James Smith, 1859
I feel inclined for a few minutes to look back, call to mind what I was — and contrast the same with what I am now. Unquestionably I shall be justified in doing this, because the Lord directed Israel to look to the rock whence they were hewn, and to the hole of the pit out of which they were dug.
In a worse state than I once was, it is almost impossible to be — and all the consequence of sin. In a much better state, I cannot be — and all is to be ascribed to free grace. I had destroyed myself — and my deliverance was of the Lord alone. If any creature has reason to be humble, I have — on account of what I was once. And if any creature has reason to be grateful, I have — on account of what sovereign grace has done for me. But to the point —
1. I was a slave. A slave to sin, to Satan, to the world, and to many lusts and pleasures. A slave in fetters, in wretched bondage. And what was worse, I had no desire to be made free!
I am now redeemed. Redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, and by the power of invincible grace. Redeemed to God. My fetters are snapped asunder, my bonds are all broken. I am rescued from the hand of the cruel one, delivered from this present evil world, and freed from the domineering power of my lusts and passions. Blessed be God, that though I was a miserable slave once — I am the Lord's free man now!
2. I was a criminal under sentence of death. I had broken the law, insulted the lawgiver, and even refused to accept a pardon. I hardened myself in crime, and treated eternal punishment with contempt.
I am now a justified child of God. By faith in Jesus, I have received pardon, I have obtained my acquittal, and I have received the Spirit of adoption. My sins are forgiven, blotted out, forgotten; and the perfect work of the Son of God, which he wrought out when upon earth — is placed to my account. Blessed be his name, he allowed my sins to be imputed to him, and he became a sin offering for me — that I might be made the righteousness of God in him! And now by virtue of union to him — I am as righteous as he is righteous.
3. I was an enemy to God. There was nothing in God which I loved — nor did I wish to have anything to do with him. I had such an utter dislike to God, and such a wish to indulge in sin, and to be my own god — that I heartily wished there was no God beside me. In his gospel he lovingly called me to him — but I would not come; he begged me to be reconciled to him — but I contemptuously refused.
But now I am a friend of God. I love him. I confide in him. I trust him with all my secrets. I consult him in all my difficulties. I wish, always, to realize that he is present with me; and desire to think, speak, and act — as always under his eye. I prize his smile, his presence, and his love above all things besides. And instead of being my own god — I wish every power, faculty, wish, and word, to be subjected to his will. Blessed be God, that by the death of his Son, the work of his Spirit, and the displays of his love — he has thoroughly reconciled me to himself!
4. I was a child of wrath. The wrath of God was revealed from Heaven against my sin. There was everything in my nature and conduct to stir up, and call forth the just wrath of God against me. I was born in sin. I grew up a sinner. I was becoming a daring, desperate sinner — when he called me by his grace. I could claim nothing but wrath as my inheritance. I deserved nothing but wrath by my conduct.
But, O wondrous love! unsought, unsolicited — the God of love stopped me, transformed me, and made me a new creature in Christ Jesus! I am now an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. The property of my Heavenly Father is made over to me, and therefore, though by nature I had nothing — now as a child of God, I possess all things! For says the apostle, "All things are yours." As related to Christ, as one with Christ — I share in the immense wealth of the Son of God, and it would baffle the intellect of an angel to comprehend the unsearchable riches of Christ, to which I am entitled! Wonder, O Heavens! be astonished, O earth! I, a poor degraded sinner, a hateful child of wrath — am now, as an act of God's most marvelous grace, made an heir of God, and a joint heir with his beloved Son!
5. I was once afar off from God — as far from God as sin could place me! God was not in all my thoughts. Nothing would have been more irksome to me, or have been more dreaded by me — than the presence of God. Therefore, by my conduct, I daily said unto God, "Depart from me — I desire not the knowledge of your ways!"
But now I am brought near by the blood of Christ. All cause of fear and disagreement is removed. He drew me with cords of love, as with the bands of a man. He drew me, as guilty as I was, and said, "Your sins are all forgiven!" He looked upon me, as vile and degraded as I was, and said, "I have loved you with an everlasting love!" Having received the pardon of my sins, believing the love that God has to me, and feeling the attracting power of his mercy — I came into his presence, fell at his feet, and now can never be near enough to him; nor shall I, until admitted into his immediate presence! Blessed, forever blessed be the Lord, that I am no longer a stranger, or at a distance — but am loved by God, and near to God!
6. Once more, I was possessed by Satan. The evil one dwelt in me, influenced me, and led me captive at his will. My heart was his workshop! I was his willing slave.
But now, I am inhabited by the Spirit of God. I am a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus dwells in me. He works in me every good work. He suggests to me every holy thought. He subdues my corruptions, and works in me to will and to do of his own good pleasure. Wondrous change! My heart, once the den of the demon of darkness — is now the palace of the Spirit of light, holiness, and truth! How can I sufficiently admire the grace that wrought the change, or adore the God of all grace, who displayed such grace in me!
Once I was the bond-slave of Satan — but now I am the redeemed of the Lord.
Once I was a criminal waiting for an ignominious execution — but now I am accepted in the Beloved, justified from all things, and a child of God.
Once I was a bitter enemy to God — but now I am his friend, and he always treats me as such.
Once I was a child of wrath, an heir of Hell — but now I am an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.
Once I was afar off from God by wicked works, and loved the distance well — but now I am brought near to God, and live in near and sweet communion with him.
Once I was possessed by Satan, and the god of this world found a home in my heart — but now I am inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and am a temple of God.
Can any change be more wonderful! Can anything set forth more, the riches of God's grace, the merit of Jesus, or the power of the Holy Spirit! O the contrast between the past, and the present; and all must be ascribed to the grace of God alone!
Tell me no more of earthly toys,
Of sinful mirth, and carnal joys!
(The things I loved before);
let me but view my Savior's face,
And feel his animating grace,
And I desire no more!
Tell me no more of praise or wealth,
Of careless ease and blooming health,
For they have all their snares;
let me but know my sins forgiven,
And see my name enrolled in Heaven,
And I am free from, cares!
Give me a Bible in my hand,
A heart to read and understand
This sure unerring word;
I'd urge no company to stay,
But sit alone from day to day,
And converse with the Lord.