“The infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners” by J.C. Ryle

We see, fifthly, in this parable, the penitent man received readily, pardoned freely, and completely accepted with God.

Our Lord shows us this, in this part of the younger son’s history, in the most touching manner. We read:

“When he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 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.”

More deeply affecting words than these, perhaps, were never written. To comment on them seems almost needless.

It is like gilding refined gold, and painting the lily. They show us in great broad letters the infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners.

They teach how infinitely willing He is to receive all who come to Him, and how complete, and full, and immediate is the pardon which He is ready to bestow.

“By Him all that believe are justified from all things.”—“He is plenteous in mercy.” (Acts 13:39; Psalm 86:5)

Let this boundless mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be graven deeply in our memories, and sink into our minds. Let us never forget that He is One “that receiveth sinners.”

With Him and His mercy sinners ought to begin, when they first begin to desire salvation. On Him and His mercy saints must live, when they have been taught to repent and believe.

‘The life which I live in the flesh,’ says St. Paul, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Gal. 2:20)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1879/2012), 2: 138. Ryle is commenting on Luke 15:11-24.

“We have more mercies than we deserve” by J.C. Ryle

“Cultivate a thankful spirit.

It has ever been a mark of God’s most distinguished saints in every age (David, in the Old Testament, and St. Paul, in the New), are remarkable for their thankfulness.

We seldom read much of their writings without finding them blessing and praising God.

Let us rise from our beds every morning with a deep conviction that we are debtors, and that every day we have more mercies than we deserve.

Let us look around us every week, as we travel through the world, and see whether we have not much to thank God for.

If our hearts are in the right place, we shall never find any difficulty in building an Ebenezer.

Well would it be if our prayers and supplications were more mingled with thanksgiving. (1 Sam. 7:12. Phil. 4:6.)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 36-37. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

“The Christian should be an inexhaustible source of forgiveness” by Herman Bavinck

“The metaphors of turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, surrendering your coat, and adding the cloak are explained in Matthew 5:44: ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’

The idea is that evil must be repaid with good, curses with blessing, hatred with love, sin with forgiveness, misery with compassion.

God acts this way, too (Matt. 5:45-48).

Once more, that is not apathy, no Stoic passivity, no condoning the enemy’s behavior. On the contrary, Jesus rebukes His enemies and pronounces woe upon the Pharisees. But while He is reprimanding the sin, He is loving and blessing the enemy.

Indeed, He commands us to forgive those who wrong us as often as seventy times seven– that is to say, countless times, again and again (Matt. 18:21-34).

The Pharisees said that one must forgive three times. Peter boldly says: Isn’t seven times enough?

But Jesus will have nothing to do with numbers or calculations here. The Christian should be an inexhaustible source of forgiveness.

After all, Christians need forgiveness themselves (Matt. 18:33).

Certain evidence that we love our enemies is when we pray for them in all sincerity. Righteous anger is certainly permissible and obligatory, but it must be an anger without sin, not long-lasting, and not rising rashly (Eph. 4:26-27; Ps. 4:4; 37:8).

‘The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God’ (James 1:20; cf. Col. 3:8; Titus 1:7). And vengeance is never fitting; it belongs to God (Deut. 32:35).

Love thinks no evil (1 Cor. 13) and covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 439-440.

“The Christians changed a funeral into a feast” by Herman Bavinck

“Holy Scripture gives us no specific prescriptions with regard to burial. We have an example in the tender way Jesus was buried by his disciples; the same is true of Stephen (Acts 8:2).

We are allowed to mourn and to be sad as appears from both the Old Testament (Gen. 23:2; 37:34-35; 50:1-3; 1 Sam. 25:1) and the New Testament (Luke 7:12-13). Jesus himself (John 11:33-35), Mary (John 20:11), and the disciples (Mark 16:10; Luke 24:17; John 16:20) mourned, and the church at Ephesus mourned for Paul (Acts 20:37).

Death is an evil. Yet Christian mourning is different from pagan mourning. No sorrowing without hope (1 Thess. 4:13), no worldly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10).

The Christians changed a funeral into a feast of celebration and triumph.

They buried their dead not at night but during daytime, in the full light of day, dressed in white robes, accompanied by retinues and spectators, without wailing women, without wreaths on the body or the coffin.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 433.

“Not paying attention is a great sin” by Herman Bavinck

“We are to develop a Christian character with respect to the intellect. To that end we must first of all instill a love of truth– not just saving truth but also scientific truth and truth in everyday life.

