Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
This passage expresses the hopelessness of the prophet as regards the success of any human effort to persuade the people to forsake their evil ways, or by any efforts of their own to save themselves. It suggests -
I. THE INVETERACY OF SIN.
1. Arising from the depravity of nature. The dark spots and the ebon skin have a hidden cause. Sins are the natural outcome of sin. All forms of wrong-doing are but symptoms on the surface of a secret moral disease. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts," etc. (Matthew 15:19).
2. The force of habit. "Use is second nature." Custom has a power over men that rivals that of native propensity. As good habit is a most effective educator of every form of virtue, so, on the other hand, when habit has been allowed to foster the evil tendencies of a man's nature, he becomes hopelessly "tied and bound with the chain of his sins."
II. THE MORAL IMPOTENCE IT ENGENDERS. Sin not only corrupts the springs of a man's moral life, but paralyzes all his nobler powers, robs him of the ability to act out the better instincts of his nature. The voice of natural conscience may not be wholly silenced, the natural heart may not be utterly destitute of good impulses; but there is no redeeming power in these. As well expect the darkness to give birth to light, and life to spring spontaneously out of death, as suppose that a sin-loving, sin-hardened man will of himself forsake his evil ways. He will never be able by his own hand "to pluck the vicious quitch of blood and custom wholly out of him." The complete moral helplessness of humanity was made abundantly evident before the full revelation of gospel grace. It was when we were "without strength" that Christ "died for the ungodly."
III. THE WONDROUS EFFICACY OF THE REGENERATING POWER OF GOD. The most defiled and degraded nature may be transformed by the touch of him who made it. Even the skin of the Ethiopian and the leopard's spots must yield to the sovereignty of the Divine energy. Deep-rooted and habitual as the evil in a man's heart and life may be, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth him from it, and when the Spirit of Christ moulds the substance of his being he becomes "a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). - W.
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.
WEB: Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, who are accustomed to do evil.