Forgetting And Pressing
“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth to those things which are before.” Paul.
“There is a marked distinction between a perfect heart and a perfect character. The formeris acquired in a moment but the latter is a process. Many confound the act of sanctification with the process of character building, and great confusion has resulted therefrom; it is one thing to have the heart all yielded to God and occupied by Him; it is another thing to have the entire character, in every detail, harmonize with His Spirit and the life becomes conformable to His image. Many holiness people fail to recognize that this being conformed is a process rather than an act, and become discouraged because they are not more Christlike. Numerous have been the disappointments of earnest and devout souls in expecting to obtain, in the act of sanctification, things that belong to the developing and maturing of character. The failure to properly guard this point has been a weakness in much of the modern holiness work.”
“Persons under extreme and radical teaching are often led into erroneous views as to their perfection of character. Sinners should repent and be born again. These regenerated believers should consecrate themselves wholly to the Lord, and walk before Him daily in the fullness of the Spirit with a sanctified and cleansed heart, and as they continue obedient to the tutorage of the blessed Spirit who reigns within, He will more and more enthrone Christ in every part of the character, even to the minutest details of life, perfecting our holiness or wholeness.
“Sanctification properly includes the setting apart (consecration) and the cleansing of what is thus set apart. The blood is the means and the Holy Spirit the agent through which this cleansing is wrought. He is the Sanctifier and His blessed baptism and continued refreshings or fillings must be emphasized in our teaching and experience, if we ‘walk in the Spirit’ and enjoy His fullness. Hence the cleansing is the negative and the filling the positive side of a sanctified and Spirit-filled life. The best results are obtained by emphasizing both these phases of the glorious truth.” — James O. McClurkan
The same writer said, “Are there not some of us who have been trying a good while to get back an old experience? If we succeeded we should be only where we were, and if we are only going to get where we were we have abandoned the law of progress and begun the downward retrogression. God has Himself withered, by His own consuming breath, your former joys, that He may lead you into something better.”
Sanctification being, “not the perfect knowledge of God, but the perfect qualification for relatively knowing Him,” when we look at the perfection of development, and at that of glorification, we can say with Paul, “Not as though I had already attained;” the development of the sanctified must consequently consist in “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto the things which are before.”
Sheridan Baker tells us in his introduction to Hidden Manna, that soon after he entered the sanctified life he began to turn his attention away from what had been “done for him” to what “he saw before him.” He perceived that a state of purity and the general fullness of the Spirit were small matters compared with “all the fullness of God,” and “living in the realm of the ‘exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.'” Since then, he adds, “I have been a seeker, continuously, not for pardon, or purity, or the grace already received, but for more and more of the Christ nature. Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize.”
John Fletcher said, “With me it is a small thing (comparatively), to be cleansed from all sin. I want to be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Abound “More and More”
The Pauline epistles breathe prayers which show the Apostle was solicitous for the continued advancement of his spiritual children. Let us examine a representative quotation from his Philippian letter. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more” (1:9). The Greek word here signifies “Divine Love” or “God’s kind of love,” in contrast with human or natural love. In other words: “May God’s kind of love, which is in you, abound more and more;” or “superabundantly above the greatest abundance.” “More and more” is an emphatic assertion which forever cuts off the possibility of any one getting to an altitude in grace and saying, “Come here, I have reached the highest possible attainment, beyond this summit you cannot go.” God intends we shall be justified and then abound “more and more until we are sanctified wholly; and then abound “more and more” until we are glorified; and then abound “more and more” while the countless cycles of eternity roll. How gratifying! something always beyond. Something ahead a little better and bigger and grander to inspire our zeal.
Emerson in his essay on “circles” quotes Augustine’s description of the nature of God as “a circle whose center is everywhere and its circumference nowhere.” So, likewise, in the realm of spiritual development, the boundary line which marks the circumference of the holy soul’s development in spiritual advancement and God-likeness has not been drawn by God.
Ours is a progressive race; every one seeks to excel. It would seem every achievement, in the material realm, admits of being outdone — we no sooner learn of the launching of the Lusitania, the world’s largest and fastest ocean liner, than intelligence comes another company have plans perfected for a little larger and faster vessel; or no sooner has England her “Dreadnaught” until Uncle Sam is building a battleship of larger class. Herein the children of the world are wiser than the children of light. Would God that holiness people realized they might go on and excel in expansion of their Divine life — that, whatever the attainments of Wesley, or Fletcher, or Mme. Guyon, in saintliness, as Emerson says, “Around every circle another may be drawn — there is no end; every end is only a beginning — under every deep, a lower deep opens.”
“God is both,” the same writer says, “the inspirer and condemner of every successive. He inspires us on until we reach a coveted experience; then He withers the joy of that so we will stir ourselves to seek greater manifestations of His love.
We sing, and rightly, too, on entering Canaan, as with retrospective view we look back over the road traveled:
“I can see far down the mountain
Where I wandered weary years.”
