rivers, the fruits, and the chemical elements of the world.
II. IN CIVIC LIFE. The principle of human government is a Divine ordinance, intended to secure equal justice and protection. But how has man perverted it! He has turned it into an instrument to benefit the few at the expense of the many, an instrument of tyranny and oppression. The principle of judicature, intended to secure for all a just administration of law, man notoriously perverts. Men are appointed to occupy the throne of judgment who are not always, or generally, known as incorruptibly just and morally pure. Hence often in the name of justice iniquities are enacted. Man's perversion of the law is proverbial as a hideous enormity. The principle of merchandise, intended to band man together by the exchange of commodities in mutual obligation and fellowship, man has awfully perverted. He has made it the instrument of cupidity, monopoly, and nameless frauds. Thus, in every part of social life you see this perverting power in action - man turning "judgment into gall, and the fruits of righteousness into hemlock."
III. IN THE RELIGIOUS SPHERE. In spiritual matters and in scenes that should be the most sacred, its action is perhaps more flagrant and formidable than anywhere else. Without going into the great world of heathenism, or even to remote parts of Christendom, look into our own religious England, and what do you see? You see the gospel ministry, which is essentially self-denying, humble, devout, turned into an arrogant and plethoric priesthood. You see gospel ceremonies, intended to adumbrate spiritual truths, employed as mystic channels of saving grace. You see a system of universal philanthropy made an instrument of miserable sectarianism and intolerable bigotry.
CONCLUSION. Do not let man say he has no power. His moral power is something stupendous. He has power to turn the things of God to the use of Satan, heavenly blessings into hellish curses. This he is doing everywhere. "Ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock." - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock: