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sity that events should succeed precisely in the order they were disclosed. « To you,” said the Redeemer, addressing the disciples, “it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven to others in parables.” These parables were given to the nation in general, and to the disciples in particular, to one in the light, which barely served to manifest the darkness, that shrouded the communication, to the other, in the light which clearly elucidated what the darkness concealed. No spirit but the spirit of God can reveal the mysteries of God, and consequently, for an explanation of these parables, we must have recourse to this elucidating Spirit.
I am aware that it is generally believed these portions of scripture are clearly understood ; men, unconverted men, who never were supposed by the religious world to have received the teachings of the divine Spirit, are yet conceived fully adequate to an explanation of these portions of the divine testimony ; nay, it is believed, that nothing more is requisite than to read, and comprehension becomes a thing of course.
For my own part, not having taken my scat in the chair of infallibility, I pretend not to give an infallible exposition. But I have long been convinced, that scripture is the best interpreter of scripture, and I confess I, feel sure of my ground, when I take my stand upon a foundation so firm, and it is from diligently searching, and with prayer and much supplication, the sacred oracles of my God, that I humbly presume to think I have obtained some knowledge, some acquaintance with divine testimony.
It is a vulgar observation, that parables do not go upon all fours, and I find commentators generally agree, that the two sons in the parable before us, the elder son and his prodigal brother, describe the nations of the Jews and Gentiles. I am happy when I find these venerable gentlemen speaking of scripture, in a manner calculated to confirm and illustrate its truth. Their testimony will go much further than the testimony of divine revelation; the world loves its own men, and its own measures; and yet, although I have no predilection for singularity, I had rather stand alone, than unite with a party however respectable, in giving the lie to, or weakening the authority of the sacred writings. I have no dependence either for time or for eternity, save the authority of divine revelation or rather its Author, and with the Apostle Paul, I uniformly supplicate : Let God be true, and every man a liar.
After carefully consulting the records of my God, I cannot admit, that the elder son in this parable is the Jewish nation; and I have
many reasons for rejecting this opinion, a few of which I will immediately produce. The father, speaking to his first-born, says, Son thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine, but this, thy brother was dead, and is alive again, was lost and is found. We know, that the angelic nature bears the character, Son; and that this nature, was, in the order of time, before the human nature, which was made little lower than the angels, and as our almighty Father, when clothing himself with our nature, passed by the nature of angels, and did not make provision for their recovery, or restoration by sacrifice, and as without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin, the wages of sin are death. Much is said in the sacred writings of the single eye, of looking with a single eye; and it is affirmed, that when the eye is single, the whole body is full of light; and these same oracles of truth inform us, that God had appointed a day, in the which he would gather all things into one ; they assert, that Jew and Gentile were reconciled in one body on the cross. In fact, as it is the plan and purpose of the adversary to divide, so it is the plan and purpose of God to unite.
Many texts of scripture are erroneously quoted. The text says, Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace; the quotation changes the expression, and tells a different story; Out of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. There is a gathering with Christ, and there is a scattering. Those who are taught of God gather with Christ, and would rather have all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus than any where else, because they would thus be assured of their continuing. Our life is hid with Christ in God; thus it is safe, it is a full assurance of this truth, that gives confidence; thus saith the Apostle 2 Corinthians, v. 8. “ We are confident I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Yes, the Christian knowing in whom he hath believed, is possessed of an holy confidence, assured that God, who hath promised, ever abideth faithful; he holds fast the profession of his faith. Hear the Apostle in Philippians i. 6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Yes indeed, there is an holy confidence, and when we are persuaded the word was spoken by God, we believe, and we accept it as faithful: we pronounce positively, that he who hath promised will perform.
It is with singular pleasure, I enter upon the consideration of this parable; frequently have I expatiated upon it in public, and
always with encreasing satisfaction; and in giving it to you, my friend, it may possibly abide with you when I am here no more.
It is unnecessary to say to you, that this parable was spoken by him who spake as never man spake. In this beautiful parable we listen to the great Master, narrating his success in seeking and saving, that which was lost, in bringing again, that which was driven away. The character of the father and the son, the parent and the offspring, is strikingly exhibited. First, The youngest son is represented as taking his portion of goods; and secondly, Going into a far country, a far country indeed; the distance was immense ; thirdly, Here he wasted his substance with riotous living; after which, fourthly, He joined himself with a citizen of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine, and fain would he have filled himself with the husks, that the swine did eat; until, fifthly, He came to himself and then he said, I will arise and.go to my father. How
miany hired servants of my father, have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. This consideration determined him to return, and to make a full confession of his crimes, and he said, Father I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and I am no more worthy to be called thy son. He would have
proceeded, had he not been interrupted by the paternal kindness of his father!
