The Prodigal's Losses.
The fifteenth chapter of Luke is one which almost every one could repeat from memory, and yet it is one of those beautiful portions which always seem to touch one’s heart and fill one’s soul with fresh joy every time one reads it. I wish you to look at this sweet chapter in connection with the Christian life. We have commonly been accustomed to look at it in connection with the state of unsaved sinners, and there is no doubt that it may be applied to them. But I wish to draw another lesson from it and apply it to our souls. I think I shall be justified in applying it to the Christian, as well as to the sinner who has never known the Father’s house and the Father’s love.
You remember that the people to whom the Lord Jesus Christ spoke this beautiful parable were all Jews.
A WORD FOR BACKSLIDERS.
The Jews had drifted away from God, and had become backsliders; and thus, I can find a message to backsliders from this beautiful chapter. I do not know any place where the unsaved sinner is spoken of as the son of the Father.
In this story, the Lord Jesus Christ was surrounded by the publicans and sinners, while the Pharisees and scribes were in the distance, and began to murmur and find fault. You will always find that the Pharisees who keep away, find fault, but the sinners who come near, do not find fault at all. The fault-finders said: "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”
Then He spake this parable unto them, ‘‘A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them 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.”
Now notice what kind of a famine it was. It was not a famine of husks—there were plenty of those. It was not a famine of swine’s flesh—there was plenty of that. But there was a famine of that which was clean and fit for a Jew to eat. There is never a famine of husks; the devil has not had a famine for the last nineteen hundred years. There are always plenty of husks to feed hungry swine, and there are always plenty of hungry swine to eat them. Go where you will, you will always find plenty of devil’s food for hungry souls, but it will not satisfy.
Now the story goes on to say, that when the prodigal had wasted his substance, he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and asked him for something to do; and I do not for one moment believe that the citizen had the least pity for him. He saw the young man was a Jew, and he said: ‘‘The only thing you are fit for is to go and feed my swine.”
That was neither pity nor sympathy; it was a piece of mockery. Nothing pleases sinners so much as to see a child of God brought down to their level.
Now what did the prodigal lose? There was something that he could not lose, but there was much that he could. In the first place, he could lose his home. His father’s home was not closed against him, but in that far country, he had
Some would say, “I would not be a prodigal. It must be something very terrible to disgrace my church, to give the devil my service in the eyes of the world, to get intoxicated and go reeling about the streets.” Yes, that is getting into the far country; but, beloved friend, I believe it is possible to be in the “far country,” and, at the same time, be in attendance upon God’s house and joining in its services. I believe it is possible to be in the “far country” while reading the blessed Book; to be in the “far country” with the wine and bread, which are emblems of the broken body of my Savior, in my hand. Nay, more; I believe it is possible to be in the “far country” while teaching about the prodigal son.
Whenever we get our affections fixed upon earth, that is the “far country.” The farthest from Heaven that the Christian can get is the world; and, while we are living for the world, our heart is in the “far country.” Beloved friend, we need not give up our seat in church; we need not give up church membership; only let our heart be away from Christ, and centered upon earth, and we are in the far country.”
Now see what he loses. Home! That sweet word! ‘‘Home! sweet home! there’s no place like home!” It is only those who have been in the far country who know what it is to love home.
MEMORIES OF HOME.
I remember when I was in California with a friend. We had come from Sacramento and had been in the cars four hours. We had a short time to wait and got out and walked about. We were enchanted with the beautiful scenery. The mountain tops, covered with snow, looked like masses of silver. My friend said he had been to Switzerland and had seen nothing like it. There was a lake, and in the sunlight, it looked like a sea of gold. We were admiring the scenery, when the birds began to warble, and a little blackbird began to sing. Before we knew what we were doing, we had forgotten the scenery, and tears were streaming down our faces. It was the first blackbird that we had heard sing in that country, and it seemed to be like the song of old England. Ah! “there’s no place like home.” The scenery may be grand, beautiful and glorious, but there is no place like home.
So, in the far country, the prodigal had lost his home. There was no familiar face to welcome him, and no kind voice to cheer him. He had lost his home, and he had lost something else too; he had lost
He had the husks, but they did not satisfy him. He lost his food; and I think the Church of God has lost her food, and that is the cause of the terrible state of weakness the Church is in. You cannot have food away from your Father’s house. You must come back home; you will never be satisfied in the far country. What was the reason that the men of God had such power in the ancient days? Because they ate the bread that God sent them. Turn to the fourteenth chapter of Genesis, and you will find an illustration of what I mean. What did Abram say? He would not take so much as a thread or a shoe-latchet. Sodom was a wealthy city, but Abram would have none of her goods, and would only take the piece of bread and drink of wine from the priest of the Most High God. Why? He knew that the servant of the Most High God should be independent of Sodom; and when the Church of God finds out that, and acts upon it, it will be a grand thing. But though he refused the goods of Sodom, Abram took the bread and drank the wine that typified Christ; and those who take that food, will not want to get rich with the goods of Sodom.
Turn now to the eleventh chapter of Numbers, and there you will find another illustration: "And the mixed multitude that was amongst them fell a-lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?”
The “mixed multitude”; they were those who came up out of Egypt with the children of Israel but were not under the shelter of the blood of the Lamb. They were a hindrance to God’s people. They said: “We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick; but now there is nothing at all but this manna.”
