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XXV.

66

THE CHRISTIAN RACE.
(By the late Rev. S. Cornford.)

Heb. xii. 1, 2.
LET US RUN WITH PATIENCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE

US; LOOKING UNTO JESUS." The epistles of Paul are remarkable chiefly on two accounts. The first is, the glorious discoveries of Christ with which they abound. The second is, the wisdom and grace with which he applies himself to the consciences of believers, on points of duty. Let this epistle be taken as an example of both. How lovely, glorious, and excellent is the representation of the Saviour which is here given. In no other part of scripture do we find so much, in so brief a space, of his divine dignity, his compassionate tenderness, and his wonderful priesthood. But when he has been thus exhibited in his dignity and grace, the next point of importance is, to direct believers how to comport themselves in a manner suitable to their relationship to him, and what use to make of him during their continuance here. The text is the commencement of this practical part of the epistle. In it, the apostle addresses himself tenderly to exhort and encourage the believing Hebrews in their profession; and his earnest affection for them is very beautifully conspicuous in his style and manner.

But it is not adapted to believers of one age or of one nation merely. It is language suited to believers of the Gentile churches, as much as to the believing Hebrews, and to Christians of our own age as much as to those of the age of the apostle. In this respect, the divine word is like the sun in the heavens, equally fitted to benefit all nations and all the successive generations of mankind. The world will never need a new sun, nor the church a new revelation.

Let each of us, therefore, take up this passage, and personally apply it to our own selves. Let us solemnly consider what the Lord saith to us in this exhortation. If we thirst for good, he can command it from this passage. It may direct the bewildered,

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strengthen the weak, encourage the dejected, and reprove the wandering, if he vouchsafe his blessing.

May our meditations be assisted by divine grace, that we may be rendered fitter by them to live to the glory of God. I. TAE FIRST

WE PROPOSE

CONSIDER PRESENT LIFE AS A RACE SET BEFORE US,

The apostle alludes to the public races, in which a great number of persons ran for a prize. Such were not allowed to choose their own ground, but were obliged to submit to have it chosen for them. They might run elsewhere if they pleased, but they could not run so as to obtain the public prize, unless they ran the appointed course, and conformed to the rules laid down. This was the race set before them. Such is the life of the Christian. It is a race set before him. It may be tedious and attended with many difficulties; or he may be weak, and encompassed with enemies; but he has a race to run, chosen for him by God, and one which he is not at liberty to decline.

This speaks the high and awful sovereignty of God. He has summoned us into existence and enjoined us a course. bound, on pain of his displeasure, to submit to his authority, and comply with his call; to run the race,and endeavour to win the prize.

1. God appoints to each the time when he shall commence his race.-The time of our birth was predestined by him. "There is,” says the Preacher, “ a time for every purpose under the heaven,-a time to be born, and a time to die.” To affirm that we must be born, and must die, at some time or other, is not the intention of the sacred writer. His object is to direct the mind to the providence of God, and to lead us to reflect that we come into existence at his call, and quit at his bidding. "Our days are appointed,” says Job, i. e. the days in which we should run the race set before us. Our times are in God's hand. As his creatures, we start into being at his bidding.

2. God appoints where each shall run his allotted race.Not only the time, but the very place, of birth is regulated by him. He divides to the nations their inheritance. He fixes the bounds of our habitation, as well as determines the times

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before appointed. He called the angels into being in glory. To man he appointed the earth. One he summons into being in the torrid heat of India, another among the snows of Lapland; one under the darkness of superstition, but you under the light of the gospel. And, perhaps, there is not a spot on this earth in which you could run the race set before you with more advantages than in the British empire, and at the present time.

3. God appoints the rules of the race.--He determines the regulations by which each is to run. The various ages, sexes, and conditions of the runners, are all considered by that great Being who marks out the course for all, and sits at the goal, holding out crowns of righteousness, to excite the runners to press towards the mark for the glorious prize. “Children," says God, " obey your parents,-parents, bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,-masters, give to your servants what is just,-servants, be obedient to your masters, with fear and trembling." Kings and subjects, pastors, deacons, members, husbands, wives, neighbours, all have a race set before them by God, and all must run by the rules which he has prescribed.

