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SERMON IX.

St. LUKE xviii. 1.

AND HE SPAKE A PARABLE UNTO THEM TO THIS END, THAT

MEN OUGHT ALWAYS TO PRAY AND NOT TO PAINT.

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THERE is no duty more obvious than that of continual prayer, that the seasons of prayer should be carefully attended to, that public, family, and private devotion should never be neglected ; and that even when otherwise engaged, as we must necessarily be, in the active fulfilment of what is required of us in our several stations and relations in life, we ought to be in the spirit of prayer. This would hallow every right employment, and be a test to detect every wrong one; for we may be assured that if we are conscious of the inconsistency of our hearts being raised to God in prayer and supplication, there must be something in that in which we are engaged which is at variance with our christian profession. Nothing can be safe in which there is a manifest uncongeniality to the intercourse or communion between our souls and God. But this is not the object of the present parable. The duty and the privilege of constant prayer arises from a sense of our own constant need and God's sufficiency and ever-ready willingness. But the parable before us enforces another point- THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER UNDER DISCOURAGEMENT. It is designed to teach us, not so much that we should always be in the spirit of prayer, as that we are not to faint in prayer, not to fall off from prayer, either by the magnitude or by the continuance of our sufferings, or by the apparent deafness of God to our entreaties. It is indeed a sweet word of encouragement to the drooping soul. A word of especial comfort to God's servants, who are now exposed to many trials, have many adversaries, spiritual and temporal, and many severe conflicts ; who are subjected to much persecution, sometimes as churches for the truth's sake, sometimes as individuals ;- to assure them that he will come to plead the cause of his injured people, and that whatever be their present difficulties' or trials, they will surely have a happy issue out of all their afflictions. Things may appear against us for a season, but it is not that the Lord has not purposes of love and mercy towards us. If he withhold an answer to our petitions, it is only to call forth, as he did in the case of the woman of Canaan, more active faith and more persevering prayer. May the consideration of the present subject be blessed to the strengthening and establishing of ourselves. It does not follow that all shall be subject to outward persecution or opposition. God may try some of us with a life of too much ease, prosperity, and reputation ; but every servant of God has some difficulty and some adversary. The corruptions of his own heart, the temptations of the world, and the “ wiles of Satan," are common to all ; and there are no circumstances of trial or difficulty to which the principle of the parable, and the truth contained in it, are not applicable, that “ men ought always to pray and not to faint."

In the interpretation of this parable, and indeed of all parables, we are not to attempt a minute application of each particular contained in it. We might draw a vast number of useful inferences from it, but this we conceive only weakens the immediate force of it; and therefore I would confine myself to the great object of it, that of illustrating the one point, THAT WE SHOULD CONTINUE TO PRAY UNDER EVERY DISCOURAGEMENT. And here I would notice the particular nature of the argument contained in the parable, that if an unjust judge were overcome by importunity to grant a righteous petition, the just and merciful God will still more certainly listen to and answer such a prayer. And if a poor widow, friendless and unsupported, obtained her end, much more will God's servants, who are the objects of his love, and who have an ever-present and all-prevailing Intercessor, receive their petitions. In saying thus much I have indeed unfolded the whole bearing of the parable, and anticipated nearly all that I can say. Still the following out the points illustrated by the parable may not be altogether unprofitable. ·

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE JUDGE OVER WHOM

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THE IMPORTUNITY PREVAILED is the first thing to be noticed. “THERE WAS IN A CITY A JUDGE,”

-an “ UNJUST JUDGE,” as we afterwards read. We are not called upon to consider either the great misfortune attending on a bad judge, or the great blessing of a good one. But when opportunities occur for noticing our blessings, I do not think we ought to overlook them. Causes of discontent are always carefully collected and industriously brought forward; subjects of content and gratitude ought by the same rule not to be forgotten. And surely the pure administration of justice is a national blessing, and we have reason to thank God for it. An unjust judge, a judge actuated by dishonest and improper motives, is with us a thing altogether unknown. Bri. bery and corruption tainting the source of justice is unheard of, nor is favour or partiality shown towards any man. This assuredly is a fit subject to notice from the pulpit, as it behoves us to mark our answers to prayers, to such prayers as we are constantly offering, that it may please God to bless and keep the magistrates, giving them grace to execute justice and to maintain truth,' and that the king and all that are put in authority under him may truly and indifferently minister justice.' It is a blessed thing to observe throughout our scriptural Liturgy the constant ascription of every thing to God as the source from whence all good things do come, “ whose counsel is sound wisdom, and understanding, and strength, by whom kings reign and princes decree justice.” The judge alluded to in the text

1 Prov. viii. 14, 15.

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had NO FEAR OF God. The description given of him is, that he “ FEARED NOT GOD, NEITHER REGARDED MAN;"2 the meaning of which is, that he was under no control whatever. He was under no religious awe or reverential feeling, did not recollect that judges will be themselves judged, had no thought of the account which he should himself have to render up at the bar of God; nay, perhaps he went beyond this, and openly disbelieved or profanely defied God. And as he had thrown off the fear of God, so likewise had he cast away respect for man. Fear of God and regard for him ought to be our great motive of action, with a simple desire to be approved of him; and when the conscience is thus simply and singly devoting itself to his approval, the approval or disapproval of man may be justly disregarded. When we have a simple desire to possess “ a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men,” 3 we may be justly regardless of man's opinion, and say with the apostle, “ But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment.” “He that judgeth me is the Lord.” 4 But when the fear of God is not paramount, the fear of man may be beneficial ; not to the person, but to the community. Nothing can avail the person himself but that which is founded upon righteous motives, nothing can be acceptable to God otherwise than as it springs out of union with and faith in Christ; but public opinion may be a restraining principle, well and usefully applied, to 2 Luke xviii. 2. 3 Acts xxiv. 16. - 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4.

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