Luke 15:11
Then Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons.
By the Father's home we commonly mean the heavenly home, the sphere where the nearer and more immediate presence of God is realized. But heaven once included earth - earth was once a district of heaven. God meant this world to be a part of his own home; this, but for the separating force of sin, it would be now; and this, when sin has been cast forth, it will be again. And it is properly regarded as a home because the relation in which God wished its inhabitants to stand toward himself was that (and is that) of children to a Father. The truest picture, the nearest statement, the least imperfect representation of that relationship, is not found in the words, "A certain king had subjects," or "A certain proprietor had servants (or slaves)," but in those of our text, "A certain man had sons. Nothing so adequately represents God's position toward us as fatherhood, or our true position toward him as sonship, or the sphere in which we live before him as the Father's home. This family relationship means -

I. HIS DWELLING WITH US. God's dwelling with us or in us is very closely associated with his Fatherhood of us (see 2 Corinthians 6:16-18). The ideal human father is one who dwells under the roof where the family resides; who is at home with his children, maintaining a frequent and a close and intimate intercourse with them. Such is God our Father's desire concerning us. He wishes to be near us all and near us always; so near to us that we have constant access to him; that our free, full, happy, unconstrained fellowship is with the Father;" that it is the natural and instinctive thing for us to go to him and make our appeal to him in all time of need.

II. HIS CONTROL OF OUR LIVES. God's purpose is to direct the lives we are living, to choose our way for us, even as a father for his children; so that we shall be going where he sends us, be doing his work, be filling up his outline, be walking in the path his own hand has traced.

III. HIS EDUCATION OF OUR SPIRITS. Our children come to our home with great capacities, but with no power. It is our parental privilege to educate them, so that their various faculties - physical, mental, spiritual - shall be developed, so that they shall gain knowledge, acquire wisdom, exert influence, be a blessing and a power in the world. God places us here, in this home of his, that he may educate us; that, by all we see and hear, by all we do and suffer, we may be taught and trained for noble character, for faithful service, for an ever-broadening sphere.

IV. HIS PARENTAL SATISFACTION WITH US. Perhaps the most exquisite satisfaction, the very keenest joy which fills and thrills the human heart, is that which is born of parental love; it is the intense and immeasurable delight with which the father and the mother behold their children as these manifest not merely the beauties of bodily form but the graces of Christian character, and as they bring forth the fruits of a holy and useful life. God meant and still means to have such parental joy in us; to look on us, the children of his home, and be gladdened in his heart more than when he looks on all the wonders of his hand in field and forest, in sea and sky. It is our docility, our affection, our obedience, our rectitude and beauty of character and of spirit, that constitute the source of his Divine satisfaction. The children of the Father's home are dearer and more precious far than any marvellous things in all the breadth of his universe. Thus God's thought concerning our race was to establish a holy family, himself the Divine Father; we his holy, loving, rejoicing, human children; this world a happy home. That was his thought in creation, that is his purpose in redemption. To its blissful realization the best contribution each one of us can make is to become his true and trustful child, reconciled to him in Jesus Christ, living before him every day in filial love and joy. - C.

The Father's HomeW. Clarkson Luke 15:11
The Prodigal and His FatherAlexander MaclarenLuke 15:11
A Fast Young ManW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
A Father's Pity and LoveLuke 15:11-32
A Mental PictureR. Wardlaw.Luke 15:11-32
A Mighty FamineJames Hamilton, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
A Mind's TransitionW. M. Punshon, LL. D.Luke 15:11-32
A Mirror of MercyBishop Cowper.Luke 15:11-32
A Moving StoryF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
A Patchwork QuiltLuke 15:11-32
A Sinner Brought to His Right MindW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
A Sinner Brought to His Right MindLuke 15:11-32
A Young Man Come to HimselfJ. T. Davidson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Abundance in the Father's HouseC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
Act At Once on ConvictionsW. B. Mackenzie, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Adoniram Judson's ConversionJ. Kennedy, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
An Ignoble DepartureArchdeacon Farrar.Luke 15:11-32
Beneficial Results of AfflictionJames Hamilton, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Bitterness of Prodigal SinJ. H. Thomson, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Brought to HimselfF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Carlyle and the CrustLuke 15:11-32
Coming to One's SelfH. W. Beecher.Luke 15:11-32
Complete Surrender to GodJ. H. Newman, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Concluding Reflection on This ParableF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Confession and RestorationW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
Confession of SinC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
Constant Obedience Better than RepentanceJ. Jortin, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Contracted Views in ReligionJ. H. Newman, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Conversion not Necessarily a Protracted ProcessW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Dearth; or Pain the End of Sinful PleasureBishop Cowper.Luke 15:11-32
Deceived by PleasureC. Leach.Luke 15:11-32
Departure from HomeW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
Eastern Law of InheritanceJames Foote, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Eating the HusksA. G. Thomson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Elder BrotherlinessW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Ever with GodF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Famine MakersJ. Parker, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
FatherW. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Feeding SwineJames Hamilton, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Folly of Leading a Gay LifeLuke 15:11-32
From Home, and BackW. Clarkson Luke 15:11-32
Gaming to HimselfW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
Give Me My PortionW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
God Allows Man to Use His IndependenceW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
God Does not Deny Foolish, Inexperienced Man His WishF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
God's Joy At the Sinner's ReturnC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
Good Reasons for JoyW. B. Mackenzie, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Good Resolutions Brought to PerfectionN. Rogers.Luke 15:11-32
Good Resolutions Must be Acted UponJ. Jortin, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Good Resolutions to be CherishedN. Rogers.Luke 15:11-32
Great ResolutionsJ. Wells.Luke 15:11-32
He Came to HimselfC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
Heavenly Merry-MakingsJ. Wells.Luke 15:11-32
HomesicknessDe W. Talmage, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Hunger FeltT. Guthrie, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
HusksProf. Isaac H. Hall.Luke 15:11-32
Impiety Urging Unjust DemandsW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
In WantW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Inordinate Sorrow not Necessary to RepentanceN. Rogers.Luke 15:11-32
Joy on the Prodigal's ReturnDe W. Talmage, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Leaving HomeJames Hamilton, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Life AbroadW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
Life After DeathF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Love for AllF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Luther's AwakeningJ. Kennedy, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Man Going into the Far CountryBishop Cowper.Luke 15:11-32
Man Invited to Return to His HomeChristian AgeLuke 15:11-32
Money All GoneDr. Talmage.Luke 15:11-32
Moral DeclensionF. D. Maurice, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
My Father Will Meet MeLuke 15:11-32
Our Need of the FatherA. P. Peabody.Luke 15:11-32
Parable of the Prodigal SonT. Dwight, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Pharisaism in OurselvesMarcus Dods, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Pretty Near to the HusksLuke 15:11-32
Religion no WasteBishop Cowper.Luke 15:11-32
Resolution LastingN. Rogers.Luke 15:11-32
Resolution not Followed to ExecutionN. Rogers.Luke 15:11-32
Revulsion After ExcessJames Hamilton, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Riotous LivingJames Hamilton, D,D.Luke 15:11-32
Sadness of a Lapse After RecoveryF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Satan's Assailing ResolutionsN. Rogers.Luke 15:11-32
Self-ImportanceW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Sin and its ConsequencesW. M. Punshon, LL. D.Luke 15:11-32
Sin as InsanityW. R. Clark, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Sin CostlyBishop Cowper.Luke 15:11-32
The Angry BrotherW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
The Beginning StarvationW. M. Hay Aitken, M. ALuke 15:11-32
The Best RobeJ. Dobie, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Best RobeD. Winters.Luke 15:11-32
The Best RobeF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Danger of Trifling with ConvictionsC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
The Dawn of Better ThingsW. B. Mackenzie, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The DegradationF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Difficulty of God's Service to Recent ConvertsJ. H. Newman, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Discontented Son Gets His WishW. B. Mackenzie, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Divided LivingF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Efficacy and Joy of RepentanceBishop Wm. Alexander.Luke 15:11-32
The Elder BrotherThe Lay PreacherLuke 15:11-32
The Elder SonE. Mellor, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Elder SonJ. O. Dykes, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Elder Son's DispositionW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Elder Son's DissatisfactionF. D. Maurice, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Far CountryW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Far CountryBishop Cowper.Luke 15:11-32
The Fatherhood of GodJ. Vaughan, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The FatherlandJames Hamilton, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Father's Joy At Thy Sinner's ReturnF. D. Maurice, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Father's Readiness to ForgiveLuke 15:11-32
The Father's SilenceProf. Calderwood.Luke 15:11-32
The Folly of ExtravaganceJames Hamilton, D. DLuke 15:11-32
The Fruits of SinW. R. Clark, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Hunger of the SoulH. Bushnell, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Law Restraining a ProdigalLuke 15:11-32
The Madness of SinJ. Burns, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Madness of SinnersJ. Orton.Luke 15:11-32
The Madness of SinnersW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Merry HouseholdW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
The Nature and Consequences of SinW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Pain of Self-AwakeningW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Parable of FatherhoodBishop Alexander.Luke 15:11-32
The Parable of the ProdigalA. G. Thomson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Parable of the Prodigal SonGeo. Gerrard.Luke 15:11-32
The Parable of the Prodigal SonRepertorium Oratoris Sacri.Luke 15:11-32
The Pearl of ParablesC. S. Robinson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Penitent ReceivedW. R. Clark, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The ProdigalThe Lay PreacherLuke 15:11-32
The ProdigalJ. Sanderson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal and His BrotherF. W. Robertson, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal RepentingC. D. Marston, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonE. N. Kirk.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonT. D. Gregg, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonT. Kelly.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonJ. Burns, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonD. O. Mears.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonA. E. Dunning.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonD. G. Hughes, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonL. O. Thompson.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal SonJ. R. Boyd.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's ConversionW. D. Horwood.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's DepartureM. F. Sadler.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's Elder BrotherA. Gatty, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's FatherDe W. Talmage, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's MadnessF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's ReceptionC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's ReturnJ. Burns, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's ReturnR. Winterbotham, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's ReturnC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's ReturnNotes from a Soldier's Diary.Luke 15:11-32
The Prodigal's Wandering, Return, and ReceptionT.B. Baker.Luke 15:11-32
The Reformed ProdigalJ. Thomson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The ResolutionW. M. Taylor, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Return and the ReceptionW. G. Pascoe.Luke 15:11-32
The Return of the BanishedJames Hamilton, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The RingJ. Ferguson.Luke 15:11-32
The Safety of Moral ReturnC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
The SequelJ. Burns, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Sinning Soul a SuffererW. Hoyt, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Temptations to ExpenseJames Hamilton, D,D.Luke 15:11-32
The Turning PointC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 15:11-32
The Worlding ArrestedJ. Kennedy, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The World's Treatment of its Votaries in Time of NeedR. Maguire, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
The Younger and Elder SonsJames Foote, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
The Younger Son and His DemandW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Touch IronF. Ferguson, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Trouble Draws the Soul to GodW. Arnot, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Two ProdigalsDe W. Talmage, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Unsatisfied DesiresW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Vain Efforts of the Soul to Find SatisfactionJames Hamilton, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
WasteW. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.Luke 15:11-32
Wasted LivesLuke 15:11-32
Wasted SubstanceW. Arnot, D. D.Luke 15:11-32
Wasted SubstanceW. B. Mackenzie, M. A.Luke 15:11-32

A certain man had two sons.

1. The alienation of the heart from God.(1) Homelessness.(2) Worldly happiness is unsatisfying. Husks are not food.(3) Degradation.

2. The period of repentance.(1) The first fact of religious experience which this parable suggests to us is that common truth — men desert the world when the world deserts them. The renegade came to himself when there were no more husks to eat. He would have remained away if he could have got them, but it is written, "no man gave unto him." And this is the record of our shame. Invitation is not enough; we must be driven to God. And the famine comes not by chance. God sends the famine into the soul — the hunger, and thirst, and the disappointment — to bring back his erring child again.(2) There is another truth contained in this section of the parable. After a life of wild sinfulness religion is servitude at first, not freedom. Observe, he went back to duty with the feelings of a slave: "I am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants." Any one who has lived in the excitement of the world, and then tried to settle down at once to quiet duty, knows how true that is. To borrow a metaphor from Israel's desert life, it is a tasteless thing to live on manna after you have been feasting upon quails. It is a dull cold drudgery to find pleasure in simple occupation when life has been a succession of strong emotions. Sonship it is not; it is slavery. A son obeys in love, entering heartily into his father's meaning. A servant obeys mechanically, rising early because he must; doing, it may be, his duty well, but feeling in all its force the irksomeness of the service. Sonship does not come all at once.

3. The reception which a sinner meets with on his return to God. The banquet represents to us two things.(1) It tells of the father's gladness on his son's return. That represents God's joy on the reformation of a sinner.(2) It tells of a banquet and a dance given to the long lost son. That represents the sinner's gladness when he first understood that God was reconciled to him in Christ. There is a strange, almost wild, rapture, a strong gush of love and happiness in those days which are called the days of first conversion. When a man who has sinned much — a profligate — turns to God, and it becomes first clear to his apprehension that there is love instead of spurning for him, there is a luxury of emotion — a banquet of tumultuous blessedness in the moment of first love to God, which stands alone in life, nothing before and nothing after like it. And, brethren, let us observe — This forgiveness is a thing granted while a man is yet afar off.

