That which has been is now; and that which is to be has already been; and God requires that which is past.
I. The fact that there is a sense in which the past is never done away with, will appear at once, from many considerations, to any one who reflects upon the subject. There is nothing which we are more likely to forget than the truth which St. Paul expressed when he said, "A man cannot live unto himself." To go no farther, every man must have some influence upon his immediate relatives. The parent has some influence upon his children. But it is not only
as regard others — important and awful though that be — that "that which hath been is now."
II. Even if all the injury we may have done to others by a course of which we have now repented, still the past will leave its marks upon ourselves; marks which no repentance will blot out. Just as there are dangerous wounds which, long after they have been healed, leave a tenderness in the part which they affected, or, at all events, leave a sear which never can be removed; just as there are diseases which leave behind them a delicacy, or of which, even after they are thoroughly eradicated, there remain in the robust frame the everlasting marks; so a course of sin, even when it does not — and I believe this is the exception — even when it does not cause a permanent delicacy, still leaves behind it the marks of its once putrefying wounds and bruises and sores, long after they have been healed by the Great Physician. We have been saved from death, but great and unceasing care is henceforth absolutely necessary. Our sickness is over, but our countenance is changed. Mortification has been checked by the timely amputation of a limb; we are in full health, but we never get the limb back again. There are, no doubt, those who, by God's grace, attain, as nearly as possible, to the character of those who had never yielded themselves deliberately to courses of sin or carelessness. There are prodigals who are not only forgiven and received with readiness and joy, but in whom the traces of wantonness and degradation or selfishness have become almost, if not altogether, imperceptible; between whorl and the son who had "ever been with his father" no man can observe the difference. Still, even to such, the past is not a blank. It cannot but be that the gloomy recollection will often cross his mind of those who have passed away now from his influence, and whom he once influenced for evil; and who will say that as such a memory blends with the anticipation of the time when they shall meet again, and suggests, as it will suggest, the judgment of the Great Day — who will say that the past of the pardoned and accepted penitent is not painfully required of him?
(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
WEB: That which is has been long ago, and that which is to be has been long ago: and God seeks again that which is passed away.