Converse With the Past
James Smith, 1865
"Ask now the days that are past." Deuteronomy 4:32
If we would be wise — we must converse with the past, as well as with the present. Mighty minds have inhabited our world, great wonders have been wrought — therefore important lessons are to be learned. We may take God's book and converse with man from the creation. Or, we may take man's books, and review any portion of the past. But either would be too much for this article. Let us therefore confine our attention to our own history. Let us look back over our past days, ask a few questions, and assign a few reasons for doing so.
First, let us REVIEW our past days.As men, there are the days of infancy, childhood, youth, and manhood; of the former we know comparatively little, of the latter much more. Close your eyes — and go calmly over them.
As sinners, there are the days of carelessness, conviction, concern, and consideration; again, carefully review these.
As Christians, there are the days of conversion, instruction, correction, manifestation, temptation, prosperity, adversity, bondage, liberty, light, and darkness. Now, go over these.
What changes we have passed through! What scenes we have witnessed! What sorrows we have felt! What joys we have experienced! But having obtained help of God — we continue to the present time. The worst is behind us — and the best, the brightest, is before us.
Secondly, let us ask a few suitable QUESTIONS.Let us inquire, if we ever found any solid pleasure in sin — any true peace without piety — any real ground for our slavish fears — any truth in Satan's suggestions? Let us inquire, if we ever gained anything by compromising with the world — or lost anything by living as a Christian? Let us inquire, if God has ever withheld any good thing from us? Let us appeal to our own personal experience, and ask, if God has not been faithful — if we have not proved the Bible to be true — if we have not found Satan to be a liar — if our doubts and fears have not been wrong?
"Ask now the days that are past," for an answer to these questions. Let them be well considered, duly pondered, and slowly and honestly answered. We shall find the employment profitable, and refreshing to our souls.
Thirdly, let us give some REASONS for conversing with the past.Properly attended to — it will lead us to praise God for the past. We shall see so many proofs of His forbearance, faithfulness, and love. And as we count our Ebenezers, and read their inscriptions — we shall be ready to say, "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth!" The Lord deserves our praises, He loves our praises, He condescends to ask for our praises; let us therefore review the past, until our ungrateful hearts break forth in praise and thanksgiving.
Properly attended to — it will lead us to exercise hope in the future. Past mercies, past interventions, and past deliverances, rightly viewed — will lead us to hope in God, and to say with the Apostle, "He who has delivered, does deliver, and in Him we trust, that He will yet deliver us."
We shall encourage others by our testimony. Few things are more encouraging, than to hear the Lord's people recount the Lord's mercies. O that there was more of this!
Properly attended to — it will lead us also, with confidence, to plead with God for blessings. New blessings. Great blessings. Needed blessings. Having given so many and so often — when we were so vile and so undeserving — we shall take courage to plead with Him, to give us even greater blessings still.
Properly attended to — it will enable us to resist the devil in time to come. Reviewing the past, we shall be reminded of many a deadly conflict, and many a glorious victory; and this will strengthen our faith in our glorious Captain, in our well-tried weapons, and in our directions for conducting the war.
Finally, we shall learn what we have gained by experience. What knowledge — what courage — what confidence — what bright evidences — what well-grounded assurance that we shall ultimately be "more than conquerors, through Him who loved us."
In looking over the records of past ages, we may ask:
What has been the sinners state — but misery?
What has been his course — but folly?
What has been his doom — but disappointment, disgrace, and woe?
What has been the saints comfort — but . . .
the Spirit's witness, and
the assurance that all things were working for his good!
What has been his wisdom — but . . .
separation from the world,
close walking with God,
imitating the conduct of Jesus, and
losing sight of himself, that he may aim singly at the Lord's glory!
What has been his end — but peace? "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright — for the end of that man is peace."
In reviewing the past, we must see, that our own course has been such as to lead us to lay our mouths in the dust, giving glory to God. If we ask the days that are past, and wait for their reply — we shall hear them say, "Your conduct has been unworthy of you — but the Lord's conduct reflects everlasting honor upon him.
You have been false — but He faithful;
you have been changeable — but He always the same;
you have forsaken Him — but He has pursued you with His love;
you have deserved His wrath — but He has crowned you with loving-kindness and tender mercy."
Brethren, let us praise the Lord, for "it is of the Lord's mercies, that we are not consumed, and because His compassions fail not; they are new every morning, and great in His faithfulness." Let us join with David and sing, "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits!"
And let us end the year as we began it — by exercising faith in the blood of Jesus, remembering that still, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. Praise, everlasting praise, to God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Comforter Amen.