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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Luke 14

 

 

Verses 1-4

DISCOURSE: 1537

THE MAN CURED OF THE DROPSY

Luke 14:1-4. And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath-day, that they watched him. And behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go.

ALTHOUGH the Gospel requires those who embrace it to become dead to the world, it does not forbid us to maintain occasional and friendly intercourse with unenlightened men. St. Paul rectifies a mistake which had arisen in the Church upon this very subject, and tells us that to renounce all connexion with the ungodly, would be to exclude ourselves from the world altogether [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:9-10.]. But peculiar caution is necessary when we are in their company; and the most effectual way of counteracting their pernicious influence is, to labour to do them good. This we may learn from our Lord’s own example in the history before us. He was in a Pharisee’s house, whither he had been invited to dinner; and his conduct there will afford us many useful lessons. We shall consider,

I. The character of those who entertained our Lord—

The lawyers and Pharisees professed a high regard for religion, and on this occasion appeared to act a very friendly part. But they soon manifested,

1. Their inveterate malignity—

[Under the mask of friendship they were traitors at heart. They “watched”our Lord’s words and actions, not with a desire to receive instruction, but with a determination to seize an opportunity of traducing his character and destroying his life. Such was their employment on the Sabbath-day, when they should have been more particularly in the exercise of all holy affections. Such was their return to our Lord for all his condescension and kindness. And such was their conduct while they wished to be esteemed as patterns of sanctity and virtue. Would to God that this spirit had died with them! But are there none in this day like-minded with them? Do none, who appear friendly in their outward conduct, occupy themselves with watching the words and actions of a godly person, marking any frailty with critical acuteness, and animadverting upon it afterwards with malicious pleasure? Do none even on the Sabbath-day attend the public ministration of the word, with this captious disposition, disdaining to receive instruction, and seeking only to find some expressions which they may report and ridicule?]

2. Their utter want of candour—

[Our Lord put a simple question to them, “in answer” to what he knew to be passing in their minds. There was but one answer that could possibly be given to it. But they knew that a just reply would subvert their own superstitious notions, and justify our Lord in a conduct which they wished to condemn. Unable to maintain the sentiments they professed, and unwilling to acknowledge their error, they held their peace. What a base and disingenuous spirit was this! Yet, how many resemble them! If we address the consciences of some, how backward are they to acknowledge the plainest and most unquestionable truths! If they be compelled to give their assent to any position which militates against their practice, they shew, in the very mode of assenting, a fixed determination to resist every inference that may be drawn from their concession. If invited to consider calmly the most important and most obvious truths, they will “shun the light lest their deeds should be reproved.” They have no ears to hear, no eyes to see any thing that condemns themselves; but are all eye, and all ear, when a religious person is to be exposed. Nor is this character found only among the profane; but often among those who affect a great regard for religion, and sometimes even among those, whose office calls them to propagate and defend it [Note: The lawyers, as well as Pharisees, are mentioned in the text.].]

Difficult as the path of Jesus was hereby rendered, he was enabled to preserve himself unblameable in

II. His conduct towards them—

In every part of our Lord’s demeanour he was a pattern of all perfection. On this occasion in particular we cannot but admire,

1. His wisdom—

[Conscious as he was of the rectitude of his ways, he was nevertheless concerned to obviate the prejudices which subsisted in the minds of others. On this account he put the question respecting the sanctification of the Sabbath, before he proceeded to work the miracle; and again, after he had wrought it, appealed to them respecting their own practice. Thus, though he did not convert, he at least confounded them, and prevented those clamours which they would otherwise have raised against him. Worthy is this example to be followed by all who embrace the Gospel. We cannot extirpate the prejudices of men; but we should blunt the edge of them. We should condescend to reason even on the most obvious truths, and to defend, by argument, the most blameless conduct. We should endeavour to “cut off occasion from those who seek occasion” against us [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:12.]. We should “shew out of a good conversation our works with meekness of wisdom [Note: James 3:13.];” and prevent, as much as possible, “our good from being evil spoken of [Note: Romans 14:16.].”]

