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the more it illustrates in its consequences, the gentleness, affability, and condescension, of the latter, already so strikingly displayed in his behaviour to his younger son. In the hope of prevailing with his reluctance by his personal entreaties, or removing his complaints by his personal explanations, he came out himself, partly to reason and partly to expostulate with him; nor is the dialogue which ensues between them the least characteristic part of the narrative. The language of the son, consistently with the state of his feelings, is angry and undutiful; that of the father is mild and conciliatory, as well as full of a parental dignity. Not to repeat that part of his complaints which we have just anticipated; what can be more unbecoming and offensive in itself, yet more natural and in character with the occasion, than the terms in which he speaks of his brother? whom he will not allow himself to own as a brother, but calls in contempt, ó vids oòs outos—this son of thine.

In reply to so uncourteous and intemperate an address, the answer of the father is directed first, to remove his son's groundless indignation against himself, as though he were deficient in personal regard for him, or did not esteem and appreciate his uniform obedience and filial services in time past, as they deserved; telling him that he had indeed always been with him, and that he had no reason to complain of his conduct. And by telling him too, that he had always been with him, he virtually reminds him of the personal benefits and advantages which had redounded to himself from that circumstance; particularly as contrasted with those personal miseries and disadvantages which had been the lot

of his less fortunate brother, who had not always been with him. If then, he had ever been with him, and always employed in serving him, during the term of his brother's absence-much as that might appear like a system of personal dependence or drudgery, compared with the liberty and license which his brother had been enjoying for the same time yet it was not without being amply rewarded for it, and enjoying personal blessings in consequence of that very dependence, for the want of which the liberty and license on the other side, were a poor compensation.

After this he labours to remove the jealousy which he had conceived of his brother, as if the marks of favour and good-will just shewn to him, implied any doubt of his own rights and privileges; or could be construed into an injury done to them— assuring him that all which he had, belonged to him, and would sometime be his. Lastly, he endeavours to awaken in his breast the dormant feeling of brotherly piety; reminding him that the person whom he had so contemptuously called, This son of thine, was still his brother; and that common humanity, much more paternal tenderness and brotherly attachment, required them both, and the rest of the family besides, to join in rejoicing and making merry upon so unexpected and so auspicious an event, as the recovery of one, so near to them all, not merely from the condition of an outcast and alien, to his natural place and relation as an inmate of his father's house-but from a state of intellectual and moral degradation worse than death, to the ascendancy of reason, religion, and virtue over him again, as if raised to life from the dead.

What effect this expostulation produced, and whether it succeeded in removing the elder son's reluctance to come, and to welcome his brother's return with the cordiality and good-will proper for the occasion, or whether it left him as obstinate and intractable as before-does not appear from the narrative. The father is seen to be still reasoning with his son, and still labouring to overcome his repugnance-when the history itself concludes. So far, then, it terminates abruptly; and probably not without design as will further appear hereafter.


The first question which presents itself, on proceeding to investigate the moral import of the above narrative, is to which of the classes of parables, the allegorical or the moral, it belongs; the former supposed to consist mainly of prophecies, the latter, to contain real histories.

Under ordinary circumstances, it would have been sufficient to refer, for the decision of this question, to the several criteria which discriminate these two classes of parables asunder, as they were ascertained and laid down in the second and third chapters of the General Introduction. But there are special reasons which render it necessary that this point should be discussed as an independent, though still a preliminary, question in the present instance: first, because such is the apparent truth and probability of the narrative in all its circumstances, that it might well be supposed a real history; and such is the peculiar simplicity of its structure, and the prima facie tendency of its several particulars, that I should freely confess the first impression excited by its pe


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rusal would be, to pronounce it a moral or didactic history, replete with moral and practical uses: secondly, because from the almost unanimous concurrence of commentators, to view it in this light-the current of received interpretation, the weight of authority, and the force of antecedent prejudice, all stand in the way of the opposite conclusion.

The reader, therefore, will excuse me, if I enter on the consideration of this question, so far as it applies to the present parable, at greater length than usual; not from any affectation of novelty or of independence of opinion, nor from a desire to set up my own judgment against that of equally competent persons, but merely to justify myself, in venturing to dissent from the received acceptation of the parable, by stating such reasons for doing so, as whether right or wrong in themselves, may appear to have some weight, if not absolutely to require such a dissent. It is necessary also to vindicate the authority of the criteria for distinguishing the several parables of either class from each other, which I proposed at the outset of the work, and to justify the confidence which I have hitherto reposed in them— to shew, that were we to trust to them implicitly in the present instance also, they would not be found to mislead us. For they are as applicable to this parable, as to any former one; and if they are of no use, nor authority, in ascertaining the particular genus of this one, I know not what deference they can be entitled to, or what avail they can be of, in fixing the proper class of any of the rest.

With this view, I shall first state such general considerations, as would lead to the conclusion that the parable was allegorical, a priori; and in the

next place, such special reasons as may serve to confirm this conclusion, and to shew it to be so, a posteriori; by doing which, it will also be found, that we shall have ascertained and defined its proper moral, with as much precision, as may be requisite.

First, though the parable should be considered an allegorical history, the meaning of which at first sight did not appear, it is still possible to decipher the allegory, to discover a key which shall harmonize with it, and unlock or interpret it throughout, in a natural, an easy, a perspicuous and satisfactory manner. But if it be supposed to consist of a simply moral history, no explanation of its meaning can be assigned, so apposite and complete, as to account for all its circumstances; to apply to the history as a whole; to suppose nothing superfluous or unimportant; to leave nothing unexplained or unappropriated. Such explanations may go to a certain extent, but they will not hold good throughout, in the present case; they may extract a moral use from some of the particulars of the account, but they will be obliged to pass over others, equally interesting and important. They would therefore be partial and incomplete expositions of the parable, even as considered merely in the light of a moral example; because inconsistent with the just application to its proper extent, of the simple argument from analogy, or like to like, which is the foundation of the reasoning in all cases, where one representation or matter of fact, whether real or fictitious, is adduced as parallel to another, and is intended to illustrate it.

Again, the analogy of former parables, unquestionably moral, and designed for doctrinal uses and

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