T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
[VI. NINE USES OF THIS SUBJECT.]
he first use. You see here, that he that will go to heaven, he must run for it; yea, and not only run, but so run, that is, as I have said, to run earnestly, to run continually, to strip off every thing that would hinder in his race with the rest. Well then, do you so run? And now let us examine a little.
1. Art thou got into the right way? Art thou in Christ's righteousness? Do not say yes in thy heart, when in truth there is no such matter. It is a dangerous thing, you know, for a man to think he is in the right way, when he is in the wrong. It is the next way for him to lose his way, and not only so, but if he run for heaven, as thou sayst thou dost, even to lose that too. O this is the misery of most men, to persuade themselves that they run right, when they never had one foot in the way! The Lord give thee understanding here, or else thou art undone for ever. Prithee, soul, search when was it thou turned out of thy sins and righteousness into the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I say, dost thou see thyself in him? and is he more precious to thee than the whole world? Is thy mind always musing on him? Dost thou love to be talking of him and also to be walking with him? Dost thou count his company more precious than the whole world? Dost thou count all things but poor, lifeless, empty, vain things, without communion with him? Doth his company sweeten all things and his absence embitter all things? Soul, I beseech thee, be serious, and lay it to heart, and do not take things of such weighty concernment as the salvation or damnation of thy soul, without good ground.
2. Art thou unladen of the things of this world, as pride, pleasures, profits, lusts, vanities? What! dost thou think to run fast enough with the world, thy sins and lusts in thy heart? I tell thee, soul, they that have laid all aside, every weight, every sin, and are got into the nimblest posture, they find work enough to run; so to run as to hold out. To run through all that opposition, all these jostles, all these rubs, over all these stumbling-blocks, over all the snares from all these entanglements, that the devil, sin, the world, and their own hearts, lay before them; I tell thee, if thou art agoing heavenward, thou wilt find it no small or easy matter. Art thou therefore discharged and unladen of these things? Never talk of going to heaven if thou art not. It is to be feared thou wilt be found among the many that will seek to enter in, and shall not be able (Luke 13:24).
The second use. If so, then, in the next place, what will become of them that are grown weary before they are got half way thither? Why, man, it is he that holdeth out to the end that must be saved; it is he that overcometh that shall inherit all things; it is not every one that begins. Agrippa gave a fair step for a sudden, he steps almost into the bosom of Christ in less than half an hour. Thou, saith he to Paul, hast almost persuaded me to be a Christian (Acts 26:26). Ah! but it was but almost; and so he had as good have been never a whit; he stept fair indeed, but yet he stept short; he was hot while he was at it, but he was quickly out of wind. O this but almost! I tell you, this but almost, it lost his soul. Methinks I have seen sometimes how these poor wretches that get but almost to heaven, how fearfully their almost, and their but almost, will torment them in hell; when they shall cry out in the bitterness of their souls, saying, I was almost a Christian. I was almost got into the kingdom, almost out of the hands of the devil, almost out of my sins, almost from under the curse of God; almost, and that was all; almost, but not altogether. O that I should be almost at heaven, and should not go quite through! Friend, it is a sad thing to sit down before we are in heaven, and to grow weary before we come to the place of rest; and if it should be thy case, I am sure thou dost not so run as to obtain. But again,
The third use. In the next place, What then will become of them that some time since were running post-haste to heaven, insomuch that they seemed to outstrip many, but now are running as fast back again? Do you think those will ever come thither? What, to run back again, back again to sin, to the world, to the devil, back again to the lusts of the flesh? O! It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn, to turn back again, from the holy commandment (2 Peter 2:22). Those men shall not only be damned for sin, but for professing to all the world that sin is better than Christ; for the man that runs back again, he doth as good as say, I have tried Christ, and I have tried sin, and I do not find so much profit in Christ as in sin. I say, this man declareth this, even by his running back again. O sad! what a doom they will have, who were almost at heaven-gates, and then run back again. If any draw back, saith Christ [by his apostle], my soul shall have no pleasure in him (Heb 10:38). Again, No man having put his hand to the plough, that is, set forward, in the ways of God, and looking back, turning back again, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). And if not fit for the kingdom of heaven, then for certain he must needs be fit for the fire of hell. And therefore, saith the apostle, those that bring forth these apostatizing fruits, as briars and thorns, are rejected, and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned (Heb 6:8). O there is never another Christ to save them by bleeding and dying for them! And if they shall not escape that neglect, then how shall they escape that reject and turn their back upon so great a salvation? (Heb 2:3). And if the righteous, that is, they that run for it, will find work enough to get to heaven, then where will the ungodly backsliding sinner appear? or if Judas the traitor, or Francis Spira the backslider, were but now alive in the world to whisper these men in the ear a little, and tell them what it hath cost their souls for backsliding, surely it would stick by them and make them afraid of running back again, so long as they had one day to live in this world.
The fourth use. So again, fourthly, how unlike to these men's passions will those be that have all this while sat still, and have not so much as set one foot forward to the kingdom of heaven. Surely he that backslideth, and he that sitteth still in sin, they are both of one mind; the one he will not stir, because he loveth his sins, and the things of this world; the other he runs back again, because he loveth his sins, and the things of this world: is it not one and the same thing? They are all one here, and shall not one and the same hell hold them hereafter! He is an ungodly one that never looked after Christ, and he is an ungodly one that did once look after him and then ran quite back again; and therefore that word must certainly drop out of the mouth of Christ against them both, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41).
