HE THAT DOTH NOT RENOUNCE ALL THAT HE POSSESSETH, CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE, LUKE xiv. 33
Consider first, that every Christian, as such, ought to be a disciple of Jesus Christ – the very name of Christian implies as much – and the first Christians were originally known and distinguished by no other name than that of disciples, that is of scholars, and followers of this heavenly master. See then, my soul, what the character of a Christian obliges thee to, by the declaration of the Son of God himself. If thou wilt be a disciple of Christ, if thou wilt be a Christian indeed, and to the purpose of securing to thyself that happy eternity with the living God that is prepared for Christ’s true disciples, thou must renounce all things else, how near or dear soever they may be to thee, to follow him. Thou must renounce them, if not in effect, at least in affection, by taking off thy heart from them, and transferring it to thy only sovereign good; and thou must renounce them in effect too, as often, and as far, as they stand in thy way, so as to hinder thee from following Christ. This is the great and fundamental lesson of practical Christianity; this is the abridgement of the gospel; to give up all, that thou mayest find all: to be disengaged from the creature, that thou mayest be united to the creator.
Consider 2ndly, that our Lord explains this obligation of our renouncing all things else, in order to be his disciples, by two comparisons: the one of a man who purposes to build a tower, but first sits down to reckon up the charges, to see if he has wherewithal to finish the work; the other of a king who is going to wage war against another king, but first considers whether he has sufficient forces to encounter his adversary. Every Christian is highly concerned in these two comparisons: inasmuch as every Christian, if he desires to be happy for ever, must raise a spiritual building here, upon the foundation which is Christ; a building that may be proof against all storms and inundations; a tower that may stand for ever; and every Christian is engaged in a warfare against the prince of darkness, and all his allies; wherein if he does not come off with victory, he must be miserable for all eternity. Therefore the Christian must sit down, and must reckon up the necessary charges of this building, to see that he may be able to finish it: and he must take care to secure to himself sufficient forces, to enable him to carry on this war, and to subdue the enemy. Now ’tis by renouncing all things else to follow Christ, that we are associated to him and made partakers of all his treasures; and we are enabled both to elevate our building even to heaven, and to overthrow all the powers of hell.
Consider 3rdly, how true it is that our affections to the things of this world are indeed the chiefest hindrance to us; as well in carrying on our spiritual building, as in our conflicts with our spiritual enemies. The builder will make no progress in his building, if instead of applying himself seriously to the work he has undertaken, he loses his time in amusing himself about other things nothing to his purpose; or if he has taken little or no care to procure the necessary materials; or even suffers his hands and feet to be shackled, when he should be at work. ‘Tis the case of all such Christians as have not yet mortified their affections to the things of the world. These, alas! take up their thoughts; these employ their time; what should be expended in carrying on the great building, is all wasted upon these; and the builder lies grovelling upon the earth, tied down with the chains of his misplaced affections. And as for the wrestling in which we are engaged with the spirit of wickedness, it is no less certain that nothing gives them a greater hold on us than our unmortified affections to these worldly toys. It is like carrying a load of clothes about us, when we are to wrestle with one that is stript; who will be sure by that occasion to have the advantage of us. Therefore we who are to wrestle with the devil, who is naked, must fling off our garments, with St. Gregory, (Homil. 32,) by renouncing our worldly affections, or we shall be sure to be brought down by him.
Conclude to make it thy perpetual study to take off thy affections from all things of the earth, and to disregard the creature, that thou mayest find the creator. And seeing that a great grace is required for this, which may untie the soul from all that is not God, and carry her up upon the wings of the dove to rest eternally in him, continually pray for his grace.