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29. Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
30. Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
As a man who is about to erect a house first calcul-. ates the expence, lest he should expose himself to the ridicule of attempting an undertaking which he was not able to accomplish; so, he who thinks of professing himself my disciple ought, in all prudence, to consider whether he be able to make the sacrifices which it requires ; lest, by deserting me, he expose himself to like shame.
The same prudent precaution is also observed by one king going to war with another. He first considers whether the bravery of his soldiers and the skill of his generals will enable him to cope with an adversary who has twice his number of troops: or else, if he has been so unwise as to omit this precaution, he sues for conditions of peace. So the followers of Christ should not rashly engage with adversaries, whom there is no probability that they shall be able to overcome.
31. Or what king, going to 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 ?
32. Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
33. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
In the preceding verse Christ had required his disci. ples to be ready to part with their friends: he here requires them to be ready to part with their possessions. If they loved their property better than they loved their master, they could not continue his disciples, in an age when the professors of Christianity would be stripped of every thing which they possessed by their enemies, or be called upon to leave it behind them, when they were sent to preach the gospel.
1. The folly of neglecting religious concerns, upon trifling pretences, is not peculiar to the higher rank of Jews in the time of Christ. It prevails, alas, too much, among all classes of persons in the present day. When they are called upon to attend to their highest interests, and to their eternal welfare, they excuse themselves, by pleading that they have this business to execute, or that pleasure to pursue; that they have no time for religious concerns, their attention being engaged by matters of higher moment; when it is undoubtedly true, that if religion ought not to occupy the whole of their time and thoughts, it has at least a claim to the first place in their regards: for it must be allowed, that an eternal existence is of infinitely greater value than this short life, and that what relates to our well-being during that period, is more worthy of our attention than any temporal object. Nor is there any thing irreconcileable between our present and future interest: for the Being who has placed us here has given us time sufficient, if we manage it well, for attending to the concerns of both worlds. The necessary occupations of life need not prevent us from attending to our religious interest, and it is only they who are averse from or indifferent to religion, that plead them as an excuse. Such conduct, however lightly men may think of it at present; involves in it no small degree of guilt. It discovers great unconcern about the interests of a future life, and great contempt for God, who has sent his messengers to inform us of their importance, and to invite us to attend to them. It is also doing unspeakable injury to ourselves. Beware, sinners, how ye slight the calls of the gospel, which invites you to enter into the kingdom of heaven! They will not be made to you again; and although you should repent of your folly, you will not obtain admission, even if you seek it carefully with tears.
2. We learn, from the passage which has been read, the value of the religious truths communicated to us in the gospel. They are to be maintained by us with the loss of friends, of property and even of life, if necessary: they are of more consequence to our welfare, or to that of mankind at large, than any of these objects. If not called upon, in these times, to show our regard to them in this painful manner, let us not decline any testimony of respect which our situation requires, and will afford : particularly, let us not complain of the time or pains which are necessary to become acquainted with Christian truth, or of the expence or trouble of communicating it to others: it is the best means of advancing our own improvement and the happiness of the world.
3. In the conduct of Christ, in warning his followers of the difficulties which they had to encounter in becoming his disciples, we see an instance of the uprightness of his character. He did not wish to deceive men by flattering them with hopes of pleasures which they would not be able to obtain; nor to make proselytes to his religion, under false pretences of promoting their temporal interests; but tells them plainly what they had to expect; even the loss of every thing which was deemed valuable in life, and exhorts them seriously to consider whether they were prepared to make such sacrifices, before they professed themselves his disciples. What openness and candour does this discover! How different from the arts which impostors have practised! How worthy is such a teacher of our unlimited confidence!
Luke siv. 34
. corresponds with Matt. v. 13.
Luke xv. 1–10. 1. Then drew near unto him, rather, • kept coming unto him," all the publicans and sinners, for to hear him.
The publicans were Roman officers, employed to collect the public taxes from the Jews. Their employment was in itself sufficiently obnoxious, as being a mark of that people's subjection to a foreign power; but was much more so, in consequence of the injustice and extortion of which these officers were frequently guilty. It is probable, therefore, that few of the native inhabi tants would accept of so odious a post, and that it was generally filled by foreigners. To these, the Jews, to whatever nation they belonged, gave the appellation of sinners; not because they regarded them all as men of immoral characters, but in conformity to their own phraseology; according to which the Jewish people, in consequence of their intimate relation to God, were a holy nation, and saints; and therefore those who did not enjoy the same marks of the divine favour would of course be called sinners. Hence it is that publicans and sinners are so often joined together in the New Testament. That by sinners we are in some cases to understand Gentiles, is evident from our Lord's foretelling, Matt. xx. 19, that the rulers of the Jews should deliver him to the Gentiles, to put him to death; which is explained by him afterwards, when the band of soldiers came to apprehend him, by saying that he was about to be delivered into the hands of sinners, Matt. xxvi. 45, These people, who were Gentiles by extraction and publicans by profession, assembled together at the place
where Jesus now was, in order to hear him preach; in. fluenced, as it should seem, by a desire of being instructed and reformed.
2. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
The law of Moses prohibited Jews from marrying heathens, lest, by familiar intercourse with idolaters, they might be drawn from the worship of the true God; but the interpreters of the law extended the prohibition much further, forbidding Jews to eat with heathens, or to have any intercourse with them. When, there. fore, they saw Jesus permitting these publicans, who were heathens, to come and hear him, and to sit down with him at meat, they complained of his conduct as a breach of their law. Christ vindicates his conduct, not by arguments drawn from Scripture, in which, however, there are examples of God's showing mercy to Gentiles, as well as Jews, upon their repentance; but by arguments, drawn from the conduct of men in common life, which afforded a plainer and more forcible way of reasoning.
3. And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4. What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing;
6. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with