And he said, A certain man had two sons:…
A minister from a distance was preaching one Sabbath, in the parish church of St. Monan's, in the last century, who did not know the strange superstitions of a fishing village. He was discoursing with tolerable fluency on the parable of the Prodigal Son. When he came to the words, "and he sent him into the fields to feed swine," he thought that he heard a sudden and simultaneous murmur over his congregation, accompanied by an equally sudden and simultaneous movement. The explanation was that the sow is an unlucky animal among the fishermen, as it was unclean among Jews; and the murmur, which the astonished preacher heard proceeding from every lip, was "Touch iron" — for iron they regard as a charm against the harmful word; while the movement he observed was the effort of each individual to put his finger on the nearest nail in the wood-work of the old church — a murmur and a movement which were repeated much to his consternation, as in the sequel of his exposition he, all unconscious of his mistake, used the dreaded word. A good story, doubtless, to be told at a tea-table, or at a bright fire on a winter evening — and ministers, it is to be feared, by their frailties and mistakes, afford amusement now and then to curious and critical neighbourhoods. But whether the tale be an exaggeration or not, I wish to turn the table upon the story-tellers, and consecrate it to the service of Christ. Yes; ye who have sunk so low in the service of Satan, that he has sent you into the fields to feed swine — "Touch iron"; extend the finger of faith to the blessed nails of the cross, and, more potent than fabled talismanic charm, they will raise you to the dignity of the sons of God. Do you complain that your nature is bad — that as soon a lion might be expected to become a lamb, or a swine — "Touch iron"; yea, "reach hither your hands and thrust them into his side," and God's Spirit will give you clean hearts and right spirits.
(F. Ferguson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, A certain man had two sons: