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Title: The Elder son Explained, and the Romish Church Exposed
Author: Church, John
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the R. Weston edition [circa 1811–1826] by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                 [Picture: Public domain pamphlet cover]

                          _Elder Son explained_,
                                 AND THE
                          ROMISH CHURCH EXPOSED.

                                * * * * *

     _Eight reasons why I believe that he was not a saved Character_,

VARIOUS have been the opinions of good men concerning the elder son: some
suppose it must mean the elect angels, who, though holy beings, yet were
envious of the high honors conferred on man who was so far beneath them.
He took not on him the nature of angels, but, as the son of God, he took
on him the seed of Abraham; and being found in fashion as a man, he
humbled himself to the death of the cross.  But to form such an opinion
of the holy angels is quite absurd, seeing, that so far from envying what
grace has done for fallen man, they are represented as filled with joy.
Hence the prophet calls upon them to rejoice—“Sing, O ye heavens! the
Lord hath redeemed his people”—and in their death and safe arrival to
glory, the promise runs—“For ye shall go out with joy and be led forth
with peace, the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing,
(the elect angels and the spirits of just men made perfect) and all the
trees shall clap their hands for joy”—God’s called people upon the
conversion and happy death of others—how vast their joy at the
incarnation of Christ, when they brought glad tidings of great joy; and
after delivering the glorious message, they returned singing glory to God
in the highest.  Our dear Lord also assures us there is joy in the
presence of the angels when sinners on earth repent.  And why?  As Mr.
Toplady says, “Tell me ye seraphs of light, tell me ye souls of just men
made perfect, why this exuberance of holy rapture on the real recovery of
a single sinner to God?”  Because ye know, assuredly, that every true
conversion is, first, a certain proof that the person converted is one of
your own elect number; and secondly, that he shall infallibly persevere
and be brought to heaven.  Many more reasons might be assigned why the
elect angels rejoice in the conversion of a sinner to God.  Other writers
have supposed that our Lord did not mean any particular person or
character, or order of beings, by the elder brother in this parable; but
this is most absurd, to suppose that our Lord should utter so many words,
including eight verses, _about nobody_.  If the younger brother alludes
to some order of beings, surely the description of the elder brother
cannot be without meaning.  This however was the opinion of the late
worthy John Bradford; but he is the only writer I hope that ever held
such a weak idea.  Others have supposed, that the elder brother signifies
a believer truly converted, but very legal in mind—one that has been kept
from outward sin—very precise and moral—virtuous and consistent, yet
envious at the conduct of God our heavenly Father towards a most
desperate backslider.  This I acknowledge was my opinion for some years;
but in time I was led to see that this opinion was wrong, and that the
prodigal son refers to the state of God’s elect as fallen in Adam the
first, and called, convinced, and effectually converted in Adam the
second, by the Holy Spirit; and that the elder brother is an exhibition
of the whole group of pharisees in every age and of every denomination.
For however moral a believer may be kept all his days, yet was there
ever, is there now living, one child of God upon earth that ever could
use such language as this proud boaster is represented using.  “Lo, take
notice Lord, these many years have I served thee—I never transgressed thy
commandment AT ANY TIME.”  I say again, there NEVER was such a believer
to be found that dare to make use of such arrogance and awful lies.  None
but the God-man Mediator has a right to such language—He never
transgressed the commandments of God at any time, but fulfilled all
righteousness for the justification of his church, which is the best and
first robe that clothed the repenting prodigal.  The saints of God, as
recorded in the word of God, have at times made use of very passionate
language under pinching trials, and when falsely accused have vindicated
themselves from cruel aspersions; they have also appealed to God of the
sincerity of the heart, made so by grace; but all boasting is for ever
excluded in the religion of free grace.  God has declared the lofty looks
of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone shall be exalted.  This must be the case with every
man in this world, or else where God is he never can come: except a man
be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, neither the
liberty of the gospel here, nor the mysteries of grace, nor eternal
glory.  It is very evident that this poor creature, bragging and boasting
of his goodness, never had been through the needle’s-eye of
regeneration—that camel had never been reduced small enough for that, and
of course unfit for communion with God upon earth or in heaven.  I beg my
reader will once more attentively read the Saviour’s account of this
ambitious, arrogant, envious, lying, ignorant, self-righteous boaster.

