Adapted from a Sermon by J.C. Ryle
“Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost?” Luke 14:28
Our verse this morning is one of great importance. Few are the people who are not often required to ask themselves—“What does it cost?”
In buying property, in building houses, in furnishing rooms, in forming plans, in changing dwellings, in educating children, it is wise and prudent to look forward and consider. Many would save themselves much sorrow and trouble if they would only remember the question—“What does it cost?”
But there is one subject on which it is specially important to “count the cost.” That subject is the salvation of our souls. What does it cost to be a true Christian? What does it cost to be a really holy man? This, after all, is the grand question. For lack of thought about this, thousands, after seeming to begin well, turn away from the road to heaven, and are lost forever in hell. Let us hear say a few words which may throw light on the subject.
I. I will show, firstly, what it costs to be a true Christian.
II. I will explain, secondly, why it is of such great importance to count the cost.
III. I will give, in the last place, some hints which may help men to count the cost rightly.
We are living in strange times. Events are hurrying on with amazing speed. We never know “what a day may bring forth”; how much less do we know what may happen in a year!—We live in a day of small things, Ryle lived in times of great religious profession. Yet what was true then is also true today. As the gospel is preached there are professing Christians who express a desire for more holiness and a higher degree of spiritual life. Yet nothing is more common than to see people receiving the Word with joy, and then after two or three years falling away, and going back to their sins.
They had not considered “what it costs” to be a really consistent believer and holy Christian. These last days are surely times when we ought often to sit down and “count the cost,” and to consider the state of our souls. We must examine ourselves. If we desire to be truly holy, it is a good sign. We may thank God for putting the desire into our hearts, but still the cost ought to be counted. No doubt Christ’s way to eternal life is a way of pleasantness. But it is foolish to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow, and the cross comes before the crown.
I. I have, first, to show what it costs to be a true Christian.
Now to be clear, we are not looking into what it costs to save a Christian’s soul. It costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement, and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ at the Cross. We are “bought with a price.” Christ “gave himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Tim. 2:6.) But this is not our focus this morning. The point I want to consider is another one altogether. It is what a man must be ready to give up if he wishes to be saved. It is the amount of sacrifice a man must submit to if he intends to serve Christ. It is in this sense that I raise the question, “What does it cost?” And surely that it is a most important one.
No doubt it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday, and to be tolerably moral during the week, and he has gone as far as thousands around him ever go in religion. All this is cheap and easy work: it involves no self-denial or self-sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity, and will take us to heaven when we die, we must change the description of the way of life, and write, “Wide is the gate and easy is the way that leads to heaven!”
But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. And from this comes the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.”
Let me try to show precisely and particularly what it costs to be a true Christian. Let us suppose that a man is disposed to serve Christ, and feels drawn and inclined to follow Him. Let us suppose that some affliction, or some sudden death, or an awakening sermon, has stirred his conscience, and made him feel the value of his soul and desire to be a true Christian. No doubt there is everything to encourage him. His sins may be freely forgiven, however many and great. His heart may be completely changed, however cold and hard. Christ and the Holy Spirit, mercy and grace, are all ready for him. But still he should count the cost. Let us see particularly, one by one, the things that his religion will cost him.
(1) For one thing, it will cost him his self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts, and ideas of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another. He must really feel as well as say those familiar words—that he has “erred and gone astray like a lost sheep,” that he has “left undone the things he ought to have done, and done the things he ought not to have done, and that there is no health in him.” He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ.
Now this sounds hard to some. But it is absolutely necessary. Let us set down this item first and foremost in our mind. To be a true Christian it will cost a man his self-righteousness.
(2) For another thing, it will cost a man his sins. He must be willing to give up every habit and practice which is wrong in God’s sight. He must set his face against it, fight with it, break off from it, crucify it, and work hard to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think. He must do this honestly and fairly. There must be no separate truce with any special sin which he loves. He must count all sins as his deadly enemies, and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced. They may struggle hard with him every day, and sometimes almost get the mastery over him. But he must never give way to them. He must keep up a perpetual war with his sins. It is written—“Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed.”—“break off your sins … and your iniquities.”—“Cease to do evil.”—(Ezek. 18:31; Daniel 4:27; Isa. 1:16.)
This also sounds hard and it is no wonder. Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them, and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. But it must be done. The parting must come. “Though evil is sweet in his mouth, though he hides it under his tongue, though he is loath to let it go,” yet it must be given up, if wishes to be saved. (Job 20:12, 13.) He and sin must quarrel, if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But He will not receive them if they will stick to their sins. Let us set down that item second in our account. To be a Christian it will cost a man his sins.
