2414. The Prodigal’s Climax

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No. 2414-41:241. A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, May 19, 1887, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, May 26, 1895.

When he came to himself. {Lu 15:17}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1000, “Number One Thousand; or Bread Enough and to Spare” 991}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2414, “Prodigal’s Climax, The” 2415}
   Exposition on Lu 15:11-32 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3410, “Christ and His Hearers” 3412 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Lu 15:1-24 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3343, “Star Out of Jacob, The” 3345 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Lu 15:1-24 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3450, “Dangerous Lingering” 3452 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Lu 15:1-27 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3407, “Peter’s Prayer” 3409 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Lu 15 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2414, “Prodigal’s Climax, The” 2415 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Lu 15 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2520, “Programme Never Carried Out, A” 2521 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Lu 15 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2791, “High Day in Heaven, A” 2792 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Lu 15 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2863, “Great Forgiveness for Great Sin” 2864 @@ "Exposition"}

1. There are different stages in the sinner’s history, and they are worth marking in the prodigal’s experience. There is, first, the stage in which the young man sought independence from his father. The younger son said, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” We know something about that state of mind; and, alas! it is a very common one. As yet there is no open profligacy, no distinct rebellion against God. Religious services are attended, the father’s God is held in reverence; but in his heart the young man desires a supposed liberty, he wishes to cast off all restraint. Companions hint that he is too much tied to his mother’s apron-strings. He himself feels that there may be some strange delights which he has never enjoyed; and the curiosity of Mother Eve to taste the fruit of that tree which was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, comes into the young man’s mind, and he wishes to reach out his hand, and take the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so that he may eat from it. He never intends to spend his substance in riotous living, but he would like to have the opportunity of spending it as he likes. He does not intend to be a profligate; still, he would like to have the honour of choosing what is right on his own account. At any rate, he is a man now; he feels his blushing honours full on him, and he wants now to exercise his own freedom of will, and to feel that he himself is really his own master. Who, indeed, he asks, is Lord over him? Perhaps there are some to whom I am speaking who are just in such a state as that; if so, may the grace of God arrest you before you go any further away from him! May you feel that, to be out of sync with God, to wish to be separated from him, and to have other interests than those of him who made you, must be dangerous, and probably will be fatal! Therefore now, even now, may you come to yourself at this earliest stage of your history, and also come to love and rejoice in God as the prodigal returned to his father!

2. Very soon, however, this young man in the parable entered into quite another stage. He had received his portion of goods; all that he would have had at his father’s death he had turned into cash, and there it is. It is his own, and he may do what he pleases with it. Having already indulged his independent feeling towards his father, and his wish to have a separate establishment altogether from him, he knew that he would be freer to carry out his plans if he left home. Anywhere near his father there is a check on him; he feels that the influence of his home somewhat clips his wings. If he could get into a far country, there he should have the opportunity to develop; and all that evolution could do for him he would have the opportunity of enjoying, so he gathers everything together, and goes into the far country. It may be that I am addressing some who have reached that stage. Now there is all the delirium of self-indulgence. Now it is all gaiety, “a short life and a merry one,” forgetting the long eternity and a woeful one. Now the cup is full, and the red wine sparkles in the bowl. As yet, it has not bitten you like a serpent, nor stung you like an adder, as it will do all too soon; but just now, it is the deadly sweetness that you taste, and the exhilaration of that drugged chalice that deceives you. You are making haste to enjoy yourself. Sin is a dangerous joy, beloved all the more because of the danger; for, where there is a fearful risk, there is often an intense pleasure to a daring heart; and you perhaps are one of that venturous band, spending your days in folly and your nights in riotousness.

