D Gibb Mitchell
He sayed, forby, a parteeclar man haed twa sons. An the younger loun sayed ti his faither, "Faither! gie me the portion o the property that faas ti me. An he portioned oot the estate for them. An no lang efter, the younger callant gaithered thegither aa he haed, an gaed awa ti a faur land; an there squandered his siller in wild ploys. Whan aa wis gane, there cam a awesome famine ower aa the land, an he begoud ti be in actual want. An he gaed awa an socht wark frae ane o the men o that kintra; an he sent him ootby ti the fields ti herd swine. An fain wad he hae fillt hissel wi the huils the swine wis aetin; an nane raxed him a bite. At last, comin ti his senses, qo he ti himsel, "Hou mony o ma faither's fee'd servants haes mair breid than they can aet, While A here am stairvin ti daith! A will ryce an gang ti ma faither, an will say ti him, 'Ma faither, A hae duin wrang in Heeven's sicht an ti yer face; nae mair am A fit ti be caad yer son; traet me as ane o yer fee'd men!'" An sae rycin, he cam awa ti his faither. But whan he wis yet a lang wey aff, his faither saw him, an his hert wis touched, an rinnin, he threw his airms roond his neck, an kissed him. "Faither!" the son sayed, "A did wrang in Heeven's sicht an ti yer face; A am nae langer fit ti be caa'd yer son!"
But the faither turned ti his servants, an sayed, "Waste nae time! bring oot a robe--the best in the hoose--an pit it on him; an gie a ring for his finger an shuin for his feet; an bring oot the stalled cauf, an kill it; that we mey aet an be blythe! For he, ma son, wis deid, an cam ti life again!" An they begoud ti mak merry.
Nou, the elder son wis in the field; an on comin hame, whan he got nar the hoose, he heard muisic an dancin. An beckonin ti ane o the servants, he spiered what aa this micht mean. An he sayed ti him, "Yer brither haes cam back again, an yer faither haes killed the stalled cauf, for that he gat him back again aa safe an soond.
But he wis fou o anger, an wadna gang in. His faither, tho, cam oot an wis entraetin him. "Na," he sayed ti his faither: "See! aa thir years hae A sert ye, an never did A gang ayont yer commands, an at nae time did ye gie me e'en a kid, that A micht hae a merry-makkin wi ma freends. But nae suiner haes this son o yours come, that haes etten up yer estate in the company o harlots, than ye'v killed for him the stalled cauf."
But he sayed ti him, "Bairn! thoo is aye wi me! An aa that is mine is thine. We could but mak merry an be gled, for this brither o yours wis deid, but is alive; he haed been tint, an wis fund."--Luke xv.
We'v aa haed oor ain thochts aboot the wa-gang an the hame-bringin o the Ne'er-dae-Weel. The spendthrift loun is kent bi ane an aa. We hae a bit o him in aa oor herts: that's what gars sae mony o us tak ti the story.
There wis twa laddies: we winna fash wi the ane that bade at hame. We track the wanderer--bonny an weel-buskit; till he comes back--haggart, battert an bruised, broken-hertit an faggit oot.
Wha haed the great Preacher in His ee whan He spak this earthly parable wi a heevenly meanin? Ane an aa that jalouzes they will mak mair oot o a life birlt awa frae God, God's gate an God's folk, than gin they haed bidden at hame; that's no contentit an crouse aneath his ain riggin-tree, but yaumers for a langer tether, that they mey skirt awa frae the lug o His holy law. Siclike hates the straucht road, but maun aye be borin throu hedges, scailin dykes, an lowpin ditches--cantrips that wyles us frae a faither's hoose, an taks us ti the bogs o duil. Oor Makar lats us gang. He gies us a will ti mak or mar. He disna pit a ring thro the nose, nor peen the towe siccar i the grund, an tie us doun ti graze in a neuk o the field. He traets us aa like free men--ti gang wrang or gang richt o oor ain likin.
