And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;…
How can the conduct of this selfish tyrant to a helper sufferer be any illustration of a just and merciful God's dealing with "His own elect?" One thing, at least, is certain, that in this, and, by parity of reasoning, in all like cases, it does not follow, because two things are compared in one point, that they must be alike in every other. The only points of contact are the mutual relation of the parties as petitioner and sovereign, the withholding of the thing requested and its subsequent bestowal. In all the rest there is, there can be no resemblance; there is perfect contrariety. Why, then, was this unsuitable image chosen even for the sake of illustration? Why was not the Hearer of Prayer represented by a creature bearing more of His own image? Because this would not have answered our Lord's purpose, but would only have taught feebly by comparison what is now taught mightily by contrast. The ground of confidence here furnished is not the similitude of God to man, but their infinite disparity. If even such a character, governed by such motives, may be rationally expected to take a certain course, however alien from his native disposition and his habits, there can be no risk in counting on a like result where all these adverse circumstances favour it. The three main points of the antithesis are these — the character, the practice, and the motive of the judge — his moral character, his official practice, and his motive for acting upon this occasion in a manner contrary to both. His official practice is intimated by the word "unjust" applied to him near the conclusion of the parable. The interior source of this exterior conduct is then described in other terms. He feared not God. He neither reverenced Him as a sovereign, nor dreaded Him as an avenger. Among the motives which may act upon this principle, not the least potent is the fear of man. This may include the dread of his displeasure, the desire of his applause, and an instinctive shrinking even from his scorn. Shame, fear, ambition, all may contribute to produce an outward goodness having no real counterpart within. This is particularly true of public and official acts. They can consent to risk their souls, but not to jeopard their respectability. There would thus seem to be three grounds for expecting justice and fidelity in human society, and especially in public trusts. The first and highest is the fear of God, including all religious motives — then the fear of man or a regard to public sentiment — and last, the force of habit, the authority of precedent, a disposition to do that which has been done before, because it has been done before. These three impulsive forces do not utterly exclude each other. They may co-exist in due subordination. The same is true of a regard to settled usage, or even to personal habit, when correctly formed. Indeed, these latter motives never have so powerful an influence for good, as when they act in due subordination to the fear of God. It is only when this is wanting, and they undertake to fill its place, that they become unlawful or objectionable. And even then, although they cannot make good the deficiency in God's sight, they may make it good in man's. Although the root of the matter is not in them. a short-lived verdure may be brought out and maintained by artificial means. The want of any one of these impulsive forces may detract from the completeness of the ultimate effect. How much more the absence of them all! In other words, how utterly unjust must that judge be who neither fears God nor regards man. If this widow has not the means of appealing to his avarice, how clear it seems that his refusal to avenge her is a final one, and that continued importunity can only waste time and provoke him to new insult. I dwell on these particulars to show that, in their aggregate, they are intended to convey the idea of a hopeless case. She hopes against hope. An indomitable instinct triumphs over reason. She persists in her entreaties. The conclusion which we have already reached 'is, that the widow in the parable did right, acted a reasonable part, in hoping against hope, and still persisting in her suit when everything combined to prove it hopeless. She would have had no right to sacrifice the comfort and tranquillity, much less the life or the salvation of her children to her own despondency or weariness of effort. But let us suppose that he had been an upright, conscientious, faithful judge, whose execution of his office was delayed by some mistake or want of information. How much less excusable would she have then been in relinquishing her rights or those of others in despair! Suppose that, instead of knowing that the judge was in principle and habit unjust, she had known him, by experience, to be just and merciful, as well as eminently wise. Suppose that she had been protected by him, and her wrongs redressed in many ether cases. How easy must it then have been to trust! How doubly mad and wicked to despair! There seems to be room for only one more supposition. Exclude all chance of intellectual or moral wrong. Enlarge the attributes before supposed, until they reach infinity or absolute perfection. What, then, would be left as the foundation or the pretext of a doubt? The bare fact of delay? If she was wise in hoping against hope, what must we be in despairing against evidence? If she was right in trusting to the selfish love of ease in such a man, how wrong must we be in distrusting the benevolence, the faithfulness, the truth of such a God! Every point of dissimilitude between the cases does but serve to make our own still worse and less excusable, by bringing into shocking contrast men's dependence on the worst of their own species, with their want of confidence in God.
(J. A. Alexander.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;