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whole family. Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. He was indeed dead in trespasses and sins. And he was lost to himself, to his family, to his country, and to his God. And they began to be merry.
Now his elder son was in the field, attending to the farm. And as he came, and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked, what these things meant? And he said unto him, Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore came his father out, and entreated him. The elder brother repined and envied, because, although he had been good from his youth, and had never gone astray, he had never been feasted by his father. Thus brothers are too apt to envy. The elder would not go in, except his poor brother went out. His father could take him in, but he would not go in to him. Thus God can forgive, when our brothers cannot. This mild and amiable father did not send a servant, but went out himself, and entreated his eldest son to come in, and be reconciled to his humbled brother. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee; I have led a regular, moral life, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment. And yet thou never gavest me even a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this thy son, he does not say, my brother, but thy son, taunting his entreating father; as soon as this thy son was come, who hath devoured thy living, not his, but thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. Here he aggravates his poor brother's faults; for it is not said before, how he had squandered his property. Although, to be sure, in the company of harlots is the readiest way in the world, to exhaust the body, debase the mind, ruin the soul, and destroy the substance.' And as to the charge of partiality, no doubt, the elder brother might have had a kid, or a fatted calf, at any time he desired it; but he had always had a plenty of good things at home, while his poor brother was starving among stran
gers, afar off. As the elder son thought of his father, so are we apt, when we think too highly of ourselves, to think too hardly of our Master. The elder son, comparatively, needed no repentance. But those, who have long served God, and been kept from gross sins, although they have much to be thankful for, have nothing whereof to boast. The elder son had already received his part, and by staying with his father, and thus waiting for something in reserve, might inherit all. But the father, we may suppose, had a right to do as he pleased with what he had acquired since the first division. But how hard is it for those, like the elder brother, who are in appearance more innocent, to compassionate those, who more openly transgress. And how apt are we, like this brother, to be too sharp upon those who have offended; and to boast of our own superior virtue and obedience. We are often unwil ling to receive those repenting brothers, whom God has received. But how did the father reply to his envious, unfeeling son? And the father said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. As if he had said, Son, the reception of thy brother is no rejection of thee. Thou shalt still have thy double portion, as the elder brother; for indeed, all that I have is thine. Mine and thine are one. All is common between us. And canst thou not spare thy poor, famished brother a little part? The father might have set up his own will as the cause; but he mildly gives him a reason for this unwonted rejoicing, It was meet. It was natural, to be more presently thankful for the resurrection of a dead child, than for the continued health of a living child. This son of mine, he says, is thy brother, to whom thou shouldest show compassion; especially as he is no longer the person he was. He was dead in sin, he is now quickened by the power of God. He was lost to thee, to me, to himself, and to our God; but now he is found; and he will be a comfort to me, and a help to thee, and a glory to God. It was meet, said the rejoicing, forgiving father to the repining son, that we should make merry, and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. Like this expostulating fa ther, so is our heavenly Father willing to overlook out
infirmities. God is gentle and winning towards those, who are ever so perverse and provoking. He stoops to reason with them, and he draws them with his loving-kindness. And the father's welcome of his prodigal son, shows how pleasing to God is the conversion of sinners, of great sinners; and how ready he is to meet, and encourage, and receive them upon repentance. As the elder son made no reply, we may suppose he was convinced and ashamed; and that he went in, and was reconciled to his poor, humbled, penitent brother.
This incomparable Parable has been thought very naturally to show the gradual steps of a sinner's Fall; and the gradual steps of his Restoration.
I. HIS FALL.
1. The sinner is in a state of departure and distance from God. The world is a far country. He breaks from the wholesome restraints of his heavenly Father. He loses sight of God; and there is a great distance between the love of God, and the love of self. When the love of God is gone, carnal love takes its place, and riots in the heart.
2. He is in a wasting state. He wastes his substance, his time, and his opportunities. He lives riotously, and misemploys and buries his talents. He squanders away all spiritual riches.
3. He is in a wanting state. He wants food, he wants raiment, to nourish his soul, and to cover his spiritual nakedness. He has no provision for a future state. How empty is that soul, that God does not fill. What a famine in that heart not fed by the bread of life.
4. He is in a servile state. Sinners are perfect slaves. He that commits sin is the servant of sin. He is a slave to the Devil, who is a citizen of every country, town, and city. The farther he remains from God, the nearer he is to ruin.
5. He is in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction. The pleasures of sin will certainly disappoint one. They are suited neither to the nature, nor the desires of the soul. He that tastes them feeds on the wind. There is no yoke so galling as the yoke of sin; no servitude so mean, as that to one's own passions.
6. He is in a state without hope of sympathy. When the prodigal begged, no man gave unto him. He had brought his misery upon himself, and no man pitied him. In vain will the sinner cry to the world for relief, for the husks of the world will never relieve him.
7. He is in a state of death. He is dead in trespasses and sins. There is no spiritual life in him. No living to God; no union with the Saviour; no communion with the saints.
8. He is in a lost state. This my son was lost. He is lost to virtue, lost to honour, lost to religion, lost to all good. He is lost to himself, his friends, his country, and his God.
9. He is in a state of madness and frenzy. The prodigal had been, as it were, beside himself. Madness is said to be in the heart of sinners. An evil spirit has gotten possession of their souls.
II. HIS RESTORATION.
1. The sinner first begins to come to himself. He begins to feel his misery, the guilt of his conscience, and the corruption of his heart. He cries, I perish with hunger.
2. He resolves to forsake sin. And he not only intends to shun all the occasions of sin, but he firmly purposes to retrace every step of sin, and to return in his soul to God. He I will arise, says, and go back.
3. He is enabled, by faith, to look towards God as a compassionate, tender-hearted father. I will arise, and go to my father. God delights to be called Father by his penitent children.
4. He confesses his sins. He feels himself unworthy of God's favours. I am no more worthy to be called thy He confesses his faults and his folly. He does not He humbles and
justify himself, but pleads guilty,
abases himself. He even aggravates his sins; against heaven, and before thee.
5. He determines to submit to the government of God, and by his blessing to obey all his commands. He is willing to be directed by the word of God, and by that to regulate all his desires. Make me thy hired servant. He is ready to be a door-keeper; he is ready to serve.
6. He puts his holy resolutions into practice without delay. He shows his faith by his works. And he arose, and came. He does not hesitate, but immediately follows his good impulses. He not only purposes, but performs. 7. God tenderly receives him with the kiss of peace and reconciliation. There is no rebuke, no discouragement. His sins are blotted out, and he is restored, and reinstated into the heavenly family. His father fell on his neck, and kissed him. And even ran to meet him, when a great way off. If we draw nigh to God, he will draw nigh to us.
8. He is clothed with the garments of holiness. His rags of nakedness are changed to a robe of righteousness, white and clean. He enters into a covenant with his Father, and walks in newness of life. The whole heavenly family are called upon to rejoice over him. And the church above, and the church below, join in the general joy, that the sinner lost is become a sinner found. the father of the prodigal was the one most rejoiced; so is no one so much pleased as God, when sinners return unto him. And so ought all his children to rejoice, at what he rejoices.
Let us all now take warning, by this affecting Narrative of the Prodigal, not to wander from our heavenly Father's home; and if we have hitherto wandered, immediately to arise, and return, if peradventure he may receive us.