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This work is a translation from the 
German^ which the author published a 
year ago^ and is now carefully revised and 

In offering a work of this kind to the 
public on an all-important and difficult 
subject^ methinks I hear the gentle reader 

" 'T is pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print ; 
A book's a book, although there's nothing in 't." 

We have, however, no particular apology 
to make for offering it to the public, as it 
must either sink or swim upon its own 

1^ (V) 

vi Preface. 

I would say^ however^ that my mind 
has been directed to this subject for some 
time^ and knowing no practical work of 
the kind in extant^ and believing at the 
same time that such a work would result 
in much good, we offer the '^Prodigal Son!' 
to the public, only regretting that the 
task has not been executed by a more 
able and skilful hand. Yet I would say 
to the reader, '' Examine before you con- 

In the preparation of this work we 
made use of the following works, viz.: 
Lange, Ewald, Olshausen, Ahlfeld, Couard, 
Keach, Lisco, Trench, and others; we 
therefore do not deem it necessary always 
to mention from which of these authors 
we received this or that thought. 

We would say here to the reader that we 

Preface. vii 

offer no denominational work ; but one^ as 
we believe, which contains the truth as 
revealed in Christ Jesus, and adapted for 
all Christian denominations. 

With these remarks we hope and pray 
that it may be accompanied by the bless- 
ing of God, and become a means, not only 
of restoring prodigal sons and daughters, 
but also a means to prevent such as are 
yet within the household of faith from 
exchanging it for the starvation and rags 

of the world. 

D. F. B. 

Bethlehem, Pa., July 4, 1862. 



The Creed Page 13 

Lord's Prayer 14 

The Bible 21 

Parable, definition of 22 

Why Christ spake in Parables 23 

Different Views of this Parable 26 

Correct View 27 

The Younger Son 30 


1. His Home, and what he has there. 

a. Home ...... 33 

6. The Son at Home 35 

c. His Innocence and Happiness. 36 

d. Baptism the Key to the Church 38 

2. A Word of Warning to Parents and Children. 

a. How Character is formed 40 

h. Hastening from Home 41 

c. Our Christian Duty 42 

3. Young Man, Stay at Home. 

a. Advantages of Home 45 

6. Evil Suggestions when from Home 47 



c. The Power of Sin 49 

d. The Habit of Sin 50 

e. Our City Courts 51 

y*. Day of Judgment 52 

g. Consider your Danger 53 

4. His Ungrateful Request. 

a. The Portion of Goods 56 

h. The Christian's Prayer 59 

c. The Earthly Relation leads to the Heavenly. 59 


1. The Division of Goods. 

a. Why demanded by the Younger Son 61 

6. The Father's Love 64 

c. The Apostasy of the Heart 66 

d. His Departure 67 

e. His Pleasure in Sin 68 

/. The Distant Country 72 

g. The Famine 75 

Ti. The Call of his Father 75 

2. His Misery and Poverty. 

a. The Drunkard 79 

6. The Gambler 82 

c. Mammon 83 

d. Dancing. 85 

e. The Wail of the Damned in Hell 87 

3. His External Embarrassment. 

a. The Wicked Citizen 90 

h. His Occupation 93 

c. Satan's Fields 94 

d. Feeds Husks to Swine 96 

e. The Sinner's last Refuge 99 

Contents. xi 


a. His Cry in Misery 105 

1. He Came to Himself. 

a. His Course one of Madness 109 

6. The Table of his Father Ill 

c. The Hired Servants 112 

d. Why Sinners often Perish 116 

2. His Good Resolution. 

a. The Turning-point. ^ 117 

h. The Resolution itself 120 

3. He Voluntarily Confesses his Sins. 

a. Regeneration 125 

b. Conversion 131 

c. Sinned against Heaven 132 

d. His UuTVorthiness and Humility 135 

4. HoTV HE Carries out his Resolution. 

a. The Language of his Soul 136 

6. His Repentance 137 

c. Why some are Lost. 138 

5. He Perseveres in his Return. 

a. Some ashamed of Christ 139 

6. The Happy Meeting. 

a. The Father sees him return 143 

h. He hastens to meet him 144 

c. The Father's Kindness 146 

d. His Confession 149 

e. His Repentance genuine 151 

7. The Hearty Reception. 

a. The Prodigal in the Father's House 155 

6. The Blessings he receives * 157 

xii Contents. 

c. The Servants 158 

d. The House the Church 158 

c. The Kobe 100 

/. The Ring 161 

g. The Shoes 163 

8. The Feast of Joy. 

a. The fatted Calf. 166 

h. The Feast of the Gospel 167 

c. The Guests 168 

d. The Ground of this Joy 169 

e. Ilis being dead, and now alive 170 

f. His being lost, and now found 172 

g. Why no Mediator mentioned 176 


1. The Elder Son's Return. 

a. His displeasure 180 

2. He acts wickedly, and without Feeling. 

a. The Conduct of Church members 184 

3. The Father does not permit his Joy to be dis- 

a. His Reproach against the Father 191 

4. The Elder Son and his Self-righteousness. 

a. Who the Elder Son represents 194 

5. The Father\s Invitation to him 195 

c. What Effect it had 199 

5. The Earnest Warning against Self-right- 


a. Self-justification 202 

h. Why not all fall thus deep 207 

6. Retrospect and Exhortation 208 


In the name of God the Father, and of God the Son, 
and of God the Holy Ghost. Amen. 

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker 
of heaven and earth : 

And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son our 
Lord ; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost^ born 
of the Virgin Mary ; suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
was crucified, dead, and buried ; He descended into 
hell ; the third day He rose from the dead ; He 
ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand 
of God the Father Almighty ; from thence He shall 
come to judge the quick and the dead. 

I believe in the Holy Ghost ; the holy Catholic 
Church ; the communion of saints ; the remission 
of sins ; the resurrection of the body, and the life 

2 (13) 

14 The Prodigal Son. 

Lord, we believe ; help Thou our unbelief! 

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be 
Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be 
done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day 
our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we 
forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temp- 
tation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the 
kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever 
and ever. Amen. 

LUKE 15 : 11-32. 

And he said, A certain man had two sons : 

And the younger of them said to his father, 
Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth 
to me. And he divided unto them his living. 

And not many days after, the younger son gath- 
ered all together, and took his journey into a far 
country, and there wasted his substance with riot- 
ous living. 

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty 
famine in that land ; and he began to be in want. 

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of 
that country; and he sent him into his fields to 
feed swine. 

And he would fain have filled his belly with the 
husks that the swine did eat : and no man gave 
unto him. 

And when he came to himself, he said. How 
many hired servants of my father's have bread 
enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger ! 

I will arise and go to my father, and will say 
unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, 
and before thee, 


16 The Prodigal Son. 

And am no more worthy to be called thy son : 
make me as one of thy hired servants. 

And he arose, and came to his father. But 
when he was yet a great way off, his father saw 
him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his 
neck, and kissed him. 

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned 
against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more 
worthy to be called thy son. 

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth 
the best robe, and put it on him ; and put a ring 
on his hand, and shoes on his feet : 

And 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. And they began to be 

Now his elder son was in the field : 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. 

The Prodigal Son. 17 

And he was angry, and would not go in : there- 
fore came his father out, and entreated him. 

And he answering said to his father, Lo, these 
many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I 
at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never 
gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my 
friends : 

But as soon as this thy son was come, which 
hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast 
killed for him the fatted calf. 

And he said unto him, 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 ; and was lost, and is found. 

2* B 


'* Tho' parents may in covenant be, 
And have their heaven in view ; 
They are unhappy till they see 
Their children happy too. 

'* Their hearts with inward anguish bleed, 
When all attempts prove vain, 
And they pursue those paths that lead 
To everlasting pain. 

** They warn, indulge, correct, beseech, 
While tears in torrents flow ; 
And 'tis beyond the pow'r of speech. 
To tell the griefs they know. 

^^Till they can see victorious grace, 
Their children's souls possess ; 
The sparkling wit, the smiling face. 
But adds to their distress. 


20 The Prodigal 8on. 

" See the fond father clasp his child ; 
Hark! how his bowels move — 
Shalt thou, my offspring, be exiPd 
From God, my Father's love ? 

^' Shall cruel spirits drag thee down 
To darkness and despair, 
Beneath th' Almighty's angry frown, 
To dwell for ever there ? 

'' Kind heav'n, the dreadful scene forbid ; 
Look down, dear Lord, and bless; 
I '11 wrestle hard as Abr'am did. 
May I obtain success I" 


The Holy Bible is our greatest and 
richest treasure; it alone reveals fully 
God the Father^ God the Son, God the 
Holy Ghost; and it alone teaches us the 
manner of our creation, the fall, the re- 
demption wrought by Christ; it shows 
us how to find this Redeemer, and how 
to obtain life everlasting. As God has 
not His equal, neither has the Bible. 
There are thousands of stars, but only 
one sun; thus, we have thousands of 
books, but only one Bible. As the hea- 
vens are higher than the earth, even so 
is the Bible superior to all other books. 
Consider how it would be without the 
sun; then you may understand how it 

would be without the Bible. 


22 The Prodigal Son. 

*' Within this awful volume lies, 
The mystery of mysteries ; 
Oh ! happiest they of human race, 
To whom our God has given grace. 
To hear, to read, to feel, to pray. 
To lift the latch, and force the way ; 
But better they had ne'er been born, 
Who read to doubt, or read to scorn." 

Reverence it^ therefore ; examine it 
faithfully^ and learn by blessed experience, 
to go the way of salvation^, which Christ 
has revealed and marked out in this Book 
of Books, and particularly in this Parable. 
The Parable of the " Prodigal Son" is a 
kind of summing up in a short form the 
whole body of Divinity. This book will 
therefore be to the common reader, a 
short and simple exposition of some of the 
principal doctrinal points, upon which our 
salvation depends. 

A Parable is the natural representation 
of divine truth, always in accordance with 
nature ; it moves in the spiritual world, 

The Prodigal Son. 23 

but never transgresses the actual order of 
things natural. 

Our Savior spoke man}^ things in par- 
ables. The object in doing so, no doubt, 
was to impress divine truth more deeply 
upon the minds and hearts of men, 
especially of the scribes and Pharisees 
of his day. 

When the disciples came to Jesus, and 
asked : " Why speakest thou unto them 
in parables?" He answered and said 
unto them : " Because it is given unto 
you to know the mysteries of the king- 
dom of heaven, but to them it is not 
given. '"^ Or as St. Luke says : " Unto you 
it is given to know the mysteries of the 
kingdom of God ; but to others in parables; 
that seeing they might not see, and hear- 
ing they might not understand 5"-}- by 
which he Avould say : Unto you, who are 
my disciples, and enjoy my love and 

*Matth. 13 : 10, 11. f Luke 8 : 10. 

24 The PnoDiaAL Son. 

friendship, it is given to know the mys- 
teries of the kingdom of God ; but unto 
them that are without,"^ who will not 
believe in me, these things are spoken in 
parables : And because those who are 
without are satisfied with the parable, 
without endeavoring to penetrate into its 
meaning, or applying it to themselves, 
the word of truth can never be unto them 
a savor of life unto life. 

In the course of our exposition of the 
Parable of " the Prodigal Son," we will 
often be required to make prominent the 
dark shadows of sin and of vice, and to 
exhibit the solemn denunciations of the 
Lord against them in His word ; but we 
beseech you, dear reader, not, on this ac- 
count, to lay aside this book, but to read 
on and compare your life with what is 
presented in this parable, praying to the 

* Mark 4 ; 11. 

The Prodigal Son. 25 

Lord, at the same time, that he may bless 
it to your spiritual and eternal profit. 

Of all the parables spoken by our Lord, 
this one is the most captivating and affect- 
ing. It is almost impossible to read it 
without being deeply impressed with the 
sublimity of its character, and profoundly 
moved by its exhibition of love and mercy. 
It is certain, that sin cannot be painted 
in darker colors, or human misery be de- 
picted in sadder features, than is done in 
this parable. And where can we find a 
more glorious evidence of the paternal 
love and mercy of God, than just in the 
mode of treatment of the father towards 
his prodigal son represented here ? 

This parable may be called the pearl 
and crown of all the parables of Scrip- 
ture ; one too, which contains within itself 
such a circle of truths and doctrines, that 
we may justly call it a gospel within the 
gospel. For here is beautifully repre- 

26 The Prodigal Son. 

sented, in the history of an individual^ 
sin and all its horrible consequences ; the 
necessity of repentance and conversion^ 
as well as the friendly reception and re- 
conciliation on the side of God. 

There have always been two different 
views in the Church in regard to the 
great primary application of this parable. 
There are those who have seen in the two 
sons the Jew and the Gentile^ and in the 
younger son's departure from his father's 
housC;, the history of the great apostasy of 
the Gentile world ; in the Prodigal's return 
they see the reception of the Gentile world 
into the privileges of the new covenant ; 
in the conduct of the elder brother, how- 
ever^ who would not enter into the house 
of paternal joy^ they see a lively type of 
the narrow-hearted^ self-righteousness of 
the JewSj who grudged that the Gentiles 
should be admitted to the same blessings 
as themselves. 

Others, again, beheld in the younger 

The Prodigal Son. 27 

son a type of all those who^ whether 
Jews or Gentiles, whether in that old dis- 
pensation which was then drawing to an 
end, or brought up in the bosom of the 
Christian Church, have widely departed 
from God by their sins; and after having 
tasted the misery of a sinful life, have by 
His grace been brought back to Him, as 
to the only source of comfort and life ; 
while they have seen in the elder brother 
either a narrow form of real righteous- 
ness, or, accepting his own words, of 
Pharisaical righteousness, — one righteous 
in his own sight, but not in the Lord's. 

The latter view seems to me to be the 
more correct, without, however, entirely 
excluding the former. For the children 
of Israel were the covenant people ; Abra- 
ham's descendants were the family of 
God ; they were under His discipline and 
guidance ; they preserved His law ; they 
maintained always a certain communion 

28 The Prodigal Son. 

with Him; they never entirely severed 
their connection with Him ; they possess- 
ed His word^ His revelation ; they wor- 
shipped and served Him; they rejoiced 
in His protection and His special provi- 
dence ; wherefore also the father in this 
parable says to his elder son : '' Son^ thou 
art ever with me ; and all that I have is 
thine." — The Gentiles^ on the other hand, 
renounced their Great or^ devoted them- 
selves to all the abominations of idolatry, 
broke up all communion with Him, who, 
nevertheless, is their Lord and God, and 
'^ changed the glory of the incorruptible 
into an image made like to corruptible 
man," as St. Paul describes their apos- 
tasy. Kom. 1 : 21-26. — Nevertheless, 
this is not the leading thought of the 
parable. For it was spoken in reply to 
the murmuring of the scribes and Phari- 
sees, who were offended that Jesus re- 
ceived, and even ate with publicans and 

The Prodigal Son. 29 

sinners : " Then drew near unto him all 
the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 
And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, 
saying, This man receive th sinner S; and 
eateth with them.''"^ 

Before the first interpretation can have 
any claim to stand, it must first be shown 
that these publicans and sinners were 
heathens, which, indeed, the Church father 
Tertullian undertook to do, but, as we 
believe, without success. Besides, there 
is abundant scriptural evidence, that many 
of the publicans, probably of those in 
Judea, if not all, yet far the greater num- 
ber, were of Jewish birth. Zachaeus was 
a son of Abraham ;f and Levi, who sat 
at the receipt of custom, must needs have 
been so too : and publicans were among 
those who came to the baptism of John. J 
There may, indeed, have been some hear 

*LnIve 15 : 1, 2. f Luke 9 : 9. 

X Luke t : 9. 

30 The Prodigal Son. 

then publicans within the limits of Judea; 
but doubtless these whom Jesus received 
were of Jewish origin^ for with none but 
Jews did he familiarly live during his 
walk upon earth ; for as He himself says, 
He was " not sent but unto the lost sheep 
of the house of Israel.'"^ 

These publicans and sinners were Jews 
— outcasts^ indeed^ of the nation^ scorned 
and despised, and no doubt justly, until 
the words of Christ had awakened in 
them a nobler life. Thus far Christ had 
only given a few hints, that the Gentiles, 
as well as the Jews, were called to Chris- 
tianity, and there only to his chosen dis- 
ciples, and which, for a long time after, 
were stumbling-blocks even to them. 

Consequently, we believe that we can 
affirm, that our Savior would represent, 
in the younger son, all those who have 
separated themselves by a sinful life from 

* Matth. 15 : 24. 

The Prodigal Son. 31 

the Jewish Cliurch^ and thereby also from 

And as this was the case with the Jews^ 
who abandoned the Jewish Churchy it is 
nevertheless not confined alone to them, 
but also is applicable in our time to all 
those who abandon the Christian Churchy 
and live in the misery of sin and corrup- 
tion. Far as the sinner may have de- 
parted from Godj he is still encouraged 
by this parable of the '' Prodigal Son" to 
return to the Father's house^ and to the 
Father s love. 

It is a blessed thought, that the younger 
son represents sinners, who are not, as 
many affirm, outside of God's covenant, 
but within it, for it evidently means such 
as belonged to the old covenant by cir- 
cumcision, and w^ere thereby called to His 
kingdom of blessedness. In regard to the 
Christian Church, it means all those wdio 
belong to the kingdom of grace by bap- 
tism and confirmation, but who have re- 

32 The Prodigal Son. 

nounced their baptismal covenant^ made 
in their behalf, when infants, by their 
parents ; which they either only renewed 
with their lips, and not with their hearts, 
or, perhaps, entirely repudiated. More- 
over, such also are meant, who were bap- 
tized as adults, who took the oath of 
fidelity, but who, alas ! soon violated it, 
departing from God, from the Church, 
from the Father s house, that they might 
serve sin, thereby bringing disgrace upon 
themselves, and upon the Church of Christ. 
All these are represented by the younger 
son, and are also encouraged by his con- 
duct to return speedily to the Father s 
house and heart. 

We shall divide our exposition of the 
parable into four parts : 

I. The Prodigal Son at Home in his 
Fathers House, 

II. His Departure from Hoine. 

III. His Return and Receptio^i. 

IV. The Conduct of the Elder Son. 

The Prodigal Son. 33 



1. His Home^ and loJiat he has there. 

Home ! It is difficult to define what 
home is. A poet was once asked, "What 
is a poet?'' to Avhich he replied, "A poet 
is — a poet." With equal appropriateness 
we answer, Home is home. 

"Home's not merely four square walls, 

Though with pictures hung and gilded; 
Home is where affection calls — 

Filled with shrines the heart hath builded.'' 

Home is one of the most delightful 
words in the English language, and it is 
no wonder that it should have become the 
subject of poetry and song. There is 
music in the sound ; and in every heart 

34 The Prodigal Son. 

that is not yet wholly corrupted^ there is 
a chord that vibrates to the note. It will 
ever awaken a long train of associations 
and recollections^ painful or pleasant, as 
may have been the conduct of the person 
by whom the word is repeated. It is at 
home that parents and children, brothers 
and sisters, mingle in the sweet fellowshipi 
of domestic bliss, as long as Providence 
permits them to dwell together. 

Home has different aspects. The home 
of the infant is the mother's bosom. The 
home of the child is the family nursery, 
with its playthings. The home of the 
youth is the garden, the meadow, and the 
play-ground. The home of the man is 
his country — his native land. The home 
of the Christian is the Church. 

He that loves not his home is a traitor 
to his country, a hypocrite to his God, 
and is not to be trusted. It is love of 
home that inspires man to noble actions ; 

The Prodigal Son. 35 

and only where it is entirely lost, can the 
sun of a nation's glory and power set in 
darkness and blood. 

''Wherever thou mayest be, Home is the centre 
where the heart turns." 

The parable permits us first to behold 
the Prodigal Son at home in his father's 
house, in a state of honor and happiness. 
^*^A certain man/' says Christ, ^^had two 
sons." They were both at home with 
their father, making each other happy. 
All that the fiither owned was theirs; 
what he acquired, he acquired for them. 
Every labor and every enjoyment was 
mutually shared. It was with them, as 
it is in every happy family: the father 
commanded, the children obeyed, — and 
both were not conscious of command or 

The Prodigal Son was therefore at 
home in his father's house, and, as a child 

36 The Prodigal Son. 

and son of innocence and love, he was 
very happy. He possessed everything 
that could make him happy and honored. 
There he enjoyed the love of father and 
of mother; there he had a good name^ 
and could move in the honorable circle of 
the family. 

/""^'^w as not this the original state of man ? 

