What a difference there is in seeing the truth when the eye is opened! It is a fact that we are all born spiritually blind, and that we need to have spiritual eyesight, in order to distinguish spiritual objects, just as surely as we need natural eyesight to see the things around us. And so the Lord said to the learned Nicodemus that he had to be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. The things of that kingdom were all obscured and hidden from him until that mighty change took place. And if thus with him, so too with all.
Not only is there no entrance into that kingdom, but there can be no correct apprehension of its nature apart from the New Birth. This lies at the threshold of all true religion, and is the sine qua non of Christianity.
Now, when, through God’s infinite grace, the soul has thus been “born anew,” it sees things in a new and true light. It sees self—that hideous, vile, loathsome self—as it is, a thing corrupt and wholly beyond improvement; that nature, inherited by all, from common and fallen parents, which displays itself in the hatred of God and in the love of evil, and which, under all possible culture, education, and discipline, has produced nothing but a crop of miserably bad fruit; that inner spring of sin that has poisoned creation, and blighted the whole scene—this is seen and felt and known. The result is, self-abhorrence.
A happy result too! For the man that has not learnt to abhor himself has not yet entered the gate of true knowledge. He is yet in darkness.
“Man, know thyself,” is a human proposition; but, “Man, abhor thyself,” is, I may say, a divine command. Anyhow, it comes in the line of true self-knowledge. Ah! how abhorrent must that nature be which said of the blessed Son of God, “Away with Him, crucify Him!” Never speak in praise of such a self!
Think not, dear reader, that I am painting in too black colours, or exaggerating the truth. I fear that no language could fully depict the deadly character of self. The word of God says that it is “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4). Again, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17). “Desperately” is elsewhere translated “incurably.” Now think that you and I have a heart that is wicked beyond cure! Startling, but true. We speak of “a good-hearted fellow,” and we speak of a thing that does not exist. True, a man may be kind, sociable, generous, and so on; but go to the root, and you will find beneath a welcome exterior, a core of desperate and incurable wickedness. Let the suited test be applied, and this is the result. Head the book of Job, for example. The crucible drew out his cry: “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes;” and Job had certainly been what is called “a good-hearted man.” He is a happy man who has found out that self is beyond improvement, and that “in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). Very happy, and why? Because he turns completely from self to Christ, from his own fancied goodness to what is so fully provided in Him. “He has made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
And then again, such a soul sees God in a new light. Hitherto it looked on Him as “austere,” gathering where He had not strawed, and reaping where He had not sown. But how different now is its vision, “God is love.” This bright and blessed truth has broken in upon the darkened spirit—like the dawn of day, and the smile of sun as night retires—carrying with it hope and joy. A new scene has opened. Nature’s ignorance of God, attended by its desolate train of guilt, suspicion, distrust, dread, terror, is met by this gladsome beam of love, and these three pregnant monosyllables, now accepted, banish for ever the darkness, the doubt, and the gloom. Glorious morning! Heart-captivating gleam from on high! All is clear, for “God is Love”!
Yes, clear indeed, for if God loves me He will seek my weal. That is an immense point. Had the prodigal known this, as to his father, his homeward steps would have been quicker and his heart lighter. For the love of God was toward us when we were dead in sins. Wonderful, but true.
Now, place self—that self we have viewed as so inherently abominable—in front of the love of God. Well, God does not love sin nor self, but He does love the poor fallen and guilty sinner who has been indwelt by sin and characterized by self, and, to demonstrate that love, has given His Son to the death for such. The death of Christ was necessary, for “without shedding of blood is no remission.” But having died, and borne the judgment, God is now able to justify the guilty who believe in Jesus. The death of Jesus supplies the ground. God can now righteously save. He can take up the most vile, and, in fullest harmony with the highest claims of justice, make that soul His child and His heir.
It is not, therefore, the mere hope of mercy. No, it is the solid and eternal foundation of accomplished redemption by which all the character of God is vindicated. His holiness, His abhorrence of sin, His love and His truth, it is on this mighty basis that the believer stands; and all is made good to him, and in him by the Spirit.
Oh, what a God is ours! Oh, to speak well of Him, even now! His grace is the spring; the blood of Christ is the ground; our faith is the instrument; and our works the evidence before men of all this gracious blessing.
“Let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me.”