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The Prodigal

The Rev. Theodore Clapp, for many years a minister of religion in the city of New Orleans, narrates the following incident, which occurred within his experience:

Several years ago there was a lady—a mother—residing in one of the Northern States, distinguished for her wealth, social position, and religious character. She had a favorite son, for whose advancement in life great efforts had been made. But notwithstanding, he became a profligate and vagabond.

I had known the youth in our school-boy days. The mother addressed to me a letter concerning her lost child. From the latest information she believed that he was wandering in the Southern States. She besought me, if I should meet the hapless fugitive, to acquaint her with the facts, and extend to him such offices of kindness as I might judge expedient.

A few days after the receipt of this letter, the young prodigal made his appearance in New Orleans, and found his way to my study. He was in a most woeful plight, both physically and morally. In manners he was rude, audacious, and grossly profane. He wanted money. “Money will do you no good,” said I, “unless you reform your life.”

“Reform!” repeated he; “it is impossible. It is entirely too late. I have no hope; I can never retrieve my steps. I have nothing to live for. I am the execration of all who know me. I have not a friend left in the wide world.”

On his saying this I went to my desk, and took out the letter from his mother. Showing him the superscription, I asked him if he knew the handwriting. A change came over his manner. He replied with a thoughtful air: “It is my dear mother’s.’’ I opened the letter, and read to him a single paragraph; and this was the sentence I read to him “O my Heavenly Father, I beseech Thee to preserve, forgive, and redeem my poor lost child; in Thy infinite mercy, be pleased to restore him to my embrace, and to the joys of sincere repentance.”

In moment he seemed as if struck by some unseen power. He sank down upon his chair, burst into tears, sobbed aloud, and convulsively exclaimed: “O God, forgive my base ingratitude to that beloved mother!”

Yes, the thought of that fond parent, in a far-distant and dishonored home — who cherished for him an undying affection, who overlooked all his baseness, who never failed to mingle his outcast name with her morning and evening prayers — the thought of such tenderness broke his obdurate heart, and the waters of penitence rushed forth.

From that hour he was a reformed man. He is now an inhabitant of his native place, shedding around him the blessed influence of a sober, useful, and exemplary life.

- Mother, Home, and Heaven

Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer - 1893

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