(3) For another thing, it will cost a man his love of ease. He must take pains and trouble, if he means to run a successful race towards heaven. He must daily watch and stand on his guard, like a soldier on enemy ground. He must pay attention to his behaviour every hour of the day, in every company, and in every place, in public as well as in private, among strangers as well as at home. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible-reading, and his use of all the means of grace. In attending to these things he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of them that he can safely neglect.”The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” (Prov. 13:4.)
This also sounds hard. There is nothing we naturally dislike so much as “trouble” about our religion. We hate trouble. We secretly wish we could have a “vicarious” Christianity, and could be good by proxy, and have everything done for us. Anything that requires exertion and labour is entirely against the grain of our hearts. But the soul can have “no gains without pains.” Let us set down that item third in our account. To be a Christian it will cost a man his love of ease.
(4) In the last place, it will cost a man the favour of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, a zealot, and a fanatic—to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not be surprised if some call him mad. The Master says—“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:20.)
And no doubt this also sounds hard. We naturally dislike unjust dealing and false charges, and think it very hard to be accused without cause. We should not be flesh and blood if we did not wish to have the good opinion of our neighbours. It is always unpleasant to be spoken against, and abandoned, and lied about, and to stand alone. But it cannot be helped. The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by His disciples. They must be “despised and rejected by men.” (Isa. 53:3.) Let us set down that item last in our account. To be a Christian it will cost a man the favour of the world.
Such is the account of what it costs to be a true Christian. It is, surely, a heavy one. But where is the item that could be removed? Bold indeed must that man be who would dare to say that we may keep our self-righteousness, our sins, our laziness, and our love of the world, and yet be saved!
Surely, it costs much to be a true Christian. But who in his sound senses can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved? When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew think nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo. When a limb is infected, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save his life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown.
II. And now, in the second place, let us see why “counting the cost” is of such great importance to man’s soul.
The question might easily be settled by laying down the principle, that no duty enjoined by Christ can ever be neglected without damage. It might be shown how many shut their eyes throughout life to the nature of saving religion, and refuse to consider what it really costs to be a Christian. One might describe how at last, when life is ebbing away, they wake up, and make a few spasmodic efforts to turn to God. It might be told how they find to their amazement that repentance and conversion are no such easy matters as they had supposed, and that it costs “a great sum” (Acts 22:28) to be a true Christian. They discover that habits of pride and sinful indulgence, and love of ease, and worldliness, are not so easily laid aside as they had dreamed. And so, after a faint struggle, they give up in despair, and leave the world hopeless, graceless, and unfit to meet God! They had flattered themselves all their days that religion would be easy work when they once took it up seriously. But they open their eyes too late, and discover for the first time that they are ruined because they never “counted the cost.”
But there is one class of persons to whom especially I want to address myself in handling this part of the subject. It is a large class—an increasing class—and a class which in these days is in peculiar danger. Let me in a few plain words try to describe this class. It deserves our best attention.
The persons I speak of are not thoughtless about religion: they think a good deal about it. They are not ignorant of religion: they know the outlines of it pretty well. But their great defect is that they are not, “rooted and grounded” in their faith. Too often they have picked up their knowledge second hand, from being in religious families, or from being trained in religious ways, but have never worked it out by their own inward experience. Too often they have hastily taken up a profession of religion under the pressure of circumstances, from sentimental feelings, from natural excitement, or from a vague desire to do like others around them, but without any solid work of grace in their hearts. Persons like these are in a position of immense danger. They are precisely those, if Bible examples are worth anything, who need to be exhorted “to count the cost.”
For want of “counting the cost” myriads of the children of Israel perished miserably in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. They left Egypt full of zeal and fervour, as if nothing could stop them. But when they found dangers and difficulties in the way, their courage soon cooled down. They had never counted on trouble. They had thought the promised land would be all before them in a few days. And so, when enemies, hardships, hunger, and thirst began to test them, they murmured against Moses and God, and would gladly have gone back to Egypt. In a word, they had “not counted the cost,” and so lost everything, and died in their sins.
For want of “counting the cost,” many of our Lord Jesus Christ’s hearers went back after a time, and “no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66.) When they first saw His miracles, and heard His preaching, they thought the kingdom of God would immediately appear. They cast in their lot with His Apostles, and followed Him without thinking of the consequences. But when they found that there were hard doctrines to be believed, and hard work to be done, and hard treatment to be borne, their faith gave way entirely, and proved to be nothing at all. In a word, they had not “counted the cost,” and so made shipwreck of their profession.
