by Thomas Wilcox
When we come to God, we must bring nothing but Christ with us. Any ingredients, or any previous qualifications of our own, will poison and corrupt faith. He that builds upon duties, graces, etc., knows not the merits of Christ. This makes believing so hard, so far above nature. If you believe, you must every day renounce, as dung and dross (Phil 3:7,8), your privileges, your obedience, your baptism, your sanctification, your duties, your graces, your tears, your meltings, your humblings, and nothing but Christ must be held up. Every day your workings and your self-sufficiency must be destroyed. You must take all out of God’s hand. Christ is the gift of God (John 4:10). Faith is the gift of God (Eph 2:8). Pardon is a free gift (Isa 45:22). Ah, how nature storms, frets, rages at this, that all is of gift and it can purchase nothing with its acting and tears and duties, that all workings are excluded, and of no value in heaven.
If human nature had been left to contrive the way of salvation, it would have rather put it into the hands of saints or angels to sell it, than of Christ who gives it freely, whom therefore it suspects. It would have set up a way to purchase by doing; therefore it abominates the merits of Christ, as the most destructive thing to it. Nature would do anything to be saved rather than go to Christ, or close with Christ. Christ will have nothing, the soul would force something of its own upon Christ. Here is that great controversy. Consider, did you ever yet see the merits of Christ, and the infinite satisfaction made by His death? Did you see this when the burden of sin and the wrath of God lay heavy on your conscience? That is grace. The greatness of Christ’s merit is not known but to a poor soul in the greatest distress. Slight convictions will but have slight low prizing of Christ’s blood and merits.
Despairing sinner! You look on your right hand and on your left, saying, “Who will show us any good?” You are tumbling over all your duties and professions to patch up a self-righteousness to save you. Look at Christ now; look to Him and be saved all the ends of the earth (Isa 45:22). There is none else. He is a Savior, and there is none beside Him (v 21). Look anywhere else and you are undone. God will look at nothing but Christ and you must look at nothing else. Christ is lifted up on high, as the brazen serpent in the wilderness, that sinners at the ends of the earth, at the greatest distance, may see Him and look towards Him. The least sight of Him will be saving; the least touch healing to you.
And God intends that you should look on Him, for He has set Him on a high throne of glory, in the open view of all poor sinners who desire Him. You have infinite reason to look on Him, no reason at all to look away from Him: for He is meek and lowly of heart (Matt 11:29). He will do that Himself which He requires of His creature, namely bear with infirmities (Rom 15:1), not pleasing Himself, not standing upon points of law (v 2). He will restore with the spirit of meekness (Gal 6:1), and bear your burdens (v 2). He will forgive, not only until seven times, but seventy times seven (Matt 18:21,22). It hard put the faith of the apostle to it to believe this (Luke 17:4,5). Because we are hard to forgive, we think Christ is hard.
We see sin great; we think Christ does so, and measure infinite love by our own line, infinite merits with our sins, which is the greatest pride and blasphemy (Psalm 103:11,12; Isa 40:15). Hear what He says, “I have found a ransom” (Job 33:24). “In him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). God will have nothing else. Nothing else will do you good, or satisfy conscience, but Christ who satisfied the Father. God does all on account of Christ. You deserve hell, wrath, rejection: Christ’s deserving are life, pardon and acceptance. He will not only show you the one, but He will give the other. It is Christ’s own glory and happiness to pardon.
Consider, while Christ was upon the earth, He was more among Scribes and Pharisees, His professed adversaries; for they were self-righteous ones. It is not as you imagine, that His state in glory makes Him neglectful, scornful to poor sinners: no; He has the same heart now in heaven. He is God, and changes not. He is “the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He went through all your temptations, dejections, sorrows, desertions, rejections (Matt 4:3-12; Mark 15:24; Luke 22:44; Matt 26:38), and has drunk the bitterest of the cup and left the sweet; the condemnation is out. Christ drank up all the Father’s wrath at one draught; and nothing but salvation is left for you.
