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The Prodigal Son
The man was a man of substance. It may be a fortunate or an unfortunate circumstance, as events may prove. There is nothing wrong in being a substantial man in society; yet the very fact of a man having great riches may be one of the greatest calamities that ever occurred in his life. The younger son did not say, "Father, I am tired of a lazy life, and now I am determined to do something for my own bread. I have been turning over this great problem of life in my mind, and I find that life is a responsibility, life is a discipline, and though I have been born under circumstances of conspicuous advantage, yet I think it right to go out and do something to make my own position, to establish my own title, to be called and to be treated as a man." What did the young man say? He said, "Father, I am a youth of fortune; please give to me the portion of goods that falleth to me." He had been scheming, it appears, but scheming in a wrong direction. He had been scheming in the direction of self-enjoyment; he was going out to taste the sweets of liberty; the time had come, in his consciousness, when he thought that he would enjoy a little more freedom, and the first notion that occurred to him was to get clear of his father. Many a man has had precisely the same lucky suggestion presented to his mind by the great enemy. The father has stood in the way; the father's old-world notions have been impediments in the path of supposed progress and enjoyment and liberty; and the young man's great concern has been to get rid of his own father! It looks well. "Let me open a door in my father's house, go into the wide world with the portion of goods that falleth to me, and all will be sunshine and beauty, music and rest." It is evident that the young man was not a man of robust understanding; yet he was not to be blamed for having had very little experience of the world. He thought that life would be enjoyable if only he had liberty. I propose now to follow him in his journeyings, to see what his experience was, to collect it for the advantage of all who need a moral exhortation upon this point, and to inquire at last whether there cannot be some better way of spending the days which God has put into our keeping as a trust.
The young man gathered all together, took his journey into a far country, thinking that the farther from home the sweeter and larger would be the liberty. I fear he has planned something in his heart, which he would not like to do just within the neighbourhood of his own father's house. If not, he gave way to the sophism which exercises a very malign influence upon a good many of us, namely this: That we must go a long way off in order to be blest, not knowing that the true blessing grows just at arm's length, forgetting that the fountain of the truest joy springs within us and not outside of us. Yet how many there are who travel mile on mile to get joy, to secure rest; when they are forgetful of the fact that they might have it without going out of themselves, except in so far as they go into God and truth and purity!
The young man has gone then, and a merry day he has of it at first. His pockets are full, he has health on his side, many a pleasant memory sings to him, he has not yet tasted of the bitterness of life. It would be cruel if a man who is going to serve the devil could not have just a few hours of introductory enjoyment, or something that he mistakes at least for delight. A man cannot cut off good ties all in a moment; the ligaments require some time to get thoroughly through; and whilst the spell of old memories and traditions is upon the man he imagines that he is going out into a large and wealthy place, and that every step he takes is a step in the direction of comfort and honour. When he got into the far country what did he do? He wasted his substance in riotous living; stepped out of liberty into license. At one bound he seems to have cleared the region of discipline and entered into the sphere of licentiousness. He wasted his substance. There is nothing so easy as waste. It does not require any genius to waste property, to waste beauty, to waste life. Any man can waste what he has. It is easy to do the destructive part of life's work; the difficulty is to gather, to accumulate, to amass, and yet to hold all that has been brought together in the right spirit, and to administer it to the right ends. Why did he show such bad skill? How does it come that in a moment he was master of the art of wasting? Because he had never mastered the art of earning his own living. Everything had been provided for him. When he came down to breakfast towards ten, the family hour being seven in the morning he found the things still waiting for him, and at dinner he found the table lavishly spread without his having worked for a single morsel of food that was upon the board; when he was sick the physician was within call; and when he felt any desire to please himself his father and his mother were but too ready to gratify his desires. Now the young fool goes out into the world to find his joy in wasting, destroying, trampling under foot all the things that he has got! And what blame? We wonder if the rod ought not first to have been used upon his father? It is a question (if we may modernise the instance) whether the old man at home was quite blameless in this matter. But so it is; men mistake enjoyment and the scope of pleasure; they forget that in the absence of discipline there can be no true profound enjoyment of any of the greatest gifts of God. He who escapes discipline escapes one of the purest enjoyments; he who mistakes license for law goes downward to the pit at a rapid rate! Let us read:
"And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want" ( Luk 15:14 ).