I God created him upright, innocent, and 
happy. God was his father; Paradise 
was his home ; the earth his possession ; 
angels were his companions ; happiness 
his blessed lot. Everything that the in- 
finite wisdom and love of his heavenl}^ 
Father could divise; indeed, everything 
that man could reasonably enjoy, was pro- 
vided for him as a divine gift, and was 
given to him to promote and secure his 
happiness. Nevertheless, he permitted 
himself to be conquered by Satan, and 
fell, and involved all his descendants in 

i sin and misery. 

The Prodigal Son. 37 

But after the first man, Adam, discov- 
ered his loss and misery, the heavenly 
Father again revealed His love and mercy 
in choosing the Jewish nation, which He 
sanctified to Himself by the blood of the 
atonement. Man was now restored to great 
happiness and honor. 

On account of the redeeming grace of 
God, we also are able to speak of and re- 
joice in a still more glorious abiding in 
our Father's house — the Christian Church. 
The old Adam led himself and his descend- 
ants out of the house of Paradise, b}^ his 
transgression ; the new Adam brought his 
own back again, by his righteousness and 
obedience even unto death. The day 
when He opened the doors, when He re- 
moved the angel with the flaming sword, 
is not yet far removed. It is the blessed 
Good-Friday. By eating of the tree of 
the knowledge of good and evil, we lost 
God's protection and were driven from His 

38 The PRODiaAL Son. 

house ; but our return has been secured 
for us on the tree of Golgotha^ on the 

The Christian Church possesses a much 
higher revelation of God^ than that made 
in creation^ or possessed by the house of 
Israel; so that in it alone the greatest 
happiness and honor are to be secured. 

Holy baptism is the key of the Chris- 
tian Church — our Fathers house. He 
who remains in the covenant of baptism, 
who serves in sincere faith and child-like 
love, who would be nothing other than a 
child of his heavenly Father, he is in his 
Father's house, even though he had no 
earthly house or home in which to lay his 
head. God's holy purpose of grace is the 
foundation of this house ; His infinite love 
the walls ; His mercy and goodness, which 
reach as far as the heavens, are the roof; 
and Christ is the door. So long as we 
possess a true, child-like faith, and perse- 

The Prodigal Son. 39 

vere in following Christy do we remain in 
this house. 

The Prodigal Son was in his father's 
house with honor. Thus he remained for 
a time in the enjoyment of the highest 
earthly happiness. But^ alas! he became 
dissatisfied^ satiated with his happiness. 
It was too good for him at home. He 
would live freer and faster; he would be 
his OAvn master. To be directed and led 
by his father's love appeared to him to be 
compulsion and irksome restraint; he 
wished to rule himself, and therefore he 
asked for his portion of goods. 

2. A Word of Warning to Parents and 

There is a great responsibility resting 
upon every parent for the manner in which 
he or she may bring up their children. 
We must not forget that their character 

40 The Prodigal Son. 

for time and for eternity is usually formed 
in youth^ and while at home. 

" Have you ever watched an icicle as it 
formed ? You noticed how it froze one 
drop at a time until it was a foot long, or 
more. If the water was pure, the icicle 
remained clear, and sparkled brightly in 
the sun ; but if the water was the least 
muddy, the icicle looked foul, and its 
beauty was spoiled. Just so our charac- 
ters are forming — one little thought or 
feeling at a time, adds its influence. If 
each thought be pure and right, the soul 
will be lovely, and will sparkle with hap- 
piness; but if impure and wrong, there 
will be final deformity and wretchedness." 

How many a drunkard has been induced 
to visit the tavern, in the first place, in 
order to escape from the troubled atmo- 
sphere of his own home, and the constant 
reproaches, merited perhaps, but not less 

The Prodigal Son. 41 

galling, of a too irritable and a too vindic- 
tive partner! 

On the other hand, how many a gentle 
spirit has been crushed and broken by the 
brutal and ruffian remarks of some tyrant 
husband ! How gradually, but with a 
change far too rapid, has the idol object 
of ^^ove's first dream" degenerated into a 
cold, selfish, and indifferent husband ! 

"One little word, if softly spoken — 
One little tear, if kindly shed — 
Can heal the spirit bruised and broken, 
And cure the heart that long hath bled.'' 

We may be certain that there is some- 
thing wrong in the disposition of the man 
or woman who does not eagerly turn home ; 
or whose thoughts are not directed thither. 
Whoever shuns home as something un- 
pleasant, or is eager to find a pretext to 
hasten away, has already lost its charms 
and smiles, and nothing is left but the 
name of home. 

42 The Prodigal Son. 

If the best of Fathers had a prodigal, 
what can be expected of the children of 
wicked parents? Remember^ ^^ childhood 
is like a mirror, catching and reflecting 
images from all around it ; and that an 
impious thought, uttered by a parent's 
lips, may operate like a careless spray of 
water thrown upon polished steel, staining 
it with rust, which no after scouring can 
efface." But how often do parents forget 
this admonitory thought ! Insolent an- 
swers and rebellious dispositions in chil- 
dren are passed by unrebuked and unre- 
strained, yea, even often excused. Need 
we wonder then, that so many young men 
go astray, and that there are so many 
disobedient children and domestic feuds ? 

Have you, fond father or indulgent 
mother, nothing wherewith to charge 
yourself on this score ? Are you endeav- 
bring to bring up your children " in the 
nurture and admonition of the Lord?" 

The Prodigal Son. 43 

If so^ yours is a Christian home, and Avhen 
you depart^ your cliildren will look back 
with hearts glowing with grateful recol- 
lections, and bless the memory of their 
departed parents. 

" Thou shalt teach/' salth the Lord, 
^^my words diligently unto thy children, 
and talk of them when thou sittest in thy 

Herod slew the bodies of children ; but 
you, by neglecting their spiritual wants, 
murder their immortal souls. He mur- 
dered the children of others, but you 
would murder your own ! He employed 
others to do it, but you would do it your- 

If, after the lapse of a few years, your 
neglected child be taken from you, and 
consigned to the grave, you will meet it 
again before the bar of an avenging Judge. 
It will stand there as a witness against 
you, and, instead of blessing you, it will 

44 The Prodigal Son. 

curse you for your parental unfaithful- 
ness^ and then " it shall be more tolerable 
for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you." 

Father^ where is thy son ? Where is 
thy daughter ? In what town ? In what 
house ? In what company ? How is he 
or she employed ? It behooves you to be 
able to answer these questions by night 
as well as by day; on Sundays^ as well 
as on week-days ; wherever you are^ and 
whatever you are doing. You are the 
guardian of your children ; and whether 
they are emploj^ed at work, or relaxation 
and amusement, it is your duty to super- 
intend and direct them. 

'' Plant Virtue, and Content 's the fruit. " 

Hear what David says : " I have been 
young, and now am old ; yet have I not 
seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed 
begging bread." 

The Prodigal Son. 45 

3. Young MaUy stay at Home. 

By staying at home^ as an obedient and 
faithful son^ you will enjoy many advan- 
tages and blessings. It is here that your 
character^ for time and for eternity, is 
usually formed. Your future goodness 
and greatness is generally determined by 
the character you form in youth ; as the 
youth;, such in all probabihty will be the 

By the books you read, we know your 
disposition ; by the company you keep, 
your character. While at home in your 
father's house, if you are seen with a 
stranger, or with a companion of bad or 
even doubtful character, you are ques- 
tioned, and warned by your parents. If 
you bring home a book, it is examined, 
approved, or rejected and forbidden. If 
you stay out beyond the usual time, a 
mother's anxious eye will be turned upon 

46 The Prodigal Son. 

you^ and a father's voice will admonish 
you. In shorty you will feel that you are 
within the range of an ever-present in- 
spection^ and under the pressure of a 
never-relaxing restraint. 

Places of sin and pollution are strictly 
forbidden^ and you may feel little inclina- 
tion to visit them. Morning and evening 
you hear the Scriptures read, and the 
voice of prayer ascending to God in your 

'^ There, angels bright, 

Came down at night. 
To watch. ^^ your *' puIse^s play; 

Their shadowy wings, 

In circling rings, 
Went up at break of day." 

But once away from your father's house, 
you will soon fall into temptation and sin. 
Your proud and unsubdued heart will 
whisper : " Thy father will not be here to 
see it, if you sin; thy mother will not 

The Prodigal Son. 47 

know it. You are under no inspection 
now; restraint is removed. You can go 
where you like^ associate with whom you 
please^ and fear neither rebuke nor re- 

Oh ! what base and wicked suggestions 
are those^ which lead a young man to take 
advantage of a father s absence, and to do 
that which he knows would provoke his 
strongest reprobation, and fill his heart 
with the bitterest grief. 

" The devil is ever watchful and ready 
to whisper into the ear of a young man 
away from home, that parental will and 
restriction is over; it is time for you to 
think and act for yourself, — you are your 
own master. You are now a young man, 
and no longer a child. You are capable 
of judging, discriminating, and determin- 
ing between right and wrong. You have 
the right to select your own books, to 
form your own standard of morals, to 

48 The PRODiaAL Son. 

choose your own company^ and to lay your 
own plans of action. Who has authority 
now to interfere with you ? " 

How many a proud young man has gone 
from his father's house, from his native 
place, to live among strangers, as the Prod- 
igal did ; far from home, and farther still 
from God, among a people to whom God 
is not known ! 

You may, by your wicked life, '^ break 
the hearts of your parents; make your 
brothers and sisters ashamed to own you ; 
be a nuisance and pest to society, a bane 
to your country, the corrupter of youthful 
morals, the seducer of female virtue, the 
consumer of the property of your friends ; 
and, to reach the climax of your mischief, 
you may be the ApoUyon of the circle of 
immortal souls in which you move, send- 
ing some to perdition before you reach it 
yourself, and causing others to follow you 
to the bottomless pit, where you shall 

The PRODiaAL Son. 49 

never escape the sight of their torments, 
nor the sound of their imprecations ! " 

" How great the power of sin, and how 
maUgnant its virulence, that can spread 
its influence so widely, and exert its force 
wath such deadly effect, not only destroy- 
ing the sinner himself, but involving others 
in his ruin ! " No man goes alone to per- 
dition ; no one perishes alone in his ini- 
quity ; as w^e sin together, so we shall also 
be damned together. 

Hearken then, oh sinner ! Here is 
something that you should ponder well, 
for you not only sustain the character of 
a suicide, but of a murderer, and of all 
murderers the worst, for you are the mur- 
derer of souls ! 

What a critical position you occupy ! 
You are capable of rising to so much ex- 
cellence, or of sinking to ruin so deep, and 
misery so intense ! 

Reflect, and be wise ; consider well 
5 D 

50 The Prodigal Son. 

your latter end;, and stay in your father's 
house : 

*' Thou shalt have no occasion of fear, 
From the dread by night ; 
From the arrow that flieth by day; 
From the pestilence in darkness walking ; 
From the cutting off which destroys at noon-day." 

You know not the deceitfuhiess of your 
hearty nor the corrupting influences that 
are around you. You are led on by a 
gradual progress in a guilty career^ till the 
measure of sin is filled. Who that ever 
ended his days on the scaffold^ or in the 
felon's dungeon^ would^ at one period of 
his life^ have thought it possible that he 
could ever have become so wicked and 
hardened as to commit crimes of such 
desert ? 

Habit renders all things easy, even the 
most atrocious crimes ; and habits of vice, 
like other habits, begin Avith acts, many 
of them trifling ones. The most alarming 

The Prodigal Son. 51 

view of sin is its progressive nature. Sin 
is the most deceitful thing in the universe. 
This is manifest from the insidious man- 
ner in which it leads the transgressor in 
his way, ever furnishing him with excuses 
at every stage of progress he makes, until 
he is hopelessly lost. 

Look at our city courts. What a vast 
number of criminals are charged with, 
and convicted of all kinds of crimes, from 
the smallest to the greatest and basest ! 
Not long since a paper headed its criminal 
column with the words: ^^An army of 
burglars and thieves." Day after day 
crimes of the darkest dye are perpetrated; 
robbery after robbery, and murder after 
murder, are committed. The devil incar- 
nate is walking, as it were, in broad day- 
light through our land, and no one takes 
warning. Where will it end ? and what 
will become of us ? may well be asked by 
serious minds. 

62 The Prodigal Son. 

^^ I can imagine you/' says one, " in the 
day of judgment, pressing to lay hold upon 
the hand of your father, but he turns from 
you as from an object of disgust, exclaim- 
ing, ^ Your father no longer ! ' You then 
direct an imploring look to the mother 
that bore you, and, laying hold on her 
robe, you piteously exclaim : ^ My mother, 
do you not know me ? ' Gathering up her 
garments of light, she shakes you off with 
the dreadful disownment : ' I know not 
the enemies of the Lord.' They pass to 
the right hand of the Judge, while you, 
by a power you cannot resist, are sent to 
the left — and what remains ? You will 
present from that day the melancholy 
spectacle of an outcast from heaven, a 
homeless immortal, a vagrant in the uni- 
verse, a wretched wanderer through eter- 

'' So do the dark in soul expire, 
Or live like scorpions girt by fire ; 

The Prodigal Son. 53 

So writhes the mind remorse hath riven, 
Unfit for earth, undoomed for heaven — 
Darkness above, despair beneath, 
Around it flame, within it death.'' 

Stop here and ask, Lord^ am I this 
thoughtless son, this child of perdition? 
Do, perhaps, foolish thoughts also dwell 
in my soul, which should be humble and 
lowly ? Has, perhaps, the power of self- 
will also broken the bonds of love in 
my case, which should bind me to my 
heavenly Father, and to His service ? Do 
I also live after the lusts of the flesh, and 
in the turmoil of pleasure, without the 
fear of God, suppressing the warning 
voice of conscience in the service of sin ? 
Am I also one of those who despise the 
relation of child-like dependence on the 
father, and have I forgotten the child-like 
reverence, which I owe to my father, as 
also the confiding love, which makes it 
my dut}^ to obey my father s will ? If so. 

64 The Prodigal Son. 

then listen to the gracious invitation : 
" Come unto me^ all ye that labor, and 
are heavy ladened, and I ^vill give you 
rest." Come in, ye halt, and lame, and 
blind, there yet is room. Are you within ? 
then remain there. Do 3'ou stand on the 
threshold, in order to go out ? then look 
back once more, reflect once more, what 
grace and what peace your ftithers, who 
lived before you, enjoyed in this house, 
which is the Church of God. 

And you, who have already gone out, 
think yet once more, what you have re- 
ceived and enjoyed since you abandoned 
your blessed Savior. If you Avould answer 
honestly, you would say : " Since then I 
have no foundation on which I can stand, 
no walls to protect me against the assaults 
of temptation, no roof, beneath which I 
may enjoy rest in trouble, or peace in 
death. It was much better when I was 
at home in mv father s house." So re- 

The P II d I g a l S o n . 

main within ! close the doors ! admit not 
the tempter ! close the shutters^ your 
ears, against his enticing words. There- 
fore remain within ! 

*' Now in the heat of youthful blood 
Remember your Creator, God ; 
Behold the months come hastening on, 
When you shall say, my joys are gone. 

*' Behold the aged sinner goes, 
Ladened with sin and heavy woes, 
Down from the regions of the dead, 
With endless curses on his head. 

** Children, in years and knowledge young, 
Attend the counsels of my tongue ; 
Your parent's hope, your parent's joy. 
Let pious thoughts your mind employ. 

*'If you desire a length of days. 
Restrain your feet from impious ways ; 
Love Christ, and all the good and great. 
And peace shall crown your mortal state. 

*' God from on high beholds your thoughts, 
His book records your secret faults, 
The works of darkness you have done. 
Must all appear before the sun. 

56 The Prodigal Son. 

" The vengeance to your follies due, 
Should strike your hearts with terror through ; 
How will you stand before His face, 
Or answer for His injured grace. 

'* Almighty God, turn oft the eyes 
Of youth from sin and vanities ; 
And let the thunder of Thy word, 
Awake their souls to fear the Lord."* 

4. His Ungratefal Request, 
On a certain day the younger son came 
and said to his father : '' Give me the por- 
tion of goods that falleth to me." f 

His request sounds as if it were right 
and almost imperious^ and is at the same 
time a clear evidence that he had lost all 
love for his father and for his home ; for 
without even having an apparent right, 
he demands of his father the part of his 
goods that would fall to his share after 
his father's death. It is not necessary to 

* By Dr. Harbaugh, written for this work. 
fLuke 15: 12. 

<X It 

The Prodigal Son. 57 

affirm, that the voun(2:er son claimed '^ the 
portion of goods " as a right, but only as 
a favor ; '' That portion which will here- 
pr Ml to me, which thou designest for 
nx- at last, I would rather have it now 
and go to foreign lands, in order to trade 

This portion, according to the Jewish 
law, would be only the third part ; for the 
elder son would receive twice as much as 
the younger. " But he shall acknowledge 
the son of the hated for the first-born, by 
giving him a double portion of all that 
he hath : for he is the beginning of his 
strength ; the right of the first-born is his.'"^ 

What does this request mean, when we 
give it its spiritual significance ? It is a 
proof that man would be independent of 
God, that he would be a God to himself 
and live according to his own will. '' For 
God doth know, that in the day ye eat 

*Deut. 21 : lY. 

58 The Prodigal Son. 

thereof, then your eyes shall be opened ; 
and ye shall be as gods^ knowing good and 
evil." ^ 

Such an one is a man that has grown 
weary of God and of God's blessing, and 
imagines that he is able to order and sup- 
port his own life. He seeks to cast off 
the rule of his father, and thinks that he 
can manage his own affairs best. What 
was the first sin, but the rejection of all 
divine restrictions ? Although these were 
reasonable and designed to promote the 
well-being of man, yet he would act ac- 
cording to his own will, and have his 
power and goods in his own hands, be- 
lieving that he could be a fountain of 
blessedness to himself. 

All the subsequent sins of the younger 
son are included in this one, and are but 
the development of this, the sin of sins. 

The true Christian feeling is directly 

* Gen. 3 : 5. 

The Prodigal Son. 59 

opposite to the request^ '- Give me my 
portion of goods." The Christian prays, 
it is true, daily, '' Give us this day our 
daily bread." But therein he acknow- 
ledges that he looks up to God for the 
supply of all his bodily and spiritual 
needs. The earthly relationship which 
supplies the ground-work of this parable, 
where the son first grows weary of re- 
ceiving from the father, and soon leaves 
his father's house, is much narrower than 
the heavenly one ; though the contempt 
of the earthly relationship, of the earthly 
father, is also a contempt of the heavenly 
relationship, of the heavenly father. 
How often is it forgotten that : 

''From the Family we pass into the School; 
Out of the School into the Church; 
Out of the Church into Heaven. ^^ 

The earthly relationship should lead 
us into the knowledge of the blessings 
laid up in the heavenly ; and when chil- 

60 The Prodigal Son. 

dren despise the earthly relationship, then 
the higher and heavenly one will also be 
despised. How many children treat their 
parents, just as this son did? approaching 
them with the same ungrateful insolence, 
as he did his father, in order to be rid of 
all their restraints. They forget the fifth 
commandment, " Honor thy father and 
thy mother, that thy days may be long 
in the land, which the Lord thy God hath 
given thee." 

The Prodigal Son. 61 



1. The Division of the Goods. 

** Thankless, the Prodigal receives 
The bounty of his sire, 
Rejoicing only in the hope 
To have his own desire. 

"And far from home, in climes of vice, 
He joins the heedless throng ; 
Begins in pleasure to rejoice. 
And chants the mirthful song." 

At the request, "^ Father, give me my 
portion of goods/' a division was made. 
He not only gave the younger son his 
portion, but also the elder his portion ; 
with the difference, however, that the 
younger son got his portion into his own 

62 The Prodigal Son. 

hands, whilst the father still managed 
that of the elder, who remained at home. 
The father gave the younger son his por- 
tion, well knowing that it would profit 
nothing to retain him at home, for his 
love towards his father had grown cold, 
and he had become, in heart, estranged 
to that home. 

How did this come to pass with the 
younger son ? When one goes out in the 
morning to cut weeds, the sickle is sharp, 
and cuts well ; but as the day advances, 
it becomes blunt. So it is often also with 
the discipline of children. Commonly 
the sins and misconduct of the older chil- 
dren are punished with sharpness, but 
when it comes to younger ones, it has 
already become blunt. We would accom- 
plish everything in regard to them with 
the words of love, but we often reap from 
them only cursing and ingratitude. 

The younger son did not bear his yoke 

The Prodigal Son. 63 

well in his youth. Therefore he would 
now cast it off entirely^ and depart with 
his goods. 

But what have you to demand^ or to 
call your own ? Your soul belongs to 
God vour Father, for when He created 
3"ou^ He breathed into you the breath of 
life. Your body is also His^ for He formed 
you in the womb. Your goods are His, 
for He is the eternal lender, who has 
loaned them to you for a time, and you 
will never be able to acquire a clear and 
full title to them. 

