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contribute to the relief and colouring SERM. of the narrative. Thus in several of the similitudes, which are scattered through the Gospel, we discover many little circumstances of this description, which, without extending any reference beyond the letter of the parable, have this good effect, that they give it a more interesting form, or represent it in the more engaging semblance of historical probability.
When the prodigal son returns to his father's house a penitent, the parable records, that he is received with every lively token of affection and forgiveness. The best robe is brought forth and put upon him, a ring is put on his hand, and shoes on his feet, the fatted calf is killed, the friends are assembled to a feast, and the house is enlivened with music and dancing. Y All these particulars together form a lively picture of a father's joy on the nearly hopeless restoration of a son, who had abandoned himself to evil courses, and was dead to his kindred and his father's house. The scene is in a manner placed before our eyes, and we partake in the rejoicing of his friends on so welcome
SERM. an occasion.
But when we inquire into the figurative and spiritual sense, it is not necessary to assign to every circumstance an express and peculiar import. It may suffice to look upon the whole in union as an animated image of the joy that subsists in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.
8. Again, this latitude of comparison proceeds in some cases from prudential reserve. On the same account, on which our Saviour chose to convey any unpalatable truth to the superior orders of the Jews in parable, he might also chuse to involve it in so deep a shade of parable as would conceal it from an obvious and immediate interpretation. In addressing himself to the Jews, especially those of a stricter order or more elevated office, as he complied with their prejudices, so he also reasoned on their positions, though they might be doubtful and even erroneous. Thus when the Pharisees and Scribes took offence at his conduct in receiving sinners and eating with them, he said in application of the parable of the lost and recovered sheep, that there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just 3
persons which need no repentance.? Now senM. as by the sinner that repenteth he un I. questionably alludes to the publicans and sinners, who were then attentive to his doctrines; so by the just persons which need no repentance he most probably glances at the Pharisees and Scribes, who were just in their own esteem, and who presumptuously thought that they needed no repentance. Thus our Saviour spoke of them according to their own opinions of themselves; though it is evident from the tenour of his conversation that he looked upon them in a very different light. And accordingly he told them at another time, but on a like occasion, that he came not to call the righteous, or those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, but sinners to repentance :
Thus also in the parable, that follows in the same train of discourse, our Lord represents the elder son remonstrating with his father for a too indulgent reception of his prodigal brother, and pleading his own long and faithful service as a title to a higher favour in his father's heart, and a larger portion, if
z Luke xv, 7.
a Luke v. 32.
SERM. not the whole of his inheritanceb. This
closely expresses the sentiments of the Pharisees and Scribes, when they murmured at our Saviour's charitable de meanour toward repenting sinners. But when he further states the father's answer to the remonstrance of the elder son, Son, thou art always with me, and all that I have is thine, we must conclude, that as far as this passage has an eye to them, it is grounded on their positions, and opinions of themselves, though very different from those which our Lord entertained:, as if he had said, * Admitting what you profess, that you “ have always been iminediately in the 66
presence and under the eye of your :/ “ heavenly Father, admitting what you
assume, that to you above all other
people pertains the inheritance of I promise yet still it is meet, that in"stead of murmuring you should re
joice, even as the inhabitants of Hea
ven rejoice, on the recovery of such'as " were dead in sin, but are alive unto “ God", were lost to hope, and are found " again to the way of salvation.” In this manner
was our Saviour
• Luke xv. 25, Sico
c Rom. vi. 11.
pleased, in discoursing to the superior senn. orders of the Jews, to shade the severity, of his reproof by a cautious and prudential reserve. We are not however to infer from this, that he was restrained from using a more open language out of
any respect or fear of his audience. For being true himself, and teaching the way of God in truth, he cared not for any man, neither regarded he the person of mend. But having a work appointed him to do of the utmost importance to the world, he cautiously forbore every measure, which in the natural tendency of human dispositions might interrupt or frustrate that design. And therefore till the final purpose of his mission was on the point of being fulfilled, he seems to have avoided every form or stile of reproof, which was likely to provoke any violence against him before his appointed hour was come. But as the time drew nigh when he was to be offered on the cross a sacrifice for sin, the reserve which he had hitherto maintained was no longer expedient for him to support: He now became altogether clear and open in his reproofs,