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pointed at, under the striking allusion of a heedless boy, who at first discovered a willingness to obey his father's commands, but afterwards "went his way," and from carelessness, or obstinacy, thought no more of it. The other son by his conduct might aptly enough represent the publicans and sinners, as they were called, the Samaritans and heathens; who, from the prejudices of education, and other motives, at first might have turned away from the gracious invitation of the Gospel; but, afterwards, having sufficient candor and reflection to weigh its evidence, and estimate its excellence, repented of their former folly, and "received the word with joy."
A commentator, also, fond of seeing prophecy united with present instruction, might continue the parallel, and point out the early, but inconsiderate opposition of the Romans, and other heathen nations, to Christianity;-he might then dwell on their subsequent conversion, contrasting these events with the obstinacy and ig. norance of the Jews, even to the present day; who, though furnished with an illustrious series of prophecies, and initiated in a variety of rites and ceremonies, that typified the advent and mediatorial character of their promised Messiah;
-though they were taught, also, to expect him at the very time in which he appeared;—and though they promised obedience in the fervent language of loyalty and love; yet, no sooner did he come on earth, than they misunderstood the nature of his divine office, denied his kingdom, and rejected the offer of eternal salvation.
But not to suffer historical disquisition, nor paraphrastical conjectures, to supersede the higher importance of practical duty, let us consider what salutary truths the Parable under our consideration may suggest to the mind at all times; what general precepts may be derived from it, and what useful hints it may furnish for improving the disposition, and regulating our conduct.
From the example of the son, who, when his father told him to go and work in the vineyard, readily answered, "I go, sir," but went not; we may learn not only to reprobate the sin of filial disobedience; but also to avoid every thing that is frivolous and insincere, in manners and in conduct. Nothing is more common than the verbal compliance, or mere promise, of the youth in the Parable; and yet few qualities are more rare, than the substantial virtues of faithful service, chearful obedience, and a punctual observance
of engagements. The world, indeed, abounds with professions of friendship and benevolence, when the performance even of trifling acts of kindness is often neglected, and sometimes, though promised, is never intended. This frequently proceeds from that spurious politeness, which is always a bar to sincerity, as well as from a giddy, thoughtless, and fickle disposition.
Such defects of conduct, however, occasion losses and disappointments, mortification and regret, to our neighbour, and have a tendency to poison the very sources of social love, by destroying all confidence, and infusing into the heart suspicion and distrust. It begets those evil habits of thinking and of acting, which are the bane of brotherly kindness; and are in direct hostility to that Christian love, which should be "without dissimulation."
Forgetfulness will be sometimes offered, but can scarcely be admitted, as a plea for neglect. of duty, or breach of promise. That man is but ill qualified for a disciple of Christ, who, from temporary motives of kindness, or civility, is ready to say, on all occasions, when requested to do good, "I go," and thinks no more of it. Instead of shewing that his mind is regulated by the steady principles of Christian duty, or
that his heart is enlarged by the exalted virtue of love to his fellow-creatures, it plainly proves, that he is infected with the base spirit, and fashionable insincerity of the world; or that he is entirely engrossed by his own concerns.
We are sufficiently guarded against this selfishness of conduct, and frivolity of character, by the whole tenor of the Gospel; but more particularly by the express precept of the venerable apostle, (whose glory it was, that "in simplicity, and godly sincerity, he had his conversation in the world"), when he says, in the true spirit of Christian beneficence, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
Farther, it is pleasing in many cases, when we stand in need of assistance, or when our hopes and fears are excited, to know the worst. We are then put on our guard; and can use our utmost exertions to ward off any evil that threatens us, or may summon sufficient fortitude to endure it. Under such circumstances of suspense, disappointment would be scarcely felt; while a favorable change of affairs proves an agreeable surprise, and affords double pleasure: but lulled into security by the random professions of unmeaning kindness, and finding that our con
fidence has been abused by mere words, that were dictated by vanity, and forgotten from selfishness, we feel disgust instead of satisfaction; and may in future, perhaps, be taught to apprehend a species of falsehood and insincerity, where we wished to offer the tribute of heartfelt gratitude and esteem.
Having briefly considered the imperfections of character, which the conduct of one son in the Parable exhibits, let us proceed to examine what we may collect from that of the otherfrom him who hastily answered his father, “I will not, but afterward repented and went."
We all know from experience, perhaps, that perverseness, obstinacy, or pride, may in some evil moment lead us to depart from the obvious duties of our station, and refuse to do what others have a natural and reasonable right to command. This is represented to us in the Parable, under the striking image of a father, and his two sons. Here, therefore, we learn, as in many other places of holy Scripture, that all proper allowances should be made for the infirmities of our nature, and that nothing is required of us but a conviction of error, and a return to duty, in order to regain a father's affection and forgive
Such also is the relation in which, by