II. GOD'S EXPOSTULATION WITH A SAINT. The true interpretation seems to be that this elder brother represents a real Christian perplexed with God's mysterious dealings. We have before us the description of one of those happy persons who have been filled with the Holy Ghost from their mother's womb, and on the whole (with imperfections of course) remained God's servant all his life. For this is his own account of himself, which the father does not contradict. "Lo! these many years do I serve thee." We observe then: The objection made to the reception of a notorious sinner — "Thou never gavest me a kid." Now, in this we have a fact true to Christian experience. Joy seems to be felt more vividly and more exuberantly by men who have sinned much, than by men who have grown up consistently from childhood with religious education. Rapture belongs to him whose sins, which are forgiven, are many. In the perplexity which this fact occasions, there is a feeling which is partly right and partly wrong. There is a surprise which is natural. There is a resentful jealousy which is to be rebuked. And now mark the father's answer. It does not account for this strange dealing by God's sovereignty. It does not cut the knot of the difficulty, instead of untying it, by saying, God has a right to do what He will. He does not urge, God has a right to act on favouritism if He please. But it assigns two reasons. The first reason is, "It was meet, right that we should make merry." It is meet that God should be glad on the reclamation of a sinner. It is meet that that sinner, looking down into the dreadful chasm over which he had been tottering, should feel a shudder of delight through all his frame on thinking of his escape. And it is meet that religious men should not feel jealous of one another, but freely and generously join in thanking God that others have got happiness, even if they have not. The spirit of religious exclusiveness, which looks down contemptuously instead of tenderly on worldly men, and banishes a man for ever from the circle of its joys because he has sinned notoriously, is a bad spirit. Lastly, the reason given for this dealing is, "Son, thou art always with Me, and all that I have is thine." By which Christ seems to tell us that the disproportion between man and man is much less than we suppose. The profligate had had one hour of ecstasy — the other had had a whole life of peace. A consistent Christian may not have rapture; but he has that which is much better than rapture: calmness — God's serene and perpetual presence. And after all, brethren, that is the best.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

1. First, then, in that he is called a young man, there is noted in him want of knowledge and experience as the ground and fountain of all his folly, he knew not as yet what his father was worth unto him. And, therefore, he is not afraid to forsake him. This is to teach us that none forsakes the Lord, but such as do know Him not, and understand not that in so doing they forsake their own mercy. As beasts that know not the value of pearls care not to trample them under their feet, or as young children laugh at the death of their parents, because they know not for the present what they lose thereby, but afterwards remember it with grief; so blinded man without remorse runs away from God, not knowing what he lost by departing from the Lord, for He is light, and they go into utter darkness that go from Him. He is life, and they are but dead who abide not in fellowship with Him. One example of this we have in the elect angels; they are never weary to behold His excellent Majesty; they find ever new matter of joy in His face.

2. Secondly, in this prodigal child is noted here, that natural rebellion which is in all men; that they will not submit themselves to the will of God their Heavenly Father, but will follow their own wills.

3. The third evil noted here in this prodigal is his hypocrisy; he calls him in word father, but in deed did not so account of him; he carried not toward him the heart of a child; this is a part of that poison wherewith Satan hath infected our nature. Is there any comparison between that which thou givest the Lord and that which thou gettest from Him?

4. That he seeks a portion of his father's goods, but not his father's favour and blessing, represents to us the earthly minds of naturalists, who prefer the gifts of God to God Himself.

(Bishop Cowper.)

Captain Sir W.E. Parry observes, "There is nothing even in the whole compass of Scripture more calculated to awaken contrition in the hardest heart than the parable of the Prodigal Son. I knew a convict in New South Wales, in whom there appeared no symptoms of repentance in other respects, but who could never hear a sermon or comment on this parable without bursting into an agony of tears, which I witnessed on several occasions. Truly He who spoke it knew what was in man." It is the prince of parables, a gospel within the gospel, a mirror of man, an artless yet profound little drama of human ruin and recovery. Wonderful, indeed, is its power to touch the sensibilities. "I have wept but once these forty years, said a veteran military officer, and that was when I heard Jesse Bushyhead, the Cherokee preacher, address his countrymen from the parable of the Prodigal Son, the tears flowing faster than he could wipe them away."

(A. G. Thomson, D. D.)

I. LET US FOLLOW THE SINNER IN HIS REBELLION. In this part of the picture we shall perceive that sin is vicious in principle, ruinous in operation, and ever multiplying its destructive issues.(1) SIN IS VICIOUS IN PRINCIPLE.

1. What is the unexpressed but fundamental axiom of all sin? A human being exists to pursue his own gratification, without regard to the will of God. That is it.

2. The younger son acts out the rule of life ascribed to him. For observe, the employment of the resources of existence for self-indulgence he claims as a right. "Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me."

3. Now definite plans for self-indulgence follow. His notions of life and felicity are not a theory, but meant to be a practice; and he does his best to be ready for it.

4. Notice, next, the haste of sin. "Not many days after, the younger son gathered all together." It might have been the most sublime and hallowed enterprise in the world. The rapidity of his movements must not be attributed exclusively to the impetuosity of youth, but to the precipitancy of all sinful passion.

5. Remark, finally, here, the presence of God is "unfriendly to sin." "And took his journey into a far country." Banishment from home would have been accounted a great hardship, if it had been enjoined as a duty. The toils and perils of the road would have occasioned no little murmuring, if his hard travail had contemplated any other end than selfenjoyment. He is eager to swallow his indulgences, and equally anxious to be beyond his father's eye and all the restraints of home. "Let me alone" is the impatient cry of sin to all remonstrance. "A far country" is always the coveted paradise of fools.

II. SIN IS RUINOUS IN OPERATION. "And there wasted his substance in riotous living."

III. SIN IS EVER MULTIPLYING ITS DESTRUCTIVE ISSUES. There is no standing still in good or evil. The wheels of human progress never rest on their axles.

1. Instead of attaining to happiness, he is overtaken by poverty.

2. Now Providence fights against him. Nature is in the universal league against transgression.

3. He is already feeling the pinch of wrong-doing. "And he began to be in want." The fruit of evil deeds is revealing its poison. He finds himself in the grasp of premonitory pangs.

4. Observe next, that the old principle is to be worked in new ways. "And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country." You see that he has not become a citizen himself. He is still a stranger. He cannot absolutely settle down out there. No. A man cannot find entire satisfaction in a life of self-enjoyment without God. With nothing but worldly things he cannot attain to rest.

5. He now sinks to a lower level of degradation. A swine-herd!

6. Take notice, further, that the swine-herd is prepared to accept his shame. "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks which the swine did eat." Ever since he left his father's house his inclinations have descended lower and lower. He tried to fill, to satisfy himself with them, but he could not. They merely stayed his hunger. There was a bitterness in their flavour which something in his palate nauseated. The pleasure of eating was gone. The food of a beast cannot satisfy the soul of a man.

7. Last of all, his schemes of felicity and methods of relief are all overturned together. "And no man gave unto him." It does not mean, that no man gave him swine's food. The swine-herd had the care of the husks, and ate plenty of them, but he could not enjoy them. "No man gave unto him" what could satisfy and bless a human soul. Man is the highest creature in the world; but if you seek your happiness or your deliverance from misery at his hands, you must end in failure. "Citizens" out in that country, "far" from God, could not surround a prodigal with the good which a father's love at home can alone supply. "No man gave unto him," because no man had anything to give.

II. LET US WATCH THE SINNER IN HIS REPENTANCE. There are four elements of repentance here requiring analysis.

1. REFLECTION. "And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare!" Sin creates a sort of moral insanity. While spurred by appetite and in the race after indulgence, the mind is actuated by a species of frenzy. "I perish with hunger!" There is the memory of a better past in that exclamation. This same recalling of brighter hours bows the spirit into the dust.

"This is truth the poet sings,

That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things."Bygone years to a sinner, however in his beginning, is a glance up an ascending incline towards sunnier days.

2. RESOLUTION. "I will arise and go to my father." He no sooner discerns his hapless state, than he determines to leave it. You are to imagine him prostrate, brooding in indecision or despair. But he will lie no longer in inaction. He protests, "I will arise," and he rises.

3. RECOGNITION OF GUILT. His resolution, while unenfeebled by hesitation, was not formed in insensibility to his evil. He sees most distinctly the relation of sin towards God and towards himself.(1) The relation of sin towards God. "I have sinned against heaven." Evil insults the purity and despises the love of God. It destroys His moral order, and spurns the felicity which He offers.(2) The relation of sin towards himself. "And am no more worthy," etc. His sense of ill-desert is real and deep.

4. RETURN TO GOD. His was no empty vow.


1. NOTICE GOD'S RECOGNITION OF THE EARLIEST BEGINNINGS OF PENITENCE. "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him." He had not seen his father, but "his father saw him." Unconsciously to the son, the love of the father has been drawing him all the way. If he had lost the image of his father from his memory, he would never have attempted to return.

2. OBSERVE GOD'S WELCOME TO THE REPENTING.(1) The tenderness of God is wonderful, He "had compassion." Great reason had God to be angry with that sinful creature, with me, with you; but He "had compassion."(2) How willing God is to succour! "His father saw him, and had compassion, and ran" to welcome him. "Ran," — willingness is too feeble an epithet to denote the impulse. There is eagerness in "ran." God is hasting to save and bless.(3) Pray do not overlook God's readiness to accept and pardon just as you are. "Saw," "had compassion," "ran," "and fell on his neck, and kissed him."

3. NOW TURN TO BEHOLD HOW GOD LAVISHES HIS AFFECTION ON THE ACCEPTED PENITENT. The father is not going to treat his son as an "hired servant." God's forgiveness must be God-like. God's love is always greater in experience than in our most sanguine wishes and brightest hopes.

4. LISTEN TO GOD'S EXHORTATION TO HIS UNIVERSE TO SHARE HIS JOY. "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry." "Merry" is an old Saxon word. Its meaning has somewhat narrowed and lowered in our later tongue. "Be merry," here, in the original is "rejoice." A feast betokens gladness among all nations. The occasion is great, and great is to be the exultation. "Let us eat and rejoice." The father does not ask his household to be glad and he himself remain only a spectator of the universal delight. It is, "Let us eat and rejoice." It is God's own joy that He would have His creatures share and proclaim.

(Bishop Alexander.)


1. Absence of gratitude, or any sense of obligation to his father.

2. Impatience of his father's government.

3. Breaking away from his father's control.

4. Squandering his father's property contrary to his father's intention.

5. But his schemes all failed to make him happy.

II. WHEN MEN BEGIN TO FEEL THEIR WANT, THEY TAKE ERRONEOUS COURSES TO DELIVER THEMSELVES. One flies to his worldly companions; another to scepticism; another to business; another to pleasure; another to some external reformation; another determines to read his Bible a little more, and to pray a little more — not meaning by prayer his heart really coming back to God, but the utterance of some words and going more frequently on his knees. That is not prayer. Prayer is the child coming back to his Father; prayer is the heart meeting God; prayer is the heart delighting in God, pouring out its desires into the bosom of infinite Love, and feeling that God is there. You must get back to God through the mediation, the merit, and the sacrifice of the Lord our Righteousness and our Redeemer. All other refuges will fail: all other processes will fail: you may have convictions, and then you may do this, that, or the other that I have described; still you are in want. Husks, husks, husks are all you have received by staying away from your Father's house.

III. THE NATURE OF REPENTANCE AND SUBMISSION — the way to get home to our Father. The young man is said to have come to himself: that means that he was beside himself before. Hence you find that the Word of God denominates sinners "fools": and because they are practically so foolish, they would rather remain undisturbed in their sins for a few days, than go through the bitterness of repentance and the self-denial of religion now, that they may wear an eternal crown, and live in immortal peace. There is another proof of the derangement of the human heart. It is the feeling which men have, that they can be happy away from God, and that they know more about the secret of happiness than the God who made them. So repentance is turning to our right mind. Repentance is beginning to look at things aright — beginning to reason, and feel, and purpose, and act aright. The young man determines to come home, to confess his sin without any palliation. The willingness to humble ourselves, that is coming home. Look for a moment at this young man, and see how difficult it was for him to come home, and how impossible it would have been, if he had not humbled his pride. In the first place he had to go back in his rags. "There is not a child in the village but will see me; and they will say, That is the young man who went out in such splendid style; and they will point the finger at me and mock me": and yet says be, "I will arise and go."


(E. N. Kirk.)

I. THE PARABLE. It can stand the two tests which Byron declared to be decisive upon the merit of literary creations. It pleases immediately, and it pleases permanently. The rose needs no essay to prove that it is a rose. This is fragrant with the breath of Christ, and coloured with the summer of His touch.

1. The prodigal's sin.(1) In its origin it is selfishness.(2) In its progress it is dissipation.(3) In its result, sin is famine and degradation: in action, the life of the stye, which is sensuality; in thought, the system of the stye, which is materialism. One of the citizens of that country sends him "into the fields to feed swine."(4) But the essence of his sin is the miserable determination to remove as far as possible from his father's presence.

2. The prodigal's repentance. "He came to Himself." He had been outside his true self before. When a man finds himself, he finds God.

3. The reception of the lost son. For every step the sinner takes towards God, God takes ten towards him. We will not dwell upon the particulars of that great reception. Enough to mention "the first stole"; the ring of honour; the shoes forbidden to slaves; the sacrificial feast; the father's voice passing into the chant of a wondrous liturgy; and seen and heard across the darkening fields by the elder brother as he unwillingly faces homeward the long line of festal light, the symphony of instruments, and the choirs of dancers.


1. Its efficacy. Not in the nature of things; not inherent in it. The sinner is in an awful land, where every rock is literally a "rock of ages"; where the facts which some men call spiritual are bound by a fatal succession quite as much as the facts which all men call material; where God is frozen into an icicle, and no tender touch of miracle can come from His law-stiffened fingers; where two and two always make four, and your sin always finds you out. To remove this impotence and inefficacy of repentance, Jesus lived and died. Repentance is His indulgence, flung down from the balcony by our great High Priest. Repentance is His gift; the efficacy of repentance is His secret.

2. Its joy.(1) There are two considerations which have always been urged by masters of the spiritual life.(a) To judge the inner life only by the joy of which it is conscious is a sort of spiritual epicureanism. "The tears of penitents are the wine of angels"; but they were not intended to intoxicate those who shed them.(b) Past sin, even when its guilt is pardoned, has penal consequences upon the inner life. It continues in the memory with its poisoned springs and in the imagination with its perilous susceptibilities.(2) Yet they know not the mind of God to whom penitence is only bitter. There are

"Tears that sweeter far

Than the world's mad laughter are."There is a triumphant, a victorious delight, which leads the will along the narrow way, and will not be gainsaid. It is a mutilated Miserere which omits the verse "Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the hones which Thou hast broken may rejoice." By one of those apparent contradictions which lies at the root of the Christian life, a perpetual yearning after pardon is consistent with a perpetual serenity of hope. God would mould His penitents that they may combine sorrow with joy; that they may hear at once a sigh in the depths of their souls, and a music far away. There must be in the renewed nature something of the iron that has been moulded in His furnace, and something of the rose which has been expanded in His sunshine. The life of Frederick the Great, by a writer of transcendent genius, contains incidentally a record of the death of an English general defeated in Canada. Twice only did the unhappy officer rouse himself out of the mortal stupor into which he fell from a broken heart. Once he sighed heavily — "Who would have thought it?" Many days after he said with more animation — "Another time we will do better." And then " the cataracts of soft, sweet sleep" rushed down upon the weary man. Do not these two sentences give us this view of the twofold aspect of repentance? — the first, the humiliation of the beaten soldier as he comes to himself; the second, his hope through Christ as he catches the music of the march of victory.

