Luke 14:25
What room is there in the religion of Jesus Christ for calculation? What amount of reckoning before acting is permissible to the disciple of our Lord? When and in what way should he ask of himself - Can I afford to do this? Have I strength enough to undertake it?

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCE WHICH SUGGESTED THE IDEA. It was the temporary popularity of Christ that led him to the strain of remark we have in the text. "There went great multitudes with him" (ver. 25), fascinated by his presence and bearing, or struck by his teaching, or marvelling at his mighty works. And these men and women were far from entering into his spirit or sharing his high purpose; it was necessary that they should understand what discipleship to Jesus meant, what absolute self-surrender it involved. So the Master gave utterance to the strong and trenchant words recorded in the context (vers. 26, 27). And the words of the text itself are explanatory of this utterance. Their import is this: "I say this because it is much better you should know what you are doing by following me than that you should enter upon a course which you will find yourselves obliged to abandon, than that you should undertake a duty to which you will find yourselves unequal. All wise people, before they definitely commit themselves to any policy carefully consider whether they can carry it through. Every wise builder calculates the cost before he begins to build; every wise king estimates his military strength before he declares war. So do you consider whether you are prepared to make a full surrender of your will to my will, of your life to my service, before you attach yourselves to my side; for whoever is not able to 'forsake all that he hath at my bidding, cannot be my disciple' Ponder the matter, therefore; weigh everything before you act, count the cost, decide deliberately and with a full understanding of what it is you are doing."

II. THE PLACE THERE IS FOR CALCULATION IN PERSONAL RELIGION.

1. At the entrance upon a Christian life. It would seem as if there could be no room for reckoning here. We may well ask - When God calls us to himself, when Christ invites us to come unto him, what time should we allow ourselves before responding to his summons? Should not our response be immediate, instantaneous? We reply - Time enough to understand what we are undertaking to be and to do; time enough to take the Divine message into our full and intelligent consideration; so that our choice may be not the impulse of an hour, but the fixed and final purpose of our soul. God would not have us act in ignorance, in misconception. In malice we may well be children, but in understanding we should be men. There is no step any man can take which is comparable in importance with that which is taken when a human soul enters the kingdom of God: on that hang everlasting issues. Let men, therefore, diligently and reverently inquire until they understand what it means to have a living faith in Jesus Christ, to enter his spiritual kingdom, and become one of his subjects; let them understand, among other things, that it means the cheerful and full surrender of themselves to the Saviour himself, with all that such surrender involves (ver. 33).

2. At the entrance on a public profession of personal religion. Here is a visible "Church" which we are invited to join, taking upon ourselves the Christian name, and openly avowing our attachment to our Lord; thus honouring him before men. This is a step to be taken deliberately. Before taking it, a man should certainly ask himself whether he is prepared to act in accordance with his profession everywhere, in all circles and in every sphere; not only where he will be encouraged to do the right, but where he will be solicited to do the wrong thing; not only in the midst of genial influences, but in the throng of perilous temptations. But while these things are to be carefully taken into account, there must be reckoned, on the other side, the assurance which genuine piety may always cherish of needed Divine succour. If we go forth in the Name and in the strength of our Lord to do that which is his own command, we may confidently count on his support; and with him at our right hand we shall not be moved from the path of integrity and consistency. Look the facts in the face, but include all the facts; and do not forget that among these are the promises of the faithful Friend.

3. Before undertaking any post of sacred service. It would be worse than foolish for a Christian man to go forth to any enterprise requiring an amount of physical strength, or of intellectual capacity, or of educational advantages, which he knows well he does not possess. That would be to begin to build and to be unable to finish, to declare war with the certainty of defeat. At all times, when we are thinking of Christian work, we must carefully consider our qualifications. A wise and modest refusal is a truer sacrifice than an indiscreet and unwarrantable acceptance. But, again, let our judgment include the great factor of the Divine presence and aid, and also the valid consideration that competency comes with exercise, that to him that hath (uses his capacities) is given, and he has abundance (of power and of success). - C.







If any man come to Me, and hate not, etc.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS NECESSARY QUALIFICATION OF A TRUE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST.

1. An esteem of Christ above all.

2. The heart renounces its property in all things of the world, in the day of its closing with Jesus Christ.

3. The soul resigns all to the Lord; lays down all at His feet, to be disposed of as He will.

4. The soul accepts of Christ for, and instead of the things resigned.

5. The soul is disposed to part with them, when the Lord calls for them; has an habitual readiness to part with them for Christ.

