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rather let thy praise be manifold in forgiving them." "And the Lord said, I have pardoned them according to thy word." Thus God has, on many occasions, put on the appearance of alteration, in order to encourage holy importunity and perseverance, on the part of his people. Let the children of God imitate these holy men; let them plead-importune, as they may do and who will dare say, that they will not prevail? Christ says they will.
THE IMPORTUNATE WIDOW.
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, &c.— Luke xviii. 1-8.
A FEW years since, a youth presented himself before the American embassador, resident at the court of St. Petersburg, and requested to know by what means he might obtain an interview with the emperor.
The embassador cast an eye upon him: he bore the aspect of one uneducated and unmannered, but enterprising and determined.
"Your country, my lad?" inquired the embassador.
"I'm from America," he replied; "and I wish to obtain an interview with the emperor.'
"It is not easy," said the embassador, "for any foreigner to gain admittance to the emperor; but very difficult for one who, like yourself, seems to have nothing upon which to base a claim."
"Well," said the youth, nothing daunted, "I must see him; and please inform me by what means I can effect my object."
"Really," said the embassador, "I do not know; but, if
you must see him, I advise you to apply to the chancellor of the empire."
Ah! thought I, reflecting upon this incident, blessed be God, that though it be difficult to gain audience with the sovereigns of this world, none are debarred an audience with the King of kings. The poorest and the most abject are invited, and are welcome. And no such preparations are necessary, to be acceptable to him, as are required at earthly courts: no court-dress; no equipage; no forms and ceremonies. And, then, the interview with the earthly monarch is generally short; a few minutes only; and if a petition be preferred, may be you will not be allowed time to present it, as its importance, in your estimation, demands. But, what is of still more consequence, if you fail to secure the ear of royalty on the first application, a second opportunity is not likely to be afforded.
True, there is a preparation—a needful and important preparation, on the part of him who would find audience with God; but it is not of the exterior, but of the heart. "The sacrifices of God are a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Nor is there but a single audience-chamber where God may be sought: but he invites us to the closet-to the grove—to the mountain; we may make a temple of any spot in the wide realm of nature, and God is there. And, then, our requests may be made to him-may be renewed-may be urged; and, if not granted, we may come again and again; we may prolong the interview; we may multiply our arguments. His language, to all and every one, is: "Come when you will; pray always-at all times—at any time; and never faìnt— never be discouraged-no, never."
The design of the parable is to inculcate perseverance in prayer, though it should long appear to be unanswered.
A widow makes application to a judge, to avenge her of
her adversary: i. e. to see justice done her, in a case which she specifies. This, by virtue of his office, he was bound to do. This was his business. But, he neglects to attend to her case. He is without principle, and devoid of humanity. He fears neither God nor man. What shall she do? She has no friends, whom she can enlist in her cause; and no means by which to employ an advocate. What can she do? She has one expedient, and but one. She may perhaps weary him by her importunity. This she resolves upon; this she tries. Day after day, therefore, she presents herself before him, saying: "Avenge me of my adversary." And every succeeding day, she becomes more importunate.
Meanwhile, his indifference continues; nay, it strengthens; perhaps rises to positive prejudice and hostility. Still, she pursues him; and while, perhaps, she sees no great reason to hope, he sees no prospect of rest. At length, she triumphs. She fairly wearies him out; and, simply to save himself trouble, growing out of her importunity, he hears her cause, and does her justice. Thus, under the most hopeless circumstances, her perseverance prevails; and the result, here represented by our Lord in the parable before us, is as natural as it is instructive. Earnest desire constrains us to be importunate; and importunity will often succeed, where there is no feature in the case that could give us the faintest prospect of relief.
Let us attend to the application of the parable. And the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you he will avenge them speedily." Jesus here argues from the less to the greater; from the fact of successful importunity in a case, where there were no favorable circumstances, to the certainty of success in a case where every thing is favorable.
In every respect, God is the very opposite of the unjust judge; and if it was not in vain to importune one who had
no disposition to hear, will it be in vain to importune Him who is inclined to hear before we ask?
The poor widow had no encouragement in the character of the judge, to whom she appealed; but the child of God may rest assured that there is in Him to whom he makes suit, attributes of mercy and kindness, which may inspire him with the largest confidence. God loves to bless. He delights in diffusing abroad his favors. "The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, long-suffering, and of great kindness." "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."
The widow had no promises to plead. The judge, at no one interview, gave her any intimation that he designed to attend to her cause. But the believer has the assurance of his heavenly Father, that the seed of Jacob shall not seek his face in vain. "He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will help them." The divine promises the child of God may spread out before Him in all their number, richness, and power. He may urge them-press them with a fervency and importunity, which only the longing, unsatisfied heart can understand.
The promises I sing,
Which sovereign love hath spoke;
Nor will th' eternal King
His words of grace revoke.
They stand secure
The widow was in no wise related to the judge, and hence could plead no ties of affinity. But the believer is a child"born by a new celestial birth"-adopted into the family of God-bearing the divine image-interested in the heavenly inheritance. Shall such a one not be heard? Will a father forget his child? That were strange; but it may be. Yes more than that:
The bridegroom may forget the bride
That smiles so sweetly on her knee
But God cannot forget the children of his love. He has engraven them on the palms of his hand: they are dear to Him as the apple of his eye. Not hear them! that is impossible. They are his elect sons and daughters. They are Christ's. They must be heard. True, God "may bear long with them" i. e. he may for a season defer to answer the he may for wise reasons try their faith and patience; but, in his own good time and way, he will answer. And he will do it "speedily"-suddenly-unexpectedly. Relief often comes from some unexpected quarter, at the very moment when the believer is just ready to faint and despair. The incumbent cloud-dark, thick, gloomy-suddenly breaks, and down comes the light-harbinger of a day without clouds.
Finally, the widow had no friend at hand, to aid her in pleading her cause. But the believer has an "advocate"an "advocate with the Father"-resident at court; there at all times to attend to his cause; never neglecting it; and never at a loss how to manage it. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us."
Great Advocate! almighty Friend!
Our cause can never, never fail,
And now say, Christian friend, can you imagine circumstances more favorable than those in which you are placed to secure the blessings which you need? What more can you wish?
Are you a minister of Jesus Christ, having in charge a flock, few of whom you seem to be gathering into the king