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Reflexions on the jsoy in Heaven over a Penitent Sinner. 159

count, and condescend to familiar Converse with Sect. 122; those, whom you proudly despise as unworthy J^^^J, your Regard."' JJ.

IMPROVEMENT.

HOW graceful and lovely does our Lord appear, while thus openingLuhxv. ». his compassionate Arms, and Heart, to these wretched Out-casts, for whose Souls no Man cared! Who can chuse but rejoice at this Jubilee^ which he proclaimed among them, and at the chearful Attention which they gave to these glad Tidings of great Joy? May we, who are his Followers, never dejpt/e the meanest, or the worst of Men, when they seem disposed to receive religious Instruction; but rather exert ourselves with a distinguished Zeal, as knowing that the Joy of the Heavenly World in Ver- 10their Recovery will be, in some measure, proportionable to the Extremity of their former Danger.

Let us often recollect the Charity and Goodness of those perfected Spirits, Ver. 7. who look down from their own Glory with Compassion, on Mortals wandering in the Paths of the Destroyer, and who sing Anthems of Thankfulness and Joy, when by Divine Grace they are reclaimed from them. Let every Sinner be touched with a generous Desire, that he who has been in so many Instances the Offence and Burthen of the Earth, may become the Joy of Heaven by his sincere Conversion. And let the Solicitude with Ver. 4>-*6which the little Possessions of this World are sought, when they are lost by Ver. 8, 9* any Accident, engage us more earnestly to seek what is infinitely more valuable, our own Salvation, and that of the immortal Souls of others. May we in our different Stations labour successfully for their Recovery; that we may another Day share in that higher Joy, which Angels and glorified Saints {hall express, when they fee them not only reduced to the Paths of Virtue and Happiness, but fixed in Abodes of eternal Glory!

SECT. CXXIII.

Our Lord farther pursues the Dejign of the preceding

Parables, by that of the Prodigal Son. Luke XV. 11, to<

the End.

.... . 01... .»» . .

Lukexv. H. Luke XV. 11.

AND he said, A certain TTTITH the same Design, of vindicating him- Sect. 123. ■» Man iad two Son*: yy se,f in conversing with Publicans and Sin- J^J^

ners, of reproving the Envy of the Pharisees, and u<

of

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12 And the younger of them said to bis Father, Father, give me the Portion of Goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his Living.

16o The Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Sect. 123. of encouraging every sincere Penitent by moving Representations of the Divine Mercy, our Lord went on to utter another most beautiful and affecting Parable. And he said, while this various Multitude was standing round him, There was a certain Man'm plentiful Circumstances, and of a very condescending Temper, who had two Sons, that were now grown up to Manhood. And the younger of them, fondly conceited of his own Capacity to manage his Affairs, and weary of the Restraints of his Father's House, said one Day to his indulgent Parent, Father, as I am now come to Years of Discretion, I desire that thou wouldst give me into mine own Hands that Portion of Goods, which according to an equitable Distribution falls to my Share. And he, unwilling to make any invidious Distinction in distributing his Effects, divided his Living between them both (a), and gave them his chief Stock of Money, reserving the House and Estate in his own Hands.

And not many Days after this Division was
made, the younger Son, gathering all his Treasure
together, and pretending a Design of trafficking
with it, took a "Journey into a very dijlant Country j
and there forgetting his Relations at Home, and
living with a Knot of Companions like himself,
in a very riotous, debauched, and extravagant
Manner, he quickly squandered away the whole
of his Substance.

And when he had consumed all in this wretched
Course, it so happened thro' the righteous Judg-
ment of G o D upon him, that there was an
extream Famine in that Country where he so-
journed; and he soon began to be in Want of the
very Necessaries of Life. And finding no 15 Al»d he
Shelter or Relief among those, who had been the .
Companions of his Luxury, and shared in the
Spoils of his Substance, yet unable to brook the
Mortification of returning Home in such Circum-
stances,

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13 And not many Days after, the younger Son gathered all together, and took his Journey into a far Country, and there wasted his Substance with riotous Living.

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14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty Famine in that Land; and he began to be in Want.

went and joined

[a) Divided his Living between them both.] It is plain, no significant Sense can be put on this Circumstance of the Parable, as referring to the Dispensations of God to his Creatures. It is one of those many ornamental Circumstances, which it would be Weakness over-rigorously to accommodate to the general Design.

