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their guilt is written upon their own foreheads, their brazen shamelessness shall be seen by the whole world, as a sentence of destruction written upon their very brows. You cannot expect to win heaven unless your names are entered for the race. If there be no attempts whatever made, even at so much as a profession of religion, then of course you may just sit down and say, “Heaven is not for me; I have no part nor lot in the inheritance of Israel; I cannot say that my Redeemer liveth; and I may rest quite assured that Tophet is prepared of old for me. I must feel its pains and know its miseries; for there are but two places to dwell in hereafter, and if I am not found on the right hand of the Judge, there is but one alternative-namely, to be cast away for ever into the blackness of darkness."
Then there is another class whose names are down, but they never started right. A bad start is a sad thing. If in the ancient races of Greece or Rome a man who was about to run for the race had loitered, or if he had started before the time, it would not matter how fast he ran if he did not start in order. The flag must drop before the horse starts; otherwise, even if it reach the winning post first, it shall have no reward. There is something to be noted, then, in the starting of the race. I have known men run the race of religion with all their might, and yet they have lost it because they did not start right. You say, “ Well, how is that?" Why, there are some people who on a sudden leap into religion. They get it quickly, and they keep it for a time, and at last they lose it because they did not get their religion the right way. They have heard that before a man can be saved, it is necessary that, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, he should feel the weight of sin, that he should make a confession of it, that he should renounce all hope in his own works, and should look to Jesus Christ alone. They look upon all these things as unpleasant preliminaries and therefore, before they have attended to repentance, before the Holy Spirit has brought a good work in them, before they have been brought to give up everything and trust to Christ, they make a profession of religion. This is just setting up in business without a stock in trade, and there must be a failure. If a man has no capital to begin with, he may make a finc show for a little time, but it shall be as the crackling of thorns under a pot, a great deal of noise and much light for a little time, but it shall die out in darkness. How many there are who never think it necessary that there should be heart work within! Let us remember, however, that
true new birth without much spiritual suffering; that there never was a man who had a changed heart without his first having a miserable heart. We must pass through that black tunnel of conviction before we can come out upon the high embankment of holy joy; we must first go through the Slough of Despond before we can run along the walls of Salvation. There must be ploughing before there is sowing; there must be many a frost, and many a sharp shower, before there is any reaping. But we often act like little children who pluck flowers from the shrubs and plant them in their gardens without roots; then they say how fair and how pretty their little garden is ; but wait a little while, and all their flowers are withered, because they have no roots. This is all the effect of not having a right start, not having the “root of the matter.” What is the good of outward religion, the flower and the leaf of it, unless we have the “root of the matter” in us-unless we have been digged into by that sharp iron spade of conviction, and have been ploughed with the plough of the Spirit, and then have been sown with the sacred seed of the gospel, in the hope of bringing forth an abundant harvest? There must be a good start; look well to that, for there is no hope of winning unless the start be right.
