« PreviousContinue »
any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” But these matters are too high for us; the glories of the upper world are far beyond our sight. Yet surely those discoveries which have been imparted to us, are sufficient to invite our thoughts frequently thither; and espe
' cially to excite us to the most diligent preparation for our Lord's return, “ who is gone before to prepare a place for us, and who shall certainly come again, and receive us unto himself, that where he is, there we may be also.”
Well, then, my dear fellow-servants, Let our loins be girded about, and our lights always burning ; ere long our work shall be at an end, and this glorious eternal reward shall begin. “ Let us not be weary in welldoing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Above all, let us guard against security and self confidence; let us join prayer with our watching, depending upon him who hath said, “ My grace is sufficient for thee." To whom, with the Father, and the ever-blessed Spirit, one God, be glory and honour, dominion and power, for evermore. Amen.
1 CORIN. ix. 24.
-So run that ye may obtain.
IN these words the Christian life is compared to a race, and the disciples of Jesus are warmly exhorted to press forward in their way to heaven, till they obtain the glorious prize for which they contend.
I shall therefore make it my business, in the follow. ing discourse,
First. To give you a general account of the race we have to run; and,
Secondly. To illustrate the fitness and propriety of this similitude. After which, in the
Third place, I shall press the exhortation by some motives and arguments.
I need not spend much time upon the first of these particulars. In general, the race we have to run, comprehends the whole of that duty we owe to God; name. ly, obedience to his laws, and submission to his provi. dence; doing what he commands, and patiently enduring whatever he is pleased to appoint. The charge which our great Master hath given us is expressed in these words : Occupy till I come. All the gifts of nature, of providence, and of grace, are talents put into our hands; which must not only be carefully kept, but diligently improved, for his glory and our own spiritual advantage; otherwise we shall be condemned, not only as slothful, but as wicked servants, and punished accordingly. “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not," saith the apostle James, “to him it is sin.” It is not sufficient, barely “ to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts;" the grace of God doth further teach us, " to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the world;" adding one Christian grace to another, abounding more and more in the work of the Lord, till we have perfected holiness in the fear of God. Thus extensive is the divine law, reaching to every part of our conduct, at all times, and in all places and circumstances. Wherever we are, it speaks to us; and if our ears are open, we may continually hear its voice behind us, saying, “ Lo! this is the way, walk ye in it."
But the Christian life includes in it something more than the mere performance of duty; the cross lies in our way, and we shall never get to the end of the race, unless we take it up, and, with meekness and patience, carry it along with us. It must be owned, indeed, that this, at the first sight, hath rather the look of a clog or incumbrance; and the Christian, while under the cross, is very apt to think so: he feels his burden, and, in his own apprehension, moves so heavily, that he is afraid he shall never get to the end of bis journey; which frequently inclines him to wish that the load were removed, and some easier piece of service assigned him. But this in reality is a mistake: the cross is far from being a hindrance in our way to heaven; for though a beavy material load oppresses the body, yet in the spiritual race it often happens, that the burdened soul makes both the swiftest and the surest progress. “Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.” The cross may be called a tree both of knowledge and of life : the fruit it bears hath no deadly quality; on the contrary, it gives both sight and health ; it opens our eyes to see the good we ought to choose, and the evil we ought to shuu; and is often made effectual, by the blessing of God, to purge away those fatal distempers which sin hath brought into our frame, to beget in us a loathing of every thing that is evil, and more ardent desires after higher measures of that holiness, which is at once the ornament and the bappiness of our nature. The cross doth not enfeeble us, though we erroneously may think so; it only makes us sensible of our weakness, that we may depend upon him who is “the Lord our strength;" and instead of crushing us with its own weight, obligeth us to quit our hold of those real incumVOL. I.
brances which mar our progress, and hinder us to run the race that is set before us."
Thus I have given you a general view of the race we bave to run. It comprehends obedience to the laws of God, and submission to bis discipline; doing what he commands, and patiently enduring whatever he is pleased to inflict. I am now, in the
Second place, To illustrate the fitness and propriety of this similitude; and to show, that the Christian life doth very much resemble a race in several important respects.
Thus, for example, one in running a race must strictly observe the course that is marked out to him: he is not at liberty to choose his own ground, but must confine himself to that which the judges have agreed upon; otherwise let him run ever so fast, he can acquire no right or title to the prize. Now here the resemblance is most exact. There is a certain limited way in wbich the Christian must run, empbatically called the way of God's commandments. This we must keep with the utmost precision, “neither turning aside to the right band nor to the left.” Mere activity will not avail us : we may be very keen and busy; but if we are not busy ac
. cording to rule, we only lose our labour: God can never accept it as a service done to him. It is absolutely necessary that we be always in a readiness to answer that question, “Who hath required this at your hand ?” Nothing is left to our own humour or fancy : “ The law of the Lord is perfect;" and it is equally dishonoured when we pretend to add to it as when we take from it. Arbitrary rules of strictness, for which we have no warrant in the word of God, are dangerous things, and seldom fail in the issue to supplant that religion which is solid and saving. By this officious overdoing,
the church of Rome grew up by degrees into that mon. ster which it is now become ; for I am fully persuaded, that all those childish superstitions, wbich 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 consciences, 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 boly 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 pro. gression, so ought the life of a Christian to be. “What ever 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 constantly employed. Let us not then be slothful in business, but “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” “ Let us never 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