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of distress, seemed to be his first hour of wisdom -When he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, whist I perish!
Of all the terrors of nature, that of one day or another dying by hunger, is the greatest; and it is wisely wove into our frame, to awaken man to industry and call forth his talents; and though we seem to go on carelessly, sporting with it as we do with other terrors- -yet He that sees this enemy fairly, and in his most frightful shape, will need no long remonstrance, to make him turn out of the way to avoid him.
It was the case of the prodigal:-He arsoe to go unto his father.
-Alas! how shall he tell his story!-Ye who have trod this round, tell me in what words he shall give in to his father the sad Items of his extravagance and folly?
-The feasts and banquets which he gave to whole cities in the east,—the costs of Asiatic ra rities, and of Asiatic cooks to dress them,-the expenses of singing men and singing women, the flute, the harp, the sackbut, and of all kinds of music-The dress of the Persian courts, how magnificent! their slaves, how numerous! their chariots, their horses, their palaces, their furniture, what immense sums they had devoured! what expectations from strangers of condition ! what exactions !
How shall the youth make his father comprehend, that he was cheated at Damascus by one of the best men in the world; that he had lent a part of his substance to a friend at Nineveh, who had fled off with it to the Ganges; that a whore of Babylon had swallowed his best pearl, and anointed the whole city with his balm of Gilead; that he had been sold by a man of honor for twenty shekles of silver, to a worker in graven
images; that the images he had purchased had profited him nothing; that they could not be transported across the wilderness, and had been burnt with fire at Shusan; that the apes* and peacocks, which he had sent for from Tarsus, lay dead upon his hands; and that the mummies had not Leen dead long enough which he had brought him out of Egypt: That all had gone wrong, since the day he forsook his father's house?
-Leave the story. -it will be told more concisely. -When he was yet afar off, his father saw him.- -Compassion toid it in three words -he fell upon his neck, and kissed him.
Great is the power of eloquence: But never is it so great as when it pleads along with nature, and the culprit is a child strayed from his duty, and returned to it again with tears. Casuists may settle the point as they will-But what could a parent see more in the account, than the natural one, of an ingenuous heart too open for the world, smitten with strong sensations of pleasure, and suffered to sally forth unarmed into the midst of enemies stronger than himself?
Generosity sorrows as much for the overmatched, as pity herself does.
The idea of a son so ruined, would double the father's caresses; every effusion of his tendernes, would add bitterness to his sons remorse. "Gracious heaven! what a father have I "rendered miserable !"
And he said, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said, Bring forth the best robe.
O, ye affections! how fondly do ye play at cross-purposes with each other?-It is the natural dialogue of true transport: Joy is not methodical; and where an offender, beloved, over*Vide 2 Chronicles, Ix. 21.
charges itself in the offence, -words are too cold, and a conciliated heart replies by tokens of esteem.
And he said unto 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 colf, and let us eat and drink and be merry.
When the affections so kindly break loose, Joy is another name for Religion.
We look up as we taste it-The cold stoic without, when he hears the dancing and the music, many ask sullenly, with the elder brother, What it means? and refuse to enter: But the humane and compassionate all fly impetuously to the banquet given for a son who was dead, and is alive again, who was lost, and is found. Gentle spirits, light upon the pavilion with a sacred fire ; and, parental love, and filial piety, lead in the mask with riot and wild festivity! Was it not for this that God gave man music to strike upon the kindly passions-that nature taught the feet to dance to its movements, and, as chief governess of the feast, poured forth wine into the goblet, to crown it with gladness?
The intention of this parable is so clear, from the occasion of it, that it will not be necessary to perplex it with any tedious explanation: It was. designed by way of indirect remonstrance to the Scribes and Pharisees, who animadverted upon our SAVIOUR'S conduct, for entering so freely into conferences with sinners, in order to reclaim them. To that end, he proposes the parable of the shepherd, who left his ninety and nine sheep, that were safe in the fold, to go and seek for one sheep that was gone astray, telling them, in other places, that they who were whole, wanted not a physician, but they that were sick And here, to carry on the same lesson, and to prove how acceptable such a recovery was to GOD, he relates
this account of the prodigal son, and his welcome reception.
I know not whether it would be a subject of much edification, to convince you, here, that our SAVIOUR, by the prodigal son, particularly pointed at those who were sinners of the Gentiles, and were recovered, by divine grace, to repentance; —and that, by the elder brother, he intended as manifestly the more froward of the Jews, who envied their conversion, and thought it a kind of wrong to their primogeniture, in being made fellow-heirs with them of the promises of GoD.
These uses have been so ably set forth, in so many good sermons upon the prodigal son, that I shall turn aside from them, at present, and content myself with some reflections upon the fatal passion which led him, and so many thousands after the example, to gather all he had together, and take his journey into a far country.
The love of variety, or curiosity of seeing new things, which is the same-or,at least, a sister-passion to it, seems wove into the frame of every son and daughter of Adam ;-we usually speak of it as one of nature's levities, tho' planted within us for the solid purposes of carrying forwards the mind to fresh inquiry and knowledge: Strip us of it, the mind (I fear) would doze for ever over the present page; and we should all of us rest at ease with such objects as presented themselves in the parish or province where we first drew our breath.
It is to this spur, which is ever in our sides, that we owe the impatience of this desire for travelling The passion is no way bad, but, as othersin its mismanagement or excess: Order it rightly, the advantages are worth the pursuit ; the chief of which are to learn the languages, the laws and customs, and understand the government and interest of other nations ;-to acquire an urbanity and confidence of behavior and fit the mind
more easily for conversation and discourse ;-to take us out of the company of our aunts and grandmothers, and from the track of nursery mistakes; and, by showing us new objects, or old ones in new lights, to reform our judgment;-by tasting perpetually the varieties of nature, to know what is good-by observing the address and arts of men, to conceive what is sincere ;and, by seeing the difference of so many various humors and manners-to look into ourselves, and form our own.
This is some part of the cargo we might return with; but the impulse of seeing new sights, augmented with that of getting clear from all lessons both of wisdom and reproof at home-carries our youth too early out, to turn this venture to much account; on the contrary, if the scene painted of the prodigal in his travels, looks more like a copy than an original-Will it not be well, if such an adventurer, with so unpromising a setting out, without carte-without compass,-Be not cast away for ever-and may he not be said to escape well-if he returns to his country, only as naked as he first left it?
But you will send an able pilot with your son -a scholar.
If wisdom can speak in no other language but Greek or Latin- -you do well;—or, if mathematics will make a man a gentlernan- -or natural philosophy but teach him to make a bow, -he may be of some service, in introducing your son into good societies, and supporting him in them when he has done :- -But the upshot will be generally this, That, in the most pressing occasions of address-if he is a mere man of reading, the unhappy youth will have the tutor to carry,- and not the tutor to carry him.
But you will avoid this extreme; he shall be escorted by one who knows the world, not mere,