Do you wish to be rid of your Father 
and of God by the division of the goods, 
then see, what kind of a sj^irit it is that 
rules the servants of sin, and what slaves 
they are. The one is ruled by pleasure, 
the other by avarice, and the third by 
pride ; learn to know, therefore, that true 
freedom consists only in obedience to God. 

64 The Prodigal Son. 

" If the son makes you free^ ye shall be 
free indeed." 

By this division of the goods the father 
gave him an additional evidence of his 
love, in order to see, whether, perhaps, 
he would not repent; and whether he 
might not by this favor regain his love. 
But all was in vain. 

Man is a spiritual being, and has a free 
will. If God's service becomes irksome 
to him, and he promises greater freedom 
to himself elsewhere, God does not hinder 
him from making the trial, and from 
making the woful experience, that true 
freedom and true happiness are to be 
found alone in Him ; that departing from 
Him, he inevitably falls under the horrible 
bondage of his own lust and of the world, 
and under the tyranny of the devil. 

Therefore do not depart from the house- 
hold of faith, or the wild, roving bands 
of Satan will lead you into snares and 

The Prodigal Son. 65 

destroy you ; but rather, when under sore 
trial, and temptation, ask your Redeemer, 
whom your soul loveth, where He feedem 
His flock, and where He shelters His people 
from the scorching sun of trial and tribu- 
lation, He will softly answer thee. Walk in 
the footsteps of the Apostles, and Martyrs, 
and Confessors, and Saints, and bring 
your children up in the sanctuary of the 
Lord your God, and you shall be safe 
from the path of the destroyer. Hear 
therefore, sinner : 

" The Devil comes with all his craft, 
The world with vanity and pride ; 
^ The flesh with lust, where'er thou art. 
Comes to ensnare thee and destroy." 

Now the younger son is that which 
he desired, lord of himself, but also heir 
of his own folly, as we shall soon see. 

He receives his portion. " And not 
many days after, the younger son gathered 
all together, and took his journey into a 
6^^^ E 

66 The Prodigal Son. 

far country." That is, after several days 
he left his father s house. 

The apostasy of the heart always pre- 
cedes the outward apostasy of the life, 
though the last sooner or later follows the 

But the inconsiderate youth could not 
tear himself away at once; there was 
still something that drew him to his 
father. He only left his father after 
several days. 

He first turned everything that fell to 
his share into money, or into valuables 
that he could easily carry with him, " and 
took his journey into a far country." That 
is, he collected all his energies, with the 
determination of getting, through their 
help, all the gratification he could out of 
the world ; he now turned his back upon 
God, his heavenly Father. 

*^ How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is 
To have a thankless child.'' 


(See page 66.) 

The Prodigal Son. 67 

His father told him of his danger, re- 
minded him of the happy life they had 
thus far led together, which he would 
find nowhere else : but the son had 
lost all love for domestic happiness; it 
was no longer pleasant for him to be 
wdth his father. His father took leave 
of him wdth tears and fears. He ap- 
prehended that the young man would 
be unfortunate, that he would lose his 

He now went from the house of his 
father into the w^orld of sin and folly. 
His father, his mother, his sisters and 
brother looked after him with weeping eyes 
and anxious hearts. Friends approached 
him, and sought to convince him of his 
error, and to demonstrate to him the love 
and goodness of his father, as well as the 
danger to which he was exposing himself. 
But it was all in vain. Nothing was able 
to move his hard heart. Go he would, 

68 The PnoDiaAL Son. 

and go he did. He apprehended nothing 
of the danger which he approached^ but 
visions of freedom and happiness seduced 
him onward. 

" Buds are filling, leaves are swelling, 
Flowers on field and bloom on tree ; 
O'er the earlh, and air and ocean, 
Nature holds her jubilee." 

Sin is the separation of the soul from 
God ; to sin means to wander away from 
cummunion with God^ and this way only 
leads farther and farther away from God. 

Whoever forsakes the assembling of the 
faithful^ becomes lukewarm, and quickly 
cold in heart towards God, and more and 
more careless about heavenly things, and 
is soon offended ; and falls an easy prey 
to the wicked one. 

We hear the rattlings of the world upon 
every street and high-w^ay, but the road 
to the house of God is comparatively 
silent. Where money is to be made, honor 

The Prodigal Son. 69 

to be gained, pleasure to be enjoyed, and 
time to be killed ; there is all life and ac- 
tivity. And what is worse, many even 
who attend to the sacred ordinances of 
God's house, have not always the purest 
motives, for 

** Some go to church just for a walk, 
Some go there, to laugh and talk, 
Some go there the time to spend. 
Some go there to meet a friend, 
Some go to learn the parson's name, 
Some go there to wound his fame. 
Some go there for speculation, 
Some go there for observation, 
Some go there to doze and nod. 
But few go there to worship God." 

The heart first looks upon the forbidden 
fruit. Then follow desire and consent to 
the temptation, and the perpetration of 
the sin rapidly succeeds. ^^When lust 
hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin j and 

70 The Prodigal Son. 

sin^ when it is finished, bringeth forth 
death." ^ 

This departure from God is not instan- 
taneouS; but it proceeds step by step. It, 
however, goes forward very rapidly. At 
first the erring one is absent from the table 
of the Lord, then he withdraws gradually 
from the prayer-meetings ; he goes no 
more to church ; sings and prays no more 
with the people of God. 

On the Sabbath he is found fishing, or 
gunning, perhaps in the tavern, or even 
sitting among the scoffers of religion ; at 
the card-table, or in houses of ill-fame, 
and he becomes not only a Sabbath- 
breaker, but also a despiser of God and 
sacred things. He hardens his heart and 
loses all fear of God, respect for himself 
and better men. He drinks in sin and 
vice as water, and is at last abhorred and 
avoided by all good men. 

* James 1:15. 

The Prodigal Son. 71 

The Prodigal Son was, no doubt, happy 
in his freedom in a foreign country, but 
only so long as his goods lasted. He ate 
and drank of the best ; he wore the best 
clothing, and had numerous servants. 
He did as he pleased ; the gratification 
of his desires was his only work, the only 
duty that he acknowledged. Home, bro- 
ther, father, mother, everything was for- 
gotten : he is full and happy for the short 
time that it continued. 

^' Live while you live, the Epicure will say, 
And take the pleasure of the present day : 
Live while you live, the sacred preacher cries, 
And give to God each moment as it flies. 
Lord, in my view, let both united be — 
I live in pleasure when I live in thee.'^ 

The liberal love of his father furnished 
him with sufficient means. He thought 
as little of employing himself usefully, 
as he did of want and privation. He 
would spend his youth in enjoyment and 

72 The Prodigal Son. 

pleasure^ and for this he had every means. 
He also did not lack pleasant acqnaintr 
ances and glad companions. For who- 
ever is rich^ will find everywhere, even 
in foreign lands, so-called friends, who 
will gladly attach themselves to him, 
and, if he is deficient in experience and 
prudence, they will soon profit by him. 
Thus, in his opinion, the thoughtless 
young man had nothing more to wish 
for. Cheerful and without care, he spent 
his days in riotous living. 

The ^^far distant country" is a coun- 
try where God does not dwell. There 
he spent his goods in debauchery. 

What is meant by ^^ wasted his sub- 
stance with riotous living?" This may 
refer to the time which God gives us to 
work out our salvation; or to the trea- 
sures and riches of the earth; for that 
was a part of the portion which he de- 
sired ; this he might consume and spend 

The Prodigal Son. 73 

on harlots ; or it might refer to his gifts 
and natural powers, and abilities/ or to 
his conscience, which his sins had wasted 
away. More particularly, however, to 
the rich gifts and blessings which he re- 
ceived in the Church, and to the holy in- 
fluences under w^hich he was brought up, 
as a son of the kingdom of God. 

Thus also the sinner may imagine, that 
he is doing well in his estrangement from 
God ; for the world has its allurements, 
the flesh its pleasures. The Prodigal Son 
did not at once, but only gradually, dis- 
cover his error. 

One piece of clothing after another 
was sold ; one debt upon another was 
made, and it became every day less pos- 
sible for him to pay them. 

He was able to live for a long time 
from his goods, but they were finally all 
spent; that is, everything was enjoyed 
that the world ofiered. After his means 

74 The Prodigal Son. 

had been consumed^ he found nothing 
but misery in the world of sin. '^ He 
began to be in want." Instead of the 
choicest food, he had now no bread; in- 
stead of the most costly clothes, only 
rags to cover his nakedness. He now 
looked around for his friends. He would 
now eat and drink with those who 
formerly ate and drank with him. But 
when he called upon them the first time, 
they were not at home ; the second, they 
had nothing themselves; the third time, 
they did not know him, and could not 
recollect that they had ever helped to 
consume his goods ; the fourth time, they 
gave him good advice : he had much pro- 
perty, and should have taken better care 
of it. Now he discovered that his false 
friends were like birds of passage, who 
remain with us as long as the weather is 
warm, the grain in the field, and the 
grapes on the vine ; but as soon as these 

The Prodigal 8on. 

are gone^ they depart also. Every one 
fawned upon him before ; now no one re- 
garded hhn. 

He also began to experience^ that there 
was a famine in the land^ a famine of 
truth and of love^ and of all nourishment 
for the soul. He now saw^ that he had 
made a bad bargain. 

This was but a foretaste of his coming 
woe, and without doubt^ a call to return 
home ; but man is^ according to the Scrip- 
tureS;, blind^ deaf, and dead ; he hears not 
the voice of his God and Father, when He 
invites and calls him to return. 

*'Stop, poor sinners, stop and think, 

Before you further go ; 
Will you sport upon the brink 

Of everlasting woe? 
On the verge of ruin stop, 

Now the friendly warning take ; 
Stay your footsteps, ere ye drop 

Into the burning lake. 


76 The Prodigal Son. 

'* Say, have you an arm like God, 

That you His will oppose ? 
Fear ye not that iron rod 

With which He breaks His foes ? 
Can you stand in that dread day, 

Which His justice shall proclaim, 
When the earth shall melt away, 

Like wax before the flame ? 

*' Ghastly death will quickly come. 

And drag you to His bar ; 
Then to hear your awful doom, 

Will fill you with despair. 
All your sins will round you crowd ; 

You shall mark their crimson dye; 
Each for vengeance crying loud ; 

And what can you reply ? 

*' Though your heart be made of steel, 

Your forehead lined with brass; 
God at length will make you feel, 

He will not let you pass. 
Sinners then in vain will call. 

Those who now despise His grace, 
Rocks and mountains on us fall, 

And hide us from His face." 

The Prodigal Son. 77 

But his proud heart would not yet 
bow^ for his self-confidence was not en- 
tirely exhausted. 

Why is it^ that sinners are so hard to 
be convinced of sin ? 

It may be because sin is of such a 
bewitching nature, and has got such deep 
root in their hearts and affections, that 
they are naturally wedded to their lusts; 
their alienation from God is deep, and 
because the devil has such hold and 
power over them, that he constantly de- 
ceives and beguiles them. 

*'A little sleep, a little slumber, 
A little folding of the arms to sleep ; 
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, 
And thy want as an armed man.'' 

My dear reader, in looking around you, 
how many prodigal sons and daughters can 
you not count in your neighborhood, who 
were, perhaps, your acquaintances, school- 

78 The PRODiaAL Son. 

companions, or fellow-Christians, who have 
ruined themselves in a like manner? 
Learn wisdom, therefore, from this para- 
ble, and remain in your father's house. 

2. His Misery and Poverty. 

*' Life 's a folly, age a dream, 
Borne along the common stream; 
Earth ^s a bubble, light as air, 
If my rest is centered there. 
How can that be solid joy. 
Which a moment may destroy V^ 

It is not said, that man must be poor 
in worldly goods, when he has lost his 
spiritual ones, — his true riches. The 
want of the soul is also to be found as an 
uninvited guest at the table of the rich, 
in the palaces of kings, and at all earthly 
feasts; and the soul often suffers more 
want and poverty in these places, than in 
the huts of the poor. 

This being in want portrays as well the 

The Prodigal Son. 79 

great apostasy of the heathen world, which 
seeks in vain to satisfy itself with empty 
husks^ as the case of a single soul. All 
men are conscious that a sinful life is both 
an expensive and a miserable life. 

Look at the habitual drunkard. Plis 
life is one of misery and shame. He is, 
in a fearful sense, the mere sport of a 
demon. However kind, gentle, and gener- 
ous he may be in his sober moments, the 
chances are as a thousand to one, that 
when under the influence of liquor, he 
will either become as an idiot, a brute, or 
a fiend. All sense of propriety will be 
forgotten, — all dignity of character will 
be thrown aside. 

Many hearts have been broken, many 
families have been impoverished, and 
many human beings have been hurried 
into premature graves, through the agency 
of intemperance ! The catalogue, if it 
could be obtained, would present a terrible 

80 The Prodigal Son, 

array indeed. Fond and favorite sons 
have become outcasts and vagabonds, and 
doting parents have wept bitter tears over 
the fallen and degraded. Character has 
been destoyed, health has been ruined, 
and even murder has been committed 
through the agency of this terrible vice. 
There is scarcely a family in the land, that 
has not, or does not now suffer to a greater 
or less extent from it. Some of the loftiest 
intellects have yielded to it, some of the 
noblest hearts have fallen beneath its fell 

And yet the drunkard's prayer is still 
heard: ^^ There's my money — give me 
drink. There 's my clothing — give me 
drink. There's the clothing, food, and 
fuel of my wife and children, — There 's 
the education of my children, the price of 
my house, the rent I have robbed my 
landlord of — give me drink. Pour me 
out drink, I will yet pay more for it. 

The Prodigal Son. 81 

There 's my health of body and peace of 
mind, — my character as a man and my 
profession as a Christian, I will give all 
for drink. Yea, I have still more to give. 
There 's my heavenly inheritance, and the 
eternal friendship of the redeemed — there 
— there — is my hope of salvation ! I 
will give up my Savior ! I will give up 
my God ! I will resign all that is great, 
and good, and glorious in the universe — 
I will give up all for drink." 

'^ Who hath woe ? who hath sorrow ? 
who hath contentions ? who hath bab- 
blings ? who hath wounds without cause ? 
Avho hath redness of eyes? They that 
tarry long at the wine ; they that go to 
seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon 
the wine when it is red, when it giveth 
his color in the cup, when it moveth 
itself aright. At the last it biteth like 
a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." 
Prov. 23 : 29-33. 

82 The Prodigal Son. 

Again, to what an awful extent is not 
the vice of gambling carried on in our 
land. Not only do gambling establish- 
ments exist by scores in our large cities, 
but there are also many like establish- 
ments in our towns and villages, where 
the fortunes and souls of men are ruined 
forever. The whole system of gambling 
is a tissue of dishonesty, deceit, hypocrisy, 
and fraud. The gambler covets his neigh- 
bor's property; his object is to win it, 
honestly if he can, dishonestly if he must. 
The gambler is 

** A polished, subtle knave, with mellow voice, 
But heart as hard as iron.'' 

Oh ! what a tale will be told at 
the day af judgment against gambling 
'' Hells." Thousands of young men have 
been, and are still being, ruined in them. 
They are sinks of cold, hard-hearted 
fraud and iniquity. The heart must be 
hard, indeed, that can excuse or encourage 

The Prodigal Son. 83 

such a system of downright robbery, 
which ruthlessly beggars the unguarded, 
carries anxiety and anguish into the 
family circle, and leads many men to 
desperation and suicide. And no wonder, 
for it is said that $20,000,000 are annu- 
ally gambled away at faro in New York. 

Oh ! my young friends, heed the timely 
warning if the gambling-table has allure- 
ments for you — forsake it at once. These 
gambling ^^ hells" are surely the outer 
courts of that other liell^ "where the 
worm dieth not, and the fire is not 

If you have never been within them, 
never enter, for in them the road to ruin 

The worship of Mammon is another 
one of the prevailing passions of our coun- 
try. The desire for wealth is so strong, 
that principle and honor are disregarded 
in its pursuit. Success is often made to 

84 The Pkodigal Son. 

sanctify vice and dishonesty^ and the 
infamous doctrine is endorsed, '^ Make 
money;, my son, honestly if you can, but 
by all means make money." 

An immortal mind grovelling in the 
dust, and having for its highest aim the 
accumulation of wealth, which is never 
to be enjoyed ! while despising those in- 
corruptible riches which shall endure for- 
ever ! Whoever tasted the pleasures and 
comforts of religion, can but pity the 
poor wretch whose soul is chained to 
earthly treasures, and tortured on the 
rack of avarice ! Will the recollection of 
bags of gold, and chests of dollars, trea- 
sured up in this fleeting world for profli- 
gate heirs, alleviate the anguish of the 
miser's soul in the place of punishment ? 
Will the gay and licentious worldling 
find his torments assuaged by revolving 
the idea, that he was transported to hell 
in a splendid chariot ? and that his de- 

The Prodigal Son. 85 

generate offspring, left behind, will follow 
in the same pomp to the place of misery ? 
Alas ! such recollections will only increase 
your pain, and add new fuel to the fire 
which will never be quenched. 

" Oh, cursed lust of Gold ! when for thy sake 
The fool throws up his interest in both worlds ; 
First starves in this, then damned in that to 

How frequently, when a young lady is 
spoken of as possessing all the qualifica- 
tions that adorn her sex, do we hear the 
question asked, " Is she rich T instead of, 
is she virtuous, intelligent, and pious ! 

Thus our sons and daughters grow up 
under the false impression, that money is 
the one thing needful. Vice in silk and 
lace is preferred to virtue in calico. 

Dancing is another one of our fashion- 
able sins and follies, and it is not only 
detrimental to health, but highly injuri- 
ous to morals. Many, very many, dis- 

86 The Prodigal Son. 

eases are contracted in the ball-room, 

which hurry their victims to the grave. 

'*The song, the dance, the midnight hour, 
With pale consumption hovering by." 

It is equally, if not more destructive 
of purity and virtue. " We have often 
been amazed/' says Dr. Tyng, '' that any 
parent of pure moral taste could allow a 
daughter to mingle in dances under any 
pretext. We will not describe them. 
They are too well known to require it. 
That they are disgusting, and tend to 
gross moral corruption, cannot be suc- 
cessfully denied. And yet Christians, at 
least in name, are found to countenance 
them by their presence, and sometimes — 
we are ashamed to write it — even by 
their own participation. And even those 
who do not attend such places and amuse- 
ments themselves, do not hesitate to send 
their children to dancing-school, to learn 
and to acquire the taste that can only be 

The Prodigal Son. 87 

gratified in after life in these ungodly 
and corrupting pleasures." 

Even thus it is with all vices, — they are 
painful and demoralizing. Go ask the 
condemned criminal in his chains, he will 
confess, that a sinful life is both an ex- 
pensive and a miserable one. Or tran- 
spose yourself with me in spirit into the 
kingdom of the damned, and ask that 
father : " Why so restless ?" that mother : 
Why in tears ?" that son, that daughter : 
" Why so unhappy T or that infidel there, 
who curses the day of his birth : " Why 
so hopeless ?" they will all answer : " This 
is the reward of sin." Oh ! the life of sin 
is a painful and miserable life. And from 
ten thousand voices, out of the bottomless 
abyss, sounds the wail : 

Eternity ! — that awful sound I 
O sound, that pierces through my soul ! 
element, without an end ! 

88 The Prodigal Son. 

Eternity ! time without time ! 

I know not for this grief of mine, 

Whither it will lead or tend I 
My troubling soul affrighted quakes, 
Whene'er this Word within me Vakes. 

And it is thus with all sins and vices^ 
excepting only avarice^ which gnaws and 
consumes the inner life of the sinner. 
Pride^ ambition^, licentiousness^ all destroy 
those who are the victims of them. 

The Prodigal Son^ therefore^ wasted all 
his portion by riotous living. A rich in- 
heritance was consumed^ and that in a 
short time. 

Now " a mighty famine arose in that 
land." Though God calls louder and 
louder^ does he hear? Does he retrace 
his steps ? No ! He only falls deeper and 
deeper into the misery of sin and of de- 
struction^ not obeying the after call of his 
father : 

The Prodigal Son. 89 

*' Awake, man, and from thee shake 

This heavy sleep of sin ! 
Soon shall the highest vengeance take ; 

Soon shall His wrath begin 
To smite the wretched sinner home ; 

In awful terrors He shall come, 
To mete to all on earth their due reward, 

Only the righteous spares our angry Lord. 

'* Come then, ye sinners, great and small, 

Weeping and mourning sore, 
Low down before His footstool fall, 

And vow to sin no more. 
In faith and godliness array 

Your souls against that final day ; 
So shall ye 'scape His wrath, and blessed die. 