(Bishop Wm. Alexander.)


1. He was estranged from all love for his father. His affections had been soured and turned before he made this abrupt demand. He addressed his father as to a division of his estate in a cool, technical way.

2. He was away from his home (see ver. 13). His father's residence which he had left is pictured in the parable, with the family life in it, by two or three strokes of a master hand. Even the servants had enough and to spare. Feasts were not unknown. Music and dancing were part of the entertainment. But it is plain that the old father meant to be master there; and that was precisely the condition of life this impulsive youth resolved to escape.

3. He had fallen into poverty (see ver. 14). Removed from influences which had hitherto kept him in check, he began the career of a profligate and debauchee. A little time spent in this voluptuous folly sufficed to run through his fortune.

4. At last he sank to the lowest, and became a servant. He went and offered himself to a master. The citizen of that country put him at the very worst business he had for any menial to do.

5. At this moment the young man was actually hungering in the presence of his beasts (see ver. 16). So far from having the right to despise the lowly creatures of his charge, the prodigal began the rather to envy them. The picture must be turned now to show just how it illustrates the condition of a sinner alienated from his Father in heaven. His own pride of heart lies at the bottom of his departure; he wants to be master of himself. Gathering together all his resources of time, talent, energy — all his powers of mind and body — he rushes away into the world of dissipation and lust. Now he goes to the devil directly and hires himself out, and Satan accepts him at his own valuation, and puts him among the swine.


1. First of all, he began to think "I thought upon my ways and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies." The expression here is as singular as it is strong — "When he came to himself." A sort of madness was in his heart. He sees where he is, and what he is, and what he has so long been doing.

2. Then he began to remember. That is Scripture counsel for us in these later times — "Remember from whence thou art fallen." The prodigal recollected the kindness of his home in the days gone by.

3. Then he began to regret. His grief over the wickedness of his career is shown by the softness and gentleness of his forms of meditation. We discover no demonstrations of spite.

4. Then he began to hate. Abruptly, but for ever, he throws up his engagement with his cruel master. He renounces absolutely all the associations of his life in this far country.

5. Then he began to resolve (see vers. 18, 19). So critical is this as a point in his experience, that we must analyze it step by step to the end.(1) He resolved he would arise. If he was actually bent on making a change, he must be up on the instant and out of this. Nothing could be gained by delay.(2) He resolved he would go to his father. To whom else could he go? Drudgery was here, freedom was yonder. Shame was here, honour was yonder. Slavery was here, duty was yonder. Starving was here. plenty and to spare were yonder.(3) He resolved to speak to his father. Observe, in this little speech he says over and over again to himself there is not one word about food or raiment, or future fortune. He is going to get the awful past right before he begins on anything else. He decides that he will confess before he begins to plead; what he wants is pardon.(4) He resolved to be obedient to his father. Unworthy of sonship, he will ask for a servant's place. Indeed, now he has come to see that the lowest position in his father's house is higher than the highest he ever discovered in all these reckless, wicked days since he left it. Here, again, we must pause to turn the story, so as to see in all plainness how it illustrates the process of mind and behaviour through which a contrite sinner returns to his Father in heaven in the hour of his resolve. These steps are all homeward steps.

III. There remains for our study now only one more grouping of particulars which show THIS PRODIGAL'S RECEPTION WHEN AT THE LAST HE ARRIVED IN HIS OWN COUNTRY, AND CAME TO HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.

1. He carried out his purpose of arising and going to his father (see ver. 20). It would have done no good just to resolve and then sit still there among the swine.

2. He carried out his purpose of confessing his sin to his father (see ver. 21). Perhaps he had been fainting with hunger; but hope would tell him of comfort by and by. Perhaps he would meet a train of travellers, who would laugh at his sorry look and condition; but he would think of help coming before long. Perhaps his heart wholly sank at the moment when from the last hill he saw his home; but he would be sure to fall back on his sure faith in his father's affection.

3. He carried out his purpose of full obedience of his father. To be sure, not a word was said about his being a servant any more. He was a sou now, and all the old honour had come with the robe and the ring. But the unspoken resolve still remained in his heart (see Hebrews 5:8).

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

I. THE SON'S FORTUNE, AND HIS WAY OF SPENDING IT. What, then, was his fortune? Man is gifted with health, by which he is able to enjoy life — strength, to provide for its necessities — faculties (such as common sense, reason, the understanding), to guide him to God as his true happiness — affections, to endear him to others, and others to him. Appetites of various and valuable sorts. The appetite of eating and drinking, which affords legitimate pleasure and real advantage when moderately indulged; the appetite for seeing, which opens a door to much useful discovery and delight, which enables us to admire on every hand the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of our Creator and our God; the appetite for hearing, by which Divine knowledge gets admittance into the soul, by which the agreeable converse of our friends, and the delightful strains of heavenly melody, may be enjoyed and indulged in. These, and many others. are precious items in the portion which God bountifully bestows upon His children. They should be enjoyed at His discretion, according to His command, and for His glory. Not so, however, the sinner. Like the prodigal, he gathers his riches, and takes his journey into a far country — that is to say, he wanders far from God and heaven. The prodigal becomes a worldling; he carries his portion into the unregenerate world, and there wastes his substance in riotous living. His gifts are debauched and misused; they are all made the servants of sin. Hunger eaters to gluttony; thirst to drunkenness; the eye administers to lust; it reads wicked looks, delights in wanton shows, in pomp, and vanity, and folly. The ear drinks in blasphemy, irreligion, and indecency. The heart is made the residence of evil affections; the head and understanding, of wicked, ungodly, infidel principles. The summer of life is spent in bringing to maturity the seeds of evil which were scattered in its spring — the autumn, in the neglect of what is good, and in the ingathering of what is bad, the poisoned fruits of a debauched manhood. The winter of life comes on, and in its train sharp disease, racking pains — a bloated, enfeebled, disordered carcase — a foolish head, an unregenerate heart, a guilty conscience. There is now no more capacity for enjoying pleasure; the sight is gone, the hearing lost, the appetite vanished, the strength decayed, the health squandered, the affections debased, the faculties degraded — the whole substance wasted in riotous living.

II. HIS DESTITUTION AND REPENTANCE. "And when he had spent all there began to be a mighty famine in that land." So it is with sinners. They derive their pleasure from sensual enjoyments — the indulgences of the flesh; but, when they spend their strength, there is an end of these indulgences. The eye refuses to see, the ear to hear, the members to stir, in obedience to the miserable slave of sin. "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat." It is among the miseries of sinners that the appetite for wicked indulgence increases as the capacity for gratifying it decays. The longer the heart has been exercised in iniquity, the deeper will be the corruption with which it is tainted. "And no man gave unto him." Be assured, sinner, this is a true picture of the world. While you can treat them — while you have anything that they can devour, they will praise and flatter you; but, when your substance is gone, you will find it true that no man will give unto you — none of your sinful companions. They have their own devouring lusts, their filthy lusts, to gratify. Do you think that they will deny themselves for your necessities? "And when he came to himself" — mark the expression, as though he had been in a fit of madness. It is thus the sinner is here spoken of; yea, and elsewhere the Holy Ghost says, "Madness is in their hearts while they live." "I will arise," etc. Here, then, were no excuses, no palliations — no saying others were in fault, I was led astray, I have not been as bad as some — no promises of great things for the future — no saying, I will devote myself to thy service, I will fight thy battles, I will do wonders for thy cause; but a simple declaration of guilt and wretchedness: "I have sinned, I am unworthy; I do not deserve the character of thy son; make me as one of thy servants; regard me as one of them." He resolves to plead, not his merit, but his misery, and he puts his resolve into execution. For —

III. "HE AROSE AND CAME TO HIS FATHER." "He arose and came": it is important that you should mark this — he did not rest content with mere resolutions of repentance. He did not say, "I will arise and return," and all the while stay where he was, desiring still to feed on husks. This too many do. "And .while he was yet a great way off," etc. Oh, the melting tenderness of our God and Saviour! He watches the very first movements towards repentance.

(T. D. Gregg, M. A.)

I. LET US INQUIRE WHO THE YOUNGER SON IS INTENDED TO REPRESENT. The parable is addressed to the scribes and Pharisees; but there was nothing in their character which resembled what is ascribed to the younger son, or that could admit a comparison with him. But, as we are told, it was delivered in the presence of publicans and sinners, who had assembled in crowds to hear Jesus, it cannot be doubted that it was that class who are portrayed by the younger son. The publicans and sinners are never represented in the Gospels as influenced by the religious opinions which prevailed among the Jews, but rather as led by their feelings; just as the younger son is exhibited in the parable. They are, however, drawn as more easily instructed, and more susceptible of repentance and reformation.


1. We see that extravagance and licentiousness are usually followed by want. Whoever, then, practices these vices, cannot plead ignorance of their natural and unavoidable consequences. Nor do evil effects belong to these vices alone; for every other vice has its peculiar evil consequences which accompany its train, as uniformly as a shadow goes along with a moving substance when the sun shines. Thus, even truth from the mouth of a known liar is usually received with incredulity, and always with suspicion. Pride is incessantly exposed to imaginary affronts and real mortifications, which cause to the unhappy victim many agonizing moments. The vain man is miserable when he is doomed to negligence and contempt, instead of receiving the coveted and expected praise. The gratification of revenge, in reality, consists of the pains of the rack.

2. As the evil consequences of sin are thus so evident to all, we ought to be convinced that this knowledge was intended to lead us to amendment. Such, indeed, is represented as the effect produced on the young man in the parable. His sufferings occasioned not only that repentance which consists in strong feelings, but that reformation which consists in a change of conduct. This is exhibited as genuine and sincere; it was speedy, nor was it partial but universal.

III. OUR ATTENTION IS NEXT CALLED TO THE ELDER BROTHER. We have concluded that the younger brother was designed to represent the publicans and sinners. Nor can we have any doubt that, under the similitude of the elder brother, the scribes and Pharisees are intended. It is true the character given of the elder brother is good — that he had served his father many years, and never transgressed his commands. But we must not overlook the circumstance that this favourable character is given by himself, while his conduct exhibits an opposite picture, bearing a close resemblance to the scribes and Pharisees; for they deemed themselves not only faultless but meritorious, as they are represented by the Pharisee in the parable, who thanked God for his superiority to others, and plumed himself because he fasted twice in the week, and gave tithes of all his possessions. Like the great body of the Pharisees, the elder brother is selfish and indifferent about others. He is angry at the fond reception given to his penitent brother, envious of the marks of favour conferred on him, and mortified at the supposed preference to himself by his noble-minded father. Had he possessed any natural affection he would have cordially testified his delight at the return of his long-lost brother. Had he felt as he ought to have done, he would have learned that his own happiness was highly enhanced; for there is no joy so elevated and refined as that which a good man feels at the return of a son, or a brother, or a friend, to God and duty.


(J. Thomson, D. D.)

1. This young man was laying his life-plans, and his first idea was to get away from his father.

2. Freedom from restraint leads to recklessness.

3. Recklessness leads to want.

4. Want leads to recollection.

5. Recollection leads to repentance.

6. Repentance leads to reformation.

7. Reformation leads to restoration.

8. Restoration leads to rejoicing.

9. Rejoicing over the returning prodigal is well; but the conduct and character of the elder brother are immeasurably better.

(T. Kelly.)





(Geo. Gerrard.)

The Lay Preacher.
Let us regard it as giving a picture of man —

I. IN THE DIGNITY OF HIS ORIGIN. This young man was the son of a father who could bestow on him a large fortune, and surround his life with comfort and splendour. He was born to dignity. The destitution and misery to which he had reduced himself was not his natural heritage. "We are also His offspring."

II. IN HIS DESIRE FOR INDEPENDENCE. All sins may be regarded as the unfolding of this single sin of selfishness. Hence the necessity that we should enter the Kingdom of God, where He asserts and maintains His dominion over us.

III. IN THE LIBERTY ALLOWED HIM, WITH THE RISK OF ITS ABUSE. When a man feels that the service of God is not perfect freedom, that he can better himself in some condition of his own seeking, God allows him to make the trial. The foolish experiment discovers at length to him that he is not really free by throwing off his former yoke. He has but exchanged it for a far heavier one.

1. We learn from this that the apostasy of the heart begins before the apostasy of the life.

2. Man abuses the liberty allowed him, and abandons himself to the dreadful possibilities of sin. Liberty is indeed a noble endowment, yet it is terrible to have the power to ruin ourselves. We can gain nothing by contending with our Maker.

IV. IN THE MANNER OF HIS SPIRITUAL RECOVERY. This recovery is possible. Such is the glad sound of the gospel. Let us trace the steps by which the prodigal gained the favour he had forfeited.

1. He was made to feel his utmost need.

2. His reformation commenced in thought.

3. He was sensible of the honour he had rejected.

4. He resolves to cast himself upon the mercy of his father.

5. He frames the design of his confession. Sin is acknowledged in its root — "before Thee."

6. Still remaining as a son, he desired to be reckoned a servant.

V. IN THE MERCIFUL KINDNESS WITH WHICH HEAVEN FORGIVES THE EVIL OF HIS LIFE. God draws nigh unto those who draw nigh unto Him. When the face is turned towards God, the long journey is relieved by the arrival of mercy before we have trodden every weary step.

1. The penitent is raised to a position of honour.

2. There was sympathy awakened for him in the father's household.

3. The joy was suited to the time — "it was meet." But this intensity of joy could not, in the nature of things, long continue. He, too, must shortly settle down to the sober tasks of duty. The excitement of a great crisis must not be the permanent condition of the soul, or her energies would be consumed at too high a rate; and, instead of the glow of health, there would be the burning of a fever. Excessive joy must subside into the patience of faith, and the labour of love.

(The Lay Preacher.)


1. Why did he leave?

(1)Youth is the time of imaginations. The prodigal son promised to himself a joyful life outside of his father's house.

(2)Youth is desirous of sensual pleasures.

(3)Youth desires to be independent, and will not obey.

2. How did he leave?

(1)The ungrateful demand.

(2)The going astray.


1. He wastes his substance.

2. He begins to be in want. Poverty is the condition of the soul that seeks happiness in the world. By losing his God, the sinner loses everything.

3. His degradation. He who would not perform the daily work in the house of his father, is now obliged to labour as a hired servant.

4. He envies the brute beasts.


1. The causes of his return.(1) It was caused by his misery. The famine calls him back whom satiety had led away. God visits with grace him whom He visits with affliction.(2) Forsaken by all the world, he returned to himself. The first condition of conversion is knowledge of one's self, and the knowledge of the condition of our soul.(3) He saw the misery of his condition.

