14:25-35. And great multitudes went with Him: and He turned and said unto them; Whosoever cometh unto Me, and hates not his father and his mother, and his wife, and his children, and his brethren, and his sisters: yes, and his own self also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, that wishes to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, to see whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest when he has 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 with another king, sits not down first and consider, whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? And if he be not, while the other is yet afar off, he sends ambasssadors, and asks conditions of peace. So therefore every one of you that forsakes not all his possessions, cannot be My disciple. Halt therefore is good: but if the salt have no savour, with what shall it be seasoned? It is useful neither for the land, nor yet for the dunghill: they cast it out. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.
THOSE who command warlike armies, and have won for themselves martial glory, whenever the time for battle has arrived, instruct the troops under their orders in what way, arraying themselves manfully against the phalanxes of the enemy, they will gain a triumphant victory. And the Saviour of all, imitating the skilfulness of those here mentioned, very clearly shows unto all who would follow Him, the pathway of spiritual manfulness: that advancing with unrestrainable impetuosity unto every triumph of piety, and exerting a stern and irresistible earnestness, they may win by a just decree the right of being with Him, and following Him.
This lesson then clearly teaches us, what sort of persons He |491 would have us to be. “For whosoever comes unto Me, He says, and hates not his father and his mother, and his wife and his children, and his brethren, and his sisters, yes, and his own self also, cannot be My disciple.” ‘What then, O Lord, some perchance may say, do You despise the laws of natural affection? Do You command us to hate one another, and to disregard the love that is due to fathers from their sons, to wives from their husbands, to brethren from their brethren? Shall we make those enemies who are members of the same household; and those, whom it is our duty rather to love, must we count as foes, in order that we may be with you, and be able to follow you?’
This is not what the Saviour means. Away with so vain a a thought. For He Who commands even those who are violent enemies to be gentle, and forgiving to all who would do them wrong: for, “Love, He says, your enemies: and pray for them that spoil you:” how could He wish us to hate those who are born of the same family, and to disregard the honour due to parents, and think nothing of despising our brethren; yes! and our own children also, and even our own self? For He, Who has pronounced condemnation even upon those who disregard the law of mutual love, could not wish His friends to cherish a savage, and so to speak, a desperate state of minds. What however He does wish to teach in these commands is plain to those who can understand from what is said in another place expressly upon the same subject. “For he that loves, He says, father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me: and he that loves son or daughter more Me, is not worthy of Me.” By adding then “more than Me,” it is plain that He permits us to love, but not more than we do Him. For He demands for Himself our chief affection; and that very justly: for the love of God in those who are perfect in mind has something in it superior both to |492 the honour due to parents, and to the natural affection felt for children.
“We must explain however what the occasion was which directed our Lord’s words to this subject. The passage then read from the Gospel at our last meeting described the celebration of a great supper, unto which many were invited by him who gave the feast. But they were men indifferent to it: for “they made excuse, it says, with one accord, and said, one that he had bought a field, and must needs go to see it: and another, that he had bought five yoke of oxen: and a third again, that he had married a wife:” and by employing these feigned excuses, they vexed him who invited them. We are therefore given most clearly to understand, that when God calls us unto Him, to make us partakers of His bounty, we must disregard the lusts that are of the flesh, and minister to the flesh, and set no value whatsoever upon the things of this world, but exerting all our force must advance unto those things which will never have to be abandoned, and which fill us with all blessedness, as God bestows with bounteous hand upon us His gifts, and like one welcoming us to a costly banquet, admits us to the right of rejoicing with the rest of the saints in the hope of future blessings. For the things of earth, are but of little value and last only for a time, and belong to the flesh solely, which is the victim of corruption: but those things which are divine and spiritual constantly and without ceasing accompany those who have once been counted worthy of receiving them, and reach onwards to unending worlds. What value therefore will men of sense set upon earthly farms, or the love of carnal pleasure, or the respect due to kinsmen in the flesh, if it be laid down that for love’s sake unto Christ, we must disregard all these things that have been named? For many instances have there been of men desirous of a blameless life, who even after touching, so to speak, the dust of the palaestra, and making trial of the combats therein, and all but attaining to the right of receiving the crown of the heavenly calling, have been drawn backward, as it were, either from regard to relatives, or from being too weak to bear a struggle of endurance, or from being entangled in the snares of carnality, and foolishly preferring present pleasure to the |493 blessings laid up in hope. Many too the feav of death has terrified, and when the season called them unto persecutions, that being proved they might receive the crown of incorruption, they have denied the faith, have avoided, that is, the duty of suffering patiently, and having shown themselves weak and cowardly, have fallen from their steadfastness. To work in us therefore a mind incapable of being broken, and make us careless of every worldly matter for our love of Him, He commands us to hate even our relatives according to the flesh, and our own self also, if, as I have just said, the season call us thereto.
And next He uses two examples, to encourage unto an invincible fortitude those who are His friends, and to establish in an unwavering zeal those whose desire it is to attain to honours by patience and endurance. “For if, says He, any one wish to build a tower, he reckons first if he have means sufficient to finish it, lest when he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, men laugh at him.” For those whose choice it is to lead a glorious and blameless life ought to store up beforehand in their mind a zeal sufficient thereunto, and to remember him who says, “My son, if you draw near to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for every temptation: make your heart straight, and endure.’” But those who have no such zeal, how will they be able to reach the mark that is set before them?
“Or what king, He says, wishing to make war with another king, does not consider with himself, whether with his ten thousand he can prevail over one who is more mighty than himself?” And what does this mean? “Our wrestle is not against blood and flesh, but against governments; against empires; against the worldholders of this darkness; against wicked spirits in the heavenly regions.” We have too a crowd, as it were, of other enemies, the carnal mind, the law that rages in our members, passions of many kinds, the lust of pleasure, the lust of the flesh, the lust of wealth, and others: with these we must wrestle; this is our savage troop of enemies. How therefore shall we conquer? By believing that “in God we shall do valiantly, as Scripture says, and He shall bring to naught those that oppress us:” In this confidence one of the holy prophets said, “Behold the Lord helps |494 me: who shall make me ashamed?” And the divine David also sings, “The Lord is my light, and my Saviour: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the helper of my life, at whom shall I tremble?” For He is our strength, and by Him we shall gain victory: for He has given unto us to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy. As therefore He says, “Salt is good: but if the salt be tasteless, with what can it be seasoned? It is cast out,” He says. Let there be therefore, He proceeds, salt in you,” that is, the divine words which bring salvation: but which if we despise, we become without savour, and foolish, and utterly useless. Such things must the congregation of the saints cast out, by the gift unto them of mercy and love from Christ, the Saviour of us all; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |495