Pristine Grace

Our Righteousness
by Ann Hoblyn

'So Mrs Brown is gone to her rest. I was sorry to hear it. She was as good a person as ever lived.'

'Your turn and my turn must come some day, and how will it be with us then?' it was asked.

'That's a solemn thought', said the woman, 'but we must do the best we can.'

'And what is the best we can do?'

'We can pray, and think good thoughts.'

'Suppose, now, we do pray, and think good thoughts, you know they don't abide with us.'

'But we must persevere', she rejoined, 'we must try all we can, we must keep on at it.'

'Let me tell you something I heard two poor little children say that stopped at a shop just as I was passing. One of them said to the other, as he pointed to a strainer, "Bill, do you see that little basin? If you were to put the sea into that, it would not be full."

"I don't believe it," said the child.

"Ha, I knew you'd say that," said the little boy, laughing, "but it's true."'

The woman caught the idea at once. 'I see what you mean,' she said, 'you think that strainer is like our hearts, and they can hold nothing-no matter how much good may be put into them.'

'Yes, that's just it-you may put in knowledge of the Bible, good sermons, good example, good works, good thoughts, no matter what; but the natural heart of man is like the strainer, all passes through, and nothing that's good remains.'

'Then', said the woman, 'nobody can be saved at that rate.'

'You are quite right; nobody can be saved on the score of what they do. Mankind is utterly fallen, as the Bible tells us, and unable even to think a good thought.'

'It's a terrible state of things, if that's true,' replied the woman.

'Well, if the Bible is true, that is true, for we read, "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God; but they are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." But among this dust-heap of sinners God has his jewels. Amongst the broken mass of mankind God has his vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory. He gives them new hearts and new spirits. He calls them because he loves them, and whom he loves, he keeps to the end.'

'The Lord have mercy upon us all!' said the woman, 'and teach us the way to do better, and make us try as hard as ever we can to be saved, with the help of Jesus Christ.'

Reader, this woman made an honest confession of the ignorant religion of thousands and tens of thousands in our day. The apostle Paul, writing to the Romans concerning his nation, the Jews, said, 'For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.' Now this applies with equal force to every unrenewed sinner, hence the work of God the Spirit is to convince the elect of sin, and then, as an after act, to strip them of their righteousness, and thus to bring them feelingly to submit to the righteousness of God. The hope of the natural mind is in its own doing, and the gleam of gospel light received into the judgement only, makes Christ a mere helper in the work of salvation.

The wickedness of sin is acknowledged by the worst, but the heinousness of trusting to our righteousness is admitted by very few. The act of sin and the consequences due on account of sin, may produce deep repentance, but none save an enlightened soul was ever brought to repent of his righteousness. To have rag after rag torn from us, our 'comeliness turned to corruption', and nothing left us but sin; faith, prayer, love, hope, peace, all marred, spoiled, broken up before our eyes, and thus stripped, to face an all-seeing and holy God, this is the spot where we learn something of this mystery, submission to the righteousness of God. But how is this effected? By the power of the Holy Ghost only. Let the creature be told he can take one step in the matter, and there is treason in the thought. Tell him the written Word is sufficient authority to possess himself of this righteousness, and then the bodily eye or ear of the sinner is put in the place of the Holy Spirit's operation on the heart.

Tell him this righteousness is given in answer to prayer or because of his faith, and the whole scope of the gospel is thereby turned into a covenant of works. The righteousness of God in Christ is revealed to faith by a sovereign act of the Spirit when the set time arrives, and the Father of Mercies then says, 'Bring forth the best robe and put it on.'

Destitute of all that is good. and drained to the last drop, poor guilty, helpless, ruined prodigals then value a ready-made righteousness that asks no price, looks for no merit, needs no help, and which is bestowed not as a condition, but as an evidence, on the feelingly lost, and the incurably diseased. These know something by experience of the work of Christ for them, and the work of the Spirit in them, revealing the blood that cleanses, and the righteousness that clothes, while it strips off the rags of creature righteousness, and brings us as thankful debtors to the God of all grace.

Said one of old, 'My righteousness I will hold fast, and will not let it go;' and so has many a child of God thought and said since the days of Job. But the well-ordered covenant secures better teaching for all the elect, and this Job found out long before he changed worlds.

'Behold I am vile!' was his Spirit-breathed testimony, and this is the spot where the sinner is made to submit to the righteousness of God.

Romans 10:3. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Philippians 3:8,9. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things. And do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.