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house, and begins to be in want; he wants forgive ness, he begins to want a Saviour, he is' restless and uneasy,
all his sins afflict and trouble him, he wants peace in his heart, he begins to want a rest for his soul; and this beginning of want increases till he hungers and thirsts for righteousness and is filled. He went and joined himself to a citizen of the country, who sent him to feed swine, and he would fain have filled himself with the husks, the grains, which the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him.” Thus our Lord describes their state, who, when a little awakened to a sense of their misery and want, get into company, and join themselves to the men of this world, strive to divert away their uneasiness, and get out of the reach of his voice who daily whispers, Thou art poor and miserable, come unto me. By his feeding of the swine, we may understand all time-serving, all cringing to the lying and false world, and stooping to be the vassal and drudge of the devil and the servant of sin. What are the Epicureans, the sensualists, but slaves ? What is the nobleman more than the peasant, who is captive to wine and women ? What the general and adıniral, with all their bravery, when conquered by pride and lust, and bond-servants of their passions ? What are the highest and greatest more ihan the beggar, the soldier or common sailor, when they creep and bow to the world only for gain, pleasures, or honour ? They are servants of swine, and as the prodigal would fajn have filled himself with the husks which they eat, so do they, and so brave we all done. How have we strove to satisfy our poor souls with their diversions, and make ourselves happy and easy in their but could not? All our endeavours were mercifully blasted, and we rendered wretched more and more above measure.
It was in this state he recollected his father's house; poverty drove him to think of going back; He thought, How many servants hath my father who have bread enough, and I perish with hunger! What though I have rebelled, and brought all this misery upon me, “ I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me, I pray thee, thine hired servant.", This is just the condition, and these the thoughts of a true penitent. He thinks, O how. happy are the children of God ! How happy his servants ihe holy angels! O, that. I had but the lowest place among them! O that I might but have leave to call God my Father! The Holy Ghost makes use of this opportunity, and when Jesus has sought him out, and the spirit has enlightened him thus far, be shew's what a loving Father he bas, who spared not his dear Son for him, and the poor sinner trembles and cries, is afraid to ask mercy, and dares not stay in the state he is in ; he resolves at last to venture to him, and, like Esther, thinks, “ If I perish, I will perish at the feet of the king.”
:* And he arose and went.” He did not only propose it, but did it. There are many who often speak and think of it, but never go, they stay and perish afar off; but lo! he comes,
and his father saw him a great way off, and had compassion on him, and ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him.” O mark every word, my dear friends, and be astonished at the way in which our Saviour describes his reception; he does not say the son ran to the
he was weary, faint, and ashamed, and could not, nor did he see his father first, but his fatber him, and then neither did he send a servant to order him to depart, and let him know he would not see him or own him; he did not upbraid him 2 G 2
with his vile and scandalous behaviour, with his disgraceful life, and just want and beggary, but « ran to meet him.". It seems as if he had been looking out for him, and often with wishful eyes watching the way he went, to see if his poor child would once return ; and now he meets him, “ falls upon his neck, and kisses him.” With what emphasis and affection does our Saviour express the whole? He was fit to describe his father's tender heart; he knew it, and he only; and thus he does to our great comfort. ·
When a poor self-condemned sinner sets his face toward Zion, and comes trembling back, however vile in his own eyes, God the Father beholds him with joy. He bas“ long looked down on the children of men, to see if there were any that would turn," and though the poor soul does not at first discern the Lord, yet the Lord sees him afar off in his sad and lamentable state, he views him “ weary and heavy laden,” he understands his heaviness, bis forlorn and destitute condition, surveys his poverty and wants," and has compassion on him, he pities him as a father pities his son, he runs, he makes haste to help him.” As a father meets his only child whom he had bewailed for dead, or given over for lost, and falls upon his neck and kisses him, so our Father receives his poor children, he embraces them and kisses them upon heart and soul, he makes his love felt, and kindles such a love in bis children's breasts as can never be extinguished or forgotten.
The son began to say, “ Father, I have sioned, and am not worthy to be thy son," but had not time to ask a servant's place, for his father prevented him by saying to his servants, “ Bring the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring upon his finger, and shoes upon his feet, and kill the fatted
calf, calf, and let us eat and be merry, for this my son was dead and is alive again, was lost, but is now found.”
The wretch that beggared himself with harlots, and did not deserve the worst garment, must have the best robe ; and he that had squandered away so much gold that he never deserved to see the least of it more, now must be adorned with a ring, and his feet must be shod, and a banquet, a feast prepared, that all the house might share in the joy of the father, Thus and thus shall it be done to you, my
dear brethren, who return for mercy to your Father, the best robe, that is, the righteousness of Christ, shall be brought to cover you, and to make you “all-glorious within,” this shall be your beautiful garment and white robe. He shall put the
ring upon your finger ; you shall be favoured, like Thomas, to put your finger into the nail-prints of Jesus, and be convinced he is your Lord and your God, that shall seal you to the day of redemption, and you, shall know what that means, “ his hands are like rings of beryl,” your feet shall be shod with the sandals of peace, that you may go on your way rejoicing. The great marriage-supper, the feast of the sons of God above, is preparing for you, and all is to welcome you home. But come, and all the angels, the prophets, the martyrs, and apostles of the Lamb shall hear your Father confess you. The moment you give him your heart, the moment when he shall kiss and forgive you, God, your dear Fa. ther God, shall say before his children and servants, “ This my son was dead but is alive again, this your brother was lost, but is now found.”
Thus does our Saviour preach to the publicans and sinners; and what parable or what discourse in all the bible so sets forth the free grace and love of 2 G 3
the whole Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Let it affect you, my dear friends ; remember they are the words of Jesus Christ, and are spoken to you, and let it force you to go after him, and compel you to come into his church and be saved. He is the same good and gracious Lord as when he spake these words, and suffered the sinpers lo hear him; his aim is the same, it is to save sinners, and to win them to him; his mind is the same, he would have it yet be preached, that “this man receiveth sinners, and all who preach it shall find his words true and faithful, and he will prosper them in their despised but glorious office.
In the latter part of this last parable our Saviour describes another brother, who at hearing the joy of his father's house because of the returning of the prodigal, instead of being glad with them, murmured and was angry with his father, and would not go in, but pleaded his obedient behaviour, and complained that he had never so much as received a kid to make merry with his friends; but when this man was come, who had spent his substance with harlots, the fatted calf was killed, and all the house filled with music and dancing; and he was offended, and would not enter the house till his father came out and entreated him. There is no envy or emulation among the angels and sons of God in heaven, because a sinner is converted; but among some of his people upon earth it may be found, and some mho have seen the happiness of souls snatched as it were out of the burning, and made glad in the Lord's salvation, have been moved with self-righteous risings: they can think, I am sure I have lived a very strict and obedient life, and never run to that excess of sin with these, and yet I never experienced this joy and transport, nor have I felt this love and happiness they speak of; and such murmur.