And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1, KJV)
Spiritual life is not the result of working; how can the dead work for life? Must they not be quickened [i.e. regenerated] first, and then will they not rather work from life than for life? (emphasis mine) Life is a gift, and its bestowal upon any man must be the act of God. The Gospel preaches life by Jesus Christ.
Sinner, see where you must look! You are wholly dependent upon the quickening Voice of Him Who is the Resurrection and the Life. “This,” says one,” is very discouraging to us.” It is intended so to be. It is kindness to discourage men when they are acting upon wrong principles.
As long as you think that your salvation can be effected by your own efforts, or merits, or anything else that can arise out of yourself, you are on the wrong track, and it is our duty to discourage you. Remember that God’s declaration is that “whosoever believeth in Jesus hath everlasting life.” If, therefore, you are enabled to come and cast yourselves upon the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, you have immediately that eternal life which all your prayers, tears, repentance, church-goings, chapel-goings, and sacraments could never bring to you.
Jesus can give it you freely at this moment, but you cannot work it in yourself. You may imitate it and deceive yourself; you may garnish the corpse and make it seem as though it were alive, and you can galvanize it into spasmodic motion, but life is a divine fire, and you cannot still the flame or kindle it for yourself; it belongs to God alone to make it alive, and therefore I charge you, look alone to God in Christ Jesus.
(At the Master’s Feet, January 22)