For want of “counting the cost,” King Herod returned to his old sins, and destroyed his soul. He liked to hear John the Baptist preach. He “observed” and honoured him as a just and holy man. He was perplexed which was a step in the right direction. But when he found that he must give up Herodias, his religion entirely broke down. He had not reckoned on this. He had not “counted the cost.” (Mark 6:20.)
For want of “counting the cost,” Demas forsook the company of the Apostle Paul, forsook the Gospel, forsook Christ, forsook heaven. For a long time he journeyed with the great Apostle of the Gentiles, and was actually a “fellow-labourer.” But when he found he could not have the friendship of this world as well as the friendship of God, he gave up his Christianity and cleaved to the world. “Demas,” says the Apostle Paul, “in love with this present world, has deserted me.” (2 Tim. 4:10.) He had not “counted the cost.”
For want of “counting the cost,” the hearers of powerful Evangelical preachers often come to miserable ends. They are stirred and excited into professing what they have not really experienced. They receive the Word with a “joy” so extravagant that it almost startles old Christians. They run for a time with such zeal and fervour that they seem likely to outstrip all others. They talk and work for spiritual objects with such enthusiasm that they make older believers feel ashamed. But when the novelty and freshness of their feelings is gone, a change comes over them. They prove to have been nothing more than stony-ground hearers. The description the great Master gives in the Parable of the Sower is exactly demonstrated. “When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.” (Matt. 13:21.) Little by little their zeal melts away, and their love becomes cold. By and by their seats are empty in the assembly of God’s people, and they are heard of no more among Christians. And why? They had never “counted the cost.”
For want of “counting the cost,” hundreds of professed converts, under religious revivals, go back to the world after a time, and bring disgrace on religion. They begin with a sadly mistaken notion of what is true Christianity. They imagine it consists in nothing more than a so-called “coming to Christ,” and having strong inward feelings of joy and peace. And so, when they find, after a time, that there is a cross to be carried, that our hearts are deceitful, and that there is a busy devil always near us, they cool down in disgust, and return to their old sins. And why? Because they had never really known what Bible Christianity is. They had never learned that we must “count the cost.”‘
For want of “counting the cost,” the children of religious parents often turn out bad, and bring disgrace on Christianity. Familiar from their earliest years with the form and theory of the Gospel—taught even from infancy to repeat great leading texts—accustomed every week to be instructed in the Gospel, or to instruct others in Sunday schools—they often grow up professing a religion without knowing why, or without ever having thought seriously about it. And then when the realities of grownup life begin to press upon them, they often astound everyone by dropping all their religion, and plunging right into the world. And why? They had never thoroughly understood the sacrifices which Christianity entails. They had never been taught to “count the cost.”
These are solemn and painful truths. But they are truths. They all help to show the immense importance of the subject we are now considering. They all point out the absolute necessity of pressing the subject of this sermon on all who profess a desire for holiness, and of urging everyone to “count the cost.”
I am bold to say that it would be well if the duty of “counting the cost” were more frequently taught than it is. Impatient hurry is the order of the day with many. Instantaneous conversions, and immediate sensible peace, are the only results they seem to care for from the Gospel. Compared with these all other things are thrown into the shade. To produce them is the grand end and object, apparently, of all their labours. There is no doubt that such a sparse, one-sided mode of teaching Christianity is extremely harmful.
Now this is not to say that a full, free, present, immediate salvation in Christ Jesus should not be offered to all men. It is right to urge on all the possibility and the duty of immediate instantaneous conversion. But these truths ought not to be set before men nakedly, singly, and alone. They ought to be told honestly what it is they are taking up, if they profess a desire to come out from the world and serve Christ. They ought not to be pressed into the ranks of Christ’s army without being told what the warfare involves. In a word, they should be told honestly to “count the cost.”
Does anyone ask what our Lord Jesus Christ’s practice was in this matter? Let him read what the Apostle Luke records. He tells us that on a certain occasion “great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27.) This is very different from the proceedings of modern religious teachers. And yet the doctrine of it is as clear as the noonday sun. It shows us that we ought not to hurry men into professing discipleship, without warning them plainly to “count the cost.”
Does anyone ask what the practice of the eminent and best preachers of the Gospel has been in days gone by? They have all with one voice borne testimony to the wisdom of our Lord’s dealing with the multitudes in the verses just quoted. Luther, and Baxter, and Whitfield and Edwards were all keenly alive to the deceitfulness of man’s heart. They knew full well that all is not gold that glitters, that conviction is not conversion, that feeling is not faith, that sentiment is not grace, that all blossoms do not come to fruit. “Do not be deceived,” was their constant cry. “Consider well what you do. Do not run before you are called. Count the cost.”
