Sunday, December 02, 2007

'So run'

I wondered if John Bunyan’s sermon “The Heavenly Footman”, was as good as I remembered it from years past. Sometimes you go back and find you have outgrown what once seemed like perfection. But few preachers can lay open bare one’s soul as quickly as John Bunyan. He can wound and then dress the wound like few others.
I began reading the opening statements as his earnest warnings began to flow I knew I was up for some growth this morning. I’ll write a few paragraphs so you can get the flavor---

The Heavenly Footman

"So run that ye may obtain." 1 Cor. 4:24

Heaven and happiness is that which every one desireth, insomuch that the wicked Balaam could say, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” Yet, for all this, there are but very few that do obtain that ever-to-be-desired glory, insomuch that many eminent professors drop short of a welcome from God into this pleasant place.
The apostle, therefore, because he did desire the salvation of the souls of the Corinthians, to whom he writes this epistle, layeth them down in these words such counsel which, if taken, would be for their help and advantage.

First. Not to be wicked, and sit still, and wish for heaven; but to run for it.
Secondly. Not to content themselves with every kind of running, but, saith he, “So run that ye may obtain.” As if he should say, some, because they would not lose their souls, they begin to run betimes, they run apace, they run with patience, they run the right way.
Do you so run? Some run from both father and mother, friends and companions, and thus, they may have the crown. Do you so run? Some run through temptations, afflictions, good report, evil report, that they may win the pearl. Do you so run?
“So run that ye may obtain.”

Okay, after I read the first two paragraphs I realized I had better roll up my sleeves and brace myself for a barbed arrow has left the bow and doubtless I was the target. I was ready to cry Uncle and the sermon had scarcely begun!
I half considered exchanging this sermon for one on how broad the narrow road really is, but decided to take my medicine and venture on to the next page.

“They that will have heaven, they must run for it; because the devil, the law, sin, death, and hell follow them. There is never a poor soul that is going to heaven, but the devil, the law, sin, death, and hell, make after that soul. And I will assure you, the devil is nimble, he can run apace, he is light of foot, he hath overtaken many, he hath turned up their heels, and hath given them an everlasting fall. Also, the law, that can shoot a great way, have a care thou keep out of the reach of those great guns, the ten commandments. Hell also hath a wide mouth; it can stretch itself farther than you are aware of. And as the angel said to Lot, “Take heed look not behind thee, neither tarry thou in all the plain” (that is, anywhere between this and heaven ), “lest thou be consumed;” so say I to thee, Take heed, tarry not, lest either the devil, hell, or the fearful curses of the law of God, do overtake thee, and throw thee down in the midst of thy sins, so as never to rise and recover again. If this were well considered, then thou, as well as I, would say, They that will have heaven must run for it.”

Bunyan goes on and lays out the “Way”, and lest you faint, I will include where he dresses the wounds he so intently administered.

Overcoming discouragement—
“In the next place, be not daunted though thou meetest with ever so many discouragements in thy journey thither. That man that is resolved for heaven, if Satan cannot win him by flatteries, he will endeavor to weaken him by discouragements; saying, Thou art a sinner, thou hast broken God’s law, thou art not elected, thou comest too late, the day of grace has passed, God doth not care for thee, thy heart is naught, thou art lazy, and with a hundred other discouraging suggestions. And thus it was with David, where he saith, “ I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the loving-kindness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
As if he should say, the devil did so rage, and my heart was so base, that had I judged according to my own sense and feeling, I had been absolutely distracted; but I trusted to Christ in the promise, and looked that God would be as good as his promise, in having mercy upon me, an unworthy sinner; and this is that which encouraged me, and kept me from fainting. And thus must thou do when Satan, or the law, or thy own conscience, do go about to dishearten thee, either by the greatness of thy sins, the wickedness of thy heart, the tediousness of the way, the loss of outward enjoyments, the hatred that thou wilt procure from the world or the like; then thou must encourage thyself with the freeness of the promises, the tender-heartedness of Christ, the merits of his blood, the freeness of his invitations to come in, the greatness of the sin of others that have been pardoned, and that the same God, through the same Christ, holdeth forth the same grace as free as ever.
If these be not thy meditations, thou wilt draw very heavily in the way to heaven, if thou do not give up all for lost, and so knock off from following any farther; therefore, I say, take heart in thy journey, and say to them that seek thy destruction, “Rejoice not against me, O my enemy, for when I fall I shall arise, when I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me.”
So run.

So, there you have it, a few snippets from The Heavenly Footman.

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