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will arrive, when there will be a famine in that land. His days have been consumed: old age draws on this world fails him: and he is in want of any thing to cheer his heart, to excite hope, to comfort a sick bed, and enable him to look towards eternity.
This wretchedness is feelingly described in what follows.
15. "And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine."
The circumstance here introduced deserves particular remark. The Jews were forbidden to keep swine: the animal was unclean, according to the law of Moses. But this man had departed from God; and he is reduced to a state of misery and degradation which in his father's land he would not have known. He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. So when the Christian leaves his father's house,-abandons the faith and practice of a Christian, he is often led into evils which living as a Christian he would have avoided, and brought into straits which one who leads a Christian life is never suffered to experience.
16. "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him."
This represents a state of great temporal distress. It may represent no less accurately the state of one who strives to satisfy his mind with things which give no real satisfaction.
Why do you labour for that which is not bread ? In the season of sickness, of sorrow, of privation, of those reverses which often attend the worldly man, what is the return which the world makes him? It has nothing but husks to offer, which cannot minister food to the diseased mind. Plea
sures, what are they worth in such an hour? Those that may have been innocent, are now vanity: and those that were not innocent, are now vexation of spirit; grievous to look back upon. Riches! what can they do? They can furnish outward comforts; but little indeed is the difference which outward comforts make when the heart is sick and will not be comforted. And no man gives unto him. Worldly friends soon abandon the companion who can no longer partake of their pursuits, or assist their interests: and if they do look in upon him, what can they give? Nothing better than husks. All which they can give is of the earth, earthly: and when earth is receding, and eternity opening to the view, earthly things have lost their value; they are truly unsatisfying whether a man has any thing instead of them or not.
The children who have remained in their father's house, and conformed to the rules of his family, are not reduced to a state like this. Many who have walked before him in righteousness, are no strangers to pain, and sickness, and poverty: many who have sought first the kingdom of God, have proved that His kingdom is not of this world. But they are not reduced to feed
on husks they have still the "bread of life" which those who eat "shall never hunger;" and they are not destitute :-for they cast their care upon God, and He careth for them. The words of David are verified, "I have been young and now am old: yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." 2
REPENTANCE, RETURN, AND RECEPTION OF THE
LUKE XV. 17-24.
17. “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.
18. "I will arise, and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee,
19. "And am no more worthy to be called thy Son; make me as one of thy hired servants."
WE left the prodigal in a condition of great wretchedness. It was well that he felt his misery. Many are really as wretched as he was because they are as distant from the Author of all happiness, and yet are not conscious of their state, their spiritual destitution.
Misery, however, was the means, in the hands of God, of bringing this man to himself to a sense
2 Ps. xxxvii. 25.
of what he was, and what he might have been, if he had never gone astray, and dealt wickedly. How many hired servants of my father have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
We may here remark the blessings which attend a religious family, a religious education. The prodigal remembers what he had seen in his father's house: he had seen comfort and peace; not perfect comfort, indeed, nor uninterrupted peace; but such peace and comfort as are attainable in a fallen state, and can belong to corrupt hearts and a sinful world: peace and comfort such as are only to be found in the ways of righteousness. And though he had once disliked the restraints which order and duty lay upon perverse inclination, though he had left his father's house that he might be free from them; he now looks back with sad remembrance on what he had formerly despised and abandoned.
Still a resource remains. He knows the character of the Father whom he had deserted; and he may possibly find a place in His family again. 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.
Reflect here upon the blessing which belongs to us, to whom is made known the mercy of God as revealed in the Gospel. We know that "God
so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that all that believe in Him might not perish." We know that "God willeth not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." The unenlightened heathen is sometimes affected by a sense of sin, and endeavours to expiate his transgressions by penance, or by expensive sacrifice; by making offerings, or by suffering privations; by tormenting himself, or even by tormenting others. But we possess the Revelation of God's mercy. We know that a propitiation has been made, and a way of access opened from man to God. are not left to doubt whether He will receive the returning sinner: whether He to whom in our sorrows we address our prayer, is a God who heareth and answereth prayer; whether He whom we feel to be a God of power, is also a God of mercy: this we are forbidden to doubt: for "this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
Observe, however, the conduct of the prodigal and learn from it the nature of true repentance. It is a deliberate, solemn act; an act of religious humiliation and prayer. His extravagance has ruined his fortune. More regular habits will place him in a more creditable situation, are more suitable to his advancing years. Many feel this, and calmly talk of entering upon a new course, as they might talk of wearing a new dress, or changing a place of residence.