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The political world has its fashions ; it has ministries, measures, and nostrums, for the day; they get out of fashion, and others appear on the stage to meet the times.
“Here a vain man his sceptre breaks,
As power decays and grows." The social world has its fashions ; it has manners and customs for the day ; they become obsolete, and others take their place. The religious world has its fashions. Now one ism is in vogue, and now another. Now one popular preacher, and then another. Thus, there is nothing fixed.
Brothers! let us not then put our confidence in forms, but in things and substances. You know that though the form of the outward world changes, though the clouds are ever passing into new shapes, and the green earth into new forms; there are certain principles or laws that remain for ever. They are settled in heaven; the same through all ages they stand. So our relation to the human world. Though the fashions change, there are truths and principles that remain. It is for ever true, that without virtue there is no happiness, and that without Jesus there is no virtue. It is for ever true, that “A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesses.” It is for ever true, that “He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” It is for ever true, that “He that hath the Son hath life, but he that hath not the Son hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.'
THE PRODIGAL SON; A WONDERFUL PAINTING.
“ A certain man had two sons," &c. Luke xv. 11-32.
Tais parable has been called the "pearl and crown of all the parables of scripture, the Evangelium in Evangelio ;" because it contains within itself so completely the cardinals of redemptive theology. “In regard of the great primary application of this parable,” says Trench in his invaluable work, “there have always been two different views in the Church. There are those who have seen in its two sons the Jew and Gentile; and in the younger son's departure from his father's house, the history of the great apostacy of the Gentile world ; in his return, its reception into the privileges of the new covenant; as in the elder brother a lively type of the narrow-hearted self-extolling Jews, who grudged that the sinners of the Gentiles' should be admitted to the same blessings as themselves.”
“Others behold rather in the younger son a pattern of all those who, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether in that old dispensation which was then drawing to an end, or brought up in the bosom of the Christian Church, have widely departed from God, and after having tasted the misery which follows upon all departure from Him, have by His grace been brought back to Him, as to the one source of blessedness and life ; — while they in the elder brother have seen either a narrow form of real righteousness, or seeing in his words (ver. 29), only his own account of himself. Pharisaical self-righteousness, one righteous in his own sight, not in the Lord's.”
In this master-piece of Christ's parabolical painting, there are SIX SCENES, which, were I an artist, I would throw upon the canvass in such forms of breathing life, as would stir the souls of future men with emotions, kindred to those which the Heavenly Teacher designed to awaken. My first picture should be :-The young man discontented with his father's home. He is standing with unbecoming mien and irreverent look before his aged sire, and saying, “Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” My second picture should be,—The young man departing from his father's home. His goods he has "gathered all together;" they are slung on his shoulders; he has left the house and has commenced his way into a “far country;" and yet, looking back, every now and then, with the countenance of a soul struggling between the right and the wrong. My third picture would be,— The young man far away from his father's home. In this " far country" I should have to depict him, in at least four aspects :—first, “rioting” in pleasure, then beginning “to be in want,” then becoming the slave of a foreign citizen," then feeding with "the swine.” My fourth picture would be,—The young man occupied in thinking of his father's home. In this state I should portray him sitting down, an emaciated man, under some old hedge in some rustic scene, his withered hand under his head, coming to himself ; thought returning, his eyes beginning to dilate with feeling and to moisten with tears, as he puts the question to himself :- -“How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" My fifth picture would be, -The young man returning to his father's home. “ He arose and came to his father,” &c. should have to represent him with trembling limbs, that had lost their strength through sensual indulgences, and lack of food; eyes flooded with penitential sorrow, a heart heaving with mingled hope and fear, wending his lonely way towards his father's house. But in this picture I would not fail to introduce a scene the most divine and touching of all. The dear old father seeing him in the distance, running, with his aged limbs made blithe with love, to meet him, while yet he
a great way off,” approaching him, and with speechless affection, falling on his neck and kissing him. My sixth picture would be,—The young man reinstated in his father's home. He sits down at a splendid feast, adorned in honorable attire, amidst the overflowing of a father's joy, &c. I shall endeavor to give a "germ" on each picture.
The Young Man discontented with his Father's Home,
Apostacy in Sentiment.
" A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." -Luke xv. 11.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and seventh. In the unbecoming, ungraceful, and impertinent, attitude of this young man in relation to his father, we trace depravity to its very spring, and discover :
I. A FAILING OF THE TRCE SPIRIT OF THE FILIAL RELATIONSHIP. The true filial spirit is ever marked—(1) By gratitude ;-a practical recognition of the immense obligation under which the kindness of the loving parent lays his child. (2) By affection ;-confiding, reverencing, admiring affection. (3) By well-wishing ;-an earnest desire to gratify the heart and promote the comforts of the instrumental author of our being and loving guardian of our childhood. But in the request of the prodigal there was not the slightest symptom of this spirit. Supposing that, under the Jewish law, he had, as seems to have been the case, (Deut. xxi. 17.) a legal right to a certain amount of property from his aged Father, this true filial spirit would have waived the mention of it on such terms. Love would never urge legal claims; it is above such miserable technicalities. Had he possessed the true spirit in relation to this legal claim, and had to refer to it at all, he would have said ; “Father, the claim that law gives me to a portion of what you possess, is a trifling fraction compared with the long accumulating debt of gratitude I owe you for your unnumbered favors; I shall, unless you wish me to take it, leave it in your hands, to promote your comfort in old age; and should it not be sufficient, I will work day and night to make it more.” This would have been the true filial spirit. Now in the decay of the true filial spirit all sin against the Infinite Father begins. Apostacy starts from this point. It was so with our first parents. The
“Yea hath God said" weakened the filial spirit, and struck the beam of the soul's balance in favor of wrong. II. AN UNDUE INFLUENCE
The claims of the father and the comforts of the family all vanished in the presence of the self that was now rising. “ Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” Self is up now, and fills his horizon. He now makes himself the centre and circumference of all his actions. The undue influence of self leads him to three fatal mistakes :First : A mistake about liberty. Freedom from obedience and parental restraint he evidently deems to be liberty. But all experience shows it to be delusion. Liberty consists not in serving self, but in serving those we love, with a true affection. Liberty is the action of disinterested love. Secondly: A mistake about independence. He wished to be his own master. There is an independency which is proper in children, - an independency which, from love and right feeling, will not allow them to live upon their parents. This however, was not the prodigal's independency. He wished to be his own master. Self-serving is self-degradation, Thirdly: A mistake about pleasure. His idea of pleasure was animal gratification. To be away out of his father's sight indulging his carnal nature. This was his foolish idea, and this idea selfishness always originates. Here then is the first stage of sin. Our progenitors desired to “be as gods." The spirit of holiness says, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit;" the spirit of sin says, “Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." The one commits everything to God, the other wishes to take everything from Him.
The Young Man departing from his Father's Home.
A postacy in Action. “ And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country.” Luke xv. 12, 13.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Eighth. In this scene there are three things which strike our atten