On the Parable of the Prodigal


No. 8

Luke 15:18,19
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
As the Lord speaks to his prodigals, Hosea 14:1,2, [1] so when he brings them to himself he enables them to do. The workings of their hearts towards him, and his gracious compassions towards them, are set forth in this parable. Here are:
1. His purpose to return: I will arise. O that some who were in the prodigal's state of sin, when I began to speak from this parable, may partake with him as I go along. When this purpose is sincere, it will lead to:
  1.1 The forsaking of sinful ways that are known to be such, and of wicked companions. Do not flatter yourself that you are so much as seeking God till you are made willing to this.
  1.2 An attendance upon the means of grace. Like him the sinner is a good way off – he returns by the means.
I would not be mistaken, as if this forsaking of sin, and attendance upon means, are conditions upon the account of which the sinner can be accepted. I only say that all whose hearts are truly wrought upon, are brought to these endeavours, and that there is no mark of sincerity without them.
The prodigal now on his return, thinks what his reception will be – how he shall look his father in the face, and what he shall say. This leads to:
2. His confession
  2.1 The ground of his hope lay in this word, Father. I will venture to call him so. If he should deny the relation, I have no right to complain, but if he allows it, his own fatherly compassions will plead better for me than anything I can say for myself. If you have been at an Assize you have perhaps seen, when a malefactor has appeared sensible of his crime, the judge, though an utter stranger, has been affected with his case – his looks have shown a desire to pardon, but the law forbids, and he has passed sentence with tears. How much more if it was his own child. The returning sinner can seldom at first call God Father – but he looks to his Fatherly relation – that in Christ he is a Father to some, and who knows but he will receive me also.
  2.2 I have sinned. Here are no excuses, no attempts to hide. O is your heart full of this thought, I have sinned? Well, this is what the Lord expects and this is all. Only acknowledge thine offence. [2]
  2.3 Here is his submission: I am not worthy. The self-condemned sinner is brought to cast himself at the foot of the Lord's sovereignty. I have forfeited all – I am justly lost, if free mercy does not save me.
Yet still he asks – he cannot bear to be quite cast off, though he knows and owns he has deserved it. Make me one of the hired servants. Give me the lowest place, so it be within thy house. If not the bread, yet the crumbs that fall from the table. [3] Now I see it is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents of sin.
Have you the language of a broken and contrite spirit? How is he altered, from the time when he said, Give me my portion? How different this from the formal and self-righteous, that stands upon terms with the Lord.
His reception is in the following verses. If you come thus, all that Christ is and did and suffered is revealed for your encouragement.
If you come not thus, you must perish at last.

[1] Hosea 14:1,2 O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
[2] Jeremiah 3:13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.
[3] Matthew 15:27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.

Lambeth Palace Library MS 2939


Marylynn Rouse, 03/01/2017