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Parable of the Unjust Judge.
LUKE XVIII. 2—5.
"There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but, afterwards he said within himself, 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.”
DR. Campbell remarks, on ver. 1 of this chapter, that "the words are a continuation of the discourse related in the preceding chapter, which is here rather inopportunely interrupted, by the divisions into chapters." (Note on Luke xviii. 1) Jesus had been relating the persecutions his disciples must suffer, and the troubles in which the whole land of Judea would be involved, at the time of the des truction of Jerusalem. This event was truly desirable to them, as it would free them from the persecutions of the Jews, their bitterest enemies. The disciples knew full well that this event must happen, according to the predictions of their Lord; but as several years were to elapse before it would transpire, they would grow impatient and desponding. This parable, therefore, is spoken to them. "And he spake a parable unto them," i. e. the disciples. And his object in speaking the parable is plainly stated in ver. 1, viz. to show "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." This duty of great frequency in prayer is inculcated in other parts of the Scriptures. In Rom. xii. 12, the christians are urged to continue instant in prayer.
So in Luke xxi. 36, "Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the son of man," meaning at his coming to destroy the Jewish state. The habit of the christians in frequent prayer, is referred to, Acts, xii. 5. "Peter therefore was kept in prison; but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him." 1 Thes. v. 17. "Pray without ceasing." Coll. iv. 2. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." All these expressions mean only great frequency in prayer. "And not to faint." Here Jesus designs to show his followers, that there was danger of their becoming impatient and weary under the persecutions they suffered, and would suppose that he delayed his coming. In agreement with this, we find they did repine that the coming of Jesus did not take place so soon as they expected. Paul bids the Corinthians "wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ,' 1 Cor. 1, 7. Jesus, in describing the persecutions his disciples would suffer, bids them in patience to possess their souls. Luke xxi. 19. Paul says to the Thessalonians, "the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ," 2 Thess. iii. 5. It is said to the Hebrews, "ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Heb. x. 36, 37. To the same purport is the advice given by James. "Be patient therefore brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your
hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." James 7, 8. Jesus foresaw that his disciples would very naturally become discouraged and faint; and he uttered the parable before us to show "that men ought always to pray and not to faint."
"There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man;" i. e. these circumstances were conjectured; as though the Saviour had said, we will suppose there was in a certain city such a judge. The Saviour ascribes to him a highly daring character; "he feared not God, neither regarded man." "And there was a widow in that city, and she came unto him saying, avenge me of mine adversary," The word here rendered avenge, would more properly be translated in this place, do me justice, that is, against my adversary. The judge, not being moved by any motives of compassion or faithfulness, delayed to grant her request; "but afterward he said within himself, though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, (obtain for her justice) lest by her continual coming she weary me." Such was his motive; not to do good to the afflicted and oppressed, but to get rid of trouble; for this reason he granted her request, and gave her case adjudication. Here the parable ends, and the Saviour in the next place, proceeds to make the application, for the purpose of infusing encouragement into his disciples, and showing them "that men ought always to pray and not to faint."
"Hear what the unjust judge saith;" i. e. consider this case, meditate upon it. The design of Jesus was not to represent God as an unjust judge, who grants favors to men only at their earnest entreaties. The argument was this: If this unjust judge would do justice to a woman in answer to her im
portunity, how reasonable is it to suppose that God will see justice done to his own elect, from the benevolence and rectitude of his own nature. This mode of reasoning was common with Jesus. We find an instance of it in the sermon on the mount, when he was endeavoring to inspire men with confidence in God, assuring them that, if they asked, they should receive; "for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Matt. vii. 8. Then comes the argument. "What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?" Matt. vii. 9, 10. There is no such father on earth. Well, if imperfect and sinful men are so ready to give favors to their children, how much more ready is God to bestow blessings on those who ask him? Or to give the argument in the language of the evangelist, "if ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your chil dren, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven, give good things to those who ask him?" Matt. vii. 11. If then the unjust judge heeded the importunity of the widow, how much more reasonable was it to suppose, that God would "avenge his own elect, which cry every day and night unto him, though he bear long with them." ver. 7. The elect here spoken of were the early christians, who are often called the elect in the scriptures. Hence it is said, that at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus would "gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other," Matt. xxiv. 31. See also Mark xiii. 20, 22, 27. These elect God would avenge, he would see justice done to them although he bore long with them, i. e. delayed it for some time. "I tell you," says
Jesus, in closing the application of the parable, "that he will avenge them speedily," to which Arch Bishop Newcome adds, by way of explanation, "by bringing the Roman armies upon the Jews their persecutors" (Newcome's Observations.) And it is rendered more certain that the true application of the passage is to the destruction of Jerusalem, by the questions which Jesus asks, as follows: "Nevertheless, when the son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth ?" or in the land (of Judea) as some translate the passage. Whitby remarks here, "when the son of man comes to exercise this vengeance on the Jewish nation, how few shall he find in the Jewish nation that will believe it? As for the unbelieving Jews, though Christ and his forerunner had told them so frequently and plainly of their approaching ruin; and though they had so many signs of it recorded in Josephus, he tells us they were still expecting deliverance from God. And they among them who believed and professed the christian faith, being pressed with continual sufferings, began to grow weary and faint in their minds, and ask where is the promise of his coming? Yea, some of them began to forsake the assembling of the saints, Heb. x. 25, and many of them became apostates, and fell back to their old Judaism; so that all the epistles directed to them, are manifestly designed to keep them stedfast in the faith." (Paraphrase and Annot. Note on Luke xviii. 8.) Matthew represents Jesus as saying, that on account of the afflictions which should precede the destruction of Jerusalem, many should be offended, and the love of many should wax cold. At the time of Christ's coming, he found but little faith on the earth. This coming of Christ, it should be remembered, was not his personal ap