Lord Jesus, let thy word chasten and humble us. Amen.
Luke 15, 25-32. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he, answering, said to his father. Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And lie said unto him. Son, thou art ever with me. and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
The Lord addresses this parable to the Pharisees, who murmured because he received sinners; and his purpose is to correct their pride and self-righteousness. They had all the rights of children of the household ; none of the good things of God was denied them. (Romans 4. 5). But they did not know the joy in the Lord, and did not understand how he could have any love for lost sinners who repented. Self-righteousness and self-exaltation make men blind to the glorious grace of God, and close the heart to the joy of love.
If you also, who read this, have no knowledge of the joy of the Lord in the communion with his children, it is to be hoped that you will let him discipline you for your pride and self-complacency. Without that “godly sorrow” there can be no joy in God. “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandments.” These are the words of unblushing self-righteousness. As a rule, men would now hesitate to speak in that way; it is rather their habit to say, that they are sinners, to be sure; but — many will add, that they are not aware of their having transgressed any commandment of God; while others will express the same idea in terms more equivocal. But the striking and sad fact is, that few, or none, will admit that he is the self-righteous man whom the Lord rebukes in our text. Can it be that I am such a man ? Or, may the Lord possibly mean you? Let each of us pray for grace to know himself; for pride and-self-righteousness hide in the depths of the heart, and disguise themselves as humility and piety. It is surprising how slow we are to know ourselves, and how much of the wickedness of our corrupt nature may be found in even experienced Christians. without our being aware of it. It is an easy matter to say, that persons whose Christianity consists merely in reading and hearing the word of God, taking part in mission work, associating with Christian people, and leading blameless lives, can have no true joy in God; but it is less easy for one to increase in humility every day, and always to remain true to his first love for our Lord Jesus. It is not easy; but by the grace of God it is possible. None who lacks this joy in the Lord can lay the blame on God. If you say, that he never gave you a kid, that you might make merry with your friends, you thereby pronounce judgment on yourself: for he makes answer, and with truth: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”
We, who have the word of God dwelling richly among us, must acknowledge that a bountiful table is spread before us all the time. and that we have full permission to regale ourselves with all that we need in order to live and be happy. Neither shall the Holy Spirit fail to administer correction, if we will but heed it. It is the Lord’s purpose to rouse and humble you also by the word which he has spoken. Lay it to heart whoever you may be; and especially do you hear it, you who were one of God’s happy children, but are one of them no longer; — humble yourself, and return to the Father! Accept correction, and let yourself be humbled, and you shall again be joyful in God, and love his children. This shall not fail.
Merciful God, enlighten us by thy Spirit, that we may know ourselves, and our sin, and may have an ever increasing joy in thy loving- kindness. Preserve us from the terrible and dark spirit of Jonah. which complains of thy mercy; and give us hearts able to rejoice with sinners who are saved. Amen.
O thou before whose presence
Naught evil may come in,
Yet who dost look in mercy
Down on this world of sin;
Oh, give us noble purpose
To set the sin-bound free.
And Christlike, tender pity,
To seek the lost for thee.