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how he manages his case. He says to his father, "lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment, and yet thou never gavest ine a kid, that I might make merry with my friends ; but as soon as this thy son (not my brother] was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” Here the self-righteousness of the Pharisee appears. In his own estimation he has never done any thing wrong. This is his opinion of himself, but what is the fact? The fact is he is now openly violating his father's commands, who requires him to love his neighbor as himself. But he hates his brother, and is angry because the father, more merciful than himself, has received him into favor. Why did ve never think to complain before? Not a word of fault previously to this had ever fallen froin his lips. The fact is, he never saw any reason to complain until others were treated as well as he. So long as he enjoyed his father's bounty alone, and the prodigal was far away suffering in sin, he felt contented and happy; but the moment the father shows the least kindness to any person besides himself, then he is angry, and will not go in. This was the real disposition of the Pharisees. Why did they murmur against Christ? Because "he received sinners, and ate with them,” ver. 2. But let us examine this elder son a little more closely. He says his father never gave him a kid that he should make merry with his friends. What ! is this true ? Did not his father divide his goods with the children ? ver. 12; and did not the father say, son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine' ? ver. 31. It seems then that Pharisees can' utter falsehoods, holy as they think themselves. The father closes the scene by asserting the pro
priety of his conduct. It was meet that we should make inerry and be glad ; for this thy brother was dead and is alive again ; and was lust, and is found.” If the Pharisees to whom these parables were originally delivered, had any sensibility whatsoever, they niust have felt the force of the rebuke which was here so adroitly administered.
The spirit of the Pharisees is the same in every age of the world ; and we are sorry to say,
that we perceive much of it among mankind now. If we tell some persons that God will at last receive all his prodigal children to his kingdom, they are exceedingly displeased; they cannot endure such doctrine. They do not complain, if we say that they themselves are to enjoy God forever; this they believe; but nothing will excite their anger more quickly, than to tell them that all mankind at last shall fare as well as they. They sometimes inform us, that they do not wish to go to heaven, if all mankind are to enter there. In that case they will be angry, and will not go in. They will complain, if this doctrine is true, that they have not been treated as well as they ought to have been; but if they can have the glorious satisfaction of knowing that those whom they hate are cast off forever, they are then satisfied.
The parable before us furnishes many rich doctrinal reflections-it sets forth the conduct of God towards his erring children. Witness first the miscry into which sin plunged the prodigal, and contrast it with the happiness of his father's house ; then you will know what sufferings press upon the sinner, when compared with the peace and consolation of the virtuous heart. That doctrine which we sometimes hear, that sinners often are happy in their sins, while the righteous are afflicted and dis
tressed; and that it will be necessary to establish retributions in the future world in order to make up for these apparent imperfections of divine Providence in this, will find no countenance in this parable. The sinner is represented as suffering exceedingly in his sins, and his sufferings induced his return to his father's house. As many contend that men have lost the image of God by their transgressions, it is proper to inquire whether the prodigal lost the image of his father during his absence ? No, the father saw him a great way off, and knew him, and rushed out to meet him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The father saw his image in the child-it was not lost. We sometimes hear, that it was necessary for Christ to die, in order to make God compassionate, and open a way whereby he could be just, and forgive sinners. Does Jesus give any countenance to this doctrine, in the parable before us? What victim bled to create compassion in the father's heart ? None, the father never was destitute of compassion. He loved his son before he went astray, he loved him while he was astray, and, when he saw him a great way off
, he had compassion upon him, and demonstrated that compassion by the strongest evidences. It has been declared frequently, that mankind, while in a state of sin, are not the children of God. This notion is certainly contradicted by the parable. The prodigal was a son while afar off, and he recollected that he had a father, and this recollection induced his return to his father's house. "I will arise, and go to my FATHER.” It was not necessary to threaten him with any greater misery than that which he actually suffered, to create in him the resolutio!1 to return. It is not reasonable to suppose he would have returned at all, had he be
lieved his father was his enemy, and that it would be necessary for his brother to die in order to appease his father's wrath. The conversion of this prodigal was not a change of nature ; it was merely a change of purpose, and inclinations, and this not by any special agency of God's spirit, but by the influence of the cireumstances by which he felt himself controlled. He was made wiser by experience; this wisdom induced a wiser course of conduct; and such was his conversion. These are some of the reflections which naturally occur in reading the parable.
We cannot fail to remark, that every thing in this parable is calculated to have an excellent influence on morals—every thing encourages virtue, and discountenances vice ; and so we may say of our Lord's parables in general. On all occasions, wherever he was, whether speaking in figure, or without, the direct tendency of his instructions was to induce love to God and man-to foster tender emotions, pity, compassion, charity-to beget humility and meekness in the heart-and to discountenance pride, ostentation, hypocrisy, arrogance and hatred. In fine, on such a moral teacher as Jesus, the world will never look again. For his knowledge of the human heart, for his wisdom in difficult circumstances, for the simplicity and true sublimity of his parables; for his power to expose wickedness before the eyes of those who practised it, for the influence of his instructions, and above all of his life itself, our Lord stands, and ever must stand unrivalled, throughout all the world,
Parable of the Unjust Steward.
LUKE XVI. 1-8.
And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship : for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away the stewardship : I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him. and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord ? And he said, A hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down guickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, A hundred, measures of wheat, And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write four-score.
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely : for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
This parable is a part of the chain of parables, which extends froin the beginning of the fifteenth to the end of the sixteenth chapter of Luke. These all seem to have been drawn from the Saviour by the objections brought against him by the Pharisees, that he received sinners, and ate with theui. The principal design of the parable of the prodigal son, was to shew in how high an estimation the Jews, particularly the Pharisees, regarded themselves; and that from this vaio conceit of their own abilities and righteousness, sprung up their hatred of the common people, and of the Gentile nations,