Imatges de pÓgina

leave the issue to Him, who ordereth all events and governeth the world with infinite wisdom. Should they unhappily betray any weakness, let them look to those, who, having also betrayed it, recovered themselves, and nobly redeemed their character. Let them look to Cranmer, and to one more illustrious still-Mark the Evangelist-who amply atoned for the fault of his youth by perseverence in the course from which he once swerved, and by affectionate attachment and service to the distinguished men whom his fault estranged from him-only for a time.



Within this awful Volume lies
The mystery of misteries;
Happiest they of human race

To whom their God has given grace
To read to fear-to hope-to pray-
To lift the latch, to force the way;
And better had they ne'er been born,
Than read to doubt-or read to scorn.

The Prodigal Son.*

LUKE XV. 18, 19.—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


The exclamation of the text is the language of unfeigned repentance; it is the dictate of a conscience sensible of past acts of disobedience; it is the sorrow of a heart penetrated with a lively sense of its alienation from God; it is the pious and prudent resolve of one oppressed with the weight of bitter recollections, yet determined to avow his unworthiness of God's parental kindness, and stand before his presence a penitent and humbled sinner. Thus interpreted, the words of the text accord well with the solemn season of self-examination upon which we have so recently entered, and may furnish us with much useful matter for serious consideration.

Though the parable of the prodigal son more immediately shadows forth the blessings which were extended to the Gentiles, who, after having been long lost in ignorance and idolatry, were at last admitted, on their faith and repentance, to the participation, with the Jews, of the great

*This Sermon is from the pen of the late Rev. G. Hughes; and is, for the beauty of its language, inserted here in order to vary the style of our work. This will strike home to every parent.

feast of salvation prepared for all, I will, in the following discourse, apply to it more generally, and consider its several circumstances as referring to God's dealings with his penitent children.

Whether from its close analogy to the conduct of ordinary life, its awakening allusions to domestic scenes, the interest it excites in the bosom of every father of a family, the salutary and godly fear with which it may inspire every youth anxious to burst the bonds of parental authoritywhether from the engaging representation it gives us of the infinite mercy of God, of the insufficiency of sinful pleasures to add to the happiness of life, or of the efficacy of sincere repentance-the parable of the prodigal son has ever been a favourite topic with the preacher, and has seldom failed to give birth to serious, though transient, reflection in the breast of his hearers. The misfortune is, that the impression is only transient: your judgments are convinced, your feelings are roused, your consciences are awakened, butyour lives are not reformed. In the moment of conviction, you adopt the language of the returning prodigal; but, the solemn services of the tabernacle ended, you forget the conscientious resolution of the preceding moment; the interest which the parable excited, the moral it inculcated, the impression it made upon your hearts, fly before the earliest and most trifling object that addresses itself to your attention. Thus the lesson, which it was hoped would, at least, have governed the conduct of the week, until the impression should be renewed with the returning

sabbath, fades from your memories and is forgotten in an hour.

Let us examine into the several particulars of the parable and apply them as we proceed to our respective situations in life. First, in its literal sense, to our relative duties as parents, as children, and spiritually, in the next, to the relation we bear to God as the creatures of his power, the adopted children of his mercy. The rise and progress, and evil consequences of error will be found intelligibly represented in the conduct of the prodigal.

"The younger of two sons said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." In this his impatience of the wholesome restraints of parental authority, we behold the origin of all the after errors of the prodigal. Not satisfied with the calm and innocent enjoyments of domestic scenes, tastless to him while fettered by the obligations of filial obedience, he would fain embark on the boisterous ocean of life, blindly trusting to his own untried and incompetent powers, and spurning that affectionate and guiding hand which has conducted him through the weaknesses of childhood and the slippery pathways of early and inexperienced youth, into the opening plains of manhood. The pleasures of home have become insipid, not from their insufficient nature, but from the restraints which accompany them; whilst those less innocent enjoyments, which the wisdom of parental experience denies him, assume, from that very prohibition, a new value in his estimation. It was reserved for the woeful experience of future days to

convince him of his error, and, by stripping of their borrowed fascination the guilty pleasures for which he now pants so ardently, to bring his repentant heart to bitter but sincere reflection.

Anticipating the beneficial change that might be wrought upon the heart of his impatient child, though through the the medium of so severe a discipline, and fondly trusting that those convictions would follow upon experience which his own good counsel and authority had been incompetent to effect, his father "divides unto him his living." He gives him the portion of goods that falleth to him; with a heavy heart he yields him up to his own self-government, and in a few days he sees his unconscious child set forward on a journey that will be beset with numberless dangers and vexed with various storms.

"The younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living."

No sooner is he released from the galling bonds of a father's authority, and let loose upon the plains of freedom, than he hastens to that ruinous consummation from which that father's authority would have preserved him. The wisdom and expediency of former restraint is immediately seen in the ill use he makes of his liberty. He "wastes his substance," he "spends all" that he has, and, to add to the sad catalogue of his privations, "there arises a mighty famine in the land, and he begins to be in want." He is compelled to have recourse to dependence upon a citizen of the country for immediate relief, to a degrading and

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