2. The steps he takes in order to return.(1) He makes a firm resolution, not deferring his return to a later time, nor being deterred by difficulties.(2) He still remembers the kindness of his father.(3) He acknowledges the enormity of his sin.

3. His reception.

(Repertorium Oratoris Sacri.)

Look at the prodigal son —

I. IN HIS ORIGINAL CIRCUMSTANCES OF HONOUR AND HAPPINESS. Upright. Innocent. Happy. God his Father. Eden his home. The earth his domain. Angels his companions. All that Divine wisdom and love could provide, he possessed. An ample portion was his inheritance.

II. IN THE ARROGANCE OF HIS PRESUMPTUOUS CLAIM. What did he really want.? Where could he be more dignified or happy? But he seeks to have his portion to himself. He desires to do with it as he pleases. He seeks to throw off parental restraints and control.


1. This wandering is very gradual and insidious.

2. Increasingly rapid.

3. Awfully dangerous.

IV. IN HIS WRETCHEDNESS AND MISERY. Profligacy is followed by want; extravagance by misery.


(J. Burns, D. D.)



1. He determines on an immediate return to his forsaken home.

2. He resolves freely to confess his sins.

3. He resolves to be content with any place in his father's dwelling.


1. Immediately; without delay.

2. And he perseveres in his homeward course.

(J. Burns, D. D.)





1. How generous and pure is the benevolence of the gospel. It is of God, and from Him, and resembles His tender and infinite love.

2. How hateful is an envious self-righteous spirit. It is the sprit of the evil one, and therefore from beneath.

3. Happy they who have repented of sin, and who have been received into the Saviour's family of love.

(J. Burns, D. D.)

I. THE PRODIGAL'S DEPARTURE. He disliked all parental restraint. He broke the principle involved in the "first commandment with promise." In his father's house vice was out of place. He made the world his servant, little thinking how soon he should be under its most cruel tyranny. He was sadly deceived. We must never forget that all wasting of our gifts is a sin. Man is made for a noble purpose; his duties touch eternity, and are given for use in time. Shall we, for even a moment, dare assume that it is no concern of ours how we employ our powers?

II. THE PRODIGAL'S DESPAIR. His situation is portrayed by the one graphic description of Christ: "There arose a mighty famine in that land." We are pointed to the darkest word in human history, precursor of the pestilence and death. It tells of the stony bed where the brook once ran. It tells of the fruitless trees, with branches prematurely stripped of their foliage." It tells of the grass of summer all burned away. His property was all wasted, and despair was settling down upon his soul. His life was a failure in such a land; his "riotous living" was beginning its curse. No want of the human heart, good or bad, is ever satisfied here. Even the disciple's anticipation is of a time when he shall awake in Christ's likeness. Just so, the nobler desires turned earthward are more insatiate still. Epicure was never satisfied. The sustenance of vicious desires only awakens new ones. The drunkard drinks deeper week by week, his thirst deepened with every draught of the mocking cup. The miser's lust burns fiercer as the gold in his chest becomes heavier.

III. THE PRODIGAL'S RESOLUTION. We are told of an English soldier, wounded and faint, left by the retreating army to die. Helpless and motionless he lay, expecting his death, screened from the burning sun by an overhanging cliff. While his strength was ebbing fast there alighted just before his face a greedy, ravenous bird, waiting for the end to come. Thoughts of himself becoming the prey of that loathsome bird gave him a now energy, and he slowly arose and at last was saved. In almost a like helpless state the prodigal "came to himself." Two thoughts convinced him of his insane course — the abjectness of his misery, perishing with hunger; and the remembrance of the joys in the father's house. It was thus the dissolute John Newton became himself again. But for a like critical resolve John Bunyan would ever have remained the same worthless profligate as in his youth. A moral coward may face the cannon's mouth, but only a hero will turn from his sin. There is a splendour in such a moral conflict. Caesar's political fats depended upon his passing the Rubicon; and yet the same resolution is demanded in the ease of every sinner.

IV. THE PRODIGAL'S WELCOME. Words are powerless in declaring the richness of such a reception. The prodigal loved his father because his father had first loved him. Day after day the hired servants had asked in vain, When will his love grow less? But it never ceased.

(D. O. Mears.)

I. THE SPIRIT OF THE SON AT THE BEGINNING. His underlying aim is to look out for himself. He wanted his father's goods, but not his presence. This is the germ of sin — an independent, proud, unloving spirit toward God.

II. THE DEPARTURE. Not many days after he found that he could be independent, he started off on his journey. He who does not pray and obey God, rapidly withdraws from Him. God is not in his thoughts, and therefore he soon ceases to appreciate the character which God loves. The true generosity, which is love to men for their good, is lost. He loves men for what they are worth to please himself. Reverence is lost. The courage of gentleness is lost. Abhorrence of wickedness is lost. He sees wit in the rejection of Divine authority, courage in anger, manliness in vice.

III. THE LIFE OF UNHALLOWED PLEASURE. He chose the company that fitted his spirit. He sought others for what he could get out of them; they sought him for what they could get out of him. He had plenty of company as long as he had substance to waste on them. What he spent on them was wasted. What they gave him was wasted. The whole traffic was utter loss on both sides. They had not only outward possessions, but a wealth of intellect, affection, beauty, genius. They wasted it all. This the seeker for self and not God always does. He uses his talents to cover up his real aims and passions. Art has been made the handmaid of Sin. Music is called in to adorn the hideous nakedness of vice.

IV. THE COLLAPSE. The famine began when he had used up all he had. When all is gone, Nature herself turns against the prodigal. The world is a desert to a sinner who has run through the gifts of God, and he is absolutely certain to run them through in a little while. Alas for him when his own treasures are squandered, and the famine smites the far country! His one friend he has east off to win the admiration of the friends he had chosen; and they have cast him off as soon as his goods are gone.

V. THE NEW BUSINESS. No extreme of degradation could be greater than this to the mind of the Jew. He became the servant of a foreigner, whom the Jew despised. He tended swine, which were hateful to the Jew. He was hungry for the food which the swine fed on, and couldn't get it. Yet even this degradation was his own choice.

VI. THE AWAKENING. "He came to himself." Awakening to his wretchedness, he remembers one friend. Oh, if God were not a friend, the prodigal would sink into despair and hell when he comes to himself. He sees now where he is, that he has brought himself into this poverty. Many call God cruel after they have wasted the abundance of gifts from him. They have received all they ask for, have made no acknowledgment, have wasted all, and then, finding themselves wretched, they say that God has done it. But not so this prodigal. He said, "I have sinned."

VII. THE RESOLVE. He is awakened to a hope of pardon and gracious reception. But this does not hinder the full confession of his sin. He accepts the deepest humiliation. He seeks now not to maintain his pride, but to confess the truth.

VIII. THE RETURN. He acted at once. Honest repentance always does. Resolves postponed are lies. Men befool themselves with them. He did not wait to cleanse himself and get a more becoming dress. He was not earning enough to keep himself alive, far less could he save enough to better his appearance. Besides, there was nothing in the far country which money could buy that would make him in the least degree presentable at home. The gay and costly attire which he wore when he was spending his living with harlots was as repulsive to his father as his rags. He was not to become better in order that he might go to his father, but he was to go to his father in order that he might be made better. Yet he went back, not to claim anything. His father had given him once all he had asked for, and he had taken it as if it had belonged to him, had wasted it, and ruined himself by it. He went back to make confession.

IX. THE MEETING. He was yet a great way off when the father saw him. Love is quicker than youth, loftier than pride, mightier than Satan. The love of God is compassion. It suffers with the penitent. It would even spare the recital of the sad history.

(A. E. Dunning.)

Six touching scenes.


1. A young man chafing under the restraints of home. This chafing arose —

(1)From a false view of true liberty.

(2)From a false view of true happiness.

(3)From a false view of self-guidance.

2. A young man demanding his portion of the inheritance. This demand arose —

(1)From a desire to be independent of his father.

(2)From a desire to lay out his life and means according to his own plan.

3. The young man receiving "the portion which befell him."

(1)The father recognized his son's free agency.

(2)The father saw that his son's heart was already estranged from him.

(3)The father felt that the bitter experiences of life alone, if anything, would undeceive his self-deluded and wilful son.


1. The departure was not long delayed.

2. The young man took all he could claim.


1. His life riotous.

2. His substance wasted.


1. Famine.

2. Want.

3. Degrading service.

4. Hunger.


1. Situation realized.

2. Reflection commenced.

3. Decision resolved on.

4. A plea constructed.

5. Decision executed.


1. Love's long range of vision.

2. Love's tenderness.

3. Love's generosity.

4. Love's joy.Lessons:

1. The infinite contrast — man's selfishness and God's love.

2. The infinite folly — man breaking away from God.

3. The infinite grace — God embracing, forgiving, and honouring the returning prodigal.

(D. G. Hughes, M. A.)


1. Discontent.

2. Departure.

3. Wilful waste.


1. Extreme poverty.

2. Deep degradation.

3. Woful want.


1. Awakening.

2. Penitence.

3. Resolution.


1. Return.

2. Confession.

3. Welcome.Applications:

1. Too many imitate the prodigal in his sin, but not in his repentance.

2. The Father is ever ready to meet and receive, with a kiss of affection, the returning prodigal.

3. God is exalted to have mercy. There is grace for the chief of sinners. Whosoever will, may return. Come home, prodigal!

(L. O. Thompson.)








(J. Sanderson, D. D.)


1. A sinful state is a state of departure from God.

2. An extravagant or spendthrift.

3. A wretched or destitute state.

4. A servile and slavish state.

5. A state of perpetual dissatisfaction.

6. A state of deadness or death.

II. THE SINNER'S RETURN TO GOD, AND THE MANNER THEREOF. The first demonstration of his return is —

1. Consideration of his father's kindness.

2. By comparison, he saw his misery.

3. The view he got of the superiority of his father's house.

4. Determination.

5. Confession.

6. Self-condemnation.

7. Humble submission.

8. Filial confidence.

9. His obedience.


1. The father's affection to his returning child.

2. Eyes of mercy: he saw him as from a mountain.

3. Bowels of mercy: he feels compassion.

4. Feet of mercy: "he ran," while his son "came" only.

5. Arms of mercy: "he fell on his neck."

6. Lips of mercy: "he kissed him."The provision presented.

1. He came in rags. "He put the best robe upon him, a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet" (see also Isaiah 61:10).

2. He came hungry. "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry" (see also John 6:54).

3. Great joy. "Let us be merry" (see Luke 15:10); "Let them also that love thy name, be joyful in Thee (Psalm 5:11).

4. The conduct of the elder brother (25-30) serves as a reproof to the Pharisees, who were displeased at the conversion of the Gentiles.

(T.B. Baker.)

I. Sinners regard God no farther than to gain from Him whatever they can.

II. Sinners waste the blessings which they receive from His hands, and reduce themselves to absolute want.

III. Afflictions are very often the first means of bringing them to a sense of their condition.

IV. When they first acquire this sense they usually betake themselves to false measures for relief.

V. This situation of a sinner is eminently unhappy.

VI. The repentance of the gospel is the resumption of a right mind. Among the things which the sinner realizes, when he first comes to himself, are the following.

1. His own miserable condition.

2. That in the house of his heavenly Father there is an abundance of good.

3. A hope that this good may be his. I shall now proceed in the consideration of the progress of a sinner towards his final acceptance with God as it is exhibited in the text. With this design, I observe —

I. True repentance is a voluntary exercise of the mind.

II. True repentance is a filial temper, disposing us to regard God as our parent, and ourselves as His children.

III. True repentance is followed, of course, by a confession of sin.

IV. A real penitent feels that all his sins are committed against God.

V. A real penitent is, of course, humble.

VI. A real penitent brings nothing to God, but his want, shame, and sorrow.

VII. A true penitent executes his resolutions of obedience.

VIII. God is entirely disposed to receive the sincere penitent.

IX. The richest provision is made for the enjoyment of the sincere penitent.

X. There is a peculiar joy in heaven over the repentance of returning sinners.

(T. Dwight, D. D.)

I. THE PRODIGAL'S SIN. Dissatisfaction. Alienation. Estrangement.

II. THE PRODIGAL'S MISERY. Sooner or later every sinner must be taught that to be estranged from God is to be estranged from happiness.


1. Sanity returns.

2. Comparison of the present with the past.

3. Resolution to return. His condition has conquered his pride.

4. Confession.

5. Action.


1. The Father's advance.

2. Acknowledgment of sin and unworthiness.

3. Honour and dignity.

4. Festivity and rejoicing.

(J. H. Thomson, M. A.)


1. Alienation of affection. There was the root of his rebellion. His heart had wandered from its early tenderness, and had become warped, by yielding to a sinful lust of freedom, from its filial love. From this alienated heart, in natural sequence, flowed his after disobedience and sin. With the heart thus alienated, you can the more readily explain the prodigal's impatience of restraint, hankering after present licence of enjoyment, and departure from the house of his father. All these followed as the natural consequences of estranged affection. A yoke that is felt must always be galling; an enforced servitude stirs up within the man all latent feelings of rebellion. Hence, when the principle of filial love was gone, the restraint of the home became irksome, the desire for independence grew into a passion, and then followed the project of the journey into a far country, and of the uncontrolled rioting in the portion of goods.

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN. It were to defeat our own purpose to affirm that there are no pleasures in sin. The world would never continue in its ways if it reaped no gratification. There is, doubtless, something congenial to the wayward heart in the objects of its fond pursuit, and there is often thrown a blinding charm about the man, beneath whose spell unholy he fancies every Hecate a Ganymede, and dallies with deformity which he mistakes for beauty; but our point is this, that in every course of transgression, in every departure of the human spirit from God, there is debasement in the process, and there is ruin in the inevitable end.

