The British poet William Cowper (1731-1800) trusted Christ when he was in his early twenties. Throughout his life, he was prone to periods of depression. When, toward the end of his life, his wife fell ill, he lapsed into a state of near-insanity from which he never recovered. During this time, he began to doubt his salvation. To express his feeling of separation from God, he wrote a poem entitled The Cast-Away.
The poem was based on a true event recorded by Lord Anson, captain of the ship Centurion. While rounding Cape Horn in a severe storm, a sailor was washed overboard. He was a strong swimmer, and immediately took off after the ship, yelling for help. But the storm carried the ship away much faster than he could swim. There was no way for Anson to turn the vessel and sail into the wind. The man’s shipmates watched in horror as the distance between the swimmer and the ship grew.
Cowper opens his poem (The entire poem can be easily found on the Internet, if you are interested. Note that Cowper, in his insanity, fails to take comfort in God.):
Obscurest night involved the sky,
The Atlantic billows roar’d;
When such a destined wretch as I,
Wash’d headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.
Then two stanzas later:
Not long beneath the whelming brine,
Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
Or courage die away:
But waged with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.
Spiritually, we are all like that swimmer. God created man to have fellowship with Him. But Adam sinned, and that sin washed us overboard and separated us from God. It doesn’t matter how strong or smart or tenacious we are. There’s nothing we can do that can reconcile us to God. We are adrift and doomed to die.
But unlike Anson, who couldn’t come to the rescue of the sailor, God can, and has, come to your rescue. Jesus Christ took upon Himself your sin that separated you from God. He became your sin.
In return, God gives you Christ’s righteousness. In 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21, Paul says: That God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself … For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
On your own, you can’t be saved. Through faith in Christ, and only through faith in Christ, you can.