When God Ruins our Best Works


SIR JAMES THORNHILL was the person who painted the inside of the cupola of St. Paul’s, in London.

After having finished one of the compartments, he stepped back, gradually, to see how it would look at a distance. He receded so far (still keeping his eye intently fixed on the painting) that he was got almost to the very edge of the scaffolding, without perceiving it: had he continued to retreat, half a minute more would have completed his destruction; and he must have fallen to the pavement underneath. A person present, who saw the danger the great artist was in, had the happy presence of mind to suddenly snatch up one of the brushes, and spoil the painting, by rubbing it over. Sir James, transported with rage, sprung forward, to save the remainder of the piece. But his rage was soon turned into thanks, when the person told him, “Sir, by spoiling the painting, I have saved the life of the painter. You was advanced to the extremity of the scaffold, without knowing it. Had I called out to you, to apprize you of your danger, you would naturally have turned to look behind you; and the surprise, of finding yourself in such a dreadful situation, would have made you fall indeed. I had, therefore, no other method of retrieving you, but by acting as I did.”

Similar, if I may so speak, is the method of God’s dealing with his people. We are all naturally fond of our own legal performances. We admire them to our ruin, unless the holy Spirit retrieve us from our folly. This he does, by marring (as it were) our best works, i. e. by showing us their insufficiency to justify us before God. When we are truly taught of him, we thank him for his grace, instead of being angry at having our idols defaced. The only way by which we are saved from everlasting destruction, is, by being made to see, that “by the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified.”

Taken and adapted from, “The Works of Augustus Toplady” Vol. IV