Again, there are some runners in the heavenly race who cannot win because they curry too much weight. A light weight, of course, has the advantage. There are some people who have an immensely heavy weight to carry. “How hardly shall a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven!” What is the reason? Because he carries so much weight; he has so much of the cares and pleasures of this world; he has such a burden that he is not likely to win, unless God should please to give him a mighty mass of strength to enable him to bear it. We find many men willing to be saved, as they say; they receive the word with great joy, but by-and-bye thorns spring up and choke the word. They have so much business to do; they say they must live; they forget they must die. They have such a deal to attend to, they cannot think of living near to Christ. They find they have little time for devotions; morning prayer must be cut short, because their business begins early; they can have no prayer at night, because business keeps them 80 late. How can they be expected to think of the things of God? They have so much to do to answer this question-" What shall I eat? what shall I drink? and wherewithal shall I be clothed?" It is true they read in the Bible that their Father who is in heaven will take care of them in these things if they will trust
THE HEAVENLY RACE. him. But they say, Not so,"
Those are enthusiasts according to their notions who rely upon providence. They say, the best providence in all the world is hard work; and they say rightly; but they forget that into the bargain of their hard work “it is in vain to rise up early and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness; for except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." You see two men running a race. One of them, as he starts, lays aside every weight; he takes off his garment and away he runs. There goes the other poor fellow; he has a whole load of gold and silver upon his back. Then around his loins he has many distrustful doubts about what shall become of him in the future, what will be his prospects when he grows old, and a hundred other things. He does not know how to roll his burden upon the Lord. See how he flags, poor fellow, and how the other distances him, leaves him far behind, has gained the corner, and is coming to the winning post. It is well for us if we can cast everything away except that one thing needful, and say, " This is my business, to serve God on earth, knowing that I shall enjoy him in heaven.” For when we leave our business to God, we leave it in better hands than if we took care of it ourselves. They who carve for themselves generally cut their fingers; but they who leave God to carve for them, shall never have an empty plate. Ile who will walk after the cloud shall go aright, but he who will run before it shall soon find that he has gone a fool's errand. * Blessed is the man who trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that wait upon the Lord shall not want any good thing." Saviour said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spia, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” “Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them; are ye not much better than they?” “Trust in the Lord and do good, and verily thou shalt be fed." “His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks; bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Carry the weight of this world's cares about you, and it will be as much as you can do to carry them and to stand upright under them, but as to running a race with such burdens, it is just impossible.
There is also another thing that will prevent man's running the race. We have known people who stopped on their way to kick their fellows. Such things sometimes occur in a race. The horse, instead of speeding onwards to the mark, is of an angry disposition, and sets about kicking those that are running beside him—there is not much probability of his coming in first. “Now they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize.' There is one however who never gets it, and that is the man who always attends to his fellow-creatures instead of himself. It is a mysterious thing that I never yet saw a man with a hoe on his shoulder, going to hoe his neighbour's garden; it is a rarity to see a farmer sending his team of horses to plough his neighbour's land; but it is a most singular thing that every day in the week I meet with persons who are attending to other people's character. If they go to the house of God, and hear a trite thing said, they say at once “How suitable that was for Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Brown?” The thought never enters their head, how suitable it was to themselves. They lend their ears to everybody else, but they do not hear for themselves. When they get out of chapel, perhaps as they walk home, their first thought is, “Well, how can I find fault with my neighbours?” They think that putting other people down is going up themselves (there never was a greater mistake); that by picking holes in their neighbour's coat they mend their own. They have so few virtues of their own that they do not like anybody else to have any, therefore they do the best they can to despoil everything good in their neighbour; and if there be a little fault, they will look at it through a magnifying glass; but they will turn the glass the other way when they look at their own sins. Their own faults become exceedingly small while those of others become magnificently great. Now this is a fault not only among professing religious men, but among those who are not religious. We are all so prone to find fault with other people instead of attending to our own home affairs. We attend to the vineyards of others, but our own vineyard we have not kept. Ask a worldly man why he is not religious, and he tells you “ Because 90-and-so makes a profession of religion and is not consistent.” Pray is that any business of yours? To your own Master you must stand or fall, and so must he; God is their judge, and not you. Suppose there are a great many inconsistent Christians--and we are compelled to acknowledge that there are -so much the more reason why you should be a good one. Suppose there are a great many wlio deceive others; so much the more 425
reason why you should set the world an example of what a genuine Christian is. " Ah! but," you say, “ I am afraid there are very few." Then wliy don't you make one? But after all
, is that your business? Must not every man bear his own burden? You will not be judged for other men's sins, you will not be saved by their faith, you will not be condemned for their unbelief. Every man must stand in his own proper flesh and blood at the bar of God, to account for the works done in his own body, whether they have been good or whether they have been evil. It will be of little avail for you to say at the day of judgment, “O Lord, I was looking at my neighbours; O Lord, I was finding fault with the people in the village; I was correcting their follies.” But thus saith the Lord: “Did I ever commission thee to be a judge or a divider over them? Why, if thou hadst so much time to spare, and so much critical judgment, didst thou not exercise it upon thyself? Why didst thou not examine thyself, so that thou mightest have been found ready and acceptable in the day of God?” These persons are not very likely to win the race, because they turn to kicking others.
