Run, John, Run!
John Bunyan (1628-1688) is usually attributed with the following:
Run, John, run, the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands,
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings
I’m not sure, however, Bunyan ever wrote this profound and pithy summary. (I welcome any primary source documentation readers might have.)
It probably originated with the 18th century Scottish preacher Ralph Erksine (1685–1752):
A rigid matter was the law,
demanding brick, denying straw,
But when with gospel tongue it sings,
it bids me fly and gives me wings
—The Sermons and Practical Works of Ralph Erksine, vol. 10 (Glasgow: W. Smith and J. Bryce, 1778), 283.
Charles Spurgeon—who certainly knew his Bunyan—credits the more familiar version to English revivalist and hymnist John Berridge (1716–1793):
Run, John, and work, the law commands,
yet finds me neither feet nor hands,
But sweeter news the gospel brings,
it bids me fly and lends me wings!
—Cited in Charles H. Spurgeon, The Salt-Cellars: Being a Collection of Proverbs, Together with Homely Notes Thereon (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1889), 200.
These references are owing to Jason Meyer’s historical digging cited in his book The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology (B&H, 2010), p. 2 n. 3.
Don’t let the historical spadework distract you from this gospel jewel!