Giving Up Self-Righteousness (McCheyne)

On October 25, 1840, Robert Murray McCheyne preached a sermon on Galatians 6:14 (May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [NIV]). In one part of the sermon McCheyne talked about Paul’s “feelings towards the cross of Christ.” That section started like this:

It is implied that he [Paul] had utterly forsaken the way of righteousness by deeds of the law. Every natural man seeks salvation by making himself better in the sight of God. He tries to mend his life; he puts a bridle on his tongue; he tries to command his feelings and thoughts, all to make himself better in the sight of God. Or he goes further: tries to cover his past sins by religious observances; he becomes a religious man, prays, weeps, reads, attends sacraments, is deeply occupied in religion, and tries to get it into his heart; all to make himself appear good in the eye of God, that he may lay God under debt to pardon and love him.

Paul tried this plan for long. He was a Pharisee, touching the righteousness in the law blameless; he lived an outwardly blameless life, and was highly thought of as a most religious man. “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” When it pleased God to open his eyes, he gave up this way of self-righteousness forever and ever; he had no more any peace from looking in,—“we have no confidence in the flesh;” he bade farewell for ever to that way of seeking peace. Nay, he trampled it under his feet. “I do count them but dung that I may win Christ.” Oh! it is a glorious thing when a man is brought to trample under feet his own righteousness; it is the hardest thing in the world.

This is very true! Many Christians still have a little pope or pharisee in us that think we have to obey God to gain his favor. Then we read words of gospel and grace in Scripture that says we do not need to “do” for God’s acceptance, because it is “done.” Sometimes to drive out the pharisee or pope in us we need to memorize and repeat to ourselves short phrases of Scripture like this: not by works! (Gal. 2:16). Lord, help us to lay down our own righteousness and cling to Christ’s, and his alone!

The above quote is found on page 261 of McCheyne’s Memiors.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015