Instead of trying to make your case out to be better, believe in its thorough badness, and yet be of good cheer. You cannot exaggerate your sin, and even if you could, it would be wiser to err in that direction than the other. A man called at my house some time ago for charity; an arrant beggar, I have no doubt. Thinking that the man’s rags and poverty were real, I gave him a little money, some of my clothes, and a pair of shoes. After he had put them on and gone out, I thought, ‘Well, after all, I have done you a bad turn very likely, for you will not get so much money now as before, because you will not look so wretched an object.’ Happening to go out a quarter of an hour afterwards, I saw my friend, but he was not wearing the clothes I had given him, not he; why, I should have ruined his business if I could have compelled him to look respectable. He had been wise enough to slip down an archway, take all the good clothes off, and put his rags on again. Did I blame him? Yes, for being a rogue, but not for carrying on his business in a businesslike manner. He only wore his proper livery, for rags are the livery of a beggar. The more ragged he looked, the more he would get. Just so is it with you. If you are to go to Christ, do not put on your good doings and feelings, or you will get nothing; go in your sins, they are your livery. Your ruin is your argument for mercy; your poverty is your plea for heavenly alms; and your need is the motive for heavenly goodness. Go as you are, and let your miseries plead for you.
For meditation: The filthy rags of sin are the natural uniform of all human beings (Romans 3:23). The Lord Jesus Christ wore them spiritually on the cross in our place and in return offers you now his spotless robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 3:3–5), which is the Christian’s uniform and ticket to heaven. But you won’t even be able to gatecrash heaven (John 10:1), if you reject Christ’s righteousness and continue to wear the filthy rags of your sin (Matthew 22:11–13).