2. His fortitude—

[When he saw their obstinacy, he was not deterred from doing his Father’s will. He would do good, even at the peril of his life, rather than lose the opportunity afforded him. He therefore healed the man of his dropsy, and dismissed him, lest he also should be exposed to their murderous rage. Thus should we act, whenever we are opposed in the way of duty. While we labour to disarm our adversaries by a meek and gentle behaviour, we must not fear them. We should say, like Nehemiah, “Shall such a man as I flee?” We should be ready to face any danger and suffer any extremity rather than decline from the path which God, in his word or providence, has marked out for us.]

Three cautions naturally arise from this subject:

1. Let us be on our guard when in the company of the ungodly—

[The more friendly the world appear, the more are we in danger of being ensnared by them. While they continue carnal, they cannot but retain a rooted enmity against spiritual things. Though, therefore, considerations of honour, interest, or consanguinity, may restrain their anger, they will “watch for our halting [Note: Jeremiah 20:10.];” they will seek to find some matter of offence in us, that they may seem the more justified in following their own ways [Note: Psalms 35:19-21; Psalms 35:25.]. Let us then be doubly on our guard when in their company. Let us “keep our lips as with a bridle,” and pray to God to “lead us because of our observers [Note: See Psalms 5:8. in the marginal translation.].”]

2. Let us study that not even our good may be evil spoken of—

[A thing may be good in itself, and yet be imprudent as to the manner in which it is carried into execution. The primitive Christians were at liberty respecting the eating of meats offered to idols; yet in the use of their liberty they might offend their weaker brethren, and sin against Christ. It is a great part of Christian prudence to discern persons, times, and circumstances, that we may be able to adapt ourselves to the exigencies of the occasion. Let this, then, be our endeavour; let us “walk in wisdom toward them that are without,” and endeavour to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. by well doing [Note: 1 Peter 2:15.].”]

3. Let us proceed without fear in the way of duty—

[Daniel and the Hebrew Youths would not conform to the sinful practices of others, notwithstanding they were threatened by the tyrants of their day. Our Lord also was continually opposed by the most malignant adversaries; yet both he and they chose to persist in what was right at the risk of their lives, rather than violate the dictates of their conscience. Thus let us be ready to live or die for God. Let us willingly “endure the contradiction of sinners against ourselves.” Let us put away that “fear of man which bringeth a snare [Note: Proverbs 29:25.];” and continue “steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.].”]


Verses 7-10

DISCOURSE: 1538

THE AMBITIOUS GUEST

Luke 14:7-10. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shall thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.

THE Christian is not prohibited from occasionally joining in carnal festivity; but he should carefully watch his own spirit and conduct when he ventures upon such dangerous ground, and should improve his intercourse with worldly company for the spiritual edification of himself and others. Our blessed Lord was sometimes present at feasts; but his conversation at those seasons was always pious and instructive. The things which occurred never failed to furnish him with abundant matter for useful observation. Having noticed at a wedding the indecent ambition of the guests, he animadverted on their conduct in the parable before us—

I. The principle here inculcated—

Our Lord did not intend these words merely as a maxim for the regulating of our conduct in one particular, but as a parable that should be applied to the whole of our deportment in social life. The scope of the text, whether as originally delivered by Solomon, or as quoted and applied by our Lord, is to recommend humility [Note: Compare Proverbs 25:6-7. with ver. 11.]. But to enter fully into its meaning, we must analyse, as it were, the principle here inculcated; which implies,

1. A deep sense of our own unworthiness—

[If we stand high in our own estimation, we cannot but expect a degree of homage from others, and shall be ready to claim precedence among our equals; but if we have an humiliating sense of our own extreme vileness, we shall readily concede pre-eminence to others, and take the lowest place, as that which properly belongs to us. Such a disposition cannot but spring from self-knowledge; nor can it fail of operating in this manner [Note: Philippians 2:3.].]

