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has wrought wonders on the physical frame, made its sinews as iron, and nerved it with an energy divine.
The great Father from infinite love, is ever swift in His approaches to His penitent offspring. He not only draws near to them that draw near to Him, but does it with the speed of love. “ If,” says an eastern proverb, “man draws near to God an inch, God will draw near to him an ell!" Thirdly : His enthusiastic embrace of his son.
“He fell on his neck and kissed him." “The kiss,” says Trench, "is something more than an embrace of affection, being the sig. nificant, and in the East, well understood, pledge of reconciliation and peace.
Gen. xxxiii. 4; 2 Sam. xiv. 33; Psa. ii. 12. “On his neck.” His heart is too full to speak. Weak emotions chatter, great emotions make us speechless. The tongue cannot speak the deepest things of our nature. Great love speaks through enthusiastic actions, not words. The convulsed bosom, the streaming eye, the quivering nerves, and the firm clasp, of the father, now told what the tongue was too impotent to express.
Fourthly: His silence as to the sins of his son. One might have expected some stormy expressions of reproof. The silence of the father on the question of the son's way. ward and wicked conduct is most eloquent with love. It speaks to me more of the tenderness and depth of affection than anything else in the picture. It was such a case for reproach. Had he at the first moment of meeting said, “My son, what a wretched criminal thou hast been ; thy folly towards thyself has been equalled only by thy sins against Heaven, and thy cruelty towards me. Oh! the days of depression and the nights of anguish thou hast given me. Thy conduct has ruined my health, and given my frame a shock, that has sent me tottering thus on the borders of the grave." Had such reproofs at first escaped his lips, I should neither have wondered, nor have counted him severe.
But not a syllable of the kind falls from his lips. All past offences are engulphed in the swelling flood of love. Thus it is that the Infinite Father deals with
His penitent children. “He upbraideth not;" He buries their iniquities in the fathomless sea of His compassion.
Fifthly: His joyousness in entertaining his son. “But the father said to the servants bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet, and bring hither the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry,” &c. It is the nature of love, aye, and the true gratification of love, to impart. It is the giving impulse. What is the universe itself but Infinite love communicating ? - LOVE running over, overflowing the boundaries of its own bosom? It was so now with the father. His love overflows with gifts. He has given himself to his son, and he now gives all else that is necessary to a complete restoration to lost privileges, and pleasures. Here is raiment. The son, most probably, was all in rags, unfit to be
Here is the “best robe,” or as some express it, the former robe, that he used to wear before “he left his father's house." The robe that belonged to him as a dutiful and happy son. “ The robe he wore before he ran his ramble." And “shoes on his feet." The shoes are part of the clothing. Thus he is to be well dressed, fit to mingle with the family and its circles of friendship. Here is dignity. . “ Put a ring on his finger.” As a symbol of his restored dignity. Ezekiel iii. 10, 11; Jeremiah xxii. 14. That ring would show that he was entitled to all the honors of a member of the family. Here is a feasting.
Bring hither the fatted calf and kill it.” The best provision that could be obtained. Far be it from me to encourage the sin of spiritualizing God's word by investing this "robe," “ring," "shoes,” and “calf,” with some mystic meaning. All I see here is parental love, gratifying itself in lavishing its favors upon its penitent offspring; and thus representing the joyous love of the Infinite in saving lost sinners. What love is pictured here !
DISTINThis comes out with a striking sublimity in the
confession which the son makes whilst the father is pressing him to his heart. “ Father,” says the son, whilst clasped in the warm embrace of paternal love, “I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” From this we learn :
First : That genuine penitence does not spring from fear. Clouds of doubt and fear rolled in portentous darkness over his soul up to the time he approached his father ; but now locked in his father's embrace, they must have vanished entirely away :-and yet he is deeply penitent. The tears and groans of distress that arise from fear of hell are no part of genuine repentance. True penitence weeps more copiously, as it feels itself most safe in the arms of love. It was after Nathan said to David, “ The Lord hath taken away thy sin,” that David penned the 51st psalm. It exists, I presume even in heaven itself amongst the sainted of our fallen race.