{b) Wh»

joined himself to a Citizen of that Country; and he sent him into his fields to seed Swine*

15.

16 And he would fain have filled his Belly with the Husks that the Swine did eat: and no Man gave unto

16

Having spent all his Subjlance^ he is reduced to Want: 161

stances, be 'went and pined himself as a Servant Sect. 123. to a Citizen of that Place. -, who thinking such a <->"v^-J worthless Creature unfit for any better Post, sent e XV' him into his Grounds (b) belonging to an Estate in the Country, to feed Swine. And mean and disagreeable as the Employment was (c), this unhappy Youth, who had once lived in such Plenty and Splendor, was forced to submit to it. And even then thro* the Unkindness of his Master, and the Extremity of the Season, he was kept so poorly, that he had not Bread; but would gladly have filled his hungry Belly with the sorriest Husks (d), which the Swine eat: And yet there was no Man that would take so much Pity upon him, as to give unto him one Morsel of Food j so sparing did the Famine make them, and so much did they despise this foolisti and scandalous Prodigal. And now the Infamy and Distress of his present Situation began to lead him into serious Consideration; and coming to himself he so far recovered his Reason, which had before been dethroned and extinguished by the mad Intoxication of sensual Pleasure, that he said in his own Mind, Alas, how many hired Servants in the Family of my good Father have Bread enough and to spare, while I his Child, who have known so many better Days, am even perishing with Famine, and am not thought worth my Food by this unkind Master 18 I will arise, and go to t0 whom I have hired myself! Whatever be my the

17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired Servants of my Father's have Bread enough and to spare, and I perish with Hunger!

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(i) Who sent him into his Grounds.'] That Km, in such a Con/lruSfion, should be rendered in this Manner, the accurate Eisner has shewn by a Variety of convincing Instances. (Observ. vol. i. pag. 248.)

[e) Mean and disagreeable as the Employment was.] It is true, that among the antient Greeks, the chief Swineherd was looked upon as an Officer of no inconsiderable Rank; as evidently appears frorp the Figure which Eumaus makes in the Odyssey: But this was an Age of greater Refinement; the unhappy Youth was obliged to tend the Swine himself; and if he be considered as a Jew, the Aversion of that Nation for this unclean Animal, must render the Employment peculiarly odious to him; and probably this Circumstance was chosen by our Lord, to represent him as reduced to the most vile and Servile State that could be imagine?!.

(d) With the sorriest Hujks.] A late Translation (after Brown, Saubert, Grotius, and many others,) renders Mfctliav, Carraways, or the Fruit of the Carub-tree, which bore a mean, tho' sweetish Kind of Fruit, in long crooked Pods; which by some is called St. John's Bread: But if the Account which Saubert himself gives of it be true, Swine would hardly have been fed with any thing but the hu/ky Part of this, in a Time of extream Famine. I therefore chuse to retain our Person; but take it, on the whole, to have been the Fruit of « Tree, something of a Wild Ghesnut Kind. See Drusius, in toe.

Vol. II. X <«}&«

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my Father, and will sav unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee,

20

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19 And am no more worthy to be called thy Son: make me as one of thy hired Servants.

And awakened at lafi to a Sense os his Folly, he returns Home.

123. the Consequence of it, I am resolved, that I will
sit no longer in this miserable Condition; but I
•will immediately arise, and go to my Father, if all
my little remaining Strength can carry me such
a Journey; and without vainly attempting an
Apology, I will say to him, Oh my dear injured
Father, I humbly confess, that I have sinned against
the Great G o D of Heaven (e) by a long Course of
Vice and Wickedness, and have been guilty also
of the vilest Behaviour before thee, in abusing thy
Goodness, and grieving thee by my unnatural
Rebellion; And in Consequence of this I

am no more worthy to be called thy Son, nor can
I expect the Favour of being admitted into thy
Family on such Terms again j nevertheless, do not
suffer me to perish, but rather make me as one of
thine hired Servants (f), and I will be contented
for the future to labour, and to fare as they do,
so I may but live in thy Sight.

And accordingly he arose at that very Instant,
and set forward on his long Journey, passing
thro' all the Stages of it with a firm Resolution,
Providence taking Care for his Subsistence, tho"
he was obliged to beg his Way} and at length
he came to the Neighbourhood of the House, in-
which his Father dwelt.

