The Worlds Famous Orations. Great Britain: I. (7101777). 1906.
The Heavenly Footman
John Bunyan (162888)
Born in 1628, died 1688; in the army from 1644 to 1646; became a Traveling Preacher in 1657; arrested in 1660 and, except for a brief interval, confined until 1672 in jail, where he wrote The Pilgrims Progress; licensed to preach in 1672, and Pastor at Bedford until his death.
IT1 is an easy matter for a man to run hard for a spurt, for a furlong, for a mile or two: Oh, but to hold out for a hundred, for a thousand, for ten thousand miles!that man that doth this, he must look to meet with cross, pain, and wearisomeness to the flesh, especially if, as he goeth, he meeteth with briers and quagmires, and other encumbrances that make his journey so much the more painful.
Nay, do you not see with your eyes daily, that perseverance is a very great part of the Cross? Why else do men so soon grow weary? I could point out a many, that after they had followed the ways of God about a twelvemonth, others it may be two, three, or four (some more, and some less) years, they have been beat out of wind, have taken up their lodging and rest before they have gotten half way to heaven, some in this, some in that sin, and have secretly, nay, sometimes openly, said that the way is too straight, the race too long, the religion too holyI can not hold out, I can go no further.
One of the great reasons why men and women do so little regard the other world is because they see so little of it; and the reason why they see so little of it is because they have their understanding darkened. And, therefore, saith Paul, Do not you believers walk as do other Gentiles, even in the vanity of their minds having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance (or foolishness) that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. Walk not as those, run not with them; alas, poor souls, they have their understandings darkened, their hearts blinded, and that is the reason they have such undervaluing thoughts of the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation of their souls. For when men do come to see the things of another world, what a God, what a Christ, what a heaven, and what an eternal glory there is to be enjoyed; also, when they see that it is possible for them to have a share in it, I tell you it will make them run through thick and thin to enjoy it.
Your self-willed people, nobody knows what to do with them: we used to say, He will have his own will, do all what you can. Indeed, to have such a will for heaven is an admirable advantage to a man that undertaketh a race thither; a man that is resolved, and hath his will fixed; saith he, I will do my best to advantage myself, I will do my worst to hinder my enemies, I will not give out as long as I can stand, I will have it or I will lose my life; tho He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. I will not let thee go except thou bless me. I will, I will, I will, O this blessed inflamed will for heaven! What is it like? If a man be willing, then any argument shall be matter of encouragement; but if unwilling, then any argument shall give discouragement. This is seen both in saints and sinners; in them that are the children of God, and also those that are the children of the devil. As,
1. The saints of old, they being willing and resolved for heaven, what could stop them? Could fire and fagot, sword or halter, stinking dungeons, whips, bears, bulls, lions, cruel rackings, stoning, starving, nakedness? And in all these things they were more than conquerors, through Him that loved them, who had also made them willing in the day of His power.
2. See again, on the other side, the children of the devil, because they are not willing, how many shifts and starting-holes they will have. I have married a wife; I have a farm; I shall offend my landlord; I shall offend my master; I shall lose my trading; I shall lose my pride, my pleasures; I shall be mocked and scoffed; therefore I dare not come. I, saith another, will stay till I am older, till my children are out, till I am gotten a little aforehand in the world, till I have done this and that, and the other business: but, alas! the thing is, they are not willing; for were they but soundly willing, these, and a thousand such as these, would hold them no faster than the cords held Samson, when he broke them like burnt flax.
I tell you the will is all; that is one of the chief things which turns the wheel either backward or forward; and God knoweth that full well, and so likewise doth the devil, and therefore they both endeavor very much to strengthen the will of their servants. God, He is for making of His a willing people to serve Him; and the devil, he doth what he can to possess the will and affection of those that are his with love to sin; and therefore when Christ comes close to the matter, indeed, saith He, You will not come to Me. How often would I have gathered you as a hen doth her chickens, but you would not. The devil had possessed their wills, and so long he was sure enough of them. Oh, therefore, cry hard to God to inflame thy will for heaven and Christ; thy will, I say, if that be rightly set for heaven, thou wilt not be beat off with discouragements; and this was the reason that when Jacob wrestled with the angel, tho he lost a limb, as it were, and the hollow of his thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him, yet, saith he, I will not, mark, I will not let thee go except thou bless me.
Get thy will tipped with the heavenly grace, and resolution against all discouragements, and then thou goest full speed for heaven; but if thou falter in thy will, and be not found there, thou wilt run hobbling and halting all the way thou runnest, and also to be sure thou wilt fall short at last. The Lord give thee a will and a courage.
Note 1. Bunyans sermon, The Heavenly Footman, was first published in 1698. His writings were collected in 1736, Samuel Wilson being the editor. Another edition in six volumes, prepared by Alexander Hogg, was issued in 1780, another in three volumes by G. Offor in 1853, and another in four volumes by the Rev. H. Stebbins in 1859. [back]