1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4″For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”(LUKE XVIII. 1-8.)
Persistent effort to attain regeneration will finally succeed. And so, he who is seeking regeneration needs to keep his spiritual mind always open to the Lord’s influences, in spite of the opposition of his natural mind, Even when false principles hold control of the natural thought, an earnest desire of the heart, longing for truth, will always succeed in gaining such truth as the man is willing to use in his daily life. In His Divine Truth, the Lord is always present with all men who seek Him, and according to their mental condition; and He always delivers them from their spiritual enemies, as soon as they are in condition to enter into regenerate life.
Generally, in the parables of the Scriptures, we gather the moral of the story at the close of the parable; but, it is noticeable that, in the parable before us, and in the other parable in the same chapter, the moral is stated just before the story. And so it is not at all difficult to enter into the natural lesson of this parable, when the key has been left in the door. Parables are natural pictures, illustrating spiritual truths. In each case, the picture is painted with a pre-existing purpose. And the details of the picture are arranged according to the necessities of the case.
THE LITERAL SENSE.
For instance; in this parable, the purpose is to illustrate the need of earnest and persistent effort to attain regeneration. In the natural picture, the point is the persevering importunity, which will not be put of.
It seems hard to make any comparison between the Lord and an unjust judge; for the Lord is always just, and always merciful, and always seeking to bless men. But the necessities of the case required the use of a bad judge, to form the intended picture. A good and just judge, doing prompt justice, would not have presented the necessary elements. It was necessary to show the case of a person who eagerly, repeatedly, and, for a time, vainly, sought justice; and none but an unrighteous judge would have repeatedly refused to do justice.
And the real character of such a judge is such as the unregenerate natural man imagines to be the character of the Lord. To those who wait long and wearily, for justice to be done to them, and for relief from daily trials, the Lord seems to be indifferent, and even unjust, because He does not sooner answer their prayers. And when the Lord seems to take no notice of them, they are tempted to cease praying, as if prayer was of no practical use. They do not know that the Lord is more desirous to bless them than they are to be blessed; nor that the cause of the delay is in themselves, in their own unreceptive condition of heart and life.
It is not intended that men shall have whatever they think they want, merely for the superficial asking. And so we find this element of apparent Divine delay in answering prayer, in many cases, in the Scriptures. But the fact is, that the Lord cannot give a man spirituality of character, until the man is prepared to receive it, by reformation in the life. And the Lord cannot give any man spiritual blessings, except as the man comes into spirituality of character. It is character, and not circumstance, which opens men to heavenly blessings.
The parable is only a picture, a representative. Spiritually, the scene is laid in the mind of every man, in the beginning of his career towards regeneration. We have both the judge and the widow in our own minds, And, if we are earnest and persistent. the Lord will compel our judge to do justice to our widow.
Literally, the natural lesson of the parable is this: if by earnest, persistent importunity, a cold-hearted, indifferent man can be won over to the cause of justice, how much more we can be sure that the Lord, who is a just judge, will always do us justice, even when He seems to forget us. And, from this lesson, it follows that we are to be patient and persevering, knowing that there is sufficient reason for any apparent delay of Divine aid.
These truths apply to us, individually, and to the Church, collectively. Though the New-Church is struggling against many persecutions, yet the Lord is building up the Church, as fully and as rapidly as the characters and lives of its members will permit. And if we are impatient as to the results, our remedy lies in greater personal devotion to the principles of the Church, in our own hearts, understandings and lives. “The Lord will give grace and glory; no good will He withhold from them that walk. uprightly.” The promise is made to us, as it was to Israel,” Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread, shall be yours.” No one can take away from us the blessings of any spiritual principle that we have actually walked upon. Our lesson is to wait for the Lord, but to work while waiting; and to trust in the Lord; knowing that the cause of our waiting is the need of greater work, in ourselves.
