The Prodigal Son
There was a young man went off to California, and he left a kind, praying father. He went to the Pacific coast; and the first letter to his father brought the tidings that he was in bad company. The next letter told he had gone on from bad to worse; and every time he heard from that dear boy he heard how he was going on in sin. At last one of the neighbors was going out to California, and the father said to him: “When you get there hunt up my boy, and tell him one thing—that his father loves him still. Tell him my love is unchanged. Tell him I never loved him more than I do at the present time; and if he will come home, I will forgive him all.” The man, when he got to California, had hard work to find the boy; but one night, past midnight, he found him in one of the lowest dens in California. He got him out, and he said to him: “I have news from home for you. I have come from New England, and just before I left I met your father; and he told me, if I found you, to tell you that he loved you as much as ever, and he wants you to come home.” The young prodigal said: “Did my father tell you to tell me he loved me still? I do not understand that.” “But,” says the man, “it is true.” That broke the man’s heart, and he started back to his father. I bring the message to you that God loves you still. I say to every sinner in Philadelphia, I do not care how vile you are in the sight of your fellowmen, I want to tell you upon the authority of God’s word, that the Lord Jesus loves you, and loves you still.
I see this prodigal son: he starts for home, and he has a hard journey of it; he is almost starved. There has been a famine in that land; perhaps the famine struck that land to bring that man back to his father’s house. Many a trouble comes upon us to bring us to God. He is coming along over the highway, and night comes on; he sleeps. Day after day he travels on. He has no fears of thieves troubling him, for he had squandered all in that foreign land. As he crosses the line that brings him into his native country, his heart must have beat quicker and quicker. This thought might have come to him: “Perhaps my father is dead, and then no one will love me. It may be my father will not receive and forgive me.” He might have thought that, as his father had refused to give him money, he would not receive him. Still he comes on. I see him coming in sight of that old homestead. Perhaps some of you understand his feelings. Perhaps some of you have been away for years, and then, when you came back to the old homestead, the tears would come trickling down your cheeks as you remembered the first morning when you left home. When a young man leaves home, the thought will come across him that he may never return. This boy has been away for years. He is coming home; he sees the playground. He is sick of that foreign country; he is sick of that devil’s own country; it has not satisfied him. I never saw a man who lived for the world satisfied yet. He has this thought: “I wonder if my father will let me come in. I will ask him to let me get in among the servants.”
I can see the old man; he is up there on the flag-roof of the house. It is in the cool of the day; the sun is sinking down behind those Palestine hills. He is looking in the direction his boy went away years ago. How his heart has ached for him; how he has loved him. I can see the old man as he looks, and as he sees that boy coming back. He cannot recognize him by his dress; but love is keen to detect its object, and he can see it is his darling boy. He comes down those stairs, and he sweeps out past the servants, as if the spirit of youth had come back upon him. You can see his gray hairs, as he flies through the air and leaps over the highway. He runs and leaps for joy. The boy begins to speak, but the father will not hear him. He takes the boy’s hand and says: “Bring out the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, bring out shoes and put on his feet, and kill the fatted calf; and let us eat and be merry.” I see the old man weeping tears of joy. In that home there is gladness. The boy is eating that sumptuous meal; he has not had as good a meal for many a year. It seems almost too good to be true. Picture the scene. While he is there he begins to weep; and the old man, who is weeping for joy, looks over to him and says, “What are you weeping for?” The boy says: “Well, father, I was thinking it would be an awful thing if I should leave you again, and go into a foreign country.” But if you sit down at God’s feast, you will not want to go back into the devil’s country again.
Oh, my friends, tonight come home. God wants you; his heart is aching for you. I do not care what your past life has been. This night, upon the authority of God’s Word, I proclaim salvation to every sinner. “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Every sinner has a false idea of God; he thinks God is not ready and willing to forgive him. He says it is not justice. But God wants to deal in mercy. If the old man had dealt in justice, he would have barred the door and said to his son, “You cannot come in my house.” That is not what fathers are doing. Their doors are not barred against their own children. Their doors are wide open, and they bid you come home. There is no father in Philadelphia who has as much love in his heart as God has for you. You may be as sinful as hell; yet God stands ready and willing to receive you to his bosom, and to forgive you freely.
~ From “The Prodigal Son” in The Gospel Awakening