The Cottage Floor: and Why It Was Never Scrubbed

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
During a visit in 1904 to a remote part of South Africa, I was lodging at a small house on the veldt (prairie).
On retiring to rest at night, I could not help noticing the extremely dirty state of the bedroom floor. It looked as if it had not been cleaned for months. I determined that the following day I would call the landlady’s attention to it, and ask her to have it scrubbed.
The next morning, however, I saw what had escaped my notice the evening before. The floor was of such a nature that no scrubbing could make it any cleaner. It was made of big clods of dirt, dried and hardened in the sun, and trodden down till a solid surface was formed, as level and smooth as any ordinary floor.
Of course I gave up my idea of asking the landlady to scrub it. The more such a floor was scrubbed the worse it would become. No amount of soap and water would do it any good.
Will you be surprised, reader, if I tell you that that bedroom floor aptly sets forth your condition in the sight of God?
I wonder if you are prepared to acknowledge that in God’s sight you are so bad, so unclean, so corrupt, that you can no more improve yourself, or do anything to amend your condition, than the bedroom floor could be made clean by scrubbing it?
This is a truth that many are very slow to learn. They labor under the delusion that if only they try hard enough, and persevere long enough, they can make themselves more fit for God’s presence. They might as well imagine that if only they could get a good scrubbing-brush, and plenty of soap and water, they would at last succeed in improving the condition of the bedroom floor. “For though thou wash thee with niter, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God” (Jeremiah 2:2222For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God. (Jeremiah 2:22)).
Multitudes of men and women are engaged in a hopeless task of this sort, and many are the various kinds of scrubbing-brushes that they use.
There is, for instance, the scrubbing-brush of Self-Restraint. Have you not sometimes used this brush? You have tried to control your temper, and put a curb upon your unruly tongue. You have kept a strict watch over your actions and have endeavored to restrain your passions. In this way you have been scrubbing away at the dirty floor. But you have utterly failed to effect any real improvement. You are as far from God as ever. Your heart is just as bad as when you began.
Perhaps it is the scrubbing-brush of Moral Living that you are trying. You do not swear or cheat, or get drunk. No impure speech ever soils your lips. You never do anything that men would call wicked. But all this makes no difference in your condition before God. Your moral living has not changed the evil character of your heart. “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:99Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? (Proverbs 20:9)).
Many fancy that where other scrubbing-brushes fail, the brush of Religion will succeed. So they read their Bibles and say their prayers. They are regular attendants at church, and take the sacrament. Perhaps they sing in the choir. They may become Sunday-school teachers. But all this leaves their carnal nature unchanged. Their religious garb serves but to cover up the uncleanness within.
If the scrubbing-brush of Religion could make any one clean, it should have made Saul of Tarsus so. Zealous beyond all his contemporaries, rigid in his observance of ceremonies and ordinances, devoted in his obedience to the priests, he might well have claimed to be the most religious man of his day.
But all the while there raged in his heart a bitter hatred against Christ. When at last his eyes were opened, and he found how terribly mistaken he had been, he confessed that he was the chief of sinners. In spite of all his religiousness he had to acknowledge, “In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:1818For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Romans 7:18)).
Do not, then, make a scrubbing-brush of Religion as it can never make the sinner clean. It can never wash away his sin.
If neither self-restraint, moral living, religion, nor any other scrubbing-brush of a similar kind can make you clean, there is One who can. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only Saviour. There is power in His precious blood to wash all your foul stains away.
“Ye must be born again” (John 3:77Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:7)), are the words that confront every Christless soul. They were addressed to a most religious man and they are as true today as ever. What you need, reader, is to be born again. Nothing short of that will do.
Confess your exceeding sinfulness. Pass sentence upon yourself unsparingly. Then look away from yourself altogether to Christ. “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:55And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5)). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:77The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. (John 1:7)). Happy the heart that can say:
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee Whose blood can cleanse each spot:
O Lamb of God, I come.