The Sweetness of Evil

The Sweetness of Evil
Jeremiah 13:23 (ESV)
23  Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”
In this passage, Jeremiah proclaims that just as persons cannot change their skin color or a leopard its spots, so the people of Israel could not change their propensity for evil. The darkness of judgment would descend on the incorrigible nation, and the people would be swept away into exile like chaff before the wind.
As we enter into worship this day, let us remember in utmost humility our own tendencies to stray from God’s desire for us. Much like the person who gets caught doing something wrong, our regret is often solely based on being found out, not in the wrongful action we perpetrated. The power to do evil will never be fully abated in our earthly bodies, but our response should be much different once we have become a child of God. The Book of Romans provides a wonderful refresher course on this topic.
“Alas! also, this evil nature of man brings with it the fact that his will is altogether perverted. A man will not cease to do evil, and learn to do well, because he has no heart to do it. Sinners do not want to be saved. “Oh!” says one, “I do.” But do you understand what it is to be saved? Every sinner would like to escape from going to hell, but that is not what is meant by salvation. To be saved means, to be saved from loving evil, from seeking after it, and living in it. Do you want to be saved from that? Do you want to be saved from falsehood, saved from the indulgence of your passions, saved from strong drink, saved from pride, saved from covetousness?

The most of men have not a heart inclined to that; there is some sweet sin of theirs which they would like to sip, at least now and then upon the sly. That is to say, evil, as evil, is not abhorrent to the natural will, but the natural will of man goes after that which is evil as surely as ever children seek after that which is sweet. Sin is sweet to man, and he will have it if he can. How, then, can his nature be changed while he has no will to it? The will is, as it were, the rudder of the ship. Till the will is changed, till what is called “free will” is made in truth to be free will,—free from the chains of evil, and the love of sin,—the man cannot rise to happiness and God, any more than the Ethiopian can change his skin.

Moreover, in connection with this natural depravity, and the perversity of the human will, there comes to be the power of habit. Oh, what an awful force the power of evil habit has upon a man! It begins at first only like a cobweb; he can break it when he pleases. It grows into a thread, and he is somewhat restrained by it. It changes to a cord, and he is in a net. It hardens into iron, and the iron becomes further hardened into steel, and the man is shut up in it; he becomes like the starling that cried, “I cannot get out; I cannot get out.” The sad thing is that the man is in a cage of his own making; it is a sort of living cage which has grown up all round him, and he cannot escape from it.

The question of the text is, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin?” The answer is,—No, no, no, no, no, no. Here is the other question,—Can the Ethiopian’s skin be changed? The answer to that is,—Yes, yes, yes, as emphatically as we have just now said no, no, no. Can the Ethiopian’s skin be changed? Can the sinner’s nature be renewed? Yes, for God can do everything. He changed primeval darkness into light, he changed chaos into order, and God can turn that poor ruined man—that wretched drunkard, swearer, adulterer, into one who is chaste, and pure, and lovely, and honest, for all things are possible with God. He who made us can make us new.”

Spurgeon, C. H. (1897). The Ethiopian. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 43, p. 460). London: Passmore & Alabaster.