You say you cannot believe, you cannot repent. Fitter for Christ if you have nothing but sin and misery. Go to Christ with all your impenitence and unbelief, to get faith and repentance from Him; that is glorious. Tell Christ, “Lord, I have brought no righteousness, no grace to be accepted in, or justified by: I am come for Yours, and must have it.” By nature, we would like to be bringing something to Christ, but that must not be. Not a penny of nature’s highest improvements will pass in heaven. Grace will not stand with works (Titus 3:5; Rom 11:6). That is a terrible point to human nature, which cannot think of being stripped of all, not having a rag of duty or righteousness left to look at.
Self-righteousness and self-sufficiency are the darlings of sinful human nature, which she preserves as her life. That makes Christ seem ugly to sinful human nature. Sinful human nature cannot desire Him. He is just directly opposite to all nature’s glorious interests. Let sinful human nature but make a gospel, and it would make it quite contrary to Christ; it would be to the just, the innocent and the holy. But Christ made the gospel for you: that is, for needy sinners, the ungodly, the unrighteous, the accursed. Human nature cannot endure to think the gospel is only for sinners: it will rather choose to despair than to go to Christ upon such terrible terms. When nature is but put to it by guilt or wrath, it will go to its old haunts of self-righteousness and self-goodness. An infinite power must cast down those strongholds; Christ will look at the most abominable sinner before Him. None but the self-justified stands excluded from the gospel, because to such an one Christ cannot be made justification: he is no sinner.
To say in compliment, “I am a sinner,” is easy; but to pray with the publican indeed, “Lord, be merciful to me the sinner,” is the hardest prayer in the world. It is easy to say, “I believe in Christ”; but to see Christ full of grace and truth, of whose fullness you may receive grace for grace; that is faith indeed. It is easy to profess Christ with the mouth; but to confess Him with the heart, as Peter, to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, the alone Mediator, that is above flesh and blood. Many call Christ, Savior; a few know Him so. To see grace and salvation in Christ, is the greatest sight in the world! None can do that, but at the same time they shall see that glory and salvation to be theirs. Sights will cause applications. I may be ashamed to think in the midst of so much profession, that I have known so little of the blood of Christ, which is the main thing of the gospel. A Christless, formal religion, will be the blackest sight next to hell that can be. You may have many good things, and yet one thing may be lacking, that may make you go away sorrowful from Christ. You have never sold all; you have never parted with all your own righteousness, and so on. You may be high in duty and yet a perfect enemy and adversary to Christ, in every prayer, in every ordinance. Labor after sanctification to your utmost; but make not a Christ of it to save yourself; if so, it must come down one way or other. Christ’s infinite satisfaction, not your sanctification, must be your justification before God. When the Lord shall appear terrible from out of His holy place, fire shall consume that as hay and stubble.
This will be sound religion: To rest all upon the everlasting mountains of God’s love and grace in Christ, to live continually in the sight of Christ’s infinite righteousness and merits- these things are sanctifying. Without them the heart is carnal, and in those sights to see the full vileness, yet littleness of sin (in comparison to Christ’s righteousness), and to see all pardoned: in those sights to pray, hear, and so forth, seeing your polluted self, and all your weak performances, accepted continually; in those sights to trample upon all your self-glories, righteousness, privileges, as abominable, and be found continually in the righteousness of Christ only, rejoicing in the ruins of your own righteousness, the spoiling of all your own excellencies, that Christ alone, as Mediator, may be exalted in His throne. Mourn over all your duties however glorious, that you have not performed in the sight and sense of Christ’s love. Without the blood of Christ on your conscience, all is dead service (Heb 9:14).
That opinion of free-will (so cried up), will be easily confuted, as it is by Scripture, in the heart, which has had any spiritual dealing with Jesus Christ as to the application of His merits, and subjection to His righteousness. Christ is every way too magnificent a person for poor nature to close with or to apprehend of his own unaided free-will. Christ is so infinitely holy, nature never dare look at Him; so infinitely good, nature can never believe Him to be such, when it lies under a full sight of sin. Christ is too high and glorious for nature so much as to touch. There must be a divine nature first put into the soul, to make it lay hold on Him, He lies so infinitely beyond the sight or reach of sinful human nature.
That Christ which natural free-will can apprehend, is but a natural Christ of a man’s own making, not the Father’s Christ, nor Jesus the Son of the living God, to whom none can come without the Father’s drawing (John 6:44).
Excerpt from the Tract, Honey out of the Rock by Thomas Wilcox