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(caption title) Prodigal Sons.
Rev. Daniel A. Penick, Sr.
[between 1861 and 1865]
4796 Conf. (Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Surely there are many prodigal sons in the army. They are the loved ones of praying christian parents, wives and sisters. They have been trained up and educated for God. Having created them and preserved them, given his Son to redeem them and his Spirit to quicken and sanctify them; He is emphatically their Father, and justly claims their confidence and affection--their obedience and devotion as his children. But they have ignored God as their Father, have departed from Him, and chosen to have their own way. All this have they done by neglecting his word, following their own devices, profaning his name, desecrating the Sabbath day, restraining prayer, rejecting his Son as a Saviour, resisting the Holy Spirit, standing aloof from his church, and joining themselves in their preferences and associations, with his enemies. The prodigality here charged, is not the wasting of the goods of your earthly parents, but perverting and wasting the time, talents and opportunities which your heavenly Father has given you. Young men, however brave you may be as soldiers, are you not prodigals in the sense of the parable,
(see Luke, 15 chapter,) and in the sight of God your Maker?
These prodigal soldiers too are rapidly approaching a state of want, when come to themselves, they will deeply feel that they have no spiritual nourishment, that their souls are perishing with hunger, and that they are now eating the husks of sin, and of this wicked world. Already are they assured that God is angry with them, their own hearts also condemning them. They are afraid to die, and yet they may fall in the next battle, or by disease, at any moment. Soldiers that are impenitent and unbelieving; is not the case of prodigal son emphatically your case? Should disease or a mortal wound suddenly place you upon the bed of death; have you any scriptural hope of eternal life? Have you not, on the contrary, a foreboding and dread of eternal death?
Then, imitate the example of the scriptural prodigal in the following particulars, viz:
1. Remember your heavenly Father, and that in his house there is enough and to spare. In his house are many mansions, and He is plenteous in mercy. He hath "no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." He has sent his only begotten Son to prepare the way and call them back to Him; and the Holy Spirit to draw, quicken and sanctify them. In Jesus Christ, under the influences of the Spirit, there is wisdom, strength, righteousness, sanctification and complete redemption. He has food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, cleansing for the polluted, and life for dead souls. And He has made the way plain and easy to all penitent believers.
2. As did the prodigal, form the purpose and be fully persuaded and determined to return to your heavenly Father. Say, in your heart and by your course of conduct,
I will arise and go to my father, confess to him my sins, and beg for his mercy. "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." If you remain where, and as you are, your soul will be assuredly and eternally lost. If you continue unwilling and undetermined to return to God, there is no hope or possibility of your salvation. God has placed life and death before you in the gospel. You must choose between them. No one else can choose or determine in your stead. Then, form the purpose. "1 rise and go to my Father." Had not the prodigal resolved, he would not have returned.
3. But be sure to act as well its resolve, and act promptly. To delay action is a choice of continuance in sin, and of death. It is evidence that your great adversary, the Devil, has gained his point over you. Then, arise at once, leave your wicked associates, and the husks of sinful pleasures and indulgences. Cease your neglect of the Bible, and of prayer, your profanity and desecration of the holy Sabbath. Call often and earnestly upon God in prayer, confess your sins and unworthiness to Him. Ask him importunately for his mercy and grace. Take no denial, but persevere in prayer, as a helpless, starving beggar. Without a deep sense of your need, a willingness to give up all your sins, a desire to be made holy as God is holy, and a controlling spirit of earnest prayer to God, you have no right to expect that your heavenly Father will ever receive you. Forget not, however, that it is not your resolves, or prayers, or tears, or reformation that can save. But that it is the free and sovereign mercy and grace of God alone that can save; but that He requires repentance, faith and obedience as indispensible in terms of salvation.
4. Be encouraged, nevertheless, to resolve, arise and go to your heavenly Father, confess and repent of your sins before Him, and ask him for his mercy and grace, even the salvation of your souls; by the results in the case of the prodigal son. How promptly and cheerfully did the father receive and reinstate his returning son! He did not even wait for his son to get through his confession and requests. But the father said to his servants, bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet; And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry." See Luke 15, 11--23
Soldiers, are you prodigal sons of our great and good Father in heaven? Then, arise and return to him. Make confession and offer prayer to Him. Assuredly, He will meet and embrace you; put the robe of Christ's righteousness upon you; and there shall be joy in the presence of God, as well as in your heart. How can you stay away from such a father.
1 Come, trembling sinner, in whose breast
A thousand thoughts revolve:
Come, with your guilt and fear oppress'd,
And make this last resolve:
2 "I'll go to Jesus, though my sin
Hath like a mountain rose;
I know his courts, I'll enter in,
Whatever may oppose.
6 "I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know
I must forever die."