This love of truth is not only of formal (logical) truth- that is, not just the freedom of our propositions from contradiction– but also the love of material, factual truth.

Christianity has given us knowledge of God as the Truth (John 17:3; 14:6) and given us proper love for the truth, not for its own sake (which is ultimately for our own sake, egotistically), but made possible for the sake of God.

The Word, a lamp unto our feet, the truth (John 17:17), enables us to pursue truth, to recognize it, to distinguish it from the lie (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; 1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:21).

Indifferentism and skepticism are therefore not permitted for the Christian– they are a sickness of the soul that needs healing. And we are called to abound, to mature, to grow in knowledge (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12 and 13; Phil. 1:9; 4:8; 1 Thess. 5:21; Titus 3:8-9; 2 Pet. 3:18).

But the arena of the intellect contains other faculties, each of which also needs to be developed. These include the capacity to pay attention and to observe, for to observe is better than the fat of rams (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).

Not paying attention is a great sin (2 Chron. 33:10; Prov. 1:24; Zech. 7:11).

In every field, attentiveness, both spiritual and natural, is so difficult. We must compel our senses to observe well, and we must practice this. To see, hear, touch, and read well is such an art.

Next, there is memory and the capacity of recollection: the cupbearer forgot Joseph (Gen. 40:23); Israel repeatedly forgot the covenant, forgot the Lord (Deut. 4:23; 6:12; 8:11-16; 32:18), forgot God’s works and wonders (Ps. 78:7, 11), forgot their Savior (Ps. 106:21); we are forgetful hearers (James 1:25).

The believer, however, is seized with a desire to remember it all-God’s acts of loving-kindness (Ps. 48:9), His works (Ps. 77:12)-in order to remember His word, law, and ordinances and not forget them (Ps. 119:16, 61, 83, 176).

The same is true in the natural arena: kindnesses should be inscribed in marble, but insults written in sand.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 406.

“Grateful enjoyment” by Herman Bavinck

“God wants all of His gifts to be enjoyed with thankful hearts (1 Tim 4:4-5).

Only through grateful enjoyment is creation’s goal fulfilled.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 343.

“Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (1936)” by Wilbur L. Cross

“Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us by a way that we did not know to the end of another year.”

–Wilbur L. Cross, “Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1936,” in Proclamations of His Excellency Wilbur L. Cross Governor of the State of Connecticut (Hartford: Lockwood and Brainerd Co., 1937), 16.

“A child of God keeps two books always by him” by Thomas Watson

“A child of God keeps two books always by him:

One to write his sins in, so that he may be humble;

The other to write his mercies in, so that he may be thankful.”

–Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture-Pencil, or, Some Characteristic Marks of a Man who is Going to Heaven (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2003), 132.

“Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (1936)” by Wilbur L. Cross

“Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us by a way that we did not know to the end of another year.”

–Wilbur L. Cross, “Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1936,” in Proclamations of His Excellency Wilbur L. Cross Governor of the State of Connecticut (Hartford: Lockwood and Brainerd Co., 1937), 16.

“The task of the theology” by Herman Bavinck

“Doubt has now become the sickness of our century, bringing with it a string of moral problems and plagues. Nowadays, many people take into account only what they can see; they deify matter, worship Mammon, or glorify power.

The number of those who still utter an undaunted testimony of their faith with joyful enthusiasm and complete certainty is comparatively small.

There is much noise and movement, but little genuine spirit, little genuine enthusiasm issuing from an upright, fervent, sincere faith.

Nowhere is this more true than among theologians. They are the most doubting, vacillating group of all. They have plenty of questions, doubts, and criticism to offer.

But what we expect from them more than from anyone else– unity of outlook, consistency of method, certainty of faith, eagerness to give an account of the hope within them– for these traits we often look in vain.

Theology must lead us to rest in the arms of God.

Theology must prescribe medicine for the ailments of the soul. It must be able to say how and in what way we can be freed from our guilt, reconciled with God, attain to patience and hope amidst life’s tribulations, and find reason to sing praises in the face of death.

A theology that does not concern itself with these things and only dedicates itself to critical and historical studies is not worthy of the name theology.

And a theologian who is acquainted with all the latest issues of his science but who stands speechless at a sickbed and knows no answer to the questions of the lost sinner’s heart isn’t worthy of his title and office.”

—Herman Bavinck, The Certainty of Faith, trans. Harry der Nederlanden (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 1891/1980), 8, 9, 17, 18.