Ezek. xxxvi. 24–30. Secondly: That genuine penitence is generated by ethibitions of love. The father's loving embrace made the son more deeply feel his unworthiness. Had the father begun to deal in reproaches, according to the laws of our nature he would have suppressed the rising of gracious sorrow, frozen the tear of penitence, and thrown him back into a defiant attitude. Nothing but manifestations of heavenly love can break up the deadly frost of a depraved heart into true penitence. “ The knowledge of God's love in Christ,” says Trench, “is the cruse of salt which alone can turn the bitter waters, and barren streams of remorse into the healing waters of godly sorrow.” 2 Kings ii. 19-22. Preach hell and damnation if you want to frighten men, and harden them into selfishness; but preach the gospel, the glad tidings of God's love, if you would melt them into penitence. " Law and terror do but harden."
SUBJECT :--The Young Man Reinstated in His Father's
Home : The Heavenly Banquet Commenced.
"And they began to be merry.”—Luke xv. 24.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Eightieth. The sumptuous banquet is spread, the restored son is robed in splendid costume, and the festivities to celebrate the joyous event have commenced; they have "begun to be merry." Mirth is joy in high excitement, joy filling the soul to an overflow, and running into hilarity and glee. Let us look at this new joyousness in three aspects :
I. IN RELATION TO THE FATHER. When it is said that they began to be merry," the father is included in that they. “Let us eat,” he says, “and be merry.” First: He originated the joy of the hour. Had it not been for his loving and forgiving heart, the son would never have been reinstated, the feast would never have been spread, the notes of gladness would never have woke their music. To him all is due. Secondly: He participated in the joy of the hour. There was no one more happy than he. His happiness was the fountain of which theirs was but streams. He was happy because he had received a priceless treasure which had long been “lost ;”. a beloved child whom he had regarded as " dead.” “ This my son was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found.”
Thus it is with the Heavenly Father in receiving penitents. He originates the joy on the occasion, and He participates in it too. He rejoices over every penitent soul. What was the joy of the poor widow of Nain think you, when at the bidding of Christ, her dead son, who was being borne to his grave, sprung to life and returned to her bosom and her home? It is only the dimmest reflection of that unbounded delight which the Infinite Father experiences on the return of sinners to Himself.
Let us look at this joyousness :
II. IN RELATION TO
Would not his heart be overflowing with gladness? First : The gladness of unbounded gratitude. As he compared the abundance of his present possessions with the utter destitution he experienced in the "far country,” and the wonderful kindness of his father, with his own just demerits as a rebellious and cruel son, he would feel his soul borne away in transports of gratitude and praise. Gratitude is joy. Praise for mercies swells the anthems of Eternity. “Unto him that loved us," &c. Secondly : The gladness of conscious forgiveness. How long had the sense of his guilt in relation to his father rested as a dark thunder-cloud over his conscience, under which he groaned with sad foreboding! But now that cloud was gone, and his nature was under the bright smiles of his reconciled father. Thirdly: The gladness of filial admiration. How his whole nature would exult in those attributes of princely generosity, social love, and parental tenderness, which his aged father now exhibited to the admiration of all. Admiration is an element of joy. Fourthly : The gladness of bright hopes. Henceforth all the wealth and love of that father were at his service. His own love would bind him ever to that father now. Hope is an element of joy.
Now all this is true of every penitent soul that has been received by the Infinite Father. Whenever the sinner really returns, he begins to be merry. There is no real mirth for man but in the father's house. The joy of the saved is ever the joy of unbounded gratitude, conscious forgiveness, filial admiration, and ever-heightening hopes.
Let us look at this joyousness :
III. IN RELATION TO THE DOMESTICS. The servants and all the members of the household are included in this “ they." Their happiness would arise mainly from sympathy. Sympathy first with the delight of the father, and secondly with the restored position of the son. It is a benevolent law
* The elder son who "would not go in ” has engaged our attention before. See “Homilist,” Vol. II.