If we desire to do good, let us never be ashamed of walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Work hard if you will, and have the opportunity, for the souls of others. Press them to consider their ways. Compel and urge them to come in, to lay down their arms, and to yield themselves to God. Offer them salvation, ready, free, full, immediate salvation. Press Christ and all His benefits on their acceptance. But in all your work tell the truth, and the whole truth.
Be ashamed to use the vulgar arts of a recruiting sergeant. Do not speak only of the uniform, the pay, and the glory; speak also of the enemies, the battle, the armour, the watching, the marching, and the drill. Do not present only one side of Christianity. Do not keep back “the cross” of self-denial that must be carried, when you speak of the cross on which Christ died for our redemption. Explain fully what Christianity entails. Entreat men to repent and come to Christ; but urge them at the same time to “count the cost.”
III. The third and last thing which I want to do, is to give some hints which may help men to “count the cost” rightly.
Having said all of this, the intent is by no means to discourage anyone, or to keep anyone back from Christ’s service. Rather everyone should be encouraged to go forward and take up the cross. Let us “count the cost” by all means, and count it carefully. But let us remember, that if we count rightly, and look on all sides, there is nothing that need make us afraid.
Let us mention some things which should always enter into our calculations in counting the cost of true Christianity. Set down honestly and fairly what you will have to give up and go through, if you become Christ’s disciple. Leave nothing out. Put it all down. But then set down side by side the following sums which I am going to give you. Do this fairly and correctly, and I am not afraid for the result.
(a) Count up and compare, for one thing, the profit and the loss, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. You may possibly lose something in this world, but you will gain the salvation of your immortal soul. It is written—“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36.)
(b) Count up and compare, for another thing, the praise and the blame, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. You may possibly be blamed by man, but you will have the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Your blame will come from the lips of a few erring, blind, fallible men and women. Your praise will come from the King of kings and Judge of all the earth. It is only those whom He blesses who are really blessed. It is written—“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Matt. 5:11, 12.)
(c) Count up and compare, for another thing, the friends and the enemies, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. On the one side of you is the enmity of the devil and the wicked. On the other, you have the favour and friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your enemies, at most, can only hurt your body. They may rage loudly, and straddle sea and land to work your ruin; but they cannot destroy you. Your Friend is able to save to the uttermost all those who come to God by Him. No one will ever pluck His sheep out of His hand. It is written—“Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5.)
(d) Count up and compare, for another thing, the life that now is and the life to come, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. The time present, no doubt, is not a time of ease. It is a time of watching and praying, fighting and struggling, believing and working. But it is only for a few years. The time to come is the season of rest and refreshing. Sin will be cast out. Satan will be bound. And, best of all, it will be a rest forever. It is written—“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory… as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17, 18.)
(e) Count up and compare, for another thing, the pleasures of sin and the happiness of God’s service, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. The pleasures that the worldly man gets by his ways are hollow, unreal, and unsatisfying. They are like the fire of thorns, flashing and crackling for a few minutes, and then snuffed out forever. The happiness that Christ gives to His people is something solid, lasting, and substantial. It does not dependent on health or circumstances. It never leaves a man, even in death. It ends in a crown of glory that that never fades away. It is written—“the joy of the godless is but for a moment.”—“As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools.” ( Job 20:5; Eccl. 7:6.) But it is also written—“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27.)
(f) Count up and compare, in the last place, the trouble that true Christianity involves, and the troubles that are in store for the wicked beyond the grave. Grant for a moment that Bible-reading, and praying, and repenting, and believing, and holy living, require effort and self-denial. It is all nothing compared to that “wrath to come” which is stored up for the impenitent and unbelieving. A single day in hell will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross. The worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched, (Mark 9:48) are things which it passes man’s power to conceive fully or describe. It is written—“Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” (Luke 16:25.)
Such sums as these, no doubt, are often not done correctly. Not a few, sadly, are ever “limping between two different opinions.” (1 Kings 18:21) They cannot make up their minds that it is worthwhile to serve Christ. The losses and gains, the advantages and disadvantages, the sorrows and the joys, the helps and the hindrances seem so evenly balanced to them that they cannot decide for God. They cannot do this great sum correctly. They cannot make the result as clear as it ought to be. They do not count right.