3. Before long there comes a third stage to the sinner as well as to the prodigal, that happens when he has “spent all.” We have only a certain amount of spending-money after all. He who has gold without limit, still does not have health without limit; or if health does not fail him in his sinning, yet desire fails, and satiety comes in, as it did with Solomon when he tried this way of seeking happiness. At last, there is no honey left, there is only the sting of the bee. At last, there is no sweetness in the cup, there is only the delirium that follows the intoxication. At last, the meat is eaten to the bone, and there is nothing good to come out of that bone; it contains no marrow, the teeth are broken with it, and the man wishes that he had never sat down to so terrible a feast. He has reached the stage at which the prodigal arrived when he had spent everything. Oh, there are some who spend all their character, spend all their health and strength, spend all their hope, spend all their uprightness, spend everything that was worth having! They have spent everything. This is another stage in the sinner’s history, and it is very apt to lead to despair, and even deeper sin, and sometimes to that worst of sins which drives a man red-handed before the judgment bar of his Maker to account for his own blood.

4. It is a dreadful state to be in, for terrible hunger follows after it. There is a weary labour to get something that may sustain the spirit, a descending to the degradation of feeding swine, a willingness to eat of the husks that swine eat, yet an inability to do so. Many have felt this craving that cannot be satisfied. But, for my part, I am glad when “the rake’s {a} progress” has reached this point; for often, in the grace of God, it is the way home for the prodigal; it is a roundabout way, but it is the way home for him. When men have spent everything, and poverty has followed on their recklessness, and sickness has come at the call of their vice, it is then that omnipotent grace has stepped in, and there has come another stage in the sinner’s history, of which I am now going to speak, as God may help me. That is the point the prodigal had reached “when he came to himself.”

5. I. Then, first, A SINNER IS BESIDE HIMSELF.

6. While he is living in his sin, he is out of his mind, he is beside himself. I am sure that it is so. There is nothing more like madness than sin; and it is a moot point among those who study deep problems how far insanity and the tendency to sin go side by side, and where great sin and entire loss of responsibility may touch each other. I do not intend to discuss that question at all; but I am going to say that every sinner is morally and responsibly insane, and therefore in a worse condition than if he were only mentally insane.

7. He is insane, first, because his judgment is altogether out of order. He makes fatal mistakes about all-important matters. He thinks that a short time of this mortal life to be worth all his thoughts, and he puts eternity into the background. He considers it possible for a creature to be at enmity against the Creator, or indifferent to him, and yet to be happy. He imagines that he knows better what is right for him than the law of God declares. He dreams that the everlasting gospel, which cost God the life of his own Son, is scarcely worthy of his attention at all, and he passes it by with contempt. He has overridden the rudder of his judgment, and steers towards the rocks with awful deliberation, and seems as if he would wish to know where he can find the best place to commit eternal shipwreck. His judgment is out of order.

8. Further, his actions are those of a madman. This prodigal son, first of all, had interests apart from his father. He must have been mad to have conceived such an idea as that. For me to have interests apart from him who made me, and keeps me alive, — for me, the creature of an hour, to imagine that I can have a will in opposition to the will of God, and that I can so live and prosper, — why, I must be a fool! I must be mad to wish any such thing, for it is consistent with the highest reason to believe that he who yields himself up to omnipotent goodness must be in the track of happiness, but that he who sets himself against the almighty grace of God must certainly be kicking against the pricks to his own wounding and harm. Yet this sinner does not see that it is so, and the reason is that he is beside himself.

9. Then, next, that young man went away from his home, though it was the best home in all the world. We can judge that from the very great tenderness and generosity of the father at the head of it, and from the wonderful way in which all the servants had such entire sympathy with their master. It was a happy home, well supplied with all that the son could need; yet he leaves it to go to places unknown, among strangers who did not care a straw for him, and who, when they had drained his purse, would not give him even a penny with which to buy bread to save him from starving. The prodigal must have been mad to act like that; and for any of us to leave him who has been the dwelling-place of his saints in all generations, to leave the warmth and comfort of the Church of God which is the home of joy and peace, is clear insanity. Anyone who does this is acting against his own best interests, he is choosing the path of shame and sorrow, he is casting away all true delight; he must be mad.