What was the manna? It was the God-given bread, which they began to tire of, remembering the fish, melons, cucumbers, onions, leeks and garlick. They remembered these things, but forgot the bondage, the groaning, the tears, the tale of bricks they had to make, and the whip of the taskmasters. The devil will readily enough remind you of the leeks, onions and garlick, but not of the bondage. The devil will tell you of anything except the true manna, which is Christ, and you cannot be fed unless fed by Him.
LOST WORK AND TESTIMONY.
The prodigal lost his food, but that was not all. He lost his work. He could not take care of his father’s sheep while in the far country. His father’s lambs might need tending, but he could not nurse them there; and his father’s harvest might need gathering, but he could not do it there. Beloved, you cannot work from your Father’s home, for He will not ask any child to work until He has first fed him; we can neither feed nor work in the far country.
He had lost something else, also, and that was his testimony. He had a ragged coat on his back, and not a cent in his pocket, and who would believe him if he talked about his father? He might say his father was the richest man in Judea; but, with his ragged coat and penniless pocket, they would only laugh at him in the far country and would not believe his testimony. Why do people not believe our testimony? Because we talk of a rich father, and yet go about with a ragged coat; we talk of joy, and look wretched; we talk of peace, and look full of trouble. That is why our testimony is not believed.
Then this is what the prodigal lost: his home, his food, his work and his testimony. But he did not lose all. It is one thing to go to Heaven, and it is another to waste the only life that God ever gave for His service. What if the Mighty God of Heaven were to summon around Him all the angels in glory, and He were to say: “There is a mission going on in yonder town, and there are thousands of people in the back streets, and nobody is speaking to them about My beloved Son; no one is asking them to go to the hall to hear of salvation. I have hundreds of people in that town who never speak for Me.”
I know some say they could die for Christ. But He does not want you to die for Him. He wants you to live for Him; to speak of His blood, and to weep over lost ones for Him. He would do it for you, but you would not do it for Him!
If the angels only had the privilege to leave that glorious place in Heaven, and come down to win souls for Christ, how many would go? or rather, how many would stop behind? I do not believe a single angel would be left in Heaven; they would so prize the privilege for which God’s children on earth care so little.
But although the prodigal lost his home, food, work and testimony, he did not lose his sonship and he did not lose his citizenship. Once a man was a Jew, it was impossible to make him a Gentile. He did not lose his sonship either. That, too, is impossible. He may be disinherited, but he is a son all the same.
A FATHER'S LOVE.
When I was at home, in Manchester, our family consisted of two brothers and two sisters. My brother was a bad boy, a prodigal, and they could not get him to work in the mill. One of my sisters said to her father, “Father, I will tell thee what thee ought to do with our John; turn him into the street.” “Why?” asked the father. “Why,” she said, "see how good we all are, and how bad he is; he is a disgrace to us. Turn him away.”
Christmas Day came, and the family was together, and the old man read a chapter and prayed, and the prodigal was present. The father, turning around to the daughter, said: “Well, what are we to do with thy brother now?” Her reply was, “Put him in the street.” Then he turned, put the question to a friend, and he said he did not like to interfere, but he thought it would do him good to turn him out a little. The old man left his chair, and said: ‘‘John, thy sister and brother and friend say I should turn thee out; but I am thy poor old father, and I will never put thee in the street, my boy.”
The prodigal was overcome by the father’s love: it was the means of leading his heart to the Lord, and he is now a preacher of the Gospel.
NEVER TOO LATE.
Oh, if you are in the far country, if all the angels in Heaven turn their backs upon you, if all the devils in hell tell you you cannot be saved, and if your own heart says it is too late, never mind them—go home! Go back in spite of earth and hell, and tell your Father how you have wandered, and He will receive you; for the door is never shut, and a son will ever find a welcome. The prodigal went back, but it was with a downcast face; he did not see his father, but his father saw him, and he ran to meet him. This is the only place where we read of God being in a hurry. He did not run to create a world, but He ran to put His arms around the neck of a poor prodigal. Oh, never, never, NEVER doubt your Heavenly Father’s love! If you have wandered, go back and tell Him your sin, and He will receive you with a kiss upon your lips. And when the prodigal went home, he found the fatted calf ready. The fatted calf is always ready, do not doubt!
THE IRISH MOTHER'S BOY.
Once I was at Dublin, and a lady of the Society of Friends said to me, "Henry Moorhouse, I want thee to go and speak to a poor woman who is in great trouble.” I went and found the poor old woman in her cottage in a sad state, rocking herself to and fro, and moaning. I asked her what troubled her, and she said her boy had broken her heart. She said: “You know my boy has gone away, and I had a letter from him to-day, and that has nearly broken my heart.” She read me the letter, and she came to the words, “Dear mother, if you can never forgive me, don’t curse me.” Then she broke out again, “I never knew how much I loved him until he went away, and now to think he should say, ‘Mother, don’t curse me.’ ” It was the doubt of the mother’s love that broke her heart.
Oh, when any one can doubt our Heavenly Father’s love, they must be in the far country! Come back, brother; come back, sister; come back to-day! The door is open, and there stands the loving Father. Say to Him, “I will arise, and go home.” That moment the Father’s arms will be around your neck. Come, come, COME! Come to thy loving Father’s arms, come back to thy home, come back to thy God, come back to thy work, come back now!
“The Prodigal” 1898.