Such men help to bring about famines, men who eat all and produce nothing, men who are consumers and non-producers. These are the men that make famines. A man that will eat up a whole wheatfield and do nothing in the way of sowing, is the man that will make a famine anywhere, logically, necessarily. He is eating, appropriating, consuming, absorbing, never working, never doing anything in return. Why, here is cause and effect. The man is eating the things that are round about him, and when the last meal has gone, he says, "There is a famine in the land." Of course there is. A man cannot always go on consuming and not producing without soon coming to the end of his patrimony, and finding a famine staring him in the face. "And when he had spent all" all that he possessed admitted of being spent! You see my meaning? He had nothing that could not be spent. All that he had was outside of him. A man could get through the very stars of heaven if every one of them was a golden coin; a man could spend the sands upon the seashore if every sparkling atom was a silver coin! He could get through it all and be a pauper at the last! Who is he, then, who cannot spend all? A man who lives spiritually, a man of character, of purpose, of high conception, of noble sympathy, a man who knows truth and loves truth never can spend his fortune. Once that fortune was attempted to be described, and the words of the description I remember well. "An inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." May I ask any young man what he possesses in the way of property, substance, security? If he says that all he has is outside of him, then I say it is very possible for him to get through it all, and at the last be compelled to face a famine. Gold can be spent; ideas cannot be wasted by the wise man. There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty. Be sure of this, that any man in society who has not given back a fair equivalent for what he gets in the way of bread, and dress, and physical blessing, is the man who is working mischief in society, that man is one of the causes of destitution and famine.
"And he began to be in want" ( Luk 15:14 ).
A new experience came upon him. And oh! it is pitiful when a man who has never known want just begins to feel it. Better be born at the other end of things; better be born in poverty than in riches to be spent so. You should have seen him when he felt the first pang. It was pitiful! The man had a fine face; there was a gentle expression upon it at times, all the signs and tokens of refinement had not been quite taken out of it; and when the young man began to feel the pain of want, I was sorry for him; I saw his blanched face, and saw him look round as if he might see his father somewhere, or his mother, and there was nothing but strangers, emptiness, desolation! He called out, and the mocking echo answered him. It was very sad, but it was right, it was right! If a man can go upon a course like that, and at the end of it be prosperous and joyful, having fulness of satisfaction) why, then, life is not worth having, and destiny is cruelty. I saw him in want, friendlessness, pain, hunger; and, though I feel that it might have been myself standing there, yet I own that it was right.
"And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine" ( Luk 15:15 ).
But could he do nothing better than feed swine? No There was the great mischief. His father (again we modernise the instance) had never taught him a trade. Shame on his father! We blame the father more than we must blame the young man, in so far as this may be true. What could the young man do? Nothing. He had no skill in his fingers; he had no power of putting things together so as to make a living out of them. All he could do was the meanest work, he could feed swine. Do you feel it to be somewhat a hardship, young man, that you are sent to work? It is the beginning of your prosperity, if rightly accepted. Do you say that you ought to have been something finer? There is time to prove how far you are worthy of elevation and honour. Meanwhile, whatever you are, do your work with all patience, believing that he who does so will in the end have a sufficient and appropriate reward. Let us follow him in his menial employment and see how it fares with him, with him who was once so pampered, who was the delight of the household and the hope of his father's life.
"And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him" ( Luk 15:16 ).
