On the Parable of the Prodigal


No. 7

Luke 15:17
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!
I mentioned two things from this verse:
First, his being brought to his right mind – he came to himself.
Secondly, his reflections.
The former [sermon] gave me occasion to compare on a state of sin to distraction. [1] We may now enquire from it, How the sinner comes to himself.
1. It is not anything affliction or distress of itself can do. [2] What is said of the drunkard, Proverbs 23:35, [3] holds true of every sinful course. Bray a fool in a mortar yet will not his folly depart from it. [4]
  1.1 Many suffer affliction in vain. They are either sullen, or impatient; they either despond or rage. Instead of praying they blaspheme. Satan knew the heart of man in general, though he was mistaken as to Job himself when he said, Put forth thy hand and he will curse thee to thy face. [5] Besides there are some of the Lord's prodigals, who are not brought home by extraordinary afflictions.
  1.2 Conviction will not of itself bring a sinner to his right mind. At least not every conviction. I have witnesses of this before me now, who in times past have trembled like Felix, and yet are going on in sin. Perhaps few persons, especially of those who stately hear the Gospel, but have at times had conviction of their danger, but this has not brought them to their right minds. Therefore:
  1.3 It is the Spirit of God who alone can work an abiding, effectual conviction, such as shall bring a sinner to himself. John 16:8. When his light shines into the heart, sin is seen as evil [6] as well as danger. Then as in this case of the prodigal he sees:
    1.3.1 his folly as the root of all his misery.
    1.3.2 his ingratitude. Not worthy to be called a son.
    1.3.3 the only means of relief – I will arise.
  Now whoever has a sense of sin, as dishonourable to God, as well as injurious to himself, loathes himself on the account of it, and seeks deliverance from sin by a return to God through Christ. Such a one is brought to himself – And whoever comes thus shall in no wise be cast out. [7] But this leads me:
2. To his reflections
  2.1 He thinks of his father's goodness and relation – How many hired servants. God has not strictly speaking any hired servants who live upon the same bread with which he feeds his children. He is good indeed to all, giving rain and fruitful seasons. You are God's servant as you are his creature – all things serve him. But if the Son has not made you free, you are but a hired servant. You may have health and wealth, merciful providences and Gospel ordinances, but these will not prove you are a child. But this is spoken after the manner of men, and gives an idea of the greatness and goodness of his father – he was kind and bountiful even to his servants, and able to provide for them. This was his encouragement to think of a return, q.d., What a father have I left.
Answerable to this, the sinner who comes to himself, is upheld from sinking in his distress by the views the Scripture gives him of God.
    2.1.1 of his goodness –
as the Father of poor sinners. This is learnt from the Gospel. God in Christ has reconciled the world to himself – so far that he makes himself known under the character of a Father. Oh, if he will but look upon me – and who knows but he will. He declares himself gracious and full of compassion.
    2.1.2 of his sufficiency
He has bread enough and to spare. If I could but be received again, I should want for nothing. O that I could help you to see the unsearchable riches of pardon, peace, righteousness, grace which are treasured up in Christ for returning prodigals.
  2.2 He thinks of his own misery. I perish for hunger – There is plenty in my father's house of all that I want. A sense of misery alone will not do, but when it is accompanied with a desire of relief from him and from him alone, then it has a gracious effect.
Are there any pining prodigals here? I can tell you what you want, and direct you where you should be supplied.
1. Do you not want a sense of forgiveness? Well there is forgiveness with him.
2. Do you not want a righteousness? He has provided it. Jeremiah 23:5. [8]
3. Do you not want a sense of his love and favour? Greatly as you need forgiveness, this would not satisfy you unless you might see the King's face, as Absalom said. [9] This is promised likewise.
But alas, some feel not their misery. Ah, the time of famine is at hand. The Lord help you to seek him now – or you will perish at last.

[1] ms ‘to compare on a state of sin to distraction’ – the term ‘compare on’ was still in use mid-19th century, but has been edited here for clarity
[2] ms: ‘It is not any affliction or distress of itself can do.’
[3] Proverbs 23:35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
[4] Proverbs 27:22 Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
[5] Job 1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
[6] the ms carries an interrupted thought: ‘Sin is seen with regard to his as evil as well as danger.’ Edited here for clarity.
[7] John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
[8] Jeremiah 23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
[9] 2 Samuel 14:32 And Absalom answered Joab, Behold, I sent unto thee, saying, Come hither, that I may send thee to the king, to say, Wherefore am I come from Geshur? it had been good for me to have been there still: now therefore let me see the king's face; and if there be any iniquity in me, let him kill me.

Lambeth Palace Library MS 2939


Marylynn Rouse, 03/01/2017