How shall a man be just with God? How shall the sinner be made righteous? It is
only through Christ that we can be brought into harmony with God, with holiness;
but how are we to come to Christ? Many are asking the same question as did the
multitude on the Day of Pentecost, when, convicted of sin, they cried out,
"What shall we do?" The first word of Peter's answer was,
"Repent." Acts 2:37, 38. At another time, shortly after, he said,
"Repent, . . . and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."
Repentance includes sorrow for sin and
a turning away from it. We shall not renounce sin unless we see its sinfulness;
until we turn away from it in heart, there will be no real change in the life.
There are many who fail to understand
the true nature of repentance. Multitudes sorrow that they have sinned and even
make an outward reformation because they fear that their wrongdoing will bring
suffering upon themselves. But this is not repentance in the Bible sense. They
lament the suffering rather than the sin. Such was the grief of Esau when he saw
that the birthright was lost to him forever. Balaam, terrified by the angel
standing in his pathway with drawn sword, acknowledged his guilt lest he should
lose his life; but there was no genuine repentance for sin, no conversion of
purpose, no abhorrence of evil. Judas Iscariot, after betraying his
Lord, exclaimed, "I have sinned in
that I have betrayed the innocent blood." Matthew 27:4.
The confession was forced from his
guilty soul by an awful sense of condemnation and a fearful looking for of
judgment. The consequences that were to result to him filled him with terror,
but there was no deep, heartbreaking grief in his soul, that he had betrayed the
spotless Son of God and denied the Holy One of Israel. Pharaoh, when suffering
under the judgments of God, acknowledged his sin in order to escape further
punishment, but returned to his defiance of Heaven as soon as the plagues were
stayed. These all lamented the results of sin, but did not sorrow for the sin
But when the heart yields to the
influence of the Spirit of God, the conscience will be quickened, and the sinner
will discern something of the depth and sacredness of God's holy law, the
foundation of His government in heaven and on earth. The "Light, which
lighteth every man that cometh into the world," illumines the secret
chambers of the soul, and the hidden things of darkness are made manifest. John
1:9. Conviction takes hold upon the mind and heart. The sinner has a sense of
the righteousness of Jehovah and feels the terror of appearing, in his own guilt
and uncleanness, before the Searcher of hearts. He sees the love of God, the
beauty of holiness, the joy of purity; he longs to be cleansed and to be
restored to communion with Heaven.
The prayer of David after his fall,
illustrates the nature of true sorrow for sin. His repentance was sincere and
deep. There was no effort to palliate
his guilt; no desire to escape the
judgment threatened, inspired his prayer. David saw the enormity of his
transgression; he saw the defilement of his soul; he loathed his sin. It was not
for pardon only that he prayed, but for purity of heart. He longed for the joy
of holiness--to be restored to harmony and communion with God. This was the
language of his soul:
"Blessed is he whose transgression
is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord
imputeth not iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no guile." Psalm 32:1,
2. "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness: According
unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. . . . For I
acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. . . . Purge me with
hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . .
Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me
not away from Thy presence; And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto
me the joy of Thy salvation; And uphold me with Thy free spirit. . . . Deliver
me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation: And my tongue shall
sing aloud of Thy righteousness." Psalm 51:1-14.
A repentance such as this, is beyond
the reach of our own power to accomplish; it is obtained only from Christ, who
ascended up on high and has given gifts unto men.
Just here is a point on which many may
err, and hence they fail of receiving the help that Christ desires to give them.
They think that they cannot come to Christ unless they first repent, and that
repentance prepares for the forgiveness of their sins. It is true that
repentance does precede the forgiveness of sins; for it is only the broken and
contrite heart that will feel the need of a Saviour. But must the sinner wait
till he has repented before he can come to Jesus? Is repentance to be made an
obstacle between the sinner and the Saviour?
The Bible does not teach that the
sinner must repent before he can heed the invitation of Christ, "Come unto
Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28. It is the virtue that goes forth from Christ, that leads to
genuine repentance. Peter made the matter clear in his statement to the
Israelites when he said, "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a
Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of
sins." Acts 5:31. We can no more repent without the Spirit of Christ to
awaken the conscience than we can be pardoned without Christ.