Is that true? It is literally true. Is it true in this young man's experience? Then it is true in ours. We cannot allow any dispute upon this for a moment, so far as the book is concerned, because the same thing is done every day amongst ourselves. While the man spent his substance in riotous living he had friends, he had companions; there were many who shared his bounty and hospitality, where are they now? They are not within his call; they do not know him now. He spent his money freely, and so long as he had any left they lived with him, and were his friends they prostituted that sweet and holy name friend, in order that they might the better accomplish their own purposes; and as soon as they saw him lay down the last coin, and they had helped him to devour it. they turned their backs upon him and declared they never knew him! No man gave unto him, though he had given to so many men. Bad men always disappoint their victims. Bad men always make dupes and leave them. I would to God I could teach that thoroughly, effectively. The bad man cannot be a friend! The bad man who follows you, tracks you about, waits for you at the ware-house door, and spends your substance for you, cannot be a friend. He looks like a friend, but he is an enemy in disguise. "He apparently loves my company." Not a bit of it! He loves what you have; he loves your money. "He seems to prefer my society to anybody else's." He will ruin you to suit his purpose! The bad man cannot be a friend. He can be a sneak; a vampire; he can suck your blood, but he cannot be a friend! Only he can be a friend who can suffer for you, sympathise with you, own you in darkness as well as in light, defend you in danger, as well as smile upon you in the time of prosperity. I know this to be true. It has been burnt into our history as with a red-hot iron. This is no poet's fancy; this is no touch of dramatic genius, this is sadly, tragically, awfully true. It is not long since that a case in point occurred within the sphere of my own observation. A young man was taken up by a crafty villain, pursued by him, flattered by him, he could call upon this man to do what he pleased for him; there was plenty of money on the one side, and a bottomless pit of perdition on the other, along with a smooth outside, with a fair tongue, with a gentle tone of expression. As long as there was any property to be squandered the villain was at hand. He would do anything; set the young man up houses, and find him means of so-called enjoyment; he was his right-hand man, making all his arrangements, opening all the gates for him, and indicating the road that he was to take. And when the young man had spent thousands upon this policy, it came of course to a break, it came to a crisis. Where was his friend? Did he turn round and say, "I will be your friend still"? No. He said, "I will drag that young man through the mire." This was not an accident a single separate event standing by itself. It is a doctrine, a truth, that badness never can be sincere, that badness is always selfish, and that selfishness will always allure and destroy its dupes. And the young man's future went so. The old man at home perhaps had some difficulty in getting the property together. He used to be a workman himself, a man of good understanding and of great industry in matters of business, and it took him some twenty-five years to amass the property, and the young man spent it in a month! Be your own executor; you lay up money and you know not who will spend it You say, "Five seven ten thousand for my youngest boy. That will be a nice start in life for him; he will never know hardship as I have known it; he will never have to eat brown bread as I have eaten it; he will begin in very comfortable circumstances, and be able to take a very high position at once." Take care! He may spend it in a fortnight! See, at one toss of the dice your estate may be gone! He may be doing but a poor thing for his child who tries to turn nine thousand into ten thousand for him. Better send him to shoe-blacking, to crossing-sweeping, better make him a boy waiting in the shop, than so to train him as not to know the value of what you have amassed for his advantage. It may seem hard that he should begin where you began; but depend upon it that unless the young man be of singularly high principle and fine integrity, you are laying up for him that which will turn into a scorpion and sting 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!" (Luke 15:17 .)
Mark the beauty of the expression, When he came to himself. All sin is insanity; all wickedness is madness. A wicked man is not himself. He has lost self-control; all his best memories have been darkened or forgotten; and he is no longer to be counted a sane man in the true and proper sense of that term. Wickedness blinds the intellectual faculties, disorders a man's vision spiritual, intellectual, moral; gives him exaggerated notions of all other persons and things. A course of wickedness has a madhouse at the end of it! How much we are mistaken upon this matter of insanity. We think only those persons insane who are imprisoned in asylums, who are restrained by a strait waistcoat, who have watchers and keepers appointed over them. We say about such, "Poor creatures, alas! they are insane!" not knowing that there is an insanity of wickedness, a moral insanity, and of all insanity moral insanity is the worst. Responsibility begins there. If a man's reason be blighted, then responsibility goes along with it, he cannot distinguish the right hand from the left in morals. But where the insanity is moral, where there is a love of evil, where iniquity is rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel, then there is obligation, there is responsibility, and where there is responsibility there is the possibility of damnation! "When he came to himself." He never would have come to himself but for his poverty, his desertion, his pain. So, Almighty God has strange ministers in his sanctuary. All his ministers are not mere speakers of holy and beautiful words. He hath employed some grim teachers to instruct a certain class of mankind in the first principles of right: grief, hunger, pain, homelessness, ill-health, desertion. These are all the hired servants of the Father. He sends them out after sons that have left the old, dear home. This young man had to thank his swine-feeding, his experience of famine, his homelessness, as the beginning of his better life. Many of us probably have had to do precisely the same thing. We found no religion in luxury; no altar in the carpeted room; so long as we had everything within reach and call, our hearts never went out of us in incense of praise, in utterance of prayer. Not until we were