“The Prodigal’s Return”

"And he arose, and came to his father…" (Lk. 15.20)

     INTRO.: A song which likens the parable of the prodigal son who, after leaving home and wasting his substance in riotous living, came to himself, arose, and returned to his father to the lost sinner who returns to Jesus is "The Prodigal’s Return." The text was written and the tune was composed both by Herbert Henry Howard Booth, who was born on Aug. 26, 1862, at Penzance in Cornwall, England, the fifth child of Salvation Army founders William and Catherine Booth. After attending Allesley Park College and the Congregational Institute in Nottingham, England, he became active in Salvation Army work in France in the early 1880’s. Some of his earliest songs were produced in French. In 1883, he helped establish the Salvation Army musical department at Clapton and became a well known singer, editing Songs of Peace and War in 1890 and The Salvation Soldier’s Song Book in 1897. In all, he is credited with some 22 songs and a couple of tunes. "The Prodigal’s Return" was first published in Salvation Army Songs.  Afterwards, he went on to direct Salvation Army work in England, from 1888 to 1892, Canada, from 1892 to 1895, and Australia, from 1895 to 1901. Beginning in 1902, he went on extensive lecture tours in America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. He died on Sept. 25, 1926, at Yonkers, NY. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1; but not the combined 1925 edition) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson.

     The song would probably make a good invitation song encouraging the prodigal to return.

I. Stanza 1 talks about the recognition of sin
"Savior, hear me, while before Thy feet I the record of my sins repeat,
Stained with guilt, myself abhoring, Filled with grief, my soul outpouring.
Canst Thou still in mercy think of me, Stoop to set my shackled spirit free,
Raise my sinking heart, and bid me be Thy child once more?"
 A. The Bible does not teach that a "confession of sin" is a requirement for one outside of Christ to be saved, but certainly a recognition of sin in one’s life is a necessary prerequisite for repentance which is a requirement: Acts 2.38, 17.30-31; and for an erring Christian who wants to return to God, there is a requirement for confession of sins: 1 Jn. 1.9
 B. When one does recognize His sin and come to the Savior for pardon, the Lord will extend mercy: Tit. 3.5
 C. The result is that the spirit that has been shackled by sin can be made free: Rom. 6.17-18

II. Stanza 2 talks about the guilt of sin
"Back with all the guilt my spirit bears, Past the haunting memories of years,
Self and shame and fear despising, Foes and tauting fiends surprising,
Savior, to Thy cross I press my way, And a broken heart before it lay;
Ere I leave, O let me hear Thee say, It shall be Thine."
 A. When one comes to recognize that he has sinned, then he begins to feel the guilt: Rom. 3.19
 B. However, God by His mercy makes it possible for us to come to the cross, which coming represents our acceptace of the gospel plan of salvation: 1 Cor. 1.18
 C. The laying of a broken heart or spirit at the cross represents the attitude of humility and repentance, such as David expressed for his sin: Ps. 51.17

III. Stanza 3 talks about grace for sin
"All the rivers of Thy grace I claim, Over every promise write my name;
As I am I come believing. As Thou art Thou does, receiving,
Bid me rise a freed and pardoned slave, Master o’er my sin, the world, the grave,
Charging me to preach Thy power to save, To sin-bound souls."
 A. We are saved from the guilt of sin by the grace of God through faith or believing His word: Eph. 2.809
 B. Again, the result of accepting God’s grace is that one rises to walk in newness of life, a freed and pardoned slave of righteousness: Rom. 6.3-14
 C. Then, those who have been freed from sin must take the message of salvation to other sin-bound souls:

     CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of what God did to make it possible for the prodigal to return to Him:
"Grace there is, my every debt to pay; Blood to wash my every sin away;
Power to keep me sinless day by day, For me, for me!"
All responsible beings have sinned, and thus, are like prodigal sons.  However, if we recognize our sins, we can bring our guilt to a gracious God who has mercy to forgive us. Therefore, it is important that we ourselves understand and then proclaim to a lost and dying world about "The Prodigal’s Return."


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