Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you know not;…
That men are variously constituted is a fact not merely profoundly interesting to the speculative philosopher, but of the greatest practical consequence to the Christian philanthropist. While the genus, man, is founded on a common basis, the individual is marked by characteristics singular to himself. Let us look at some special instances of peculiar organisation, and then consider them in relation to personal responsibility. For example, take the man whose dominating characteristic is acquisitiveness. That man's creed is a word, and that word is but a syllable: his creed is Get; nothing less, nothing more, — simply Get! With him benevolence is a matter of weights and scales; with him buying and selling and getting gain are the highest triumphs of mortal genius. Ask him why. Instantly he recurs to his organisation. He says, "God made me as I am; He did not consult me as to the constitution of my being; He made me acquisitive, and I must be faithful to my organisation; and I will go forward to meet Him at the day of judgment, and tell Him to His face that He has me as He made me, and I disclaim all responsibility." The organisation of another man predominates in the direction of combativeness. The man is litigious, quarrelsome, cantankerous, violent: Ask him why. He says, "I must be faithful to my constitution; my whole manhood is intensely combative; I did not make myself; God has made me as He made me, and I disown all laws of obligation." Here is a man with little hope. He sees a lion on every way; he dreads that ruin will be the end of every enterprise; he knows not the sweetness of contentment or the repose of an intelligent hope; he is always mourning, always repining; his voice is an unceasing threnody, his face a perpetual winter. Ask him why. He says, "God so made me; if He had put within me the angel of hope, I should have been sharer of your gladness; I should have been your companion in the choir; I should have been a happier man: He covered me with night that owns no star; He gave my fingers no cunning art of music; He meant me to look at Him through tears and to offer my poor worship in sighs." We cannot enter into all the questions which may lie between God and man on the subject of organisation. Let us take one or two such cases as have just been outlined. We found the acquisitive man getting gold, getting at all risks; getting till his conscience was seared and his understanding darkened. In that case ought we to sympathise with the man, saying, "We are sorry for you; we lament that your organisation compels you to be avaricious: we know you cannot help it, so we exempt you from all responsibility"? No! we would say as in thunder; No! we do not find fault with the organisation of the acquisitive man; but if he pleads the excuse already cited, we openly charge him with having degraded and diabolised that constitution; he has not used it, but abused it; he has not been faithful, but faithless, and must be branded as a criminal. The man's organisation is acquisitive; be it so: that circumstance in itself does not necessitate crime. There are two courses open to the acquisitive man. To him we say, Do be faithful to your organisation, do get, get money by right means, get exaltation by legitimate processes; but with all thy getting, get understanding, "for the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver," etc. The combative man; what of him? Do we sympathise with him? "Sir, your case demands commiseration, inasmuch as you must be faithful to your organisation, and that organisation happens to be a dreadful one"? No! to the combative man we say, There are two courses open to you: you can fight with muscle, and steel, and gunpowder; you may train yourself to be pitiless as a tiger; you may be petulant, resentful, hard-hearted: the choice is before you to pronounce the elective word! Or, there is another course open: you may choose weapons that are not carnal; you may resist the devil; you may "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." The argument which the fatalist bases upon organisation is self-annihilating when applied to the common relations of life. All human legislation assumes man's power of self-regulation, and grounds itself on the grand doctrine of man's responsibility to man. At this point, then, Divine revelation meets human reason, and insists upon the same principle in relation to God.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not;
WEB: Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known,