2. An utter contempt of worldly distinctions—

[While we “love that honour which cometh of man,” we cannot but aspire after it, when it comes within our reach. But we are taught to be dead, yea crucified to the world [Note: Galatians 6:14.]; and, this once obtained, we shall despise the baubles that are so much the objects of rivalship and contention.]

3. A readiness to give honour to whom honour is due—

[Though religion teaches us an indifference to man’s applause, it does not warrant us to level the established orders of society. God requires us to “honour those that are in authority,” as well as to serve and honour him [Note: Romans 13:7.]. While therefore a sense of duty will keep us from coveting human distinctions for ourselves, it will induce us cheerfully to pay to others the tribute due to their rank and station.]

Excellent however as this principle is, it needs to be limited by prudence, and exercised with care—

[Though this principle can never operate to too great an extent, it may exert itself in a very absurd manner. There are certain decencies in society that ought not to be violated, as would be the case if the great and noble should literally take the lowest place among those who are of very inferior rank: besides, it is possible that we may be actuated by pride, while we thus put on an appearance of humility. We need therefore take heed both to our hearts and ways, that in obeying this precept we act with sincerity and discretion.]

Having endeavoured to explain the principle, we shall point out,

II. Its importance in human life—

Humility is to the graces of a Christian what holiness is to the attributes of the Deity, the beauty and perfection of them all—

1. It conduces in the highest degree to the comfort of mankind—

[Nothing tends more to the happiness of our own minds. What a source of vexation and anguish is pride! With what envy are they beheld, to whom precedence has been given! What indignation do they excite, who overlook our superior claims [Note: This idea will be fully understood by those who have ever mixed in public assemblies.]! A slight, whether real or supposed, will often fill us with rancour as much as the most serious injury could have done: but let humility possess our minds, and this source of uneasiness is destroyed. If we be willing to give honour to others, and be indifferent to it ourselves, and especially if we count ourselves unworthy of it, we shall feel no pain at seeing others preferred before us.

Nor does any thing more tend to the peace and comfort of society. What is it but pride that makes every neighbourhood a scene of contention [Note: James 3:14-16.]? What is it but pride that creates such factions in a state? What is it but pride that involves nations in war and desolation [Note: James 4:1.]? Even the Church of God itself is often torn and distracted by this fatal principle. Let humility once gain a proper ascendant in the hearts of men, and universal harmony will reign. Surely the importance of this principle cannot be too highly rated, or expressed in too energetic terms.]

2. It is that whereby men most eminently adorn the Gospel—

[The avowed scope of the Gospel is to improve the principles and practice of mankind; and they who receive the truth, are expected to excel in every thing that is amiable and praiseworthy. How unseemly did the ambition of the sons of Zebedee appear [Note: Matthew 20:20-28.]! The ungodly themselves do not hesitate to pronounce them hypocrites who, while they profess religion, are under the dominion of pride and ambition. On the other hand, humility irresistibly commends itself to all. Who does not admire the concessions made by Abraham to his nephew Lot [Note: Genesis 13:9.]? Who does not adore the condescension of our Lord in washing his disciples’ feet [Note: John 13:4-5.]? Even those who are most elated with pride themselves, are constrained to applaud humility in others; and though nothing but the grace of God can induce any to embrace the Gospel, a suitable deportment in its professors will often silence the cavils, and disarm the prejudices, of those who ignorantly reject it [Note: 1 Peter 2:13-15.].]

This subject will naturally lead us to contemplate,

1. The folly of sin—

[There is really as much folly, as there is sinfulness, in sin. In how many instances do men attain by integrity and humility, what others in vain seek for by dishonesty and arrogance! This is well illustrated in the parable before us. Let us then simply endeavour to glorify God by a holy conversation, and leave our temporal advancement to his all-wise disposal.]

2. The excellence of religion—

[Religion does not merely impose rules for our conduct towards God, but should regulate every disposition of our minds, and every action of our lives. Where it has its full influence, it gives a polish which is but poorly mimicked by the refinements of modern politeness: it will not indeed convert a clown into a courtier; but it will teach every one to act as becomes his station. Let us then exhibit in our respective spheres that simplicity of mind and manners, that, while it adorns the Gospel, shall disarm the malice of our enemies, and, if possible, conciliate their esteem [Note: Romans 12:10. 1 Peter 5:5.].]