Heirs of the kingdom with our Lord on high." 

3. His External Emharrassment. 

" There is a moral of all human tales ; 
'T is but the same rehearsal of the past ; 
First freedom, and then glory — when that fails. 
Wealth, vice, corruption — barbarism at lasf 

The sinner, after being disappointed 
and made miserable, as he harvests the 

90 The Prodigal Son. 

fruits of his sins^ ventures still into greater 
and deeper ones^ and every one becomes 
a bud that stimulates to new transgres- 
sions ; his moral feeling is more and more 
blunted, his conscience more and more 
deadened ; as we see from the parable of 
the unjust steward, who fearing his re- 
moval from office, deprives his master 
still further of other property, in order 
thereby to fasten himself upon his credi- 
tors, that he might find a living and a 
home to hide his shame. 

Even so the Prodigal, after having spent 
his fortune, and being in want, he hangs 
himself upon a wicked citizen of a far 

This citizen, says St. Bernard, is Satan 
himself, or one of his angels; more 
probably one of the malignant spirits, 
who has, by voluntarily, wilfully and 
maliciously sinning, subjected himself to 

The Prodigal Son. 91 

Satan, and has thereby become a citizen 
in the land of sin. 

The word " citizen" indicates the dis- 
tinction between the Prodigal Son and the 
man with whom, for a while, he connected 
himself The Prodigal Son, with all his 
misery, was not a '^ citizen," but a stranger, 
in that far land. He did not naturalize 
himself there, neither did he feel himself 
at home. And there is also hope for the 
greatest sinner, so long as he feels him- 
self a stranger in the land of sin; but 
when he has once become a citizen there, 
when he is troubled with no longings 
after a lost paradise, after a better land 
that he has left behind; oh! then his 
case is hopeless. 

^^He went and joined himself to a 
citizen of that country." That is, the 
sinner sells himself to the world; he 
entangles himself more deeply in it, until 

92 The Prodigal Son. 

he has enjoyed its pleasures, and the 
world uses him as its drudge. 

The help which he received from his 
new master was small. This is an evi- 
dence, that the sinner finds no mercy, no 
love, no pity, from his fellow-sinner. 
'^ Behold," says the Lord, '^ therefore, I 
will gather all thy lovers, with whom 
thou hast taken pleasure, and all them 
that thou hast loved, with all them that 
thou hast hated ; I will even gather them 
round about against thee, and will dis- 
cover thy nakedness unto them, that they 
may see all thy nakedness.""^ 

This new master, to whom he joined 
himself in his want, cared not whether 
he had him or not ; and if he must needs 
engage him, who so adhered to him for a 
morsel of bread, he will send him away 
from his presence to the meanest and 
vilest employment which he has. '' He 
sent him into his fields to feed swine." 
*Ezek. 16 : 37. 

The Prodigal Son. 93 

A striking picture of the shame and 
nameless misery into which sin plunges 

The spendthrift becomes a swine-herd^ 
the vilest and most degraded of employ- 
ments in the eyes of a Jew ; so that 
misery would seem to have come upon 
him to the uttermost. A swine-herd was 
accursed among the Jews. 

Behold, what degrading employment 
Satan gives to his servants ! How does 
such a man sink from one degree of misery 
to another, covered with shame and dis- 
grace, until his soul mingles with the 
lowest and vilest I As swine-herd, '-' he 
would fain have filled his belly with the 
husks that the swine did eat ; and no man. 
gave unto him." 

*' He gathered dust when he had hoped to see 
The richest fruits ; the buds that promised 
Were early blasted, or but grew to be 
A mockery — a harvest of despair." 
9 G 

94 The Prodigal Son. 

By these Fields and Swine ^ we under- 
stand the ungodly multitudes that meet 
together to gratify their sensual lusts ; 
these are Sedans fields^ where nothing 
grows^ but what comes up spontaneously. 

Vain^ wicked, and profane fellows^ and 
impudent harlots^ may be compared to 
swine^ because they have the evil quali- 
ties of those brutish creatures^ therefore 
Christ says^ ^^ cast not your pearls before 

Again, swine are also unclean creatures; 
they love to wallow in mud, filth, and 
miry places. Thus these ungodly mor- 
tals love their brutish lusts, and to wallow 
in the mud and mire of filth, and abomi- 
nable pollution of sin, and uncleanness. 
And as it seems pleasant to swine to wal- 
low in the mire, even so it is natural and 
pleasant to these sinners to wallow in all 
beastly sins, lusts, and filthiness. 

Again^ swine are craving, and very 

The Prodigal Son. 95 

greedy creatures ; they have no measure 
in eating and drinking, they eat till they 
almost burst; so these wicked and un- 
godly persons are so greedy and unsatis- 
fied, that they set no bounds nor measure to 
their lusts, though they consume all they 
have 5 some are mere epicures, gluttonous 
persons ; and others, like swine, will drink 
until they can neither stand nor go, and 
wallow m their own filthy vomit. 

Swine, if washed, will soon return to 
their wallowing in the mire ; so if any 
ungodly persons are outwardly reformed, 
or washed from gross acts of wickedness, 
their natures being not changed, com- 
monlv return a«;ain to their former evil 
and filthy courses; so that in them the 
proverb is made good, " the sow that was 
washed is returned to her wallowing in 
the mire again." 

Swine also feed on husks and grains, 
but never look up from whence they 

96 The Prodigal Son. 

came^ and tread pearls under their feet ; 
so these brutish creatures feed on trashy 
the husks and grains of this world^ and 
tread under their feet the pearls of grace 
— all heavenly and spiritual things. 

These '^ husks" are the fruit of the 
carob tree^ which grows in Syria, Judea, 
Spain, and the northern part of Africa, 
and are used for the feeding of domestic 
animals ; perhaps it was the sweet fruit 
of the St. John's bread tree, which, on 
account of its abundance, w^as very cheap, 
and although sweet, was nevertheless un- 

This fruit is something like a bean-pod, 
and its name in the original means, 
" little horn." By these " husks," in their 
spiritual sense, we generally understand 
the vanities of the world, as riches, honors, 
and pleasures, or " the lust^ of the flesh, 
the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of 

The Prodigal Son. 97 

life;" or wliateoever things are of this 
world, and not of the Father, are husks. 

There is, however, one great difference 
between natural and metaphorical swine. 
The first retain their nature, and can 
never be anything else but swine ; the 
second may have their brutish nature 
changed, and by the power of divine 
grace, become sheep and lambs of Jesus 

Now, by feeding swine may be indicated 
a going among the very lowest of the 
wicked, either to taverns, ale-houses, play- 
houses, &c. ; and diverting them v/ith 
profane and idle tales, or filthy talk and 
stories; for such things those wretches 
feed upon, as their meat and drink ; or he 
may have fed them also by gratifying 
their base and brutish lusts, as is done 
by such as keep company with harlots. 

By feeding swine may also be meant 
that Satan prevailed upon him to let 

98 The Prodigal Son. 

loose the reins of Ids lusts^ and to deny 
himself nothing that his sensitive parts 
could desire, in order to crush the storm 
of conscience, which was rising on ac- 
count of the famine ; which no doubt was 
a call of God, and a dread of his future 
state, and denoted his fear of perishing 

Thus it must be evident that the 
wretched Prodigal has, under sore con- 
victions of conscience, thus assented to 
Satan's suggestions, to go and feed swine, 
by which means his conscience was again 
put to sleep. But all that he could ex- 
pect from these husks, was but to dull 
the gnawing pain of hunger, not that he 
should with them satisfy it, for we know 
that the food of beasts could not appease 
the cravings of man. 

Where are now his former companions ? 
Why does he not now return to his former 
resorts of pleasure and vice ? Oh, sin is 

The Prodigal Son. 99 

the heaviest and most dreadful of evils ! 
Sinners sacrifice each other. The great- 
est mercy that can be expected from the 
wicked, is terrible. All his companions 
now turned their backs upon him, and 
would not know him. He is now even 
too mean for them. They are ashamed 
of him, and because his money is all 
spent, he can find a refuge nowhere. 

^'But lo, the famine coming on, 
Now dies the song profane ; 
The youth beholds his substance gone, 
And begs the husk in vain. 

*^ The terrors of the world to come 
Have struck his pleasures dead — 
And far from God — and far from home, 
His every friend has fled.'^ 

The son who would not be treated 
liberally by his father, is compelled to be 
the servant and slave of a foreign master, 
— he who would not be ruled by God is 
compelled to serve the devil, — he who 

100 The PRODiaAL Son. 

would not abide in his father's royal palace, 
is sent to the field among servants^, — he 
who would not dwell among brethren and 
princes^ is obliged to be the servant and 
companion of swine^ — he who would not 
feed on the bread of angels, begs in his 
hunger for the husks of the swine. 

Thus do sin and the pleasures of the 
world rew^ard those who entirely suppress 
the divine in them, and permit the animal 
and sensual to rule them ; and the at- 
tempt to satisfy the hunger of the soul 
with such husks, is fruitless. 

What a picture this of a man, who 
seeks to appease the hunger of the im- 
mortal soul by unlimited sensual grati- 
fication ! The great misery is, that the 
hope of appeasing his hunger becomes 
continually less, and the pangs continually 
sharper, and the bonds of his slaverj^ 
heavier, and the hope of casting them off 
ever diminishing. 

The Prodigal Son. 101 

All the monstrous luxuries and frantic 
wickednesses which we read of in the 
later Roman histor^^ at the close of the 
world's Pagan epoch^ stand there like the 
last despairing effort of man to fill his 
belly with the husks. All the wishes of 
her emperors and nobles could be carried 
out under all circumstances by wealth 
and power. In this light we may be- 
hold the incredibly sumptuous feasts^ the 
golden j)alaces^ the enormous shows and 
spectacles^ and all the pomp and pride of 
life carried to the uttermost, the sins of 
nature, and the sins below nature. But 
because from amidst all these the voice 
of human misery only made itself the 
louder heard, this attempt only proved 
the more plainly, that the heathen sys- 
tem of morals was only food for bestial 
sensuality, and not nourishment for the 
human soul. 

In this parable we have placed before 

102 The Prodigal Son. 

our view a man who has done evil with 
both hands earnestly^ and debased him- 
self even unto hell. 

The Prodigal Son has sunk into this 
misery. Compare his present with his 
former condition^ when he was still at 
home^ surrounded with joy and wealth. 

Behold his pale^ sickly face ; his filthy, 
torn, and ragged garments. See him per- 
forming his accursed work, for a Eabbi 
says : " Accursed are all M^ho feed swine." 

Behold the sad result of his departure 
from home. Truly, ^^the way of the 
transgressor is hard." Thus, says one : 
" when a great English Poet, with every 
thing that fortune, and rank, and genius, 
could give him, — and who had laid out 
his whole life for pleasure, and not for 
duty — yet before he had reached half 
the allotted period of man, already ex- 
claimed," — 

The Prodigal Son. 103 

*' My days are in the yellow leaf, 
The flowers, the fruits, of love are gone ; 
The worm, the canker, and the grief 
Are mine alone — " 

What are these deeply affecting words, 
but the confession of one, who having 
spent all, had found himself in want ? 
Or again 5 the Prodigal's misery, his sense 
of the barrenness of sin, find a yet deeper 
voice : — 

*' The fire that on my bosom preys. 
Is lone as some volcanic isle ; 
No torch is lighted at its blaze, 
A funeral pile I'' 

104 The Prodigal Son, 



Hitherto we have followed the Prodigal 
Son step by step in his sinful career, which 
carried him further and further from God. 
Now we will consider his better side — what 
befell him in the depth of his misery ; his 
conversion, his return to his father, and his 
restoration as a son in his father's family. 

He had, indeed, departed far in the 
service of sin, and had engaged in a most 
dishonorable occupation far from his fa- 
ther's home, and found himself altogether 
helpless. He had no friend, who could 
speak to him a word of sympathy, of 
comfort, and of encouragement. He now, 
without doubt, thought of his affectionate, 
forgotten father, as also of his brother and 

The Prodigal Son. 105 

the happy life he formerly led with them. 
But all this was but a sad remembrance 
of lost happiness. 

In this misery he cries out of the depth 
of his soul : " I perish wdth hunger ! " 

*' The Prodigal, ^\^th streaming eyes, 
From folly just awake, 
Reviews his wanderings with surprise ; 
His heart begins to break. 

"I starve, he cries, nor can I bear 
The famine in this land. 
While servants of my father share 
The bounty of his hand. '' 

Though he had forsaken God^ he had 
not been forsaken by Him in the ^'far 
country.'' God^ indeed^ hates sin, but He 
loves the sinner. Me hedges up his way 
with thorns. " Therefore, behold, I will 
hedge up thy way with thorns, and make 
a wall, that she shall not find her paths." ^ 

* Hosea 2 : 6. 

106 The Prodigal Son. 

As if he would say '' it was I that made 
an hedge and a wall, when thou wast be- 
ginning to turn to things in which I de- 
lighted not. It was I that made thy 
sweet bitter, thy day night, thy smooth 
way thorny. It was I that stirred up thy 
conscience and understanding, thy will 
and thy affections, after thy great and 
woful decay. It was I that put life into 
thee, my son! to seek me that thou 
mightest find me, and in finding, find 
thine own health, and happiness, and 

God makes his sin bitter to him, that 
he may leave it. He allows the world to 
make its bondage hard to sinners, that 
they may know the difference between His 
service and the service of sin. '^ Never- 
theless they shall be his servants; that 
they may know my service, and the service 
of the kingdoms of the countries." ^ 
* 2 Chron. 12 : 8. 

The Prodigal Son. 107 

Here we have an example^ where the 
severity of lovmg paternal discipline is 
not in vain. The dark side of his sinful 
life is now past. He begins to reflect. 
He stands still — his misery brings him to 

1. He came to Himself. 

How deeply significant are these words, ' 
" he came to liimsel/r To come to one's 
self and to come to God^ is one and the 
same thing. When we find ourselves we 
find Hinij who is the true ground of our 
being and of our life ; or rather, as St. 
Augustine says : '' To find God, is to find ] 
ourselves." ''"^^ 

Where did he begin to consider his 
situation and to reflect upon himself with 
earnestness ? Not at the richly furnished 
table, where wine m^lkes the heart glad and 
dispels all care ; not amid his excesses and 
sinful enjojonents ; not in the circle of his 

108 The Prodigal Son. 

riotous friends ; not amid the turmoil and 
distraction of the vforld. For in these 
circumstances there is generally no time 
for sober reflection. But "he came to 
himself" where there was no longer any 
opportunity to suppress the voice of con- 
sciencC;, but where he was alone with 
God. There the oft dismissed questions 
came : How have you lived ? how deep 
have you fallen? what will become of 
you? Hitherto he had been roaming 
through the world with his thoughts. The 
lusts of the fleshy the lusts of the eye^ and 
the pride of life^ were the things that re- 
joiced his soul. The joyous summer of 
his pleasures soon came to an end^ and 
the winter of grief early blighted its prom- 
ising blossoms. There he stood^ shivering 
and naked upon the barren field^ feeding 
swine and hungry. 

*' How many, many memories 
Swept over his spirit then." 

The Prodigal Son. 109 

His entire course towards and in the 
far country^ was one of madness and of 
folly. He showed this in casting off the 
paternal yoke of wisdom and of love. 
And did he not also show it, by attempt- 
ing to place his trust in his own ex- 
perience ? Did he not show that he was 
mad and foolish^ by going into a far and 
strange country^ without an object, with- 
out counsel, and instruction? Did he 
not show^ himself to be such, by squander- 
ing his property in a short time, and by 
becoming a companion, perhaps, of thieves, 
robbers, and murderers, and by being in- 
different in regard to his circumstances, 
until his own destruction stared him in 
the face ? These all were certain signs 
of his folly and madness. Sin is most 
certainly contrary to all sound reason, 
and all true wisdom. 

Oh, what folly ! to despise and re- 

10* H 

110 The Prodigal Son. 

nounce God^ in order to become one's own 
lord and master. 

Oh, what folly ! to suppress the divine 
powers of the soul, in order to serve sin, 
the world, the flesh, and the devil. 

Oh, what folly ! to neglect the great 
object of life, and to forget, that we have 
a soul to win or to lose ; that we were 
not only created for this world, but for 
God, for heaven, and for eternal life. 

Oh, what folly ! to be indifferent in re- 
gard to our true happiness, and to plunge 
ourselves into the deepest misery through 
this indifference. 

Oh, what folly ! to disregard entirely 
death, judgment, and eternity. All this 
the Prodigal Son did. But at length " he 
came to himself." He stood still in his 
career of sin, and began to reflect. 

He now conversed with himself. Sad 
thoughts filled his heart, and tears of re- 
pentance flowed down his cheeks. He 

The Prodigal 8on. Ill 

noWj for the first time^ thought worthily 
of his home, which he had so shamefully 
despised ; of his father, who so tenderly 
loved him ; of his brother and sisters, 
who warned him of his danger, and of 
his ingratitude towards God and man; 
and he exclaims, at the awful abyss of his 
sinful life : " How many hired servants 
of my father's have bread enough and to 
spare, and I perish with hunger ?'' The 
eyes of him, who had slumbered and 
slept so long and so securely in sin, are 
now opened, so that he sees, and freel}^ 
confesses his miserable condition : '' I 
perish with hunger." 

^' Gleicbwie des Hirsches mattes Herz, 
Noch frischem Wasser schreiet, 
So schreiet anch mein Seelenschmerz : 
Ach ! dasz icli war' befreiet 
Von meiner schweren Siindenpein." 

He now remembers the table of his 
father's house, where they had bread and 

112 The Prodigal Son. 

water of life^ and so often and so happily 
sung together : 

*' Ich komm jetzt als ein armer Gast, 
Herr, Zu Deinem Tische, 
Den Du flir mich bereitet hast, 
Dasz er mein Herz erfrische. 
Wenn mich der Seelen-Hunger nagt, 
Wenn mich der Durst des Geistes plagt, 
Bis ich den Schweisz abwische.'' 

But from all this glory he separated 

There is nothing that so causes the 
sinner to see his misery, as to compare 
himself with all things around and be- 
neath him. 

The Prodigal Son sees the many hired 
servants in his father s house, who have 
bread enough and to spare, and says : " I 
perish witli hunger." 

Who are these hired servants of God ? 

1. They are the flowers and lilies of 
the field. " Consider the lilies of the 

The Prodigal Son. 113 

field how they grow ; they toil not, neither 
do they spin ; and yet I say unto you, 
That Solomon, in all his glory, was not 
arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if 
God so clothe the grass of the field, which 
to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the 
oven, shall he not much more clothe you, 
Oyeof little faith ?"^ 

2. The beasts of the field. These all 
live ill peace, and attain the object and 
end of their creation. They are, in a 
certain sense, " hired servants" of God. 

3. The birds of the air. Behold, how 
they assemble at the early dawn, to chant 
sweet notes of praise to their Creator, 
while we still rest upon our pillow. 
" Behold the fowls of the air : for they 
sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather 
into barns ; yet your heavenly Father 
feedeth them. Are ye not much better 
than they?"t 

* Matthew 6 : 28-31. f Ibid., 6 : 26. 

114 The Prodigal Son. 

*' Sweet bird ! thy bowV is ever green, 
Thy sky is ever clear ; 
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song, 
No winter in thy year.'' 

The sinner sees peace and joy every- 
where; ^"'but I/' he must say^ ^^ perish 
with hunger." 

" Ach, aiis diesses Thales Griinden, 

Die der Kalte Nebel driickt, 
Konnt ich doch den Ausgang finden, 

Ach, wie fiihlt ich mich begliickt I 
Dort erblick' ich Schone Hiigel, 

Ewig yung und ewig grein ! 
Hatt' ich Schwingen, hatt' ich Fliigel, 

Nach den Hiigel zog' ich hin." 

4. But in a higher sense are men hired 
servants. Man sees many of his fellow- 
men^ who^ with httle Christian culture^ 
work rather in the spirit of servants than 
of sons, rather looking to their hire than 
to the spirit, which is active through love, 
and which makes them happy and joyful 

The Prodigal Son. 115 

in the fulfilment of their duties^ and yet 
not without reward. 

It is true, these may not have the 
highest joy of salvation, but they are 
much happier than he. They have, at 
least, bread enough and to spare ; while 
he is tormented with a fierce hunger, 
which is ever craving, but which can 
never be satisfied. It is a good sign, 
when the sinner stands still and begins 
to consider. 

