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Though I fear not God, nor regard
5. Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, "do her justice," lest by her continual coming she weary me. What he would not grant to the calls of justice and the cries of the widow, he readily yields for his own
6. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
This parable suggests to you useful instruction. 7. And shall not God do justice for his own elect? "his chosen people ?" which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? rather, "though he delay long towards them?"
God's elect are the people whom he has chosen and separated from other nations, to be favoured with revelations of his will, with divine teachers and other relig gious advantages, for the purpose of preserving the knowledge and practice of true religion in the world. These were at first the descendents of Abraham only: but now they are all who profess faith in Christ, from whomsoever descended, whether Jew or Gentile. Those of them who were Jews suffered great oppression from their countrymen, but had ample justice done them at the destruction of the Jewish state and people; and it was the design of Jesus, by this parable, to encourage them to pray earnestly and unremittingly for that event.
The design of Jesus is not to represent God as an unjust judge, who may be compelled to comply with our wishes by importunate intreaties; but his argument is this: Since a person of that character will do justice for those who ask for it, from a regard to his own ease, how much more reasonable is it to suppose that God
will do the same thing, from the benevolence and rectitude of his own nature! The mode of reasoning is exactly of the same kind with that which you have exhibited in Luke xi. 5, &c. for encouraging the disciples to ask the Holy Spirit, or to pray for miraculous powers; where a man goes to his friend to ask bread at midnight, and is represented as obtaining by importunity what would not have been yielded to charity.
8. I tell you that he will do them justice speedily. Nevertheless, when the son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth, rather, "in the land," that is, the land of Judæa.
The faith here spoken of is the belief that God would do justice speedily for his elect, which induces those who entertain it to pray to him night and day for that purpose. Our Saviour's question seems to imply that there would be little of this kind of faith in Judæa, at the time when he should come: accordingly the apostie Peter speaks of some (2 Peter, iii. 4.) who at that time began to say, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation?" And Matthew, in the corresponding passage, represents Jesus as saying, that on account of the afilictions which should precede, the destruction of Jerusalem, many would be offended, and the love of many wax cold. It must be remembered that the coming of the son of man here spoken of was not his own personal appearance, but the manifestation of his glory in the punishment of the Jews, for rejecting him and ill-treating his disciples.
9. And he spake this parable unto, or, "concerning," certain, which trusted in, or, "in regard to," themselves, that they were righteous; and despised
10. Two men went up into the temple to pray;
They resorted to the temple, because, although God is every-where, yet that place was considered as his more immediate residence.
The one a Pharisee, the other a taxgatherer.
The former, in high reputation for his strict observ, ance of the law; the latter, in ill repute on account of his profession.
11. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, or, " the Pharisee stood by himself, and prayed thus;" God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are; extortioners, unjust, adulterers; or even as this tax-gatherer.
He first mentions the vices from which he was free, and afterwards the virtues by which he was distinguished.
I fast twice in the week; I give tythes of all that I possess.
The services for which the Pharisee values himself were no where required by the law of Moses, and were practised by him and the rest of his sect only from ostentation: hence Jesus, in another place, tells them that they fast to be seen of men; and that they pay tithes of mint, anise and cummin, of their garden-herbs, while they neglect the weightier matters of the law, mercy, justice and fidelity: so that, however true what the Pharisee here says of himself might be, what he had done was of no value in the estimation of God. What scems blameable in the temper of this Pharisee is his detailing with pleasure the supposed vices of other men, and attributing to himself the opposite excellen
cies, when it did not appear that he possessed them; or at least, not in such perfection as to justify him in dwelling upon them with so much satisfaction. The temper of the tax-gatherer is the reverse of this. He neither boasts of his great virtues, nor his eminent services; neither does he suppose himself better than other men; but, under a deep conviction of having committed many offences, he humbly acknowledges his guilt and prays for forgiveness.
13. And the tax-gatherer, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven; but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!
He would not presume to come near a man who appeared so much more righteous than himself as this Pharisee.
His words are few but proper; and his actions, in fixing his eyes upon the ground and in smiting his breast, strongly express the humility of his mind and the deep contrition which he felt for his offences.
14. I tell you this man went down to his house," went home," justified rather than the other.
He was esteemed or accepted as righteous in the sight of God, rather than the other. The humble prayer of the offending but repenting tax-gatherer, was more acceptable to the Divine Being than the external sanctity of the Pharisee, accompanied with proud confidence.
For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
He that standeth high in his own estimation in the scale of excellence, stands low in the estimation of
God but he who has a humble opinion of his own merits is highly esteemed by God.
1. I observe that encouragements and exhortations to persevere in prayer to God are not less necessary for us than they were for the first disciples. We wish for events like to those which were looked for by the first Christians, when they longed for the destruction of the Jewish power; and we meet with like obstacles to the accomplishment of our wishes, and are under the same temptation to despond. The simple religion of Jesus has been greatly corrupted by doctrines and ceremonies of human invention; and these corruptions have every where taken place under the protection of the civil power, and are thought necessary to the good government and welfare of the state. Those who employ the light of reason and revelation to dispel these errors, and to restore the gospel to its original purity, are every where opposed, proscribed and persecuted. Their endeavours to reform the christian world seem rather to inflame the resentment and to stir up the fury, than to convince the judgment of their opponents; and to induce them to hold faster what they wish to make them give up. In so unequal and un
successful a contest, the advocates for truth will be inclined to despair, and to conclude that God has resolved that the dominion of error shall be perpetual. Let them not, however, forget the power and the promises of God, who has clearly foretold the overthrow and punishment of this anti-christian power. Babylon the great, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, by their alliances, shall certainly come into remembrance before God; to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. She who hath shed the blood of saints and prophets