Verses 12-14

DISCOURSE: 1539

LIBERALITY TO THE POOR RECOMMENDED

Luke 14:12-14. Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

IT is a thing yet to be learned in the religious world, that there is no part of Christian duty beneath the attention of those who hear the Gospel, or those who preach it. The Church is a building, which must be carried forward till its final completion. Its foundation must be laid; but in laying it, we must not imagine that it is of any use of itself; it is laid, in order to have a superstructure raised upon it; and the builder must advance in his work till he has “brought forth the top-stone.” St. Paul would “not be always laying the foundation of repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, but would go on unto perfection.” Thus we would do: and whatever our blessed Lord inculcated on his Disciples, that would we also inculcate on all who profess to belong to him.

Our Lord, dining at the house of a Pharisee on a Sabbath-day, set himself to correct some evils which he saw peculiarly predominant there. Amongst the company he perceived a spirit of ambition and self-preference; which he endeavoured to correct by a parable suited to the occasion. It should seem, too, that the feast was sumptuous, or, at least, that none but rich people were invited to it: he therefore, to counteract the pride which such a banquet fostered and displayed, told them what kind of feasts he approved; and that, instead of laying out their money in sumptuous entertainments, he would have them rather to spend their money in making provision for the poor. In conformity with this precept, we shall endeavour to set before you some rules and reasons for a proper expenditure of our money.

I. Some rules—

Two are mentioned in our text;

1. Do not waste your money in giving entertainments to the rich—

[We must not construe this so strictly as, to decline all friendly intercourse with our richer relatives or neighbours, or to refuse them the rights of hospitality; for kindness is due to them as well as to the poor, and doubtless may occasionally be exercised towards them in the way apparently forbidden in our text. But we must not affect high company, or spend money unnecessarily in entertaining them. Hospitality indeed is good; and we should “love if [Note: 1 Timothy 3:2. Titus 1:8. 1 Peter 4:9.],” and not “be forgetful to entertain strangers; because some have thereby entertained angels unawares [Note: Hebrews 13:2.]:” but still this is essentially different from a fondness for parade and feasting; which, however vindicated as necessary to form connexions for one’s children, and to promote social intercourse, and to keep up one’s station in the world, is little else than sensuality and pride. To feast the rich, will involve us in great expense, which of course must lessen our means of doing good to the poor: therefore, though occasions may occur wherein we may not improperly exercise hospitality towards them, we must not find our pleasure in such feasts, nor should we devote to them any considerable portion of our income. The generality of persons account the keeping of high company, and the being able to entertain them in a splendid way, as the chief use of wealth; and they launch out into these kinds of expenses the very instant they have received such an accession of fortune as will enable them so to do. But we must shew ourselves of a different spirit, and not sanction by our example any such evil practices.]

2. Devote your property rather to the relieving and comforting of the poor—

[God has ordained that there shall always be poor amongst his people, in order that graces of every kind may be called forth into exercise among them [Note: Deuteronomy 15:11.]. These therefore are to be the special objects of our care; but especially those among them whom God in his providence has visited with afflictions which incapacitate them for labour; “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” The talents which God has committed to our care, are to be laid out with a particular reference to them. Under the law, it was appointed that every person should lay up the tithe of his increase every third year, for the express purpose of feasting “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, in the courts of the Lord,” that all of them together might “eat and be satisfied [Note: Deuteronomy 14:28-29.].” In a similar manner, we also are enjoined at stated periods to “lay by us in store as God has prospered us [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:2.]:” and even those who are forced to work with their hands for their own maintenance, are yet required to labour the more, in order “that they may have to give to him that needeth [Note: Ephesians 4:28.].” It is true, that there is no need of throwing down all distinctions in society, and feasting with the poor on terms of strict equality; but to make them happy, should be an object near our hearts. Indeed it is, if I may so express myself, a godlike employment: for God himself has shewn a marked respect for the poor, in that “he has chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom [Note: James 2:5.].” He has set us an example of this very thing in the dispensation of his Gospel. In the verses following the text, he represents himself as having made a great feast, and invited many: and, because his invitations are slighted by the rich, the gay, the worldly, he says to his servants, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind: yea, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled [Note: ver. 16–23.].” Thus, as by his Gospel he makes them preeminently partakers of his spiritual blessings, so we also, as far as our circumstances will admit of it, should make them partakers of our temporal blessings.]

