Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 14:28 - 14:33

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 14:28 - 14:33

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Luk_14:28-33. Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not. all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

MANKIND in general, when they want us to engage in their pursuits, are apt to exaggerate the advantages, and to hide as much as possible the difficulties, that will attend the adoption of their plans Our Lord, on the contrary, declared plainly to his followers, the conflicts they must engage in, and the losses they must sustain, if they would be his Disciples. In the verses preceding the text, he states in very strong language the only terms on which he would admit them into his family; and, having cautioned them by two familiar parables against engaging rashly in his service, he again reminds them, that they must forsake all, if they will follow him. To elucidate the passage, we shall consider,

I.       The scope of the parables—

Both of them have the same general tendency to guard men against a hasty and inconsiderate profession of religion. But,

The former points out the folly of such conduct—

[Every one sees, that a builder, who, through neglecting to count the cost, should be compelled to leave his structure unfinished, would be universally derided as a foolish man. But incomparably greater is his folly who begins to follow Christ, and afterwards by his apostasy shews, that he had never duly considered how much was requisite to make us Christians indeed. The very people who have turned him aside, will be the first to deride him for his instability; and while they reverence him who maintains a firm and consistent conduct, they will despise in their hearts the man who proves unfaithful to his God. The saints indeed will not “mock him,” because they know what a “fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God;” but they will pity him, as a poor infatuated creature, who has “left off to behave himself wisely,” and reduced himself by his folly to the extremest misery. Nor is it long ere he himself will see his folly in its true light; when he will behold afar off that heaven upon which he turned his back, and inherit that portion which he so thoughtlessly preferred.]

The latter leads us rather to contemplate the danger of such conduct—

[A king who should inconsiderately plunge himself into a war with an enemy that was too powerful for him, would expose both his kingdom and his life to the most imminent danger. Thus it is also with a man who commences a warfare with sin and Satan without knowing how he shall make head against them: for as a hasty profession of religion exposes him to self-deception, so a hasty dereliction of it will subject him to the heavier condemnation. It is true that all must perish who do not enlist under the banner of Christ; but it is equally true, that cowardly soldiers, who forsake their standard, are far more guilty than if they had never been enrolled upon his list: “It is better never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to turn from it:” their end is worse than their beginning; and they shall be punished with more stripes, in proportion to the advantages they have enjoyed, and the professions they have made.]

These parables will afford still further instruction, if we consider,

II.      Our Lord’s improvement of them—

Our Lord did not amuse his hearers with speculative truths, but brought them home to their conscience by a direct and personal application—

1.       We must count the cost—

[Here the cost is plainly told us; “We must forsake all;” that is, forsake all comparatively in respect of affection, and absolutely, whenever it stands in competition with our duty: nor, if we refuse these terms, can we be his disciples. We are not indeed to cast away our possessions at all events; but so to withdraw our affections from them, as to be willing to resign them whenever the retaining of them shall be inconsistent with our allegiance to him. This we ought to weigh in our minds, and to consider whether the benefits of religion be sufficient to counterbalance its trials. We must be ready to part with our reputation, our interest, our carnal ease and pleasures, our friends, our liberty, our life: but in return for them we may expect, “the honour that cometh of God,” “the riches of Christ that are unsearchable,” “the pleasures that are at God’s right hand for evermore:” we shall even now possess that “peace which passeth all understanding,” together with the liberty of the sons of God; and soon we shall inherit eternal life and glory in his more immediate presence. We should dispassionately balance these against each other, that we may see which scale preponderates, and whether the pearl be worth the price demanded for it.]

2.       We must pay it without reluctance—

[All have not the same trials to endure; but all will meet with some which shall prove a test of their sincerity. Whenever, or in whatever degree, we be tried, we must shew our decided purpose, our fixed determination. We must “hate” (that is, we must esteem as worthless and of no account) our nearest friends, our dearest interests, yea, our very lives, when they stand in competition with our duty to God. Nothing must tempt us to draw back from him. If once we draw the sword, we must throw away the scabbard. If we slay not our spiritual enemies, they will destroy us. We must “endure to the end if ever we would be saved.” On the other hand, we have every encouragement to “war a good warfare;” for, if we go forth in the strength of the Lord God, we shall be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.”]

We conclude with an address to,

1.       The inconsiderate Christian—

[Men promise at their baptism that they will renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil; but never afterwards think of fulfilling so much as one of their engagements. They expect wages without work, and victory without a conflict. But such conduct will expose them to “everlasting shame and contempt,” and will ultimately involve them in irrecoverable ruin. Let it be remembered then, that, as it is no easy matter to be a Christian, so nothing but real Christianity will be of any avail. If we accept not salvation on the terms which God has prescribed, it is in vain to hope that we shall ever participate the blessings it affords.]

2.       The mistaken Christian—

[It is too common to imagine that we can retain the friendship of the world, and preserve at the same time our fidelity to Christ. But we are plainly warned to the contrary. Our Lord elsewhere assures us, that we cannot serve God and mammon. And St. James affirms the friendship of the world to be enmity with God; and that whosoever desires to be the friend of the world, he is thereby constituted the enemy of God [Note: Jam_4:4.]. Would to God that this were more considered! But many, because they make some sacrifices, suppose that they come up to the terms which Christianity demands, when in fact, they retain their bosom lusts, and sacrifice only those, which their change of situation, or their more advanced age, has rendered less importunate. Instead of being jealous of their own sincerity, they are over-confident: and instead of being filled with shame and sorrow on account of their defects, they are ever pleading for indulgence, and labouring to persuade themselves that they come up to the mark prescribed to them in the Scriptures. Let such persons beware, lest, while they value themselves on their more liberal and enlarged sentiments, they deceive their own souls, and be found wanting in the day of final retribution. If when Christ calls them to forsake all, they are striving to forsake as little as possible, they have good reason to fear that they have not the mind which was in Christ Jesus.]

3.       The timid Christian—

[Many, when the hour of trial comes, are ready to faint and draw back. But what are our trials when compared with those of thousands who have gone before us? We have not yet resisted unto blood. Besides, have we not been told repeatedly, that if we have no cross we must not expect a crown? Let us recollect, that, “if we turn back, God’s soul shall have no pleasure in us;” and, that the whole world will be a poor exchange for an immortal soul. “As soldiers we must expect to endure hardness.” Let us then “be strong and very courageous:” let us “fight the good fight, and quit ourselves like men:” and let us reflect for our encouragement, that, though our “enemies may encompass us like bees,” “there are more for us than against us.”]

4.       The steadfast Christian—

[Have any ever found cause to regret that they endured the cross? Will any complain that they ever suffered too much for Christ? Has not a rich reward been invariably enjoyed by them in the testimony of their own conscience, and in the consolations of God’s Spirit? Yea, whatever they have suffered, have they not had “an hundredfold more given them even in this present life; and will they not have life everlasting also in the world to come?” Surely the intrepid Christian has “chosen the good part; nor shall it ever be taken away from him.” Go on then, “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” “See that ye lose not the things that ye have wrought; but that ye receive a full reward.” “Be faithful unto death, and God shall give you a crown of life.”]