Book Review - The Heavenly Footman

Eric Lui pens a review for John Bunyan's "The Heavenly Footman", we hope it encourages you to pick up this short book which exhorts us to run with Christ!

“So run, that ye may obtain” as quoted from 1 Cor. 9:24, is the over-arching theme of this book, describing how a man must run in order to get to heaven. Unlike his famous The Pilgrim’s Progress, this is a short book of not more than 20 pages (albeit in old Shakespeare English) exhorting us to strenuously run for the prize, putting aside all encumbrances of family, property and riches on earth.

As an introduction to the book, John Bunyan provides an epistle to the readers on why he should run instead of saunter towards heaven. “The desire of the slothful killeth him.” Slothfulness is condemned even by the feeblest of all the creatures. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.”

“Objection!” says the man. “If I should set in, and run as you would have me, then I must run from all my friends; for none of them are running that way.”  John answers, “If thou dost, thou wilt run into the bosom of Christ, and of God; and then what harm will that do thee?"

“Objection! But if I run this way, then I shall be hated, and lose the love of my friends and relations, and of those that I expect benefit from, or have reliance on, and I shall be mocked of all my neighbors.” John answers, "And if thou dost not, thou art sure to lose the love and favor of God and Christ, the benefits of heaven and glory, and be mocked of God for thy folly…"

In Chapter 1, John describes the type of running that we should do in order to win the prize. “Know ye not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize?” Again, Paul says, “I so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.” Therefore, we must run according to God’s rule for the race: we must flee to God for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us (Heb 6:18) as swiftly as possible, as one fleeing to the city of refuge with the avenger of blood hard at our heels. We must press on towards the mark (Phil 3:12), which means we must not stick at any difficulties, but press and thrust through all that stand between heaven and our souls. We must also continue in the faith, be grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.

In Chapter 2, he sets forth the directions for this heavenly race. “Be sure that thou get into the way that leadth thither” is an obvious exhortation. It reminds us of the wicket gate (the way to heaven) shown to Christians in The Pilgrim’s Progress. The second direction is “be much in studying and musing on the way”. The “way” is Christ. We must study and know much of Christ: who He is, what He has done, why He was made in the likeness of men, why He cried, why He died, why He bore the sins of the world, why He was made sin and why He was made righteous, why He is in heaven in the nature of man and what He does there. The third direction is “strip thyself of those things that may hang upon thee, to the hindering of thee in the way to the kingdom of heaven." There are more directions which I will leave to the reader to explore.

In Chapter 3, he sets forth the motives to pursue this heavenly course. He says “it may be a good set of spurs to prick on thy lumpish heart in this rich journey.” The first motive is that there is no other way, as there is either hell or heaven. “Thou must either win or lose.” The second motive is that the devil, hell, death and damnation is hard at your heels and have the commission to do so by the law, against which "thou hast sinned, and therefore, for the Lord’s sake, make haste!" The third motive is that, now heaven’s gates are open, the heart of Christ, with His "arms wide open to receive thee, oh Christian, for this consideration, that the devil followeth after to destroy, you should make haste to fly to Christ." There are more motives for the reader to explore.

In the last chapter, he exhorts us to apply all that have been said to self-examine our spiritual walk to see whether we are taking this race seriously. “Well then, sinner, what sayest thou? Where is thy heart? Wilt thou run? Are thou resolved to strip? Or art thou not? Think quickly, man! It is no dallying in this matter.”

I hope I have whet your appetite to read the whole book yourself. You should be able to finish reading it in one sitting.

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