Blythesome wis the hert o the birkie o oor story whan he lived at his faither's hoose at hame. Frank, civil cheil, wi a sparklin ee, he wis lo'ed bi ane an aa; the beggar an the laird wis baith alike ti him. Nane o them aa kent the faur-ben langin o his hert, that stranger grew as the weeks wis passin by--the wish ti brak awa frae the hame binnle. He craves for scowth, an fidges ti ken what wis gaun on in the warld oot aboot. He can thole the hame haudin nae langer. Some unco thochts wis gaitherin thick. His hert wis in a lowe. "Faither," he says, "A'm seek tired o this place, an aathing aboot it. A'm seek tired aye hearin ye say, 'Dinna this, dinna that.' Gie's ma life inti ma ain keepin." An the faither pairted him aa his belangins, an gied him his share.
Dis the scoondrel ken the airt he's ti tak? Haes he a inklin o what he's ti be aboot? He flings a sklent ahint him as he turns the cruik o the road, an then strides briskly forrit inti the unkent warld.
We tine sicht o him in the thrang o the warld for a while. But God kens whaur he is: he's nae lost. Nane stravaig hameless in the temptin toun athoot God kennin. He roonds the corner at ilka turn. Ye canna jink by him. God is aye ane o the inner circle. That omniscient ee in the centre o aathing leuks doun an in like a star at midnicht. Nae wrang-daeins is slippin His notice, or will miss the dreid douncome o His scaith.
No ilka ane that wanders oot intil the wild, trackless muir comes back again. Mony haes been cozy an snug wi the bonny blythe blink o their ain fireside, an lured awa bi fause lichts, sinks ti the chin in quaggs o vice, an's ane mair heard tell o. Better ne'er ti hae left the cot on the brou o the hill, whaur aa wis bashfu modesty, wi few wants an licht cares, faur awa frae the busy haunts o ill-daein, oot amid the calm an coyness o God's ain warld; better ne'er ti hae heard the nichtly stramash o the fluded street but only the sang o the burnie that wimples throu the clachan,-- than be swamped in the city's swirl.
Mony haes gaed oot a saunter wi God in the mornin o their days, whan, unbekent, His haun kiltit up the curtains. They wis spellbund wi the ferlies o the couthie warld aroond them. The lift o blue wis like their young herts, as the starnies keekit oot an glimmert in the dawin. But afore the years haed lang gane by they'v been poued inti the warsle o life, an met wi sair mishanter.
The warld suin herries herts o their uprichtness an mind-makkin. It taks the len o love, an flings it by whan it's duin wi't.
Seek for pleasaunce! We can get mair than eneuch. The warld's fou o't. It's as fou o pleasur as it's fou o sin. It winna grudge ye aa its pleasurs. It beckons ye wi open hauns, an enticin coortesy, swaet smiles an graces, that fills yer hert ti the likin o't. It strikes up lilts ti gar ye dance, an sings sangs ti gar ye lauch, an tells ye tales ti wyle yer fancy roond the payocks o yirth. It suin gets ye inti a doited mood, an then palavers wi yer feelins as it likes. What is warst for hearin an for thochts ti brook is linkit on ti swagger an geckery--apologies for't. Yer feelins bangs aboot wi ilka likin. Ae thing's juist as guid's anither--tak time, tak tide--an aa that comes ye'r ready for't, guid or bad. Ye'r ready ti tak a blaw wi ilka ane that haes a pipe, ti tak a gless wi ilka ane that haes a bottle, an crack wi ilka ane that haes a joke--dance ti ony piper that happens ti play. It's a gemme o slap-bang--hear's ti ye--hail-fellae-weel-met--cronie for cronie--troke wi guid humour for aa that it's worth. Ye'v been bobbin efter pleasur an didna ken't. Ye'v ettled ti cram yer hert wi't, but it wadna fill.Ye haed aye a drouth for mair--a drouth that naethin wad slocken.
Sic a dreich gate ti gang! Hou mony twinins an turnins! hou mony keests at the cauld corners! hou mony faas, an hou mony fechts! hou mony tulzies for naethin ava! What hae ye gotten for yer trauchle an toil? Hou muckle that'll mak memory sing the tinklin sang o paece, or bide wi ye that ye'll mak yer ain?
