IT was hunger, not love, that drew the prodigal back to his father. There was no high nor disinterested motive in his return. He stayed away as long as he could; he only came back when he could not help himself. It was not the thought of his father, but of the plenty of his house, as contrasted with his own want, that led him out of the far country to seek his father's face. So with the sinner. It is want, misery, danger, not love nor any noble motive that lead him to seek the face of God. How foolish the thought of those who would shrink back from God because they have not come to Him with a pure and disinterested motive! But it is with the Father that we have now specially to do. (i.) Paternal watchfulness and far-sightedness; (2.) paternal haste; (3.) paternal compassion; (4.) paternal tenderness; (5.) paternal reconciliation.
I. Paternal watchfulness and far-sightedness. "When yet a great way off, his father saw him." He had doubtless been watching; "this man looketh out for sinners." How quick-sighted is the paternal eye, made keen and clear by the yearnings of the paternal heart. The figure seen thus far off was no doubt very unlike his boy for it was one of rags, and filth, and disfigurement. Yet it is recognised. There is my son at last! Poor wanderer, God's eye is on you in yon far land of famine. He has not forgotten; He has his reasons for not coming out and taking you back by force, like the shepherd the sheep; for He wants your heart, and that cannot be won by force or gold, yet He is on the outlook for you, however far "off" you be.
II. Paternal haste."He ran." The son was coming to him, yet he ran to meet him, eager to shorten the distance. He did not keep state or ceremony. He did not think of what might comport with dignity or with offended authority; he did not wait nor move slowly towards him; he ran, as if every inch of distance or moment of separation were intolerable. What eagerness to meet did that haste imply! What heedlessness of all ceremony! No fear of seeming too eager--- no thought of thus encouraging sin, or making the prodigal think lightly of his wickedness. Haste was the best for the prodigal, as well as most congenial to his own feelings. What a rebuke does that word ''ran" furnish to those who think that a sinner can come to Christ too soon--can be reconciled too quickly. God runs, sinner, to you, will you not run to God ? He makes haste, oh make you haste.
III. Paternal compassion."He had compassion." It would seem as if the pity were stirred by what he saw. The nearer he came the more he had compassion. The rags and filth, instead of repelling him, only awoke still more his pity. Instead of turning away from the loathsomeness, his paternal heart was moved by the sight of it. As we read that Jesus, when He saw the multitudes, was moved with compassion, so was it with the father here. Poor wanderer, you need not then try to cover your rags, or to hide your filth, or to try to make yourself more like what you were in order to attract your father. It is just that which you are which excites his compassion. Your wretchedness, ignorance, defilement, squalor, will be no obstacle. They awake his pity. Go to him then just as you are, and see if his compassions are not infinite. Whoever and whatever you may be, He pities you. The tears of Jesus over Jerusalem are the expressions of that pity, sincere, and true, and deep.
IV. Paternal tenderness."He fell on his neck." So was it when Jacob and Esau met; Joseph and Benjamin. Falling on another's neck is the expression of tender love, love that, for the moment, cannot express itself in words, but buries its face (and with it, past grief and present joy) out of sight on the neck of the beloved one. Ah this is tender love! He fell on his neck! It is the tender love of God. Yet all these manifestations of human love, these tokens of family endearment, are poor to express his unutterably earnest yet tender grace. In listening to God's gospel we too often feel as if it were the mere intimation of his consent to our salvation, implying but a cold willingness to save us from hell. How much we mistake. His is true parental fondness, pity, tenderness, yearning; his is the eagerness to bless us, which words cannot express. Yes, God is in earnest in his tender love.
V. Paternal reconciliation."He
kissed him." This is the completion of the whole the consummated and
manifested reconciliation. There is the kiss of affection, Jacob kissing
Joseph's sons ; the kiss of sorrow, when the disciples fell on Paul's neck
and kissed him; the kiss of reconciliation, when Jacob and Esau kissed,
and when righteousness and peace are said to kiss each other. How much
is implied in that paternal kiss, love, joy, pardon, pity, reconciliation.
Thus God comes up to the sinner with the fulness of reconciliation in his
heart. He does not stay to be entreated, or pleaded with, or persuaded.
He hastens up to us, and embraces us in the fulness of his heart. Ah, this
kiss is the seal of pardon to the prodigal; and it is this kiss that He
is longing to imprint now on your polluted lips! He comes up to you with
the reconciliation of the cross; for He is reconciling the world to Himself,
not imputing unto them their trespasses.
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