Again, there is another class of persons who will not win the race-namely, those who, although they seem to start very fair, very soon loiter. They dart ahead at the first starting, and distance all the others. There they fly away as if they had wings to their heels; but a little further on in the race, it is with difficulty that with whip and spur they are to be kept going at all, and they almost come to a stand still. Alas! this race of persons are to be discovered in all our churches. We get young people who come forward and make a profession of religion, and we talk with them, and we think it is all well with them; and for a little while they do run well; there is nothing wanting in them; we could hold them up as patterns for the imitation of others. Wait a couple of years; they drop off just by little and little. First, perhaps, there is the attendance on a week-day service neglected; then it is altogether discontinued; then one service at Sabbath ; then perhaps family prayer, then private prayer-one thing after another is given up. until at last the whole edifice which stood upright and looked so fair, having been built upon the sand, gives way before the shock of time, and down it falls, and great is the ruin thereof. Recollect, it is not starting that wins the race; it is running all the way. Ile that would be saved, must hold on to the end: “Ile that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." Stop and loiter in the race before you have come to the end thereof, and you have made one of the greatest mistakes that could possibly occur. On, on, on! while you live; still onward, onward, onward! for until you come to the grave, you have not come to your resting place until you arrive at the tomb, you have not come to the spot where you may cry
Halt." Ever onward if ye would win. If you are content to lose; if you wouli lose your own soul, you may say, “Stop," if you please; but if you would be saved evermore, be on, on, till you have gained the prize.
But there is another class of persons, who are worse than these. They start well too, and they run very fast at first, but at last they leap over the posts and rails; they go quite out of the course altogether, and you do not know where they are gone. Every now and then, we get such people as this. They go out from us because they were not of us, for had they been of us, doubtless they would have continued with us. I might point out in my congregation on the Sabbath-day, a man whom I saw start myself. I saw him running so well, I almost envied hin the joy he seemed always able to preserve, the faith which ever seemed to be so buoyant and full of jubilee. Alas! just when we thought he was speeding onwards to the prize, some temptation crossed his path, and he turned aside. Away he is scrambling far over the heath, out of the path of right, and men say, " Aha! ahal so would we have it; so would we have it." And they laugh and make merriment over him, because, having once named the name of Jesus Christ, he hath atterwards gone back again, and his last end is worse than the first. Those whom God starts nerer do this, for they are preserved in Christ Jesus. Those who have been “entered” in the great roll of the Covenant before all eternity shall persevere, by the aid of the good Spirit. IIe that began the good work in them, shall carry it on eren unto the end. But, alas! there are many who ran on their own account and in their own strength; and they are like the snail, which as it creeps, leaves its life as a trail upon its own path. They melt away; their nature decayeth; they perish, and where are they? Not in the church, but lost to all hope. They are like the dog that returned to his vomit, and the son that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. “ The last end of that man shall be worse than the first."
I do not think I shall now niention any other class of persons. I have brought before you the rules of the race, if you would win; if you would " so run that you may obtain,” you must first of all take care to start well; you must keep to the 270
THE HEAVENLY RACE.
III. But now I am about to give you some few reasons to URGE YOU ONWARD
One of my reasons shall be this—“ We are compassed about by so great a cloud of
"lilliers of spiritual creatures walk this earth,
Boil when we wake and when tre sleep." Aulas! those spiritual creatures are not all good. There be those that are not relocined and reservel ir Jarkness, but who are permitted by God to vander througil this world like roaring lions, sceking whom they may devour, erer ready to tempt us. And there is one at the head of them called Satan, the enemy, and you kuow his employment. He has access to tlie throne of God, and lie makes most Hvorrid use of it, for he accuses us day and night before the throne. The accuser of the brethren is not yet cast down-that is to be in the great day of the triumph of the Son of Man; but as Jesus stands our Advocate before the throne, so does oid Satan first watch us and tempt us, and then stands as our accuser before the bar
of God. O my dear br sthers and sisters, if you have entered into this race, and have commenced it, let these many eyes urge you forward.