1. Homelessness.

2. Waste and degradation.

3. Abandonment and famine.

(W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

1. The fact that we are sinners is no reason why we should stay away from our God.

2. We do not require to work some good thing in us before God can love us. The sinner may come to God just as he is, through Jesus Christ. The parable firsts represents man in his departure from God. The son was at home, surrounded with all the comforts of home, and secure in the affection of his father; but he became dissatisfied, and wished to depart and be independent. How like to man's conduct towards his God I There have been vast efforts of learning and of metaphysical skill put forth to account for the origin of evil, but we will find nowhere a better explanation than that furnished by God Himself: "God made man upright, but he hath sought out many inventions." When the prodigal had apostatized in heart from his father, he then went and demanded his portion of goods. He is going to set up for himself, and demands his rights. As has been observed, his demand sounds as if he had been consulting his lawyer, and was particularly anxious to put his claim into strictly legal phraseology. The father made no opposition, but let him have his portion of goods. He saw that his heart was gone, and why should he retain his body? God has given to us a portion of goods. It is those things which men possess in common, irrespective of their character. When, however, man takes these gifts and seeks to employ them independent of God, and even against God, he plunges into fearful guilt and misery. What is meant by the prodigal son going into a far country? It is doubtless intended to represent the spiritual distance of the soul from God while in a state of unbelief. Our consciousness of sin makes us dread to think of God, and that dread ripens into absolute enmity — "The carnal mind is enmity against God." When in this state of mind men put all thought of God as far away from them as they can. As you have seen a man bow a disagreeable visitor out of his house, so men put God far from them, saying, "Depart from us, we desire not a knowledge of Thy ways." Oh! into what a far country has the sinner wandered when he has reached this state! And the longer he continues in it the wider becomes the distance between him and God, till at last he drifts into the dark sea of eternal death. When the prodigal got into the far country we are told that he began to be in want. This was a sad termination to his high prospects of enjoyment. Doubtless he thought that if he could only be once independent, and get away from all parental control, his wants would all be supplied. But now his trouble is only beginning. Lie has reached the far-off land of hope and promise, where all his desires were to be gratified, but he finds instead that there is a "mighty famine in that land." Thus end all men's attempts to be happy away from God. And the sooner we become convinced of this the better, that we may no longer fill our souls with disappointment and grief, by seeking happiness where it cannot possibly be found; for except those who have found peace in Christ, the whole race in the scramble after the world may be classed under two heads — those who have been disappointed with the world, and those who are going to be. In this state of famine and distress the prodigal "joined himself to a citizen of the country." We would have supposed that his sufferings, his bitter disappointments, his pinching wants, would have sent him home at once. But no — man's last resource is to go to God. When he fails in one worldly project, he turns to another; and as each new plan fails to give him the satisfaction he expected, he concludes that the reason is that he has not yet got enough of the world, and so with new vigour he takes a fresh start. Man thinks that his happiness is to be found without, when it is only to be found within. There can no more be happiness in a foul heart, than there can be ease and comfort in a diseased body. This last change of the prodigal, accordingly, did not mend his condition at all; on the contrary, it sank him into a deeper degradation. At last the prodigal begins to think. "He came to himself." Before this he had been acting like one whose wild imagination has broken the bridle of reason, and dashes furiously on to destruction. It was such a display of headlong passion as reminds one of "moody madness laughing wild and severer woe." The expressions "self-possessed," "beside one's self," "losing one's self," are all very common and significant, and shadow forth the great truth that man's nature, made by God harmonious and united, has been rent in two. His soul has become a battle-field where two eternities conflict. Conscience pulls one way — passion another. The symptom of man coming to his right mind is when he begins to reflect. "In my father's house there is bread enough and to spare." He thought of one heart that once loved him tenderly, of a loving home that once sheltered him, and as he reflected upon the past and contrasted it with the present, his soul broke down in contrition, and then came the resolve, "I will arise and go to my father." A great point is gained when the sinner is led to think of eternal things. Whatever it may be that leads to this, whether it be under the faithful preaching of the word or the afflictions of Providence, if he is only led to reflect upon his lost condition it will surely do him good. No man can honestly and earnestly take up the claims of God upon him and his prospects for eternity, and look them fairly in the face, without being led to feel his need of a Saviour. Sinners rush down to destruction because they will not consider. The prodigal had now come to the resolution of going to his father, but his mind was full of dark misconceptions about that father's character and his feelings towards him. He knew that his father once loved him; but that he loved him now, that he had loved him all along in his wicked wanderings, was something of which he could form no conception. He knew that he had wasted his all, and that he had therefore no price to bring in his baud with which to purchase his father's love; but still he felt as if something must be done to turn away the anger which he thought burned in his father's bosom against him. How hard it is to lead the sinner to think of the gospel as God's free, full welcome to him to come just as he is and be saved! Oh how little did the prodigal know of the depth of that love he had so long despised and grieved! In the meantime the father sees his long-lost son, while he is yet afar off. The eye of affection is quick to detect its object under any and every disguise, and love is quick in its motions. He runs to meet the long-lost one. Oh, how different is this from what he expected! How all his unbelieving doubts and his misconceptions of his father's true character are dispelled by the gracious reception he now receives! and how vile his former conduct now appears in the light of his father's love! The very love that gives him such a hearty reception at the same time produces true repentance on account of the past, and plants in his soul the principle of a true obedience in the future. Sinner, this is a picture of the God with whom you have to do. He has followed you in your wanderings with ten thousand proofs of His love, though you have not heeded them. And even now He loves you still.

(J. R. Boyd.)

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.)

Of all God's cords the finest, and perhaps the strongest, is the cord of love. Quitting his native chimney, among the canals and grassy fields of Holland, the stork pursues the retiring summer, and soon overtakes it in Nubia or Morocco. There, quite unconscious of the fetter beneath his wing, he revels on the snakes of Taurus or the frogs of Nile: till at last, on a brilliant May morning, there is a sharp tug, and then a long steady pull, and high overhead float the broad pinions, and presently in the streets of Haarlem the boys look up, and shout their welcome, as, with eager haste and noisy outcry, an old acquaintance drops down upon the gable, and, drawn back to the old anchorage by a hawser of a thousand miles, the feathery sails are once more furled. Like instinct over a generation's interval brings back the exile to his Highland glen. It matters not that in the soft Bermudas life is luxury; it is of no avail that in this Canadian clearing a rosy household has sprung up and in proud affection clings around him; towards the haunts of his childhood there is a strange deep-hidden yearning which often sends absent looks towards northern stars, and ends at last in the actual pilgrimage. And although by the time of his return he finds that no money can buy back the ancestral abode; although, as he crosses the familiar bill and opens the sunny strath, strange solitude meets him; although when he comes up, the hamlet is roofless and silent, and the bonny beild, the nest of his boyhood, a ruin; although behind the cold hearth rank nettles wave, and from the calm covering the spot where in the mornings of another world he waked up so cosily, young weasels peep forth; although the plane is cut down, or the bourtree, under whose sabbatic shadow his father used at eventide to meditate; although where the vision dissolves a pang must remain, there is no need that he should go back, bleak and embittered, as to a disenchanted world. This glut of reality was wanted to quench a long fever: but even here, if his own heart is true, he will find that God's cord is not broken. Cottages dissolve and family circles scatter, but piety and love cannot perish. The cord is not broken; it is only the mooring-post which a friendly hand has moved farther inland, and fixed sure and steadfast within the veil; and as the strain which used to pull along the level is now drawing upward, the home which memory used to picture in the Highlands, faith learns to seek in heaven. The true home of humanity is God — God trusted, communed with, beloved, obeyed; and,

"Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,"do we come "from God, who is our home," but "trailing clouds of glory with us." Alloyed and interrupted by much that is base and wicked, there are in human nature still touches of tenderness, gleams of good feeling, noble impulses, momentary visitations of a natural piety, brought away from that better time and its blest abode, and which may be regarded as electric thrills along the line which connects with its Creator a fallen but redeemed humanity: as so many gentle checks of that golden chain which will one day bring back God's banished, and see the world "all righteous." The head of the great household is God, and the earthly home He has constituted so as to be an image of His own paternity. That home is founded in love, and in administering it love is called forth every day — often a pitying, for. bearing, forgiving love — a love sometimes severe and frowning, often self-denying, it may chance self-sacrificing. As the world now is — a ruin, with a remedial scheme in the midst of it — that home is the nearest image of the Church, and should be the most efficient fellow-worker with it. "In the family the first man himself would receive lessons on self-government such as even the garden of Eden did not supply, and perpetual occasion for its exercise. In what a variety of ways would he learn to repeat to his children the substance of the Divine prohibition to himself — 'Thou shalt not eat of it.' How soon would he who had had Paradise for a home discover that if he would convert home into a paradise he must guard his offspring at this point, subordinating their lower propensities to their superior powers." If presided over by those who themselves fear God — and otherwise no house is a home — there will be something sacred in its atmosphere, and alike enforced by affection and authority the lessons of heavenly wisdom will sink deep; and with a sufficient probation superadded to a careful protection, it is to be hoped that, before transplantation into the world's rough weather, good dispositions may have been so far confirmed as only to strengthen by further trial. In order to make your home the preparation for heaven, the first thing is to strengthen that cord of love by which you ought to hold your child, even as our heavenly Father holds His children. That love is yours already — an up-leaping, uplooking affection, if you do not destroy its tenderness by perpetual rebuffs, if you do not forfeit reverence by being yourself unworthy of it. "Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath"; be not always scolding, reproving, punishing; "but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Take advantage of their affection for yourself, and use it as the appointed medium for drawing them into the love of God. Train up the child in the way he should go. If he is not to go in the way of low pastime and coarse indulgence, point him to higher joys; open to him the well-spring of knowledge; try to ascertain and develop a turn for some ennobling pursuit, or create a taste for the treasures bequeathed by genius. After all, however, there is another influence which goes farther in creating the home. It is mother-love which endears the fatherland, and it is to the cradle that the fairy-line is fastened which even in the far country holds so mysteriously the heart of the wanderer. When Napoleon, with his army of invasion, lay at Boulogne, an English sailor who had been captured tried to escape in a little raft or skiff which he had patched together with bits of wood and the bark of trees. Hearing of his attempt, the First Consul ordered him to be brought into his presence, and asked if he really meant to cross the channel in such a crazy contrivance. "Yes, and if you will let me, I am still willing to try." "You must have a sweetheart whom you are so anxious to revisit." "No," said the young man, "I only wish to see my mother, who is old and infirm." "And you shall see her," was the reply, "and take to her this money from me; for she must be a good mother who has such an affectionate son." And orders were given to send the sailor with a flag of truce on board the first British cruiser which came near enough. Napoleon was always eager to declare his own obligations to his high-spirited and courageous mother, the beautiful Letizia Ramolini; but the difficulty would be to find any man of mark who has not made the same avowal.

(James Hamilton, D. D.)

Give me
Here was —

1. A disregard of most sacred obligations. This young man was bound by the most sacred obligations to manifest ever a spirit of gratitude to his father — ever practically show that he recognized the immense obligation under which he was laid by the never-ending kindnesses of that father. But instead thereof, we find rebellion against home restraints, and discontent with a father's rule and with home blessings. He resolved to leave the weary monotony of home for the variety and pleasure of distant scenes; and not caring for the injustice of the demand, would be free and unfettered; he would wander away as he pleased, and do whatever he listed; and gathering up his ingratitude, his selfishness, and his rebellion in one act of shameless courage, he said to his father, "Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." Ask yourselves whether you do not act thus with God. Is it a fact that you are happy in the smiles of God, or is it true that you try to shun Him and His laws? Is it a fact that you have placed yourself in His hands, and are trusting to His Fatherly love to guide you aright; or, is it true that you place no sincere dependence in God to guide you, but are trusting to yourself-your own energy and wisdom — for all you want? By these simple rules you may easily know your state; and I pray you, as you value your soul's interest, know the truth at once. Here was —

2. A wrong standard of manhood. He imagined that whilst at home he was in leading strings, was a child, and would never be a man. To be a man, he thought he must break loose from the trammels of home, and walk out freed from all restraint. To be a man, he thought he must be his own master, and be responsible to no one. To be a man, he thought he must command his time and his purse, and satisfy the inquisitiveness of none. We know he was a fool, and knew nothing rightly: that he would have been a thousand times more of a man if he had ordered his life by a just and righteous law, if he had respected Divine and social obligations, and ii he had paid deference to the wisdom and experience of those who knew the world and would have given him sound and wholesome advice. Licence is not liberty. Rioting is not happiness. Extravagance, carelessness, and sensuality are not manliness. To be a man, you must be a gentleman; and every true gentleman pays respect to law; to the laws of social life as well as to the laws of the State; to the laws of God as well as to the laws of man. Here was —

3. A manifestation of the most intense selfishness. He well knew the grief and pain which he caused his father. He knew also the difference it would make to home comforts if he took away a share of the family estate. But he cared not for that. He would do as he pleased, regardless of all others' claims and feelings. Selfishness is the most unfeeling passion in the human breast. This is just the spirit of the world. Its unceasing cry is, "Give me." No matter what it costs; no matter what hearts break; no matter what misery is caused; no matter who lacks — "Give me." In the temple of Mammon from every shrine there ascends the ceaseless litany, not "Grant me in mercy Thy favours," but "Give me my claims." From every unhumbled heart there ascends the constant petition, sharpened in the intensity of its appeal by the very benevolence of God's character, "Give me."

(W. G. Pascoe.)

