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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 gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance in riotous 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 conntry; 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, 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 merry. 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. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore 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.'— Luke xv. 11-32.
This third parable affords the following notes:
1. The Pharisees and scribes are signified by the elder son.
2. The publicans and sinners, by the younger.
3. The righteousness of which those Pharisees boasted, is represented by the alleged industry and faithfulness of the elder son.
4. The sinfulness which those Pharisees could see in those whom they called sinners above themselves, is represented by the prodigality of the younger
5. The meanness and unholiness of the service of sin, is signified by the prodigal's feeding swine: an animal, by the law of Moses pronounced unclean.
6. The endeavors of the wicked to satisfy the hunger of the immortal soul with fruits of the flesh or carnal mind, is shown by the prodigal wishing to fill his belly with the husks which the swine ate.
7. That sin is a land of famine, in which the soul can never enjoy the bread of life, is signified by the famine which arose in the country where the prodigal had wandered, by which he was reduced to want, and came to himself.
8. The riches of the Father of mercies, is signified by the father having many hired servants, who all had bread enough, and to spare.
9. The effect produced by the famine which the soul experiences in sin and wickedness, is denoted by the prodigal coming to a determination to go home to his father, to which determination he was compelled by the gnawings of hunger.
10. The unworthiness felt by a repenting sinner, who is conscious to himself of having sinned against heaven, and in the sight of God; and awfully feels the loss of sonship, and a willingness to become a doorkeeper in the house of God, if so be he might obtain the favors enjoyed by servants, who eat bread in their master's house, is intended by the confession and request made by the prodigal to his father.
11. The fatherly kindness and loving mercy of God towards sinners, is shown by the father running to
meet his son while yet a great way off, falling on his neck, fondly embracing and compassionately kissing his long lost child.
12. The abundant favors, privileges and mercies conferred by divine grace, on a reclaimed profligate, beyond all the requests made by the subject, is intended by the best robe, a ring, shoes, the preparation of a fatted calf, and the ordination of merriment and festivity: all which were favors more than were asked for. Instead of being reproved for spending what he had already received, he was bid welcome to more; in room of being admitted to labor for bread, in the character of a servant, he is introduced into his father's house as a favorite child, with a ring on his hand, a token of the father's love, and an indication that he labored not. The best robe, represents the righteousness of Christ; and shoes, being 'shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.'
13. The Pharisees laboring in the law, or legal righteousness, are meant by the elder son being in the field; and their then present murmurs at Christ for receiving sinners, and their rejecting Christ therefore, is meant by the elder son being angry, and refusing to go into his father's house because the father had received the prodigal so kindly, with such marks of affection and tokens of honor. Had Christ come with a gospel to save the righteous and condemn the wicked, so long as the Pharisees could have retained their then present opinion of themselves and others, they might have gratified their spiritual pride in hailing him welcome, and zealously professing to be his disciples. But as he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, those who were whole, in their own opinion, saw not their need of a physician, and, therefore, rejected him.
14. The exceeding joys possessed by the gospe. convert above all those enjoyed under the covenant of works, stands, in the representation, as the partaking of a fatted calf, with joys and festivity, in a father's house, to many days of hard labor, without so much as a kid, to make merry with friends. O, the barrenness of self-righteousness! like a fig-tree on which much labor is bestowed, but which withers without fruit.
15. That the blessings of everlasting life in the new covenant, did, in reality, belong to those murmuring Pharisees, as well as to those whom they called sinners, is shown by the father saying to the elder son, 'Son thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.'
And lastly, The propriety of rejoicing on the return and acceptance of the sinner, is shown by the words of the text: '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.'
But observe, dear reader, had those murmuring Pharisees and scribes been sensible of the abomination of their own wicked hearts, and the sinfulness of their real characters, they would have considered themselves as wicked as they viewed others, and felt themselves as lost sheep that stood in need of the care of the shepherd; like a piece of silver in a lost condition, never to be recovered but by the diligence of the owner; or like a prodigal son, who had idly spent his time, and his property wickedly; and they would willingly have confessed their unworthiness to be admitted as sons into the kingdom of God.
As the three parables in Matthew xxv, had their general application to the same subject, so these three parables in Luke xv, were evidently spoken, by Christ, to illustrate the one subject to which the notes apply them. For this reason they may be justly connected in this illustration.
As it is humbly conceived that the notes give the particulars of these parables, in a manner too plain not to be understood, the following illustration will consist of arguments founded on the following truths exhibited in these parables :
1. Mankind, though in a state of alienation from God, in a state of sin and rebellion, are represented as the property of God, and by him so highly estimated as to induce him to recover us from alienation and sin.
2. In all the above condition, God acknowledges man to be his offspring, and exercises over him a fatherly providence, and towards him all the fatherly affections and mercies. And,
3. The true spirit of heavenly charity rejoices with an increased delight and satisfaction in the bringing of sinners to repentance.
The first of these general propositions is fully supported by the most natural sense of the two first parables. The lost, or strayed sheep, was the property of him who owned the ninety and nine which went not astray. This sheep, by going from the fold, did neither alienate the property of itself from the owner, nor change its nature to any other species of animal, for