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him. And so it is with us in our Christian course — time, valuable time, is lost in looking back. Besides, it is not only a loss of time, but a loss of spirit that comes of looking back. A man looks back, and sees how short a part of his race is run sees where he fell, or nearly fell, and his heart sinks, and he despairs of winning the prize. A Christian looks back, and he sees much to discourage him—he sees how imperfectly he has lived, in how many things he has transgressed--a long list of things left undone which he ought to have done;' and his heart sinks, and he says within himself,—“How can such a sinner as I be saved ? What use is it for me to strive for the heavenly prize, weighted as I am with the bonds and shackles of my past sins ?" And so he gives up the effort, and does not run with any vigour, in the race that is set before him.
You see then, brethren, the use of the Apostle's rule, and example. He bids us forget the things which are behind. He would not have us be for ever torturing ourselves with the remembrance of our past sin. He would have us bury the past-treat it as a dead thing, lest it drag us down, heart and soul into despair.
“Not backward should our glance be cast,
And when I say it is a good rule to forget the things that are behind, I must qualify the assertion. It is not a good rule for all persons, nor at all times. If we are growing proud, if we have a conceit of our own worth, if we flatter ourselves, as the Pharisees did, that we righteous— better than other people, sure of salvation - in that case, the most wholesome thing for us will be, not to forget the things which are behind. Look back, I would say to the proud, self-righteous man – look back into your past life, call to mind your transgressions, remember the time when you were careless, disobedient, easily led into acts of sin - remember, and take heed lest you fall back into your old way. Be not high-minded, but fear. By God's mercy you have not been cut off in your sins. By God's mercy you are what you are. But watch, and pray, lest the old temptation overtake you. Watch, and pray lest the enemy, whom you think you have conquered, come back and take advantage of your presumption, and once more gain the dominion over you !
Yes— the proud, the self-righteous, the careless, the unwatchful - those who are in sin, and have not repented of their sin, will do well often, and often, to look back, that so they may be made humble, and taught to know and
feel their unworthiness, and to sorrow for their sin.
It is quite another sort of persons to whom the Apostle's rule applies. Men who feel keenly the guilt of past sin— men who are weighed down, grieved, and wearied with its burdenmen whose sins have taken such hold
them that they dare not look up—whom Satan tries with all his subtilty to persuade that they are past forgiveness-guilty of the unpardonable sinmen whose hearts fail them because of their often falls, who lack the courage to get up, and try again the race — these are they who need to be addressed in words of encouragement - need to be told to forget the things which are behind !
If there be such persons present—if there be one, to him let me say, Forget-forget the things which are behind. Cease to brood over your sin. You cannot undo it. The recollection of it will only hinder you, and damp your energies after a better life. Forget it-cast away its cord, and go
forward with freer hearts to serve God, whom you desire to serve, in newness of life! And this brings me to the second part of
my text. The Apostle's words above, forgetting those those things which are behind, if they stood alone, might possibly lead some into danger. But they do not stand alone-they are followed by words equally weighty – equally to be laid to heart,Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.
Reaching forth unto those things which are before. This should be the Christian's motto-Forward ! Go on to perfection. Stop not at your present mark of attainment, but press on to a further point to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus !
And what, brethren, is that? what is the mark at which we ought to aim ? Surely it is, to be like unto our Master - to put on, as far as may be, the same mind, temper, disposition, which was in Christ Jesus!,
Yes, that is the mark— to be made like unto Jesus Christ. And because it is so hard to reach, , because it is so far off from us, we are bid all our life long to struggle and strive after it. We are not at any period of our life to count ourselves as having reached it; but forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, we are to press toward the mark— try each day to come nearer,
and nearer to it, even to our life's end !
The words of our Lord in the Gospel bear me out in saying this— Be ye perfect, even as your
Father which is in heaven is perfect. And in the Epistle to the Hebrews we are exhorted, - Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, to go on to perfection. And St. Peter thus sets before our sight, one after another, the chief objects at which a Christian should aim -- seek to attain - Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue ; and to virtue knowledge ; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience ; and to patience godliness ; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity!
To conclude. What then we may gather from the text, shortly summed up, is this,
First. That, judging by the example and words of St. Paul, no Christian may presumeno Christian may sit down and fold his hands and say, It is all right with me; my salvation is
For even an Apostle—and he the very foremost of the Apostles— declares that he does not count himself to have apprehended; that he had still — after all the grace vouchsafed unto him, after he had been so especially called of God, after he had seen the Lord Christ-still had need to use diligence, and did not consider that he could afford to relax his efforts, or to reckon on his reward as already gained.
That is the first thing we may learn from the text, and a very wholesome lesson it is. I have heard people talk of themselves as quite sure of going to heaven -- as out
as out of all peril, and beyond all fear. And I have wondered at their boldness.