Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet…
Antecedently we should hardly have expected that a being created in the image of God, a rational spiritual agent, would so far depart from all that is reasonable and right as to put evil for good, and good for evil, etc. Yet such is the case. We have to consider -
I. THE FACT OF SPIRITUAL PERVERSITY. Human perversity is not found in the higher region only. We find it in things physical, notably in our treatment of the body. Men take noxious drugs, thinking that they "do them good," while they shrink from plain and wholesome food, as unpalatable and undesirable. In things economical. They shut their markets against the commodities of other nations, supposing that they are thereby benefiting their own citizens, when they are only injuring their neighbors and impoverishing themselves thereby. And so in other spheres of activity. In things spiritual the fact is most painfully apparent.
1. In our direct relation to God. Some men are found who condemn all worship as superstition, all earnestness as fanaticism, all piety as hypocrisy; the same men speak of atheism under the euphemism of free-thought; with them godlessness is emancipation from spiritual bondage!
2. In our relation to our fellow-men. There are those who call clemency weakness, and oppression vigor; who denounce considerateness as mawkish sentimentality, and honor a brutal selfishness as cleverness and spiritedness; who sneer at conscientiousness as being "priggish," and talk of roguery as if it reflected honor on its agents.
3. In our relation to ourselves. There are too many, especially among the young, who consider dissipation to be another thing for "life," and who decry purity and self-restraint as dullness and poverty of spirit; they have honorable terms for the vilest and foulest sins, and terms of discredit for the cause of virtue and self-respect. Thus is everything misnamed, and not only misnamed but mistaken. These words are more than mere labels; they represent the thought which is beneath; they stand for false conceptions. All things, human and Divine, are seen in false lights, are regarded as other than they are, indeed as the very opposites of what they are; the evil and shameful thing is positively admired as well as praised; the holy and the beautiful thing is actually hated as well as cursed! These are the sad facts which are before our eyes.
II. ITS EXPLANATION. How can we account for such perversity as this, such a sad and disastrous revolution in the mind? It is surely due to the deteriorating influence of sin upon the soul. He that sinneth against God wrongs his own spiritual nature. Sin blinds, distorts, discolors; not, indeed, suddenly and altogether, but gradually and constantly. A man who falls under the power of any temptation is something the worse in mind as well as in heart for his sin; his mental conception as well as his moral habit is injured - imperceptibly, perhaps, but not unimportantly. And by slow degrees the mind is affected and the view is changed, until everything is reversed in thought and in language (see Matthew 6:22, 23).
III. ITS END. "Woe unto them!" But what worse penalty can be inflicted than this? Surely they have their reward, in the overthrow of their reason, in the darkening of their mind, in the deterioration of their soul. Truly; yet are there not other evils which must be endured? Will not the light of eternity flash into these guilty souls, showing them whereto they have fallen and wherein they have erred, awakening the sensibilities which they have sent to slumber, stirring up in them the remorse which is due to those who have so wronged themselves, so ill-treated their fellows, so sinned against the Lord? - C.
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!
WEB: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!