    Luke xxv. ver. 25 to the end.—Now his elder son was in the field: and
    as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.
    And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
    And he said unto him, thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed
    the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.  And he
    was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and
    intreated him.  And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many
    years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy
    commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make
    merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which
    hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the
    fatted calf.  And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and
    all that I have is thine.  It was meet that we should make merry, and
    be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was
    lost, and is found.

Upon the serious attentive reading of these words, who can doubt that it
is an highly-finished portrait of a pharisee’s heart and conduct.  This I
believe is the general opinion of the most sound divines; but the very
best treatise I ever met with was written by Mr. David Fenner, of the
Albany Road, Camberwell.  After I had been through several lectures upon
the subject of these brothers, I was afterwards much pleased, satisfied,
instructed and confirmed by reading that treatise; and my reader will see
the reasons why these best of writers consider the elder brother a rigid

1st.—His situation: he was in the field, not in the spiritual church of
God, but in the same place the poor prodigal was when he was sent to feed
swine, working at the law with the rest of the swinish multitude, who can
feed upon nothing else but their own fancied goodness; but whether they
made a parson of him to feed the rest with such rubbish as is the case
now aday, I cannot tell.

2nd.—The awful falsehood, “I never transgressed thy commandment at any
time.”  This is giving the lie to God’s word, which reveals the sinful
state and wretched depravity of every man in heart, lip, and life.
Everyman by nature is a God-hater—his carnal mind is enmity against God.
There is not a grace-taught person in this world that ever dare to use
such arrogant lying language.

3rd.—His boasting and impudent demand of God’s attention to his
service—“Lo, take notice how many years I have served thee.”—An awful
proof he had never been in the stripping room—in the element of free
grace all boasting is excluded.  But this is not the only place where the
Saviour has exposed such PROUD BOASTERS.  Many will say to me in that
day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied, preached in thy name, and in thy
name done many wonderful works as the ground of our acceptance?  Mind,
the Saviour does not say they did so, but this is their plea and boast.
So also the pharisee that went up into the temple to pray; (Luke xviii)
but there is not a word of prayer in all he said—but with a heart full of
pride and a mouth full of lies he arrogantly addressed God—at the same
time told seven lies in his presence.

4th.—His murmuring: “Thou never gave me a kid”—that is, not the smallest
remuneration for his long services.  Here the pride of the heart is
awfully manifested—wanting to bring in God a debtor to him for his
paltry, ragged, rotten, worm-eaten cobweb righteousness.  The grand
design of grace is to humble the heart, and to cause us gratefully to
acknowledge that all we have and all we are out of hell is favor and
mercy indeed.

5.—His rebellion: “The father went out and intreated him, but he was
angry and would not come in.”  This refers to the ministry of the gospel
and its external call, The Jews were first favored with it; but in the
pride of their heart, they rejected it, and their ecclesiastical rulers
would neither go into a profession of the Messiah nor let others, without
much opposition; and so it is to this day in some places where the
doctrine of free grace is preached.  Pharisee preachers and people are
angry at the doctrine; they will neither hear it themselves, though
intreated to listen to sterling truth, but they persecute those that
receive it; they have neither will nor desire—of course they have not the
spirit of God who makes his people willing.

6th.—Notwithstanding his boasted perfection, holiness, morality, and long
service, yet he was quite destitute of those things.  The prodigal was
blest with conviction of his danger, a deep sense of need, self despair,
the spirit of power on his will, humble confession of sin, the spirit of
adoption, the ring, the robe, the calf, the shoes, the music, and the
holy company—he was a perfect stranger to these twelve blessings, that
every believer, more or less, is led to enjoy.

7th.—His profound ignorance: he knew not what these things meant—a plain
proof he had never been taught of God.  The pharisees in our Lord’s day
used sometimes to call the disciples aside to ask the meaning of our
Lord’s words; and as they were present when the parables were delivered,
this was aimed at them all the way through, under the figure of the elder
son, and his boasting, pride, enmity and ignorance.  To poor prodigals
only it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to such
vaunters as these, it is not given.

