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necessary restraints imposed by the wisdom of riper years: he thought himself wise enough to be his own manager; perhaps, too, he might think the life of an ancient parent protracted a little too long; he wished therefore to be master of his own fortune, and at liberty to persue his own inclinations : he therefore cries out, “ Father, give me the portion of goods that 66 falleth 'to me!”
And is not this a very natural picture of the (usual rashness of that inconsiderate age? Educated under the protection of a father's watchful care, indulged with all the fondness of a mother's love, shielded from every danger, free from every care, supplied with every wish of reason, no sooner does the unthinking youth arrive at the verge of maturity, than he wants to throw off the guiding hand of authority, to have the portion of goods that falleth to him, and to rush, Without experience to guard, or prudence to guide him, into all the dangers and temptations of an untried world.
Is not this also too much the case with all of us, considered as the children of our Father which is in heaven? He has watched over us for our good; he has guided our feet into the way of peace, by the light of reason and the voice
of conscience; safety and happiness await us, so long as we remain under his authority here, and he has promised an eternal inheritance to those who are willing, through faith and patience, to inherit the promises. But the misfortune is, we soon grow weary of living under the discipline of our heavenly Parent: we complain that he has not enough consulted the desires and appetites of depraved nature: the laws of the Gospel are a restraint upon us, his commandments seem grievous : we want to persue our own inclinations, and live, as it is called, like the rest of the world : we therefore throw off the yoke of heavenly authority, and, like the young man in the parable, cry out, “ Give me the “ portion of goods,” the share of worldly pleasure or profit, “ that falleth to me."
And like him, too, the time which we generally take to throw off the authority of God, is that of youth: an age, in which we most want knowledge and experience; an age, in which we have the greatest reason to distrust ourselves, and not to take one step without the guidance of our heavenly Father; an age, in which the world smiles with all its flattering charms upon the ripe passions of youthful desire, and therefore is the most likely to seduce and overpower
the feeble strength of unsuspecting innocence and unconfirined virtue.. .
And let us observe what were the consequences of this unguarded impatience of restraint, this excessive fondness and love of liberty. No sooner did this inconsiderate youth declare, that he was weary of living under his father's direction and authority, and wished to have the management of his own time and fortune, than his hasty and foolish wish was complied with. His father, though assured that ruin would inevitably follow his compliance, yet, finding that his former advice had been thrown away, and well knowing the headstrong violence of determined folly, consents to his request, and divided his living between his two sons, that he might give to the younger the portion of goods that fell to him. ..
And in the same manner our almighty Parent deals with his unwise children. When he sees that we grow weary of his service, and are unwilling to obey his laws and submit to his discipline, he leaves us to ourselves, and in the hands of our own counsel; he suffers us to walk in the ways of our hearts, and in the sight
of our eyes. He might, indeed, still compel us .. to obey his will and own his authority: but he
will not be satisfied with a forced and reluctant service: he requires the heart, he expects a frec and willing obedience from us: and if we deny laim this, he gives us our portion of goods, those pomps, pleasures, and vanities of the world, which we covet, and leaves us, like the youthful prodigal, to waste our substance in riotous living
But let us see what followed upon this young man's obtaining his request." And not many “ days after,” says the text, “the younger son “ gathered all together, and took his journey “ into a far country." You see with what eagerness and haste he runs into the paths of ruin, and seeks to be undone: for not many days passed, before he thought of leaving his father's house. We may observe, too, the quick progress and gradation of sin, when the first breach is made. At first, he only proposed to have what was his own, and to secure the patrimony that fell to his share. But he no sooner obtained his request, than he begins to form new designs. He was not content with possessing the portion of goods that fell to him, but he wants to enjoy them too. As soon as he has the means of gratifying them, his passions become more turbulent and pressing. Here then is the painful struggle between a sense of duty VOL. II.
and the power of temptation, which generally decides the future fate of every young person in life. On the one hand, his riotous passions push hiin on to debauchery and extravagance; but on the other, shame and fear restrain him. A father's awful presence, perhaps too a mother's winning fondness, the wise and friendly lessons of both inculcated in early youth, the exem
plary deportment of an elder brother, who i never transgressed their commandment at any
time, were not to be got over in a moment. Not daring, therefore, to give a loose to his unruly lusts at home, and wanting the virtuous resolution to subdue them, he forms and exe cutes the hasty design of going into a far country, where he should have nobody to pry into or censure his irregular conduct: “ He
gathered all together, and took his journey " into a far country.”
- Can there be a more lively image of the progress of every young sinner? At first, he wishes to remember his Creator in the days of his youth ; at least, he has no design to go to the extremity of vice. He only proposes to enjoy his portion of goods, to live according to his natural disposition, and to give a little more liberty to his passions than is consistent with the severity of age, and the strictness of parental