10. You can see that this young man is out of his mind, because, when he gets into the far country, he begins spending his money riotously. He does not lay it out judiciously, he spends his money for what is not bread, and his labour for what does not satisfy; and that is just what the sinner does. If he is self-righteous, he is trying to weave a robe out of the worthless material of his own works; and if he is a voluptuary, given up to sinful indulgence, what vanity it is for him to hope for pleasure in the midst of sin! Should I expect to meet angels in the sewers, with heavenly light in a dark mine? No, these are not places for such things as those; and can I rationally look for joy for my heart from revelling, lust, lewdness, and such conduct? If I do, I must be mad. Oh, if only men were rational, — and they often wrongly suppose that they are, — if they were only rational beings, they would see how irrational it is to sin! The most reasonable thing in the world is to spend life for its own true purpose, and not to fling it away as though it were a pebble on the sea-shore.

11. Further, the prodigal was a fool, he was mad, for he spent everything. He did not even stop halfway on the road to penury, but he went on until he had spent it all. There is no limit to those who have started in a course of sin. He who stays back from it, by God’s grace may keep from it; but it is with sin as it is with the intoxicating cup. One said to me, the other day, “I can drink much, or I can drink none; but I have not the power to drink a little, for if I begin I cannot stop myself, and may go on to any length.” So it is with sin, God’s grace can keep you abstaining from sin; but, if you begin sinning, oh, how one sin draws on another! One sin is the decoy or magnet for another sin, and draws it on; and one cannot tell, when he begins to descend this slippery slide, how quickly and how far he may go. So the prodigal spent all in utter recklessness; and, oh, the recklessness of some young sinners whom I know! And, oh, the greater recklessness of some old sinners who seem resolved to be damned, for, having only a little remnant of life left, they waste that last fragment of it in fatal delay!

12. Then it was, dear friends, when the prodigal had spent it all, that he still further proved his madness. That would have been the time to go home to his father; but, apparently, that thought did not occur to him. “He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country,” still overpowered by the fascination that kept him away from the one place where he might have been happy; and that is one of the worst proofs of the madness of some of you who frequent these courts, that, though you know about the great God and his infinite mercy, and know somewhat of how much you need him and his grace, yet you still try to get what you want somewhere else, and do not go back to him.

13. I shall not have time to say much more on this point, but I must remind you that, like sinners, the prodigal had the ways of a madman. I have had, at times, to deal with those whose reason has failed them, and I have noticed that many of them have been perfectly sane, and even wise and clever, on all points except one. So it is with the sinner. He is a famous politician; just hear him talk. He is a wonderful man of business; see how sharply he looks after every penny. He is very judicious in everything but this, he is mad on one point, he has a fatal monomania, for it concerns his own soul.

14. Just as a madman will often conceal his madness from those all around him; so a sinner will hide his sin. You may talk with this man about morals, and you may watch him very closely; yet you may be a long time before you can discover his shortcoming, and be able to say to him, “One thing you lack.” Perhaps, suddenly, you touch that weak point, and there he stands fully developed before you, far gone in his insanity. He is right enough elsewhere, but with regard to his soul his reason is gone.

15. Mad people do not know that they have been mad until they are cured; they think that only they are wise, and all the rest are fools. Here is another point of their resemblance to sinners, for they also think that everyone is wrong except themselves. Hear how they will abuse a pious wife as “a fool.” What harsh words they will use towards a gracious daughter! How they will rail at the ministers of the gospel, and try to tear God’s Bible to pieces! Poor mad souls, they think everyone is mad except themselves! We, with tears, pray God to deliver them from their delusions, and to bring them to sit at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in their right minds.

16. Sometimes, the sinner will be seen and known to be mad because he turns on his best friends, as madmen do. Those whom they otherwise would have loved the most they consider to be their worst enemies. So God, who is man’s best Friend, is most despised, and Christ, who is the Friend of sinners, is rejected, and the most earnest Christians are often the most avoided or persecuted by sinners.

17. Mad people sometimes, too, will rave, and then you know what dreadful things they will say. So it is with sinners when their fits are on them. I dare not speak of what they will do and what they will say. They often come to their senses afterwards, and feel ashamed to think that they should have gone so far; yet it is so, for they are beside themselves, even as the prodigal was.

18. I will not dwell longer on this sad fact, because I want to speak on the next and brighter part of my theme.

19. II. Secondly, IT IS A BLESSED THING WHEN THE SINNER COMES TO HIMSELF: “When he came to himself.” This is the first sign of grace working in the sinner as it was the first sign of hope for the prodigal.

20. Sometimes, this change occurs suddenly. I was greatly charmed, this week, by meeting one to whom this happened. It was an old-fashioned kind of conversion, with which I was delighted. A man came into this building about three months ago, who had not for a long time gone to any place of worship. He despised such things; he could swear, and drink, and do even worse things, he was careless, godless; but he had a mother who often prayed for him, and he had a brother who is, I believe, here tonight, whose prayer has never ceased for him. He did not come here to worship, he came just to see the preacher whom his brother had been hearing for so many years; but, coming in, somehow he was no sooner in the place than he felt that he was unfit to be here, so he went up into the top gallery, as far back as he could, and when some friend beckoned him to take a seat, he felt that he could not do so, he must just lean against the wall at the back. Someone else invited him to sit down, but he could not; he felt that he had no right to do so; but when the preacher announced his text, — “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but struck on his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ ”; — and said something like this, “You who stand farthest off in the Tabernacle, and dare not sit down because you feel your guilt to be so great, you are the man to whom God has sent me this morning, and he invites you come to Christ and find mercy,” a miracle of love was performed. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1949, “A Sermon For The Worst Man On Earth” 1950} Then, “he came to himself,” as he will tell us soon at the church meeting, when he comes forward to confess his faith. I greatly rejoiced when I heard of it, for in his case there is a change that everyone who knows him can see. He has become full of a desire after everything that is gracious as once he practised everything that was bad. Now that is what sometimes happens, and why should it not happen again tonight? Why should not some other man, or some woman, come to himself or to herself tonight? This is the way home, first to come to yourself, and then to come to your God. “He came to himself.”

21. On the other hand, sometimes this change is very gradual. I need not dwell on that, but there are many who have their eyes opened by degrees. They first see men as trees walking; afterwards, they see all things clearly. As long as they only come to themselves, and come to the Saviour, I do not mind how they come. Some conversions are sudden, some gradual; but in every case, if it is the work of the Holy Spirit, and the man comes to himself, it is good.

22. Now let us consider how this change happened. If you should ask me the outward circumstances of the prodigal’s case, I should say that it took a great deal to bring him to himself. “Why, surely!” one says, “he ought to have come to himself when he had spent everything, he must have come to himself when he began to be hungry.” No; it took a great deal to bring him to himself, and to his father; and it takes a great deal to bring sinners to themselves, and to their God. There are some of you who will have to be beaten with many stripes before you will be saved. I heard one say, who was crushed almost to death in an accident, “If I had not nearly perished, I should have totally perished.” So it is with many sinners; if some had not lost all they had, they would have lost everything; but, by strong winds, rough and raging, some are driven into the port of peace.

23. The occasion of the prodigal’s climax was this; he was very hungry, and in great sorrow, and he was alone. It is a grand thing if we can get people to be alone. There was no one near the poor man, and no sound for him to hear except the grunting of the hogs, and the munching of those husks. Ah, to be alone! I wish that we had more opportunities of being alone in this great city; yet, perhaps the most awful loneliness may be experienced while walking a London street. It is a good thing for a sinner sometimes to be alone. The prodigal had no one to drink with him, no one to sport with him; he was too far gone for that. He did not have a rag to pawn to get another pint, he must therefore just sit still without one of his old companions. They only followed him for what they could get out of him. As long as he could treat them, they would treat him well; but when he had spent everything, “no man gave to him.” He was left without a comrade, in misery he could not allay, in hunger he could not satisfy. He pulled that belt up another notch, and made it tighter; but it almost seemed as if he would pull himself in two if he drew it any closer. He was reduced almost to a skeleton; emaciation had taken hold of him, and he was ready to lie down there and die. It was then that he came to himself.