The young man brought before us in this story is just the sort of person whom the world would describe as a thoroughly sensible fellow. I feel sure that such a man in our own day would be thus described by his companions. He showed his sense just in the way in which men of the world show theirs now. Let us regard him for a few moments from this point of view. The first thing that this sensible man does is to feel dissatisfied within himself at the condition of dependence in which he is introduced to us. The father seems to have been in comfortable circumstances-perhaps in affluence. The young man has never been begrudged anything; all his wants have been supplied as fast as they have arisen. But then his position was one of dependence, and it was that that made things so far from agreeable. It was not his father's way to bestow his wealth upon his children, so that they might possess an independent property, but to supply their reasonable wants as fast as they occurred, and it was against this state of things that the young man's will began to rebel. "Why should not I be like other fellows? What a humiliating thing it is that I should be treated like a grown up child! If I had my own fortune to do what I liked with, I should very soon be able to show this father of mine what the use of money is, and how it should be spent." The father does not refuse: he will not keep his son in a state of compulsory dependence upon him. There and then "he divides unto them his living." Observe, he "divides his living" between both his sons. It does not say that he gave half to the younger son and kept the other half himself, but "he divided unto them his living." What became of the elder son's portion? Where did he invest it? How did he employ it? We find that long years afterwards his elder sot, says, "Thou never gavest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends." Ah! the elder brother had the wisdom to give back what was his. No sooner was his portion of goods assigned to him than he put it back again in safekeeping. I can fancy him saying to his father, "I do not want my portion, I am quite happy, I have all I want." In a moment of discontent, at a later period, he allows himself to speak hardly of his father's treatment, but this eldest son understood his father on the whole, although for a moment he might be unfaithful to the consciousness of the benefits of his position: and so he had the wisdom to give back what his father had given to him. But the younger son was a far more sensible fellow than that. So soon as he gets his money, he makes up his mind to spend it according to his own heart's desire. So the second thing this particularly sensible young man does is to make up his mind that the restraints of home are positively intolerable. He cannot go on in this droning way any longer; he must. see something of the world; life is hardly worth having under such conditions; he must break away from the restraints of the paternal roof, turn his back upon old associations, and go forth and enjoy himself: he has had enough of this hum-drum, tedious life; so, like a very sensible young man, he leaves his father's home, and goes forth into a distant land. I can fancy it cost him something at the moment. Nobody ever goes to hell without meeting with difficulties in the way. As he looked into his father's face and saw the tear rising in the old man's eye — as he took a long last look at the dear old home where he had spent so many happy and innocent years, I can fancy it cost him something. A better instinct would sometimes assert itself within his nature. "Have you not been happy? Those sunny hours of childhood, what could have been more pleasant? If you have been unhappy it has been your own fault. Your brother is a happy man; why should not you have been?" But the lower instinct prevailed; his downright good common-sense was stronger than anything else: so that this thoroughly sensible man makes up his mind to turn his back upon his father's house, and into a distant land he goes. Now what was the next step that this "sensible fellow" took? When he had asserted his independence and had got away from his father, and the restraints of home, he began to enjoy himself. Surely he showed his sense in that! How does he enjoy himself? He "wasted his substance in riotous living." That does not sound very sensible just at first; but there are plenty of young men who show their good sense by pursuing the same course. "Oh," you say, "we do not approve of fellows being spendthrifts:" yet you approve of men spending something that is far more precious than money. How have you been spending your time? What have you to show for it? How have you been spending your influence? Every one of you might have been using it for eternity, and already there might have been a crown of glory laid up as the result of well-used influence. What has become of it? How have you been spending your money? for we may as well speak of that too. Some of you have been scattering it to the winds; others hoarding it up in the bank; some, laying it out in business speculations, and the very gold which you might have so used as to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" has become the curse of your life. How does it appear in God's sight? Wasted! — that substance of yours squandered, because it has never been turned to any really good purpose. What was the next thing that this "sensible" young man did? He formed a great ninny gay acquaintances. I do not think there is a young man in this congregation that lives for the world, but will agree that he was on the whole a "sensible man" in doing that. It is just what you do. How many a young man there is who is kept back from doing what he knows is right because he has formed so many acquaintances, and is surrounded by the influence of his companions. He would like to be different, but then he cannot shake off their influence; they keep him spell-bound. How sensible you are to let those friends of yours do the very worst that your worst enemy could desire to do for you! Do you think that is "sensible"? What was the next thing that this "sensible" young man did? When his pleasures had all failed him, when his roses had become thorns, then he began to be sober, and like many sober people, he began to look about for employment. He finds it rather difficult to obtain any employment that suits him, but employment he must have. Oh! how like many of our worldly prodigals! When they have spent their youth in following one wild excitement after another — in poor, empty, idle hilarity and futile mirth — when manhood comes on with all its grave cares, they begin to occupy their minds with business. The mighty famine has begun to assert itself; the man is beginning to find the emptiness of the pleasures which he has lived for; he can no longer enjoy them; the capacity of enjoyment is beginning to pass away from him; and now he plunges into business; he becomes a slave of daily routine, it may be; his mind is taken up with a thousand occupations; he begins to work hard, and all to satisfy the moral hunger of his nature. He gives himself up to money-making, yet that does not satisfy, but he thinks it will. He flies to speculation: that excites, but does not satisfy — he hopes it will. He betakes himself to domestic occupation, the joys or the cares of family life, and he hopes to find satisfaction there, yet he does not. Is not the man a sensible being? The mighty famine becomes more and more insupportable, and the want becomes more and more appalling. Our young friend sits solitary in the field; cannot you see him? His clothes are torn into rags, his eyes are sunken in their sockets, his cheeks are hollow, his lips are parched and cracked; he looks like the very effigy of famine itself. The swine are feeding around him; he is gnawing at the very husks which the swine eat. "And no man gave unto him." What, no man? No man. Of all his former friends, of those who had stood by him so faithfully as long as he had money to spend and luxuries to offer, what! no man? Not that boon companion, not that friend who only a few weeks ago swore that he would stand by him through thick and thin? No man? Nay, the last crust has been devoured. There he sits famine-stricken, solitary, the preying of hunger in his body, far more the prey of remorse in his scull There he sits. Poor "sensible" man! That is what his common-sense has brought him to. At this moment a change takes place. Holy Scripture describes it as a change from insanity to sanity. He ceases to be a lunatic, and he begins to be himself. "He came to himself." It passes from him like a horrible dream, that strange delirium of the life which he had been leading since he left his father's home, with all its transient circumstances, its fleeting joys, its gaudy decorations, the poor, empty bubbles that have broken in his grasp — it has all passed from him like a horrible dream. He starts, as from a night-mare. Cannot you see him as he springs from the ground, with a sudden light beaming upon his countenance, his face turned toward the home of his infancy? "What a fool I have been! My whole life has been one great mistake. From beginning to end, I have just been adding error to error as well as sin to sin. I have thrown away health, and affluence, and comfort, and respectability, and peace of mind, and innocency, and reputation, everything worth having — I have lost it all! And here I am, a wreck of a man; all real pleasure gone out of my life; stricken down by the fatal pestilence of sin, shrivelled up by the miserable famine which reigns within my nature. What a fool I am!" Oh, happy they who come to this conclusion before it is too late!

(W. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

Those who belong to the same family, and have enjoyed the same opportunities, often turn out very differently. One proves a comfort, another a grief, to his parents; for "a wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish one is the heaviness of his mother." Grace runs not in families; for, in this respect, a house is often divided. God takes "one of a city, and two of a family, and brings them to Zion." Jacob and Esau were twin brothers; yet Jacob was a man of prayer, and, as a prince, had power with God and men, and prevailed; while Esau was a profane man, and sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Some children become even exceedingly profligate, while others are quite steady; and among those who are steady there is much diversity, some being merely decent and inoffensive, while others are eminently dutiful and kind. So, in the case supposed in this parable, the two sons are represented as being of very opposite habits.

(James Foote, M. A.)

There are some who consider this demand so strange, and the father's compliance with it, abused as the compliance was likely to be, so much stranger still, that the supposition can only appear natural when there is taken into view the custom which prevailed in Eastern countries of children claiming their share of their father's property during his lifetime, which, it appears, they were legally entitled to do, and with which demand, of course, the father could not refuse to comply. The intention of this law was to protect children against harsh usage from their parents; but it was certainly very liable to abuse. The son might be unreasonable in his demand, "yet the demand must first be acceded to before the matter could be legally inquired into; and then, if it was found that the father was irreproachable in his character, and had given no just cause for the son to separate from him, in that case the civil magistrate fined the son." Others, however, are of opinion that, though the Mosaic law provided against improper partialities and dislikes on the part of a father when disposing of his property, there is not sufficient ground for affirming that it vested any such right in children during the life of their parents; and they therefore look on the compliance of the father, here supposed, as an instance of singular generosity, which rendered the undutiful departure and conduct of his son peculiarly base. When the father assigned his portion to the younger son, he, at the same time, assigned his portion to the elder, who, according to the Jewish law, would receive a double portion. The words of the parable are, "He divided unto them his substance." In doing so he may be supposed to have reserved what was merely sufficient for himself.

(James Foote, M. A.)

"Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." The young man seems to say, "My youth is my own, and all that it brings within my reach. Why should you fetter me with restraints, or impose upon me an unfriendly yoke? It is enjoyment that makes life worth having, and self-gratification means enjoyment. Let me have my liberty, and do exactly what I please. Why have to weigh each particular action, and turn away from pleasures that attract me because they are supposed to be wrong? Religion means giving up everything I like, and submitting to things that I don't like; it means all that is tedious and irksome. I prefer to be my own. Give me my portion of goods — the sunny hours of youth; they are mine, and I will do with them as I please." "Give me my portion of goods," says that child of fashion. "Youth and beauty, and attractive manners, and wit and popularity, and the faculty of winning admiration and even affection — they are all alike mine, and I intend to get all I can out of them. Why shouldn't I? If I were to listen to the claims of religion, I should have to stop and think before I allowed myself to enjoy anything; and conscience might be troublesome, and I might be checked and worried by all sorts of straight-laced notions, and thus I might leave the flowers of life unplucked and the fruit of the garden ungathered. Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." And it is not only the young and the heedless that urge the request. Would that we grew wiser as we grow older! "Give me my portion," the man of the world seems to say. "Money, and all that it will buy — power and popularity, and success and social position, the excitements of commerce, the gratification of political or social ambition — these are my portion. If I were to become religious, who knows how my course of life might have to be changed and modified? Indeed, I might have to alter its whole aim and purpose, and impose upon myself all sorts of obligations which I pay no heed to now. My money is mine; why shouldn't I use it as I please? My time is mine; why should I not spend it as I like? My faculties and talents are my own; why should I not employ them for my own gratification?" "Give me my portion of goods," exclaims the woman of the world. "My children are my own, and I will train them up in the way wherein I wish they should go. I will, if I please, educate them in vanity, and train them to 'shine in society,' so that my motherly pride may be gratified. My house is my own; it shall be the home of luxury and the temple of domestic pleasure. I will order it as i will, but there shall be no place there for Him who was welcomed of old at Bethany. Jesus Christ might prove a troublesome guest, and dispute my supreme authority, if He once were welcomed there. It is my own home, and I will do with it as I please." Thus it is that men and women still claim their portion of goods. And God looks on, and sees them take His gifts without even the word of thanks which no doubt fell from the lips of the prodigal, and find in these His gifts a reason for turning their backs upon the Giver; and yet He does not interfere any more than this father did. Wilful man must have his own way, until at last, in bitter grief and anguish, either here or hereafter, he reaps the fruit of it, and finds that "there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

(W. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

It is surely worthy of notice that the father makes no sort of difficulty of compliance with his request. We do not even hear of a word of expostulation on his part. And this may teach us that when we elect to break away from our proper relations with God, and to assert our own independence, or fancied independence, of Him, we are free to do so. God does not constrain our will by the assertion of His superior power. If me are determined to turn our backs on Him, and break away from His control, we can do it, and He won't hinder us, however much it may cut Him to the heart that we should wish to adopt such a course. I see a look of sadness pass over that venerable face, but that is the only outward sign of the sorrow and disappointment that fill the father's heart. He calls both his sons into his presence, and there and then he divides his whole fortune between them, and the discontented boy finds himself possessed of all he desired, and of more than all that tie had dared to hope for. At last he is his own master, and can take his own coulee, and do just as he pleases. His eyes glisten, his heart bounds; but in the midst of his wild, hilarious excitement that sorrowful look on his father's face must ever and again, methinks, have risen on his memory. Do you think, after all, he was really happy? Was there not already a bitter drop in his cup? He had gained his fortune, but how much had it cost!

(W. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

The father might have refused. It was a grave step, but he sees that it springs from no sudden impulse. He had marked with anxious looks the unmistakable dissatisfaction of his younger son. The warmth of that once loving heart has gradually died away into a spirit of cold, sullen, settled discontent. This had not escaped the father's eyes. Even the flimsy appearance of propriety, he foresees, must soon give way to some outbreak of avowed rebellion; so that now it is no use remonstrating — the time for that is gone by. Things are come to such a crisis that he has all but thrown off the yoke. "Well," thought he, "be it so, since it must be. Better let him have his own way; better to let him follow out his own plans. He little thinks what this step will lead him to. Experience, perhaps, may teach him, by some bitter fruits, the sin, and folly, and ingratitude of all this." "He divided to them his living." This is God's method with sinners. If they do not like to retain God in their knowledge, and set their heart upon their iniquities, bursting the bonds of conscience, and trampling on the warnings and precepts of His Word — ii they have loved idols, and after idols they will go — be it so. God will not contend for ever. He gives them up to their own hearts' desire, and leaves them to be filled with their own devices. But it is a tremendous chastisement. It is the scourging with scorpions, and not with whips. Oh, better to hear any of those terrible threatenings that God thunders against sin and sinners, whereby, peradventure, they may be warned and turn. But no sentence is so terrible as that which silently leaves the sinner to himself.

(W. B. Mackenzie, M. A.)

The latter is a free agent, and must needs be treated as such. If he will have the management of his own affairs, why he must just have it. Doubtless there would be many unreported conversations between the father and the youth before he consented to give him his portion. He would often lay his hand affectionately on his son's shoulder and remonstrate with him. He would beseech him to remain at home and keep him company. Perhaps he would say, "Now that your mother is dead and gone, my heart doats upon you; for you resemble her much." But no; the selfish youth would have his own portion, and set up a separate establishment. In like manner, if men will set up and set off for themselves, the Lord does not absolutely deny them their wish, although He yields reluctantly and after long expostulation. And the Divine Spirit still mournfully hovers near, saying, "Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?"

(F. Ferguson, D. D.)

"He divided unto them his living" — literally "his life." That is what the heavenly Father has done. He has given His darling — the apple of His eye — His only begotten Son — His life. He has put Him down into the midst between the two classes of characters. The one thief rails, the other adores; the one son loves, the other rejects. But let us beware, for "this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel." The great question of the judgment day will be, "How did you treat My life, whom I gave you as your portion?" Yes, every man has a portion from God. The humblest artizan has a portion. The poorest factory-girl has a rich dowry. Jesus is her portion. Your birthright, my reader, is eternal life in Him. But see that you sell it not, like Esau, for a mess of pottage. See that the intoxicating cup, or the pleasures of the world, do not rob you of immortal bliss.

(F. Ferguson, D. D.)

Took his journey into a far country
Momentous is the occurrence, if not always sad, of a young man first leaving home. He launches his barque on life's rough sea, and will he safely ride over the waters? will he avoid the quicksands of temptation? will he steer clear of the rocks of vicious indulgence? will he, guided by the heavenly Pilot, reach the port of heaven in safety? These are problems that the future alone will solve. Observe here —

I. IMPIETY OBTAINING UNJUST DEMANDS. We are not aware that the father made any great opposition to those demands. Perhaps he had reasoned with him so many times before, with no success, that he had grown tired. Perhaps he plainly saw that his son's heart was gone from home, and he felt by no means anxious to retain a heartless boy. And with a heaving breast, though but few words, proceeded to divide unto each his living. The young man thus obtained his desire.

