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persevered in seeking His help should be preserved.-God was sure to listen to, and in the end to grant the petitions of His people.
They saw every day the petitions of the poor granted, even by those who cared not for them, only that they might be rid of their begging. The parable He told them described a case that was but too common among them; but it ought to give them courage to persevere in prayer to God; for if even an unjust judge would yield to the continual crying of a poor widow, surely the God of justice and mercy would never allow the petitions of His chosen ones to be offered in vain. clearly is the plain meaning of the parable; its strength lies in the contrast between the unjust judge, and the righteous God of mercy. And, like all the other parables, it gains more strength the more we inquire into the manners and customs of the people among whom it was spoken. In all lands and in all ages it is a desolate thing to be a widow, but in the East the loss of a husband is the loss of all help and hope; for women there live so much apart, that, except in their own homes, they are quite unknown; therefore, when they lose their natural protector, they belong to no one, and having none to help them, are subject to all manner of oppression and wrong. Nothing but Christianity has ever had power to curb the natural selfishness of man; and the more we know of those nations which are not Christian, the more we shall see that the weak and helpless are oppressed; and that if ever their wrongs are righted it is but from selfishness in another shape, as when the unjust judge in the parable gives his own motive, when at last he is worked up to do justice to the oppressed widow,—" Though I fear not God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me." *
* The words "weary me "-are very much stronger in the language in which they were first written; they might be translated-" weary me till I am black in the face," for they mean—" hammer me under my eyes."
The meaning of this speech of his is made more clear to us by the knowledge that justice for the poor is scarcely ever extorted from the princes and governors in Eastern countries, but by such clamour, and by such continual outcries as make it almost impossible to turn a deaf ear to the petitions. Sometimes they will beset for days the palace of the prince, howling, and crying and throwing dust into the air, till, for his own sake, he is obliged to send out to inquire what is the subject of their complaints, and then to get rid of them, he will often quickly "avenge them of their adversary," by ordering the immediate execution of some officer of his who has oppressed them.* Not thus is the God of mercy moved to hear the cry of His suffering children. His is the love of a Father-He knows their need, and though He bear long with them, delaying the help they ask till sorrow has done the work for which it was sent, He will avenge them speedily.-What is the meaning of this word avenge as it is here used? and who is the adversary? Satan, the Evil One who brought sin, is the constant adversary of man-and all the consequences of sin, grief, and every fear, every oppression, whether great or small, wherewith an ungodly world aggrieves the Church of Christ, or any member of that true Church, is the wrong done which will be redressed in the end, when the adversary shall be punished.
The heart to which the Saviour has not yet been revealed, but which has found out its evil case, that it is burdened with a fearful weight of sin with none to help, is like a widow in the world. All that used to please can please no more. Strength and comfort there is none, and fearful is the outcry of distressful nature! It is well pictured by the clamours of those wretched petitioners who beset the gates of an Eastern King, and who will neither be silenced nor driven away till he has deli
*It is a common thing in Constantinople, when bread has been unreasonably dear, for the Sultan to meet the complaints of the people, by ordering the principal baker to be hanged.
vered them from the power of their oppressors. And if even the unjust Judge, "who fears not God nor regards man," will at last listen, will God Himself leave one widowed heart for whom His Son has died, uncomforted? Never. The blessing may be delayed, but it shall come. In His own good time He will reveal His Son the Saviour. Then will the cry of the oppressed be changed into the glad song of the redeemed. And the Spirit, set free from the bonds of sin, will rise above the griefs, and cares, and toils of earth, and like the lark upspringing from its lowly nest, soar aloft, singing ever the more sweetly the further it leaves earth behind, the nearer it reaches to the gates of heaven. Man like the lark has his home below. Here lie his earthly affections, therefore he must here have many troubles and many pleasures. Here are his duties, therefore he cannot be without anxieties, but he will have power given him to rise above them all. They cannot hold his spirit down, for his new nature will ever be pressing upwards, and it will be the joy of his heart "to pray always and not faint;" this constant prayer being not so much the act of prayer as the spirit of it; which becomes to his soul that which breathing is to his body. We know that it is by breathing we take in from the outer air that without which we cannot live, so is it by prayer we seek from heaven the spiritual life without which the soul must die.
We have often seen the change from the depths of almost despairing distress to hopeful joy, in the lives of those around us, when not a single circumstance of outward trial has been changed, and oh how often on the dying bed? How have the hearts of those who loved the sufferer been wrung to hear the despairing cry for mercy! Vainly have the promises of the Scriptures been spoken, they could not be received. A few days more and all was changed, for day and night those cries were rising up to God, though for His own wise purposes He bore long
with them. He was listening all the while, and now He has redressed the wrong, He has delivered His child from the bondage of sin, and lo! the outcry of fear and woe is changed to the soft Hosannah, the wild entreaty for life into the whispered prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." We know this, for we have seen it, yet what is the abiding effect on our lives? Has it made our faith a victory over the power of the Evil One? Can he no longer tempt, and distress, and cause us to distrust? Also there is a fearful force in the question, with which our Lord ends the parable of the unjust judge and the widow, “ Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Though God's people have so many proofs that His ear is open to their cry, and that when he delays to help, it is only that He may do it more completely, will they be able to trust Him in the tribulation of the latter days? "For the elect's sake," His Son has said, "those days shall be shortened; " but will they believe and calmly trust themselves in His care, knowing that the stormy darkness of the last night shall flee before the brightness of that dawn which shall reveal "a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness : "When Christ who is our life shall appear."
It was He, the Christ, who was speaking, and that future time was present with all its trials, as if it were already come. Therefore He put the solemn question, which speaks the utmost danger and the need of prayer, to each generation that passeth by, "Nevertheless" though God hath shown Himself continually a kind and tender Father instead of an unfeeling Judge, "nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Oh, let us who read and hear this question, answer it in our lives.
Well may we bow down our heads in shame when we think how often we have been discouraged. How many parents have
forgotten that they must wait before they can see the fruits of the good seeds they have sown! How many a young beginner has said, "What is the use of my struggles to do well, when I am again and again overcome ? How have those who have chosen the better part been sometimes tempted almost to doubt the wisdom of their choice as they watched the strange and seemingly tangled web of life, and saw the esteem in which those are held who have done well for themselves, without thought of the judgment to come! Yet who looks for the fruits of autumn in the early spring? The great lesson of life is, to wait.
We do not judge from the feebleness of the infant of the strength of the future man? Yet we are apt to doubt that God will keep His promises, because we have to wait for them. We do not know that the blossom may not fall in spring, nipped by some lingering frost ;—that the baby may not die on its mother's bosom ;—but we do most certainly know that they "who fear the Lord shall go on from strength to strength," and that as surely as the dimness of dawn shall brighten into day, so shall the troubles of Christians pass away before the glories of eternal life. Yet is the Christian apt to be discouraged. "He is like the new-born prince, who lies weeping in his cradle, and knows not that he is born heir to a kingdom."
Let each of us deeply lay these things to heart. So shall "the Son of Man, when He cometh, find faith on the earth.
"O God, Merciful Father, that despisest not the sighing of a contrite heart, nor the desire of such as be sorrowful,-mercifully assist our prayers that we make before thee in all our troubles and adversities, whensoever they oppress us; and graciously hear us, that those evils, which the craft and subtlety of the devil or man worketh against us, be brought to nought; and by the providence of thy goodness they may be dispersed ; that we, Thy servants, being hurt by no persecutions, may ever