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escape it, and God waits to be gracious : let this day be distinguished by some soul determining to seek the shelter of the cross, its pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace: and oh, this day, let there be cause for a song of thanksgiving among the hosts of God who rejoice over repenting sinners.
PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON. .
LUKB XV. 32.
I have already stated to you what I believed to be the true interpretation of the parable, and in a previous discourse remarked, that there were two ways in which it might be drawn to practical results. The first was, by deducing from the parable its legitimate practical inferences; and the second was, by making it the basis of a series of practical reflections, which, though not meant as legitimate inferences, might, with the utmost propriety, be grafted in it. The first of these methods was adopted in my last discourse on this text; the second is intended in the present.
Of all the parables spoken by our Lord, this is, probably, the one which allows the largest scope to practical accommodation. It is so chaste in its style, so beautiful in its conception, so natural in its story, so touching in its details, and so harmonious in its bearings, that it is peculiarly adapted to the purposes of instruction. There are three great leading principles which may be grafted on it; and these, with the minor truths which so happily describe individual character, will render it an adequate subject of large discussion and peculiar interest. We may view it as giving illustration to the following topics.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A SINNER IN HIS STATE OF CARELESSNESS AND UNCONCERN.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A SINNER IN HIS CONVERSION TO GOD.
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD'S GREAT MERCY AND COMPASSION.
I. Observe the minuteness with which it
may applied to this subject—“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.”
1. The sinner in his worldliness.
2. In his increasing estrangedness from God“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country.”
3. His reckless unconcern—"And there wasted his substance with riotous living."
4. His entire disappointment—“And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want."
5. His resort to the most wretched expedients“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."
6. His utter desertion—"No man gave unto him."
1. “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.” In the case of every unconverted individual the world is all; there is nothing above, and nothing beyond it. The practical language of the heart is—“Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” The first, great, paramount, leading desire of every individual whose heart is not right with God, is the accumulation of this world's goods. To this, health, comfort, enjoyment, every thing is sacrificed. There is nothing in the shape of labour which is too hard, nothing in the form of sacrifice which is not willingly endured. Look at your own experience on this subject. Brethren, what is there in this wide world which occupies more waking thoughts, or which receives a greater measure of intense exertion? Is there any one feeling which rises more spontaneously in your bosom? Is there one which is indulged with more delight, or pursued with a keener avidity than that which settles on the acquisition of this world's goods? I am solicitous, under this head, of fixing your attention only on the fact, and would have you to enter within yourselves, and ask yourselves the question, whether there is a single controlling thought which finds a willing place in your minds which may not be comprehended in the brief summary of the Apostle of all that is in the world, viz:-“The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” This, the Apostle tells us, is all that is in the world : and to an unconverted man this is all the
world, and not only all this world, but all the next. You may say, but we do sometimes think of other things; the concerns of our souls are not always absent. I have no doubt that occasionally some serious thought does enter the mind; but what is the thought which occupies the mind? You tell me you do think. Valuable thought always results in something. Where are the results ? Analyze the predominating feeling of your hearts, and see if the pervading and influential motives might not, with a most melancholy correctness, be embodied in the language of the prodigal—“Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." I ask nothing beyond; give me my worldly portion, and I promise to be satisfied.
2. Now take the sinner, take your own case, my unconverted friends, in the matter of increasing estrangedness from God—“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country.” Observe, with nice discrimination, the circumstances of the prodigal. No sooner had he received his portion, than his ideas of enjoyment appear to have been expanded, and he wanders
from the home of his father. And here I state a very striking proposition, founded on a very singular fact. The fact, I am well persuaded, you will recognize; but the proposition has probably not often, if ever, presented itself in its connexion with that fact. The proposition is, that success in any worldly pursuit, has a natural tendency to alienate the heart from God.
Now take the fact on which that proposition is founded. Look abroad upon the world, and you will discover that the ranks of the infidel, the ranks of