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THE FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST MUST
EXPECT TROUBLES IN THIS WORLD.

And it came to pass, that as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto them, Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.—Luke IX. 57-62.

HERE are three stories put together by the evangelist, to teach us in what manner we should address ourselves to follow Christ.

The first is of a scribe that came uncalled, but his heart was not right with God, having a temporal bias upon it.

The second is of one called, Luke 9:59. Christ saith, ‘Follow me.’ But he would first cherish, then bury, his dying father. But Christ would have no delays, but presently sets him about his ministry and service in the gospel. This, upon the authority of Clemens Alexandrinus, who received it upon ancient tradition, is supposed to be Philip.

A third offereth himself to follow Christ; but first he would take his farewell at home, and compose matters in his family. But when we set our faces Godward, there is no looking back; there must be no more consulting with flesh and blood; the divine instinct must be obeyed speedily, and wholly, and Christ followed without reserves and conditions.

Of these in their order.

I begin with the first: ‘And it came to pass, as they went on the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest,’ &c.

In which words observe:—

1. The time: ‘It came to pass, as they went on the way, a certain man said to him.’

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2. A resolution professed: Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

3. Christ’s reply: And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

1. The time. In Mat. viii. 19, it is when Christ had a mind to retire, and had declared his purpose to go into the desert; in Luke, when he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. Both may agree; the one more immediately, the other more remotely; first to the desert, then to Jerusalem. About that time, a certain man, seeing Christ about to remove from the place where he then was, offereth himself to be one of his disciples. This certain man is by St Matthew said to be a scribe. Men of that rank and order had usually a male talent1414   See note on page 90.—ED. against the gospel, and are frequently coupled with the pharisees, men covetous and of a bitter spirit. This man seeing Christ did great miracles, and hoping that he would set up a temporal kingdom, he puts in for a place betimes that he might share in the honours of it.

2. Here is a resolution professed: ‘Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.’ Where take notice—

[1.] Of the ready forwardness of the scribe. He was not called by Christ, but offered himself of his own accord.

[2.] Observe the largeness of the offer, and unboundedness of it, ‘whithersoever;’ as indeed it is our duty to follow Christ through thick and thin. In the Revelation, Christ’s undefiled company are described to be such as ‘follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,’ Rev. xiv. 4; that is, obeyed him, though to their great peril and loss. Well, then, here is readiness, here is largeness; it is well if all be sincere. Therefore let us see—

3. Christ’s answer and reply: ‘And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.’ By the tenor of Christ’s answer, you may know what ails him, and on what foot he limped; for this is spoken either by way of preparation to enable him to keep his resolution, or rather by way of probation, to try the truth and strength of it; whether it were sincere and sound; yea or nay: as the young man was tried, Mark x. 21, ‘One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, and take up thy cross, and follow me. But he went away sad at that saying.’ So here, we hear no more of this scribe; our Lord knew how to discover hypocrites. Two things were defective in this resolution:—

[1.] It was sudden and rash, not weighing the difficulties. They that rashly leap into a profession, usually fall back at the first trial. Therefore we must sit down and count the charges, Luke xiv. 28.

[2.] There was a carnal aim in it. He minded his own profit and honour; therefore Christ in effect telleth him, You had best consider what you do, for following of me will be far from advancing any temporal interest of yours. The scribe was leavened with a conceit of a worldly kingdom, and had an eye to some temporal advantage; 115therefore Christ telleth him plainly, There was no worldly ease and riches to be expected from him; and so, Non repulit volentem; sed fingentem prodidit—‘He did not discourage a willing follower, but discover a worldly hypocrite,’ saith Chrysologus.

The doctrine we learn from hence is this:—

They that will sincerely follow Christ, must not look for any great matters in the world, but rather prepare themselves to run all hazards with him.