How many would have betaken them- 
selves to some other citizen, w^ho promised 
them a little hope and greater reward ! 
Or have thought. We will let it be so for 
a while, perhaps our condition will soon 
change ; perhaps more favorable circum- 
stances will soon arise ; the famine will 
cease, the want will decrease, and we will 
find opportunity and means to elevate 
ourselves again to a condition of pros- 
perity. Or it may be they learn to dress 

116 The Prodigal Son. 

their husks^ so that they shall look like 
human food^ and they then deny that 
they are the fodder of swine^ and glory- 
ing in their shame (as many yet do) ; 
they deny that there is any difference 
between the food of men and of swine. 

Men often perish^ because they do not 
reflect^ or because they wish to perish. 
Oh ! my friend^ have you never seen a 
hopeless sinner die ; how he bewailed the 
first step of sin ; how he saw the terrors 
of hell seizing hold of him ; how he trem- 
bled and shook^ and would not die^ curs- 
ing the day of his birth^ and going into 
eternity with the curse upon his lips ? If 
not, you have not seen^ what^ alas ! many 
a Christian minister is compelled to see. 
But the Prodigal Son acted otherwise ; 
his reflection became for him the fore- 
runner of repentance and reformation. 

The Prodigal Son. 117 

2. His good Resolution. 

He resolved to repair, if possible, the 
evil he had done, and to return to his 
home ; for he said : " I will arise, and go 
to my father, and will say unto him, 
Father, I have sinned against heaven and 
before thee." 

There are, in nature, turning-points to 
life, and turning-points to death. A turn- 
ing-point to death occurs every autumn, 
when the sap withdraws in the trees and 
plants, from the trunk to the roots. The 
fresh life of trees then ceases to circulate. 
Their leaves begin to grow yellow and 
red. This change seems beautiful to chil- 
dren. But he who has knowledge of life 
and death, perceives in this change the 
color of sickness. It resembles the last 
jflush that often appears upon the cheeks 
of the dying shortly before death. An- 
other and a better turning-point occurs 

118 The Prodigal Son. 

in spring. The sap rises again into the 
trunk of the tree, and flows through all 
the branches and twigs. Strong buds 
break through the bark. They appear 
weak and gray at first, but they soon un- 
fold, leaf by leaf, into the complete color 
of life. 

As in nature, so also in human life 
there are turning-points to death and to 
life. We have seen in the life of the 
Prodigal Son one of these turning-points. 
It occurred when he said to his father : 
^^Give me the portion of goods that 
falleth to me." We have seen, how from 
that time the juice of his life began to 
dry up. This turning-point occurs in 
human experience, when we depart from 
God and from Christ, when the life in us, 
which flows from the vine Christ, begins 
to dry up. It may be, that we may bring 
forth many good fruits even after this 
departure, but they have no life in them. 

The Prodigal Son. 119 

They are nothing other than the last 
fading leaf of the tree^ or the last flush 
on the cheek of the dying. The work 
of death has commenced, and it will con- 
tinue to the sad end, unless a new turn- 
ing-point to life occurs. But must this 
occur ? Many a dead branch stands bare 
in spring. The others are decked in ver- 
dure, but one or more are naked and 
dead. Its twigs are bare; the storms, 
which cause the others to flourish and 
grow, snap off one twig after another. 
For it there is no turning-point to life. 
Thus also among men, there are thousands 
who remain so dead and dry, that they 
are not revived, the storms of divine judg- 
ment snap ofi* one branch of their lives 
after another, until it is finally said of 
them : " As the tree falleth, so it lieth." 
Thus it is, but it is not God's fault. He 
gives times and seasons enough, which, 
by repentance and faith, should become 

120 The Prodigal Son. 

turning-points to life for us. Such a turn- 
ing-point to life is now presented to us in 
the career of the Prodigal Son. 

We may picture him to ourselves as 
having sat long upon the ground^ reflect- 
ing upon his extreme misery^ for man 
casts himself upon the earth in his utter 
desolatenesSj as Job did. ^^ And he took 
him a potsherd to scrape himself withal ; 
and he sat down among the ashes ;" and 
his friends who visited him '' sat down 
with him upon the ground seven days and 
seven nights^ and none spake a word unto 
him : for they saw that his grief was very 
great." '^ 

The Prodigal Son did not reach this 
position without great sorrow, and we 
also do not arrive at it without like sorrow. 
No child is born without great pain. The 
new man in us is also not born without 
great pain. 

* Job 2 : 8-13. 

The Prodigal Son. 121 

He, at last, like Augustine in the depths 
of his wicked wanderings, heard the low, 
sad echo of his youthful religious impres- 
sions, and gives utterance at last in noble 
strains, '^ Thou, God, hast created us for 
Thyself, and our hearts are without rest, 
until they rest in Thee." 

And now, as the star of hope rises in 
his heart, he gathers up anew his broken 
energies, and says : " Why do I suffer 
hunger ? Why sit I here among swine ? 
Why do I serve the devil ?" He springs 
up, as if snatched from death and hell, 
saying tenderly : " I will arise and go to 
my father." 

This rising signifies the leaving of his 
former evil practices, and his evil com- 
panions ; seeking refuge in prayer, hear- 
ing and reading Scripture, and meditating 
over his sad lot. 

His language indicates, that this reso- 
lution was the result of deep conviction ; 

122 The Prodigal Son. 

and he now determines, that he will no 
longer walk in the way of sin and of 
death. He is penitent and contrite — his 
mind is altogether changed. His eyes^ 
which were formerly directed towards 
sin, are now turned towards the proper 
object — his fathers house. The reso- 
lution is formed — ^^ I will go home — go at 


'*I cannot rest, I may not sleep, 
No joy or peace I know ; 
My soul is torn with anguish deep. 
And fears a deeper woe. 

" Then through this life of dangers 

I onward take my way ; 
But in this land of strangers 

I do not think to stay ; 
But onward on the road I fare 
That leads me to my home.'' 

** Home ! sweet, sweet home." 

How necessary and important is such 
a resolution ! For the want of it many 

The Prodigal Son. 123 

have remained wavering and undecided, 
until the door of grace, of hope, and of 
eternal life, has been closed forever. 

Such a resolution, however, can only 
be formed through earnest prayer for 
divine aid and firm trust in divine grace. 
All confidence in ourselves must be utterly 

Let no one imagine, that he can save 
himself from his misery, or that others 
can deliver him from the destruction of 
sin. No ! for he who is himself a sinner 
can neither save himself nor others. God, 
and God alone can do it. Our Savior 
says : " No man can come to me, except 
the Father which hath sent me draw 
him." '^ And " having, therefore, brethren, 
boldness to enter into the holiest by the 
blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, 
which he hath consecrated for us, through 
the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and 

* John 6 : 44. 

124 The PRODiaAL Son. 

having a high-priest over the house of 
God; let us draw near with a true heart 
in full assurance of faith^ having our hearts 
sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our 
bodies washed with pure water." ^ 

3. He Voluntarily Confesses his Sins. 

The Prodigal Son proposes to say, when 
he returns : '' Father, I have sinned !" — 
He will call him '^ Father," even though 
he has sinned against him ; for as the re- 
lation between him and his father was one 
which his obedience did not constitute, so 
his disobedience could not annul it. 

But what is it that gives the Prodigal 
Son ground to believe, that his father will 
receive and not repel him? It is the 
covenant of baptism upon which he rests 
in hope. He was a ^on, was born a son 
of God at his baptism, and his calling of 

* Heb. 10 : 19-22. 

The Prodigal Sox. 125 

God is without repentance^ or recall on 
his part. 

We may illustrate this by our natural 
birth. We become sons or daughters of 
our earthly parents by being born flesh of 
their flesh, and bone of their bone. And 
once children, we remain such, however 
wicked our walk and conduct may be. 
If we are finally lost, we go to perdition 
as the children of our earthly parents. 

Now, spiritually considered, we are all 
creatures, but not all children of God by 
nature ; for " no man can say that Jesus 
is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost ;" * 
and no one can enter into the kingdom of 
God, except he is born again of the Holy 
Ghost. For Christ says : " Verily, verily, 
I say unto thee, except a man be born of 
water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter 
into the kingdom of God."f 

Regeneration is a work of God, which 

* 1 Cor. 12:3. f Jo^^^ ^ : 5. 

126 The Prodigal Son. 

He must perform for us^ and to which we 
can contribute as little as to our natural 

This spiritual birth takes place when 
we consecrate in good faith our children^ 
or ourselves as adults^ to the triune God 
in holy baptism."^ 

''I am baptized into Thy name, 

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ! 

Among Thy seed a place I claim, 
Among Thy consecrated host; 

Buried with Christ, and dead to sin, 

Thy Spirit now shall live within. 

**My loving Father, here dost Thou 
Proclaim me as Thy child and heir ; 
My faithful Savior biddest me now 

The fruit of all Thy sorrows share ; 
Thou, Holy Ghost, wilt comfort me, 
When darkest clouds around I see.'' 

* Comp. Gen. 11 : 1. Mark 10 : 14-lG. Acts 

22 : 16; and 2 : 38, 39. Rom. 6 : 3, 4. Gal. 

3 : 21. Col. 2 : 11, 12. Titus 3 : 5, etc. Eph. 
5 : 26. 1 Pet. 3 : 21. 

The Prodigal Son. 127 

Our spiritual birth^ through the Sacra- 
merit of Baptism^ is far superior to our 
natural birth. Here only vanishes the 
dark picture of human life^ which fills us 
at every birth with so much fear and 

True, the child is unconscious of the 
act; it neither knows his parents upon 
earth, nor his Father in heaven ; it also 
gives no thanks, shows no love, nor can 
it form any holy resolutions ; even then 
it is called to be sanctified and blessed, by 
Him, who had once been a child and 
sanctified childhood. Holy prayers also 
are offered up, the Creed is repeated, and 
finally it is baptized in the name of the 
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The parents 
are standing prayerful around; with their 
eyes they are only conscious of water, 
but with the eye of faith they see the 
Avonderful repetition of Jordan, where the 

128 The Prodigal Son. 

Son of God was baptized by John, and 
fulfilled all righteousness. 

As a holy consecration fitted Christ for 
the great mission of Redemption, even so 
shall baptism sanctify and introduce us into 
the sphere of our heavenly calling. As then 
the voice from heaven spake, " This is my 
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," 
in baptism, therefore, we not only receive 
a name to bear on earth, but become 
spiritual children and heirs of the Saints 
in light. As the Holy Spirit came upon 
Christ, to consecrate Him for His mission, 
so is baptism a regeneration, and renewal 
of the Holy Ghost, and covenant with God. 

In baptism we are implanted into Christ, 
received as children of God, and are anoint- 
ed by the Holy Spirit, and we step into 
His innocence and righteousness. 

Baptism is not only the birth of regene- 
ration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, 
but also the introduction into the bosom 

The Prodigal Son. 129 

of the Christian Church, into the com- 
munion of Saints, that we may no longer 
stand alone, being surrounded by those 
of the household of faith, who care and 
provide for our wants, as children and 
heirs of heaven. Singular birth of re- 
generation ! Festival of our childhood, 
first day of our life, thou day of sacred 
baptism ! The day of our birth would, 
indeed, be a day of sorrowful remembrance 
through life, if it were not sanctified by 
the grace of God, into a day of spiritual 
regeneration. This spiritual, as well as 
our natural birth, can take place but once, 
and is fully illustrated in the Parable 
of the Leaven, which can be but once 

* '^ In regard to man^s conversion, on the other 
hand, it is different. Conversion is that free and 
voluntary act of the penitent sinner, by which, with 
the help of divine grace, he renounces and turns 
from sin and unrighteousness, as being offensive to 

130 The PiiODiaAL Son. 

If we have thus once become the chil- 
dren of God^ then we remain so through 
all eternity; our sinful life also cannot 
separate us from this relation to God ; and 
if we are finally lost^ it will be as children^ 
who were once consecrated to God. 

God, and engages to lead a holy life. In conver- 
sion, the awakened and penitent sinner reflects for 
himself upon his past course and present state, 
grieves for himself over his sins, prays for himself 
for the pardon of his iniquities, resolves for him- 
self truly to forsake those iniquities and to lead a 
new life, and strives for him.self to do all this. For 
all these exercises of his mind and heart, he is, of 
course, indebted to the Spirit of God, whose warn- 
ings, entreaties, and invitations, have graciously 
and powerfully constrained him to feel, and pray, 
and resolve, and strive as he does. But still these 
several acts are his own, self-conscious, personal 
acts. As in regeneration he is passive, so in con- 
version he is active." — Dr. Bomberger's /7?/an^ 
Salvation, pp. 32, 33. See also, Isaiah 55 : l-t. 
Ezekiel 14:6; and 18 : 30-32. Matth. 3:2; 
and 4 : 1^. Acts 8 : 22 ; and 26 : 30, 31. Bev. 
2 : 5. 

The Prodigal Son. 131 

The recollection of his baptism is not 
to the baptized sinner as a menacing 
angel, keeping with a fiery sword the 
gates of that Paradise which he has for- 
feited, and to which he now vainly desires 
admission again ; but it is just in his bap- 
tism that he finds consolation and strength. 
Wretched and degraded though he be, he 
may yet take the dearest name of Father 
on his lips, and claim anew admission into 
the household of faith, on the ground 
that he was once a member thereof, and 
that his privileges abide for him still in 
their full force, although he had wasted 
much of his time in a foreign service. 
His confession is sincere and candid. He 
holds nothing back. Neither does he 
attempt to throw the blame upon another, 
as Adam did upon Eve,"^' but he says : '^^ I 
have sinned against heaven and before 

* Gen. 3 : 12. 

132 The PRODiaAL Son. 

thee." This is the language of sincere 

I "He recognizes that he not merely sin- 
ned against man^ but against heaven^ or 
against God. He shows his repentance 
to have been wrought by God^ a work of 
the Spirit, in that he acknowledges his 
sin in its root^ as a transgression of the 
divine law^ and as exceedingly sinful^ 

\ being wrought against God. Thus David^ 
when he exclaims^ ^^ Against thee^ thee 
only have I sinned ;" ^ although his of- 
fences had been against his fellow-men. 
We may injure ourselves by our sin, we 
may wrong our neighbor^ but strictly 
speaking, we can only sin against God; 
and the recognition of our evil as first and 
chiefly an offence against Him, is of the 
essence of all true repentance, and dis- 
tinguishes it broadly from many other 
kinds of sorrow which may follow evil 

*2Sam. 12 : 13. 

The Prodigal Son. 133 

deeds. When we come to give these words 
their higher application, the two acknow- 
ledgments, " I have sinned against heaven^ 
and before tliee^' merge into one, ^' I have 
sinned against thee, my Father in heaven." 
And the Lord, thy God, '^ Is not He thy 
father that hath bought thee ? hath He 
not made thee, and established thee." ^ 

Not only here, but throughout all Scrip- 
ture, this willingness to confess is ever 
noted as a sign of true repentance, even 
as the sinner's refusal to humble himself 
is the sure sign of a continued obstinacy. 
St, John says : ^^ If we say that we have 
no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the 
truth is not in us. If we confess our 
sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us 
our sins, and to cleanse us from all un- 
righteousness. If we say that we have 
not sinned, we make him a liar, and his 
word is not in us."f Augustine says: 

* Deut. 32 : 6. f 1 John 1 : 8, 9, 10. 


134 The PRODiaAL Son. 

"He shows himself worthy, in that he 
\ confesses himself unworthy." With this 
deep feeling of unworthiness, he will con- 
fess that he has justly forfeited all which 
was once his, and that his course was a 
course of sin and shame. He will say : 
" I now see it, I feel it, I lament it. I 
abhor and condemn myself. With folly 
and wantonness I have done this evil 
against heaven and before thee, and I am 
no longer Avorthy to be called thy son ; 
make me as one of thy hired servants." 

*^ With deep repentance I '11 return 

And seek my father's face ; 

Unworthy to be calPd thy son, 

I'll ask a servant's place." 

He will now be satisfied with any place 
in his father's house. 

This is true confession, such as belongs 
to the essence of all true repentance. The 
words : '^ Make me as one of thy hired 
servants," we will consider further on. 

The Prodigal Son. 135 

How deeply humble does he now feel ! 
And thus must you, oh sinner ! humble 
yourself, if you would find favor with 
God. For there is nothing greater in the 
gifts of the Holy Spirit^ — nothing more 
precious in the treasures of God^ — nothing 
more lioly among all the noble graces of 
the Christian life, than true humility. 

To feel and to confess that you are not 
worthy to be called a son or daughter of 
God, — herein consists your worthiness. 
The Prodigal Son is willing to do a ser- 
vant's work, to live industrious and frugal/ 
if he only may obtain forgiveness. '' I 
had rather be a door-keeper in the house 
of my God, than to dwell in the tents of J 
wickedness." "^^ 

''Now I forbid my carnal hope, 
My fond desires recall ; 
I give my mortal interest up, 
And make my God my all.^' 

* Ps. 84 : 10. 

136 The Prodigal Son. 

This is the feeling of the sinner. When 
he recognizes his error, he would rather 
renounce everything, and be the lowest 
in his father's house — in the Church of 
Christ — than serve the devil any longer. 

4. How he carried out Ms Resolution. 

It is said : "^ He arose and came to his 
father." There is no tarrying now with 
him ; what he has determined to do, he 
does at once, without delay. He does 
not postpone it to another time. His 
misery and his danger both urge him on; 
his home-sickness was so great, that he 
arises immediately to go home. The 
language of his soul was now : 

^* How oft, alas ! this wretched heart 
Has wander'd from the Lord ! 
How oft my roving thoughts depart, 
Forgetful of His word. 

*' Yet sovereign mercy calls, 'Return:' 
Dear Lord, and may I come I 
My vile ingratitude I mourn ; 
Oh, take the wand'rer home ! 

The Prodigal Son. 137 

*' And canst Thou, wilt Thou yet forgive, 
And bid my crimes remove ? 
And shall a pardon'd rebel live 
To speak Thy wondrous love ? 

*' Almighty Grace, thy healing pow'r, 
How glorious, how divine I 
That can to life and bliss restore 
So vile a heart as mJne. 

'* Thy pard'ning love, so free, so sweet, 
Dear Savior, I adore ; 
Oh! keep me at Thy sacred feet. 
And let me rove no more." 

The resolution of repentance is often like 
the attempt to climb an iceberg. You 
place your foot forward only to find it slide 
back again. Ask yourself, how often you 
resolved to renounce some deeply rooted 
sin, lying, unfaithfulness, swearing, drink- 
ing, etc., and how miserably you failed in 
the attempt. It is only upon the shore 
of the new life, that we rightly experience 
how our strength was broken by the long 
service of sin. We then realize what St. 

138 The Prodigal Son. 

Paul means when he says : '' To will is 
present with me^ but how to perform that 
which is good^ I find not. For the good 
that I would^ I do not ; but the evil which 
I would not^ that I do." * Did the Prod- 
igal Son go to his lord^ to take his leave ? 
Then he must have tarried but a short 
time. And if you^, oh sinner ! would tear 
yourself away from your companions in 
sin^ you must avoid a long leave-taking. 
When our blessed Savior was upon earthy 
calling upon men to follow him, one said 
unto him : '' Lord^ I will follow thee ; but 
let me first go bid them farewell which 
are at home at my house. And Jesus 
said unto him, No man having put his 
hand to the plough, and looking back, is 
fit for the kingdom of God." f 

Many a poor sinner has been lost, be- 
cause he has postponed his repentance 
from time to time. Men have often right 

* Rom. 1 : 18, 19. f L^^e 9 : 61, 62. 

The Prodigal Son. 139 

views ; they are convicted^ and resolve to 
return home ; but^ alas ! there it ends^ 
until it is said : " The harvest is past, the 
summer is ended^ and we are not saved." * 
The Scriptures say : '' To-day if ye will 
hear his voice, harden not your hearts." 
" Behold^ now is the accepted time^ now 
is the day of salvation." 

5. He perseveres in Jits Return. 

He goes towards home step by step 
with firm determination. Although he 
had wandered far away, still nothing is 
able to detain him, until he arrives in his 
father's house. 

There is much that can prevent, and 
that does prevent, the penitent sinner 
from returning to God. How often do 
we see a morbid sensibility of shame, keep 
young people from Christ. They cannot 

* Jer. 8 : 20. 

140 The Prodigal Son. 

bear the broad laugh^ the sneer of con- 
tempt; the witty jest; nor endure the 
attack of the profane^ the raillery of the 
impious. They blush, and conceal their 
secret attachment to God and His Church, 
as soon as it is assailed. Oh ! my young 
friends, flee not when the enemy of your 
soul roars, much less surrender your sal- 
vation, when he only hisses at you in the 
skin of a fool. Be firm, and remember 
that God, the Church, truth, heaven, the 
Bible, conscience, salvation, saints, and 
angels, are all on your side, to strengthen 
and to support you at all times. 

