“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
Much complaint is made in our day against our Old School Baptist ministers preaching a doctrine which is discouraging to sinners, and calculated to repulse those who are religiously inclined; and we are very justly charged with being behind the times in our doctrine, and especially in our manner of preaching to sinners. We are enabled, by the faithful record of inspired truth, to ascertain our exact whereabouts, and find that we are full eighteen hundred years behind the speculative theories of the new divinity schools. When a vast assemblage pressed to hear Christ, on one occasion, he retired to the mountains, and there delivered to his disciples alone that memorable sermon on the Mount. On another occasion, when one volunteered to become his constant follower, he informed him that the foxes had holes, and the birds had nests, but the Son of man had not where to lay his head. How discouraging!
On another occasion, when preaching to the people from a passage in Isaiah, which he declared was that day fulfilled in their ears; as soon as the assembly began to feel deeply interested in his preaching, and to wonder at the gracious words that he uttered, instead of seizing upon so favorable an opportunity to secure their good opinion of him, he referred them to some instances of the special sovereignty of God in his distinguishing favor to Naaman, the Syrian, and to the widow of Sarepta, when all the lepers and widows of Israel were passed by without favor. He certainly knew that this would fill the whole assembly with wrath, which it did, and they rose up and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon the city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. The connection of our text shows that on this occasion was presented another most favorable opportunity, speaking after the manner of the new school, to greatly increase the company of his disciples, but instead of using it for that purpose, when a great company came out to him, he turned and said to them, in the language of our text, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and his mother,” &c., “he cannot be my disciple.” This was truly discouraging to them. How little do men seem to know that our Lord had and still has power over all flesh, to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him. (John xvii. 2.)
But as we were desired to give our understanding of the meaning of this text, we will proceed to do so in as brief a manner as possible.
Whatever obscurity may seem to involve the words of our text, we may safely conclude that the hatred of parents and other relatives, does not mean to conflict with the express requisition of the law to love and honor our father and our mother, or the doctrine taught by Paul, that as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, even so ought men to love their own wives. The relative obligations of parents and children, husbands and wives, and masters and servants, in all cases bind them to love and not hate one another. And Paul, when describing the excessive wickedness of the last days, speaks, among other things, of men being without natural affection, as the very extreme of depravity and wickedness. So far was our Lord Jesus Christ from encouraging that kind of hatred, he commanded his disciples to love even their enemies. His gospel is a gospel of peace on earth and good will towards men. But still there is a sense in which all who are truly disciples of our Lord and Master, do hate father, mother, wife and children, and their own lives also; and that is the same sense in which they hate the world. For if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
This hatred of kindred is not a malicious hatred, but a hatred perfectly compatible with the strictest injunctions to love all, both friends and enemies, to do good to them that despitefully use and persecute us. However paradoxical this may seem, when viewed only in the light of human reason, every true disciple of Christ will find in their own experience, in what they feel, and the emotions of their hearts, that while they tenderly love their parents, wives, children, and their own lives, as the gifts and blessings which God has bestowed, they hate that earthly, depraved, sinful nature that they find in father, mother, wife and child, and also, and more abundantly, they find and hate it in themselves. This is what occasions the warfare in all the saints. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; and the flesh warreth against the Spirit, and the Spirit warreth against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other. The spirit which is born of the Spirit is the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. But the flesh which is born of the flesh is depraved, earthly, sensual and devilish. If, therefore, the incorruptible seed be implanted in us, it comes in competition with our human depravity, and there is unavoidably a conflict. That life which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, can no more love the corruptions of that life which was given us in the earthly Adam, after it is implanted in us, than before it was so implanted in us. That spiritual life is after God, and God hates sin; hence, when this is implanted in us, we possess in our heart a principle that hates the flesh, because of its pollution and opposition to all that is pure and holy, spiritual and heavenly; not only that of our own individual bodies, but all flesh, father, mother, wife and offspring.
This hatred is manifested in the saints by their loathing and abhorring themselves in dust and ashes. And it makes them at times long and pray to be delivered from the body of this death. This being the case with all who are born of God, they are all so far qualified to be disciples of Christ, but without that heavenly birth, which brings forth in us this new and spiritual life, which hates the flesh, crucifies it with its affections and lusts, none can be truly Christ’s disciples. That new and spiritual birth is indispensable to discipleship.
This birth manifests the subjects of it as the children of God and heirs of immortal glory. But discipleship signifies not only that we are born of God, but also that we are taught and led by his Spirit, that we are not only children, but obedient children. Hence Christ adds, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
February 15, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 433 - 436