THERE are two sins of man that are bred in the bones and that continually come out in the flesh. One is self-dependence and the other is self-exaltation. It is very hard, even for the best of men, to keep themselves from the first error. The holiest of Christians and those who understand best the Gospel of Christ find in themselves a constant inclination to look to the power of the creature—instead of looking to the power of God and the power of God, alone. Over and over again Holy Scripture has to remind us of that which we never ought to forget—that salvation is God’s work from first to last—and is not of man, neither by man. But so it is, this old error—that we are to save ourselves, or that we are to do something in the matter of salvation—always rises up and we find ourselves continually tempted by it to step aside from the simplicity of our faith in the power of the Lord our God. Why, even Abraham, himself, was not free from the great error of relying upon his own strength! God had promised to him that He would give him a son—Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham believed it, but at last, weary with waiting, he adopted the carnal expedient of taking to himself Hagar, to wife and he fancied that Ishmael would most certainly be the fulfillment of God’s promise. But instead of Ishmael’s helping to fulfill the promise, he brought sorrow unto Abraham’s heart, for God would not have it that Ishmael should dwell with Isaac. “Cast out,” said the Scripture, “the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.”
Now we, in the matter of salvation, are apt to think that God is tarrying long in the fulfillment of His promise and we set to work ourselves to do something and what do we do? Sink ourselves deeper in the mire and pile up for ourselves a store of future troubles and trials! Do we not read that it grieved Abraham’s heart to send Ishmael away? Ah, and many a Christian has been grieved by those works of Nature which he accomplished with the design of helping the God of Grace! Oh, Beloved, we very frequently find ourselves attempting the foolish task of assisting Omnipotence and teaching the Omniscient One! Instead of looking to Grace alone to sanctify us, we find ourselves adopting philosophic rules and principles which we think will effect the Divine work. We but mar it! We bring grief into our own spirits. But if, instead thereof, we in every work look up to the God of our salvation for help and strength and Grace and succor, then our work will proceed to our own joy and comfort and to God’s Glory! That error, then, I say, is in our bones and will always dwell with us and hence it is that the words of the text are put as an antidote against that error. It is distinctly stated in our text that salvation is of God. “Not for your sakes do I this.” He says nothing about what we have done or can do. All the preceding and all the succeeding verses speak of what God does. “I will take you from among the heathen.” “I will sprinkle clean water upon you.” “I will give you a new heart.” “I will put my Spirit within you.” It is all of God— therefore, again recall to our recollection this Doctrine and give up all dependence upon our own strength and power!