Christ is the source of every right
impulse. He is the only one that can implant in the heart enmity against sin.
Every desire for truth and purity, every conviction of our own sinfulness, is an
evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts.
Jesus has said, "I, if I be lifted
up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." John 12:32. Christ must be
revealed to the sinner as the Saviour dying for the sins of the world; and as we
behold the Lamb of
God upon the cross of Calvary, the
mystery of redemption begins to unfold to our minds and the goodness of God
leads us to repentance. In dying for sinners, Christ manifested a love that is
incomprehensible; and as the sinner beholds this love, it softens the heart,
impresses the mind, and inspires contrition in the soul.
It is true that men sometimes become
ashamed of their sinful ways, and give up some of their evil habits, before they
are conscious that they are being drawn to Christ. But whenever they make an
effort to reform, from a sincere desire to do right, it is the power of Christ
that is drawing them. An influence of which they are unconscious works upon the
soul, and the conscience is quickened, and the outward life is amended. And as
Christ draws them to look upon His cross, to behold Him whom their sins have
pierced, the commandment comes home to the conscience. The wickedness of their
life, the deep-seated sin of the soul, is revealed to them. They begin to
comprehend something of the righteousness of Christ, and exclaim, "What is
sin, that it should require such a sacrifice for the redemption of its victim?
Was all this love, all this suffering, all this humiliation, demanded, that we
might not perish, but have everlasting life?"
The sinner may resist this love, may
refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to
Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the
cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God's dear
The same divine mind that is working
upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an
inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world
cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek
for those things that alone can give peace and rest--the grace of Christ, the
joy of holiness. Through influences seen and unseen, our Saviour is constantly
at work to attract the minds of men from the unsatisfying pleasures of sin to
the infinite blessings that may be theirs in Him. To all these souls, who are
vainly seeking to drink from the broken cisterns of this world, the divine
message is addressed, "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will,
let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17.
You who in heart long for something
better than this world can give, recognize this longing as the voice of God to
your soul. Ask Him to give you repentance, to reveal Christ to you in His
infinite love, in His perfect purity. In the Saviour's life the principles of
God's law--love to God and man--were perfectly exemplified. Benevolence,
unselfish love, was the life of His soul. It is as we behold Him, as the light
from our Saviour falls upon us, that we see the sinfulness of our own hearts.
We may have flattered ourselves, as did
Nicodemus, that our life has been upright, that our moral character is correct,
and think that we need not humble the heart before God, like the common sinner:
but when the light from Christ shines into our souls, we shall see how impure we
are; we shall discern the selfishness of motive, the enmity against God, that
has defiled every act of life. Then we
shall know that our own righteousness is indeed as filthy rags, and that the
blood of Christ alone can cleanse us from the defilement of sin, and renew our
hearts in His own likeness.
One ray of the glory of God, one gleam
of the purity of Christ, penetrating the soul, makes every spot of defilement
painfully distinct, and lays bare the deformity and defects of the human
character. It makes apparent the unhallowed desires, the infidelity of the
heart, the impurity of the lips. The sinner's acts of disloyalty in making void
the law of God, are exposed to his sight, and his spirit is stricken and
afflicted under the searching influence of the Spirit of God. He loathes himself
as he views the pure, spotless character of Christ.
When the prophet Daniel beheld the
glory surrounding the heavenly messenger that was sent unto him, he was
overwhelmed with a sense of his own weakness and imperfection. Describing the
effect of the wonderful scene, he says, "There remained no strength in me:
for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no
strength." Daniel 10:8. The soul thus touched will hate its selfishness,
abhor its self-love, and will seek, through Christ's righteousness, for the
purity of heart that is in harmony with the law of God and the character of
Paul says that as "touching the
righteousness which is in the law"--as far as outward acts were concerned
--he was "blameless" (Philippians 3:6); but when the spiritual
character of the law was discerned, he saw himself a sinner. Judged by the
letter of the law as
men apply it to the outward life, he
had abstained from sin; but when he looked into the depths of its holy precepts,
and saw himself as God saw him, he bowed in humiliation and confessed his guilt.