6. There is in the soul a new power of living, without them, on Jesus Christ; a life which is an absolute mystery to every Christless soul (John 6:57). We now proceed —

II. To confirm the doctrine of the text, or show, that no man can be a true disciple of Christ, to whom Christ is not dearer than what is dearest to Him in the world. For this purpose, consider —

1. That the soul cannot truly lay hold on Christ, hut it must of necessity part with the world — "No man can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24).

2. It is impossible that the love of God, and the love of the world (the persons and things of the world), can at the same time be predominant in the heart. One of them must of necessity be uppermost.

3. That if Christ be not dearer to us than the world, fhere is no universal resignation, which is necessary to prove the sincerity of the heart.

4. That if Christ is not loved supremely, there is a root wanting, the fruit of which is necessary to evidence sincerity. Because of the deceitfulness of your heart, it will be good to be very distinct and particular in this point, on which eternity depends. In consequence I would advise you —(1) To give up with all your lusts. You have held the grip long, let it now go — "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" (Hosea 14:8).(2) To lay down at the Lord's feet your nearest and dearest relations, so as that you may never break with Christ for them: His favour, truths, and ways, must be dearer to you than they. And sure I am, ii thou meetest with Christ at His table, thou wilt say, "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh."(3) Lay down at the Lord's feet your substance in the world, be it great or small, houses and lands, goods, etc., that He may dispose of them as He may see meet.(4) Lay down at the Lord's feet your credit and esteem in the world. This is often a great idol, and goes betwixt many a man and Christ.(5) Lay down at the Lord's feet your ease and liberty (Acts 21:13).(6) Lay down at Christ's feet your desires. Your desires shall be to your spiritual Husband, who shall choose for you your inheritance (Psalm 47:4).(7) Lay down at the Lord's feet your life. Let your bodies be given now to the Lord, not only for service, but also for a sacrifice, if He requires it. I now proceed —

III. To offer some reasons why Christ is dearer to His true disciples than what is dearest to them in the world. Among other reasons the following are mentioned.

1. Because to every true disciple, sin, of all bitter things, is the bitterest.

2. That God is man's chief end; and when He made him, He made him pointing towards Himself as His chief end (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

3. That as there unquestionably is, so they have seen, a vanity and emptiness in all things of the world, even the things that are dearest to them (Psalm 119:96).

4. Because they find Christ of all objects the most suitable to them, and therefore He cannot but be dearer to them than the dearest thing in the world.

5. Because He is their greatest benefactor; His unparalleled benefits command their hearts to be all His: He has done for them what none other could do.

6. Because they are sensible that whatever they have in the world, they have it through and by Him. And so they behold Him as the fountain of all their mercies. Thus —

(1)They have the enjoyment of their blessings through Him.

(2)They have the comfort of them through Him.

7. Because, if it were not so, Christ would have no Church in the world. If imprisoning, banishing, spoiling of goods, fields and scaffolds reeking with the blood of the saints, would have deterred all persons from following Christ, there had been no Church in the world this day. But God will have a Church in spite of devils and wicked men.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

I. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE LOVE HERE SPOKEN OF.

1. An esteem and valuation of Christ above all worldly enjoyments whatsoever.

2. A choosing Him before all other enjoyments.

3. Love to Christ implies service and obedience to Him; the same love that when it is between equals is friendship, when it is from an inferior to a superior is obedience. Love, of all the affections, is the most active; hence by those who express the nature of things by hieroglyphics, we have it compared to fire, certainly for nothing more than its activity. The same arms that embrace a friend, will be as ready to act for Him.

4. Love to Christ implies an acting for Him in opposition to all other things; and this is the undeceiving, infallible test of a true affection.

5. Love to Christ imports a full acquiescence in Him alone, even in the absence and want of all other felicities: men can embrace Christ with riches, Christ with honour, Christ with interest, and abundantly satisfy themselves in so doing; though perhaps all the time they put but a cheat upon themselves, thinking that they follow Christ, while indeed they run only after the loaves.

II. THE REASONS AND MOTIVES THAT MAY INDUCE US TO THIS LOVE.

1. That He is best able to reward our love.

2. That He has shown the greatest love to us.

III. THE SIGNS, MARKS, AND CHARACTERS WHEREBY WE MAY DISCERN IT.

1. A frequent and indeed a continual thinking of Him. "Where your treasure is," says our Saviour, "there will your heart be also." That is, whatsoever you love and value, that will be sure to take up your thoughts.