8th.—His hatred: he hated all that was blessed, the truths of the gospel,
the glory of grace in its sovereignty, freeness and power.  This earthly
being could not bear to see a servant reigning—a fool filled with
meat—the odious married, and become heir to the blessings of the
covenant; he hated his brother, nor would he own him in any sense but
with contempt.  Says, thy son, not my brother—and he that hateth his
brother is a murderer; and we know that no such murderer hath eternal

These are the reasons why I am of opinion that the elder brother
described by our Lord refers to all self-righteous persons.

The objections in general to this opinion are, because God calls him his
son: so did Abraham call Dives, even in hell—son, thou in thy life time
receivedst thy good things, and this son calls the Messiah Father—send a
drop of water.  All mankind are called sons by creation—have we not all
one father?  Hath not one God created us?  The angels by creation are
called sons—professors who turned apostates before the flood are called
sons—and the whole body of Israel God denominated his sons—so that in a
national way and in the same profession of the Jewish religion, the most
precise and the most profane were brethren; but because some of the very
worst amongst them were called by grace to the knowledge and profession
of Christ, these angry brethren hated them and often disowned them.
Another objection has been raised from the language of the father—son,
thou art ever with me; so, in general, are all SUCH sons—always
religious—always in a bustle about religion, though strangers to the
power of it.  The pharisees were always either in the temple, or private
houses, or public streets, at their devotions.  As it regards the
external of ceremonies, here they were always encompassing God’s altar,
visiting God’s house, or reading God’s word and the traditions of the
elders.  They were always with God, but God was not with them, for he
despised their offerings and services.  Read Isaiah i. 11 to 15, and
Matthew xxiii. will fully explain this.  Another objection: “All that I
have is thine.”—This must be limited to bare external things; for he was
quite destitute of the favors granted to his brother; but all ordinances,
institutions and temporal blessings in the land of Canaan they had; and
even Christ and the gospel were sent them, but they never rested till
they had murdered the son of God and turned the gospel out of doors.  So
to this day the majority of Pharisees are mere easy professors, and in
general opulent characters, who have their portion amongst the smooth
stones of the brook, whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasures: for
the earth he has given to the children of men.

Reader, what a mercy you are made to differ from such—OH, TO GRACE HOW

                                * * * * *

While thousands are at present crying out for more liberty to the
catholics, it is very evident that very few persons know any thing of
their sentiments.  I present you, therefore, with a small piece of them,
published some years ago in the Gospel Magazine; which, after reading, I
think no grace-taught person will ever be anxious to see them possess
more liberty than they do; but, with one heart and one voice, exclaim, in
reference to the defender of the faith of protestants—God save the King.

The following Catholic Creed was published at Cologne, in the year 1714.
It serves, with very little alteration, for all apostates.  Not many
years ago, it was signed by the son of a very opulent Calvinist merchant
of Cologne, whom the monks of that city had made one of their proselytes.
The reader will be astonished at the folly and blasphemy of its contents.


I believe and confess, that, through the peculiar care of this Christian
magistracy, and wise government of Cologne, and the active industry and
assistance of the holy Augustin fathers, I have been entirely brought
over from my heretical life and religion, to the true church of Rome, the
only one in which salvation can be obtained; and I do publicly declare,
to the whole world, that I embrace this faith freely and without

“I confess and believe, that the Pope is Christ’s vicar, and has full
power to forgive the sins of all mankind, according to his own will and
pleasure, either to save, to let them perish, or to excommunicate them,
if he thinks fit.

“I confess the Pope to be the supreme head of the church, and that he can
never do wrong.

“I also confess, that whatever the Pope establishes, whether in the Holy
Scriptures or not, whatever he shall please to ordain, is the truth,
divine and genuine; that, consequently, every inferior person should
esteem them equal to the commandments of God.

“I do confess, that the most holy Pope should be adored by every one,
with divine honors, and that every one should bow the knee to him as to
Christ himself.

“I confess and declare, that the Pope should be honored by all men, in
all things, as the most holy father; and moreover, that those heretics
who live contrary to his ordinances, should not only be exterminated BY
FIRE and SWORD, without exception, and without the least mercy, but also
that their bodies and souls should be delivered up to Satan.

“I confess, that the reading of the Holy Scriptures is the source of all
sects and parties, as also absolute blasphemy.

