“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.” Rom. 10:3
WHAT is man’s own righteousness, the best that he ever made, but the hewing out of a created cistern, in the place of the infinite fountain? His obedience, at best, must be but a partial and an imperfect one; and, failing in a single point, entails eternal despair. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
But not only is it shallow and contracted, it is also a “broken cistern.” It can hold no water of life or of peace, of consolation for of joy. In vain his spirit, tormented with guilt and agitated with fear, repairs to it for satisfaction and repose—it supplies it not. Let a man, for example, who is thus seeking salvation by the law, take the holiest day in the calendar of his life; let it be as free as it is possible for a fallen creature to make it from sin; let it be filled up with religious duties and services—it closes, and the curtains of night have drawn around him. Reposing on his pillow, he throws forward a glance into the eternal world—he thinks of the holy God, of the righteous law, of the solemn judgment, and the question, “What if this night I should be summoned to stand before my Judge!—what if to-morrow’s sun should rise upon my corpse, and I, a departed spirit, should be mingling with the dread realities of an unseen world?”—and he trembles and turns pale. What! has not his best obedience, his holiest day, his strictest observance, brought peace to his conscience and quietness to his soul? What! does no bright hope of glory play around his pillow, and no loving, peaceful view of God cradle him to rest? Ah, no! He has “forsaken the fountain of living waters, and has hewed him out a cistern, a broken cistern, that can hold no water,” and his night closes in upon him with the drapery of hopeless gloom.
To you, reader, is this solemn word now sent. Ah! while your eye has been scanning this page, has there not been in your heart the secret conviction of its truth? You have forsaken the righteousness of God, and for years have you been digging into the law, hoping thus to find in its strictest observance some well-spring of life and peace to your soul. But all your toil has been in vain, and all your time misspent. And why? because “by the works of the law should no man living be justified.” As true peace only flows through the channel of justification by faith, turning your back upon that channel, there is, there can be, no peace for your soul. Oh that this voice, now sounding in faithfulness on your ear, might awaken you to a sense of your delusion and your folly, and win you to the “good and the right way.” Oh that you might be persuaded to abandon the implements of a self-wrought righteousness, with which you have so long fruitlessly labored, and just as you are—poor, guilty, vile, helpless, and hopeless—betake yourself to the “righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ.” The law is a “broken cistern;” it holds no sweet waters of salvation, it gives out no streams of peace. But the Lord Jesus is a living fountain. He is the “end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.” He has brought in a new and an “everlasting righteousness,” for the full justification of poor sinners, such as you.
Abandon at once and forever the broken cistern of a creature-righteousness—too long has it allured but to deceive you—and repair to the fountain of a Divine righteousness, which never has and never will deceive a believing sinner. Drink, oh drink, from this life-giving fountain. Here are peace, joy, confidence, and hope. Clothed in this righteousness, you can look your sins in the face, and death in the face, and fear nothing.