This is evident:—

1. From Christ’s own example; and the same mind should be in all his followers: John xvii. 16, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.’ Our estranging of our hearts from the world is an evidence of our conformity to Christ. Christ passed through the world to sanctify it as a place of service; but his constant residence was not here, to fix it as a place of rest: and all that are Christ’s are alike affected. We pass through as strangers, but are not at home as inhabitants or dwellers; and if we have little of the world’s favour, it is enough if any degree of service for God.

2. From the nature of his kingdom. His kingdom is not of this world, John xviii. 3, 6. It is not a kingdom of pomp, but a kingdom of patience. Here we suffer with Christ, hereafter we reign with him. The comforts are not earthly, or the good things of this world, but heavenly—the good things of the world to come. This was the scribe’s mistake.

3. From the spirit of Christ. His spirit is given us to draw us off from this world to that which is to come: 1 Cor. ii. 12, ‘Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are given us of God.’ The spirit of the world is that which possesseth and governeth worldly men, and inclineth them to a worldly happiness; this is in all men naturally. Corrupt nature doth sufficiently prompt and incline men to look after the honours, and pleasures, and profits of this world. James iii. 15, the apostle, when he would describe the wisdom which is not from above, he saith, that it is ‘earthly, sensual, devilish; this wisdom cometh not from above.’ Present things are known by sense, and known easily, and known by all. But there is a divine Spirit put into Christians, which inclineth them to things to come, and worketh graces suitable: some of which give us a sight of the truth of those things, as faith; some, a taste or an esteem of them, as love; some an earnest desire, as hope. This Spirit cometh from God and Christ, Eph. i. 17, 18. And without these graces we can have no sight nor desire of heavenly things: 1 Cor. ii. 14, ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ They think it is folly to hazard present conveniencies for future rewards, and the truest wisdom to live in ease, plenty, and honour. On the contrary, the divine Spirit convinceth us that there is no such business of importance as looking after eternal life; that all the gay things of sense are but so many May-games to heaven’s happiness; the terrible things of the world are but as a flea-biting to hell torments; and the pudder and business of the world but as a little childish sport in 116comparison of working out our salvation with fear and trembling. This Spirit helpeth us to overcome the world, and grow dead to the world, that we may be alive to God; to look for no great things here, but in the world to come. This Spirit is that which we should all labour after.

4. From the covenant of Christ. It is one thing implied in the gospel covenant, when our Lord Jesus sets down the terms: Mat. xvi. 24, he saith, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me;’ that is, we must so believe in Christ, and be persuaded of the truth of his heavenly doctrine, that we are willing to deny our wit and will, natural interests and affections, and to lose all rather than lose our souls, or miss of the happiness he offereth us. Nay, taking up the cross is so considerable a part of our resignation to Christ and trust in him, that in Luke it is said, chap. ix. 23, let him ‘take up his cross daily.’ How daily? There are fair days as well as foul, and the face of heaven doth not always look sad and lowering. What is the meaning, then, of that, ‘Let him take up his cross daily’? I answer first, it must be meant of daily expectation. The first day that we begin to think of being serious Christians we must reckon of the cross, we know not how soon it may come. If God seeth fit to spare you, yet you must be prepared for it; stand ready, as porters in the streets, to take up the burden which you must carry. Daily inure your thoughts to the cross, that the grievousness and bitterness of it may be somewhat allayed. St Paul saith, Acts xxi. 13, ‘I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus;’ and Eph. vi. 15, one great piece of the spiritual armour is, ‘the preparation of the gospel of peace;’ and 1 Peter iii. 15, ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear:’ be ready in point of courage. Now this is necessary, because we are so apt to promise great things to ourselves, and indulge the security of the flesh by putting off the thoughts of the cross; but evils familiarised are the less burdensome, and by renewing our resolution daily, we are the more fortified. Secondly, to show the continuance of our conflicts, as if every day there were some new exercise for our faith and patience. We are not to prescribe to God how long he shall afflict us, nor with how much affliction he shall exercise us; no, though it were all the days of our lives, we must be content; it is but a moment to eternity. We must take up our cross till God remove it. Some promise fair to be contented with a naked Christ though they run all hazards, because they hope God will not take them at their words; but as soon as the cross cometh, wriggle, shift, and distinguish themselves out of their duty; or else, if it be long and frequently return, quite tire and are faint. So that ‘Take it up daily,’ is as much as ‘Let patience have its perfect work,’ James i. 4. If day after day we must be troubled, we must be content to be troubled. If God send it daily, we must take it up daily. Well, then, in the new covenant we undertook this; the new covenant doth comprise this as a clear branch and part of it. Christ telleth us the worst at first; the devil showeth us the bait but hideth the hook. The world useth to invite its followers with promises of honour and riches, but Christ telleth us of the cross, and that partly 117to discourage hypocrites, who cheapen and taste, but will not buy, and also to prepare sound believers for the nature and temper of his kingdom, which lieth in another world. But here by the way we are to undergo several trials, and therefore we should be armed with a mind to endure them, whether they come or no. God never intended Isaac should be sacrificed, but yet he will have Abraham tried.