But while he was yet at a considerable Distance, his Father, who happened to be then looking that Way, saw him, and presently knew him, disguised as he was; and his Bowels yearned over him, to see him in so wretched a Condition: And immediately, as if he had forgot the Dignity of his Character, and all the Injuries he had received, he ran to his Child, and fell on his Neck with an eager Embrace, and tenderly kissed him with Tears of Joy. And the Son began to make his humble

20 came

And he arose, and to his Father.—

—But when he was yet 1 great Way off, his Father saw him, and had Compassion, and ran, and fell on his Neck, and kificd him.

21

And the Son said unto him,

(*} Sinned against the Great G 0 D of Heaven."] This was, as Dr. Goodman observesi (Parable of the Prodigal, fag. 207.) an Acknowledgment, that his Father's Yoke had been so easy, that his throwing it off had been an Act of Rebellion against GOD: And itfhewed also, that his Heart was touched with a Sense, not only of the Folly, but the Guilt of bis Conduct, and that the Fear of God began to take hold of him.

(f) Make me as one of thine hired Servants.] He mentions this, not because such Servants fared worse than Slaves; but because lie was himself an hired Servant, and therefore natujally compared his own Condition, with those of that Rank in his Father's Family.

His

him, Father, I have finned against Heaven, and in thy Sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son.

1% But the Father said to his Servants, Bring forth the best Robe, and put it on him, and put a Ring on his Hand, and Shoes on bis Feet.

23 And bring hither the fatted Calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry.

24 For this my Son was dead, and is alive again ■, he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

25 Now his elder Son

Was in the Field: and as he

came

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Father kindly receives him, 163

ble Acknowledgments, as he before had purposed, Sect. 123.
and said unto htm, Oh Father, I am ashamed to
appear in thy Presence j for such has been my Vile-'
ness, that I have sinned against xht God of Heaven,
and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called
and owned as thy Son, or to receive any Token of
thy favourable Regards. But before he could
make an End of the Speech he intended, his com-
passionate Father turned, and said to his Ser-
vants who were now gathered round them, Go
immediately into the House, and bring out the best
Robe that is there (g), and clothe him with it, and
put a Ring on his Hand, and Sandals on his Feett
that my dear Child may appear like himself:
And let others of you run to the Stall, and
bring hither the fatted Calf that is there, and kill
it (h); and let us eat and be chearjul. For

I esteem this as one of the happiest Days of my
Life, and more joyful than the Birth-day of one
of my Children; since this my Son, that was so
long considered by me as dead, is restored to
Life (i); and he who was concluded to be irre-
coverably lost, is sound, so that I have renewed Hope
of Comfort in him. And they accordingly fate
down to the Banquet, and began to be chearsul.

But in the mean time his elder Son was out
in the Fields and as on his Return he approached

the

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24

25

(f) The best Robe.] Ftrrarius (de Re Vejiiar. lib. iii. cap. 24.) observes, that the row», or long Robe, was a Garment which Servants never wore j so that his Father's ordering any such Garment, and especially the best, to be brought, was declaring in the most moving Manner that can be imagined, how far he was from intending to treat him like a Servant. —His mentioning the Ring, and Shoes, spake the same Language; as many learned Writers have observed. See Woljius in he.

{b) The fatted Calf, and kill it.] Eisner would render the Word dtWIt, sacrifice it; truly urging, that it was customary to offer a Sacrifice at the Birth, and sometimes at the unexpected Recovery of a Child. (See Eisner. Observ. pag. 249, 250.) But no such Sacrifice was appointed among the Jeivs, nor could any have been lawfully offered but at Jerusalem, which does not appear to have been the Scene of this Parable; so that I can see no just Reason for such a Rendering.

(/) That was dead, is restored to* Life.] It is by a very common and beautiful Emblem, that vicious Persons are represented as dead, both by Sacred and Profane Authors; (compare 1 Tim. v. 6. Eph. ii. \. v. 14. and Wolfiusin loc.) and the natural Death of their Children would be less grievous to pious Parents, than to see them abandoned to such a Course, as this young Sinner took. But to suppose an Allusion here to that Statute, (Deut. xxi. 18,- 21.) which condemned a disobedient and rebellious Son to Death on the Prosecution of his Parents, is here most unnatural, and utterly spoils the Tenderness and Grace of this Speech.

X 2 (*) All

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