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not changed, even when its external appearance is at the worst; there is always something intrinsically valuable; and Jesus would hardly have chosen this figure whereby to represent mankind in their lost state, had he entertained the same views which have been taken of human nature, by the perverted vision of his misguided followers. Mankind were precious in his sight; and “he is like a refiner's fire, and a fuller's soap; and he shall set as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Mal. iii. 2, 3.
Parable of the Prodigal Son.
LUKE XV. 11-32.
“A certain man had two sons : And the younger of themi E said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that
falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 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. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country ; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him. 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 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. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet à great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy 'son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet : And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his.elder son was in the field : and as he case and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
And he was angry, and would not go in; therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he, answering, said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment;' and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends : But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thau hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me; and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again ; and was lost, and is found.”
This is one of the most striking and beautiful parables in the Bible, not only for its simplicity and delicateness in every part, but for its adaptation to the subject which it was designed to illustrate, and for the severity of the reproof which it adıninistered to those who had murmured against Jesus because he associated with publicans and sinners. Some parts of the parable will be better understood, and appear with more force, if we take notice of those customs on which they were founded.
The younger son required of his father the portion of goods that belonged to him, and the father readily bestowed them upon him. Adam Clarke has shown that "it has been an inmemorial custom in the East for sons to demand and receive their portion of the inheritance during the father's life time : and the parent, however aware of the dissipated inclinations of the child, could not legally refuse to comply with the application." The design of the law was to protect the child from illtreatment on the part of the father ; but if it could be shown that the child had separated from the paternal mansion without just cause, he was subject to a heavy fine. The young man immediately departed unto a far country, and wasted his substance in riotous living. He began to be in want, and went and joined himself to a citizen in that country, who put him to the menial employment of feeding swine. No Jew could see greater degradation than this. Among people of that nation, it was regarded as a great defilement to eat swine's flesh ; it must therefore have been deemed more dishonorable and odious to be engaged in the employment of feeding these animals. He would fain have satisfied his hunger with the husks the swine eat. His extreme misery induced him to form the resolution to return to his father's house; and when he came, the joyful parent ordered the best robe to be put upon him, a ring to be put upon his hand, and shoes on his feet. He was received with every demonstration of welcome. The compliment of the ring denoted that the person was received to favor and honor; thus Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's, Gen. xli. 42, and Ahasuerus plucked off his ring and bestowed it on Haman, Esther iii. 10, and afterwards on Mordecai, viii. 2.
1 Com. on the place.
The object of this parable was the same with that of the two last, with this addition-Jesus here introduced the character of the Pharisee, and under the figure of the elder son he exhibited it, stripped of all its deception. The circumstance that called forth the three parables in Luke xv. should not be forgotten. When the publicans and sinners drew near to Jesus to listen to his instructions, and he did not forbid them, the Scribes and Pharisees expressed their astonishment in the strongest terms, and murmured even that he should receive sinners and eat with them. In the parables of the lost sheep, and lost piece of silver, as we have
shown, Jesus illustrated the propriety of his con duct, and convinced the Pharisees that, if they were as righteous as they judged themselves, there was no reason why he should seek their society, as they stood not in need of any assistance from him. In the parable before us, by painting, in a masterly manner, the misery into which sin plunges mankind, he showed them that sinners were objects of pity, not of scorn; and by contrasting the hatred and anger of the elder son with the joy felt by all the rest of the family at the prodigal's retorn, he developed in the clearest light, the misanthropic disposition of the Pharisees. The parable is car. ried along with great judgment, until the repentant son has mingled with the family, and musick, seasting and dancing are put in requisition to denote the common joy. At this moment the elder
who represented the Pharisees, is introduced. He draws nigh to the house, and hears musick and dancing. He calls one of the servants, and inquires what these things mean. The servant, as full of joy unquestionably as any other member of the household, and expecting to communicate the same joy to the inquirer that he felt himself, tells him that his brother has returned, and that his father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. Now inark the Pharisee. Is he pleased ? Does he rush into the house, and seize his brother's hand, and bathe it in the tears of joy that he finds himself unable to repress? No, far from this—he is angry, and will not go in.' What is the matter? What excites his anger? Only this—the father hath seen fit to receive the sinner into favor, and he is displeased about it. He thinks sinners ought to be cast off forever, and experience no mercy. Well, his father comes out; let us see