Here let us pause. We see the son commencing independence; he receives his portion of goods, and how vast, how glorious was his portion ! Behold him in Paradise, with all the blessings of heaven, and of earth, above and beneath him; the garden of Eden blooms before him, and he is surrounded by whatsoever can please the eye, or taste ; and his fair associate, issuing immediately from the hand of her Creator, is beyond expression, beautiful.
But in this honourable station he continued not; in a short time he wasted his substance in riotous living, and when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want, and he joined himself to a citizen of that country, who sent him into the field to feed swine ; and fain would he have filled himself with the husks which the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him. This is a melancholy picture of depraved nature, and yet it must be confessed to be strictly just. Yet humanity thus depraved, was not without a Father. Have we not said, the prophet all one Father? Assuredly we have. There did indeed exist a temporary distinction, there was a middle wall of partition, which for a time
separated Jew and Gentile ; but, blessed be God, this middle wall of partition is broken down, and it has become evident, that we are what we always in fact were, the children of the same Father.
But the prodigal hath joined himself to a citizen of this far country! The citizen is at home, the grand adversary is free of this country; he is at home here, and has raised himself to great eminence, so that setting in the temple of God, which temple, says the Holy Ghost, Are ye; he affects to be as God, ruling and governing: He is the strong man, that holds his goods in safety, until one who is mightier than he, shall bind him and cast him out forever. But this catastrophe is reserved to futurity, while, in the mean time, the knowledge that he shall not always reign so greatly enrages him, that he descends amongst the inhabitants of this world, having great wrath. Yet, although this arch deceiver knows his power will continue but for a season, he labours indefatigably to persuade mankind, that he is through the wasteless ages of eternity ordained their tormenter.
But the prodigal being in want, assays to feed and fill himself with husks that are eaten by swine. Swine are mere sensualists. Cast ye not your pearls before swine, least they tråmple upon them, and mortified by their disappointment, turn again and rend you. The antitypes of these animals prefer the gratification of their sensual appetites, to the richest mental jewels which can be exhibited to their view ; nay, they would feed upon husks, if they could be filled therewith. These husks resemble the corn; they are the shadow of good things, but not the substance. But human nature not being able to subsist on shadows, therefore suffered want, and determined on returning to the house of its father. The prodigal knew there was sufficient provision in his father's house, And when he came to himselj, he resolved to return. When he came to himself? Then it seems he was beside himself, he was deranged. “Come," said the angel of God, in the seventeenth chapter of Revelations—~ Come and I will show you the judgment of the great whore, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication :” the nations of the earth were drunk, were mad; “ Even the spiritual man,” says the prophet Hosea, ix. 7.“ even the spiritual man is mad.” In fact, there is no part of Revelation, which doth not in some sort tend to prove the authenticity of the gospel; all have sinned; all have gone
astray; all have joined the citizen; but all shall return; their agreement shall not stand ; the restoration of all things shall gather them all home; in the seed of Abraham they are all blessed.
I repeat, I am delighted with this parable; I conceive God has blessed me with a knowledge of the truth which it contains, and I adore his distinguishing goodness. I cannot forbear expressing my astonishment at the views given of this memorable passage. The Jew, it is said, is the elder son. Yet to the elder son, who seemed displeased at the jubilee occasioned by the return of his brother, the father says, “ Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” Was this assertion applicable to the Jews, any more than to the Gentiles? Nay, it was abundantly less so, since the Jews verged upon the close of their dispensation, and the Gentiles, in the course of the divine economy, were about to take their place. Every created being is no doubt, at all times, present to the eye of Omniscience; but human beings are not conscious that they are always with God. Son, thou art always with me, said the Father; the angels who dwell in heaven are no doubt sensible that they do always dwell in the presence of their Creator, and they participate all which heaven can give-All that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry and be glad, for this thy brother was dead but is alive again, was lost and is found.
We are instructed to consider angels and men as brethren; see Revelations, xix. 10.
“When John féll at the feet of the angel to worship-see thou do it not," said the angel; “I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus'; worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” And again, xxii. 9.
“ Then saith he unto me, see thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: Worship God.” Thus the angels and the human family, who are heirs of a blessed immortality, have but one origin. God is the Father, both of angels and of men.
But you will observe and ask, What is this but representing the angels as pointing out faults in Deity ; Is it possible the angels in heaven should dare to censure their all-wise Creator ?
I might content myself by observing, parables are not to answer in every particular; that this metaphor puts the expression of displeasure into the mouth of some unquiet spirit, and that we have no authority for believing even the angels without fault