“And He spake a parable unto them, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” We cannot, of course, expect to be always in the outward act and attitude of prayer; for, in such case, we should not have time or opportunity to perform our uses. But a man can be, if he will, always in a prayerful state of mind, open to the heavens, acknowledging his evil tendencies, and ready to hear, and to receive, what the Lord has to give. If a man keeps his mind always open to heavenly influences, he will always be in a state of inward worship, the worship of love and acknowledgment. There will always be, in his heart, “ a fire burning upon the altar.” And the man will be full of vigorous spiritual life. For the most persistent, and the most efficient, of all prayers, is that of the daily life.
But, if the man grows indifferent to heavenly things, and allows the clamor of the world to shut out the voices of the heavens, his spiritual life will grow “faint” and inactive. As our bodies need their daily supply of food, so do our spirits. He who knows the character of the Lord, and the nature of man, and the true nature and use of prayer, as a means of bringing men into states capable of receiving blessings from the Lord, will feel the need of his morning and evening prayer, and his daily family worship, with the reading of the Word of the Lord. He knows, by experience, how these seasons of looking upward, strengthen him for both the common things, and the emergencies, of daily life in the world.
In our minds, the “judge” is the rational principle, the thinking faculty, which hears, compares, reflects, and decides, as to the things which come to the thought. Of course, in an unregenerate man, the rational faculty, itself will be unregenerate; far all parts of the mind need to be regenerated. So, the unregenerate natural man thinks and reasons from his own standpoint, which is sensuous and selfish. He loves himself: and he loves the world, in so far as it caters to his self-love. His rational faculty being open to the world, and closed to heaven, thinks in worldly light, which is spiritual darkness. It is an unjust judge; it does not fear God, nor regard men ; it is not moved by heavenly principles of love, nor by acknowledged rules of human justice. False principles control its reasonings; and self-interest determines its action.
FEARING GOD, AND REGARDING MEN.
Speaking spiritually, the fear of God is the fear which accompanies love, the fear of loving evil and doing evil; not a fear of the Lord, but a fear of doing anything which is against God. And to regard man is to regard the principle of charity, or love to the neighbor, which embodies itself in doing good to men. So, in the regenerate man, the regenerate rational faculty thinks in the spiritual light of heavenly truth; and it does justice to men. And the Lord teaches us that, as we act towards men, so we act towards Him. But it is said of the wicked, “there is no fear of God before his eyes. “
The “city” in which the judge lived, is the doctrine in which the mind dwells, Imagine the state of society, where the judges are unjust, or even indifferent to justice. Then, as we read in Isaiah, “Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off, for truth is fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter.” And, spiritually; a corresponding state of things exists in the unregenerate mind, whose rational faculty is employed in behalf of self-love, and indifferent to heavenly principles of life, fearing not God, nor regarding man.
The” widow,” dwelling in the same city, is the affection for truth, interested in the same doctrine. In the spiritual degree of life, characterized by truth, and represented by Israel, the husband represents the understanding of truth, and the wife represents the affection for truth. The widow, bereaved of her husband, represents the natural affection for truth, not united to the understanding of truth, and thus being in a state of distress; deprived of her guide and helper.
The parable pictures a state of mind, in which the rational faculty is in the darkness of false principles, and in the light of the world ; while there is, in the same mind, some love of truth, which seeks and desires the light of truth; but which cannot, at present, receive any satisfaction, because the reasoning faculty is tied down to the false and sensuous ideas of selfish life, and it will not listen to the distressed try of affection, for more light.
This affection for truth, represented by the widow, expects the rational faculty, as the appointed judge, to do justice; to free the natural affections from all the mental adversaries that persecute it, all the doubts, etc., and all. The wrong states of contrary feeling.
And so the widow “came to the judge,” seeking justice. Literally, she “came often to him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary,” or “Do me justice of mine adversary.” She was not seeking revenge, but merely asking her rights, when some one had defrauded her. When our natural affection for truth is persecuted by evil, as it must be, when our character is a mixed one, we look to our rational faculty to deliver us, by judging what is true and good, and by helping us to put away evil and false things. Evil is an adversary to our minds, as disease is an adversary to our bodies. But, as long as our natural evils engage the attention of our reasoning faculty, the latter will be under control of false principles; and it will be unwilling to take sides with our love of truth. Then our minds will be in a divided state, our love of truth desiring to secure the truth, and our natural self-love unwilling to release our reason from its control.
