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death, and had thereby "obtained a good report," exhorts us to follow their example, and more especially the example of our blessed Lord himself. In this passage are contained,
I. An exhortation to run our race
All of us are called to " run our race with pa
[There is a course marked out for us by God himself: nor can any one err from it, who duly attends to the directions given him in the Holy Scriptures. In this course we are to run. We are not left at liberty to choose a path for ourselves: the race is "set before us," and to that we must strictly adhere. But we cannot hold on in it without much and continual exertion. Many are the difficulties that obstruct our way: sometimes our path is steep and slippery; and sometimes it is rough and thorny. Often are we wearied in it and ready to faint, before our course is half finished. And not unfrequently they who ought most to aid and encourage us, exert themselves to the utmost to impede our progress. But our duty is to run our race "with patience;" to hold on till we arrive at the goal, in spite of all our external trials, or inward weakness; and "by patient continuance in well-doing to seek for glory and honour and immortality." To run well for a season will avail us nothing: we must "endure unto the end, if ever we would be saved."]
To this we should be stimulated by the consideration of the many witnesses that surround us
[The saints who have gone before us, having finished their course with joy, are represented as being spectators of our conflicts, and witnesses to us that our persevering efforts shall be crowned with success. In both of these views, the consideration of them is calculated to refresh our spirits, and to quicken our languishing exertions. Conceive a cloud," or multitude of departed saints, and more especially of those who ran together with us; conceive them looking upon us with eager solicitude, rejoicing when they behold us rapidly advancing, and ready to weep over us, if at any time they see us on the decline; conceive them crying out to us, Press forward; remember me; I once endured the same trials; I, like you, was ready to faint; but, through grace, I held on: and at last I obtained the prize: hold on then a little longer, and the crown of righteousness is yours; "be not weary in welldoing; for in due season you shall reap, if y you faint not:" I say, let us dwell on this thought; and surely, if ever men running in a race were encouraged by the acclamations of their
friends, much more shall we by such animating considerations as these.]
Together with this earnest exhortation, the Apostle gives us,
II. Directions to ensure success
1. We must put away whatever obstructs our progress
[They who are about to run a race need not be reminded of the necessity there is to cast off all unnecessary weight, or any long garment which may impede their motion. But in running our spiritual race we are apt to be forgetful of this obvious and necessary caution. Many things there are which operate as a burthen to weigh down our spirits; and to exhaust our strength. How often do the cares or pleasures of the world divide our attention, enfeeble our efforts, and prevent our advancement in the divine life! There is in every one some "sin that more easily besets him," and which, like a flowing robe, diminishes his activity in the service of his God. What sin this is we should be careful to inquire. It will in general be found to be some inward lust that is constitutionally wrought into our frame, or some evil, incident to our situation, our company, or our employment. Whatever it be, whether pride, or passion, whether covetousness or uncleanness, whether sloth or intemperance, whether unbelief or impenitence, whether self-righteousness or self-dependence, we must "put it away." Whatever tends to divert us from the path of duty, or to embarrass us in it, must be sacrificed, if we would "so run as to obtain the prize."]
2. We must direct our eyes to Jesus Christ
[Jesus is here proposed to our view both as our successful pattern, and as our almighty friend. Never had any other person such a difficult course to run: nor could any other ever have persevered in it. The cross he bare was heavier than we can possibly conceive: nor was the ignominy of it less than the pain: but "he endured the cross and despised the shame:" he looked to "the joy that was set before him," the joy of glorifying his heavenly Father, the joy of delivering a ruined world, the joy of being for ever the acknowledged author of their salvation: and in the prospect of having all this consummated, he disregarded all his trials and difficulties, he even "longed to be baptized with his bloody baptism," and continued with unabated ardour till he could say," It is finished;" and till, in consequence of his victorious career, he was exalted to the "right hand of the throne of God."
a Εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν.
How should we be encouraged by the sight of this our successful pattern! for, what are our trials in comparison of his ? How richly too are his exertions recompensed, even as ours also shall in due time be, in the full possession of the prize that was set before him!
But the Apostle directs us to look unto Jesus also as our almighty friend. It is he who marked out for us our course, who called us forth to run in it, who holds out to our view the prize, who sits as umpire to award the prize to every one that wins it, and who will bestow it on us with his own hand. He is moreover" the author and the finisher of our faith;" from him proceeds that faith whereby we are stimulated to engage in the race, and that whereby we are enabled to persevere in it to the end. Let us then look at him, and see how sufficient he is to renew our strength, and how interested he is in crowning our efforts with success.
