Past and Present

by James Smith, 1860

The Scriptures often direct us, to look back to the rock whence we were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence we were dug. This is to . . .
produce humility,
awaken gratitude,
inspire us with confidence, and
call forth sympathy for others, who are still in the same condition.

We were hewn out of the natural rock--by omnipotent grace; and we were dug out of the pit of corruption--by sovereign mercy. Nor can there well be a greater contrast, than between what we are naturally--and what we are made by distinguishing grace. Paul dwells upon this at considerable length, in his letter to the Ephesians, to one brief portion of which I desire to call attention. He says, "You, who once were far off, are made near by the blood of Christ." Ephesians 2:13. Let us look at:

Our Former Condition. We were afar off. Like the prodigal, we had wandered into a far country; or like the emigrant, we were landed on a foreign shore.

Here we found ourselves afar off from GOD, not as to his essence--but as to our knowledge and enjoyment of him as a Father. We knew not God. We loved not God. We held no converse with God. We neither feared to offend him, or sought to please him. To us, it was as if there was no God. We were without any knowledge of the covenant of promise. We knew not that God had covenated to give eternal life to every believer, and had provided for his people all that was necessary to life and godliness.

We were afar off from his CHURCH, having no love to it, acquaintance or communion with it; for though we attended religious ordinances, we did not discern the spiritual nature, or lofty privileges of the church of Christ, as it stands in union with Christ, and blessed with all spiritual blessings.

We were far from HOLINESS, which is the health of the soul, being sick, mortally sick--and yet we felt it not, found it not, nor sought a remedy for it.

We were far from PEACE, nor did we know anything of that holy calm, that sweet tranquility of soul, which springs from a sense of justification and reconciliation to God.

We were without HOPE. That is, we had no settled, solid, well-founded expectation of eternal life as the gift of God, which is what Scripture calls a good hope.

We were afar off from SALVATION. Our state was a lost one. Our condition was a fearful one. There was but a step between us and everlasting burnings!

We were afar off from all that is good, and holy, and beautiful--and were depraved, polluted, and condemned!

O fearful state! O alarming condition!

We now turn to Our Present Blessedness.

We were afar off--but now we are made near. Yes, the prodigal has returned to his home, and the emigrant to his father's house.

We are now near to GOD, who is our father. He is with us always. He dwells in us. He is at peace with us. He pours down his choicest blessings upon us. Yes, we can say with David, with Jesus, "I have set the Lord always before me; he is at my right hand, therefore I shall be not moved."

We are near to JESUS, who is our Savior. He dwells in us--and we dwell in him. Faith brought us to his feet--and love keeps us there. We are within the sound of the softest whisper, and Jesus is within hearing of the softest call. He is our companion, as well as our Savior. Our constant friend, and very present help in trouble. O blessed, blessed privilege, to be near, so near to Jesus!

We are made near to the HOLY SPIRIT, who is our Comforter. Yes, he . . .
comforts us in all our tribulations,
helps all our infirmities,
teaches us the truth of God, and
leads us in the way everlasting.

We are near to the SAINTS, who are our brethren, our beloved associates, and fellow heirs of the grace of life. With them our names are enrolled in the family register. With them we share in the infinite love of our Heavenly Father's heart. With them we inherit all things.

We are made near to the ANGELS, who are all ministering spirits, sent forth to guard, benefit, and render service, to the whole household of faith.

We are near to HEAVEN too. There is but a thin partition between us and it! One step, and we pass from earth to Heaven.

O what a change, once enemies--but now the friends of God;
once condemned criminals--but now beloved children;
once afar off--but now made near by the blood of Christ!

Consider then,

The MEANS by Which the Change Was Effected. "Made near by the blood of Christ"--the precious blood, "of Christ." Not circumcision, not ceremonies--but the blood of Jesus.

It was the blood of Jesus as SHED, which meritoriously effected the change, and paved the way for our honorable return to God.

It was the blood of Jesus as PREACHED, which brought us the pleasing news, pointed out the way of return to God, and drew us into it!

It was the blood of Jesus as APPLIED, which reconciled us, spoke peace to us, and impelled us to draw near unto God.

It was the blood of Jesus as TRUSTED--which gave us boldness and access to him with confidence.

But for the blood of Jesus. . .
there would have been no way for us to return to God;
there would have been no good news to cheer our hearts;
there would have been no balm for our wounded consciences;
there would have been no foundation for our faith and hope.

Precious blood of Jesus--on you I rely, and through you I have boldness to draw near unto God!

Let us then review the past: What were we? Where were we? We were loathsome, criminal, and condemned. We were without God, and without hope in the world.

Let us be grateful for the present, for though once afar off, we are now made near by the blood of Christ. We are in Christ, we are near to God, we are dear to God, and therefore we are safe, honorable, wealthy, and happy.

Let us look forward with confidence and hope, for being made near to God now, we shall be near to God forever. Having reconciled us to himself by the blood of his Son--he will receive us to himself, to be with him forever.

Reader, are your afar off from God, or are you made near? If afar off--you may draw near. The blood of Jesus has cleared the road, the invitation of the gospel bids you come, and all things are ready for your acceptance, pardon, peace, and everlasting life! O come, come to God, by Jesus Christ! Come without delay! Come, before you close this book!