And he said, A certain man had two sons:…
When in England, on one occasion, I heard of a city missionary in London who always was in the habit of reading this scriptural story, if at any time he gained access to the roughs of the metropolis — "A certain man had two sons!" By this interesting exordium their attention was immediately aroused. On one occasion he was interrupted by the running remarks of an impulsive youth, one of the reckless London thieves, who had evidently never heard the story before. When he read the younger son's request "for the portion of goods that fell to him," his astonished hearer interpolated, "Cool that — rather cool!" When he came to the story of his subsequent degradation and want, "Served him right," was the ejaculation. But when he heard the account of the prodigal's reception by his father, the impressed and delighted listener exclaimed, as the tears rolled down his cheeks, "Oh, what a good old cove!" — and even before the missionary had time to explain the parable, that "chief of sinners" seemed to have applied it in his own mind to the forgiving mercy of God. At the close of the service he waited on the missionary, and preferred to him this strange request: "Will you come and read that ere account o' the kind old cove to some fellows I know, that would get summat o' good from it like me?" When the missionary expressed his readiness to go, the only stipulation added was, that "he would bring no bobbies (policemen), for the bobbies knew them all." Down in a den in the depths of London that missionary read that parable; and of a truth its Divine Author smiled upon him as he did so, for he recognized that, as of old, "publicans and sinners" had drawn near "to hear him." When Dr. Chalmers first preached the annual missionary sermon in Surrey Chapel, London, Rowland Hill sat in the front of the gallery, all anxiety and expectation; for it was he who had spread his fame in the metropolis, and had persuaded the immense array of ministers to come together to hear the celebrated North-man. Similar was the relation which subsisted between the thief and the missionary in this instance, although otherwise the circumstances were very different. "This is the gemman wot has come to read us the story of the bad lad and the kind old cove wet I were telling ye off. It's a regular stunner. Jim, assume the perpendicular, and give the gemman the seat" (for there was only one chair, or rather stool, in the dreary apartment). Thus introduced and recommended, the missionary began: "A certain man had two sons," etc. As the narrative proceeded, verse by verse, he who had raised the expectations of the company so high, kept exclaiming, "Did ye ever hear the like o' that? Bill, wasn't I right? Isn't it a regular stunner?" But when the reader reached the account of the embrace and the kiss, the marks of approbation from all the auditors, to whom also it was quite new, were so loud that he was compelled to stop. "But wait till ye hear what the old fellow did for him!" was the last whetting exclamation of his patron. And when they heard of the robe and the ring, and the rejoicing, they all rejoiced together; for they seemed by a kind of Pentecostal intuition to conclude that even so would the God of the Bible treat them.
(F. Ferguson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, A certain man had two sons: