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wicked practice, or are in the way of it, will consider, and think upon what I have said against it; and for your own fakes, and for the sake of others, leave off a practice which can do you no good, and will most undoubtedly, if you repent not, nor leave it off, in the end lead you to ruin.
IN the parable from which this verse is taken,
our Saviour intended to shew the Jews that the Gentiles (represented by the prodigal son) should be taken, on their repentance, into God's favour equally with themselves.
But though this was the chief intention of the parable, yet, like many of our Saviour's parables, it had two views; and the former part, at least, is capable of a much more general interpretation. In this light I propose to consider it, and shall point out the several pieces of instruction that arise from it. K 4.
In the first place, we observe the constant readiness we all thew to leave our father's house. By our father's house, is meant that kind protection which good men always receive from God. And we argue and act in this case most commonly as the prodigal did. The fober discipline of our father's house is too severe a bondage-we have passions and appetites which must be indulged let us make an acquaintance with the world-it is time now to enjoy a little of life: these are the common delusions that carry us all, more or less, into a far country into the paths of pleasure and indulgence. The father, no doubt, remonstrated to the prodigal, as God does to us in the gospel, and set before him the kind intention of all the restraints that were put upon him; and probably, with a prophetic figh, forewarned him, that sooner or later he fhould repent his rashness. All being ineffectual, the fth r knowing there are some people who can learn the leffons of wisdom only from experience, at length gave way; and the youth, we read, gathering all together, with a plentiful fupply of folly and self-sufficiency, took his journey into a fur country and the farther from home the better: the greater diflance he went from his father's
house, no doubt, he thought himself the more at liberty, and the nearer happiness. Let us follow him in this search after happi
Every restraint was now removed; the world was all before him, and he entered it with that fame unthinking spirit with which he had left the kind protection of a father's house. Wherever the tabret and harp resounded, whereever the voice of joy and mirth was heard, there was he in quest of pleasure, surrounded by the gay, the joyous, and the profligate. His passions were his conductors; and folly and extravagante went hand in hand with him, in all his motions. It required no spirit of prophecy to foresee the
The next verse recites it : He wasted all his substance in riotous living. And it had been marvellous had it been otherwise; for when our passions fairly take the lead, they feldom stop till they are stopped by the impossibility of proceeding
It was not, however, our Saviour's intention to warn us against riot and extravagance, as the natural sources of poverty and distress—this is a worldly leffon-all the wise and prudent men of the world have this lesson by rote. Our blessed
Saviour's meaning was fpiritual : he meant to teach us, that when we once leave our father's house-that is, when we once, in earnest, forfake the paths of religion, there is no saying where we may stop. We generally proceed headlong on. Our vicious habits get strongerour passions become more ungovernable; and there is seldom a reformation, unless God should please, in his goodness, to awaken us by calamity.
This was God's method of dealing with the unhappy prodigal. After he had spent all, the text tells us, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want : and he went aid joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine ; and he would fain have filled his belly with the husks which the fwine did eat; and no man gave unto kim.--Here was a falling-off indeed! The gay, the joyous youth, who pursued pleasure in every thape, and counted days only as they diversified his pleasures, is now in want of the common necessaries of nature; and he who thought the kind restraints of his father a burden, is now forced to submit to the greatest ignominy, and distress. And thus it will ever happen to us,