It wis pleasur ye socht, an ye'v got it; but ye'v tint yer joy in the grippin o't. Ilka smile, ilka joke, ilka banterin drivel wis a smotherin clod in the well o yer joy. It fylt aa the watters sae swaet an sae pure, that wad hae flowed intil joy an hope. Ye'v catched at the bubble that wis bricht on the stream--in yer luif there's left naething but the cauld blob o despair.
Bi the ingle-neuk we hear oor faither's creeds, an the brag o oor kintra's deeds, an the martyrs' bluid that dyed the heather: grave wirds o advice an warnins. The mither prays, the faither instructs. We hae the solemn Sabbath day, the kirk wi preacher an teacher, an the Lantern o God shinin bricht abuin aa. We'v a freend in oor conscience, nae scaith in oor sowel. We'r eident an guidhertit. We like oor ainsels. Oor ain feelins is guid company. Tho we bide alane we'r no bird alane. There aye creeps ower oor sowel oor ain joy o life. This is the rig-oot we get for the darg o life--a grand rig-oot for the ups an douns that faas ti oor lot, ilka ane sairer ti warsle wi than anither. Aa this mey be thrown ti the winds in rantin aff ti the faur country, Ye dwindle doun ti naething, faa frae the palace ti the swinetrochs--tine health, wealth, an freends--Ay! an forget ti keep the tryst wi God.
Mony a promisin callant haes thrown awa his character an guid name for a year or twa's gallivantin. The blythesome fellae--wi a natur as open as day, a saft hert, a winnin wey, an twa sparklin een, is coortit bi young an auld. He haes the best sangs at his finger ends. Ilka gaitherin maks muckle o him. He's aye a favourite. Aabody kens his guid an haes nae grudge against his ill.
Ower aften this is the lad that gangs the wrang gate--the lad we hae ti greet aboot. This is the lad that maks the siechin an the an the sabbin in oor ain hoose at hame. This is the lad that masks Scotia's herp trimmle wi the waefu tuin o grief. This is the lad that braks a mither's hert, an sends a faither greetin ti his grave.
But whaur is the prodigal o the story? Lat's get a blink o the billy. He's reached the end o his tether nou. Losh! ma freends, leuk at him! He's no for seein. Puir chap, he's a unco sicht. But is't him? We haurdly ken him. He's lost the pictur o himsel. The banes is seen an the gaistly vision o the lad that ance wis there is aa that's left. Will ye greet wi me? Lat's peety him. Lat nae man curse a wird that's here, or lat the drow o fate faa on him.
Whummlin a troch ower on its mou, he hirkles doun on't, claps his elbaes on his knees, steeks his face atween his luifs, an glowers like a gowk on the grund. His heid's aa raivelt an unsnod. His face is thin wi the cark o care. His ee is hollae, as if leukin for the grave. His cheek is wanrife. His vyce is husky, wi nae hert ti spaek. He's haed mony a nesty faa an mony a haurd dunt. His bare feet's hackit an bleedin. His heid is dizzy an sair!
What's he thinkin aboot? He's crackin ti himsel. He's sayin something aboot the faither's hoose--his hame--an eneuch--an ti spare. Syne he braks oot an miscaas himsel. He whurls on himsel. There's hope; he's at hissel; he sees hissel!
He leuks up an glowers aboot him. The licht o reflection is strugglin thro a chink o his mirk mind--the memory o purity peerin throu the pollution, an seekin ti lowp ower the past an couple the will on ti its former innocence. The daylicht haes come aa the wey frae the faither's dwellin. He's at hissel; he's thinkin!