The fifth use. Again, here you may see, in the next place, that is, they that will have heaven must run for it; then this calls aloud to those who began but a while since to run, I say, for them to mend their pace if they intend to win; you know that they which come hindmost, had need run fastest. Friend, I tell thee, there be those that have run ten years to thy one, nay, twenty to thy five, and yet if thou talk with them, sometimes they will say they doubt they shall come late enough. How then will it be with thee? Look to it therefore that thou delay no time, not an hours time, but speedily part with all, with everything that is an hindrance to thee in thy journey, and run; yea, and so run that thou mayest obtain.
The sixth use. Again, sixthly, You that are old professors, take you heed that the young striplings of Jesus, that began to strip but the other day, do not outrun you, so as to have that scripture fulfilled on you, The first shall be last, and the last first; which will be a shame to you, and a credit for them. What, for a young soldier to be more courageous than he that hath been used to wars! To you that are hindmost, I say, strive to outrun them that are before you; and you that are foremost, I say, hold your ground, and keep before them in faith and love, if possible; for indeed that is the right running, for one to strive to outrun another; even for the hindmost to endeavour to overtake the foremost, and he that is before should be sure to lay out himself to keep his ground, even to the very utmost. But then,
The seventh use. Again, How basely do they behave themselves, how unlike are they to win, that think it enough to keep company with the hindmost? There are some men that profess themselves such as run for heaven as well as any; yet if there be but any lazy, slothful, cold, half-hearted professors in the country, they will be sure to take example by them; they think if they can but keep pace with them they shall do fair; but these do not consider that the hindmost lose the prize. You may know it, if you will, that it cost the foolish virgins dear for their coming too late, They that were ready went in with him, and the door was shut. Afterward, mark, afterward came the other, the foolish, virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; but he answered, and said, Depart, I know you not (Matt 25:10-12). Depart, lazy professors, cold professors, slothful professors. O! methinks the Word of God is so plain for the overthrow of you lazy professors, that it is to be wondered men do take no more notice of it. How was Lots wife served for running lazily, and for giving but one look behind her, after the things she left in Sodom? How was Esau served for staying too long before he came for the blessing? And how were they served that are mentioned in the 13th of Luke, for staying till the door was shut? Also the foolish virgins; a heavy after-groan will they give that have thus staid too long. It turned Lots wife into a pillar of salt (Gen 19:26). It made Esau weep with an exceeding loud and bitter cry (Heb 12:17). It made Judas hang himself: yea, and it will make thee curse the day in which thou wast born, if thou miss of the kingdom, as thou wilt certainly do, if this be thy course. But,
The eighth use. Again, How, and if thou by thy lazy running shouldst not only destroy thyself, but also thereby be the cause of the damnation of some others, for thou being a professor thou must think that others will take notice of thee; and because thou art but a poor, cold, lazy runner, and one that seeks to drive the world and pleasure along with thee: why, thereby others will think of doing so too. Nay, say they, why may not we as well as he? He is a professor, and yet he seeks for pleasures, riches, profits; he loveth vain company, and he is proud, and he is so and so, and professeth that he is going for heaven; yea, and he saith also he doth not fear but he shall have entertainment; let us therefore keep pace with him, we shall fare no worse than he. O how fearful a thing will it be, if that thou shalt be instrumental of the ruin of others by thy halting in the way of righteousness! Look to it, thou wilt have strength little enough to appear before God, to give an account of the loss of thy own soul; thou needest not have to give an account for others; why, thou didst stop them from entering in. How wilt thou answer that saying, You would not enter in yourselves, and them that would you hinder; for that saying will be eminently fulfilled on them that through their own idleness do keep themselves out of heaven, and by giving of others the same example, hinder them also.
The ninth use. Therefore, now to speak a word to both of you, and so I shall conclude.
1. I beseech you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that none of you do run so lazily in the way to heaven as to hinder either yourselves or others. I know that even he which runs laziest, if he should see a man running for a temporal life, if he should so much neglect his own well-being in this world as to venture, when he is a-running for his life, to pick up here and there a lock of wool that hangeth by the way-side, or to step now and then aside out of the way for to gather up a straw or two, or any rotten stick, I say, if he should do this when he is a-running for his life, thou wouldst condemn him; and dost thou not condemn thyself that dost the very same in effect, nay worse, that loiterest in thy race, notwithstanding thy soul, heaven, glory, and all is at stake. Have a care, have a care, poor wretched sinner, have a care.
2. If yet there shall be any that, notwithstanding this advice, will still be flaggering and loitering in the way to the kingdom of glory, be thou so wise as not to take example by them. Learn of no man further than he followeth Christ. But look unto Jesus, who is not only the author and finisher of faith, but who did, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of God (Heb 12:2). I say, look to no man to learn of him no further than he followeth Christ. Be ye followers of me, saith Paul, even as I also am of Christ (1 Cor 11:1). Though he was an eminent man, yet his exhortation was, that none should follow him any further than he followed Christ.