This, though felt and acknowledged by us as a duty, needs yet to be enforced upon us, in order that it may be reduced to practice: we will therefore proceed to enforce it by,

II. Some reasons—

The two things which men aim at in the disposal of their money, are pleasure and advantage: and it is from an idea that these are more to be obtained by feasting with the rich, that people almost universally prefer that method of expending their property. But we do not hesitate to say, that the mode of expending it which has been recommended to you has greatly the superiority in point,

I. Of gratification—

[We do not deny but that there is considerable pleasure in entertaining one’s friends: we must however assert, that that pleasure is carnal in its nature, and transient in its duration. But the delight which arises from providing for the poor, and making them happy, is solid, refined, permanent. If it were nothing more than the thought of contributing to lessen the miseries to which human nature is exposed, it would be very delightful; the very sensation of sympathy is exquisite: but the thought of being God’s messenger to them for good, and the hope that “by our means thanksgivings will abound to God [Note: 2 Corinthians 9:12.],” and that our heavenly Parent will be adored and magnified through us; this is a sensation which even an angel might envy. We can easily conceive the comfort which an indigent fellow-creature feels in being relieved from his distress; yet is that not to be compared with the happiness excited in the bosom of him who administers the relief: for One who cannot err has told us, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” The comfort of the relieved continues only whilst the pressure of his calamity is removed: but the donor may look back at the distance of many years, and feel again the same delights which he experienced at the first communication of his alms.

Amongst the many considerations which tend to perpetuate his comfort, one in particular is, that, in administering to the poor, he has ministered to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Christ has condescended to identify himself with his poor members, and to regard every thing which is done for them, not only as done for him, but as done personally to him [Note: Matthew 25:35-40.]. O what a thought is this to one who feels his obligations to Christ! I suppose there is scarcely an enlightened Christian in the universe, who has not envied the women who had the privilege of “ministering to him of their substance [Note: Luke 8:3.]:” but the man who delights in comforting the poor, occupies their province; and is privileged to view, as it were, the very person of Christ in all such guests. Verily, he can have but little love for his Saviour who does not feel more delight in this thought, than in all the gratifications which high company and a well-spread table ever afforded.]

2. Of benefit—

[All the benefit that the feasting of the rich brings with it, is, the getting a good name among them, and the being invited to their feasts in return. The latter of these is what our Lord rather teaches us to dread, inasmuch as it cancels the obligation we have conferred, and makes our expenditure in vain [Note: ver. 12.]. It is to be lamented, however, that amongst his reputed followers, the being invited to feasts is no great object of dread. But the man who feasts the poor, can look for no recompence from them; (except indeed in their blessings and their prayers;) but from God, he shall be recompensed a hundred-fold.

The communications of grace and peace shall abound towards him whose delight is in doing good: “having watered others he shall be watered himself.” This is declared by an inspired writer in the most express and most eloquent terms: “If thou deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor that are cast out to thy house; if when thou seest the naked, thou cover him, and hide not thyself from thine own flesh; if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not [Note: Isaiah 58:7-11.].” What a glorious recompence is this!

