1. DO NOT TRY TO SAVE YOURSELF
If you think about it, God's value of heaven and yours are very different things. His salvation, when he set a price upon it, was to be brought to men only through the death of his Son. But you think that your good works can win the heaven which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, procured at the cost of his own blood! Do you dare to put your miserable life in comparison with the life of God's obedient Son, who gave himself even to death? Does it not strike you that you are insulting God? If there is a way to heaven by works, why did he put his dear Son to all that pain and grief? Why the scenes of Gethsemane? Why the tragedy on Golgotha, when the thing could be done so easily another way? You insult the wisdom of God and the love of God.
There is no attribute of God which self-righteousness does not impugn. It debases the eternal perfections which the blessed Saviour magnified, in order to exalt the pretensions of the creature which the Almighty spurns as vain and worthless. The trader may barter his gold for your trinkets and glass beads, but if you give all that you have to God it would be utterly rejected. He will bestow the milk and the honey of his mercy without money and without price, but if you come to him trying to bargain for it, it is all over for you; God will not give you choice provisions of his love that you do not know how to appreciate.
The great things you propose to do, these works of yours, what comparison do they bear to the blessing which you hope to obtain? I suppose by these works you hope to obtain the favour of God and procure a place in heaven. What is it, then you propose to offer? What could you bring to God? Would you bring him rivers of oil, or the fat of ten thousand animals? Count up all the treasures that lie beneath the surface of the earth; if you brought them all, what would they be to God? If you could pile up all the gold reaching from the depths of the earth to the highest heavens, what would it be to him? How could all this enrich his coffers or buy your salvation? Can he be affected by anything you do to augment the sum of his happiness, or to increase the glory of his kingdom? If he were hungry he would not tell you. "The cattle upon ten thousand hills are mine," he says (Psa 50:10). Your goodness may please your fellow-creatures, and your charity may make them grateful, but will God owe anything to you for your gifts, or be in debt to you for your influence? Absurd questions! When you have done everything, what will you be but a poor, unworthy, unprofitable servant? You will not have done what you ought, much less will there be any balance in your favour to make atonement for sin, or to purchase for you an inheritance in the realms of light.
You who are going to save yourselves by reforms, and by earnest attempts and endeavours, let me ask you, if a man could not perform a certain work when his arm had strength in it, how will he be able to perform it when the bone is broken? When you were young and inexperienced, you had not yet fallen into evil habits and customs. Though there was depravity in your nature then, you had not become bound in the iron net of habit, yet even then you went astray like a lost sheep and you followed after evil. What reason have you to suppose that you can suddenly change the bias of your heart, the course of your actions and the tenor of your life, and become a new man? "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" (Jer 13:23). Are there not ten thousand probabilities against one that as you sinned before you will sin still? You found the pathway of evil to be so attractive and fascinating that you were enticed into it, and you will still be enticed and drawn away from that path of integrity which you are now so firmly resolved to tread.
The way to heaven by following the law given at Mount Sinai is very steep and narrow, and it takes only one wrong step for a man to be dashed to pieces. Stand at the foot and look up at it if you dare. On its brow of stone there is the black cloud, out of which lightning leaps and the blast of the trumpet sounds loud and long. Do you not see Moses tremble, and you will dare to stand unabashed where Moses is fearful and afraid? Look upwards, and give up the thought of climbing those steep crags, for no one has ever striven to clamber up there in the hope of salvation without finding destruction among the terrors of the way! Be wise, give up that deceitful hope of salvation which your pride leads you to choose and your presumption would soon cause you to rue.
Suppose you could do some great thing, which I am sure you cannot, and it were possible that you could from now on be perfect, and never sin again in thought, or word, or deed; how would you be able to atone for your past delinquencies? Shall I call for a resurrection in that graveyard of your memory? Let your sins rise up for a moment, and pass in review before you. Ah, the sins of your youth may well frighten you; those midnight sins; those midday sins; those sins against light and knowledge; those sins of body; those sins of soul! You have forgotten them, you say, but God has not. Look at the file! They are all placed there, all registered in God's daybook, not one forgotten—all to be read against you in the day of the last judgment.
How can future obedience make up for past transgression? The cliff has fallen and though the wave washes up ten thousand times, it cannot set the cliff up again. The day is bright but still there was a night, and the brightest day does not obliterate the fact that once it was dark. The self-righteous man knows that what he is doing cannot satisfy God, for it cannot satisfy himself; and though he may perhaps drug his conscience, there is generally enough left of the divine element within the man to make him feel and know that it is not satisfactory.
To believe what God says, to do what God commands, to take that salvation which God provides—this is man's highest and best wisdom. Open your Bible. It is the pilgrim's guide, in which God describes the glory yet to be revealed. This is the one message of the gospel, "believe and live." Trust in the incarnate Saviour, whom God appointed to stand in the place of sinners. Trust in him and you shall be saved.
—Advice For Seekers