He says, "I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came,
sin revived, and I died." Romans 7:9. When he saw the spiritual nature of
the law, sin appeared in its true hideousness, and his self-esteem was gone.
God does not regard all sins as of
equal magnitude; there are degrees of guilt in His estimation, as well as in
that of man; but however trifling this or that wrong act may seem in the eyes of
men, no sin is small in the sight of God. Man's judgment is partial, imperfect;
but God estimates all things as they really are. The drunkard is despised and is
told that his sin will exclude him from heaven; while pride, selfishness, and
covetousness too often go unrebuked. But these are sins that are especially
offensive to God; for they are contrary to the benevolence of His character, to
that unselfish love which is the very atmosphere of the unfallen universe. He
who falls into some of the grosser sins may feel a sense of his shame and
poverty and his need of the grace of Christ; but pride feels no need, and so it
closes the heart against Christ and the infinite blessings He came to give.
The poor publican who prayed, "God
be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13), regarded himself as a very wicked
man, and others looked upon him in the same light; but he felt his need, and
with his burden of
guilt and shame he came before God,
asking for His mercy. His heart was open for the Spirit of God to do its
gracious work and set him free from the power of sin. The Pharisee's boastful,
self-righteous prayer showed that his heart was closed against the influence of
the Holy Spirit. Because of his distance from God, he had no sense of his own
defilement, in contrast with the perfection of the divine holiness. He felt no
need, and he received nothing.
If you see your sinfulness, do not wait
to make yourself better. How many there are who think they are not good enough
to come to Christ. Do you expect to become better through your own efforts?
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye
also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." Jeremiah 13:23. There is
help for us only in God. We must not wait for stronger persuasions, for better
opportunities, or for holier tempers. We can do nothing of ourselves. We must
come to Christ just as we are.
But let none deceive themselves with
the thought that God, in His great love and mercy, will yet save even the
rejecters of His grace. The exceeding sinfulness of sin can be estimated only in
the light of the cross. When men urge that God is too good to cast off the
sinner, let them look to Calvary. It was because there was no other way in which
man could be saved, because without this sacrifice it was impossible for the
human race to escape from the defiling power of sin, and be restored to
communion with holy beings,--impossible for them again to become partakers
of spiritual life,--it was because of
this that Christ took upon Himself the guilt of the disobedient and suffered in
the sinner's stead. The love and suffering and death of the Son of God all
testify to the terrible enormity of sin and declare that there is no escape from
its power, no hope of the higher life, but through the submission of the soul to
The impenitent sometimes excuse
themselves by saying of professed Christians, "I am as good as they are.
They are no more self-denying, sober, or circumspect in their conduct than I am.
They love pleasure and self-indulgence as well as I do." Thus they make the
faults of others an excuse for their own neglect of duty. But the sins and
defects of others do not excuse anyone, for the Lord has not given us an erring
human pattern. The spotless Son of God has been given as our example, and those
who complain of the wrong course of professed Christians are the ones who should
show better lives and nobler examples. If they have so high a conception of what
a Christian should be, is not their own sin so much the greater? They know what
is right, and yet refuse to do it.
Beware of procrastination. Do not put
off the work of forsaking your sins and seeking purity of heart through Jesus.
Here is where thousands upon thousands have erred to their eternal loss. I will
not here dwell upon the shortness and uncertainty of life; but there is a
terrible danger--a danger not sufficiently understood--in delaying to yield to
the pleading voice of God's Holy Spirit, in choosing to live in sin; for such
this delay really is. Sin, however
small it may be esteemed, can be
indulged in only at the peril of infinite loss. What we do not overcome, will
overcome us and work out our destruction.
Adam and Eve persuaded themselves that
in so small a matter as eating of the forbidden fruit there could not result
such terrible consequences as God had declared. But this small matter was the
transgression of God's immutable and holy law, and it separated man from God and
opened the floodgates of death and untold woe upon our world. Age after age
there has gone up from our earth a continual cry of mourning, and the whole
creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain as a consequence of man's
disobedience. Heaven itself has felt the effects of his rebellion against God.
Calvary stands as a memorial of the amazing sacrifice required to atone for the
transgression of the divine law. Let us not regard sin as a trivial thing.