breadless, homeless, until we exchanged fatherhood for citizenship; not until we got under influences that were keenly bitter and tormenting in their effects, did we begin to know that we had done wrong. Some of us, again, have had to thank God for poverty, for ill-health, for friendlessness, for being left out on the streets, without bread to eat or a pillow to rest upon, the rain dashing into our faces and no man knowing us. It was then we called for God, and it was then the Father met us! What did the young man say? Did he say, "Now I have taken this step, I cannot retrace it; I have said farewell to my father, I am not the man to succumb, to go back to my father's door and say, 'Please be kind enough to open this door to me again.' No, no; I will rise up from this state of poverty I have been suffering by a heavy hand I will yet make a man of myself; I will get back my fortune, I will renew my companions, and my latter time shall be better than my first"? If he had done so he would have shown but another phase of his insanity. He took the right course; he humbled himself; he got a right view of his way. He felt it to have been bad bad in its purpose, bad in its conception, bad in its whole course. He said, "I will go without a defence; I will get up no argument; I will not explain how it came to be; I will just go and throw myself at his feet and say, 'Make a servant of me, only take me back again.'" He won the battle then! The moment he threw off his pride, the moment he said, "I shall not stand before him, but fall down at his feet," he was victor! So long as there is a spark of pride left in a man, as between himself and God, a great battle has to be fought. So long as a man thinks he can make out a sufficient statement, an explanation of how he came to be wrong, and to do wrong, and can defend himself, in some degree at least, he is far from the kingdom of heaven.
What, then, is this that we have to say? This: there must be no excusings, no pleadings, no apologies, arguments, defences or palliations. Man must surrender; he must say, "There is no health in me; I yield; I have grieved thee, insulted thee, wounded thee: it seems as if I never could be a son again. Make something of me in thy house still. I will keep a door, I will follow the poorest of thy servants to be his servant, only have me somewhere in thy care, dear, grieved, brokenhearted Father!" When a man begins to talk so he is saved is saved! The young man went forward with his speech, a beautiful speech, not a single strain of selfishness in it; all a speech of condemnation, self-renunciation. He got so far with it, and the father interrupted him, fell on his neck, and kissed him, and said, "Make a son of him again." It is God's way with the sinner. He never lets us finish our speech of penitence. We struggle and sob on to about a comma, or at most a semicolon, and then his great love comes down and says, "That will do; begin again; begin at the Cross, my son; my child, begin at the Cross!" Were I to talk through many hours, even until sunrise, I could say no more than this, that a right state of acceptance before God is a state of self-abhorrence, self-distrust, self-renunciation. So long as we stand, God will not have anything to do with us, because he cannot. But when we fall down at his feet; when we feel our nothingness and own it it is then that he would put all heaven into our hearts.
We have often lectured on the parable of the prodigal son without bringing out these pronouns vividly and emphatically: "My son"; "thy brother "; "let us eat, and be merry." "My"; "thy"; "us." The prodigal has his own pronoun; he says, "I will arise, and go to my father," not my brother's father, but my own. Repeat these pronouns "my," "thy," "us." We cannot keep great joys in the singular number. You must at one point or another pluralise. Let us follow the course of this little river pronominal.
"My son." The father recognised facts. He said, "My son was dead." He was not in a school, he was not a boy of equivocal behaviour; he was not a diamond oft colour, a little yellow but still a diamond. The father did not thus confuse his own understanding and conscience. He looked facts dead in the face. Until we do that we can make no sound progress. We shall never evangelise the world if we think the world is only in a swoon. The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. He has not come to prop up a reeling polity; he is going to reconstruct shattered ruin. "Dead" how dead? There is a dead that has poetry in it; there is a dead, a death, which means that the family have taken a bulb and planted it, sure that it will flower in heaven. That is not death: but the dear friend is thus merely planted or sown. We might sing at such a planting. But for this poor little natural feeling of ours which overflows its own narrow channels, we might sing loud sweet psalms in the cemetery, praising God that another bulb was put into the earth with the assurance that it would be all flowers presently. The son was not dead in this sense, or the father never would have wished him back again; he would have made no feast for him if he had returned. Given the conviction, not the mere sentiment, that our departed ones are in heaven, and when we are asked to give a judgment in the court of the highest reason and reverence, we should say, Do not disturb them, let them alone in their high ecstasy; it is too cold down here for such as they are now. "Dead " twice dead, all dead; the body alive but the soul dead; understanding, conscience, imagination, heart, all the highest powers and qualities of the soul dead. That is death. Death is not the worst evil that can befall any man or any family or any nation. There are living men who are too dead to be buried, there are living forces emitting continual and devastating pestilence. When we have them in the house the house is no longer sweet; though we open all the windows of the dwelling and let in the strongest west wind, it cannot quell that miasma. Such were some of us: "we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Do not let us trifle with realities, and say that the human heart is "not as good as it ought to be." Whilst we are thus talking we never can understand Christ and his gospel. We must get to the tragedy of sin before we can get to the tragedy of the Cross. They go together; in a sense, they balance one another; in a sense they are equivalent to one another. If you set down a unit on the one hand and say that it is equal to a fraction on the other, you are arithmetically wrong; and if you set down sin on the one side as a mere offence against moral colour and the Cross on the other, then are you guilty of creating an infinite and shocking disproportion.