24. Do you know why this change occurred in the prodigal’s case? I believe that the real reason was that his father was secretly working for him all the while. His state was known to his father; I am sure it was, because the elder brother knew it; and if the elder brother heard of it, so did the father. The elder brother may have told him; or, if not, the father’s greater love would have a more receptive ear for news of his son than the elder brother had. Though the parable cannot tell us, — for no parable is meant to teach us everything, — yet it was true that the Father was omnipotent, and he was secretly touching the core of this young man’s heart, and dealing with him by this wondrous surgery of famine and of poverty to make him at last come to himself.

25. Perhaps someone here says, “I wish I could come to myself, sir, without going through all that process.” Well, you have come to yourself already if you really wish that. Let me suggest to you that, in order to prove that it is so, you should begin to seriously think, to think about who you are, and where you are, and what is to become of you. Take time to think, and think in an orderly, steady, serious manner; and, if you can, jot down your thoughts. It is a wonderful help for some people to put down on paper an account of their own condition. I believe that there were many who found the Saviour one night when I urged them, when they went home, to write on a piece of paper, “Saved as a believer in Jesus,” or else, “Condemned because I do not believe in the Son of God.” {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1489, “The Plague of the Heart” 1489 @@ "20."} Some who began to write that word “condemned” have never finished it, for they found Christ then and there while seeking him. You keep your account-books, do you not? I am sure you do if you are in business, unless you are going to cheat your creditors. You keep your business books; well, now, keep a record concerning your soul. Really look these matters in the face, the hereafter, death which may come so suddenly, the great eternity, the judgment seat. Think about these things; do not shut your eyes to them. Men and women, please do not play the fool! If you must play the fool, take some lighter things to trifle with than your souls, and your eternal destinies. Shut yourselves up alone for a while; go through this matter steadily, lay it out in order, make a plan of it. See where you are going. Think over the way of salvation, the story of the cross, the love of God, the readiness of Christ to save; and I think that, while this process is going on, you will feel your heart melting, and soon you will find your soul believing in the precious blood which sets the sinner free.

26. III. I had much more to say, but time has gone; so I must close with just a few words on this last point, WHEN HE CAME TO HIMSELF, THEN HE CAME TO HIS FATHER.

27. When a sinner comes to himself, he soon comes to his God. This poor prodigal, soon after he came to himself, said, “I will arise, and go to my father.” What led him back to his father? Very briefly Let me answer that question.

28. First, his memory aroused him. He remembered his father’s house, he remembered the past, his own riotous living. Do not try to forget all that has happened; the terrible memories of a misspent past may be the means of leading you to a new life. Set memory to work.

29. Next, his misery aroused him. Every pang of hunger that he felt, the sight of his rags, the degradation of associating with swine, — all those things drove him back to his father. Oh sirs, let your very needs, your cravings, your misery, drive you to your God!

30. Then, his fears whipped him back. He said, “I perish with hunger.” He had not perished yet, but he was afraid that he soon would do so; he feared that he really would die, for he felt so faint. Oh sirs, see what will become of you if you do die in your sins! What awaits you but an endless future of limitless misery? Sin will follow you into eternity, and will increase on you there, and just as you shall go on to sin, so shall you go on to ever-increasing sorrow. A deeper degradation and a more tremendous penalty will accompany your sin in the world to come; therefore, let your fears drive you home, as they drove home the poor prodigal.

31. Meanwhile, his hope drew him. This gentle cord was as powerful as the heavy whip: “In my father’s house there is bread enough and to spare; I need not perish with hunger, I may yet be filled.” Oh, think of what you may yet be! Poor sinner, think of what God can do and is ready to do for you, to do for you even tonight! How happy he can make you! How peaceful and how blessed! So let your hope draw you to him.