THE JUDGE UNWILLING.
So, when the widow applied to the judge, for justice, “He was unwilling for a while;” etc. But, what the unjust judge was not willing to do from good principle, he was compelled to do from policy. It is the tendency of despotic rulers, moved by self-will and caprice, rather than by fixed laws, to cultivate among the people a dependence upon the favors of the rulers, rather than upon right and justice. In Oriental lands, under despotic government, beggars were numerous and clamorous, So, too, crowds assembled, and clamored for some favor which had been denied them : and the annoyance of their continued clamor often brought them success.
THE JUDGE COMPELLED.
So, in the natural mind, when the affection for truth is earnestly persistent in clamoring for light, the indifferent or indolent reasoning faculty, is finally aroused to activity. The thought arises, that this eager natural love of truth is determined to find the truth; and so, after all, it will be less troublesome to give way to it, than to continue to resist its importunities.
POLICY AND PRINCIPLE.
Thus, policy often urges a man to find the truth, for the practical use of his better affections. For the man who is beginning to be regenerated is divided in mind. The Lord is operating upon his affections, and urging them to follow the truth. And so his affections urge his reasoning faculty to set to work, to grasp the genuine truth, so that his doubts, and the persecutions of evil spirits, may be driven out.
And, as the reasoning faculty itself comes under the influence of Divine Truth, the Lord operates upon it, to regenerate it: and then it will work from good principle, and no longer from policy. Thus, even if false principles hold our rational faculty, still, if we have some love of truth, we shall gradually be led to see that our false views are not true; and then we shall reject them. Every earnest, persistent desire for truth, will finally obtain the truth, even though it may have to struggle long and hard, against natural false notions, and a natural tendency to worldliness.
HEARING THE JUDGE.
“Hear what the unjust judge saith;” i. e., we need to consider this state of things in our natural mind and life, and to recognize the fact that no man naturally thinks in the spiritual light of truth, but in the outward light of the world and of the senses; that no man is, at first, truly rational, but that he must become so, through regeneration; and that we must expect our natural rational faculty to be indifferent, and even opposed to seeking the light of heaven, when urged by our affections, under the influence of the Lord. And our affections cannot be purified, except through the truth, known, loved and practised.
The Laws given to Israel included many warnings to men against unrighteous judgment, and against oppressing widows. And all these laws spiritually apply to us, to-day, warning us not to allow our rational faculty to reason on the side of evil and falsity, and against good and truth; and especially, not to oppress and persecute the growing love of truth, which our Lord is filling with an earnest desire for spiritual life.
THE JUST JUDGE.
The rational faculty, like a just judge, should judge righteously and fearlessly between the different principles of the mind, all the different kinds of affection and thought; giving to each its proper place, and its full liberty to do its duty; encouraging every good affection and true thought, and casting out every evil feeling and false thought.
As the widow, bereaved of her natural protector and guide, was peculiarly liable to be imposed upon, and defrauded, by unscrupulous persons; so our affection for truth, deprived of its guide, the understanding of truth, is especially liable to be imposed upon by evil influences. And, as the poor widow, unable to procure sufficient social influence to compel justice at the hands of the judge, or money enough to bribe him, was apparently powerless before him, so, when our natural minds are without the understanding of truth, our affection for truth seems powerless to overcome the indifference of the indolent rational faculty.
And, yet, as the widow’s importunity finally accomplished what was not yielded in obedience to love of God or justice to men ; so we may find encouragement in the thought that however dark spiritual things may seem to us, and however much our rational faculty may be disinclined to work for our love of truth, still, if we have some love for the truth, and some eager longing to find the truth, and to use it in our daily life, we shall finally obtain all the truth that we are ready to put into practice.
THE DELAYS OUR OWN.