So too, we might sing, using the words in another sense, after entering Canaan, and advancing in the land, we can look far down the mountain where we “crossed over Jordan.” For (as a writer says) in the material realm new arts destroy the old, e.g., aqueducts must give place to hydraulics, fortifications to gunpowder, roads and canals to railways, sails to steam, etc., so too, in the spiritual realm, old experiences and attainments are swallowed up by new discoveries; not that we forget the beginnings and appreciate them less, but as the scientific world goes on making improvements and discovering new usefulness in inventions, and does not hang around their beginnings, so too, in grace, as we discover the new beauties in Canaan and abound “more and more” in God’s kind of love, and explore the wondrous “heights and depths and lengths” leading to all the fullness of God, there is little time to go back to the points of entrance. The heart refuses to be imprisoned. It always tends “outward and onward to immense and immeasurable expansions.
Ex-President Roosevelt used words, in his address of welcome to our fleet at Hampton Roads, after its famous round the world tour, which apply pertinently to the progressive Christian:
“Incidentally, I suppose I need hardly say that one measure of your fitness must be your clear recognition of the need always steadily to strive to render yourselves more fit; if you ever grow to think that you are fit enough you can make up your minds that from that moment you will begin to go backward.” In our application we do not mean to imply one needs other fitness for heaven than entire sanctification but simply this: there must be an every growing desire to have our characters harmonize with Christ in their minutiae.
“Sanctification is possession of the goodly land of Canaan  — an entrance into it — with the work of exploration set before us.” We must walk through the land and explore its heights and depths and breadths and lengths:
“Too many are satisfied to enter and camp near the crossing. Holiness is not Land’s End. It is not consummation. It is a good beginning. It is an entrance to the land, not all of the land. To think of it as the goal means stagnation and is one of the fruitful sources of the sour, disagreeable types of holiness which sometimes appear.” — S. A. Keen
Adam Clarke said, “To be filled with God is a great thing; to be filled with the fullness of God is still greater; but to be filled with all the fullness of God utterly bewilders the sense and confounds the understanding.” Yet this marvelous privilege is held up by Paul as the goal for those believers who have already been “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,” (Eph. I :13.) in his prayer “that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Dr. Godbey commenting here quotes Fletcher as saying, ‘filled with all the fullness of God’ describes a state of grace beyond entire sanctification. We enter the sanctified experience from the negative hemisphere, realizing the utter elimination of the sin principle through the cleansing blood. Having passed the sin side of the experience, we enter the glorious hemisphere of incoming and superabounding grace which is illimitable in this life, and, superseded by the glory of heaven, sweeps on in geometrical ratio through all eternity, ever and anon flooding the soul with fruitions, amplifications, beatifications and rhapsodies, eclipsing the most ecstatic hyperboles, while ages and cycles wheel their precipitate flight.”
Think of the Jamestown and Plymouth settlers and their descendants staying on the Eastern Coast and not pushing West to the rich prairie farm lands! What a drawback to civilization! Thank God for the aggressive spirit of our forefathers! They believed in expansion. So likewise in entire sanctification we have only touched the border of a mighty continent stretching. out before us inviting us to explore its boundless dimensions. Before us is the “much land ahead to be possessed,” and the command to “walk up and down in it;” and to survey its height and depth and breadth and length and to make every foot of land the soles of our feet touch ours. After perfect love, the “untrammeled experience” comes the abounding “more and more” and the going from “grace to grace;” strength to strength; faith to faith; victory to victory; triumph to triumph; conquering to conquer; advancement to advancement; achievement to achievement; attainment to attainment; from summit to summit; from mountain peak to higher mountain peak, and from “glory to glory.” Hallelujah! The privilege of living in the realm of the “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” is ours, contingent on “forgetting” the things which are behind and “pressing” forward to the things which are before, suffering the loss of all things, and counting them but dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and being ambitious to be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual understanding” and to be filled with all the fullness of God.
J. A. Wood, answering the question: “Does Christian Perfection exclude growth in grace?” said,
“By no means. The pure in heart grow faster than any others. We believe in no state of grace excluding progression, either in this world or in heaven, but expect to grow with increasing rapidity forever. It is the same with the soul wholly sanctified as with the merely regenerate; it must progress in order to retain the favor of God and the grace possessed. Here many of both classes have fallen. There is no standing still in a religious life, nor in a sinful life. We must either progress or regress. If living according to our light and duty, we are growing, no matter what our gracious state may be, or however largely we may have partaken of the Holy Spirit, if neglecting present duty, we are backsliding, whatever our attainments may have been.”
“A disastrous error is indulged by Christians when they content themselves with the grace received when they pass from death to life. Such contentment is surely succeeded by the loss of conscious pardon, and leaves no comfort except from what arises from the sweet memories of the happy hour of conversion. The same mistake is committed by entirely sanctified persons who covet past experiences and labor to bring them back, instead of following on to know the Lord and making effort to advance in holiness. This contentment to live around the points of pardon or purification, and to covet the sweetness of those hours has dwarfed many a believer and deprived him of the more elevated and sublime experiences which were in reserve for him in a progressive religious life.” — Sheridan Baker.