By the age of twenty-one, Charles H. Spurgeon was arguably the most popular preacher in London. His passion and gift for proclaiming the gospel did not limit him to pastoral duties within one congregation; rather, they stimulated him to found Sunday schools, churches, an orphanage, and the Pastor’s College.
Possessing a simple yet profound understanding of how God views His children, Spurgeon would often proclaim the Church glorious. In two sermons on Luke 15:20 titled, “The Prodigal’s Reception” and “Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son,” he tells how the Father looks upon and receives His child who is in sin—a picture of how Christ transforms wretched sinners into His bride, the Church, purified. The grace of God, explained “The Prince of Preachers,” produces a grateful people who stand ready to “face the world” and serve their Master with joy.
“He fell upon his neck and kissed him.” This I can understand by experience, but it is too wonderful for me to explain . . . I can understand how God manifests his love to a soul that is washed in Jesus’ blood, and knows it; but how he could fall upon the neck of a foul, filthy sinner as such! There it is—not as sanctified, not as having anything good in himself, but as nothing but a filthy, foul, desperate rebel, God falls upon his neck and kisses him. Oh! strange miracle of love! The riddle is unriddled when you recollect that God never had looked upon that sinner, as he was in himself, but had always looked upon him as he was in Christ; and when fell upon that prodigal’s neck, he did in effect only fall upon the neck of his once-suffering Son, Jesus Christ, and he kissed the sinner because he saw him in Christ, and therefore did not see the sinner’s loathsomeness, but saw only Christ’s comeliness, and therefore kissed him as he would have kissed his substitute.1
God on the neck of a sinner! What a wonderful picture! Can you conceive it? I do not think you can; but if you cannot imagine it, I hope that you will realize it. When God’s arm is about our neck, and his lips are on our cheek, kissing much, then we understand more that preachers or books can ever tell us of his condescending love.2
God’s people do not always know the greatness of his love to them. Sometimes, however, it is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Some of us know at times what it is to be almost too happy to live! The love of God has been so overpoweringly experienced by us on some occasions, that we have almost had to ask for a stay of the delight because we could not endure any more. If the glory had not been veiled a little, we should have died of excess of rapture, or happiness. Beloved, God has wondrous ways of opening his people’s hearts to the manifestation of his grace. He can pour in, not now and then a drop of his love, but great and mighty streams.3
It is a hard thing for a man to confess Christ if he has not had an overwhelming sense of communion with him. But when we are lifted to the skies in the rapture God gives to us, it becomes easy, not only to face the world, but to win the sympathy of even those who might have opposed themselves. This is why young converts are frequently used to lead others into the light; the Lord’s many kisses of forgiveness have so recently been given to them, that their words catch the fragrance of divine love as they pass the lips just touched by the Lord. Alas, that any should ever lose their first love, and forget the many kisses they have received from their heavenly Father!4
When God takes men from being heirs of wrath, and makes them heirs of grace, they have just as much privilege at the first as though they had been heirs of grace twenty years, because in God’s sight they always were heirs of grace, and from all eternity he viewed his most wandering sons.5
2 C. H. Spurgeon, “Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son, Luke xv. 20,” Miracles and Parables of Our Lord, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 382.
3 “Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son,” 383-384.
4 Ibid., 391.
5 “The Prodigal’s Reception,” 380.