1. Man can generally get what he strives for. If a diligent, persevering, careful man sets his heart upon establishing a business, he can generally succeed. In such cases the prizes are far more common than the blanks. More than that; if a man sets his heart in obtaining any particular object, that object can generally be had. Energy, whether in a bad or a good cause, will mostly be crowned with success. This is a terrible view to take of those who live only for the things of time. One of the most terrific sentences that ever dropped from the Saviour's lips illustrates this sentiment. Speaking of the Pharisees and their motives for fasting, praying, and giving alms: "Verily," He says, "I say unto you, they have their reward." Not "they shall have," but "they have. They do these things to be seen of men, and to have applause of men. That is the height of their ambition, and to that they attain.

2. A tremendous power this is in man. He can choose his own path, and walk in the way that he has marked out. Like the father of the prodigal, God will not hinder him from doing as he pleases. He did not in paradise; He left Adam free and unfettered in action. In like manner, when the Israelites cried out for flesh, and mourned for the flesh-pots of Egypt, God heard their cry, and brought them quails in abundance; but the object of their desire became the rod of their punishment. And God through all the ages has acted in like manner.

3. This power of choice in man will at once suggest his responsibility. Be assured that Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." I have read of a man who, wandering along a rocky shore at ebb of the tide, saw a lobster under a rock, and thinking he could gain a prize for his supper, put in his hand to lay hold of its claw. Instead of laying hold of the lobster, the lobster laid hold of him, and he was shortly horrified at finding that what he meant to be his captive was his too sure captor. All the strength that he could exert could not draw away his hand from the lobster's pinch. Above him from rock and ledge hung shells and seaweed, sure signs that if he remained there long the waves, rising inch by inch, would sweep completely over his head. The waters began to rise; they reached his hand. In the agony of despair he summoned every particle of remaining strength to get the imprisoned limb free, but all in vain. Higher and yet higher rose the waves, and his last dying shriek was lost in the roar of a breaker that spent its fury on the rocks around him. You pity him, do you not? But what would you say if told that he had deliberately fastened himself to a rock at ebb of the tide, and then waited for the waves to wash his life away? If you pity the one, you would be horrified at the other. But it is only a too true representation of the man who lives without God.

II. IMPIETY BREAKING LOOSE FROM HOME RESTRAINTS. "And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country." "When the Emperor Decimus desired to place the crown upon the head of Decius his son, the young prince refused in the most strenuous manner, saying, "I am afraid lest, being an emperor, I should forget that I am a son; I had rather be no emperor and a dutiful son than an emperor and such a son as hath forgotten his true obedience." What a contrast was that to the case of the prodigal! Not only did he demand his share of the goods, but he added insult to injury by refusing any longer to be bound by the ties of home. This was the natural result of his unnatural demand. As to locality, we cannot depart from God. He fills heaven and earth. Yet morally and spiritually man may forsake God. If God is banished from the thoughts, He is forsaken. You may be surrounded with the light of the sun, but although it is noonday, if you persist in closing your eyes, it is the same to you as though there were no sun. And if you persist in banishing God from your thoughts, it is the same to you as though there were no God.

(W. G. Pascoe.)

There is a picture of Vernet's which brings out with extraordinary power his character of selfish unconcern for the feelings of his father. It represents the courtyard of an Eastern house, in which he is taking leave. The mother is leaning, in the depths of distress, against the side of the door, the father is bending towards him with a countenance full of yearning affection and grief, as if his heart would break; a leading domestic, perhaps "the steward of the house," clenches his hands as unable to restrain his feelings of indignation, astonishment, and shame at his cool indifference as he turns away from his father's embrace to a groom who is holding a high-mettled and richly-caparisoned steed, so that lie may mount it at once and take his departure. Altogether it is a dreadful picture; but it may have been, and no doubt was, far below the reality of a multitude of such scenes, vividly present to the all-comprehending mind of the Divine Speaker.

(M. F. Sadler.)

These words have had infinite applications; every one, perhaps, who has heard them, has applied them in many different ways. No one need contradict the other; those who have learnt the meaning from their own experience have understood it best. How the sense of an eternal home, of a father's house, is awake in childhood; how it dies out as the youth begins to gather all together — to make a world for himself; how he travels further and further from the remembrance of home; how the Divine treasures of affection, hope, intellect, health, become dissipated; how he loses himself in the intoxications of the senses; here you have a story which is repeated again and again, and always finds mournful facts in us and in our fellows to illustrate and enforce it. And so the records of Gentile mythology and Gentile history explain themselves to us. We see what the cause of moral declension in the nations of the old world was; how the feeling of the invisible lost itself in visible worship; how the sense of unity broke into a number of objects of terror or of beauty; how the fear of a destroyer struggled with the hope of a deliverer; how the first overpowered the second; how the belief in justice contended with the dread of a Power which could overpower justice; how the lusts of the man darkened the images of the gods whom he adored; how he sought, by vile expedients, to avert the wrath before which he trembled; how superstitions grew to be more fearful; how moral corruptions always gained strength along with them; how protests against both mixed with an unbelief in those truths which the superstitions counterfeited, in the righteousness which the corruptions defied.

(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

In old days the young knight rode forth to do justice and redress wrong — and that was a noble and a hopeful starting. But this young prodigal's riding forth — it was all meanness and sadness and misery. Look for nothing brave or manly there. From innocence to sift, from sin to sorrow — there was no beauty in that path. To be the slave of Satan, to follow the whisper of temptation in the black and dark night — there was nothing but abomination in that errand. A bird hasting to the snare, an ox led to destruction, are the fit emblems of that pilgrimage. The roads are different, but all deadly; one leads to madness, one to suicide, one to sudden destruction, one to open shame; but they all sweep through the valley of the shadow, they all end in the chambers of death and hell.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

Seldom, it may be hoped, does a youth leave home simply because he has tired of it; still more rarely, we trust, because he wishes to lead a life of mere self-indulgence. More frequently it is on an honourable errand that the youthful pilgrim sets forth. A subsistence must be earned, an education must be obtained, a profession has been chosen, a Divine call is obeyed; and so the student goes to college, the recruit seeks his regiment, the sailor joins his ship, the aspirant after an honourable independence starts for the city or the distant colony; and there is on both sides true tenderness — on the one side the best intention, on the other many an earnest prayer. For character there is a twofold security — the first commandment and the fifth — love to God and hallowed domestic affections: nor is that character likely to drift where both anchors are out, and where the heart is well moored both to the home on earth and the home on high. If you wish to have a happy and honourable career, you must choose the best companions. Your fellow-clerks, your neighbours in the shop or factory, you cannot choose: they are chosen for you; but it is left in your own option to select your friends; and you may find it a great difficulty. If you were a dry, disagreeable fellow, people would let you alone; but if you are worth cultivating; if instead of being a preset or a pedant, you have pleasant dispositions and a frank, popular way, instead of being a silent, solemn automaton, or the next thing to it, a man of one idea — a wooden centaur who has grown -into the same substance with his hobby; if you have a rich and varied nature; if you have humour; if you are musical; if you are fond of athletic sports; if you read; if you row — every separate liking is just a several hook, a distinct affinity to which a kindred spirit will be apt to attach itself, and ere ever you are aware you may find yourself complicated with an acquaintanceship which, although at some point or other agreeable, is on the whole cumbrous or uncongenial. It is pleasant to feel that you are liked, and it is painful to keep at arm's length those who take to you and would evidently value your society. Nor would it be fair to call them by hard names. They are not seducers or systematic assassins, lying in wait for the precious soul; and the harm they do is not so much from having any evil purpose as from their having no right principle. Nevertheless, if a man carrying contagion proposes a visit or offers you his arm, although he intends no injury, you stand aloof, and you are not to be denounced as a churl for declining a danger which he does not realize. Two are better than one, and you will find it both protection and incentive if you can secure a faithful friend; and in some respects better than two are the many; therefore you cannot do more wisely than seek out in the Young Men's Society a wider companionship; and whilst instructed by the information of some, and strengthened by the firmer faith or larger experience of others, there are important themes on which you will learn to think with precision, and in the exercise of public speaking you will either acquire a useful talent or will turn it to good account. You are a young man away from home. We have said, choose good companions; we must add, beware of bad habits. It is of vast moment to be "just right" when starting. At Preston, at Malines, at many such places, the lines go gently asunder; so fine is the angle that at first the paths are almost parallel, and it seems of small moment which you select. But a little farther on one of them turns a corner or dives into a tunnel, and now that the speed is full the angle opens up, and at the rate of a mile a minute the divided convoy flies asunder: one passenger is on the way to Italy, another to the swamps of Holland; one will step out in London, the other in the Irish Channel. It is not enough that you book for the better country: you must keep the way, and a small deviation may send you entirely wrong. A slight deflection from honesty, a slight divergence from perfect truthfulness, from perfect sobriety, may throw you on a wrong track altogether, and make a failure of that life which should have proved a comfort to your family, a credit to your country, a blessing to mankind. Beware of the bad habit. It makes its first appearance as a tiny fay, and is so innocent, so playful, so minute, that none save a precisian would denounce it, and it seems hardly worth while to whisk it away. The trick is a good joke, the lie is white, the glass is harmless, the theft is only a few apples from a farmer's orchard, the bet is only sixpence, the debt is only half-a-crown. But the tiny fay is capable of becoming a tremendous giant; and if you connive and harbour him, he will nourish himself at your expense, and then, springing on you as an armed man, will drag you down to destruction.

(James Hamilton, D. D.)

I. IT WAS A LEAP OF UNBOUNDED LICENCE. My text says, "He spent his substance in riotous living." His elder brother unveils some of that rioting by telling his father that he had "devoured his living with harlots." What a picture! He had been trained by godly parents. How soon did he forget the guides of his youth! Not all at once, however, did he fall from a pure-minded youth to a degraded debauchee. One principle, smitten by the hand of pleasure, fell, then another, and at last there was nothing in common between him and his pious father. Let us look in upon this young man in the midst of his rioting. He has been for some time now in the far country, and has tolerably well established himself as a dissolute liver. See him in one of his midnight orgies. A numerous company is present. The profane and the sceptical, the abandoned and the unfortunate are there. But where is the prodigal? Surely that is not he at the end of the room, with bloated face, and cold, grey, glassy, loveless eye; with person unclean, and garments barely fastened; with one arm resting on the shoulders of a dissolute companion, and with the other lifting high the goblet in which the wine is red and sparkling; who, with the frequent faltering of a drunken hiccup, now swears bitter oaths, and now sings a lascivious song. Can this be he?

II. IT ENDED IN ABJECT MISERY AND WANT. "And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want." His fortune, enough for ordinary demands, was soon run through at the rate he lived, and at last, in the midst of famine, he came to absolute need. He had spent all; and as he had never cultivated any branch of industry, and his life of vicious indulgence had most likely incapacitated him for labour, he was reduced to dire extremities. "He began to be in want." Lord Chesterfield, than whom no nobleman has been more celebrated for all the elegancies of a courtly, and all the accomplishments of a social, life, said, "I am now at the age of sixty years; I have been as wicked as Solomon; I have not been so wise; but this I know, I am wise enough to test the truth of his reflection, that all is vanity and vexation of spirit." He began to be in want! The reason of this felt want, both in the prodigal's and in every sinner's heart, is simply that man has a soul I You might as well try to feed your body on ashes as satisfy your soul with sinful indulgences. Reduced to such dire extremity he sought help. "He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine." He who once scorned to be his father's son now became a stranger's slave. He had sought liberty and found a prison. Servants waited on him at home; he was the lowest of all servants abroad. Trapp truly says, "Ruin follows riot at the heels." And now he comes to his lowest state. "And no man gave unto him." We can hardly suppose that all his former companions were unaware of his sad condition; but not one of them will lend him a helping hand, or give him a morsel of bread. There is not one of the whole number that will render him assistance, or even afford him recognition. "Know him, did you say? Oh dear no, we do not know him. Know that swineherd? Oh, no; the society in which we move we hope is different from that. Know that man in rags, did you say? Do you mean to insult us by insinuating that our companions are ragged? See that wretched starveling before? Certainly not; we know nothing of him or of his history! If he is sick, they will not visit him. If he is dying, they will not minister to him. If he dies, they will not drop a tear over his grave, or abate their revels for a moment. How striking the contrast between the Christian and the sinner in these respects!

(W. G. Pascoe.)

I. Here is, first, THE NATURE OF SIN. It is a departure from our Heavenly Father — a determination to be independent of God — a taking of the ordering of our lives into our own hands-a chafing under the restraints alike of the Divine law and the Divine love, and a setting up of ourselves as our own gods. Cunningly did Satan say to our common parents at the first — "Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil"; and still this self-assertion lies at the root of our alienation of heart from God, and rebellion of life against Him. But yet more, this alienation of heart is from a Father; this rebellion is against One who has done more for us than ever mother did for the son of her love. We condemn, as the most culpable of all things, the cruelty of a son to his venerable parent; and we have scarcely language strong enough to express our detestation of such conduct as that of Absalom to his father. Yet, in God's sight, we have been doing the very same thing, and we have given Him occasion to say concerning us, as Israel of old, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord hath spoken. I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me."

