George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
And when he came to himself, he said, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!'--Luk 15:17
A very fresh and delightful American writer, John Burroughs--a man who often reminds us of our own Richard Jefferies--has given us in one of his books a most illuminative and suggestive paper on Carlyle. Mr. Burroughs visited Carlyle in London--his essay is called "A Sunday in Cheyne Row"--and with great tenderness, and wisdom, and literary skill he has recorded his impressions of the visit. Now I am not going to speak of Mr. Burroughs, nor am I going to preach about Carlyle; but there was one phrase in that essay that seemed to me very memorable: "homesickness of the soul." "A kind of homesickness of the soul was on Carlyle,'' says Mr. Burroughs, "and it deepened with age."
That, then, is the topic on which I wish to speak. My subject is the homesickness of the soul. I want to take the thought that the soul is homesick, and use it to shed a little light on dark places. Perhaps we shall proceed more comfortably together if I divide what I have to say under two heads. (1) Under this light we may view the unrest of sin. (2) Under this light we may view the craving for God.
It is notable that it was in this light that Jesus viewed it, in the crowning parable from which we have taken our text. The prodigal was an exile; he was in a far country. It was the memory of his home that filled his heart. There are conceptions of the awakened sinner that make him the prey of an angry and threatening conscience. And I know that sometimes, when a man comes to himself, he can see nothing and hear nothing in the universe but the terrors and judgments of a sovereign God. But it was not terror that smote the prodigal deep. It was home, home, home, for which his poor soul was crying. He saw the farm, bosomed among the hills, and the weary oxen coming home at eventide, and the happy circle gathered round the fire, and his father crying to heaven for the wanderer. His sorrow's crown of sorrows was remembering happier things. He came to himself, and he was homesick.
Now I think that Jesus would have us learn from that that wickedness is not the homeland of the soul, and that all the unrest and the dissatisfaction of the wicked is just the craving of his heart for home. We were not fashioned to be at home in sin. We bear the image of God, and God is goodness. The native air of this mysterious heart is the love and purity and joy of heaven. So when a man deliberately sins, and all the time hungers for better things, it is not the hunger for an impossible ideal; it is the hunger of his soul for home. Ah! do not forget that you can satisfy that hunger instantly. Now, out of the furthest country, in a single instant of time, you may come home. We are not like the emigrant in the far west of Canada longing for Highland hills he will not see for years. God waits. Christ says, "Return this very hour." "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."
In that very fascinating little volume by Charlotte Yonge, in which she narrates the history of the Moors in Spain, there are few pages more enthralling than those in which she tells the story of Abderraman. Abderraman was the first Moorish Khalif in Spain. He was an Eastern, bred by the Euphrates. There was no great beauty in the scenes where he spent his childhood. And his Spanish home, in the old city of Cordova, seems to have been a fairy palace of delight. Yet among all the groves and towers and fountains of fair Cordova, Abderraman was miserable--it was banishment. And when he got a palm tree from his Syrian home, and planted it in his Spanish garden, one of the old ballads of the Arabs tells us that he could never look at it without tears. Do you not think that the children of Cordova would mock at that? It was their home, and they were very happy. They could not understand this Oriental, unhappy and restless among the garden groves. And my point is that you will never understand the soul's unrest, amid the exquisite delights of sense and sin, unless it is hungering for another country, as Abderraman hungered for his Syrian dwelling. It is not facts, it is mysteries, that keep me from materialism. I believe in the cravings of the human heart, and they overturn a score of demonstrations. If I were a creature of a few nerves and fibbers only, I should be very happy in my Cordova. But we were made in goodness, and we were made for goodness; and the native air of the soul is love and truth; and we shall always be dissatisfied, always be homesick, if we are trying to live in any other land.