The Race
a Preparation Sermon, before the communion, at Kirkcudbright, in the year 1634
published by Rev. Andrew A Bonar, Glasgow, 1876 (reproduced in;
minimally updated, edited and footnoted by JJ Lim
Part 1 of 3: Let Us Run

“Wherefore seeing we also 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, &c”(Hebrews 12:1-5).

BELOVED in Christ, here there is, 1. A conclusion drawn from the doctrine of the former chapter, “Let us run our race” 2. A reason, Many have gone before us, a whole cloud; it is a fair market-gate, a high street to heaven. 3. The way how we may come good speed in our race, get the gold, and win the bell, is set down in two things, viz.:

I. What we must quit for the gold. a. All weights and clogs of this clay world that retard us in our journey, and make our race toilsome, b. Sin that hangs fast upon us, and beguiles us.

II. What shall we do? What rule shall we follow? What [direction][1] shall we look to?

The Apostle says, Know ye not how they look, who run a race? They look not over their shoulder, but ever straight before them, towards the end of their race. Look to Jesus in the end of your way. Now, the Apostle seems to go a little off the text: he sees a friend, even Jesus, and he cannot pass by Him, but must speak a word of Him. In your race I shall let you see two things in Jesus.

1. Efficacy and power. He is the captain and leader of your souls in the course of faith, and He will not tire: when He begins, He will also crown and perfect your faith.

2. I will let you see another thing in Jesus: A good example. How [won][2] He? His heart longed to be at the gold, as yours should do. He saw the glory in the end of His way. He suffered both pain and shame, and so was seen on it: and He is now set down on the throne of God. Now then, the Apostle, still dwelling on Christ (for he cannot win off Him) gives them a new exhortation to hold on; in which there is included the following things:—

(1) Consider what that lovely person suffered of all men—how they gave Him the lie, and spoke against Him. (2) Consider how little you have suffered; you have not yet resisted, and striven unto blood, as Christ did. (3) He gives a reason why they should do so; for fear they give over, faint, and fall a swoon. Having in chapter 11 spoken of the fathers who [won][3] heaven, through patient suffering, he compares them (v. 1) to the cloud that led the Israelites, by day, through the wilderness. He sets the example of those before them to encourage them.

We see the way to heaven is now a high market gate, and paved by hundreds and thousands who have gone before us; and we should follow after. Are you wanting a settled house and dwelling in the world? Then set forward, look for a city above. Indeed, says Abraham, I shall be witness of that, that you shall receive the recompense of reward. Will you rather suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season? Moses says, I shall be witness then, that you shall win home safe and sound. In the way you may see a whole cloud of them as witnesses to lead you through the wilderness. Where away,[4] can you go, or what can befall you in your journey to glory, but in which the Lord’s saints have gone before you? Are you [lonely],[5] and seeking God amongst many who live as they [wish][6]? So was Noah, a walker with God, when all flesh had corrupted their ways. “Suppose”[7] you have all taken from you [even your] goods, children, and health. So was Job handled! So the saints have set up steps, and way-marks, at every turn in your way; and cry, “Ride about.” And howbeit now, many fools think to win through at the nearest, yet they win not, but stick there. The saints’ going before, in the way, is a great benefit to us; their falls, and the ill steps that cumbered them, you must beware of. You must hold off adultery, for David stuck in that mire. Hold off drunkenness, for Noah and Lot wet their feet in that [puddle][8]. Beware of mocking and persecuting the saints, for Paul’s ship had almost sunk in that quicksand. See these dead carcasses lying on the road: Judas, Demas, Hymeneus, and Philetus broke their necks, by attempting to go to Canaan and falling off again.

Make this use of holy men’s lives, here condemned, who followed the devil, but were recovered again. Beware of those temptations and sins which so easily beset them. Here is a cloud of witnesses; the world and the fashions thereof, they did not follow. “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2) and the guises[9] thereof; and yet you can justify yourselves in the daily transgression of this divine prohibition. Wherefore is vanity in marriages and banquets? “It is the fashion,” say they. Proud Scotland! Poor Scotland! Near cut out to your skin; it is worm-eaten. Wherefore is such vanity in apparel? So that women are become indecent, and men like monsters. Men are taking whole baronies[10] of land on their backs? “It’s the fashion,” say they. O! Proud and Poor Scotland; men are cut out to their skin, and women want not vanity enough; but are not cut to the bone. And wherefore comes swearing, and drinking, see you not? No otherwise than from the fashion. “It is the fashion,” say they: but if you will follow such a cloud of fashionable witnesses, let me conclude you will go to hell also; for I can assure you that is the fashion. You may keep that excuse till the Day of Judgment; and when God asks what you have done, and wherefore you did so; say you, “Lord, for nothing but the fashion,” and see how you will win off.

