Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet…
1. The current conventional standard of society around them is even in this Christian land the main principle by which the great mass of the better sort of people regulate their conduct. For one who refers truly to the law of God, hundreds maybe found who act upon the common maxims of society. This, therefore, it becomes us especially to bear in mind: never can we live for ourselves alone.
2. It is one especial part of their punishment who are thus engaged in lowering the moral standard of society around them, that they must be, in a still greater measure, injuring themselves. How "shall a man touch pitch and not be defiled"? We have no other way of transmitting moral evil than by contagion; we must, in the first place, be our. selves the victims of that which we convey to others.
(1) There is within each of us a power or faculty by which we judge of good or evil, and which we call conscience or the moral sense. Although we cannot by a direct act of the reason alter, or at our immediate volition, silence, the decision and the voice of moral consciousness, we may, by a course of actions, altogether debase, and even for the time extinguish it.
(2) It is of great moment to observe how from this it follows that there is a necessary tendency in anyone allowed form of evil to prepare the soil for receiving others.
(3) After vicious practice, there is nothing of which they who would preserve their moral sense unclouded should more cautiously beware, than a needless acquaintance with sin. The first and evident form in which this danger meets us is from the company of evil men. There are some remarkable provisions by which the Christian's power of discrimination can be formed, without encouraging an evil curiosity or courting any familiarity with vice. For, first, it will grow gradually with the growth of our self-knowledge. Alas! we bear evil always with us; and if we search ourselves we must become acquainted with it. Yet even here we need a word of caution, for our very self-inspection may become the means of self-defilement. At God's call we may walk unharmed even in the fire of present sin. And here, again, we may trace the provision God has made for this security in the nature He has given us. For the feelings of grief and shame which are naturally roused by the first sight of sin, and which of themselves will die away with each repetition, if, from curiosity or the love of excitement, we call them into fruitless exercise, these, when they lead us to strive against the evil which we see, grow into a living habit of resisting sin; and this habit keeps the conscience quick and tender, and, through the blessing of God's grace, purifies and strengthens the power of moral judgment beyond all other means of wholesome exercise. Thus it is that God's especial witnesses have borne, amidst an evil generation, the burden of His holiness and truth.
(Bishop S. Wilberforce, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!