But there is a time coming when his recompence shall be complete. “At the resurrection of the just,” God will acknowledge all that has been done for the poor as “a loan lent to him; and he will repay it” all with interest [Note: Proverbs 19:17. 1 Timothy 6:17-19.]. We take for granted indeed that the person is a believer in Christ, and that, in relieving the poor, he does it for Christ’s sake, and not from an idea of establishing a righteousness of his own. This must certainly be supposed; else the liberality, however great, will only turn to the confusion of him who exercises it, and prove a foundation of sand to him who builds upon it: but, supposing the person’s state to be right before God in other respects, and his motives to be pure in the distribution of his alms, we do not hesitate to say, that he treasures up a rich reward for himself in the day that Christ shall judge the world; insomuch that a cup of cold water only that has been given by him from right principles, “shall in no wise lose its reward.” Jehovah himself in that day shall make a feast, a marriage-feast for his Son: and to it will he invite those who for his sake provided for the poor. There shall they sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; and be regaled with all the delights of Paradise. Well is it said in reference to that day, “Blessed are they which are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb [Note: Revelation 19:7-9.].” Yes; in the words of our text it is said, “Thou shalt be blessed;” but how blessed the liberal man shall be, none but God himself can fully declare.]

We sum up the whole in two words of advice—

1. Accept God’s invitations to you—

[You have already heard that in his Gospel he has spread a feast, even “a feast of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined [Note: Isaiah 25:6.].” The persons whom he invites are, not “the rich who think themselves in need of nothing, but the wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked [Note: Revelation 3:17-18.].” As his servants, we invite you all; and declare to you, that the poorer you are, and the more unworthy in your own apprehensions, the more acceptable you will be at his table. Need I say how much God will be delighted to see his table furnished with guests? Hear his own invitation: hear how he pleads with you, and entreats you to accept it; hear how he expatiates on the delicacies he has provided for your repast [Note: Isaiah 55:1-2.]. He sets before you nothing less than the body and blood of his dear Son; which Christ himself says, is “meat indeed, and drink indeed [Note: John 6:55.].” Think of this, and let nothing for a moment delay your coming.]

2. Conform your invitations to his—

[We are enjoined to “be followers (imitators) of God as dear children:” “to be merciful as he is merciful, and perfect as he is perfect.” Behold then at what expense he has made provision for our needy souls! “he has not spared even his own Son, but has delivered him up for us all.” Let not us then grudge any sacrifice for the comfort and support of our afflicted brethren. Economy should be practised, in order to liberality; and self-denial, in order to an enlarging of our ability to supply the wants of others. You well “know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:9.]: Let the same mind be in you that was in him.” Let the happiness of others be your happiness, and the luxury of doing good be your daily food. Thus will every thing you have be sanctified to you [Note: Luke 11:41.]: and the blessing of God will rest upon you in life [Note: Hebrews 6:10.], in death [Note: Psalms 41:1.], and to all eternity [Note: Luke 16:9.].]


Verses 16-18

DISCOURSE: 1540

THE GREAT SUPPER

Luke 14:16-18. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper-time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse.

PERSONS, who are very ignorant of true religion, often express a desire to participate its blessings. Wherever we find them thus open to instruction, we should endeavour to teach them the way of God more perfectly. This was the uniform practice of our blessed Saviour [Note: See John 4:15; John 4:21; John 6:34-35.]. The person, that addressed our Lord, seemed but little acquainted with the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom [Note: ver. 15.]. Our Lord took occasion to rectify his apprehensions on that subject, and to shew him, under the idea of a feast, that the provisions of his Gospel would be slighted by that whole nation. The parable in this view declares the rejection of the Jews and the call of the Gentiles; but it is also applicable to nominal Christians in all ages. Its import, as it respects us, may be comprised in two observations:

I. God invites us to partake of the blessings of his Gospel—

The Gospel dispensation is fitly compared to a sumptuous feast—

[In feasts every thing is set forth that can gratify the palate. Thus in the Gospel there is every thing that can administer delight or vigour to the soul. There is pardon for all the sins that we have ever committed: there is strength against all the corruptions or temptations that can assail us: there is communion with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: there are foretastes and earnests of the heavenly glory. On these accounts the prophets also spake of it under the image of a feast [Note: Isaiah 25:6.].]