But what is the secret of their mistakes? It is lack of faith. To come to a right conclusion about our souls, we must have some of that mighty principle which the Apostle Paul describes in the 11th chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews. Let me try to show how that principle operates in the great business of “counting the cost.”
How was it that Noah persevered in building the ark? He stood alone amidst a world of sinners and unbelievers. He had to endure scorn, ridicule, and mockery. What was it that strengthened his arm, and made him patiently work on and face it all? It was faith. He believed in a wrath to come. He believed that there was no safety, excepting in the ark that he was preparing. Believing, he held the world’s opinion very lightly. He “counted the cost“ by faith, and had no doubt that to build the ark was gain.
How was it that Moses forsook the pleasures of Pharaoh’s house, and refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter? How was it that he cast in his lot with a despised people like the Hebrews, and risked everything in this world in carrying out the great work of their deliverance from slavery? To the physical eye he was losing everything and gaining nothing. What was it that moved him? It was faith. He believed that there was One far above Pharaoh, who would carry him safe through all his undertaking. He believed that the recompense of reward was far better than all the honours of Egypt. He “counted the cost” by faith, as “seeing him who is invisible,” (v.27) and was persuaded that to forsake Egypt and go out into the wilderness was gain.
How was it that Saul the Pharisee could ever make up his mind to become a Christian? The cost and sacrifices of the change were fearfully great. He gave up all his brilliant prospects among his own people. He brought on himself instead of man’s favour, man’s hatred, man’s enmity, and man’s persecution, even to death. What was it that enabled him to face it all? It was faith. He believed that Jesus, who met him on the way to Damascus, could give him a hundredfold more than what he gave up, and in the world to come everlasting life. By faith he “counted the cost,” and saw clearly on which side the balance lay. He believed firmly that to carry the cross of Christ was gain.
Let us mark these things well. That faith which made Noah, Moses, and the Apostle Paul do what they did, that faith is the great secret of coming to a right conclusion about our souls. That same faith must be our guide and our helper, when we sit down to count the cost of being a true Christian. That same faith is to be had for the asking. “He gives more grace.” (James 4:6.) Armed with that faith we will set things down at their true right value. Filled with that faith we will neither add to the cross nor subtract from the crown. Our conclusions will be all correct. Our sum total will be without error.
(1) let each one of us think seriously, whether his religion costs him anything at present. Very likely it costs you nothing. Very probably it neither costs you trouble, nor time, nor thought, nor care, nor pains, nor reading, nor praying, nor self-denial, nor conflict, nor working, nor labour of any kind. Now mark what I say. Such a religion as this will never save your soul. It will never give you peace while you live, nor hope while you die. It will not support you in the day of affliction, nor cheer you in the hour of death. A religion which costs nothing is worth nothing. Awake before it is too late. Awake and repent. Awake and be converted. Awake and believe. Awake and pray. Do not rest until you can give a adequate answer to my question, “What does it cost?”
(2) Think, if you want stirring motives for serving God, what it cost to provide a salvation for your soul. Think how the Son of God left heaven and became Man, suffered on the cross, and lay in the grave, to pay your debt to God, and work out for you a complete redemption. Think of all this and learn that it is no light matter to possess an immortal soul. It is worthwhile to take some trouble about one’s soul.
Is it really come to this, that you will miss heaven for lack of trouble? Are you really determined to make shipwreck forever, from mere dislike of exertion? Away with the cowardly, unworthy thought. Arise and play the man! Say to yourself, “Whatever it may cost, I will, at any rate, strive to enter in at the narrow gate.” (Matt 7:14) Look at the cross of Christ, and take fresh courage. Look forward to death, judgment, and eternity, and be in earnest. It may cost much to be a Christian, but you may be sure it pays much.
(3) And if you are one who really feels that he has counted the cost, and taken up the cross, I encourage you to persevere and press on. I dare say you often feel your heart faint, and are sorely tempted to give up in despair. Your enemies seem so many, your besetting sins so strong, your friends so few, the way so steep and narrow, you hardly know what to do. But still I say, persevere and press on.
The time is very short. A few more years of watching and praying, a few more tossings on the sea of this world, a few more deaths and changes, a few more winters and summers, and all will be over. We shall have fought our last battle, and shall need to fight no more.
The presence and company of Christ will make up for all we suffer here below. When we see as we have been seen, and look back on the journey of life, we shall wonder at our own faintness of heart. We shall marvel that we made so much of our cross, and thought so little of our crown. We shall marvel that in “counting the cost” we could ever doubt on which side the balance of profit lay. Let us take courage. We are not far from home. It may cost much to be a true Christian and a consistent believer; but it pays.
For “to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)