LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD
LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD
(Part of a New Year Address)
By: J. C. Philpot
But now let us look forward as well as backward. The year before our eyes may hold in its bosom events which may deeply concern us and affect us more sensibly than those of that which is past. We know what is past, but we know not what is to come. What personal, what family, what providential trials may await us, we know not. Sickness may attack our bodies, death enter our families, difficulties beset our circumstances, trials and temptations exercise our minds, snares entangle our feet and many dark and gloomy clouds make our path one of heaviness and sorrow. Every year hitherto has brought its trials in its train; and how can we expect the coming year to be exempt?
What then? Shall we sit down and wring our hands at the prospect of anticipated trials? Shall we go forward to meet them, or wait till they meet us? Anticipation is often worse than the reality and for this simple reason, that no strength or support is either promised or given for trials of our own forecasting. “As thy days” (not “as thy fears”) “so shall thy strength be.” “Hitherto,” said Samuel, “hath the Lord helped us”; but the Ebenezer (“the stone of help”) was the memorial of a battle won, not of a battle in prospect.
The well-known and often-sung lines,
“He that hath helped me hitherto,
Will help me all my journey through”
well express the hope and confidence of a believing heart. If indeed we are His, whatever our trials may be, His grace will be sufficient for us. He who has brought us thus far on the road, who has so borne with our crooked manners in the wilderness and never yet forsaken us, though we have so often forsaken Him, will still, we trust, lead us along; will still guide and guard us and be our God, our Father and our Friend, not only to the end of the next year, if spared to see it, but the end of our life.
May He bring us very near to Himself; may His fear be ever alive in our heart; may He hold up our goings in His paths, that our footsteps slip not; may He keep us from evil, that it may not grieve us; and may He constrain us, by every constraint of His dying love, to live to His praise that we may glorify Him in our body and spirit, which are His. Blessed with His presence, we need fear no ill; favoured with His smile, we need dread no foe; upheld by His power, we need shrink from no trial; strengthened by His grace, we need apprehend no suffering.
Knowing what we are and have been when left to ourselves, the slips that we have made, the snares that we have been entangled in, the shame and sorrow that we have procured to ourselves, well may we dread to go forth in the coming year alone; well may we say, “If Thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence”, and may we not add, “For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? Is it not in that Thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” May we be thus manifested as those who have found grace in the Lord’s sight; and, as a peculiar people, zealous of good works, may we be separated from all the people, profane or professing, who think and act otherwise, that are upon the face of the earth.
From: Sin and Salvation,
Selections from J. C. Philpot,
Edited by Mr. B. A. Ramsbottom