4. It is the will of God that this race should have its difficulties.There is no part of our race that has not trials. If we plan an easy course for ourselves, yet we cannot escape affliction. How many difficulties beset the race of Moses, of David, of Samuel, and of the prophets. How many must those encounter who have families. Our patience, our faith, our love, our forbearance, our diligence, must be tasked to the uttermost. The Lord trieth the righteous. No one finds that he has a smooth course to run. There are hills, mountains, valleys, rocks, floods, and fires in the way, which cannot be shunned. It is through much tribulation alone that we can reach the kingdom.

5. God appoints the length of the race, and when and where it shall terminate.-The number of our months is with him. He has appointed our bounds, that we cannot pass. All this God does for every individual,

in some respect or other, is appointed for each. He has appointed some kings, some prophets, some pastors, some teachers, some

and a different race,

servants.' His vast and comprehensive mind superintends the whole, and it is the wisdom of each to fulfil his course, and run with patience the race set before him. This brings us,

II. TO CONSIDER WITH WHAT SPIRIT WE ARE TO GO FORWARD.

"Let us run," says the inspired writer, “let us run, with patience, the race set before us.” This is the counsel of God, and in it he speaketh to us as a father to his children, when, having assigned to each his exercise, he exhorts them all to keep the course he has allotted, and patiently to encounter difficulties, till their respective tasks should be accomplished.

1. In the first place, expect difficulties and trials. Nothing is more natural to us than to draw schemes of happiness on earth, and to mark out for ourselves a race which we may run with such delight as to have no need of patience. If Solomon hoped for a course of almost unmixed delight, it is little to be wondered at that others should do the same. But the original sentence of sorrow, pronounced on our first parents, on their fall, pursues all their posterity through life. They soon find such a mixture of vanity and vexation of spirit, as cures them of all hope of happiness in things below the sun.

If we pause to survey these difficulties somewhat more distinctly, we'may consider what hindrances to our race are sin, Satan, and the world.

First, Indwelling sin impedes those who are engaged in this race. The Psalmist therefore exclaimed, “I will run in the way of thy commands, when thou hast set my heart at liberty.” Sins are like fetters, or shackles, which confine the feet of the soul, and hinder it in its way to God. Pursue your race, therefore, without flattering yourselves that the inward conflict will cease. You will find thoughts of evil rising in inviting forms in your fancy, in the midst of public ordinances, or of private prayer. The workings of pride, envy, and worldliness will render you ashamed, and, perhaps, faint-hearted; and your motto must be, "Faint, yet pursuing."

Second, Satan will endeavour his utmost to throw you down into the mire, and keep you there. Your race is through his

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territories. His fiery darts of infidelity, atheism, blasphemy, or impurity, will often wound you and put you to a stand, unless you have constantly on you the whole armour of God. He foiled David, threw Peter, and severely buffeted Paul. And you must expect in your race that he will hinder you to his utmost, as long as you live.

Third, The world. You are not to be conformed to this world, and therefore you must not wonder if the world hates you. They will think it strange that you run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you. Sometimes they will pleasantly invite you to do as they do. They will assure you there can be no harm in the ways in which they walk, and if you are of a kind and obliging spirit, you will find it exceedingly difficult to refuse them, especially if you think they are likely to be offended if you do. You must recollect, however, that the race set before you is one of separation from all intimacy with worldly people, and you must not have fellowship with them.

Fourth, Besides these difficulties to be surmounted, you must expect adverse providences, as sailors do contrary winds and storms. You must reckon on losses, bereavements, sickness, and disease; and, perhaps, you may be called to very great afflictions, and your prayers and cries for a time may seem in vain. To trust God when he smites ; to love him when he frowns: to continue patient in prayer when prayer seems of no avail; to keep the way of unrightness, even though, like Joseph, you should be rewarded with poverty, false accusation, and imprisonment, this requires grace indeed.

2. To run the race set before you implies not only a spirit prepared to encounter trials, but a firm determination to avoid every sinful endeavour to find an easier path.-If God's children forsake his way, it will be at their peril. David did not run the race set before him when he fled into the land of the Philistines, away from divine ordinances, through his dread of Saul, and his distrust of the faithfulness of God. Elimelech and Naomi left the chosen land with their two sons, and went into the land of Moab, to avoid a famine and preserve their property. But Elimelech and both his sons died, and Naomi returned

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