Every act of transgression, every
neglect or rejection of the grace of Christ, is reacting upon yourself; it is
hardening the heart, depraving the will, benumbing the understanding, and not
only making you less inclined to yield, but less capable of yielding, to the
tender pleading of God's Holy Spirit.
Many are quieting a troubled conscience
with the thought that they can change a course of evil when they choose; that
they can trifle with the invitations of mercy, and yet be again and again
impressed. They think that after doing despite to the Spirit of grace, after
casting their influence on the side of Satan, in a moment of terrible extremity
they can change their course. But this is not so easily done. The experience,
the education, of a lifetime, has so
thoroughly molded the character that few then desire to receive the image of
Even one wrong trait of character, one
sinful desire, persistently cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power
of the gospel. Every sinful indulgence strengthens the soul's aversion to God.
The man who manifests an infidel hardihood, or a stolid indifference to divine
truth, is but reaping the harvest of that which he has himself sown. In all the
Bible there is not a more fearful warning against trifling with evil than the
words of the wise man that the sinner "shall be holden with the cords of
his sins." Proverbs 5:22.
Christ is ready to set us free from
sin, but He does not force the will; and if by persistent transgression the will
itself is wholly bent on evil, and we do not desire to be set free, if we will
not accept His grace, what more can He do? We have destroyed ourselves by our
determined rejection of His love. "Behold, now is the accepted time;
behold, now is the day of salvation." "Today if ye will hear His
voice, harden not your hearts." 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7, 8.
"Man looketh on the outward
appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart"--the human heart, with its
conflicting emotions of joy and sorrow; the wandering, wayward heart, which is
the abode of so much impurity and deceit. 1 Samuel 16:7. He knows its motives,
its very intents and purposes. Go to Him with your soul all stained as it is.
Like the psalmist, throw its chambers open to the all-seeing eye, exclaiming,
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know
my thoughts: and see if there be any
wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139: 23, 24.
Many accept an intellectual religion, a
form of godliness, when the heart is not cleansed. Let it be your prayer,
"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within
me." Psalm 51:10. Deal truly with your own soul. Be as earnest, as
persistent, as you would be if your mortal life were at stake. This is a matter
to be settled between God and your own soul, settled for eternity. A supposed
hope, and nothing more, will prove your ruin.
Study God's word prayerfully. That word
presents before you, in the law of God and the life of Christ, the great
principles of holiness, without which "no man shall see the Lord."
Hebrews 12:14. It convinces of sin; it plainly reveals the way of salvation.
Give heed to it as the voice of God speaking to your soul.
As you see the enormity of sin, as you
see yourself as you really are, do not give up to despair. It was sinners that
Christ came to save. We have not to reconcile God to us, but--O wondrous
love!--God in Christ is "reconciling the world unto Himself." 2
Corinthians 5:19. He is wooing by His tender love the hearts of His erring
children. No earthly parent could be as patient with the faults and mistakes of
his children, as is God with those He seeks to save. No one could plead more
tenderly with the transgressor. No human lips ever poured out more tender
entreaties to the wanderer than does He. All His promises, His warnings, are but
the breathing of unutterable love.
When Satan comes to tell you that you
great sinner, look up to your Redeemer
and talk of His merits. That which will help you is to look to His light.
Acknowledge your sin, but tell the enemy that "Christ Jesus came into the
world to save sinners" and that you may be saved by His matchless love. 1
Timothy 1:15. Jesus asked Simon a question in regard to two debtors. One owed
his lord a small sum, and the other owed him a very large sum; but he forgave
them both, and Christ asked Simon which debtor would love his lord most. Simon
answered, "He to whom he forgave most." Luke 7:43. We have been great
sinners, but Christ died that we might be forgiven. The merits of His sacrifice
are sufficient to present to the Father in our behalf. Those to whom He has
forgiven most will love Him most, and will stand nearest to His throne to praise
Him for His great love and infinite sacrifice. It is when we most fully
comprehend the love of God that we best realize the sinfulness of sin. When we
see the length of the chain that was let down for us, when we understand
something of the infinite sacrifice that Christ has made in our behalf, the
heart is melted with tenderness and contrition.