The words of our text are an inference from the preceding chapter, wherein the apostle gives many examples of men and women of faith and obediemce who have finished their race through life for eternal life for the first four thusand years of human history. He mentions first Abel, the first martyr for God, and a multitude of others in Old Testament times who finished the difficult race of life. All these worthy people of faith and obedience from Adam to Christ are brought to view for our encouragement and imitation. Then he presents the astonishing thought that all the saved from the dawin of history are watching Christians today run their race of life for eternal life.
THE FIRST THING HE SAYS IS THAT aLL CHRISITANS ABE COMPASSED ABOUT WITH A CLOUD OF WITNESSES. All these witnesses are the saved people from Adam to Christ, and they are watching us perform. This is an undoubted reference to the Olympic Games of the first century in which races were run for prizes of great value. Those games consisted in such sports events boxing, leaping, wrestling, footraces, horse-races, chariot races etc. These exercises were performed in the arena of a vast amphitheater watched by crowds of spectators numbering twenty-five to one hundred thousand from Rome, Greece, Palestne and other nations. The cloud of witnesses here referred to in our text , are the pious of former days, who are represented as looking on to see how Christians acquit themseelves. They are called a cloud of witnesses, perhaps because a cloud contains a vast number of rain drops. Besides those of pre-Christian times, our conduct is witnessed by God, by the spirits of just men made perfect, by good angels, by false angels. What a thought! The saved people from the beginning sittting in the seats of an amphitheater as witnesses of our conduct. All look on, to see how we proceed in this important race.
II. SECONDLY, SINCE THE SPECTATORS ARE ASSEMBLED, WE MUST PREPare TO RUN. We are all in the arena, and we are to run for our lives. We must lay aside every weight, encumbrance. We should take nothing which will retard our progress. Sin is properly called a weight. It not only binds us down to the earth, but wearies and fatigues us in the discharge of duty. Lay aside every sin, however pleasing or profitable it may appear. .Unbelief, covetousness, pride, lust, and evil desires, on account of their number; are deadly weights. Give them all up at once, or you cannot ran the Christian race. Even our besetting sin must be laid aside. That is our besetting sin to which we are most addicted.; and by which we are the most easily overcome. This may be constitutional, orit may arise either from education, employment, or our particular situation in life. It may vary. That which beset us once, may not beset us now; and that which besets us now, may not always beset. Let us, however, find it out, and for ever lay it aside. It may be like a right eye, cut the other off. That is what Jesus said, figuratively speaking or a right hand; but pluck out the one, and cut off the other. He referred to self=control.
III. Thirdly after we have prepared ourselves to run, we must run with patience the race set before us. The race is set before us. It is clearly marked out, so that we have not to run in an uncertain way. It is set before us in the Scriptures; by the ministers of Christ; and by the Spirit of God. The way is inward and outward holiness. No other way than this, is set before us by the Lord; and we.must be careful not to run in a way of our own.We must run. Running implies great exertion of bodily strength; and this figure is used, to teach us.the necessity of calling forth all our strength, and exerting all our power, in the "discharge of Christian duties. Run, as Lot ran out of Sodom; or as themanslayer to the city of refuge. Thy life is at stake.Ruin is behind, and pursues you fast. 0, run from danger! Safety, peace, and glory, are before thee. 0, run forward! Haste thee on the way! You have no time to lose! We must run with patience. Difficulties and dangers call for patience. Our way will lead to both; but let patience have its perfect work. The apparent length of the way will require patience. When we set out at first, we think of being soon at the mark; but after running some time, perhaps it may appear a great way off: But let us exercise patience a little longer, and we shall have the prize.Our lord is the author of that faith which brings alvation. It is through him that we have a power to believe; and through him that we are justified and sanctified by faith. He is the finisher of this faith, both as it centers in him, and as, by his blessing, it is perfected in us.VI.
IV. Fourthly, while we run, we must constantly look to Jesus. It is not one view of Jesus that will answer our purpose. Looking is a continued act, and it will be necessary for us to look to him all the way. Our eye must be fixed upon every step we take. We must look to Jesus as our great example. He has gone before us. Follow him in his spotless life, his zeal for God, his benevolence for men, and his steady perseverance to the end.We must look to Jesus, as beginning and carrying on Hie great work of redemption and salvation. Look to him. in the stable at Bethlehem; in his poverty at Nazareth; in his agony and bloody sweat in the garden of Gethsemane; in the hands of a furious deluded rabble; in the hands of Pilate, scourged and crowned with thorns. See him on the cross; in the tomb; rising again; at die right hand of God; and coming again to jjidge the world. We must look to Jesus, for direction in difficulties,for protection in danger,for support in weakness,and for comfort in distress.
V. Fifthly,esus is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus is the author of our faith, as he has revealed those blessed truths which we believe. We do not build our faith upon creeds, articles, liturgies, or homilies, but upon the infallible words of our Lord. Articles and creeds may be good; but the New Testament is the rule of our faith.
vi. Finally, for the Joy that was set before jesus He endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God. The joy which was set before our Redeemer, prospect of saving lost sinners, and of being exalted himself, in his human nature, to high honurs in the upper world. We have also a joy set before us, similar to his;' for we may be useful to men, and our souls may be exalted to the heavenly world.To obtain that joy, he endured the cross. The death of the cross was painful;, but he endured without a murmur. 0, folJow him in this respect! You have a cross to endure; but endure as seeing the Invisible, and keep an eye to the recompense of reward.The cross was ignominious; but he despised the shame. case with us. Let us despise the ignorant reproaches of men. If we shun either the pain or the shame of the cross we shall lose the crown. After the death of the cross, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. This phrase denotes he was seated at a placeof honor and glory. In that state he does not forget us but pleads our cause with the Father. 0, let us raise our affections to him, that we may sit inheavenly places with Christ Jesus. To conclude. Have we begun to lay aside our weights? Have we begun to run? What progress have e made? Do we look to Jesus? Let us try ourselves. Let all who scarcely walk, now arise. Let us castaway from us all our transgressions, enter on the Christian race and hold our way that we may may at length obtain the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus ."* It was below him to notice it. Let this be the was, the
*This message is a reproduction of a sermon preached by Jonathon Edmondson in 1850 in England. I recommend it highly to you.