2. The second sign of a sincere love to Christ, is a willingness to leave the world, whensoever God shall think fit to send His messenger of death to summon us to a nearer converse with Christ. "I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ," says St. Paul.

3. A third, and indeed the principal sign of a sincere love to Christ, is a zeal for His honour, and an impatience to hear or see any indignity offered Him. A person truly pious will mourn for other men's sins, as well as for his own.

(R. South, D. D.)

I. Let us consider WHAT IT IS TO BE WORTHY OF CHRIST. And this we find is very well explained in the passage just now referred to by this expression, "he cannot be My disciple"; that is, ha cannot be a sincere Christian; he may call himself by that name.

II. To consider THE LOVE OF CHRIST AS IN COMPARISON WITH, AND OPPOSITION TO THE LOVE OF FRIENDS, and all other worldly interests. Such affections have deep and firm foundation in nature and reason. As this may be justly attributed to God as its Author, and His wisdom and goodness shine in it, religion is not intended to root it out, or in any degree to weaken the bonds of humanity. But the immediate ends of these natural relations are not the highest ends of our being. We are capable of nobler pursuits and higher enjoyments than the ease and conveniences of our present condition. It is the predominant affection which constitutes the character and temper of a man. The covetous is he in whom the love of wealth prevails over all other inclinations; the ambitious, in whom the love of honour; the voluptuous, in whom the love of sensual pleasures. Each of these will sacrifice every other interest to his idol, and every other desire, which is even natural to him, yet not so strong. But to preserve an universal harmony in the mind of man, and to constitute a truly religious and virtuous character, the love of God and of goodness ought to be predominant. Other affections are not to be rooted out, but this must be supreme; and they gratified and indulged only by its permission, and so far as not to be inconsistent with it. This is the true meaning of my text. For what I would principally observe for illustrating this subject is, that the love of Christ, and the love of God and goodness, is just the same. And as moral excellence is the inseparable character of the Deity, so it is absurd to pretend that we love Him without loving it; that we love the holiest and best of all Beings without loving holiness and goodness itself. Again, let us consider that to be worthy of Christ, to be His true disciples, and obtain His acceptance, it is absolutely necessary that we should adhere to Him inviolably, that we should hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and be stedfast and immovable in good works. For they only who endure to the end shall be saved, and to them alone who remain faithful unto death, the crown of life is promised. Now, the only possible security of this stedfastness, is love to Christ, and to religion and virtue above all. I shall only add that a stedfast and universal obedience to Him is imported in our being worthy of Christ, or His sincere disciples. It remains now that we make some application of this subject; which may be the better done, because our Saviour Himself has gone before us in applying it to one of the highest and most difficult points in the practice of religion, that is, to the case of suffering persecution. For can there be any sincere affection to God, to our Saviour, and to His cause of pure religion and virtue, if it be not a prevailing affection, stronger than any other, which opposes it in the heart? But, we may apply this also to other and mere ordinary purposes in the practice of religion. If the commanding love of Christ be a sufficient defence against the strongest temptations, it may well support the mind against lesser ones. Our affection to our friends and worldly interests may mislead us by flattery as well as terror: and their insinuating smiles may prove a snare as well as their frowns. Besides this, there are other temptations which derive their force from the same root, the love of our intimate friends; and are only defeated by the same principle, a superior affection to Christ. There is nothing more common in the world than for men's families to be snares to them; while to make a large, or (as they pretend) a competent provision for them, they violate their consciences, and sin against God, either by direct injustice, or, at least, by such immoderate solicitude and incessant toil as is inconsistent with piety, leaving no room for the exercises of it; or by such narrowness, and withholding more than is meet, as is directly contrary to charity. But let us remember that this is to render ourselves unworthy of Christ, by loving sons or daughters, or other worldly interests more than Him. Besides, distresses befalling our friends, their deaths and misfortunes, which, considering the vicissitude of human affairs, are always to be expected, and they are to some minds, at least, among the most sensibly affecting trials in life; these are to be supported on the same principle.

(J. Abernethy, M. A.)

