The Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest saint that ever lived upon earth, had to confess that even he had not attained. There was that in Christ more than he had ever seen, ever known, ever felt, ever tasted, ever handled, ever realised. There were heights in his glory, depths in his love, in his sufferings, in his bitter agonies in the garden and on the cross, which passed all apprehension and comprehension.
Therefore he says, "Not as though I had already attained." I am a child still, a learner still, as weak as ever, as helpless as ever to obtain what I want. Though I follow on; though I forget the things which are behind and reach forward to the things before; though I know what I am aiming at, what I am seeking; though my eye is single, my heart earnest, yet it is not with me as if I had already attained.
Now just put yourself in that scale; and to measure yourself aright, look at these things. Are you following after? Do you see that there is something which is to be tasted, handled, felt, and realised of the precious things of God? Have you ever had any sips, tastes, drops, foretastes? Has your heart ever been melted, softened, warmed by the goodness and mercy of God, by the love of Christ? Did you ever feel that there was a sweetness, blessedness, and happiness in the things of God to which nothing else could be compared? Has your heart ever been opened and enlarged by the love of God, so that you felt that spirituality of mind which is life and peace; and could you have continued in that spot it would have been to you all that you wanted to make you look death calmly in the face?
Now it is these sips, tastes, and drops, these sweet discoveries of what the Lord is to believing souls, which draw forth the desires of the heart and enable it to follow after. But darkness supervenes; the Lord withdraws himself, sin works, Satan tempts, trials perplex your mind, unbelief rises up and begins to question everything. Then there is no following on. Everything looks so dark, so gloomy; divine things are so out of sight; doubts and fears so possess the mind; and it seems as if we came so short, so very short, that the question arises whether we may not come short at last; whether we may not have deceived ourselves; whether all we have felt may not have been an awful delusion.
And yet see how this works. How it stirs the mind up; how it makes us seek again and again to possess realities; how it seems to open the eyes afresh to see what true religion is, and that it consists in the teachings and operations of the Holy Ghost upon the heart.
Thus our very short-comings, deficiencies, and complaints are blessedly overruled and made to work graciously to stir us up to run again the race set before us. But depend upon it, the most highly-favoured saint upon earth will have reason to say with Paul, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect," that is, matured and ripe. Not perfect in understanding, nor perfect in heart, nor perfect in lip, nor perfect in life. Every saint of God will have to confess imperfection, imperfection stamped upon all that he has and is; imperfection, imperfection upon everything but the work of the Son of God upon the cross and the work of God the Holy Ghost in the soul.