“I confess, that to invoke the saints, worship the holy father, and bow
the knee to them, make pilgrimages to their tombs, clothe them, and burn
lights before them, is godly, holy and useful.

“I confess, that a priest is much greater than the mother of God: Mary
only bore the Lord Christ, and never conceived again; but a Romish priest
offers, and forms the Lord Christ, not only as often as he wishes, but in
any manner he pleases; yea, he feeds upon him while he chews his bread.

“I confess, that it is proper to read masses, to give alms, and to pray
for the dead.

“I confess, that the Pope of Rome has power to alter the Holy Scripture,
to augment or diminish it, according to his own pleasure.

“I confess, that the soul will be purified by purgatory after death, and
that its deliverance from thence is partly effected by the sacrifice of
the mass offered up by the priest.

“I acknowledge, that to receive the holy eucharist in one kind, is good
and salutary; but, to receive it in both kinds, is heretical and

“I acknowledge, that those who receive the holy communion in one kind,
enjoy and eat the whole of Christ, both body and blood, and also his
godhead and his bones.

“I acknowledge, that there are seven true and effectual sacraments.

“I acknowledge, that God is honored by representations of him, and may,
by means of them, be known of men.

“I acknowledge, that the Holy Virgin Mary is queen of heaven, and
governs, together with the Son; and that, according to her will, the Son
is obliged to act in all things.

“I acknowledge, that the Holy Virgin Mary should be esteemed, both by men
and angels, higher than Christ, the Son of God himself.

“I acknowledge, that the bones of the saints are possessed of great
virtues, on which account they ought to be honored by men, and have
chapels built for them.

“I acknowledge, that the Roman Catholic faith is unadulterated, godly,
saving, and true; but that the Protestant, which I, of my own accord,
have abjured, is false, erroneous, blasphemous, accursed, heretical,
hurtful; that the Protestant religion is seditious, abominable, forged
and devised.  Since the Roman Catholic religion is, therefore,
throughout, good and salutary, I curse all those who taught me these
abominable heresies in both kinds; I curse my parents who educated me in
the heretical faith; and, I also curse those who made the Roman Catholic
faith so dubious and suspicious to me, as well as those who gave me to
drink of the accursed cup; yes, I curse myself, and think myself
accursed, because I made myself a partaker of this accursed heretical
cup, {11} of which it did not become me to drink.

“I acknowledge that the Holy Scripture is imperfect, and is a dead
letter, as long as it is not explained by the Pope of Rome; and that the
common people ought not to be allowed to read it.

“I acknowledge, that a requiem, sung by a Romish priest, is more useful
than a hundred sermons; and, on that account, I curse all those books
which I have read, in which that heretical and blasphemous doctrine is
contained; I also curse all the works which I read whilst I lived in this
heretical faith.

“All this I do, with a sincere mind, confirm, as a public retraction of
the heretical doctrine, in the presence of the reverend father W. and the
other fathers of the convent of — and to the whole Roman Catholic church,
male and female, that in these, and similar articles, is the true church.

“Moreover, I promise, that I will never more, through my whole life,
return to this heretical doctrine of the sacrament in both kinds,
although it should be allowable to do so.  I also promise, that as long
as I have a drop of blood in my body, I will not educate any child of
mine in that accursed faith, nor will I consent he or she should be
brought up therein by others, which I herewith promise.

“I also swear, that I will help to persecute this accursed heretical
doctrine, secretly and openly, with words and works, the sword even not

“Lastly, I swear before God, the angels, and before all the congregation
present, that if any alteration should take place either in church or
state, I never will become an apostate from the Roman Catholic and godly
church, either through fear or favor, and return again to this accursed
heresy, nor will I receive the same.

“As a confirmation of my oath, I at the same time receive the holy
communion: and I cause also this, my confession, written and subscribed
with my own hand, to be made public in print, and the original thereof to
be preserved in the holy archives of the church of —.”  [Rather,
synagogue of Satan.]

    Should all the forms which men devise
       Assault my faith with treach’rous art,
    I’d call them vanity and lies,
       And bind the Gospel to my heart.

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

R. WESTON, Printer,
Crosby-row, Southwark.


{11}  Wine at the Sacrament, which is forbid the people.

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