And, while there may seem to be unnecessary delay, the simple fact is, that the Lord has been waiting for us to become inwardly and heartily ready for, the truth. For we often hold truths as sentiments, long before we are ready to yield them full obedience, as principles of our daily life. And, in His tender mercy, our Lord protects us from too full an understanding of truths which we would not yet heartily adopt.
THE ELECT CRYING.
“Shall not God avenge His own elect?” God’s “elect” are those who elect, or choose, to love and obey Him. These “cry to Him day and night;” i. e., in states of enlightenment, and in states of darkness and doubt. Thus, in every state of mind and life, they acknowledge the Lord, and look to Him for direction and strength. There are mental nights in our life, when we cannot see the light of truth, and when we may imagine that our Lord is not doing all He can for us.
But, if we keep His commandments, He will deliver us from all adversaries, as fast as we are ready, even when our “foes are those of our own [mental] household,” our own evil feelings and false thoughts. He will compel even our own unjust judge to do us justice; He will finally regenerate our rational faculty, so that it shall see and know the heavenly truth.
BEARING WITH THEM.
The common translation reads, “though He bear long with them,” as if He was the one who bears the trouble. The literal meaning is that He makes them bear a long trial, and He bears it, with them. But, truly, the Lord is bearing with them, and bearing their natural evils and falses, even when they think they are bearing the persecutions of others.
At one time, during a storm, the disciples thought Jesus was indifferent to their peril; and they called Him, saying, “Carest Thou not, that we perish?” Then He rebuked the wind and the sea, and saved His disciples. The Lord leads us towards permanent good; and we need to wait and work, before we can attain such good. All apparent delay of the Lord is, really, our delay to come up to the full measure of spiritual manhood.
See two families, living as neighbors. In one, the parents indulge their children, and have not sufficient strength of character to say, No, when No is needed. In the other family, the parents are conscientious in training their children in character. They often deny the requests of their children. Now, which family will be better prepared for the battle of life? And which parents have genuine love for their children? Undoubtedly, the stricter parents have a higher quality of love. They bear the trial, themselves, to save their children; while the weaker parents, being selfish, love their children as parts of themselves, and indulge them as they indulge themselves, And they weakly make it easy for themselves; and allow their children to grow up to far greater trials than home discipline, and trials which such discipline would have avoided.
But the Lord, like the wise parents, often says, No, to His children, because He sees it is not best for them to have what they want, and as they want it. He trains for character. We need not be discouraged, when things move slowly, for the Divine Providence always works as rapidly as it can work well. The Lord is in every good desire; and He will carry it to success, if we do our part, by resisting our evil inclinations, and keeping His commandments. Patience develops the best traits of our character, and modifies our natural ambition, If there were no hunger and thirst, our food and drink, would be insipid to us.
Again, we are apt to forget that, in waiting, our Lord is looking not only to our redress, but also to the good of our persecutors; and further patience on our part may be the very means which our Lord will use to reform our oppressors. And this is true, both naturally and spiritually. That the Lord will avenge His elect “speedily,” means surely. There is no time in spiritual things; and the idea of working quickly, changes to that of working certainly.
“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” This question is put, because the quality of our faith will be shown in our prayers, from the heart and understanding, and in the life. We need to take heed to the condition of our minds and lives, so that, when the Divine truth comes, we may be in a state to receive it.
THE LORD’S SECOND COMING.
These are the days of the coming of the Lord, in a spiritual coming of Divine Truth to the minds of men. But how is this truth received? How much faith and charity are there, in the world? ” The love of many [has waxed] cold.” Few have any vigorous faith in the Divine character and personality of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the one, only God, or in the absolutely Divine character of the Word of God. Men are outgrowing the old ideas of the so-called Orthodox theology; and they need new phases of truth, or they will have no truth. And a New-Church has begun, in which the Lord is known in His true character, and in which His Word is open, in its inward and spiritual sense. This New-Church, the Church of the New-Jerusalem, the Lord is establishing in the hearts, understandings and lives of those who are prepared to receive its Divine principles. And though it may long struggle against evils and falses, among its people, and in its opponents, it will finally prevail, individually and collectively. And towards this grand result, our Lord’s own message tells us, “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887