Use 1. Is information. With what thoughts we should take up the stricter profession of Christianity—namely, with expectations of the cross. Christ will try us, and the world will hate us; therefore let us not flatter ourselves with an easy passage to heaven. Many think they may be good Christians, yet live a life of pomp, and ease, and pleasure, free from all trouble and molestation. This is all one as if a soldier going to the wars should promise himself a continual peace or truce with the enemy, or as a mariner undertaking a long voyage should only think of fair weather and a calm sea, without waves and storms; so irrational is it for a Christian to look for nothing but rest and peace here upon earth. No; a Christian had need think of this to a double end, that he may be a mortified and a resolute man. If he be not mortified and dead to the world, he can never undergo the variety of conditions which his religion will expose him unto, and say with the apostle, Phil. iv. 13, 14, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me; notwithstanding, ye have well done that ye did communicate with my affliction.’ And there is usually in us a propensity and inclination either to honours, riches, or pleasures, and the devil will work upon that weakness, Heb. xii. 13. That which is lame is soon turned out of the way. If we have any weak part in our souls, there the assault will be most strong and fierce. A garrison that looketh to be besieged, will take care to fortify the weak places where there is any suspicion of an attack; so should a Christian mortify every corrupt inclination lest it betray him, be it love of honour, pleasure, or profit. He had need be also a well resolved man, well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, or else in hard way he will soon founder and halt. If you be Christians indeed, you will soon see the necessity of it. Pure nature itself is against bearing the cross. Christ showed the innocent affections of human nature in his own person; it recoiled a little at the thought of the dreadful cup: Heb. v. 7, ‘Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplication, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.’ And to us it is much more grievous to suffer: Heb. xii. 11, ‘Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.’ But corrupt nature will certainly draw back, unless we be armed with great resolution; for after we have launched out into the deep with Christ, we shall be ready to run ashore again upon every storm, unless we be resolved; therefore you need to think of the cross to breed this resolution. If Christians be not mortified, they trip up their own heels; if they be not resolved and prepared for all weathers, they take up religion rather as a walk for recreation than as a journey or serious passage to heaven. Therefore we must all of us prepare for sufferings in this world, looking 118for no great matters here. We must expect persecutions, crosses, losses, wants, defamation, injuries; and we must get that furniture of heart and mind which may support and comfort us in such a day of trial.

