What Shall We Say after This?
by James Smith, 1860
This was the question of Ezra, when pleading with God for Israel, and confessing their sins before him. He went briefly over their history, noticing their conduct toward God, and God's conduct toward them — and then he asks, "What shall we say after this?" Ezra 9:10. The inquiry is as suited to us, as to him. It would be suitable at any time, it is especially seasonable at the present time. Let us therefore meditate upon it for a few minutes, and consider,
The Facts Referred To.These were principally four.
1. Great sins had been committed. The sins of Israel were said to be worse than the sins of the heathen, whom the Lord had cast out before them. And have not we committed great sins? Sins against light and knowledge — sins against love and mercy — sins after professing sorrow and promising reformation. Our sins have been great, numerous, and aggravated.
2. Great trials had been endured. Especially the Babylonian captivity for seventy years. We have had our trials too, though not such a severe and long continued trial as theirs.
3. Great mercies had been received. Especially the mercy of deliverance, and restoration to their own beloved land. What mercies have we received! What sweet mercies! What costly mercies! What multiplied mercies! To us, his mercies have been new every morning, and great has been his faithfulness.
4. A great deliverance had been wrought. For this, they could not be sufficiently thankful. But what was their deliverance, compared to ours. They were delivered from Babylon — but we were delivered from the lowest hell. They were delivered from an earthly oppressor — but we were delivered from an infernal one. They were delivered from natural slavery — but we were delivered from spiritual and eternal slavery!
We have indeed committed great sins, we have passed through great trials, we have received great mercies, and we have experienced a great deliverance; ought we not then to ask, "What shall we say after this?" Let us then notice,
The Inquiry Proposed.
What shall we say to ourselves? Every wise man will converse with himself.
What shall we say as to the past? We must say, "The Lord is righteous." He has been true to his word, and is justified in all that he has brought upon us. We should say, "I will be sorry for my sins." This is the least we can say. We cannot be glad that we have sinned, we ought not to be indifferent, therefore we should be sorry: and we should sorrow after a godly sort.
What shall we say as to the present? Let us say, "I will go and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now." And let us come to him with weeping and with supplication, confessing sin, asking for pardon, and pleading for restoration to the enjoyment of his favor. Let us add, "If I have done iniquity — I will do so no more!" And let us seek grace to carry out our determination in all the walks of life.
What shall we say as to the future? Say! With Hezekiah let us say, "I will go softly all my years." Not with the boldness and daring of the military hero; but with the care, caution, and tenderness of the corrected child. With David also let us say, "I will go in the strength of the Lord." To the performance of every duty, to endure every trial, and to face every foe — I will go in the Lord's strength, not in my own!
What shall we say to each other? Say with Jeremiah, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord." Or with Hosea, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord." And with the returned captives from Babylon, "Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant." We have done wrong — let us search that we may know our iniquities! We have wandered from God — let us now come back to him; and having come back, let us covenant to be his wholly, and his forever!
What shall we say to our God? Say? Plead with the Psalmist, "Pardon my iniquity — for it is great!" Or with Israel, "Take away all my iniquity." And with David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God." And with Jeremiah, "Although our sins testify against us, O Lord, do something for the sake of your name. For our backsliding is great; we have sinned against you!"
Then let us pledge ourselves to say with the Church, "O Lord our God, other lords have ruled us, but you alone are the one we worship." Acknowledging our sins to be great — let us seek for a full pardon! Admitting our hearts to be corrupt — let us pray to have all evil principles taken away! Knowing that God requires holiness — let us entreat that we may live a life of holiness. Though our iniquities would discourage — let us beseech God to work for his own glory — and then let us determine, that Jehovah alone shall be our God.
What shall we say to our foes? To the daring, defiant, and determined we will say, "Rejoice not against me, O my enemy; though I fall, I shall arise, and though I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me!" And to the seductive, alluring, and deceitful we will say, "Depart from me you evil doers, for I will keep the commandments of my God!" We should not be daunted by the daring, nor charmed by the alluring.
Unconverted man, unconverted woman, you have received many mercies from the Lord, you have committed many sins against the Lord — yet you have been spared unto the present by the Lord. What will you say after this? Will you say, "I will pursue my old course — I will persevere in sin — I will return evil to the Lord — for all the goodness he has done unto me, and all the kindness he has shown me!
Or will you say with the prodigal, "I will arise and go unto my Father; and I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son." If you do — he will receive you graciously, love you freely, and save you eternally!
Backslider, you have acted very ungratefully, and treated the Lord most unkindly; but he has borne with you, and has again and again invited vou to return. What will you say after this? Will you not take with you words and return unto the Lord? Will you not come back at his call, saying, "Behold, we come unto you; for you are the Lord our God."
Undecided one, you have often been impressed, your concern has been deep, you have been on the point of deciding more than once — but have not — to you the Lord is still saying, "How long will you halt between two opinions?" What will you say after this? Will you decide to give yourself away, body, soul, and spirit to the Savior; and publicly professing his name, join yourself to his people, and identify yourself with his cause? Will you? Remember, you cannot serve both God and mammon; nor can you be happy while you are in an undecided state.
Brother Christian, as a member of the church of Christ, you have not filled up your place as you ought to do — you have neglected duties, grieved the saints, and wounded the Savior in the house of his friends. Once more he has given you space to repent, once more he calls to you, "Repent and do your first works!" What will you say after this? Will you reflect, repent, and reform at once, that your latter end may be better than your beginning.
Sunday school teacher, you have not taught as for eternity; you have not travailed in birth for the souls of those children; and admitting the need of the outpouring of the Spirit — you have not agonized with God for that blessing! Once more, God entrusts your class to you, once more he says, "Train up those children for me!" What will you say after this? Will you say, "Lord, forgive the past, and I will endeavor to be more prayerful, more diligent, and more faithful in the future.
Unemployed professor, your talent has long been wrapped up in the napkin, no effort has been made by you to save souls from death, often has the Master asked, "Why stand you here idle all the day?" He has had great patience with you, hitherto he has borne with you, and is still willing to employ you, he says, "Go into the vineyard, and whatever is right, that shall you receive." What will you say after this? Will you repent, begin to work, to deny yourself, and toil diligently, that you may yet save some?
(Editor's note: Unfortunately we are unable to obtain the remainder of this wonderful article.)