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John Bunyan was born at Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628. His father was a tinker, but gave his son such education as could be had at the village school, and brought him up to his own trade. The force of his imagination and the influence of the religious excitement of the age early appeared in fits of agitation and religious terror. He had a propensity to profane swearing, but lived a decent and moral life. . In 1645 he served a short time in the parliamentary army, and soon afterwards he became subject to most painful mental conflicts, agonizing doubts and fears. In consequence of the friendly counsels and help of religious neighbors he joined the Baptists at Bedford, and soon began preaching. In 1660 he shared the persecution then carried on against Dissenters, and was thrown into Bedford Gaol. All attempts to coax or terrify him into promising to preach no more failed, and there he remained for twelve years. He preached to the prisoners, made tagged laces for sale, read the Bible and the Book of Martyrs, and at last began to write. He wrote various controversial tracts, and had even to dispute with his own party in defence of “open communion.” He was liberated in 1672. His name was then widely known, his influence was great: and he was called “Bishop of the Baptists.” He took cold on a benevolent excursion, fever followed, and he died at London in August, 1688, and was buried in Bunhill Fields.
The “Pilgrim's Progress,” which has given Bunyan's name worldwide fame, was partly written in Bedford Gaol. It circulated at first among the poor, was soon widely known, and eagerly read. The tenth edition appeared in 1685. No religious book but the Bible and the “Imitation of Jesus Christ” has been translated into so many languages. It has long been no less the delight of the educated and refined than it was at first of the poor and ignorant. Bunyan's “Holy War,” as an allegory, is only surpassed by the “Pilgrim's Progress.” His other works are very numerous, the best known being the “Grace Abounding ” and “Jerusalem Sinner Saved.” “The Heavenly Footman,” the sermon given here, partakes in many respects of the peculiar style he j in his sermons as well as in his prose writings.
THE HEAVENLY FOOTMAN
So run that ye may obtain.—1 Cor. ir. 24
EAVEN and happiness is that which everyone desireth, insomuch that wicked Balaam would 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 which, if taken, would be for their help and advantage. Firstly, 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, they 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 thus, 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, they 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 obtains 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, they that will have heaven, they 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 obtaineth 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 twelfth of the Hebrews, the first, second, and third verses: “Wherefore seeing also,” saith the Apostle, “that we 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,” etc. But before I go any further: 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 sixth of the Hebrews, it is called a fleeing: “That we might have 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 twentieth 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; therefore it is a running or fleeing for one's life: A running with all might and main, as we used to say. So run. 2. Pressing. Secondly, this running in another place is called a pressing. “I press towards the mark”; which signifieth that they that will have heaven, they must not stick at any difficulties they meet with; but press, crowd, and thrust through all that may stand between heaven and their souls. So run. 3. Continuing. Thirdly, this running is called in another place, a continuing in the way of life. “If you continue in the faith grounded, and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel of Christ.” Not to run a little now and then, by fits and starts, or halfway, or almost thither, but to run for my life, to run through all difficulties, and to continue therein to the end of the race, which must be to the end of my life. “So run that ye may obtain.” And the reasons for this point are these: I. Because all or everyone that runneth doth not obtain the