There is a beautiful story, which some of you will probably know, as it forms the groundwork of one of the best tales of modern times, and which affords a noble example of what I have just been saying. The daughter of a poor Scotch farmer — her name was Helen Walker — after her father's death, supported her mother by her unceasing labour, and by submitting to every privation. She had a sister, many years younger, whom she brought up and educated, and loved as her own child. This sister, however, brought great grief and shame upon her. She fell into foul sin. She was delivered of a child. The child was found dead. The mother was tried for child-murder. This trial was a terrible one for poor Helen. Notwithstanding her sister's sin, she could not forget how she had loved her; she could not cast her out of her heart: she longed that her sister's life should be spared, so that she might have time to repent. A fearful temptation assailed her. It seemed as though her sister's life hung upon her word — a single falsehood might save her. If she would but say that her sister had made any preparations for the birth of the child, or had ever mentioned it to her, her sister would be acquitted. Her sister implored her; her love for her sister rent her heart; but Helen said, It is impossible for me to swear to a falsehood. Whatever betide, I must speak the truth. Thus the sister was condemned to death; and the thoughtless looked upon Helen as hardhearted. But she had shown that she loved God above her sister. She now showed how deeply she loved her sister, with a love far deeper than it would have been, had she attempted to save her life by a lie. She resolved to take up a petition herself to the King, to spare her sister's life. She walked to London barefoot, a journey of above four hundred miles; such a journey in those days, a hundred years ago, being far more difficult and dangerous than it is now; and though she was only a poor, helpless peasant, such was the energy and boldness with which her love inspired her, that she gained the King's pardon, carried it back on foot, and arrived just in time to save her sister's life. I have told you this story, because it is such a beautiful example of the right proportion between love and duty, whereby both are greatly strengthened — of the right proportion between our love to God and our love to our earthly friends. It is an example too, which if we kept it in mind, might often help to admonish us of our duty. For the temptation which Helen Walker resisted is a very common one, and comes across us in a number of shapes. We are often tempted to do something that is not quite right, to say something that is not strictly true, for the advantage, as we deem it, of those whom we love; and because our love is feeble and shallow, and shrinks from pain and sacrifices, we yield to the temptation. Sometimes the temptation may be very strong. You, who are fathers, may see your wives and children suffering from want. At such a time evil thoughts will rise up; you will think you may do anything to save your wife and children from starving. So you may, and ought to do everything, everything in your power, and even beyond your power, provided it be not against the law of God. Whatever is, you should shrink from, remembering our Lord's words, that, unless you love Him above wife and child, you cannot be worthy of Him.

(J. C. Hare, M. A.)

While discussing this passage one day, I noticed that a beam of sunlight had fallen upon the mass of glowing coal in the grate, and where the sunlight fell the bright redness was turned into absolute blackness. "Ah!" thought I, "there is the meaning of this passage." As the glowing coal appears black beneath the far more intense light of the sun, so Christ asks that the light of our love for Him should be so intense as to render our earthly loves even as hatreds in comparison. In reality, although the red coal appears black under the sunlight, it is still as hot as before, yea, hotter than before, because of the added heat from the sun; so our love for friends and relatives, though it should appear as hatred beneath our love for Christ, will not be quenched by it, but added to, and rendered deeper and purer.

(H. Stanley.)

The word "hate" is a strong word, and I believe that it points both to strong feeling and strong action. The words "hate his own life also" are the key to the whole aphorism. A disciple is to hate his relatives and friends in the same sense in which he is to hate himself. In what sense, then, can a man hate himself? He can hate what is mean and base in himself. He can hate his own selfish life. To cling to life is natural; to desire ease and comfort is natural; to gratify the appetites is natural; but all this natural life, whenever it comes into collision with the spiritual side of our being, may be even hated. It is not merely that the Christian may, after a struggle, prefer to remain true to God and Christ, rather than gratify the selfish cravings of his own natural life; he may positively hate these selfish cravings when they are tempting him to forsake his duty. The word may be paradoxical; but is it too strong? Have we never felt disgusted at our own selfishness? Have we never experienced a strong revulsion of feeling when we have been tempted by "our own life" — by our natural liking for what is agreeable to that life — to shirk our duty, and to do something mean and base? In the old Greek drama, Admetos is disgusted with the life which, in selfish cowardice, he has purchased by the sacrifice of his wife Alkestis. And we can well conceive that many a Christian martyr may have felt disgusted with his own life, when he was tempted to preserve it at the cost of denying his Lord. It is thus, then, that a man may hate himself. Not in the bald, literal sense; for he still cares for his own true best life, and wishes that to be developed and strengthened. But he does: in a sense, hate himself when the self in him rises in rebellion against God and Christ and duty. Now, in this sense also, a man may hate his relatives and friends. He may hate that in them which is mean and base. He may hate that in them which seeks to drag him away from Christ.

(T. C. Finlayson.)

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