Look at your Redeemer, as He stands 
in the hall of Pilate, when He was made 
the object of every scorn and indignity ; 
and will you shrink from a few sneers and 
scoffs for Him? Remember our Lord's 
most alarming language — " Whosoever 
shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, 
in this adulterous and sinful generation, 

The Frodigal Son. 141 

of him also shall the son of man be 
ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of 
his Father, and with the holy angels." 
But, if you are a Prodigal Son, permit 
nothing to keep you back. Remember, 
that only he who perseveres to the end, 
can be saved. 

If, nevertheless, Satan, the world, and 
your own flesh and blood, would entice 
you, and keep you back, give them no 
heed, but cry out : " Eternal life, eternal 
life," that is my desire, my hope, my com- 
fort, and my all. 

'* See where rebellious passions rage, 
And fierce desires and lasts engage ; 
The meanest foe of all that train, 
Has thousands and ten thousands slain. ^' 

Happy change ! The Prodigal now 
comes within the blessed reach of hope. 

We have yet to consider the most 
beautiful part of this parable. The Prod- 
igal Son is still on his way homeward, 
13 K 

142 The Prodigal Son. 


and we will now soon see the blessed fruit 
of true repentance and sincere reformation. 
He is now near to his father's house, but 
his mind is full of fear, his heart trembles, 
and there is an inward conflict between 
shame and sorrow, fear and hope. 

The Savior describes the father as look- 
ing towards the country, whither the son 
had wandered. Without doubt, he often 
thought of and longed after his disobedient 

6, The 7iaj)p7/ Meeting. 

The son thinks not of tarrying any 
longer. What he has determined to do, 
he does without delay, and he will soon 
prove how much larger are the riches of 
grace, which are laid up with his father, 
than he had dared to hope. For it is 
said : '^ But when he was yet a great way 
off, his father saw him, and had compas- 
sion, and ran and fell on his neck, and 
kissed him." 


(See page 142.) 

The Prodigal Son. 143 

'' Far off he saw him slowly move, 
In pensive silence mourn ; 
The father ran with arms of love, 
To welcome his return/^ 

This meeting contains many beautiful 

1. How often may not the father have 
gone out with a heavy and anxious heart 
to look for his son^ hoping to see him re- 
turn from the far country! How often 
may he not have wished and sighed ; Oh ! 
that my unfortunate son would hasten 
back again to my embrace ! At length 
his eyes behold him^ " when he was yet 
a great way off." He sees him in his rags 
and misery ; but he sees him return ; he 
recognizes him as his disobedient^ obsti- 
nate child;, ragged and emaciated; but also 
as his beloved, long-lost son. 

The evidences of the father s love are 
described with a touching minuteness. 
He had often longed for and looked for 

144 The PRODiaAL Son. 

the return of his son. It is God, the 
gracious Father, who puts into the heart 
of the sinner even the first weak motions 
towards good, and He also listens to the 
first faint sighings of his penitent heart ; 
and when he returns, He does not wait 
still he has come all the way, but 

2. He hastens forward to meet him. 

The father does not wear an aspect of 
severity, but one of loveliness, and at once 
welcomes him with a kiss. This kiss is 
not only an evidence of affection, but it 
was in the East also the pledge of recon- 
ciliation and peace."^ 

Neither did the father conceal himself, 
nor wait until the penitent heart of his 
child had made its confession, but full of 
love he hastens towards him to encourage 
him to hope and rejoice. 

How kind and condescending the father 
of the Prodigal Son ! — It is thus the Lord 

* Gen. 33 : 4. 

The Prodigal Son. 145 

hastens after erring sinners, and beseeches 
them to return to Him, that they may 
find life. " Come now, and let us reason 
together, saith the Lord ; though your sins 
be as scarlet, they shall be as white as 
snow ; though they be red like crimson, 
they shall be as wool."* 

Thus God draws nigh unto them that 
draw nigh unto Him. Therefore " draw 
nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to 
you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and 
purify your hearts, ye double-minded." f 

It was the father who put the first good 
thought into his mind, who also hears the 
first sigh of the sinner. " Lord, thou hast 
heard the desire of the humble ; thou wilt 
prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine 
ear to hear." % Yes, though they may be 
ever so far from Him. 

" But when he was yet a great way off." 
Though there may be much of ignorance 

* Isaiah 1 : 18. f James 4:8. % Ps. 10 : H. 

146 The Prodigal Son. 

in returning sinners stilly far too slight a 
view of the evil of sin^ or of the holiness 
of the God with whom they have to deal, 
He meets them, notwithstanding, with the 
evidences of His mercy and reconciled love. 

This shows that the sinner is not made 
to go through a dreary apprenticeship of 
months' duration by God, as is done by 
the sects, but He at once embraces him 
in the arms of His love, and gives him at 
the first moment strong consolations, per- 
haps stronger and more abundant than 
afterwards, when he is settled in his 
Christian course. And this is necessary 
to assure him that he is accepted in Christ 
Jesus, and to convince him of that which 
it is so hard for the sinner to believe, that 
God has put away his sin, and is at peace 
with him. This is the great work, which 
is only possible to faith. 

3. The father manifests a placable dis- 
position towards his son. 

The Prodigal Son. 147 

When the father saw him, he " ran and 
fell on his neck, and kissed him." He 
came towards him in the Prophets, who 
foretold the birth of the Savior ; he also 
came towards the heathen in the dark 
presentiments which they had of a future 
glorious age, in which righteousness and 
peace would kiss each other on e^irth. 
But he fell upon the neck of all mankind 
in Christ, and in the hour when we, with 
all our righteousness, wisdom, beauty, 
art, wealth, and honor, fall at his feet and 
seek his grace in Christ, then he falls upon 
our neck and kisses us. 

The father also makes the first move- 
ment towards reconciliation. He it is who 
gives the first good thought, in that He 
arouses the sinner by the influence of His 
Spirit, and leads him back to His father's 

The heart of God the Father is always 
full of love and mercy. This is His nature, 

148 The Prodigal Son. 

for He is the God of love ; and it is also^ 
at all times^ His greatest pleasure to mani- 
fest this love towards the poor sinner ; not 
only to wait until he comes^ but to hasten 
towards him^ to embrace and kiss him. 
The father does not reproach him with 
his sins ; he does not say to him^ as many 
fathers would. You have been a miser- 
able wretch, or a godless child, having 
squandered all that I gave you, wickedly, 
and now having come home in filthy rags, 
no shoes to your feet, and almost starved 
with hunger ! be gone out of my doors ; 
will 7, thinh you^ receive such a vile person 
as you have been ? No, not a word of 
upbraiding is heard, in regard to his lewd 
course of life. 

By this example of God, parents should 
learn to pass by great sins in their re- 
bellious children, when they return peni- 
tent and humble ; and not show an irre- 
concilable spirit towards a prodigal child, 
though it should have spent all in a wicked 

The Prodigal Son. 149 

course of life, or even on harlots; yet 
they should forgive, and be kind, and win 
them back, with bountiful love and good- 

This father of fathers does not even 
say, I forgive you, for he had already for- 
given him ; but the father, forgetting the 
past, receives him at once, and before he 
can make a confession, and it is only after 
he has been lovingly received that he 

4. His confession, which he had re- 
solved in his misery to make, and says : 
'- Father, I have sinned against Heaven, 
and in thy sight, and am no more worthy 
to be called thy son." This confession 
must be made, as a duty w^e ow^e to God. 
For, by sinning, we have robbed God and 
His law of their divine honor; by con- 
fession, w^e establish it again. 

*' Now at last I end the strife, 
To my God I give my life 

150 The Prodigal Son. 

Wholly, with a steadfast mind ; 
Sin, I will not hearken more ; 
World, I turn from thee, 'tis o'er; 

Not a look I'll cast behind. 

*'Hath my heart been wavering long? 
Have I dallied oft with wrong ? 

Now at last I firmly say : 
All my will to this I give, 
Only to my God to live, 

And to serve Him night and day. 

*'Lord, I offer at Thy feet 
All I have most dear and sweet ; 

Lo ! I keep no secret hoard ! 
Try my heart, and lurks there aught 
False within its inmost thought, 

Take it hence this moment, Lord ! 

'^I will shun no toil or woe, 
Where Thou leadest I will go. 

Be my pathway plain or rough; 
If but every hour may be 
Spent in work that pleases Thee, 

Ah, dear Lord, it is enough ! 

The Prodigal Son. 151 

*' One thing will I seek alone, 
Nought without me shall be known, 

Sought, or toil'd for, more by me ; 
Strange to earth and all her care, 
Well content with pilgrim's fare, 
Shall my life be hid in Thee. 

"Thee I make my choice alone. 
Make for ever. Lord, Thine own. 

All my powers of soul and mind ; 
Yes, I give myself away, 
Let the covenant stand for aye 

That my hand to-day hath signed." 

This is the proper course for a penitent 
sinner; for though God forgives, man 
must not, therefore, forget to be thankful. 
This confession was made after, and not 
before, the kiss of reconciliation ; for the 
more the sinner knows and tastes of the 
love of God, the more he grieves ever to 
have sinned against that love. It is under 
the genial rays of this paternal love, that 
the frozen heart begins to thaw and to 
melt, and the tears of repentance to flow. 

152 The Prodigal Son. 

The knowledge of God's love in Christ 
is the salt^ which alone can turn the bitter 
and barren-making streams of remorse 
into the healing waters of repentance. 

Hence we see, that true repentance fol- 
lowS; and does not precede divine forgive- 
ness ; and thus too will repentance be a 
thing of the whole life long, for every 
new insight into that forgiving love of 
God, is as a new reason why we should 
mourn that we ever sinned against it. 

How beautifully does this parable ex- 
hibit the difference between the Church 
of God, — the kingdom of Christ, — and 
the sect spirit ! This spirit teaches, that 
a^ soon as the sinner has obtained forgive- 
ness, he may lay aside the work of re- 
pentance, at least until he becomes un- 
converted again; and therefore it also 
often affirms, the longer men can be kept 
in suspense concerning their forgiveness. 

The Prodigal Son. 153 

the better, as in this way a deeper foun- 
dation of repentance will be laid. 

This is surely a wrong view of the re- 
lation in which true repentance and for- 
giveness stand to each other ; their true 
relation is rather revealed to us in such 
passages as Ezek. 36 : 31, when the Lord 
says : " Then shall ye remember your 
own evil ways, and your doings that were 
not good, and shall loathe yourselves in 
your own sight for your iniquities and 
your abominations ;" and w^hat the Lord 
means by these words, He gives us to un- 
derstand, ver. 24-30 : Then after I have 
cleansed you, — after I have given you a 
new heart, and all my richest blessings, 
then ^^ shall ye remember your own evil 
ways, and your doings that were not good, 
and shall loathe yourselves in your own 
sight for your iniquities and your abomi- 
nations." Compare also Ezek. 16 : 60- 
63, where the Lord declares : " Neverthe- 

154 The Prodigal Son. 

less^ I will remember my covenant with 
thee in the days of thy youth^ and I will 
establish unto thee an everlasting cove- 
nant. Then thou shalt remember thy 
ways, and be ashamed/' &c. 

Although the younger son has the evi- 
dence that his father is pacified towards 
him, he, nevertheless, confesses his sins. 
He does not, indeed, say all that he had 
once intended,— he does not say : '' Make 
me as one of thy hired servants;" for 
this, undoubtedly, was the heaviest burilen 
of his repentance. Yet, why should he 
now ask to be made a hired servant, since 
his father was willing to receive him as a 
son? Why should the son, who only 
prayed for a little, refuse to receive much, 
if the father was willing to bless him so 
abundantly? This is an evidence that 
the grace which he has already received, 
he has not received in vain. '^ For godly 
sorrow worketh repentance to salvation 

The Prodigal Son. 165 

not to be repented of; but the sorrow of 
the world worketh death." 

7. The Hearty Reception. 

We have seen the Prodigal Son in the 
arms of his father^ but now he is led 
into the house by his father's hand, and 
here the numerous treasures laid up for 
him by the father are shown to him. But 
it is to be well observed, that he did not 
receive these treasures outside of^ but 
vnthin the house. 

Augustine says : " That under God the 
Father, we are children in the mother, 
the Catholic Church, and fellow-citizens 
in the heavenly Jerusalem." 

It would be no more reasonable to pre- 
sume that any one independent or out- 
side of the Church, could be a good and 
holy man, than to suppose that the Mis- 
sissippi might roll on its flood of waters 
to the ocean, though all its tributary 
14^^ L 

166 The Prodigal Son. 

streams were cut ofF^ and it were re- 
plenished only by occasional drops from 
the clouds. 

The house here signifies the Church of 
Godj '''^ which is the body of Christy the 
fulness of him that filleth all in all/' 
where the polluted soul is cleansed through 
the believing use of the means of grace. 

" God in His earthly temple lays 
Foundation for His heav'nly praise ; 
He likes the tents of Jacob well, 
But still in Zion loves to dwell. 

''His mercy visits ev'ry house, 
That pays its night and morning vows, 
But makes a more delightful stay, 
Where churches meet to praise and pray." 

Here it is that believers hold the sweet- 
est fellowship with heaven, and that the 
delightful communion of saints is most 
fully realized. 

In the house took place 

1. The change of clothing. 

The Prodigal Son. 157 

His soiled and torn garments are ex- 
changed for those of the family, and 
hereby the father declares that he intends 
again to give him a name and a place in 
his house ; for he " said unto his servants, 
Bring forth the best robe, and put it on 
him, and put a ring on his hand, and 
shoes on his feet." 

These are all ornaments, not of the 
slave, but of the free ; all, therefore, 
declaring his restoration to his former 
dignity, and his lost privileges. 

The best robe is brought ; the best that 
was in the house, or the robe which he 

formerlv wore when he walked a son in 


his father's house, and which had been 
kept for him, and was now to be restored. 
That is, the righteousness of Christ 
is now again imputed to him, and the 
sanctity of his soul is restored, by being 
introduced again into his baptismal privi- 
leges, so that he can pray. 

158 The Prodigal Son. 

** The Savior's blood and righteousness 
My beauty is, my glorious dress ; 
Thus well array'd, I need not fear, 
When in His presence I appear. '^ 

But who are meant by the servants ? 
They are the ministers of the gospel^ and 
the officers of the Churchy especially the 
ministers, who are appointed of God to 
administer the means of grace in "^Hhe 
house" — His Church. Occupying this 
position in His Churchy it is impossible for 
ministers to perform their sacred duties^ 
unless they have hearts deeply imbued 
with the love of Christ. 

The office of the ministry is of such a 
character^ that it requires great self-denial, 
zealj faithj, and love. 

In regard to elders, none ought to be 
elected to this office who are not cordially 
devoted to the service of God. It is a 
grievous offi3nce to God, and an injury to 
the Church, when this office is entrusted 

The Prodigal !Son. 159 

to men who are characterized by levity ; 
especially when the object of so doing is 
to secure some earthly interest. 

Deacons also should be exemplary in 
faith and in practice, that the congrega- 
tion may be edified by their example. 
On this account light-minded men ought 
not to seek^ nor be appointed to this 

That deep devotion and earnest piety 
should characterize such as occupy sacred 
offices in the Chnrch, is most necessary 
and reasonable. None other certainly 
can stand properly as God's functionaries 
— organs of the divine — the representa- 
tives of the Spirit of Christ and of his 

Such undoubtedly were those servants 
who brought the best robe, and such 
ought all Church officers to be, particu- 
larly miyiisters. 

160 The Prodigal Son. 

^'Ye servants of the Lord, 
Each in his oJB&ce wait, 
Observant of His heav'nly word, 
And watchful at His gate.'' 

But let no one think that a minister is 
a servant of men^ and that he must preach 
simply to please men having " itching 
ears." No ! he is a servant of the Most 
High God;, who^ if true to his callings will 
hear said to him : " Well done^ thou good 
and faithful servant; thou hast been 
faithful over a few things^ I will make 
thee ruler over many things." ^ 

We can easily imagine that the ser- 
vants first removed the tattered garments, 
the poor swine-herd's rags, which were 
hanging about him. This is confirmed 
by a similar course of procedure^ where 
it is said : " Take away the filthy gar- 
ments from him. And unto him he said, 
Behold I have caused thine iniquity to 

* Matth. 25 : 21. 

The Prodigal Son. 161 

pass from tliee^ and I will clothe thee 
with change of raiment. " '"^ 

This bringing out of the best robe, and 
putting it upon him, especially signifies 
that act of God^ which is a release from 
condemnation, and also an imputation of 
the merits and righteousness of Christ. 

In this sense the prophet says : " To 
appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, 
to give unto them beauty for ashes, the 
oil of joy for mourning, the garment of 
praise for the spirit of heaviness." f 

2. A ring is put on his hand. 

The ring was used among the ancients 
as a badge of honor, as none but noble 
persons were permitted to wear it. " If 
there come into your assemblies a man 
wdth a gold ring, you say to him, Sit thou 
in a good place," &c. 

Among the Romans it was a token of 
freedom, for neither bondmen nor stran- 

* Zech. 3:4. f Isaiah 61 : 3. 

162 The Prodigal Son. 

gers were allowed to wear it^ but only 
such as were free-born^ or purchased their 
liberty; and this may have been the case 
among the Egyptians^ for Joseph was a 
prisoner when Pharaoh sent for him ; and 
this giving of the ring to him may not 
only signify that he was the most honor- 
able person in the kingdom^ even next to 
the king himself, but also be a pledge of 
his liberty and citizenship, as a freeman 
in the land. 

This ring is the sign of the gift of the 
Holy Spirit, with which the Prodigal Son 
was adorned. The ring was often also a 
seal, to assure the possessor that the Spirit 
of God sealed to him a much larger in- 
heritance in the future, which, like the 
laws of the Medes and Persians, was not 
to be altered. For *^Hhe Spirit beareth 
witness with our spirits, that we are the 
children of God." 

The ring, too, is often the pledge of 

The Prodigal Son. 163 

betrothal. ^^And I will betroth thee unto 
me forever : yea, I will betroth thee unto 
me in righteousness^ and in judgment, and 
in loving-kindness, and in mercies, and I 
will even betroth thee unto me in faith- 
fulness ; and thou shalt know the Lord."* 
This ring was put upon the Prodigal as 
an emblem of his soul's espousals with 

A ring is also an emblem of eternity, — 
it has no end ; so all spiritual privileges 
and freedom are eternal. 

3. Shoes are also put on his feet, which 
was not the case with servants and slaves, 
and which shows that he was received as 
a son, and not as a hired servant. 

Shoes were also an ornament to the 
feet, and denote a willingness and a fit- 
ness to travel through any difficult, stony, 
or thorny paths, where such as are bare- 
footed dare not venture ; thus the resolu- 

*Hosea 2; 19, 20. 


164 The Prodigal Son. 

tion of the will^ and spirituality of the 
affections^ helps a Christian to venture 
through all difficulties in God's ways. A 
man that wants courage, zeal, and reso- 
lution, is afraid to venture through the 
thorns and briers of the flesh, temptation 
of Satan, the cares of the world, and the 
deceitfulness of riches. 

Shoes, too, may represent a mortified 
disposition to the world ; for as shoes keep 
the feet at a distance from the earth, so 
the believer tramples upon all sinful 
pleasures, riches, and honors of this evil 
world ; and as shoes strengthen the feet, 
so hereby the feet of the soul are strength- 

The Prodigal will now have a different 
walking. He is now going in a heavenly 
and spiritual course of life ; before, he was 
carnally-minded, but now he is spiritually- 
minded; before, he was bent on things 
below, but now are his '' affections set on 

The Prodigal Son. 

things above ;" before^ his feet probably 
carried him to the " tents of wickedness/' 
but now into the courts of God's house. 

These shoes keep the feet of our soul 
in an upright course of life before God^ 
because of the difficulty of the way in 
which we are to walk, and prevent us 
from either falling or sliding, and of being 
wounded in our souls. Many who lack 
these shoes have been wounded to death, 
through the deceitfulness of sin. 

The penitent shall be equipped for holy 
obedience; therefore, Paul says, -^And 
your feet shod with the preparation of the 
gospel of peace." ^ 

Not the least strength shall be wanting 
to him. Everything necessary is given ; 
and after this has taken place, then comes 
the time for rejoicing. 

*Eph. 6 : 15. 

166 The Prodigal Son. 

8. The Feast of Joy. 

The Prodigal Son returns fatigued and 
exhausted by the journey from the far 
country^ whither he had wandered, and 
emaciated for want of proper food. Hence 
his father says to the servants : " Bring 
hither the fatted calf^ and kill it ; and let 
us eat, and be merry." That is to say : 
Set before him the choicest provision of 
my house ; he shall eat the fat, the most 
delicious food ; the very best that I have 
shall not be withheld from him ; he shall 
eat that which is " meat indeed, and drink 
that which is drink indeed." 

