CHAPTER I. HEAVEN MUST BE RUN FOR. SO RUN, THAT YE MAY OBTAIN.—1 Corinthians ix. 24.
Heaven and happiness is that which every one desireth, insomuch that 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, as 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, 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 this, that 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."'
These words are taken from men's running for a wager. A very apt similitude to set before the eyes of the saints of the Lord. "Know you not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." That is, 'Do not only run, but be sure you win as well as run;' "so run, that ye may obtain."
I shall not need to make any great ado in opening the words at this time, but shall rather lay down one doctrine that I do find in them; and in prosecuting that, I shall show you, in some measure, the scope of the words.
The doctrine is this; THEY THAT WILL HAVE HEAVEN, MUST RUN FOR IT.
I say, that they that will have heaven, must run for it. I beseech you to heed it well. "Know ye not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize?" So run ye. The prize is heaven; and if you will have it, you must run for it. You have another scripture for this in the 12th of the Hebrews: "Wherefore, seeing we also," saith the apostle, "are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." "And let us run," saith he. Again, saith Paul, "I so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air."
But before I go any farther, let me explain the Nature and Reasons of this Running.
As to its NATURE, this running is called,
1. Fleeing. Observe, that this running, is not an ordinary, or any sort of running; but it is to be understood of the swiftest sort of running; and therefore in the 6th of the Hebrews, it is called a fleeing. "That we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us." Mark, "Who have fled." It is taken from that xxth of Joshua, concerning the man that was to flee to the city of refuge, when the avenger of blood was hard at his heels, to take vengeance on him for the offence he had committed....