2. It informeth us what fools they are that take up religion upon a carnal design of ease and plenty, and will follow Christ to grow rich in the world; as this scribe thought to make a market of the gospel, as Simon Magus did, Acts viii. 19, 20; he thought to make a gain by the power of miracles. There are conveniences which religion affordeth in peaceable times, but the very profession at other times will engage us in great troubles; and therefore men do but make way for the shame of a change and other mischiefs, that hope for temporal commodities by the profession of the gospel. There are few that are willing to follow a naked Christ upon unseen encouragements, but this must be; for they that aim to seek the world in and by their religion are disclaimed by our Lord as unfit to be his servants, and indeed sorry servants they are who cannot live without honour, ease, and plenty; therefore turn and wind to shift the cross, put many a fallacy upon their own souls: Gal. vi. 12, ‘As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, compel you to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.’ If that be their only motive, they are apt to desert or pervert Christ’s cause. Again, the apostle telleth us of some ‘who are enemies to the cross of Christ, whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things,’ Phil. iii. 18, 19. Men that have no love to God, but only serve their fleshly appetites, and look no higher than honours, riches, pleasures, and applause with men, will never be faithful to Christ. They are such as study to save themselves not from sin, tout from danger, and accordingly accommodate themselves to every interest. As the men of Keilah dealt with David,—entertained him for a while, but when Saul pursued him were resolved to betray him; they would come into no danger for David’s sake. So they deal with Christ and religion. They profess Christ’s name, but will surfer nothing for him. If they may enjoy him and his ways with peace, and quietness, and conveniency, and commodity to themselves, well and good; but if troubles arise for the gospel’s sake, immediately they fall off; not only these summer-friends of the gospel, but the most, yea, the best, have a secret lothness and unwillingness to condescend to a condition of trouble or distress. This is a point of hard digestion, and most stomachs will not bear it.

3. It informs us what an unlikely design they have in hand who would bring the world and Christ fairly to agree, or reconcile their worldly advantages and the profession of the gospel. And when they cannot frame the world and their conveniences to the gospel, do fashion the gospel to the world, and the carnal courses of it. It is pity these men had not been of the Lord’s council when he first contrived and preached the gospel, that they might have helped him to some discreet and middle courses, that might have served turn for heaven and earth too. But do they what they will or can, the way is narrow that leadeth to life, and they must take Christ’s yoke upon them if they would find rest for their souls. They will find that pure and strict religion will be unpleasing to the ungodly and the carnal; that the enmity between the two seeds will remain, and the flesh and the world must not always be 119pleased; that there is more danger of the world smiling than frowning. As to the church in general (in Constantine’s time), Ecclesia facta est opibus major, virtutibus minor; so to believers in particular, that the heart is corrupted by the love of the world, and men never grow so dull and careless of their souls as when they have most of the world at will; and that we are more awakened, and have a more lively sense of eternal life, when under the cross, than when we live in the greatest ease and pomp; that Christ permitteth troubles, not for want of love to his people, or want of power to secure their peace, but for holy and wise ends to promote their good.

Use 2. Is instruction. When you come to enter into covenant with Christ, consider—

1. Christ knoweth what motives do induce you: John ii. 25, ‘He needeth not that any should testify of man, for he knoweth what is in man.’ Some believed, but Jesus committed not himself unto them; he knoweth whether there be a real bent or carnal bias upon the heart.

2. If the heart be false in making the covenant, it will never hold good. An error in the first concoction will never be mended in the second: Deut. v. 29, ‘Oh that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever.’ So Matt. xiii. 21; The stony ground received the word with joy, ‘Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth but for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.’ Some temporal thing sitteth too near and close to the heart; you are never upright with God till a relation to God and a right to heaven do incomparably weigh down all temporal troubles, and you can rejoice more in the testimonies of God, fatherly love, and right to eternal life, than in outward things: Ps. iv. 6, 7, ‘There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.’ David speaks in his own name, and in the name of all those that were alike minded with himself. And Luke x. 20, ‘Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.’

3. That Christ cannot but take it ill that we are so delicate and tender of our interests, and so impatient under the cross, when he endured so willingly such great things for our sakes. We cannot lose for him so much as he hath done for us; and if he had been unwilling to suffer for us, what had been our state and condition to all eternity? We should have suffered eternal misery. If you would not have Christ of another mind, why will you be of another mind? 1 Peter iv. 1, ‘Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.’

