The puddle of
their own merit!
(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)
Many have passed the rocks of gross sins—who have suffered shipwreck upon the sands of self-righteousness.
It was the saying of one, that he "would swim through a sea of brimstone—if he might but arrive safely at heaven." Ah, how would natural men soar to heaven—upon the pinions of their own merit! The sunbeams of Divine justice—will soon melt such weak and wax wings!
He who has no better righteousness than what is of his own providing, shall meet with no higher happiness than what is of his own deserving. "They disregarded the righteousness from God—and attempted to establish their own righteousness." They are determined to sail in their own ship—though they sink in the ocean!
We are so far from paying the utmost farthing, that at our utmost—we have not even a farthing to pay! That man will be a miserable spectacle of vanity—who stands upon the lame feet of his own ability!
Duties are but dry pits, though ever so meticulously wrought—until Christ fills them. Reader, I would neither have you be idle in duties—nor make an idol of duties.
What are duties without Christ—but like a fine cabinet without a jewel—or a golden cup without a cordial? The most diligent saint—has been the most self-distrusting saint, "that I may gain Christ and be found in him—not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." If you are found in your own righteousness, you will be lost by your own righteousness. That garment which was worn to shreds on Adam's back—will never make a complete covering for you.
Duties may be good crutches to go upon—but they are bad Christs to lean upon. It is the greatest disparagement that professors can offer to Christ—to put their services in the scale with His sufferings. The beggarly rags of the first Adam—must never be put on with the princely robe of the second Adam!
Man is a creature too much inclined to warm himself by the sparks of his own fire—though he lies down in eternal flames for kindling them! Though Noah's dove made use of her wings—yet she found no rest, but in the ark. Duties can never have too much of our diligence—or too little of our confidence. A believer does not perform good works to live—but he lives to perform good works.
He shall have hell as his debt—who will not take heaven as a gift. "We boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh." A true Christian stands at as great distance from trusting in the best of his services—as in the worst of his sins! He knows that the greatest part of his holiness—will not make the least part of his justifying righteousness. He has unreservedly subscribed to that sentiment, "that when we have done all—we are only unprofitable servants."
When we have kept all the commandments, there is one commandment above all to be kept; that is, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags!" In most of our works—we are abominable sinners; and in the best of our works—we are unprofitable servants. "O Sovereign Lord, I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone!" You see, beloved, the righteousness of Christ is to be magnified—when the righteousness of a Christian is not to be mentioned.
It is hard for us to be "nothing in ourselves" amidst all our works; and to be "all things in Christ," amidst all our weakness. To undertake every duty—and yet to overlook every duty—is a lesson which none can learn, but Christ's scholars.
Our obedience, at best, is like good wine—which relishes of a bad cask. The 'Law of God' will not accept ninety-nine for a hundred. It will not accept the coin of our obedience, either short in quantity—or base in quality. The duty it exacts—is as impossible to be performed in this our fallen state; as the penalty it inflicts—is intolerable to be endured in our eternal state!
We do not sail to glory in the salt sea of our own tears—but in the red sea of the Redeemer's blood! The Cross of Christ—is the only key of paradise! We owe the life of our souls—to the death of our Savior. It was His going into the fiery furnace—which keeps us from going into the devouring flames! Man lives—by death: his natural life is preserved by the death of the creature; and his spiritual life is gained by the death of the Redeemer.
Those who carry their vessel of hope to the puddle of their own merit—will never draw the water of comfort, from the fountain of God's mercy!