He taks stock o his surroondins.The swine is gruntin an howkin aboot him, an wi his heel he kicks them oot ower frae him. It's no the swine he's kickin, but his ain past. "A'm a filthier brute than the swine. Wha wad hae thocht A e'er wad come ti this o't? The warld haes kickit me aboot, an nou whan ma siller's duin--whan clean rookit, they grin an pass me by. What micht A no hae been if A haed bidden at hame? A'v tint aa that wis worth keepin. Mony a damned corner A'v been howkin in ti ma sad loss this day. A'm hungry an there's nocht ti aet. A'm drouthy an there's nocht ti drink. A'm hameless an A'v nae lithe neuk ti crawl ti. A'm cauld an A'v nae claes ti hap aroond ma shiverin limbs. Ma hert is sair. Ma cronies haes aa forsaken me; the lauch me by. A'm lanely, forlorn, an warld-weary, an nane ti say ti me, 'Brither. tak hert again.' At hame there's eneuch--an mair than eneuch. A canna gang hame. A canna gang in this sicht. Wad ma faither tak me in? Naething can baet a trial. A'll up an awa ti ma faither's hoose. Gled will A be gin he only gies me the place o a orra-man, feeds me wi the hinds, an lats me sleep in the bothy.
He's up an awa--no takkin time ti rin doun ti the pool ti dicht the dubs frae his body. He bolted aff athoot giein his warnin.
Freend, whaur ar ye? Ar ye awa frae hame an God? Hae ye smashed aa ti bits the heevenly image gien ye lang syne? Yer dark deeds haes brocht ye ti this! A trou a bleedin conscience, the thocht o a wasted life is sair ti thole. Come hame athoot scrubbin aff a single dub, an athoot tellin the Deil whaur ye'r gaun. Come hame. "Come inti the fauld, oh, the hillside is eerie!" Come back ti the richt gate. Come hame. Ye'r welcome back ti oor ain hoose at hame.
Hameward he hirples ower the lea, an he hears the lowin o the kye, an the bleat, bleat, bleatin o the sheep, aa bickerin doun the hillside--a fleecy drove--hame ti their cosy pen ti be fauldit frae the wolves for the nicht. Abuin his heid the wild birds skriech, as wastlins they flee ti their roost 'mang the weird craggy rocks; an faur abuin the souch o the wind 'mang the pine trees the cushie-dou coos an coos, ower an ower again, as the big reid sun sinks oot o sicht in the rosy wast. Aathing wis shoutin lood at the pitch o its vyce, "Hame, hame, hame!" An sae wis the prodigal.
The e'enin brings aa hame.
Hou aft the faither speeled the knowe ti get a blink o the road that comes frae the faur kintra. A faither's hert is a faither's hert the warld ower. This nicht he lingert lang. Weel inti the gloamin, whan aathing wis lyin doun ti rest, he wis takkin a hinmaist anxious leuk, whan lo! at the turnin o the road the belated wastrel hies in sicht. But is't him? Ay, shuir it's him--his vera gait an the swing o his shouthers. The faither's hert lowps up an growes big at the sicht o him. He hurries doun the brae, watchin the loun as he slowly trudges on wi hingin heid--broodin ower his story, an dreidin sair.
The faither canna bide back. His e'en an his hert is rinnin ower wi mercy. A wheen ells frae an anither, the prodigal lifts his heid frae the grund, an losh! the faither is at him. Yes, his ain faither. The sluices is drawn; the deeps is broken up; the saut tears gushes doun the laddie's cheeks.
Behaud, a penitent!
"Faither, A'v sinned awa ma life, an"--
"Wheesht! wheesht! that's eneuch for me. A ken the lave o't. There's ti be nae back-spierin whaur ye'v been, or what mad pliskies ye'v been at--nae flytin, nae cross-quaistenin hou ye'r sae raggit, an tattert, an torn, what's come o yer aerly bloom, or whaur ye'v spent the prime o yer days. Hou? What? Whaur? Naething o the kind. Lat byganes be byganes--sae nae mair. Come awa inby. Blythe an merry we'se be aa."
That nicht saw the fattest stirkie taen frae the staa an stickit for the merry-makkin. An the goun--the wale o them aa--an the shuin, an the ring, wis aa clappit on him.
The faither spared naething ti mak his son shuir o the hertiest welcome. The muisic struck up, an they begoud ti be merry. "Ma laddie wis deid an is livin again, he wis tint an is fund."
