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THE PRODIGAL's RETURN.
FARMER LITTLEWORTH, HIS SON HENRY, MR.
LOVEGOOD, AND OTHERS.
was detained at sea by contrary winds three weeks longer than was expected. Many reports having prevailed of storms and shipwrecks, the Farmer's mind was filled with sad apprehensions for the fate of his son; the subject of his daily talk, and now the object of his most affectionate regard. At length he arrived at Mr. Vintner's, of the George, and, according to the plan preconcerted, was directed to Mr. Traffick's of the shop, where the following letter from his father, after the usual salutations, was put into his hands.
MY MOST DEAR CHILD, " For sure and certain I never shall be able to thank the Lord enough for your letter. Oh, how I bless his name that he has converted and saved such a wicked sinner as you have been! but you know, my dear Harry, I was a much wickeder sinner than you ; and our most merciful Saviour has visited me with his grace; and now how happy and joyful shall we be together as soon as you come home! But I beg and pray of you, my dear child, when we meet, don't tell me how wicked you have been to me, or I must tell you how wicked I have been to you, in setting you such a bad example. Oh, no! we must never talk to each other about these matters; for this would cut me to the heart, and kill me outright: for as I write, I can scarcely see to go on, because the tears run down my cheeks so fast while I think of the wonderful love of Christ, which has met with two such vile sinners as we have been : and since he has loved and pardoned us both, how sweetly shall we love and pardon each other!
“My dear child, that very Mr. Lovegood, which we all used so to ridicule, is the dear man who has brought my soul to God. Nobody can tell what a dear servant of God he is; and I and your sister Nancy go to his church every Sunday, and he is to meet you at our house the first day you come home; and Billy Traffick, a most sweet Christian boy, and who always attends our church, is to come up to our house with you ; and as you are lame, I shall send a horse for you; so I need write no more, as I hope to see you so soon. My dear child, from your affectionate father,
The reader must be left to suppose, after Henry had read the letter, what were his feelings on such an unexpected, yet joyful and affecting event. No wonder that under such circumstances he was too much surprised and affected to speak. After some time, Billy Traffick began the conversation.
Billy. Come, come; wipe your eyes, and praise the Lord for his mercies; see what love and grace he has been pouring down upon your family, and upon many more in these parts since you left us.
Henry. What ! and are my father and my sister Nancy indeed converted to God! And does Mr. Lovegood preach the gospel to poor sinners at Brookfield church.
Billy. Yes indeed, your father, by the grace of God, for nearly these two years, has been a wonderfully altered man; and Mr. Lovegood is a most blessed and affectionate minister of Christ.
Henry. [Still weeping. ] My God! what mercies are these to such a vile wretch as I have been! What between joy and grief, how shall I support it! and how shall I be able to meet my dear father!
Mr. Traffick. Mr. Henry, your father has desired that I would mention to you not to say any thing respecting matters that are past, as that will affect him too much. You are to go home as if nothing had happened.
Henry. How can that be? for, Oh, what blessed things have happened since I, a poor prodigal sinner, left his house near four years ago! But are there no signs of grace upon the hearts of my poor mother and my other two sisters?
Traffick. I fear not at present; though I am told your mother is not so vehement against your worthy father as formerly; for Mr. Dolittle and Dr. Dronish at first tried to set all the parish against him.
Henry. Why, Mr. Traffick, was not you bred a dissenter? I thought you always went to Dr. Dronish's meeting
Traffick. Yes, Mr. Henry; but since God in his gracious providence has sent Mr. Lovegood into these parts, we have been convinced that it is better to follow the gospel, than a party. So we have left the meeting, and do not mean to go there again, unless we should have the same gospel preached there as once was, when old Mr. Trueman was the minister in my father's time; so we all go to Brookfield church, excepting my old uncle, who says he is determined to live and die in the religion in which he was bred and born.
Billy. And we shall hope to see you there next Sunday; yes, and it is sacrament Sunday, and my
father and I always attend the communion. We don't mind about being bred dissenters, provided we can hold communion with the people of God.
Henry. Oh! how this again overcomes me! I have had a thousand fears what my poor father would say to me, for my former bad conduct; then how he would oppose me on account of religion ; for though in all other respects I knew the Lord hath inclined my heart to be as obedient as a lamb; yet on a Sunday I was determined to travel, lame as I am, twenty miles a day, provided I could but reach any place of worship, whether at a church or a meeting of any sort, where I could hear the blessed sound of the Gospel ; but instead of all my fears, God has provided for me all that my heart could wish, and almost close to the door. Well, there by the help of God I will go, and to the sacrament too, that we may all give ourselves up entirely to the Lord, if Mr. Lovegood will permit me.
Billy. There is no doubt of that ; for your letter, which you sent from Antigua, affected him almost as much as it did your father; and he believes, by the grace of God, your heart is really changed.
Henry. O, how little I thought of such blessed events as these when I left my father's house, while living in all sorts of sin; and what will my dear father ieel, when he sees his poor prodigal kneeling by him, at that most blessed feast of love? Yes, there I will go, and at once join myself with the dear children of God wherever I can find them; that all may know that, by the grace of God, I am determined to give myself up to lead another life.
[Mr. Traffick is called into the shop, and Will Frolick comes in.]
Frolick. [To Mr. Traffick.] Is not Harry Littleworth come from sea? I hear he is at your house; mayn't I step in and ask him how he does?
Traffick. Yes; but you won't find him the same man now as when you and he, and the rest of you, kept our town in a perpetual uproar.
Frolick. Why, I have heard that he has received a bad wound, and that since then he has taken a mighty religious turn; and I wonder at that, when he was such an admirer of Paine's “ Age of Rea.
Traffick Reason! what do you mean by reason, while you were all living together like so many madmen?
Frolick. Well, though his father has been frequently preaching about his wonderful conversion at Mapleton market, I suppose he is not so grave but what he will shake hands with me, if I go in to see him, for he was a merry fellow when he left us:
Traffick. You know the old proverb, Mr. Frolick, " Be merry and wise;" but when we were at family prayer,
while you, and he, and others, were revelling about the town, you used to disturb us by rapping at our windows and doors; if this was a sign that you were merry, it was no evidence that either you or he, in those days, were wise. But you may go in to him if you please. My son and he are together. [Frolick goes in.)
Frolick. Well, Harry, how are you? I am glad to see you home again; for we all began to think you was gone to the bottom.
Henry. I thank you, William ; but you must suppose it would have been a terrible sinking to me if I had gone to the bottom; for you know the horrid state we were both in before I went to sea; neither of us were fit to live in this world or the
Frolick. Why, I am told you are become very religious; but as for my part, I confess, I had rather stop a little longer first.