"Alive again" alive in his soul, in his conscience, in his reason, in his sense of right; alive in his broken-heartedness. That is the point at which true life begins. True life begins at contrition, at self-renunciation, at self-hatred. When we are most deeply in tears we are nearer than we ever were before our loudest, sweetest song. "Alive," because he has come home. Life seeks the centre; life yearns for fatherhood; life turns round, as it were, and in dumb quest asks for home. The young man was alive the very moment he said, "I will arise." He was alive before the father knew it. He had been alive some considerable time, walking on it may be day after day, for he had to come from "a far country"; yet he was alive all the time, and he himself hardly knew it. We sometimes pray without fully seizing all the meaning of the act. Many a man who would almost resent the idea that he prays cannot help praying, in some form, in some degree, in some sense. The yearning, the backward look to the things left long ago, the question in the heart as to how they all are at home; the unconfessed looking out for the post if haply there may be a letter from the old place: all these are aspects of prayer, they are expressions of desire, they are hints at a great gnawing want in the soul. It is a good thing for a man to have even a passing feeling of this kind. It is an excellent thing for a man to take pen and paper and sign some holy vow. He may break it tomorrow, but he has had four-and-twenty hours of it. That has done him good. He may not break it tomorrow; the four-and-twenty hours of release which he has had may prepare him for four-and-twenty more, and the eight-and-forty may constitute quite a defence between him and the old temptation. It is good for a man to come to his old church and hear one of the old hymn-tunes and try to take part in the singing, though it be musically but a poor part: somehow it connects him by fine filaments with things sacred and ineffable. The whole world is changed from that point of view; the grass is greener, and the birds never sang with so penetrating and comforting a trill before. These are all mysteries, but they are mysteries of education, they are all stimulants in an upward direction, they are all part of that marvellous and inexplicable apocalypse which we call Life.
"My son": did not distance destroy both the noun and the pronoun? No. We go back to our mother tongue: and it was part of this man's mother tongue to say concerning each of his children, "My son." We are sometimes suddenly startled into our real way of speaking. There is a conventional way, or there is a way to which we have schooled ourselves, so that we say, The next time we meet the offender we will address him swiftly. So we might if we had a week's notice of his coming; but the Lord oftentimes makes suddenness quite a part of his process of human education. Before we are aware of it there stands the man straight in front of us, the prodigal, the lost son, the lost daughter, and we have not time to do anything but cry. We were going to be very haughty; we were going to treat the offender off-hand. Trust the heart that was once really in love with you, that truly and deeply felt the necessity of your nearness and comfort; and though there may be for a time alienation between you, yet there shall come another time when the old language shall utter itself and familiar cries shall put down all the meaner music. John B. Gough told us of a husband who had acted so badly that he could no longer be kept in his own home. He had been taken into that home again and again, and again and again he had wrecked it. In his old age he thought he would try again. He found his way to his wife, who would not speak to him, or approach him, or have anything to do with him. She recited the story of her wrongs, and no honest man could listen to her without taking her side and rejecting the so-called husband as a plague intolerable. Mr. Gough was present at the interview. It was a fruitless communication. The old man, he said, rose to retire, and taking up his old muffler for his throat, he was trying with feeble and fumbling hands to put it on. He could not do so, and his wife gave it just one touch in the right direction: but that one touch brought her to herself; she fell on his neck and kissed him. It is the touch, the sudden impression, the unlooked-for vision, the thing we never calculated it is that that touches us with a new and higher, brighter and diviner relation.