1. We remark, that the joys of the 
gospel are often compared to a feast. 
'' The kingdom of heaven is like unto a 
certain king, which made a marriage for 
his son," '•' &c. 

* Matth. 22 : 2-14. 

The Trodigal Son. 167 

This is a great feast, and also richly 
provided with spiritual nourishment. Al- 
though the feast in this parable may have 
reference to the Lord's Supper, to which 
the Prodigal Son now comes, yet the chief 
reference is, without doubt, to the festal 
joy and rejoicing which is in heaven at 
the sinner's return, and no less in the 
Church on earth, and in his own heart 
also. " I say unto you, that likewise joy 
shall be in heaven over one sinner that 
repenteth, more than over ninety and 
nine just persons wdiicli need no repent- 
ance." And " there is joy in the presence 
of the angels of God over one sinner that 
repent<3th." '^' 

*' Thro' all the courts the tidings flew, 
And spread the joy around — 
The angels tuned their harps anew, 
The Prodigal is found ! " 

2. The guests are numerous. — The 

* Luke 15 : 7, 10. 

168 The Prodigal Son. 

father calls his servants together^ to par- 
ticipate in his joy. The news of the re- 
turn of the Prodigal Son spreads rapidly. 

In the preceding parables^ the shepherd 
summons his friends^ after he had again 
found his sheep which had wandered into 
the wilderness^ and said unto them: "Re- 
joice with me; for I have found my sheep 
which was lost." ^ 

And the woman called her friends and 
neighbors^ after she had found the piece 
of silver, and said unto them: "Rejoice 
with me; for I have found the piece which 
I had lost." t 

So in this parable, the father summons 
hi^ servants to rejoice with him in his joy. 

It is the nature of joy, that it desires 
to impart itself to others. And if this be 
true of earthly joy, how much more of 
the yet holier joy of heaven! 

* Luke 15 : 6. f Luke 15 : 9. 

The Prodigal Son. 169 

After the fixther had called the guests 
together^ he declares to them 

3. The ground of tlds joy, in which 
they were invited to share. In an earthly 
household, as also in the Church, we might 
naturally conclude some to have made 
part of the household now, w^ho had not 
made part at the time of the Prodigal 
Son's departure. It was, therefore, neces- 
sary to declare to them that this wan- 
derer, this beggar, was no other than a 
son of the house, whom they should hence- 
forth regard as such. 

The father solemnly reinstated him, 
before them all, in all the honors of the 
family. That is, he is again received as 
a member of the Church of Christ, from 
w^hich he had separated himself by his 

''- This, my son," he says — and, com- 
paring the present with the past — 'Svas 
dead, and is alive again." " Dead ! " for 

170 The Prodigal Son. 

the state of sin is ever considered in Scrip- 
ture as a state of death. " We know that 
we have passed from death unto life^ be- 
cause we love the brethren. He that 
loveth not his brother abideth in death." '^'' 

This spiritual death consists in a sinful 
separation from God^ which soon extin- 
guishes the light of the soul ; like a candle 
that is blown out^ the candle remains^, but 
the light is gone ; or^ like a tree that is 
deadj the body and arms remain, but the 
life is gone, its leaves are fallen off, its 
branches withered and dead. Even thus 
it is with all sinners, — they are without 
the principle of divine life in their souls — 
they are dead, 

A dead man's beauty is gone, and his 
countenance is changed ; so the spiritual 
beauty of a sinner is gone, by reason of 
sin. Virtue puts beauty and glory on the 

* 1 John 3 : 14. 

The Prodigal Son. 171 

soulj but sin mars this beautiful image of 

Dead men also are cold as ice; even so 
sinners without a principle of true spirit- 
ual life are cold to spiritual and heavenly 
things 5 they are without motion ; they 
breathe not. So unregenerated persons 
pray not. This is the soul's moving — 
its spiritual breath — its arm to move the 

Dead men^ too^, speak not; they cannot 
praise and magnify God. Even so, men 
dead in trespass and sin cannot bring God 
honor, nor sing to His praise — 

''Lord, how delightful 'tis to see 
A whole assembly worship Thee ; 
At once they sing, at once they pray; 
They hear of heaven, and learn the way." 

While dead, they neither hear, feel, see, 

taste, nor smell ; they have lost all the 

spiritual senses of the soul ; though guilt, 

like a mountain, lies upon them, they feel 


172 The Prodigal Son. 

it not; they are also loathsome in the 
sight of God^ and all gracious persons; 
and all their brave ornaments and odors 
are but the perfuming of a dead corpse. 
Moreover^ a dead man is not fit to remain 
above ground^ but to be buried ; so 
wicked men will eventually be buried in 
the gulf of despair. 

The father says further : '^ He was lost^ 
and is found." The Apostle Peter says : 
" Ye were as sheep going astray^ but are 
now returned unto the shepherd and 
bishop of your souls." ^ 

To be lost is to have strayed away 
from God our Creator^ and from Christ 
our Redeemer; while thus lost we are 
undone. We say of a man that falls into 
the sea^ who is left without help^ or of a 
man condemned to die, without hope of 
pardon, he is a lost and dead man. 

In the first place, we have all lost God, 

* 1 Pet. 2 : 25. 

The Prodigal Son. 173 

and Paradise^ with all that Ave possessed 
in our creation ; secondly, we have lost, 
as prodigals, all the blessings and ad- 
vantages that we had under the Jewish 
dispensation; thirdly, we have lost, as 
prodigals, all the greater and higher 
privileges and blessings of the Christian 

While thus the lost was found, and the 
dead alive, " they began to be merry." 
The father rejoiced; the Prodigal Son 
rejoiced; the servants rejoiced; angels 
in heaven rejoiced ; they all rejoiced to- 
gether, because the lost was found, and 
the dead alive. 

Now the Prodigal can sing: 

" Now I have found the ground wherein 
Sure my soul's anchor may remain ; 
Ev'n Christ, who to atone for sin 
Was as a spotless victim slain ; 
Whose mercy shall unshaken stay, 
When heaven and earth shall flee away. 

174 The Prodigal Son. 

/' Lord, Thy everlasting grace 

Our scanty thought surpasseth far; 
Thy bosom yearns with tenderness, 
Thy arms of love still open are ; 
Thy heart o'er sinners can't but break, 
Whether Thy grace they slight or take. 

'^ Fixed on this ground will I remain, 
Tho' my heart fail and flesh decay ; 
This anchor shall my soul sustain 

When earth's foundations melt away : 
Mercy's full power I then shall prove, 
Lov'd with an everlasting love." 

While the Prodigal is thus absorbed in 
his joyful song^ it breaks forth in the 
spirit world : 

** Hark 1 what mean those heav'nly voices, 
Sweetly sounding through the skies : 
Lo ! th' angelic host rejoices, 
Heav'nly hallelujahs rise. 

*' Listen to the wondrous story 

Which they chant in hymns of joy; 
Glory in the highest, glory ! 
Glory be to God most high ! 

The Prodigal Son. 175 

*' Peace on earth, good will from heaven, 
Reaching far as man is found ; 
Souls redeemed and sins forgiven, 
Loud our golden harps shall sound." 

Not only does the Prodigal and angels 
rejoice, but also all Christendom : 

Saints of God on earth abiding, 
Teachers, Parents, here below, 

Who shall hear the joyful tiding, 
Feel of joy the warmest glow.* 

All at last for joy shout : 

Therefore let us all united, 
Love the Lord our Savior God I 
Steadfast in our faith abiding. 
Though the earth shall be subsiding, 
Eternal shall our faith the same, 
For ever true to Him remain ; 
Let's love the Lord, forever more 
He ^1 lead us to the heavenly shore.* 

It was not strange, that the song of 

* Translated from the German. 

176 The PRODiaAL Son. 

joy was heard afar off. If the finding 
of a lost piece of money^ and the recovery 
of a lost sheepj caused great joy^ how 
much greater must be caused by the 
restoration of an immortal soul ! What 
joy should not the restoration of a lost 
sinner on earth awaken^ when even the 
angels of God rejoice over it ! 

4. Here^ however, a question arises, 
which claims an answer. Everywhere in 
the gospel, Christ is represented as the 
only ground of our salvation, and of our 
happiness. There is salvation in no other 
than Christ ; there is none other name 
given among men, whereby we must be 
saved. The condition of such salvation 
is also faith in Christ, and in His holy 
merits; and no one can come to the Father 
but through Him. 

But how does it now happen, that 
nothing at all is said in this parable about 
Christ and His salvation ? No mention 
at all is made of a mediator and inter- 

The Prodigal Son. 177 

cesser^ of a Savior and Reconciler. Whom 
does the Lord describe in the parable 
under the image of a loving father^ as 
previously under the image of a shepherd ? 
No other than Himself. It was not neces- 
sary to mention a Mediator and Savior^ 
for it is the Mediator Himself, who de- 
scribes Himself according to His pardon- 
ing love ; who here in a striking parable 
confirms what the scribes and Pharisees 
held as an objection to Him, namely, that 
He received sinners. 

Sinner ! may not this make you will- 
ing to return home, with the Prodigal? 
Is not the entertainment promised to you 
in the kingdom of God, inviting to you? 
Do you not yet believe that there is that 
to be found in God and Christ Jesus, 
which you never find anywhere else ? Do 
you not yet wish to be united again to 
Christ, and have the door, on the way to 
eternal happiness, opened to your never- 
dying soul? If all this representation 

178 The Prodigal Son. 

has no effect upon you^ we ask you not 
to speak evil of those that have willingly 
denied themselves^ and forsaken all to 
follow Jesus ; nor of those things which 
you know not, and understand not ; for 
remember that ^Hhe natural man re- 
ceive th not the things of the spirit^ nei- 
ther can he know them." Happy^ thrice 
happy^ eternally happy^ are those that 
can say : '^ Truly our fellowship is with 
the Father^ and with his Son Jesus 

Here this parable^ like the two pre- 
ceding, might have ended. But the Lord 
speaks in the eleventh verse of two sons, 
and He has promised something more. A 
new beauty is derived from the contrast 
which is brought out between the large 
heart of God and the narrow grudging 
heart of man, on which account we will 
now proceed to consider the elder son 
and his conduct. 

The Prodigal Son. 179 


1. His return from the Field. 

" Now his elder son was in the field ; 
and as he came and drew nigh to the 
house, he heard music and dancing." 
While the house is ringing with festal 
rejoicing, he returns from the field, where, 
no doubt, he had been, as usual, engaged 
in labor. At least so much is implied in 
the words, and this intimation is not given 
us without good reason For while the 
other son had been wasting time, and 
means, and strength, and his whole in- 
heritance, in idleness and sinful pleasures 
abroad, he had been engaged at home, on 

180 The Prodigal Son. 

his father's ground^ in pursuit of useful 

This^ however^ is no justification^ but 
an explanation of the complaint which he 
thinks himself warranted to make. 

This isj without doubt, a picture of the 
Jev/s in general, who hated the heathen 
in their hearts; but more especially of 
the envy of the Pharisees, because He re- 
ceived publicans and sinners, " and even 
ate with them." 

As he ^^drew nigh to the house, he 
heard singing and dancing." — Here we 
observe that, according to the customs of 
the East, the guests were mere listeners 
and spectators — the singers and the 
dancers being hired for the occasion, as 
was the case also at funerals. " They 
shall call the husbandman to mourning, 
and such as are skilful of lamentation to 
wailing." * He was surprised at these 

* Amos 5 : 16. 

The Prodigal Son. 181 

unexpected and unaccustomed sounds in 
the house. This ah^eady, that such a 
thing should take place in the house with- 
out his knowledge^ offends him, and, with 
an astonishment that betrays dislike, ^4ie 
called one of the servants, and asked what 
these things meant." 

What subtle self-righteousness is indi- 
cated in his mode of procedure ! He does 
not go in ; he does not believe that when 
his father makes a feast, he has reason to 
be merry. And although he had already 
determined to disapprove what was going 
forward, he still remains without; and, 
instead of himself asking his father, he 
calls one of the servants, to learn from 
him the cause of the joy, or, as he says, 
^Svhat these things meant," — and de- 
mands an explanation, as if they required 
it. ^^And he said unto him. Thy brother 
is come ; and thy father hath killed the 
fatted calf, because he hath received him 

182 The Prodigal Son. 

safe and sound." The servant confines 
himself to the external features of the 
case ; he only reports that he came back 
safe and sound^ and that his father had 
killed the fatted calf. Instead of being 
joyful and glad in his hearty he is dis- 
pleased ; instead of embracing his brother^ 
and greeting him with a fraternal kiss, 
he '' would not go in." 

The joy of the father, however, is deep, 
that he has now again recovered his son ; 
him, who was once dead, but who is now 
alive ; him, who was once lost to him and 
to God, now again found by both at the 
same time. And the tidings that his 
father had received his brother safe and 
sound, that he had fortunately returned, 
and that his father rejoiced on this ac- 
count, moved him to displeasure instead 
of joy. " He was angry, and would not 
go in." 

What aroused his displeasure ? Had 

The Prodigal Son. 183 

injustice been done him? Had he been 
offended or wronged ? Did the return of 
his brother, or the reception that he met 
with from the father, inflict shame or in- 
jury upon him? Nothing of the kind. 
Perhaps he thought he ought to have first 
consulted him, and have permitted him to 
prescribe his conduct towards the Prodigal 

But perhaps the father erred. He man- 
ifested mildness and caution, when he 
should have been strict and severe. He 
forgave, where he ought to have punished. 
He received the son with forgiving love, 
whom he ought to have rejected with 
displeasure, especially as he himself de- 
clared that he was not worthy to be called 
his son. But what is all this, but to say, 
that God has no right to save sinners in 
this way. Or that He must learn from us 
the method according to which He should 
receive sinners. 

184 The Prodigal Son. 

2. He acts wickedly and without Feeliiig. 

He should have rejoiced over his brother^ 
over his younger brother; instead of which 
he would neither acknowledge nor receive 
him^ neither show mercy nor forgiveness. 
" His father came out, and entreated him." 
For the sake of the elder son the father 
left the festive board for a moment. 
Nevertheless, he w^ould not lay aside his 
displeasure, but began loudly to complain 
of unfair treatment and of the bounty 
which was bestowed upon his brother's 
misconduct, and invidiously compares the 
father's conduct with his brother's ex- 
travagance. '' But as soon as this thy 
son was come, which hath devoured thy 
living with harlots," &c. He tears off the 
veil that had been cast over his sinful 
life. He says not, my brother, but thy 
son — thy wicked gon, — for Mm you have 
killed the fatted calf! 

The hearts of some people greatly de- 


(See page 1S4.) 

The Prodigal Son. 185 

light, if tliey can find an opportunity to 
lay bare the faults of others. Not so 
^vith the Prodigal's father; he would have 
willingly passed over all his crimes, with- 
out so much as referring to them, but the 
vain-glorious, self-righteous brother must 
lift the veil that had been cast over his 
sinful life. Thus you will ever find the 
self-righteous among the people of God, 
constantly watching for opportunities to 
expose the erring, instead of hiding, as 
they should do, their sins, and assisting 
them in their recovery. And says one : 
" It is an easy thing to find fault, and to 
open the wounds of the Church to the 
gaze of the world. There are those who 
find it much easier to whisper the defects 
of the Church to the wicked, than to 
cover them by the mantle of charity. 
There are those who find it more pleasant 
to publish the weaknesses of the Church 
17 N 

186 The Prodigal Son. 

upon the house-tops^, than to weep over 
them in silence and in secret." 

" There are persons found standing in 
the Church as members^ who resemble 
those birds which soar and wdng their way 
over all the beauties of a landscape^ ad- 
miring no lovely tree^ no fragrant flower^ 
no graceful stream, no golden field, but 
eagerly light at last to gloat upon a horrid 
carcass ! So there are men who pass over 
a thousand things in the Church which 
they might praise to others, to feed their 
morbid spirits on some weakness and 
blemish. Like the dragon-fly, they love 
sores, and on them will thev feed !" The 
Psalmist says : '' I will keep my mouth 
with a bridle, while the wicked is before 

'' Give me the heart that fain woukl bide — 

Would fain another's fault efface ; 
How can it pleasure human pride 

To prove humanity but base? 

* Harbaugh's Golden Censer, p. 358. 

The Prodigal Son. 187 

No : let us reach a higher mood, 

A nobler estimate of man ; 
Be earnest in the search of good, 

And speak of all the best we can." 

"Thou never gavest me a kid." By 
this he would say. To me, who have served 
you so faithfully, you have never even 
given a kid, that I might rejoice. But 
thy son, who has squandered thy goods 
sinfully and shamefully, and who has re- 
turned after many years of disobedience, 
he is at once restored to his former position 
in the house, to him shall be given the 
best also that yet remains in the house ! 

He no longer recognizes him as his 
brother, but speaks of him as of a stranger. 
For him you have not only killed a kid, 
but the choicest calf in the stall. What 
would he have said, if he had known all, 
and seen him arrayed in the best robe, 
and with all his other ornaments ? 

If we ask what is meant by the father s 

188 The Prodigal Son. 

bidding him^ or to whom is the father's 
request addressed ? the answer is^ To the 
sinner ; and since we all are sinners^ to us 
all without a single exception. Yes^ it is 
addressed to you, ye proud and self-right- 
eous ones, who in unbelief find fiiult with 
the arrangements of your God, who des- 
pise His grace, and refuse to submit in 
humility to His divine counsels for your 
happiness, who are not willing to accept 
the terms which His wisdom and love 
have devised for the salvation of lost sin- 
ners. There where the voice of joy re- 
sounds over the recovered son, the father 
beseeches you, in infinite love, be recon- 
ciled with God ! 

It is addressed to you, ye deluded souls, 
who through pride and vanity, through 
avarice and covetousness, through enmity 
and hatred, through excess of sensuality 
and lust, through shame and disgrace, 
frivolously dissolved your union with 

The Prodigal Son. 189 

God^ and find your heaven in the vile 
service of the world and of sin. The 
father beseeches you most earnestly. Re- 
turn, ye apostate children, I will heal 
your backsliding. 

It is addressed to you, w^hen your con- 
science warns you against sin, when it 
convicts of sin and punishes you, because 
you have been guilty of wrong-doing; is 
this anything other than a request of your 
heavenly father ? When the ambassadors 
in Christ's stead preach the words of 
eternal life, which His only begotten Son 
once proclaimed, then His love addresses 
you, to win you from death to life. 

He calls you, when you stand comfort- 
less at the graves of your beloved ones. 
As you look down into its gloom, which 
wdll soon hide from you all that you prize 
on earth, must you not confess, as your 
eyes overflow with tears, and your tongue 

190 The Prodigal Son. 

gives utterance to sad complaints^ or is 
silenced by pain^ that your God is speak- 
ing to you, that your father is speaking 
to your ^YOunded heart? Yes, He beseeches 
us when He gives, when He takes, when 
He blesses, and when He afflicts. 

He beseeches also when He sends sick- 
ness into your family, or when He visits 
you, and lays you on a sick bed, through 
a divine chastisement. 

He calls you at this moment by this 
voice of His word; He calls us all, large 
and small, rich and poor, high and low, 
old and young. He calls us most earnestly 
and affectionatelj^, and perhaps, at this 
moment, for the last time. 

^' Who knows how near my end may be ? 

Time speeds away, and Death comes on ; 
How swiftly, ah ! how suddenly 

May Death be here, and life be gone ! 
My God, for Jesus' sake, I pray 
Thy peace may bless my dying day. 

The Prodigal Son. 191 

'' The world that smiled when morn was come, 
May change for me ere close of eve ; 
So long as earth is still my home, 

In peril of my death I live ; 
My God, for Jesus' sake, I pray 
Thy peace may bless my dying day." 

3. The Father does not permit his Joy to he 

It is too joyful an occasion for the 
father to be disturbed by the complaints 
and temper of the elder son. There shall 
not be, if he can help it;, a cloud upon 
any brow, and instead of answering him 
with severity, he expostulates with him, 
and seeks to convince him of the un- 
reasonableness of his complaint. 

*' Speak kindly to the erring ! 

Thou yet may lead them back, 
With holy w^ords and tones of love, 
From misery's thorny track ; 

192 The Prodigal Son. 

<< Forget not thou hast often sinned, 
And sinful yet must be — 
Deal gently with the erring one, 
As God hath dealt with thee.'' 

Nor does the father fail to warn him 
that he is now falling into the very sin 
of his brother, when he said : " Give me 
the portion of goods that falleth to me." 

