Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Blake discerned that a major theme of the ministry of Jesus was the concept of forgiveness. Blake made forgiveness a major theme of his poetry as well.
Songs and Ballads, My Spectre, (E 476) "& Throughout all Eternity I forgive you you forgive me As our dear Redeemer said This the Wine & this the Bread" Jerusalem, Plate 7, (E 149) "O holy Generation! [Image] of regeneration! O point of mutual forgiveness between Enemies! Birthplace of the Lamb of God incomprehensible!" Gates of Paradise, Prologue, (E 259) "Mutual Forgiveness of each Vice Such are the Gates of Paradise" Everlasting Gospel, Notes, (E 876) "It was when Jesus said to Me Thy Sins are all forgiven thee The Christian trumpets loud proclaim Thro all the World in Jesus name Mutual forgiveness of each Vice And oped the Gates of Paradise"Jesus' parable emphasizes the compassion and forgiveness which the father offered to his son who had chosen to dissociate himself from his family, home and childhood. Left unsaid in the parable is the reasons that compelled the younger son to engage in his journey of exploration. Implicit in the decision of the boy to return is his willingness to turn back to the situation which had he had left. He had to forgive the father whom he had rejected by leaving. Forgiveness to Blake and to Jesus is mutual, not one-sided. Both the father and son sought to be forgiven as well as to forgive.
 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
 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!
 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Blake did not make a major picture to illustrate the Prodigal son. However Samuel Palmer related a recollection of Blake which indicated that Blake had a deep emotional response to the story. The importance to Blake of forgiving and being forgiven was evident in his tears when he focused on the father and son being reunited after their alienation. This quote is included in William Blake (Bloom's Classic Critical Views) by Harold Bloom:
"Nor was the mouth less expressive; the lips flexible and quivering with feeling. I can yet recall it when, on one occasion, dwelling on the exquisite beauty of the parable of the Prodigal, he began to repeat a part of it; but as the words "When he was a great way off, his father saw him," could go no farther; his voice faltered, and he was in tears."
Jerusalem, Plate 61,(E 211)
"Saying, Doth Jehovah Forgive a Debt only on condition that it shall
Be Payed? Doth he Forgive Pollution only on conditions of Purity
That Debt is not Forgiven! That Pollution is not Forgiven
Such is the Forgiveness of the Gods, the Moral Virtues of the
Heathen, whose tender Mercies are Cruelty. But Jehovahs Salvation
Is without Money & without Price, in the Continual Forgiveness of Sins
In the Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice in Great Eternity! for behold!
There is none that liveth & Sinneth not! And this is the Covenant
Of Jehovah: If you Forgive one-another, so shall Jehovah Forgive You:
That He Himself may Dwell among You."