The aulder carl glumshed at the muckle supper that wis made for his brither. He stuid awa in a corner, an wadna gie'm a welcome--grudgin his faither's guidwill that gaed by him ti the ne'er-dae-weel. His faither's hert wis ower big. But haed the faither been as he wis he wad hae been a wastrel yet. He wad ne'er hae thocht o hame; he wad ne'er hae left the swine trochs. It wis the faither's muckle hert that brocht the lassie back. Lat the grudgin brither bide in the backgrund; mystery is a guid cloak for his behaviour. Lat him cool in the skin he het in!
Faither Abuin.--Lat's win inby ti Yersel, whaur we can be alane in oor converse, an ken that only YEr ain ear will herken. Weel mey we come wi fou herts ti lilt Yer praise an sing o aa that Ye'v duin for us. We think ower the time that's gane: ilka year, ilka day, an ilka oor, minds us o Yer care. We'v clamb the stey braes, we'v bled oor feet on the ruch roads, we'v trudged the dreary muirs. Whiles the sun cam glintin throu an we sat restin on green knowes. Aiblins Yer haun wis heavy an felled us. We grat sair, an thocht ye haed forgot Yer ain folk. But whan the mornin broke an the cloods liftit, we kent it wis Yer love that haed brocht the mirk an garred us seek an lippen ti Ye.
We bring ti mind aa the ups an douns o days bygane. In the quaitness o this oor we can say that aa haes been doled oot bi a wice haun. Ilkane haes his ain story ti tell Ye the nicht. There's been nae haphazard dealin, nae careless owersicht. Oor plan o life haes been laid in heeven, an ilka jot cairied oot. We'r bit bairns oorsels an canna understaun yer dealins. The ripe sheaf haes been heukit doun, an the wee flouer bi its side. We could say fareweel ti the auld man that haed toiled his time, an warslt throu, an needit his rest. But whan Ye teuk the wee bairn an we haed ti delve its grave in the kirkyaird--it teuk the hert oot o us, an it wis lang till we hushed oor sabs. It wis lang till the hert got abuin the grief an we could say, "Yer will be duin; Ye ken best."
Ye'v come ti us bi ither gates: some haes tint a brither, some a sister. Ane haes lost his wife, an the hame is made desolate. The faither--the breidwinner--wis taen, an mither an weans sent furth ti win their ain bite. Siller haes taen wings an flown awa. Health haes gane, an freends turned fause, Aa hae their share o sorrae, their mirk oor, an their weary days. Faither abuin,--ilka moan haes its meanin; they mak the cords that pous us ti Yersel. Ye will temper the wind ti the shorn lamb: than we'll quait an Ye'll coo ower us.
We greet ower oor mishanters, but we forget ti greet ower oor sin. We'v broken aa Yer laws--the laest we couldna keep. We hae sinned, an what is waur, we'v tempit ithers. We'v been greedy seekin. We'v been soor an surly. We'v grumblt an focht, an Yer licht haes maist aa but gane oot. We drap doun an cry for mercy. Ye'll ne'er say Na ti him that's sorry. We wad staun up an laud Ye ti the hichts--that Ye'll welcome us efter aa we'v duin. Bless bonny Scotland--the Hielands an Lawlands. Bless aa that spaeks this hamely tongue, baith here an ower the seas. Gar the wird gang hame wi a new souch, that this nicht mey ne'er be forgot. Oor men is brave, gallant chiels; eident an leal-hertit oor weemenfolk: we want them aa for God. But there's aye a wheen that faas inti ne'er-dae-weels--an aft it's the blythest an best. He's here the nicht: he's trampin the streets: he's amang the trochs. A brither Scot! an sinkin! Ar we ti tine him? Is the hame ti see him nae mair? Will we ne'er see hear his fit-faa on the door stane? God abuin!--Spaek til him, an gar him wauken up an tak the road hame. Oor land will clap its hauns, an gled tears rin ower a mither's cheeks.
Bless this big toun, this Kirk, this folk, an forgie us for oor ill-deeds. Tak man's puir falterin wirds an gar them grip on, for Jesus' sake. AMEN.