The elder soon feels as though he did 
not truly possess what he possessed with 
his father, but that he must separate, and 
divide it from his father s stock, before he 
could truly call it his own. Accordingl}^ 
he truly had just as little love for the 
father, as the younger son had when he 
left his fathers house. The father's 
answer is a warning against this evil, 
which lay at the root of the elder bro- 
ther's conduct, namely, an unloving and 
imthanhfid spirit^ which manifested itself 
only more plainly in the younger brother, 
and most plainly in the wicked husband- 

The Prodigal Son. 193 

men^ who said : " This is the heir ; let 
us kill hiin^ that the inheritance may be 

The entire speech of the elder brother 
is a reproach against the father. — '- You 
show greater favor towards your favorite, 
whom you have spoiled and pampered^ 
than towards me," The father answers 
mildly : " Son, thou art ever with me^ 
and all that I have is thine." He makes 
him see his unloving spirit out of which 
his discontent proceeded. " Thou didst 
never separate thyself from me. and didst 
continually participate in the joy of my 
house ; grudge not thy brother a joy, of 
which he has been so long a time de- 

He says not, this my son, as the bro- 
ther's ungraciousness would have it, but : 
'^ Thou shouldest make merry and be glad, 
for tliis till/ hrother was dead, and is alive 
again ; was lost, and is found." 

i94 The Prodigal Son. 

This thy brother^ thy kindred, to whom 
thou owest love and kindness. Thou 
shouldest;, therefore, rejoice to have thy 
brother again. He was also dead to thee; 
also was lost to thee ; he is also alive 
again for thee ; has also been found again 
for thee ; yea, for me and for thee. Truly 
a powerful exhortation to brotherly love, 
which we owe to each other, as men, and 
especially as Christians. 

What influence the father's words had 
upon the elder son, we are not told. 

4. The Elder Son and his Self-righteous- 


1. The elder son represents one who 
has been restrained from flagrant sins and 
vices by the law; who has been occupied, 
though in a slavish spirit, in the works 
of the law. No doubt, reference is had 
here to many of the Pharisees ; many of 
them were hypocrites; but also many 

The Prodigal Son. 195 

were earnest. Nevertheless^ in much 
blindness of heart they followed after a 
righteousness which was in fact nothing 
else than pure self-righteousness. This 
righteousness was superficial in its char- 
acter^ for they only endeavored to fulfil 
the letter of the law, and did not attain 
to any such deep knowledge of the cor- 
ruption of their own hearts, as would 
render them mild and merciful to others, 
and humble them before God. 

Such murmurers may be here meant ; 
persons not utterly to be rejected, nor the 
good in them to be utterly denied, but 
who need rather to be shown the faulti- 
ness, imperfection, narrowness, and love- 
lessness of their religion. They are to be 
invited to renounce their servile spiritual 
service, and to enter into the glorious free- 
dom of the children of God, which Christ 
has secured for us. 

In this sense w^e must understand the 

198 The Prodigal Son. 

that what was given to his brother was 
taken from him ; but in the free kingdom 
of love^ of the grace of God^ one has not 
less because the other has more^ but all 
is possessed by each. Thus, for example, 
each says, My Church, and rightly ; and 
yet each one does not possess it for him- 
self alone, nor can he separate a part of 
it for his own special use ; but it belongs 
equally to the whole congregation. The 
way to God's worship is free and open to 
all; all can hear, sing, pray, and be 
blessed, and, therefore, no member has 
less because another has more. Thus it 
is also in the kingdom of the love and 
grace of God. The fountain of divine 
grace is not a little scanty spring, but an 
inexhaustible stream, on whose banks all 
may stand and draw, and none need suffer 
thirst because others drink. 

To each of His true servants and chil- 
dren the Lord says, as the father did to 

The Prodigal Son. 199 

his elder son : " All that I have is thine." 
If any then is in want, and thinl^s that 
he has not enough, he is in want, as is 
the elder son here, not in God, but in his 
own narrow, grudging heart. 

What effect the father's words produced 
upon the elder son, is not related, because 
it was also yet uncertain whether the 
scribes and the Pharisees might not also 
be w^on to repentance, which was as much 
needed by them as by the publicans and 

The Lord also does not say that he refused 
to the last to come in, or that he was 
finally excluded ; but He only gives us a 
hint, that as yet the kingdom of God was 
not closed against the Pharisees ; and that 
they too, as well as the sinners, were invited 
to abandon their low, poor, and formal 
righteousness, and to enter into the glori- 
ous liberty of the kingdom of Christ. 
" Even so we, when we were children, 

200 The Prodigal Son. 

were in bondage under the elements of 
the world; but when the fulness of the 
time was come^, God sent forth his son^ 
made of a woman^ made under the law, 
to redeem them that were under the law^ 
that we might receive the adoption of 
sons." ^ Therefore they were invited to 
be present at that spiritual festival, where 
the shadows of the old covenant were 
changed into the realities of the new 
covenant in Christ. 

It is true^ but few of the Jews believed 
on Christ/ and dreadful was the judgment 
of God^ which was visited upon them on 
this account^ in the destruction of Jeru- 
salem. A few only came with the Gen- 
tile world to the great festival of recon- 
ciliation. Had the Gentiles been sent for 
a time into " the field/' that is^ had they 
been placed under the law^ it would have 
been quite different ; but that they should 
be brought at once from the service of 

* Gal. 4 : 3-5. 

The Prodigal Son. 201 

sin into the festival of reconciliation^ — 
this was more than the Jews could bear. 

Others^ who were mistaken^ looked in 
upon this festival of reconciliation, that 
is, of the gospel; or, like the Ebionites, 
pretended to go in, but as soon as they 
discovered that they met together with 
those who were formerly Gentiles, pre- 
sently withdrew themselves again. 

We, who are of Gentile descent, must 
not forget that the whole matter has been 
reversed, and that we are in danger of 
acting like the elder son. For the time 
is coming, when the Jews, who are now 
without, who are now feeding upon husks 
far away from their Father's house, will 
acknowledge Christ and come joyfully to 
the festival of the gospel, when we shall 
be in danger of falling into the sin of the 
elder brother, through our own narrow 

Wherefore we have given us here 
18-^' o 

202 The PRODiaAL Son. 

5. An Earnest Warning against Self -right' 

The man who is restrained from ex- 
ternal vices by the law^ is disposed to 
think himself to be better than other 
men, and easily glorifies himself, as the 
elder son, saying : ^^ Lo ! these many years 
do I serve thee ; neither transgressed I at 
any time thy commandment." What 
blindness, — ^what pride! And yet, how 
many men are there not, at the present 
day, who glory in their honesty, and in 
their civil rectitude, but know nothing of 
the spirit of love ! 

A Rabbi says : ^^ If there are only three 
righteous persons in the world, they are 
myself and my two sons ; if only two, 
myself and my oldest son j if only one, 

Thus do self-righteous Christians also 
think and speak. No one can speak evil 

The Prodigal Son. 203 

of us ; we have not murdered ; we do not 
steal;, nor rob^ nor deceive; we do not 
lead dissolute lives ; we are industrious ; 
we care for those of our own household ; 
we give to every one his due ; we go to 
Church, w^e pray, we give alms, &c. 
And many go contented into eternity in 
such great blindness. 

" Lo ! these many years do I serve thee ; 
neither transgressed I at any time thy 

Who of us can honestly and truly say 
this ? The best man on earth is defective 
and imperfect, and has nothing to glory 
in but his own weakness. Paul says ; 
" Not as though I had already attained, 
either were already perfect ; but I follow 
after, if that I may apprehend that for 
which also I am apprehended of Christ 
Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to 
have apprehended ; but this one thing I 
do, forgetting those things which are be- 

204 The Prodigal Son. 

hind^ and reaching forth unto those things 
which are before, I press toward the mark 
for the prize of the high calling of God in 
Christ Jesus." "^ And in reference to the 
woman taken in adultery, Christ says : 
^^He that is without sin among you, let 
him first cast a stone at her." f 

There are also some among the various 
Christian denominations, vv^ho are full of 
the spirit of the elder son ; who still enter- 
tain the thought, that they are much 
better than all other Christians. We 
would only remind these of the Phari- 
see, who went up to the temple to pray, 
and thanked God that he was not ^^as 
other men are, extortioners, unjust, adul- 
terers, or even as this publican." J 

He imagined, because he had avoided 
gross outbreaks of vice, that he lacked 

* Philippians 3 : 12-15. f John 8 : 1. 

J Luke 18 : 11, 12. 

The Prodigal Son. 205 

nothing. Whilst the publican felt and 
confessed his burden of sin^ and went 
justified to his house, the Pharisee lacked 
all feeUng of sin^ all love, as well as all 

Such persons do not pray for the par- 
don of their sins^ nor yet for grace ; nei- 
ther did Christ come into the world for 
such, but He came to seek the lost, to 
save sinners^ as He Himself says : " They 
that be whole need not a physician^ but 
they that are sick." Wherefore He warned 
the Pharisees^ and solemnly declared : 
^' Except your righteousness shall exceed 
the righteousness of the scribes and Phari- 
sees, ye shall in no case enter into the 
kingdom of heaven." 

In like manner He also warns us against 
narrow self-righteousness, which has no 
worth before God. Let us take our places, 
therefore, among penitent sinners, and 
pray to God that He may preserve us in 

206 The Prodigal Son. 

the faith^ and that Christ may be and re- 
main our righteousness, ever remembering 

''Pray'r is the soul's sincere desire, 
Uttered or unexpressed; 
The motion of a hidden fire 
That trembles in the breast. 

'^Pray'r is the burden of a sigh, 
The falling of a tear ; 
The upward glancing of an eye, 
When none but God is near. 

**Pray'r is the simplest form of speech 
That infant lips can try ; 
Pray'r is the sublimest strains that reach 
The majesty on high. 

**Pray'r is the Christian's vital breath, 
The Christian's native air, 
His watchword at the gate of death — 
He enters heav'n with pray'r. 

*^ Pray'r is the contrite sinner's voice 
Returning from his ways, 
While angels in their songs rejoice, 
And cry, ^'Behold, he prays." 

The Prodigal Son. 207 

But some one may say : " Why should 
I despair? The thief on the cross was 
saved at the hast hour." Ah ! in that 
narrative of sacred history there is some- 
thing most alarming. That record was 
made, that none might despair, and but 
one such is found in the Bible, that none 
may dare presume. The husbandman, in 
autumn and winter, will in vain implore 
the Almighty to grant him a crop, after 
he has foolishly squandered and slept 
away his seed-time and summer, and 
planted and cultivated not his grounds. 
Or you may say : " There are not many, 
but only a few who have so deeply fallen 
into sin." This may be true, but all can 
fall so deeply, and sin so much and so 

All misery and sin is possible from the 
first departure from God ; they are the 
natural consequences of such departure ; 
and if we have not fallen so deeply, we 

208 The Prodigal Son. 

must attribute it to the restraining grace 
of God. In this parable the Lord per- 
mits the sinner to go as it were to the 
gates of hell ; and without this^ the parable 
would be imperfect^ and not a parable for 
all sinners, and would fail to show that 
man can still return to God from the 
greatest departures and sins. '' Though 
your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white 
as snow ; though they be red like crim- 
son, they shall be as wool." "^ 

6. The Retrospect and Exhortation, 

1. When a pilgrim stands at the end 
of his journey, he looks back once more in 
spirit over the way he has travelled, and 
he reflects once more upon the joys ex- 
perienced, the dangers escaped, and asks 
himself earnestly. What have I learned ? 

We have come to the end of our medi- 

* Isaiah 1:18. 

The Prodigal Son. 209 

tations on this parable. What profit and 
blessing have we received from them? 
Would that we might, upon this retrospect, 
experience the blessed joy of the Prodigal 
Son after his return to his father's house, 
and be able to say, We are in our Father's 
house, we are God's children ; and at the 
same time feel the desire to remain in our 
Father's house until our end on earth. 
Every one who reads this parable, cannot 
but pity the unfortunate one. His sad 
fate appeals to our hearts, and awakens 
in us feelings of the deepest sympathy. 
But this is not all that our Lord wishes 
to accomplish by this parable. We should 
not regard the Prodigal Son as a stranger, 
but each one should regard himself as the 
Prodigal Son, each one should read his own 
history in the history of this son, each one 
see himself in this picture. We should 
see in his apostasy our own apostasy from 

210 The PEODiaAL Son. 

God^ our own sins against God^ and our 
own misery without God. 

This story of the Prodigal Son may have 
moved us even to tears^ but mere tears 
are not conversion. It may have aroused 
us to make pious resolutions^ but these 
are not complete repentance. If we have 
truly turned from our sins to our God and 
Father, then we have also been really 
improved and blessed. 

2. My friend, are you still a prodigal 
son, wandering from God, your heavenly 
Father ? If so, then hear, God is calling 
you to honor and happiness. He gives 
you opportunity, and exhorts you to 
surrender yourself to Him. Hear His 
voice in Nature around you. It proclaims 
to you. There is a God. It preaches law 
and order. Hear God's voice within your- 
self. He speaks to you through reason 
and conscience. Hear His voice in the 

The Prodigal Son. 211 

doctrines of Jesus and in His works. His 
life, death, resurrection, and ascension to 
the Father. It speaks to you throughout 
the whole Bible; it is brought near to 
your heart and feelings in the Lord's 

You hear His voice when parents, 
teachers^ friends exhort you by word and 
example to practise wisdom, virtue, and 
godliness. You hear it in every pleasure. 
It says. Hear and be thankful ! 

It calls to you loudly in suffering and 
in death, in order that your heart may 
be softened. Do not despise it. Come ! 
Partake of the blessedness that God offers 
you. Become a follower of Jesus on earth, 
and then a happy spirit in heaven. 

** Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, 
Weak and wounded, sick and sore, 

Jesus ready stands to save you, 
Full of pity, love, and power ; 

He is able ; He is able ; 

He is willing ; doubt no more. 

212 The Prodigal Son. 

'' Come, ye weary, heavy laden, 

Lost and ruin'd by the fall ; 
If ye tarry till ye 're better, 

Ye will never come at all ; 
Not the righteous; not the righteous; 
Sinners Jesus came to call.'' 

In the tender and affectionate addresses 
which Jesus spoke to His disciples shortly 
before His crucifixion^ He declared that the 
most intimate and vital relation existed 
between Himself and His disciples^, — a 
relation that no power, not even that of 
death, could break up. 

If, therefore, this relation exists not 
only in time, but also extends to eternity, 
how many spirits in heaven must be con- 
cerned about our temporal and eternal 
welfare ! 

Perhaps a beloved departed father, or 
a dear mother, who have here on earth 
often prayed in tears for yon., prodigal 
son, or for you^ prodigal daughter, that 

The Prodigal Son. 213 

you might be brought to walk in the way 
of virtue and godliness. 

Or a brother^ a sister^ a friend, or a 
beloved child^ who call to you from the 
spirit- worlds by all that is holy^ to strive 
after your salvation^ in order that you 
may also dwell with them in the eternal 
glory of heaven. 

Therefore think of your pious parents^ 
and of your happy departed children^ who 
were so dear to you^ and repent^ return 
to God^ that you may find them again in 
the land of blessed immortality. 

'' Hark ! heard ye not a sound 
Sweeter than the wild-bird^s note, or minstrePs 

I know that music well, for night and day 
I hear it echoing round. 

**It is the tuneful chime 
Of spirit voices! — 'tis my infant band 
Calling the mourner from this darkened land 
To joy's unclouded clime. 

214 The Prodigal Son. 

'^ My beautiful, my blest ! 
I see them there/' surround the heavenly " throne ; 
With winning words, and fond beseeching tone 
They woo me to my rest." 

'' What mercy^ if the death of a child 
prove the life of the parent !" 

3. Children J my earnest prayer for you 
is^ that God may keep you from the ways 
of sin ! 

But if any one of you should wander 
from the right path^ then hear the voice 
of love calling you to return. God gave 
His son to you ; Christ died upon the cross 
for you J that you might not be lost for 
God, for the Savior, for the Church, for 

Doubt not. Have confidence towards 
God in Jesus Christ. Seek grace ! God 
will permit you to find Him. 

Oh youth ! consider the dangers of 
youth, of frivolity, of self-will, and of 
seeking after independence ; they will 

The Prodigal Son. 215 

work your ruin, if you do not resist them. 
It is a favor of God, that sin makes men 
miserable. From it proceeds repentance, 
from repentance return, and from return 

Remain faithful to God. Never depart 
from Him, and you will have a great ad- 
vantage. He that is recovered is also 
happy ; but he never can be as happy as 
you, if you remain faithful to God. 

4. And if you see a man who has 
fallen, perhaps deep and terribly fallen, 
do not cast him off. Jesus received sin- 
ners ; do you also receive them. Extend 
your hand to the fallen. Perhaps you 
may be able to raise him up again, to give 
him again to God, and to his Savior. 

*'If a soul thou would'st redeem, 

And lead a lost one back to God — 
Would'st thou a guardian angel seem 
To one who long in guilt has trod — 

216 The Prodigal Son. 

Go kindly to him — take his hand 
With gentlest words, within thine own, 

And by his side a brother stand, 
Till all the demons thou dethrone." 

Has such an one injured you? Then 
forgive^ as God forgives^, and as you hope 
to be forgiven. Rejoice^ as the angels re- 
joice over a sinner that repenteth. Your 
joy in heaven will be increased by the 
consciousness of having helped a soul 
back to God and happiness. 

5. No condition is more dangerous^ than 
that in which a man believes that he is 
already good enough^ and says^ If only all 
were as good as I am ! Such a person 
does not go forward ; on the other hand^ 
this vain imagination causes him to lose 
the goodness which he possesses ; for he 
looks down in pride upon others^ who are^ 
perhaps^ better than he is. 

How many know anything of the re- 
pentance of the Prodigal Son from their 

The Prodigal Son. 217 

own experience ? We were once^ all of 
us^ prodigal sons and daughters^ and are 
yet^ if we have not returned to our Father. 

Oh man ! thou who still livest without 
God and Christy be moved to return 
speedily with the Prodigal Son to God^ 
your heavenly Father. 

Consider^ that repentance and the re- 
newal of the Holy Ghost must be ex- 
perienced by you, or death, eternal death, 
will follow, as the reward of your sinful 
life ! 

God has prepared in Jesus Christ every- 
thing necessary to secure the salvation of 
your soul; all the means of grace are 
freely offered and brought nigh to you. 

You have the Bible, that sacred volume, 
w^hicb, to use the words of Locke, has 
'' God for its author, salvation for its end, 
and truth, without any mixture of error, 
for its contents," in which the way to 
heaven is pointed out to you ; you have 

218 The Prodigal Son, 

prayer, by which you can speak with 
God, and lay your wants before Him ; 
you have the baptism of regeneration, 
the Lord's Supper, and the Church, as the 
bearer of all these means of grace, and 
as the hospital for your sin-sick soul. 

Why do you stand without before the 
door, where sorrow oppresses you, where 
you can have no real joy, no true satis- 
faction ? Without, where the cares of life, 
the lusts of the world, and sin, hold you 
fast, and consume you. Go, go within, 
into your Father's house, into Christ's 
kingdom, into the covenant of believers, 
that you also may be one of the blessed 
of the Lord. Yes, let all come in, who 
mourn over their sins, and weep over 
their misery! Fear not! Trust in the 
love of God, who calls you, who draws 
you, who wills that you also shall be 
saved ! He will receive you with joy. 
This is the gospel of glad tidings which 

The Prodigal Son. 219 

is preached in His name. So soon as you 
renounce the world and sin, a friendly 
welcome will greet you from the house 
of the Father, and your return to God 
will be the way to the most blessed joys. 

You will transform a wilderness into a 
Paradise. You will escape a curse to in- 
herit a blessing. You will press through 
death to eternal life. Is there a more 
blessed change? Therefore, come, taste, 
and see, that the Lord is gracious. He 
receives sinners, and makes them happy 
for time and eternity ! 

God the Father stands ready to receive 
you as his prodigal son or his prodigal 
daughter ! 

Jesus Christ, the son of God, is ready 
to speak pardon and peace to your sin- 
stricken soul ! 

The spirit of God is ready to sanctify 
you and to seal God's holiness in you. 

The preacher of your congregation is 

220 The Prodigal Son. 

ready^ as the ambassador of Christy again 
to receive you ! 

The wedding garment is ready^ and 
you are heartily welcome to receive it ! 

The Church is ready again to receive 
you as a son or a daughter! 

Angels are ready to proclaim the glad 
tidings of your repentance in heaven, and 
all heaven is ready to echo, ^^ The dead is 
alive, the lost is found !" Amen. 


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