Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Beware of Self-Righteousness

...the old way which wicked men have trodden is a way of self-righteousness. Cain, especially, trod that road. He was not an outwardly irreligious man, but quite the reverse. Inasmuch as a sacrifice must be brought, he will bring an offering on his own account. If Abel kneels by the altar, Cain will kneel by the altar also. It was respectable and reputable in that age to pay deference to the unseen God, Cain therefore does the same; but mark where the flaw was in his religion! Abel brought a bloody sacrifice, a lamb, indicating his faith in the great atoning sacrifice, which was to be offered in the end of the world in the person of the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus; but Cain presented an unbloody offering of the fruits of the earth, the products of his own toil, and he thought himself as good as Abel, perhaps better. When the Lord did not accept his service, the envious heart of the self-righteous man boiled over with indignation, and he became a persecutor, ay, a murderer.

None are so bitter as the self-righteous; none so cruelly persecute the righteous as those who think themselves righteous and are not. It was because Saul of Tarsus boasted in a fancied righteousness of his own that he breathed out threatenings against those who found their righteousness alone in Christ. The old way of self-righteousness, then, was trodden by the feet of the first murderer, and it is trodden still by tens of thousands of men. Ah, your church-goings and your chapel-goings, your carings of the sacrament, your baptism, your confirmation, your ceremonies of all sorts and kinds, your gifts to the poor, your contributions to charities, your amiable speeches, and your repetitions of your liturgies, or of your extemporaneous prayers; these, put together, are rested on as the rock of your salvation. Beware, I entreat you, for this is the old way of the Pharisee when he thanked God that he was not as other men; it is the old way of universal human nature which evermore goeth about to establish its own righteousness, and will not submit itself to the righteousness of Christ. As surely as the Pharisees were condemned as a generation of vipers, and could not escape the damnation of hell, so surely every one of us, if we set up our righteousness in the place of Christ’s righteousness, will meet with condemnation, and will be overthrown by God’s sudden wrath. Mark that old way, and I beseech you, men and brethren, flee from it; by God’s grace, flee from it now.

From a sermon entitled "The Old Way Of The Wicked," delivered March 7th, 1869. Image by Geof Wilson under Creative Commons License.

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