Sidor som bilder

mercies, was equally rich and liberal to both, if they would be content alike to place their hopes and their dependence upon him.

Let it be remembered too, that not only was it clearly the duty of the elder brother to have taken a part in the festivity of this occasion, but he could not refuse to do so, without arresting its progress, and casting a damp on the common joy. There was a void within, which his presence alone could fill, whose proper place was at his father's right hand, and at the head of his father's table. And hence the condescension of the father, in coming out himself, and leaving the course of the celebrity interrupted, to persuade him to come in; hence the affectionate earnestness with which he labours to soothe his anger, to explain away his suspicions, to remove his jealousy, to overcome his obstinacy. We know, in like manner, how zealously, how feelingly, how diligently, the apostles of Christianity devoted their first endeavours to the conversion of their brethren, according to the flesh; how slowly, how reluctantly, and not until after repeatedly unavailing attempts, they turned at last to the Gentiles. And what is it which still defers the appearance and establishment of the kingdom of God; which still procrastinates the arrival and consummation of the marriage feast of the church, with her betrothed Lord and Spouse, but the refusal of the Jews to come in, and to mix with their brethren of the Gentiles, in the common capacity of the guests at that feast?

When the father reminded his son that he was ever with him, no doubt we may suppose he meant to contrast his more fortunate lot, in staying at home, enjoying the plenty, the peace, the security of his father's roof-with the case of his brother, (whose reception so kindly at last, had excited his envy,) in meeting only with danger, privations, and misery abroad; and so far to suggest the inference that the very subjection and dependence, in which he speaks of this period as having been spent, had not been without its reward and compensation to himself. And doubtless, notwithstanding the footing on which the Jew was placed with regard to the peculiar covenants and requisitions of the law—the advantages necessarily attached to the situation of those whom God had chosen for his own, and brought near to himself, were many and various-not only in a temporal, but still more in a spiritual, point of viewchiefly, according to St. Paul, because to them were committed the living oracles; they were the exclusive depositaries of the revealed will of God—they only had access to the way, the truth, and the life.

When he tells him further that all which he had was his, both as his share of the patrimony originally, and as improved, and increased by his personal labours and industry, subsequently; it is plain that he wishes him to believe that no injury was likely to result to his own rights and privileges, by the return of his brother, and his reception into the family again; nor was there any cause to be jealous of the kindness extended to him, on that account. Nor does it appear that the admission of the Gentiles into the communion of the Jews, was intended to interfere with the reservation of every just and reasonable privilege, to which the latter were fairly entitled. The Gentile would not have taken precedence of the Jew in any thing, though he might have been advanced to an equality with him in some things. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance; and certain distinctions of honour and preeminence stood pledged to his ancient people. Read the forty-fifth psalm, and this truth will be set in a clear point of view. The Jewish church is there described as the chosen bride of an august consort: as a queen surrounded by a train of ladies : as a mother, multiplied in a fair and numerous offspring, and both blessed and adorned by her own fecundity; which I understand to be meant of the churches of the Gentiles, subordinate to the Jewish. The effect of such a subordination is any thing but injurious to the rank, the dignity, the favour and estimation, of the principal party; and invests her with more glory, enriches her with greater numbers, enlarges the pale of her dominion, and extends the sphere of her ascendancy and supremacy, far beyond what they could be, if she stood alone, and independent of all her associates.

Finally, it did not appear what effect the persuasions of the father produced on the son: and this silence might be considered ominous. The parable left him expostulating with the elder brother; as the matter of fact, from the time of the first publication of the gospel until this day, has left Christianity remonstrating with the Jew, on his continued reluctance to associate with the Gentile: and with as little success in this instance, as for ought which is declared to the contrary, attended the expostulations of the father in the other.



[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »