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The John Newton Project

On the Parable of the Prodigal

 

No. 9

Luke 15:20
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion,
and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
 
He arose and came – that is, set out with a determined purpose to return. In one circumstance his encouragement to do so, as represented in the parable, was less than ours. We do not read that his father had sent servants and repeated messages after him, to persuade him to return. But he went on a peradventure. But the returning sinner is invited.
 
1. The first thing that offers here is, that when he was a good way off, his father had compassion on him. From whence:
  1.1 A convinced sinner when he first begins to seek the Lord is a good way off. Indeed such see themselves to be so – but they see it better, after they are brought home, and have a clearer knowledge of divine things. Then they wonder how the Lord would take any gracious notice of such imperfect beginnings. They are afar off as to:
    1.1.1 Repentance
This is very defective:
      1.1.1.1 as to the cause
Repentance bears proportion to the sense of sin. On the first return we are chiefly affected with actual sins – and many of these are not yet known. Perhaps some great transgressions of the law are laid to heart; but inward and spiritual sins are less thought of. And the total defilement of the nature, not rightly understood as afterwards.
      1.1.1.2 as to the nature
It is mixed with great legality, and a servile fear. True gospel repentance flows from a sense of pardoned sin, when the soul is brought home.
    1.1.2 Faith
There is a general view of Christ in the promise – without which none would return – but it is indistinct. And therefore they are easily discouraged – not having a clear and solid knowledge of the person and work of the Redeemer.
  These defects and mixtures in our best attempts, may show the impossibility to being accepted with God in our own name. All the workings of our hearts towards him, have so much of sin and defilement in them that they would be sufficient to ruin us, if he should pass by all our other evils, and only enter into judgement with us on the account of these things.
 
But observe:
 
2. The Lord's goodness
While the sinner is thus at a distance. He sees him and has compassion. Before he can get near, His mercy goes forth to meet him. Jeremiah 31:20. [1] The Lord will not reject the poor returning soul, though the act of every gracious desire is weak. Because:
  2.1 His grace is free and unconditional and of his own mere bounty and goodness – I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy. [2] Nothing shall restrain the exercise of this attribute.
  2.2 He has a respect to the perfect obedience and righteousness of Jesus. It is in him, and not in us, he is well pleased, and only with us for his sake. We are accepted in the Beloved.
  2.3 These actings towards him, though imperfect, yet being sincere, are the fruits of his gracious Spirit, and he will not despise his own work.
  2.4 Jesus ever lives to make intercession for all who thus come unto God by him.
  2.5 The imperfections, fears and difficulties with which the returning sinner is beset, engage his compassion. He has a respect unto our frame and remembers that we are but dust.
 
Hence:
1. Let poor burdened souls take encouragement; you are on the way to God – he is on the way to you.
2.  Let the Lord's people pray for such.
3. And especially for them who are yet in their sins and despise so great a salvation.


Endnotes:
[1] Jeremiah 31:20 Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.
[2] Romans 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

 
Acknowledgements:
Lambeth Palace Library MS 2939



 

Marylynn Rouse, 03/01/2017


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 12:01 on 12 December 2019