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1 CORI THIA S ix. 24. So run that ye may obtain. THAT we may understand the words of the apos tle in the passage before us, we should remem ber, that he alludes to the methods pursued, and the customs practised in the games of ancient Greece. This illustration of his subject must have been peculiarly forcible in the eyes of his Corinthian converts, who lived so near to the spot in which the most celebrated of them all were solemnized. At first sight we might imagine that a comparison of the victory to which every Christian is summoned to aspire, with success in these sportive Pagan contests, would be de grading to the dignity of the former : but here again, we must remember, the high estimation and honour in which a victory in the games was held in former times ; it exalted the name, it ennobled the memory of the conqueror : in mo-
SERMO XXXIII. 403 dern days, indeed, we have nothing that in any degree corresponds to the peculiar honour which it conferred. So far, therefore, was it from offering any low or degrading comparison, that it placed both the discipline, and the rewards of the Gospel, on the highest ground which the Corinthians were able to conceive. But independent of the dignity,
we cannot but admire the justness of the illus tration. It holds good in so many leading points, and presents to us so striking and so important a view of a Christian life, that it would be well for us, more closely to examine, the various cir cumstances and points, upon which the Gospel insists. The first point to which our attention will be directed, is, to the condition of the contest. " Know ye not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize ? So run that ye may obtain." In the Grecian as in all other games there was one pre-eminent prize, which was the object of the combatants. But though one only in the end could obtain it, yet in the previous discipline and preparation for the con test, every one among them fixed his hope and expectation upon it, as if it were to be his own. Each competitor in the race, was fully assured that his strength and powers were equal to those of his adversaries, and in this assurance he en-
404 SERMO XXXIII. tered the lists full of spirit and resolution. All his courage, all his vigour was wound up to the glorious mark which presented itself to his long ing eyes. All his collected energy and force was brought to bear upon this single point, in san guine expectation of success. Compare, now with this, the conditions of the Christian contest. Let us consider ourselves in this great theatre of the world, a spectacle unto angels and to men, in contending for the prize of immortality ! In such a race we run all, but how many shall re ceive the prize ? The answer is a most important one. So many as run so that they may obtain.
Here then is the great distinction between the earthly and the heavenly race. In the former, though all run, but one receiveth the prize : in the latter, as many as deserve the crown shall re ceive it, in victory, and in glory. " In my father s house," says the Redeemer, " there are many mansions," and again, "He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." one so poor, none so low, none so weak, but that in the strength of God he may be a victor in his Christian race, " yea, and more than conqueror through him who loved us." Our contest is not a comparative, but a positive trial. We have not to strive against our brethren, but
SERMO XXXIII. 405 .. against ourselves. It matters not how many or how few shall be rewarded with the promised crown; our chance of victory is not affected. One thing alone in this view of the subject is ma terial. The more we further the success of those who contend with us, the more we promote the assurance of our own individual crown. Glo rious then is the race, in which as Christians we are ordained to run. o envy can harass, no jealousy can perplex the child of the Gospel, in his appointed course. Every labour is a labour of charity and love. The more studiously his mind is set upon our high and heavenly calling, the more anxious he is to guide, to cheer and to
support those who are running with him in the same race, and striving for the same reward. But to bring our attention back to the earthly contest, the apostle says, "so run that ye may obtain." The exertions which are made, and the same spirit that is roused in the candidates, for an earthly crown, when there is only a chance of success, where one only can conquer, and where the remainder must fail ; the same let us both encourage and feel in our heavenly race. Let not the very bounty of God be perverted into a source of indolence and neglect. Be the prizes never so many, if we exert ourselves less than if there were only one, we shall most assuredly fail.
406 SERMO XXXIII. Less than our utmost efforts will not secure to us our reward, " So run that ye may obtain." Secondly 9 our attention is called to the prepa ration necessary for the contest. " Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things." How necessary it is, strictly to adhere to the most self-denying discipline as a prepara tion for any bodily contest, common experience will convince us. We know the privations to which every candidate for distinction in them must submit. So it is also in our contention, and in our struggle for heaven. Whatever may be the race which we have to run, whether it be for a temporal or for an eternal crown, we must take up the cross of patience, of temperance, and of self-denial. To leave the comparison drawn from the ancient games, and to come closer to our own circumstances and pursuits ; it is true in every case, that "he who striveth for the mastery, is temperate in all things." Is there a
single pursuit in which we would excel, is there a single point which we anxiously desire to gain, which does not require at our hands a propor tionate sacrifice ? Is the accumulation of wealth our aim ? Will any man become richer than his neighbours by sleeping one half the day, and re velling in the other ? Where hundreds are work ing each for himself, and each against his neigh-
SERMO XXXIII. 407 hour, how many enjoyments (innocent in them selves) are, and must be sacrificed, to maintain our ground against the encroachments of our competitors. Look at the man with any worldly end in view. " He rises early, and late takes rest," eating the bread of temperance and selfdenial ; and why, because he knows that without such a discipline his object never can be attained. Most true it is, that the children of this world, are in their generation wiser than the children of light. They know that " he who would strive for the mastery, must be temperate in all things ?" And now turn we to the children of light. Can they hope that their victory shall cost them less ? Can a heavenly crown be earned at a less ex penditure of temperance, of caution, and of selfdenial, than an earthly one ? If we think that it may, we must surely much underrate the value of the object ; which is indeed too often the case. But this leads me, thirdly, to consider the value of the prize proposed. " ow they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an in corruptible." The aptness of the comparison between the two rewards will appear in a still stronger point of view, when we remember, that a crown was the actual reward of the conqueror in the ancient games. The materials of which
this crown was composed were of the least pos sible value, it was the celebration of their name,
408 SERMO XXXIH. and the duration of their glory, which was the conqueror s highest reward. But how long could the sense of all this honour and renown be con tinued to them ? Place the earthly conqueror at the highest pitch of human glory, and the enjoy ment of it. Place him on the very pinnacle of his ambition, place him as the idol of applauding multitudes, place his father, his mother, his chil dren, and his household the spectators and the sharers of his glory ! Yet in a few years how shall all these triumphs moulder into dust ; and even of what may survive in future times, neither he, nor those dearer to him than himself, can either feel or know the smallest portion. And now let us turn ourselves from a corruptible crown, to an incorruptible. The prize for which we contend is, " that inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, which fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us." The crown of glory which we shall receive is that, which the Redeemer himself shall give : it shall be given at the last awful day, when before men and angels we shall rise to give an account of this our earthly course. In the presence of the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, it shall be given; in the presence of "just men made perfect," in the presence of those, whom we most tenderly loved upon earth ; in the pre sence of those, from whom neither distance nor
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death shall separate us again, but we with them and they with us shall reign, as blessed spirits, in the presence of the Lamb for ever and ever. And now let me ask, is there one among us, to whom this crown of rejoicing is not offered ? is there one among us, by whom it may not be ob tained ? Ever let us keep it in view, as the ani mating and cheering spring of strength, of con solation, and of hope. In his earthly race, the candidate for a corruptible crown, never for a moment loses sight of his reward. Intent upon the prize proposed, he thinks every sacrifice he can undergo, to be at once an instrument and a blessing. But when we turn our eyes to the candidate for heaven, how little thought or anxiety do we see expended on the object of their labours. We might indeed imagine from the neglect and unconcern which they shew, that either there was no prize proposed for their con test, or at all events that it was not worth the contention. Hence it is, that " we run as uncer tainly, we fight as one beating the air." But " so run that ye may obtain," calculate and feel the value of the crown, the incorruptible crown, for which you contend: and in the words of the great apostle, " forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward unto those things that are before, press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus."
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