II. But, secondly, we have here brought before us THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN. The first stage of iniquity is riotous joy. We must not keep that out of view. There is a pleasure in it, of a sort; for if this were not so, men would not he found indulging in it at all. There must be some kind of exhilaration in the flowing bowl, or in the wild thrill of sensual gratification, or in the gains of dishonesty. In every sin there is something of riot. "Stolen waters are sweet," just, perhaps, because they are stolen; but the sweetness does not last long. It turns to bitterness in the belly; for, see, as the next result, the waste which it occasions. It wastes money, it wastes health, it wears the body to decay; but that is not the worst. These things here are set forth as but the outward indications of the waste of the soul. And, in truth, what a blasting thing sin is on the human spirit! How many who, in their youth, gave high promise of mental greatness, are now reduced to the merest drivellers, unable either to speak or write save under the influence of opium or alcohol! There is nothing in iniquity that can give contentment to the spirit. "God has made us for Himself, and our souls are restless till they rest themselves in Him." We could call into court nearly as many witnesses as there have been hunters of happiness, mighty Nimrods in the chase of pleasure and fame and favour. We might ask the statesman, and as we wished him a happy new year, Lord Dundas would answer, "It had need to be a happier than the last, for I never knew one happy day in it." We might ask the successful lawyer, and the wariest, luckiest, most self-complacent of them all would answer, as Lord Eldon was privately recording when the whole Bar envied the Chancellor, "A few weeks will send me to dear Encombe, as a short resting-place betwixt vexation and the grave." We might ask the golden millionaire, "You must be a happy man, Mr. Rothschild." "Happy! me happy! What! happy! when just as you are going to dine you have a letter placed in your hand, saying, 'If you don't send me £500, I will blow your brains out!' Happy! when you have to sleep with pistols at your pillows." We might ask the world-famed warrior, and get for answer the "Miserere" of the Emperor-Monk (Charles V.), or the sigh of a broken heart from St. Helena. Oh! shall we never become wise? Shall we never learn that there is nothing but misery while we are away from God? Ye who are seeking after happiness in earthly things, forbear. Ye are pursuing a quest more visionary than that of the child, who sets out to catch the pillars of the many-coloured rainbow in the far horizon. Never, never can you obtain what you are seeking, save in God. Turn, then, and beseech Him to give you that which you desire.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

A far country! Yes, indeed, it is a long and weary journey that the soul takes when it turns its back upon God. Shall we compare it to an ill-starred voyage from the tropics to the Polar Sea? I see yon gallant bark, as she pursues her north. ward course, gaily gliding over summer seas. She coasts along the shores of a vast continent, rich in tropical luxuriance and bathed in perennial sunshine; but still as she passes on the gorgeous vision keeps fading from her view. She is northward bound. By and by things begin to wear a different aspect. She is sailing past lands of the Temperate Zone; vegetation is less luxurious, the sun is ever and again obscured, and when it shines lacks its old power. A few weeks more and there is another change; sombre pine forests clothe the mountain-shoulder now, and snowy summits begin to appear above them, and the air grows chill, and the sun seems wan and powerless. A little further, and soon the pine woods are left behind, and ever and again huge, towering icebergs begin to appear. But still the cry is "Northward!" and the day grows shorter and the long nights colder, and the pitiless blast whistles through the frosted shrouds, end in the next scene there is the ship in "thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice," hemmed in by frozen seas, and far as the eye can reach, one weary waste of desolation, a region of perpetual winter, bereft of almost every sign of life, a place of the shadow of death. Such, as it seems to me, is a picture of the fatal progress of the human soul along the way of Cain, as he drifts further and further from the Divine influence, and his nobler impulses are checked, and his warmer affections chilled, and his holier energies paralyzed, while the heart is hardened with the deceitfulness of sin. Thus it is that men turn their backs on the true summer land, of the soul in God, and drift into the perpetual winter of godlessness. Yes, there is the chill of a perpetual winter in that tragic word godless. A godless heart! a heart whose highest honour it should have been to be the very dwelling-place of God; a heart that might have been warmed and brightened with the sunshine of His love, but now cold and indifferent to all His influences; a lonesome, desolate, orphaned heart, robbed of its highest honour and denied its holiest privileges; a desecrated shrine, a deserted temple, and yet an empty, weary, disappointed heart, that nothing else can satisfy. A godless home! where human love is never sanctified by the higher love of heaven, where all the purest and truest earthly pleasures that the great Father gives are received as mere matters of course without any recognition of the Giver, where His smile never adds lustre to human joys, and His sympathizing comfort is never sought in moments of anxiety and sorrow; a home where cares weigh heavily because there is no heavenly Friend to bear them, where strifes and dissensions are never stilled by the Prince of Pence, where "the daily round, the common task," carry no blessing along with them because God is not recognized there. A godless life-work! "It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness." "Labour not for the bread that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life"; but this perishing bread is all that we have left to labour for when once we have broken away from God. And so men scheme, and plan, and speculate, and toil, and fret, and hurry, and push and sacrifice much of ease and comfort that they might enjoy; and all for what? .What does commercial success mean but sooner or later the loss of all that we have been spending our lives in trying to gain, just because God is excluded from our busy lives? Worst of all, a godless religion! for religion may be adopted and its observances respected, not as a means of bringing us nearer to God, but rather as a means of making us the better contented to dispense with Him. Oar conscience is deadened by the thought that we come up to the conventional standard in religion, and we may be less likely to be alarmed at the thought of our spiritual danger than if we had no religion at all; and yet our religion may never have brought us into any actual personal and spiritual contact with God. Oh, my brethren, with whatever other curse we may be cursed, God save us from the curse of a godless religion! A godless end! Ah! this seems too terrible to contemplate, and yet we must contemplate it; for it is set before us that we may take warning by contemplating it. My friends, I would have you remember that this far country of which I have been speaking is but the frontier, so to speak, of the far realms of death. This going forth from the presence of God, what is it but incipient death? Already the wandering soul is drifting away from the one life-centre of the universe — the heart of God; and every day's journey he takes is a journey deathward, until at length the terrible word "Depart," falling from the Judge's lips, sets the seal of doom upon the inexorable Nemesis of a lifelong sin.

(W. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

As it is less labour to stay a stone before it be moved, than turn it back again when it is in the tumbling; thus, then, goeth a man away further and further from the Lord by multiplication of his sins, as a man by multiplication of his steps goeth further away from the place wherein he was. It should therefore be our first care to beware of the beginnings of sin; and the next to beware we multiply not our sin, lest by so doing we go far from the Lord.

(Bishop Cowper.)

This far country, then, is to be estimate by the distance of man's will and affections from the Lord, that is, Longinqua regio dissimilitudinis, for then is a man farthest from God, when he is most unlike unto God. So the Lord Himself expounds it; "What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me, walking after vanity, and are become vain?" And the apostle to the Ephesians, comparing their former estate by nature, with that which now they were renewed to by grace, he saith, "Ye which once were far off, are now made near by the blood of Jesus Christ." Whereof we see it is sins that makes to be far from the Lord, grace again that brings us near unto Him. Things that are far off were they never so precious and excellent, either else we see them not at all, or then they seem far less to us than they are. The sun is many times more than the earth, yet do we account it less than ourselves. The reason is, that it is far from us when men travel so far to the south, that the north pole in their sight comes near to the earth, and at length the sight thereof is intercepted from them by the earth, it is a sure argument they are far from it; even so, when men esteem the incomprehensible majesty of God, who by infinite degrees surmounts the beauty of the sun to be but small in their eyes, or when in their imagination they draw down the Lord to assimilate or compare Him to anything in earth, or when in their affections the earth comes in between their souls and the sight of the Lord, and the love of the earth prevails; it is an argument such miserable souls are far from the Lord.

(Bishop Cowper.)

Wasted his substance with riotous living
The English word "substance" is ambiguous. It may mean the pith and marrow of a man's body, or the contents of his purse. It may be taken both ways at once; for these two kinds of substance generally melt away together, in the bitter experience of the prodigal. His fortune is lost; his health has failed; and his pleasures, such us they were, bare fled. The pleasures, when they flee, leave behind them stings and terrors in the conscience. The youth begins to be in want — in want of food, and clothing, and home; in want of friends, in want of peace — in want of all things. A waif drifting towards the eternal shore — a lost soul. Such is the track of a prodigal.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

One tragic word seems to describe this young man's career of fatuous folly and sin in that far country, and oh, my brethren, it describes the lives of many more besides him! and that word is waste. "He wasted his substance in riotous living." Yes, I say it describes the lives of many more beside him. Shall I be wrong in saying it describes the lives of all who do not according to the measure of their light and knowledge live to God? The man who has turned his back on God, and who regards himself as his own, has already entered upon a course of waste, even though he do not, like the prodigal, waste his substance in riotous living. In the case of those who emulate the prodigal in leading dissipated and profligate lives, the waste is as obvious as it was in his case, and unhappily such cases are by no means rare. It is astonishing how some men will waste things that we all value, and none, you would think, would willingly be stripped of. Take, for example, money, or social position, or health, or natural affection. No sane man doubts that each of these has a value of its own; indeed the general tendency of men is perhaps to value them too highly; yet what multitudes of men ruthlessly waste these precious possessions, as if they were not of the slightest value, and as if it were an object with them to get rid of them. And if you notice carefully, it is just the spirit of independence that leads them to do this. They conceive that liberty consists in doing whatever passing impulse may dispose them to do; but they feel that were they under the Divine control they would be continually subjected to checks and restraints which would interfere with their impulses, and prevent them from doing what at the moment they might wish. So the language of their hearts is, "Let us break His bands asunder, and cast away His cords from us." And they do exactly as they please, and the result is — waste. It is indeed surprising what exploits of waste some men contrive to perform under the influence of this habit of wilful self-pleasing. I heard of a Russian nobleman not Icing ago who was heir to a fortune of some £400,000 a year, yet it had not been in his hands very long before he was actually a bankrupt. It surely requires some ingenuity to get through such a fortune, and yet somehow he managed it, A friend of mine was called to the bedside of a poor miserable wretch who was dying of delirium tremens. I used the word bedside, but, strictly, bed there was none in the room where the dying man lay in his last lucid interval before the terrible end. There he lay, bloated, poverty. stricken, filthy, scarcely covered with the rags which were his only apology for a bed; there he lay dying in stony despair; yet he told my friend that he had once been a prosperous London man of business, and had been worth his fifty thousand pounds. I visited a large seaside town a few years ago, and it was thought desirable, as multitudes thronged the esplanade, to send men with boards along it. I was told that one of the men, who carried the boards for a slender pittance of a few pence a day, was the son and heir of a man who had been once, and I believe continued to be up to his death, one of the richest shopkeepers in that large town; yet here was his son in absolute destitution, and he had brought it all upon himself by waste. But why should I multiply instances? Alas I there are few of us that have not had cases brought under our notice of the almost incredible folly exhibited by those who think themselves sensible men in this respect. I want to lay stress upon the fact that the folly arises from our taking a false view of what money is, and of what our relations to it are. If a man locks upon money as simply a means of purchasing self-gratification in whatever form it seems most attractive, it is not surprising that he should squander it lightly under the influence of a passing impulse. Considerations of prudence and forecast do not weigh against the claims of self-indulgence. The object of money seems to the spendthrift to be to procure enjoyment, and this is to be gained, it seems to him, rather by spending it than by keeping it, and therefore he proceeds to spend it. And so he wastes his substance, not because he spends, but because he regards that which he spends as his own to do exactly what he likes with. Oh, how many men are all the poorer for their fortunes! But money is not the only thing we waste when we turn our backs upon God, and we can trace the operation of the same law in every case. God has given to all of us faculties, and to some of us special gifts and talents. If we put these in His hands, as the elder brother gave back to the father his portion of goods, they must all contribute to our true wealth. If, on the other hand, we claim them for ourselves, and, regarding them as our own, turn our backs upon the Father, that which should have been our gain begins to be moral loss, and we are all the poorer for our natural endowments. Well used wealth contributes to the formation of a generous and godlike character, it helps to enrich your moral nature; and thus it is actually true that the hand of the liberal maketh rich. The material substance, which we can under no circumstances keep, passes from us, but it leaves us morally and spiritually the richer for its use. On the other hand, when we regard our substance merely as a means for self-gratification, our gain becomes positive moral loss. The abuse or unholy use of our substance means selfishness increased and developed, self-control weakened, the love of luxury, the passion for self-indulgence rendered more insatiable than ever; while our benevolence is diminished, and our sympathies are curtailed, the heart hardened, and the gain in the capacity to help and enlighten others; gain in the enjoyment of ever-enlarging visions of truth; gain in the acquisition of that spiritual knowledge which in the moral world must always as truly be power as is secular knowledge in the physical world. A consecrated intellect is wealth to the Church, wealth to the world, wealth to its possessor. But if you take your intellect out of God's hands and regard it as your own, the process of waste at once begins. Your very gifts become snares. Intellectual pride breeds doubt, and doubt develops into crude, hasty unbelief. Or intellectual success induces self-conceit, which is one of the worst moral diseases that man's nature can be afflicted with. Or intellectual gratification becomes the object for which the man lives, only to find, with Solomon, that in much knowledge is much sorrow; and that, while the head may be filled, the heart remains empty. For we cannot live for knowledge without finding out more and more how little we know, and how little we can know. And this tends to render life one long, bitter disappointment; while, as the swiftly-flying years bring the end nearer, we have the melancholy conviction forcing itself upon us, that even that little can only be retained for a short time. "Whether there be knowledge," says St. Paul, "it shall vanish away." It is only waste after all. Or has God given you personal influence, springing either from your natural character and gifts, or from your social position? More or less, I believe, He has given this to each of us; a great deal to some. What are you doing with it? Consecrate it to God, and use it for the good of man, and then your portion of goods in the Father's hands shall ever go on increasing, and your satisfaction shall ever become deeper and truer as you use this gift for its proper object. Who shall describe the blessedness which flows back, to him who so exercises it, from a well-used influence? and who shall say where its effects will end, in time and in eternity? But if this influence is used merely for self-gratification, to minister to our love of popularity or of power, once again our gift becomes our bane, and exercises a most injurious effect upon our moral nature, ministering to our pride, and promoting our selfishness, and thus defeating the very purpose for the sake of which the gift was originally bestowed. So here again we have nothing but waste — the good that might have been done left undone for ever, and actual harm done both to ourselves and others through that very gift which should have been for the benefit of all — and, as a result, instead of a heart full of true gratification and satisfaction, the terrible awakening by and by to find that all this influence has been cast into the wrong scale. Oh, think of the anguish of remorse that must fill the heart at the discovery that we have helped to drag others down by the abuse of the very gift that should have raised them, and that we are perishing not alone in our iniquity!

(W. M. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

The Evening Standard, Friday, Feb. 26, 1886, contained the following: (From our correspondent.) — Paris, Thursday Night. — Considerable sensation has been caused in French social and financial circles by the appointment of a curator or Conseil judiciaire to M. Raymond Seilliere, a member of the well-known family of bankers and army contractors. This appointment of a Conseil judiciaire in restraint of prodigality is a peculiarity of French law adopted or inherited from the Roman law. Supposing A squanders his money and the inheritance of his children, his next of kin are empowered to apply to the law courts to deprive him of the administration of his fortune, and transfer it to an advocate or solicitor. No matter what his age may be, the person thus dealt with is reduced to a state of legal infancy, and no debt he may contract is recoverable unless his curator has sanctioned it. In the case of M. Raymond Seilliere, the application, which was made at the suit of his brother, was grounded on the fact that within twelve years he had run through a fortune of twelve millions of francs (£480,000 sterling), and had in addition contracted loans to the amount of five millions (£200,000 sterling). One of the creditors opposed on the plea that the suit was instituted solely to enable M. Sellliere to evade the payment of his debts. The court, however, granted the application. M. Raymond Seilliere was thirty-nine years of age.

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