4. If you be not dead to the things of the world, you are not acquainted with the virtue and power of Christ’s cross, and have not a true sense of Christianity, cannot glory in it as the most excellent profession in the world: Gal. vi. 14, ‘God forbid that I should glory, 120save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’ You are in a dangerous temptation to atheism.

5. We are gainers by Christ if we part with all the world for his sake, Mark x. 29, 30; therefore no loss should seem too great in obeying his will. Certainly a man cannot be a loser by God.

6. All worldly things were confiscated by the fall, and we can have no spiritual right to them till we receive a new grant by Jesus Christ, who is the heir of all things. Dominium politicum fundatur in providentia, evangelicum in gratia: 1 Cor. iii. 23, ‘All things are yours, because you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s;’ and 1 Tim. iv. 3, ‘God hath made them to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.’ So that what we enjoy is by the mere favour of the Redeemer, and should be parted with again when he calleth for it.

Thus much for the first point.

A second doctrine or point here offered is:—

The great poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Beasts and fowls have places to shelter themselves in, but Christ had no certain place of residence or dwelling wherein to rest. He doth not say kings have palaces, but I have none; rich men have houses and lands, but I have none. But he saith, ‘Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.’

The reasons of this are these following:—

1. To increase the value and merit of his satisfaction. Our sins did deserve this, his whole humiliation, and every degree of it; and Christ was content to suffer it for the ransom of our souls. It is clear this, that all his condescension conduced to make up the remedy more full; and it is evident by the apostle that it giveth us a right to a larger allowance of grace: 2 Cor. viii. 9, ‘For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he become poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.’

2. Christ came to offer the kingdom of heaven, and the good things of the other world, and to draw men’s minds and hearts thither. And, therefore, that he might appear a fit teacher of the world, by his own example, he taught us contempt of outward things. If he had preached up heavenly-mindedness, and lived himself in pomp and fulness, the people would not have regarded his words. ‘Alexander, when his army grew sluggish, because laden with the spoils of their enemies; to free them from this incumbrance, commanded all his own carriages to be set on fire; that when they saw the king himself devote his rich treasures to the flame, they might not murmur if their mite and pittance were consumed also.’ So if Christ had taught us contempt of the world, and had not given us an instance of it in his person, his doctrine had been less powerful and effectual.

3. To season and sanctify a mean estate and degree of life, when we are called to it by God’s providence. Christ’s own poverty teacheth us to bear a mean condition well: Mat. x. 25, ‘It is enough for a disciple that he be as his master, and a servant as his lord.’ Uriah would not give way to any softness, while Joab his general was in the 121 field: 2 Sam. xi. 11, ‘The ark and Israel are in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are in the open fields; shall I go into my house and eat and drink?’ &c. We must be contented to fare as Christ did; we cannot be poorer than Christ, as poor as we are; for the poorest have some place of shelter, but he had none whereon to lay his head.

1. Let this, then, enforce the former lesson, and teach us contempt of the world, and the riches and greatness thereof. It is some argument that the vilest are capable thereof, as well as the most generous and best deserving, and oftener it happeneth to be so. But this is the argument of arguments,—That the Lord Jesus, when he came to instruct the world by his example, he was not one of the rich and voluptuous, but chose a mean estate, as most conducible to his ends.

2. If you be rich, yet be poor in spirit: Mat. v. 3, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Let us possess all things as if we possessed them not, 1 Cor. vii. 31. And so James i. 9, 10, ‘Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted; but the rich, in that he is made low, because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.’ We should be as having nothing, sitting loose from earthly things, considering that shortly we shall be as poor as the poorest, for we can carry nothing away with us.

3. Let us prepare ourselves to entertain poverty; and if it be already come upon us, and God hath reduced us to a mean inferior life, let us have our hearts reconciled and suited to a low estate, so it may be a help to heaven, so we may have the true riches, and may learn to live by faith, though God feedeth us from hand to mouth; so we may imitate Christ and follow him into glory, it is enough for us.


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