by J. C. Ryle
"Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Beloved, I have lately spoken to you much about the character and experience of true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the men who are sowing for everlasting life.
Before, however, we continue this inquiry, I wish to warn you against forgetting the sure foundation; I wish to caution you most strongly against losing sight of the root of the whole matter—a simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You must not stumble at the outset by supposing I want you to set up a righteousness of your own. Some think their own endeavors after holiness are to make up their title to salvation; some think that when they come to Christ, their 'past sins' alone are forgiven, and for the time to come, they must depend upon themselves. Alas! there always have been mistakes upon this point: men toil and labor after peace with God as if their own exertions would give them a right to lay hold on Christ, and when they find themselves far short of the Bible standard they mourn and grieve and will not be comforted; and all because they will not see that in the matter of forgiveness, in the matter of justification in the sight of God, it is not doing which is required—but believing; it is not working—but trusting; it is not perfect obedience—but humble faith.
Now, once for all, let us understand, that all who have really fled for mercy to the Lord Jesus Christ are, as Paul assures the Colossians, complete in Him! In themselves they may be poor shortcoming sinners—but seeing they have laid hold on Christ, God looks upon them as complete—completely pardoned, completely righteous, completely pure—no jot or tittle of condemnation can be laid to their charge.
They have nothing more to do with the law as a covenant of works, as a condition they must fulfill or die: the Lord does not say, "Be perfect and then you shall live," but "Christ has given you life, and for His sake strive to be perfect." But you will ask me, "Why do they hunger and thirst so much after holiness, since all their debt has been paid?" I answer, They work for love's sake—for gratitude; they do not work and strive after holiness in order that they may be forgiven—but because they are forgiven already, chosen and sealed and saved and redeemed and bought with a price, and they cannot help desiring to glorify Him with their bodies and spirits—who loved them and gave Himself for them. They thirst after holiness because their Father loves holiness; they thirst after purity because their Master loves purity; they strive to be like Jesus because they hope to be one day forever with Him.
But seeing they have many a difficulty in doing the things that they desire, and are continually warring with the world, the flesh, and the devil, and sometimes are so ready to faint that they doubt whether they really are of Christ's family or not—seeing these things are so, I have tried to give you a faint outline of their experience on recent occasions, and I purpose this afternoon to lay before you, the advice which the apostle gives them in my text.
Now, I say that the text contains five points
I. We have all a race to run.
II. Many have gone before us.
III. We must lay aside every weight.
IV. We must run with patience.
V. We must be continually looking unto Jesus.
Table of Contents.
Come Unto Me.
The Lord our Righteousness.
The Character of the True Christian.
The Privileges of the True Christian.
The Christian Race.
Profit and Loss.
Daniel Found Faithful