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to save our souls? The saving of our souls depends entirely upon the spending of our time; for the merits of a Saviour will never redeem those who take no steps to redeem themselves.If we are wise we shall consider this great queftion as we ought; and may God Almighty assist us with his gracious aid, in providing such an answer to it, as will prepare us for that awful account which we must all give, when time shall be no more.
PHIL. iii. 13.
BRETHREN, I COUNT NOT MYSELF TO HAVE
APPK EHENDED; BUT THIS ONE THING I DO:
FORGETTING THE THINGS WHICH ARE BE
HIND, AND REACHING FORTH UNTO THOSE
WARDS THE MARK.
IN apply it.
N the following discourse, I shall, first, endeavour to explain the text; and shall, secondly,
The words will bear this general interpretation :-Brethren, I do not consider myself as having yet attained the highest degree of christian perfection. That is a height, towards which we may be continually advancing, and yet can never fully attain. It is the
every good christian, however, to aim at it, as nearly as he
can. He ought never to be at rest; but, leaying behind him his past attainments, he should press, like a racer, to the ground before him. All his attention should be laid out in adding to his virtues--in improving those he has in weaning himself from the world-in becoming daily more heavenly-minded, and in advancing still nearer perfection.
This seems to be the general sense of the text: let us now examine it more closely.
The first thing the apostle enjoins, is to forget the things which are behind. What things he fays not; but leaves us to collect his meaning, and common sense will easily explain it. He cannot mean our sins: these, it is true, may be called things behind, or things past; but common sense affures us, these are things we should never forget, but always remember; bewailing and lamenting them; praying for God's grace; and hoping for his goodness, through Christ, to pardon them. We may take it for granted, therefore, that what the apostle bids us forget, is something which is better forgotten than remembered. What that is, requires little study to recollect, but some candour to apply. Let us take
a view of our own hearts, and reflect what thoughts are continually passing and repaffing in those dark receffes. Let us see what we are apt to remember with most readiness, and what generally comes uppermost. I fear our memory is most apt to run upon any little matter of goodness we may have discovered in ourselves--some superiority to others—some little praise we may think we deserve, or may have received-some little accomplishments, or qualities, we may value
- some little attainments, perhaps, we may have made in religion; or, some little charity we may have rendered to a necessitous neighbour. These are the things the apostle alludes to, and which he enjoins us to forget. We muft not dwell upon them: we must not conceive there is any merit in them. Let us leave God to judge our. works; let us only take care to do them; and leave his balance to weigh them, and fix what value his goodnefs pleases on each.
Only consider, what advantage arises from remembering these things. It only serves to puff you up with vanity to make you believe you are something, when in fact you are nothing to make you think you are good men, when you are only unprofitable fervants. This is not
acting the humble christian, but the proud Phas rifee. He cries, with felf-importance, God I thank thee that I am not as other men are. The humble christian, knowing how little he does, and how little he can do, forgetting all his. doings as things not worth remembering, cries, God be merciful to me, a finner !
But the remembrance of our good actions not only leads us into pride of heart, but has a tendency to check our farther improvement: for, when a man thinks highly of himself, it is natural for him to rest satisfied, and stop where he is : nothing but a sense of our own deficiencies will make us proceed. It is fo in every thing, as well as in religion. If a man think he has gotten money enough, he will not distress hiinself with getting more ; and, in the same manner, if a man think he has religion enough, he will cease to improve himself farther.
Besides, to remember our good works, takes away whatever little value they may have. Only confider how the matter stands in common life. When you hear a man praising himfelf for any good he may have done, you see how much it leffens the action: he has set his own value upon it, and perhaps a greater than people in general