Let us run the race”—But how shall we run? So run that you may obtain. Many run upon hope of heaven, and get hell in the end. But hear what the Spirit of God says, “Lay aside every weight;” every clog. What is the weight? The world, the love of riches, honour, and lusts. He speaks to us as to men having their back burden of clay, or clogged with heavy lumps of earth, and great tatters and bunches of the world’s glory. Nay, a number of devils, pride, lust, and covetousness, hang upon us. Give them a shake, says He; down with them. Let the ground bear all.

How hardly do cunning men enter into the kingdom of heaven! Methinks I see three sorts of men beguiled in their race to glory.

(1) Some go not a step at all in the way to heaven; for, going too near the hedge, they get a thorn in their foot, which swells it so that they must sit down, and lay it on their knee: and they sit there, and never make any further attempt towards heaven, till night come, and there they lie. One of those says, “What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?” (Job 21:15). They say in plain terms, God is but a poor Master to follow; it’s long ere he be rich who follows Him; therefore we will have none of Him. [One said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused, &c” (Luke 14:20). “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him” (Luk 16:14).][11]

2. Another sort run a start after Christ for a time, as Judas, who in men’s eyes followed him, till the devil meets him in the race, casts down a purse, and breaks his leg; and [since][12] went he over the [cliff].[13] In John 6, you see a number following Christ for the loaves. And Demas galloped awhile after Paul and the gospel, but he thought it a hungry trade; and the world crossed his road, and after it he went. I say, The world, like a fair strumpet[14] in her silks and velvets, came in his way, and gave him a kiss, and he ran to the gate, saying, Sorrow have my part of the gospel and Paul, any more[15]! So Paul says, “Demas hath forsaken me, and has embraced this present world” (2 Tim 4:10).  But…

(3) Another sort are those who have some more love to the race, and yet they cannot want the world.

Like the young man (Mt 19:21-22) who came to Christ and said, he had kept the commandments from his youth; when Christ bade him sell all that he had, and give his goods to the poor, and come and follow Him, he went away with his heart in his hose, looking as if his nose were bleeding, for he had great possessions. So there are a number who would climb up the mountain to heaven, with thousands by the year, and with baronies, and a great bunch of clay, bound hard and fast upon the neck of their souls: and they think to hold foot with Christ, ride as hard as He pleases, and twenty stone weight of clay upon their soul! But they will be all mistaken; they will burst and die by the way; and shall never win to the top of the hill. Ask at them how they will win up to heaven, with their lusts upon their backs; they will say, “God will draw us, He will help and bear us.” Indeed God makes His own people ride in chariots with Himself, and draws them (SS 1:2). But will you make Christ a pack-horse to carry your clay, and your lusts? How long is it since He has carried our pack-mantle! Believe me, he is no cadger-horse. Demas and Judas, and the like, would have ridden after Christ, with all their bags of clay; but [know you][16] what Christ did with them? He threw them and their clay off at the broadside, and left them lying there, and posted away.

… to be continued


[1] Orig. “airth”.

[2] Orig. “wan”, prob. the obsolete past tense of “win” rather than “pale, sickly, etc.” Or could be “went.”

[3] Orig. “wan to”, prob. obsolete past participle of “won.” Or could be “went to.”

[4] I.e. “in which direction.”

[5] Orig. “your alone.”

[6] Orig. “list.”

[7] Orig. “Let it be true.”

[8] Orig. “dub”.

[9] I.e. “fashion.”

[10] Prob. certifications of their being baron of the land.

[11] Orig. Luke 14:19; and “And the Pharisees who heard these things mocked at Him” without reference.

[12] Orig. “syne”.

[13] Orig. “brae”, perhaps referring to “brow of the hill.”

[14] I.e. a “harlot.”

[15] Prob. “I shall sorrow over the gospel and Paul no more.”

[16] Orig. “ken ye.”