32. Then, his resolve moved him. He said, “I will arise, and go to my father.” Everything else drove him or drew him, and now he is resolved to return home. He rose up from the earth on which he had been sitting amid his filthiness, and he said, “I will.” Then the man became a man; he had come to himself, the manhood had come back to him, and he said, “I will, I will.”

33. Lastly, there was the real act of going to his father; it was that what brought him home. No, let me correct myself; it is said, “He came to his father,” but there is a higher truth behind that, for his father came to him. So, when you are moved to return, and the resolution becomes an action, and you arise, and go to God, salvation is yours almost before you could have expected it; for, once turn your face that way, and while you are yet a great way off, your Father will outstrip the wind, and come and meet you, and fall on your neck, and kiss you with the kisses of reconciliation. This shall be your portion if you will only trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

34. As for you, Christian people, who may be saying that there is nothing for you in the sermon, do not turn into a company of grumbling elder brothers; but, on the contrary, go home, and pray God to bless this discourse. “But,” you say, “I have not had the fatted calf tonight.” “Oh, but if it was killed for the younger son, it was for you also!” “I did not have the music and dancing tonight.” Well, they have had it over the returned prodigal, over some soul that has already believed in Christ tonight; I know they have, God does not let us preach for nothing. He will pay us our wages, and give us our reward; so rejoice with us over all that the Lord has done, and all that he is going to do. May the Lord bless you, beloved, all of you, without exception, for Christ’s sake! Amen.

{a} Rake: A man of loose habits and immoral character; an idle dissipated man of fashion. OED.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Lu 15}

This is a chapter that needs no explanation; it carries its key within itself, and the experience of every child of God is the best exposition of it. The three parables recorded here present the work of saving grace in different aspects.

1, 2. Then all the tax collectors and sinners drew near to him in order to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners, and eats with them.”

The Pharisees and scribes formed the outside ring of Christ’s hearers, but the inner circle consisted of the guilty, the heavy-laden, and the lowly. They pressed as near to Christ as they could, so that they might catch his every word; and besides, there was an attractiveness about his manner that drew them towards him. His mercy attracted their misery. They wanted him, and he desired them; they were so well met. There will be an inner circle tonight when the gospel is preached, and it will not consist of the self-righteous. Those who are full will not press to the table on which the gospel feast is spread, the hungry will be found nearest to the heavenly provision.

3. And he spoke this parable to them, saying,

There are three parables here; but, inasmuch as it is called “this parable,” it is really only one. It is a picture in three panels, representing the same scene from different points of view.

4. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?

It has a new importance in his eyes, for it is lost. Before, it was only one of a hundred in the fold; but now it is one distinct and separate from all the rest, and the shepherd’s thought is fixed on it.

5, 6. And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.’

No doubt he was glad that the other sheep were not lost; but that joy was, for a while, quite eclipsed in the more striking and vivid joy over the one which had been lost.

7. I say to you, that likewise more joy shall be in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine just people, who need no repentance.

If such there are, — and there are many who think that they belong to this class, — they bring no joy to the great Shepherd; but you who have had to mourn over your lost estate set the bells of heaven ringing with a new melody when you are recovered by the great Redeemer.

The first of these three parables may be said to represent salvation in reference to the work of the Son of God as the great Seeker and Saver of the souls of men. In the second, we have a representation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church of God.

8. Or what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she loses one piece, does not light a candle, and sweeps the house, and seeks diligently until she finds it?

Her thoughts were all concerning that one lost piece. It had no more intrinsic value than the rest, but being lost it detracted her attention from the other nine. She valued it, and for the hope of finding it she lit a candle, swept the house, and sought diligently until she found it. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s work in seeking for lost souls. They bear the King’s image, they are coins of the realm. This woman knew that the silver coin was not far away, so she swept the house, and sought diligently, using all her eyes, devoting all her time to this one object, quitting all other tasks until she found it.

9. And when she has found it, she calls her friends and her neighbours together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.’

She might never have called them together to rejoice that she had ten pieces of silver, she might even have hidden them away; and the joy she had in them might have been only her own, a solitary joy; but now that one piece had been lost, and had been found again, she says, “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.”

10. Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Not joy among the angels, as some read it, though no doubt that is a truth; but “joy in the presence of the angels of God”; and what can that mean but that God himself rejoices, and rejoices so that angels perceive it; and no doubt they then join in the delight? But all this points out that it is the lost one who is the great object of consideration, that out of any congregation where the gospel is preached, it is the lost one who is the most important person in the whole place.

In the next verses, we get the Father’s part in the work of the recovery of the wanderer.

11-13. And he said, “A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ And he divided to them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered everything together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

His heart was far away when he asked his father to give him his portion; and now his body is far away as he goes into the outward wandering which follows after the inner wandering.

14. And when he had spent everything, there arose a mighty famine in that land;

There generally does arise “a mighty famine” in such cases. Famines and other miseries are God’s messengers, which he sends after his wandering children.

14. And he began to be in want.

This was a new sensation for him; he had never known it when he was at home. He did not know it in his first boisterous days away from his father’s house, but now “he began to be in want.”

16. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

Perhaps he did not want to employ him, but said that he would give him that occupation if he cared to accept it. It was poor pay, very dishonouring work for a Jew, not fit employment for the son of a nobleman; yet “half a loaf is better than no bread,” so he took it, though even the half loaf must have been a very small one.

16. And he would gladly have filled his belly with the husks that the swine ate: and no man gave to him.

Such a thing as generosity was not known in that country. His companions could share his riches when he was living riotously, but they will not share their riches now that he is in his poverty.

17. 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!

“My father’s day-labourers have bread enough and to spare, yet I, his child, perish with hunger.”

18, 19. I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants."’

You notice that he never did pray this last part of the prayer; for it was stopped by his father’s love. There was a legalism {b} about it naturally suggested by his own despair, but it was not such as his father would tolerate.

20, 21. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son.’

There comes an interruption there; the kiss on his lips stops the rest of the prayer which he had prepared, and now the father declares his will concerning the wanderer.

22-24. But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet: and bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this son of mine was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

I have never read that they stopped being merry, for the conversion of a soul is enough to make eternal joy in the hearts of the righteous.

25, 26. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

This was a new thing, and apparently a thing that he did not care much about. How had it come to pass that there was such noise, such joy?

27, 28. And he said to him, ‘Your brother is come; and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore his father came out and entreated him.

I hardly know which to admire most, the love of the father when he fell on the neck of the prodigal, or the love of the father when he went out to talk with his elder son: “Therefore his father came out, and entreated him.” Oh, our God is very good to us when we give way to naughty tempers! If we begin to think that we are very holy people, that we have been the servants of God for a long time, and that there ought to be some little fuss made over us as well as over great sinners who come into the church, then our Father is very gentle, and he comes out and entreats us.

29. And he answering said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I serve you, neither did I transgress at any time your commands: and yet you never gave me a kid, so that I might make merry with my friends:

“I have had no banquets. I have stayed at home, a patient worker, and have had no extraordinary joys.” I know some Christian workers who are very much in this condition. They keep on and on and on in holy service, and they do well; but they seldom have great entertainments of high joy and unspeakable delight. It is their own fault, and it is a thousand pities that they do not have them, for they might have them if they wished. There is a tendency to grow so absorbed in service, like Martha, that we are encumbered by it; and we do not have the joy of Mary in communion at the Master’s feet. I am sure that this elder son was out of fellowship with his father, or else he would not have talked like he did. We are all apt to get into such a condition. See to it, you who work for Jesus, that it is not so with you.

Then the elder brother went on to say, —

30. But as soon as this son of yours was come, which has devoured your living with prostitutes, you have killed for him the fatted calf.’

I do not read that the prodigal had devoured his father’s living with prostitutes; that is the elder brother’s version of it. I dare say that it was true, but it is always a pity to give the roughest interpretation to things. He had spent his wealth “in riotous living.” When we are cross, we generally use the ugliest words we can; we may think that we are speaking forcibly, but indeed we are speaking naughtily, and not as our Father would have us speak.

