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SERM. hath devoured thy living with Harlots,
thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
The Father's answer was calculated equally to remove his jealousy and to awaken his affection. It assured him that he entertained a full sense of his faithful and dutiful demeanour, and that all his possessions were at his dis
Nor should the return of a Brother operate at all to his disadvantage either in the feelings of a Father's heart or the disposition of his patrimony, Yet surely it was reasonable as well as natural to give some expression to parental tenderness on the restoration of a Son recovered as it were from the tomb; Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine, It was meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy Brother was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found,
Such is the conduct of this beautiful parable, which I have thus attempted to amplify and illustrate, though not without a hazard I must confess of infringing that simplicity, which gives it so great an interest with every class of men.
WHILE we look no far- SERM. ther than to its literal sense, it engages X. our regard as a truly affecting picture of human life, and we are prepared to accept it as an instructive lesson of human conduct. To those who are beginning life, to him especially, who is raised above a state of indigence, and is gifted with talents and capacities to become a good and useful member of society, it supplies a caution against a life of dissipation and intemperate and unlawful pleasure, by shewing the unhappy consequence of such a choice, in the loss of fortune, health, reputatior, Friends, the regard and favour both of God and man. If in spite of every friendly warning he should still persevere in the fatal path, till the consequence of his follies is come upon him, it proceeds to suggest the inost salutary counsel to retrieve him from ruin, that he immediately renounce his evil ways, and labour by an altered life to conciliate pardon for his errors of all whom he has offended.
And while it yields a lesson more expressly to the Prodigal, it also suggests a conciliating behaviour to his Friends and Kindred, as soon as he gives sufU 4
SERM. ficient tokens of an altered life, that
they receive him with tenderness, commiserate his sorrows, relieve his necesșities, and by a continuance of good offices encourage him to persevere in a better course.
Thus - the parable supplies a most instructive moral, while we look no farther than to the literal sense.-But in order to comprehend it in its full and true design, we must explore thạt figurative sense, which our Saviour meant it to convey. For which purpose our attention must revert to the occasion on which it was spoken and the audience to whom it was addressed. It appears from the circumstance and tenour of the foregoing conversation, that in the characters of the two Sons an allusion is designed to those two Classes of men who then composed his audience, the Publicans and Sipners, and the Pliarisees and Scribes. The Former of these like the Younger Son had lived in a state of irreligion at least, if they had not been more positively culpable; but on the preaching of Christ were led to entertain religious thoughts and penitent
affections. The Latter like the Elder SERM. . Son presumed on their self-imputed X. merits to have an exclusive title to the favour and reward of heaven, and uncharitably took offence at our gracious Lord for extending the promises of divine mercy to those, who in their harsh opinions had forfeited all title to the
grace and indulgence of God. And here it deserves our particular regard, that the Jews exactly stood in the same relation to the Gentiles, as the Pharisees and Scribes to the Publicans and Sinners. Hence also the parable will bear an equal reference to these two more comprehensive Descriptions of mankind. And therefore in opening the figurative design, I shall consider these two parallel applications in concurrence. While I keep in my view the primary reference to the Pharisees and Scribes and the Publicans and Sinners, I shall pay a more express regard to that extensive application, which it bears at the same time, to the Jewish nation and the Gentile world.
Now the Father who had two Sons is an image of God, the Creator and Disposer of the great household of the world, the common Parent both of the
SERM. Jews and the Gentiles; on both of
whom he has conferred many benefits in the dispensations of his providence. The Jews like the Elder Son continued under his more immediate eye: they remained in his household, they acknowledged his government, they had respect unto his law. Very different from theirs was the case of the Gentiles. Like the Younger Son at an early period of time they had withdrawn themselves from the service of their heavenly Father. Not liking to retain God in their knowledge they had become addicted to all manner of idolatrous and immoral practices, and had perverted the blessings of Providence to the service of their lawless and unwarrantable passions.
But as the Publicans and Sinners at the preaching of Christ, so also the Gentiles at the preaching of his Apostles, were brought to a sense of their miserable state; and being convinced of the danger of living without God in the world, they forsook the worship of idols, they renounced the service of their evil affections, they turned to God in penitence and prayer, they took ap resolutions of conforming in