" Thy brother" The pronoun "thy" comes out of the pronoun "my," "thy" because "my." An hour before the elder brother had no brother. Even nominally he would reject and scout the idea, but the father called him "thy brother" because he first called him "my son." Until we get the larger relation right we never can get the inferior relation put right. The one depends upon the other. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, strength, and it is out of that "and," that copulative word, that falls all neighbourliness, all true fraternity, all sacred and noble quality. The mischief is that men will try to work the other way. Why do we attempt to overget gravitation? Gravitation never has been overcome but temporarily. The little lark overcomes it; the ascent of the lark is an argument against gravitation, but a very short and lame argument. The lark will soon come down again. Even larks, and singing birds of every name, and eagles, and eagles that dare the sun, soon tire of wrestling with gravitation. The action of gravitation in this sense is a movement from God to man, from the first commandment to the second; and until we have obeyed the first commandment we cannot touch the second, or if we do touch it we shall soon drop it again as involving a tremendous and impossible task. Here therefore stands the Church in its supreme majesty as the reformer and saviour of the world. It works along the right line, it keeps step with gravitation, it moves with the action of God. Of course, the elder brother had an argument. He is a despicable fool who cannot argue about something. He would be an intolerable person who could not find fault with some other person. That role is always open to us if we care to make havoc of life's finest opportunities. Find a man with an argument, and you find a man with a grievance, and find a man with a grievance and he can never go into the feast. He feeds on hunger, he asks a blessing in the open air upon tables spread with nothing; he takes a pride in his very food. He is a homemade martyr to a homemade conscience. Never trouble about the elder brother. Why do preachers try to explain such a character? He is not worth explaining. You join the sacred revel, find your way to the interior banqueting-room where soul is brought to soul in new wedlock, and new fatherhood, in new sonship, and let the elder brother fill himself to satisfaction with the east wind.
"My" "thy" "us." Who is meant by that "us"? The explanation is in the parable. The father said to his servants, Take such and such a course, "and let us eat and be merry." And they began to be merry. It is a poor joy that does not overflow the parlour and get down to the kitchen. It is a party not worth going to if the servants are not interested in it; it is a mean, despicable kind of uninviting show; it is not a festival. Great emotions do not know who are men or kings or peasants or servants or masters. Great emotions touch our human nature; they are humane, civilising, fraternising, uniting, consolidating. Herein is the marvellous miracle that is wrought by Christian sympathy. Men who are under the influence of the Cross have all things in common. That rule has never been suspended and has never been put out of practice. There is a literal way of reading the story which ends in saying, All this sort of thing has passed away. Nothing of the kind. It cannot pass away. It is immortal because the love of Christ is eternal. Our love for Christ may have removed, our passionate loyalty to the Cross may have gone down in volume and quality. If we could bring back the love we could bring back the true communism. No man would say that anything he had was his own. Blessed be God that miracle is always possible. It is always possible that love to Christ may be so great, efflorescent, exuberant, that man shall simply forget his own individuality and petty concerns, and call all hunger to share his loaf. We shall certainly go down at the social end if we go down at the spiritual beginning. There is a law of cause and effect in these things. Keep up your religion if you would keep up your morality. Keep up your Christianity if you would keep up your socialism. Keep up your prayer if you would keep up your service. Knees unused to bending before God soon tire in endeavouring to run the errands of men.
Blessed be God for these eternal pronouns. You could not live on "it" and "they," although "they" is plural enough to include a great many things. You want the "my," the "thy," the "us," personal, warm, sympathetic, human. This is what Christ came to work out amongst us. This is Christ's own sweet parable. The Man who spoke this parable ought not to have been crucified. This parable should have saved him from murder. It is a beauteous poem. It has the music of all generations in it. He who spake it was the Son of the carpenter so-called. True: but Christ was not murdered. The speaker of that parable never could have been merely killed. He gave himself. Said he, "I lay down my life: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." That man was not a victim, he was a Priest. To his priesthood I call all the sons of men who have wandered into a far country.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 15". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18