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to follow the modes of their betters, yet are they not likely to be struck with this one, of making merry with that which is their consolation; they are too serious a set of poor people ever heartily to enter into it.
There is enough, however, of it in the world to say, that this all-sacred system, which holds the world in harmony and peace, is too often the first object that the giddy and inconsiderate make choice of to try the temper of their wits upon. Now, of the numbers who make this experiment, do you believe that one in a thousand does it from conviction
or from arguments which a course of study,-, much cool reasoning, and a sober inquiry into antiquity, and the true merits of the question, have furnished him with ?-The years and way of life of the most forward of these, lead us to a different explanation.
Religion, which lays so many restraints upon us, is a troublesome companion to those who will lay no restraints upon themselves ;-and for this reason there is nothing more common to be observed, than that the little arguments and cavils which such men have gathered up against it in the early part of their lives—how considerable soever they may have apo" peared, when viewed through their passions and prejudices, which give an unnatural turn to all objects-yet, when the edge of appetite has been worn down, and the heat of the pursuit pretty well over, -and reason and judgment have got possession of their empire,
- They seldom fail of bringing the lost sheep back to his fold.
May God bring us all there. Amen,
THE PRODIGAL SON.
LUKE XV. 13.
And not many days after, the younger son gathered all he had to.
gether, and took his journey into a far country.
I KNOW not whether the remark is to our honour or otherwise, that lessons of wisdom have never such power over us as when they are wrought into the heart through the ground-work of a story which engages the passions. Is it that we are like iron, , and must first be heated before we can be wrought upon? or, is the heart so in love with deceit, that, where a true report will not reach it, we must cheat it with a fable, in order to come at truth?
Whether this parable of the Prodigal (for so it is usually called) is really such, or built upon some
story known at that time in Jerusalem, is not much que to the purpose ; it is given us to enlarge upon, and turn to the best moral account we can.
" A certain map,” says our Saviour, “ had two sons, and the younger of them said to his fa" ther, Give me the portion of goods which falls to " me: and he divided unto them his substance. 66 And not ma
days after, the younger son gather" ed all together, and took his journey into a far
country, and there wasted his substance with ri: 6. otous living."
The account is short: the interesting and pathetick passages with which such a transaction would be necessarily connected, are left to be supplied by the heart:-the story is silent,—but nature is not: -much kind advice, and many a tender expostulation, would fall from the father's lips, no doubt, upon this occasion. :
He would dissuade his son from the folly of so rash an enterprize, by shewing him the dangers of the journey,—the inexperience of his age,—the hazards his life, his fortune, his virtue, would run, without a guide, without a friend : he would tell him of the many snares and temptations which he had to avoid or encounter at every step,—the pleasures which would solicit him in every luxurious court,—the iittle knowledge he could gain,-except that of evil: he would speak of the seductions of women, -their charms,-their poisons ;-what hapless indulgences he might give way to when far from restraint, and the check of giving his father pain.
The dissuasive would but inflame his desire. He gathers all together.
-I see the picture of his departure ;-the camels and asses loaden with his substance, detached on one side of the piece, and already on their way :the prodigal son standing on the fore-ground, with a forced sedateness, struggling against the fluttering movement of joy, upon his deliverance from restraint-the elder brother holding his hand, as if unwilling to let it go :- the father,--sad moment ! with a firm look, covering a prophetick sentiment,
that all would not go well with his child,'-approaching to embrace him and bid him adieuPoor inconsiderate youth! From whose arms art
thou flying ? From what a shelter art thou going forth into the storm ? • Art thou weary of a father's affection-of a father's care? or, hopest thou to find a warmer interést, a truer counsellor, or a kinder friend in a land of strangers, where youth is made a prey, and so many thousands are confederated to deceive them, and live by their spoils ?
We will seek no farther than this idea for the ex. travagances by which the prodigal son added one unhappy example to the number: his fortune wasted, the followers of it fled in course,—the wants of nature remain, the hand of God
forth against him;for when he had spent all, a « mighty famine arose in that country.”-Heaven ! have pity upon the youth, for he is in hunger and distress ;-stray'd out of the reach of a parent, who counts every hour of his absence with anguish; cut off from all his tender offices by his folly, and from relief and charity from others, by the calamity of the times !
Nothing so powerfully calls home the mind as distress; the tense fibre then relaxes,—the soul re. tires to itself,-sits pensive and susceptible of right impressions : if we have a friend, 'tis then we think of him; if a benefactory at that moment all his kindnesses press upon our mind..Gracious and bountiful God! Is it not for this that they who, in their prosperity, forget thee, do yet remember and return to thee in the hour of their sorrow? When our heart is in heaviness, upon whom can'we think but thee, who knowest our necessities afar off, puttest all our tears in thy bottle, seest every careful thought-hearest every sigh and melancholy groan we utter !
Strange!-that we should only begin to think of God with comfort, when with joy and comfort we can think of nothing else!
Man surely is a compound of riddles and contradictions : by the law of his nature he avoids pain, and yet, unless he suffers in the flesh, he will not “ cease from sin," though it is sure to bring pain and misery, upon his head forever.
Whilst all went pleasurable on with the prodigal, we hear not one word concerning his father ;-no pang of remorse for the sufferings in which he had left him, or resolution of returning, to make up the account of his folly :-his first hour of distress seem'd to be his first hour of wisdom:" When he 6 came to himself, he said, How many hired sers vants of my father have bread enough and to spare, whilst I perish !"
Of all the terrors of nature, that of one day or other 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 arose to go to his father.
-Alas! How should 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!
-The feasts and banquets which he gave to whole cities in the east-the costs of Asiatick rari