There is a peculiarity in this direction which we must by no means pass over. The Apostle tells us not merely to look unto Jesus, but, in so doing, to look off from every thing else. We are apt to look at our own weakness, at the length and difficulties of our way, at the strength and number of those who are endeavouring to cast us down, or at any thing that tends to discourage us: but we should look off from all these things, and keep our eyes steadily fixed on Jesus as our pattern, and our friend: and then our difficulties will appear as nothing; and we shall proceed cheerfully in an assured expectation of the prize.]
1. To those who have never yet begun to run—
[Were it optional with you whether you would have any interest in this race or not, we might leave you to your choice: but you are of necessity entered upon the lists, and must have all the shame and misery of failure, if you run not so as to obtain the prize. The loss of heaven is not the sole consequence of your sloth: for, if you be not judged worthy of the felicity of heaven, you will receive the doom of the wicked and slothful servant in the torments of hell. Consider then how much time you have lost, how little may yet remain, and what an arduous race you have to run; and begin immediately, while yet the prize is in your view, and Jesus is ready to assist your feeble efforts.]
2. To those who are halting, or turning aside out of the course
[Many run well for a season, and yet, hinderedd" from pressing forward to the goal.
after all, are Inquire, my
brethren, whence it is that such a lamentable change has taken place in you? What is there that will compensate for the loss of the heavenly prize? It were better far to part with every weight, and every incumbrance, whether friends, or interests, or pleasures of whatever kind, or even with life. itself, than to be diverted from your course, or to be retarded in it. Be assured that, as " he who puts his hand to the plough, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of heaven," so neither can he be, who halts in his Christian race. May God enable you to resume your labours! and know for your encouragement, that, if persisted in," they shall not be in vain in the Lord."]
3. To those who are resolutely hastening toward the goal
[Doubtless you are sometimes ready to faint: but look at the cloud of witnesses that are gone before you look at Jesus in particular, that bright example of all righteousness, and that gracious helper of all his followers. Look too at the prize, the joy that is set before you; and "have respect unto the recompence of reward:" how richly will that repay you for your persevering exertions! Methinks you are now come within a short distance of the goal, and thousands of God's dear children, though invisible to you, are looking on, and standing ready to congratulate your success. Press on then a little longer, "forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth unto that which is before:" so shall you "finish your course with joy," and "receive the crown of righteousness from the hands of Jesus, your righteous Judges."]
e 1 Cor. xv. 58.
Heb. xii. 3.
f Phil. iii. 13, 14. 8 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
CHRIST'S PATIENCE UNDER SUFFERINGS.
Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
THINGS are good or evil in this life chiefly by comparison: the happiest of men is unhappy in comparison of Adam in Paradise; and the most miserable of men is happy in comparison of those who are in hell. This reflection will be of great service to us in estimating our own state. It is not indeed expedient that we should compare ourselves with those
who appear in a more prosperous condition than ourselves (unless for the purposes of humiliation and self-abasement), lest we should be led to envy them, and to repine at our own lot: but it will be highly advantageous to us frequently to view the wants and sufferings of others, in order to extirpate every murmuring thought, and to stimulate our own souls to gratitude and thanksgiving. A sight of the Lord Jesus in particular cannot fail to produce in us the best effects; since all that we are called to endure for his sake, is as nothing in comparison of what he patiently and willingly endured for us
In the text we have this very direction given us, and for this express purpose. The Apostle, in what he wrote for the comfort of the afflicted Hebrews, reminds us,
I. That the soul is apt to faint under heavy trials
The people of God are taught to expect trials from an ungodly world; and to make their sufferings an occasion of joy and glorying. But,
Even the most eminent saints have fainted under their trials
[In the Scriptures we have the weaknesses of God's people as faithfully recorded as their virtues. And there is scarcely a saint who has not on some occasions shewn himself weak as other men. Jacob, in despondency, cried, " All these things are against me." Moses, by his intemperate and hasty expressions, provoked God to exclude him from the earthly Canaan. Job cursed the day of his birth, and accused even God himself of cruelty and oppression. David said it was in vain to serve God; and called all who had ever testified to the contrary, by the name of liars". Elijah, through the dread of Jezebel, begged of God to put an end to his life. Jeremiah lamented that he had ever been born; and complained that God himself was to him "as a liar, and as waters that fail"." All of these were very distinguished characters, and yet, in circumstances of peculiar trial, lost that composure of mind. which it was their duty, and their privilege, to possess.]
a Gen. xlii. 36.
b Numb. xx. 10-12.
c Job iii. 3. and x. 3. and xvi. 12-14.
d Ps. lxxiii. 13, 14. and lxxvii. 4, 7-9. and exvi. 10, 11. 1 Kings xix. 4.
f Jer. xv. 10, 18.