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The John Newton Project

On the Parable of the Prodigal

 

No. 10

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.
 
We have considered how the convinced sinner, like the prodigal, is afar off, in his first attempts to return to God. His compassion towards such is expressed –
 
1. His father saw
The Lords sees us in all our wanderings, when we see not him nor think of him, to this is owing our preservation in the days of ignorance, when we would willingly destroy ourselves. Even then his compassion is moved; when we begin to seek him it is manifested, though it cannot be known before.
 
2. He ran to meet
When the soul is returning the Lord is already on his way, he has already prepared for his reception.
This is by the Gospel:
  2.1 The atonement is provided. A state of conviction without the glad tidings of the Gospel, without any news or hopes of a Saviour, would be hell began upon earth. This is the only thought that can keep the soul from despair.
  2.2 The ordinances are prepared. This indeed is not always the case, they are not absolutely necessary, for the Lord shows us in a few instances that he can do without them. He has his hidden ones, whom he brings to peace, without the public preaching. It is however our privilege here. You that are burdened with sin, should take it as an encouragement that he has cast your lot amongst his people. He has appointed the preaching of his Word with an especial regard to such as you. You may see those around you who have found grace in this way.
  2.3 The promises. In these the Lord comes forth and declares his intention to be gracious to all who come to him by Christ, without any exception of persons or cases.
  2.4 He meets them by his Spirit, confirming and strengthening their desires, giving them a glimpse of hope in their fears, and supporting them, so that the discouragements they meet with cannot prevent them from following after him.
 
3. He fell on his neck
This, with the other tokens of kindness and reconciliation, are not to be understood as if the Lord gave all who seek him, at once a clear and speedy manifestation of his favour. Many wait long with only so much hope as seems just sufficient to keep their souls alive – and most are brought to a state of peace and assurance gradually. But it sets forth – that the Lord has a sure purpose of receiving sinners in this manner sooner or later. Such are the thoughts of his heart towards them, and they shall have the comfort of it in due time. And some there are whom he treats thus – in a moment as it were, he clothes them with change of raiment, and makes them know how he has loved them. The season, manner and degree of comfort, he reserves in his own hand. Here he is Sovereign – yet wise and good to all, as their several states and circumstances require. But the end and effect – all that is here implied – is made sure by promise, oath and blood, to everyone who seeks his salvation.
 
The son now in his father's presence makes his purposed confession. This is the language of every awakened heart, in which you may observe:
1. Here is no plea from anything in himself. He does not put his father in mind, [1] that he had been formally a good son – or think to bribe him with a promise of amendment, or make a merit of returning home. Nothing to countenance the hopes of a self-righteousness; he casts himself wholly upon mercy.
2. Here is no excuse or extenuation offered. He takes shame to himself – and is ready to own the worst of his case. It will be so where the heart is duly humbled. David, speaking of him whose is covered, says, In his spirit is no guile. [2] This is of grace. By nature we are prone to justify ourselves – like the thief who will not confess till the fact is proved upon him.
 
Luke prodigalb
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Endnotes:
[1] ms has a redundant ‘or’– ‘he does not put or his father in mind’
[2] Psalm 32:2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

 
Acknowledgements:
Lambeth Palace Library MS 2939



 

Marylynn Rouse, 03/01/2017


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 10:58 on 12 December 2019