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The Elder Brother

The Elder Brother

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Published by glennpease
By R. J. CAMPBELL, D.D.



thou art ever with me, and all that I have
(all that is mine) is thine" LUKE xv, 31.
By R. J. CAMPBELL, D.D.



thou art ever with me, and all that I have
(all that is mine) is thine" LUKE xv, 31.

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 18, 2013
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THE ELDER BROTHER By R. J. CAMPBELL, D.D.thou art ever with me, and all that I have(all that is mine) is thine" LUKE xv, 31.IT is my belief that no part of the teachingof Jesus has been more misunderstood thanthe parable of the Prodigal Son. This mayseem a strange thing to say in view of thefrequency with which the subject has beentreated from the Christian pulpit perhapsthere is no subject so continually drawn uponfor the making of evangelical appeals butI adhere to my opinion, nevertheless. Thecharacter of the prodigal has generally beenused to illustrate the waywardness and deprav-ity of human nature, and, on the surface, rightlyso. But see where Jesus places the emphasis."When he came to himself ... he said, I willarise and go to my father." This does not fitin at all with the view that we are by naturechildren of wrath and disobedience to useno stronger term. Apparently our Masterhas his eye on something deeper than the super-ficial selfhood that seeks its gratification inthe far country and in riotous living. Thereis a truer self, a diviner self, of one substancewith the Father, which in the end must assertitself and refuse to be satisfied with the husks[51]
 
The Elder Brotherand swine of materialized existence. Observe,too, how simple is the imagery of Jesus concern-ing what follows from this self-discovery inthe far country; when the prodigal has learnedhis lesson, his lesson of disillusionment and soul-hunger, he rises and goes home. The reconcil-iation is effected at once; the father receiveshim with forgiveness and love; there is noquestion of an intermediary or of a price to bepaid beforehand. The returned wanderer isspoken of as a son, he has never ceased to be ason, despite his frailty and folly. Again, Isay, this beautiful teaching does not fit in witha good deal that is conventionally supposed tobe included in the experience of salvation; andthe difference is so plain that some moderncommentators have put forward the theory thatat this stage of his ministry Jesus was unableto expound the true conditions on which a sin-ful soul could avail himself of the pardoninglove of God; his hearers, they say, were notready for it and would not have been able tounderstand it until after his own death andresurrection. Just so; but this was writtenlong after both, and I prefer to think that itis complete as it stands. It is most beautiful,most illuminating, and wholly accordant withwhat we might expect of Jesus. From thisparable it is evident that he regards man as adivine being who cannot remain permanentlyin the far country or be content with the swine'sfood of fleshly indulgence, because his spirit-[52]The Elder Brother
 
ual nature will not permit him to do so. Throughsuffering, and loss, and humiliation, he learnsto understand the true nature of the life thatsatisfies, the life more abundant, the life thatis the knowledge of eternal love.But there is another kind of experience alsoindicated in this parable, the experience whichhas not been gained in the far country, but isof the same quality as that which has. I referof course to what is indicated in the second partof this piece of picture teaching. If the char-acter of the prodigal has been somewhat mis-understood, that of the Elder Brother has beenmuch more so. Most of us, I suppose, haveheard sermons preached upon this theme inwhich the Elder Brother has been held up toreprobation as an unlovely example of the self-righteous spirit in religion. If we could col-lect all the literature of the subject, I think youwould find that a good many hard things havebeen said about the Elder Brother in moderntimes at any rate. He is generally understoodto be the type or symbol of the hard, self-satisfied Pharisee, full of spiritual pride, andready to condemn human weakness unspar-ingly. We all know this kind of characterwell enough, and it is easy to come upon ex-amples of it in almost every religious coterie;in fact we are all liable to fall into it at one timeor another; the line between self-respectingrectitude and the Pharisaic spirit is rather fineand may easily be overstepped.[53]The Elder Brother

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