31. And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.

Oh, what a word was that! How it reminds Christians of their privileges, if they would only appropriate them! It is yours, beloved, to always live with your God, and to know that all that he has is yours. You ought to live in a perpetual festival; for you there should be one joyful Christmas time that lasts from the beginning of the year to the end of it: “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.”

32. It was fitting that we should make merry, and be glad: for this brother of yours was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.’ ”

It was the fitting thing, and the proper thing, and the right thing, that there should be extraordinary joy over a returning sinner. There ought to be, there must be, there shall be, special music and dancing over sinners saved by the grace of God. May the Lord give us some such tonight, and make us glad over them! Amen.

 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, His Praise — Praise To The Redeemer” 428}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Received by Faith — The Great Sight” 561}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Contrite Cries — The Penitent” 578}

{b} Legalism: Theol. Applied reproachfully to the principles of those who are accused of adhering to the Law as opposed to the Gospel; the doctrine of justification by works, or teaching which savours of that doctrine. OED.



Jesus Christ, His Praise
428 — Praise To The Redeemer
1 Plunged in a gulf of dark despair
      We wretched sinners lay,
   Without one cheerful beam of hope,
      Or spark of glimmering day.
2 With pitying eyes, the Prince of Grace
      Beheld our helpless grief;
   He saw, and (oh amazing love!)
      He ran to our relief.
3 Down from the shining seats above
      With joyful haste he fled,
   Enter’d the grave in mortal flesh,
      And dwelt among the dead.
4 He spoil’d the powers of darkness thus,
      And brake our iron chains;
   Jesus hath freed our captive souls
      From everlasting pains.
5 Oh, for this love let rocks and hills
      Their lasting silence break,
   And all harmonious human tongues
      The Saviour’s praises speak.
6 Yes, we will praise thee, dearest Lord,
      Our souls are all on flame,
   Hosanna round the spacious earth
      To thine adored name.
7 Angels, assist our mighty joys,
      Strike all your harps of gold,
   But when you raise your highest notes,
      His love can ne’er be told.
                              Isaac Watts, 1709.


Gospel, Received by Faith
561 — The Great Sight
1 In evil long I took delight,
      Unawed by shame or fear,
   Till a new object struck my sight,
      And stopp’d my wild career.
2 I saw One hanging on a tree,
      In agonies and blood,
   Who fix’d his languid eyes on me,
      As near his cross I stood.
3 Sure never till my latest breath
      Can I forget that look;
   It seem’d to charge me with his death,
      Though not a word he spoke.
4 My conscience felt and own’d the guilt,
      And plunged me in despair;
   I saw my sins his blood had spilt,
      And help’d to nail him there.
5 Alas! I knew not what I did;
      But now my tears are vain;
   Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
      For I the Lord have slain.
6 A second look he gave, which said,
      “I freely all forgive;
   This blood is for thy ransom paid,
      I die, that thou mayest live.”
7 Thus while his death my sin displays
      In all its blackest hue
   (Such is the mystery of grace),
      It seals my pardon too.
8 With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
      My spirit now is fill’d
   That I should such a life destroy,
      Yet live by him I killed.
                        John Newton, 1779.


The Christian, Contrite Cries
578 — The Penitent
1 Prostrate, dear Jesus, at thy feet
      A guilty rebel lies;
   And upwards to thy mercy seat
      Presumes to lift his eyes.
2 Oh let not justice frown me hence;
      Stay, stay, the vengeful storm:
   Forbid it that Omnipotence
      Should crush a feeble worm!
3 If tears of sorrow would suffice
      To pay the debt I owe,
   Tears should from both my weeping eyes
      In ceaseless torrents flow.
4 But no such sacrifice I plead
      To expiate my guilt;
   No tears but those which thou hast shed!
      No blood, but thou hast spilt.
5 Think of thy sorrows, dearest Lord,
      And all my sins forgive:
   Justice will well approve the word
      that bids the sinner live.
                        Samuel Stennett, 1787.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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