« EelmineJätka »
the church of Rome grew up by degrees into that monster which it is now become; for I am fully persuaded, that all those childish superstitions, which have long been advanced above the laws of God, were first introduced, many of them with a real design, and all of them under the specious pretext of giving aid to the divine law, and facilitating the observance of it. I am very sensible, that the humour of the present age doth not run this way: few need a caution against being “ righteous overmuch.” Nevertheless, as some serious, wellmeaning people may be in danger of making snares for their own conscienees, by laying down rules of conduct which are not warranted by the word of God, I am hopeful that this bint may not be altogether unuseful. Let the holy Scriptures be your constant study; and what these enjoin, observe with all the care and accu. racy you are capable of. Let this be your business, to find out the duty of every season; and when you have found it, then do and spare not. Thus shall you run lawfully; and every step you make shall be an advance towards the prize.
Again ; as running a race is a swift and constant progression, so ought the life of a Christian to be. “Whatever our hands find to do, we must do it with all our might.” And we need never go far off to find work; there is enough on every side of us to keep us constant. ly employed. Let us not then be slothful in business, but “ fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” “ Let us ne. ver think we have already attained, either are already perfect; but forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, let us press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” “ The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the
perfect day.” Our present attainments, instead of a resting: place, should only serve as a scaffolding to raise us up higher; and the nearer we advance to the prize, the more quick and accelerated should our motion be. Which leads me to mention another remarkable property in which the Christian life resembles a race; namely,
That there is no gaining the prize unless we hold out to the end. It signifies nothing to start briskly, and to run fast a great part of the way; the whole ground, you know, must be passed over, otherwise the person is reputed not to have run at all.-So it is in the Christian race. The temporary profession, or practice of religion, will not avail us; we must persevere to the last; for it is only he who endureth to the end that shall be saved: $6 To him that overcometh,” said our blessed Lord, 6 will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I al60 overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." The charge, as I formerly observed to you, runs in these words: “Occupy till I come;" and the promise exactly corresponds to it; “Be thou faithful unto the death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
Thus, in all these particulars, the Christian life may, with great propriety, be compared to a race. But then it is necessary to observe, that though the resemblance is sufficiently strong to justify the use of this figurative representation; yet there are several important respects in which the Christian race doth widely differ from all others: Such as,
1st. In other races, though many may start, and hold out to the end; yet none but the foremost receiveth the prize: Know ye not, saith the Apostle, in the first part of the verse, that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize; whereas it is quite otherwise in the Christian race. There may be a great disparity
among the candidates, but every one who endureth to the end shall be saved. He who is faithful over a little, shall be as certainly rewarded, as he who is faithful over much; each shall receive a crown as large as he can wear : Whosoever doth faithfully, is accounted by the Judge to have done well: for we find the same salutation that was addressed to the servant who had improved the many talents, addressed likewise to him who had improved the few: “Well done” (though not so much done) yet still it is said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Hence,
2dly. They who run in the Christian race have no envy, no jealousy among themselves; far less do they molest and hinder one another: on the contrary, the stronger help forward the weaker, and give them all the assistance and encouragement in their power. Now, in other races it is not so; the fall of one candidate gives joy to the rest ; but they who run for the heavenly prize, would carry all the world along with them if they could. As the Psalmist " was glad when they said unto him, Let us go into the house of the Lord;" so every sincere candidate for immortal glory rejoiceth when he hears of many travellers by the way; and is ready to say to every one he meets, 0 come and let us go together to the Zion above, that city of the great King, where true riches and honours are only to be found.
3dly. They who run in other races have nothing but toil and labour till they obtain the prize; but in the Christian race, the exercise itself carries part of the reward in its bosom: “ Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Christ's yoke is easy, bis burden is light, and his commandments are pot grievous. Hear what holy Dayid says, “Tby sta
tutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”—Sometimes, indeed, they have dark nights and stormy weather ; “ without are fightings, and within are fears.” But this is not the constant fare of them all, nor perhaps of any of them at all times: they have their sea. sons of joy as well as of grief: and they have this to comfort them amidst all their troubles, even the assur. ance that they shall work together for their everlasting benefit. Which leads me to mention a
4th Distinguishing property of the Christian race; namely, the certainty of gaining the prize at last. Did the Christian run in his own strength, he might not only doubt, but despair of success: but his whole dependance is on that almighty Saviour, upon whom the Father hath laid his help: He goes up through the wilderness, leaning upon the beloved; and therefore, under his felt weakness, and when every thing around him wears the most discouraging aspect, he is sometimes enabled to triumph in the language of Paul, and to say, as he did, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.” Perseverance is not only the duty, but the privi. lege of all who set themselves in good earnest to run for heaven: and though the law of God obligeth them, and the new nature habitually inclines them, “to keep under the body, and to bring it into subjection;" yet they have far better security than any efforts of their own. Omnipotence is their guardian; and they are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” These, my brethren, are some of the endearing peculiarities of the Christian race: Let me now exhort you, in the
Third place, So to run that you may at length obtain, And, for this end, let us consider,
1st. That many eyes are upon us: We are surrounded with spectators, who narrowly observe every part of
our behaviour. The holy angels, those ministering spirits sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation, look on us with a friendly concern; and as they rejoice at the first conversion of a sinner, so we may reasonably suppose, that all our strayings from the path of life are sorrowfully remarked and lamented by them. On the other hand, those malignant powers of darkness, which con. stantly go about “seeking whom they may devour," are no less attentive to our conduct. They too mark our steps, though from a different principle: not to help, but to ensnare us ; not to applaud our fidelity and diligence, but to find matter of censure and accusation against us. Above all, the great and omniscient God hath his eye continually upon us; "he compasseth our path, and he is acquainted with all our ways.” He besets us behind and before, and so holds us by his right hand, that we cannot fly from his presence, nor find any covering so thick as to hide us from his sight. Think of this, my brethren, and judge whether we have not cause to be continually on our guard. We perform every action, not only in the sight of innumerable witnesses, but in the presence of that glorious Being, by whom our final doom sball be pronounced: Ought we not then to quit ourselves like men? There is something in this motive so awful, and at the same time so animating, that I should think I affronted your reason, if I spent time in the illustration of it. We must feel its influence as soon as it is named : Did we see with our bodily eyes what we all profess to believe, we should not wait for an exhortation to 6 run the race set before us."
Consider, in the 2d place, That many have already run this race, who are now in possession of the glorious prize. Paul exhorted the Christians in his day to be “ followers of them, who through faith and patience in