God sends his servants to invite men to his table—

[The first persons that were invited to it were the Jews. Upon their rejection of the Gospel the Gentiles were to be called in [Note: Romans 11:11.]. The invitation to us Gentiles is still continued: the servants of God are sent to hasten your tardy steps. We are to inform you, that “all things are now ready, and, as it were, waiting for you [Note: The blood, which is to cleanse you, is already shed: the Spirit, that is to renew you, is already poured out: God is reconciled and is ready to receive you: nothing is wanting, but that you come and fill the place prepared for you.]: we are moreover to urge you to accept the invitation: we are to take, as it were, no denial from you [Note: It is the force of persuasion which we are to use; not the force of penal statutes: such compulsion as that, is as abhorrent from reason, as it is from religion.]. Such is God’s desire to bless us with all spiritual blessings.]

Nor are any, however mean or abandoned, to be overlooked—

[We are to go and call people of all ranks and descriptions: we are to search out the persons most distant, most obscure, most impious [Note: This seems intimated by the streets and lanes of the city, and the highways and hedges without the city.]: we are to bring them in, however labouring under infirmities of body, or distress of soul [Note: “The poor, the halt,” &c. may refer to their spiritual as well as temporal condition.]. God will have his “house to be filled:” nor are his servants to desist from their labours till that work be accomplished; and, thanks be to God! “there is yet room” for more.]

One would suppose that such rich blessings would meet with universal acceptance: but,

II. We ungratefully reject them with vain and frivolous excuses—

Few find any inclination to accept the invitations of the Gospel—

[The Jews in their day withstood the solicitation of the Apostles: so now, all, however importuned, “begin to make excuse.” Some plead the importance of their earthly business; others urge that they must attend to the concerns of their families. Thus earthly cares, or carnal ease and pleasure, stupify the world.]

But God will resent the contempt poured upon his mercy—

[The pleas urged in the parable are not sinful in themselves: but nothing, however good, should keep us from attending to the one thing needful. Every concern becomes sinful, when it is inordinately followed. Hence God declares that he is “angry” with those who offer such pleas: he threatens that they shall never partake of the feast they so despise, nor even “taste” of his bounty to all eternity. “None,” however attentive to their worldly callings, shall find an exception in their favour. How awful their state, who are never to taste of pardon, peace, or glory! May we never bring upon ourselves so terrible a doom!]

Address—

1. Those who are averse to accept the invitations of the Gospel—

[Every one is forward to offer pleas in extenuation of his guilt; and, while some civilly beg to be excused, others roughly answer, “I cannot come.” But whatever be our plea, and in what way soever it be offered, God will discern its fallacy. Indeed the very persons who refuse our invitations, know that their excuses will avail nothing in the day of judgment [Note: “I can not,” and “I will not,” will then be found to have meant the same thing.]. What folly, then, is it to offer that in justification of ourselves now, which will serve only to condemn us in the last day! Let us no longer cherish such fatal delusions. We may give to the world and our family a due portion of our care; but let nothing keep us from the feast which God has prepared.]

2. Those who are afraid to come at the bidding of their Lord—

[Many are kept from Christ by an apprehension of their own unworthiness. They think it would be presumption in them to accept his invitation: but it is not possible to describe more clearly the persons invited. If we be poor, or halt, or maimed, or blind, we are expressly called; nor is our distance or unworthiness any ground of exclusion. Let none then yield to unbelieving fears. We would “compel” you all, by every argument we can devise. Reflect on the greatness of the host that invites you, and the excellence of the feast he sets before you. Consider the blessedness of partaking of it, and the certain consequences of absenting yourselves from it [Note: If the Sacrament be administered, it may be observed, that the table is now spread before their eyes, &c.]. Let all come, and “delight their souls with fatness.” The command given to the Church is yet addressed to you [Note: Song of Solomon 5:1.]—]


Verses 28-33

DISCOURSE: 1541

THE FOOLISH BUILDER AND THE INCONSIDERATE KING

Luke 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: James 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.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 14:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/luke-14.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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