“A cloud of witnesses around Forget the steps already trol,
And onward urge thy way." And now a more urgent consideration still. Recollect, your race is win or losedeath or life, heli or heaven, eternal misery or everlasting joy. What a stake that is for which you run! If I may so put it, you are running for your life; and it that does not make a man run nothing will. Put a man there on yonder hill, and put another after him with a drawn sword seeking his life. If there is any run in him you will soon see him run; there will be no need for us to shout out to him, “Run, man, run!” for he is quite certain that his life is at hazard, and he speeds with all his might-speeds till the veins stand like whipcords on his brow, and a hot sweat runs from every pore of his body--and still flees onward. Now, he looks behind, and sees the avenger of blood speeding after him; he does not stop; he spurns the ground, and on he flees till lie reaches the city of refuge, where he is sate. Ah! if we had eyes to see, and if we knew who it is that is pursuing us every day of our lives, how we should run! for lo! man, hell is behind thee, sin pursues thee, evil seeks to overtake thee; the City of Refuge lias its gates wide open; I beseech thee, rest not till thou canst say with confidence, “ I have entered into this rest, and now I am secure; I know that my Redeemer livetlı." And rest not even then, for this is not the place for rest; rest not until tlıy six days' work is done; and thy heavenly Sabbath is begun. Let this life be thy six days of ever-toiling faith. Obey thy Master's commandment; “Jabour therefore to enter into this rest," seeing that there are many who shall not enter in, because through their want of faith they shall not be able. If that urge not a man to speed forward, what can?
But let me picture yet one more thing; and may that help you onward! Christian, run onward, for remember who it is that stands at the winning post. You are to run onward, always looking unto Jesus: then Jesus must be at the end. We are always to be looking forward, and never backward; therefore Jesus must be there. Are you loitering? See him with his open wounds. Are you about to leave the course ? See him with his bleeding hands; will not that constrain you to devote yourself to him ? Will not that impel you to speed your course, and never loiter until you have obtained the crown? Your dying Master cries to you to-day, and he says. “ By my agony and bloody sweat; by my cross and passion, onward! By my life, which I gave for you; by the death which I endured for your sake, onward!” And see! He holds out his hand, laden with a crown sparkling with many a star, and he says, “ By this crown, onward!" I bescech you, onward, my beloved; press forward, for "I know that there is laid nr for me a crown of life which fadeth not away, and not for me only, but for all then that love his appearing."
I have thus addressed myself to all sorts of characters. Will you this afternoon take that home to yourself which is the most applicable to your case. Those of you who make no profession of religion, are living without God and without Christ, strangers to the comnionwealth of Israel,-let me affectionately remind you that the day is coming when you will want religion. It is very well now to be sailing over the smooth waters of life, but the rough billows of Jordan will make you want a Saviour. It is hard work to die without a liope; to take that last leap in the dark is a frightful thing indeed. I have seen the old man die when he has declared he would not die. Ile has stood upon the brink of death, and he has said, “AU dark, dark, dark! O God, I cannot die.” And his agony has been fearful when the strong hand of the destroyer has seemed to push him over the precipice. He “ lingered shivering on the brink, and feared to launch away.” And frightfal was the moment when the foot slipped and the solid earth was left, and the soul was sinking into the depths of eternal wrathi. You will want a Saviour then, when your pulse is faint and few; you will need an angel then to stand at your bedside; and when the spirit is departing, you will need a sacred convoy to pilot von through the dark clouds of death and guide you through the iron gate, and lead you to the blessed mansion in the land of the hereafter. Oh, "seck ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” O Lord, turn us and we shall be turned. Draw us and ive will run after thie; and thine shall be the glory; for time crownot our raceshuilbo cast at thy fect, and thou shalt bave theglory forever anderer,