And he said, A certain man had two sons:…
A very interesting incident has recently been published in one of the London serials, concerning the conversion of an "Ethiopian Serenader," through the faithfulness and holy guile of a pious bookseller, in an English country town. As it is guaranteed to be authentic by the Rev. Mr. Maguire, Vicar of Clerkenwell, and illustrates strikingly the portion of the parable already considered, I will insert it here: — "A band or 'troupe' of young men, with hands and faces blackened, and dressed in very grotesque costumes, arranged themselves before a publisher's door one day for an exhibition of their peculiar 'performances.' These people used to be called 'Ethiopian Serenaders.' After they had smug some comic and some plaintive melodies, with their own peculiar accompaniments of gestures and grimaces, one of the party, a tall and interesting young man, who had the 'look' of one who was beneath his proper station, stepped up to the door, tambourine in hand, to ask for a few 'dropping pennies' of the people. Mr. Carr, taking one of the Bibles out of his window, addressed the youth — 'See here, young man,' he said, 'I will give you a shilling, and this book besides, if you will read a portion of it among your comrades there, and in the hearing of the bystanders.' 'Here's a shilling for an easy job!' he chuckled out to his mates — 'I'm going to give you a "public reading!"' Mr. Carr opened at the fifteenth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, and, pointing to the eleventh verse, requested the young man to commence reading at that verse. 'Now, Jem, speak up!' said one of the party, 'and earn your shilling like a man!' And Jem took the Book, and read — '"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."' There was something in the voice of the reader, as well as in the strangeness of the circumstances, that lulled all to silence; while an air of seriousness took possession of the youth, and still further commanded the rapt attention of the crowd. He read on — '"And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living."' 'That's thee, Jam!' ejaculated one of his comrades; 'it's just like what you told me of yourself and your father!' The reader continued — '"And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want."' 'Why, that's thee again, Jem!' said the voice — 'Go on!' '"And be 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: and no man gave unto him."' 'That's like us all!' said the voice, once more interrupting; 'we're all beggars, and might be better than we are! Go on; let's hear what came of it.' And the young man read on, and as he read his voice trembled — '"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 —"' At this point he fairly broke down, and could read no more. All were impressed and moved. The whole reality of the past rose up to view, and in the clear starry of the gospel a ray of hope dawned upon him for his future. His father — his father's house — and his mother's too; and the plenty and the love ever bestowed upon him there; and the hired servants, all having enough; and then himself, his father's son; and his present state, his companionships, his habits, his sins, his poverty, his outcast condition, his absurdly questionable mode of living, — all these came climbing like an invading force of thoughts and reflections into the citadel of his mind, and fairly overcame him. That day — that scene — proved the turning-point of that young prodigal's life. He sought the advice of the Christian friend who had thus providentially interposed for his deliverance. Communications were made to his parents, which resulted in a long-lost and dearly-loved child returning to the familiar earthly home; and, still better, in his return to his heavenly Father! He found, as I trust my readers will, how true are the promises of the parable of the 'Prodigal Son' both for time and for eternity.
"'Yes, there is One who will not chide nor scoff,
But beckons us to homes of heavenly bliss;
Beholds the prodigal a great way off,
And flies to meet him with a Father's kiss!'"
(F. Ferguson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, A certain man had two sons: