On the Parable of the Prodigal


No. 3

Luke 15:13
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.
To believers in Christ the promise runs, Ask what you will and it shall be given you. [1] So Psalm 37:4. [2] The reason is, grace sanctifies and regulates the desires, and teaches us to ask those things which are for God's glory and our good. But while the love of sin remains, we know not what to ask. To give us our desire would be like putting a sword into the hands of a child or a madman, with which they will wound and destroy themselves. It is not a mercy but a judgement, not a blessing but rather a curse, to have our vain wishes and desires gratified, though the Lord who can overrule all things for good often suffers his children to take this course, that he may humble and prove them and do them good in the latter end. An example we have in this parable – The younger son desired his portion and obtained it, but instead of the happiness he expected, he brought himself into great misery. Many prodigals who have been mercifully restored to their Father's house, may see their own picture in this glass. It likewise sets forth the present state and practice of many more; the Lord grant that the event may be to them as safe and happy as it was to this prodigal. But let none presume upon the patience of God. If you will go in sin, because you hear that God is good, you may be overtaken with sudden destruction before you are aware, and perish without mercy.
We may speak of:
1. The time
Not many days after. His receiving his portion was not the cause but the occasion of his going away. He had purposed it before and took the first opportunity. Thus the Lord's goodness proves the occasion of showing what is in their hearts. And if some are kept shorter than others, they are not therefore better; perhaps they do less mischief, but it is wholly owing to restraint – and if they repent not, they will be condemned not only for what they have done but for what they would have done if they could, as he accepts of the desires of his people. Compare 1 Kings 8:18 with Matthew 5:28. [3]
2. His departure
He gathered all and took his journey. Observe:
  2.1 The more the Lord abounds in goodness, the more sinners harden themselves in sin. When he had got all he could, he requited his father's kindness by going as far off as he could.
  2.2 By sin – we are at a distance from God. He is Omnipresent – we cannot go far from him, for in him we live and move and have our being, [4] but it respects our spiritual state by nature.
  [2.3] Afar from God:
    2.3.1 in the thoughts. Psalm 10:4. [5]
    2.3.2 in the affections. What can be more distant than to love what he hates, and the contrary. There is not only an estrangedness but an enmity, often discovered against his providence, ways and people.
    2.3.3 in practice. Believers are said to walk with God, because they go in the path of his commandments, but Oh how distant are these, from the ways we choose for ourselves to walk in.
Such were some of you. [6] Oh praise the grace that has brought you home! You were as sheep going astray but are returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. [7]
Such some of you are – stout-hearted and far from righteousness. To you the Gospel is sent. We preach Jesus who by his blood and Spirit brings sinners near to God. O consider – you must come nigh at the great day – but if he is not now your Saviour, he will then be your Judge.
3. His management
He wasted his substance in riotous living – profuse and extravagant living. He threw all away without thought or reserve in the worst manner and in the worst company. Observe:
  3.1 The service of sin is very expensive. How often do we see this literally. Money, health, friends, interest, character, all sacrificed to inordinate desire. This is the mighty advantage some have by disdaining the easy yoke of God, and resolving to be their own masters. They are not only treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, but are almost as miserable here as Satan himself could desire to see them.
  3.2 But perhaps some think themselves clear, and are thinking – the parable does not mean me, however. I am sober, industrious; I provide for my own and pay others their due, and am respected by my neighbours. I wish many more could say so. It would be better for families, and better for the town. But still you may be prodigals and wasters in the sight of God. You may be wasting your substance. What think you of your time? This is a valuable part of your portion. You are spending it apace, and there is a season of want approaching, when you will not have one hour left. He has given you a capacity and opportunities for knowing his will. Are you improving or squandering these talents? Light as you may make of them now, they will appear very valuable ere long and if not improved must be accounted for.
  3.3 What aggravated this prodigal's fault and folly was, that he had broke through great advantages, had been instructed better, and therefore sinned against the light. This is the case of all who sin here when God has afforded his ordinances; you cannot say you did it ignorantly, and it is particularly so, of the children of religious parents. Alas, if you are found in the way of sinners at last, how will you wish you had been born in Turkey or among the wild Indians, who never heard of the name of Jesus. My heart is pained for you. But it is not yet too late. This parable is full of encouragement. The Lord help you likewise to say, I will arise and go to my father. There is a way prepared sprinkled with blood, there is a name given by which you may be saved. If you come you shall be received. If not, remember, however you may seem to prosper, you shall die in your sins, and fall into the hands of the living God.

[1] John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
[2] Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
[3] 1 Kings 8:18 And the Lord said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart. Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
[4] Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
[5] Psalm 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
[6] 1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
[7] 1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Lambeth Palace Library MS 2939


Marylynn Rouse, 03/01/2017