« PredošláPokračovať »
habit of going into law courts; I think He went wherever good lessons were to be learned, wherever real life came out. Into Bethesda, the Hospital for Incurables, He stepped for half an hour one Sunday, before going to the Temple; and many a time, I think, He stepped from the Market-place into the Court of Justice. He got His illustrations from where folk lived and moved and had their being; where nature breaks out, either at its best or at its worst, He was there, "gathering light,” according to the cant of to-day, “ from every quarter."
The judgment is set, the judge is sitting, the court is waiting. Being a public place, every one can go in. Their rules of procedure were no doubt a little different from ours, a little opener and freer; not so many “Q.C.'s,” and "W.S.'s,” and “S.S.C.'s,” and gowns and wigs, and "all the divinity that doth hedge a judge.” And the judge is beginning his usual “auction" of justice, when I hear a voice crying along the lobbies and corridors; it waxes louder and louder, and at last bang into the court room comes a woman. They tried to put her out : they could not. She has unsheathed her only sword-her woman's tongue, and flung away the scabbard. There is no getting rid of her; again and again, pell-mell, the shrill, piercing cry rises ; the thin white face grows whiter, and the shrill voice sharper still, and the gleaming, indignant eyes burn like lamps : “Avenge me of mine adversary." What sort of cause she had you can imagine. Now, the Old Testament rings with indignation concerning the widow's wrongs; for the widow in Eastern lands is poor and helpless indeed. Macaulay said that two or three hundred years ago a Jew had no legal right to the teeth in his head, if they were wanted. It has always been so as to a widow in corrupt countries.
She is a prey to all the vultures that can sweep round about her. Here, then, she is. Somebody has been defrauding her; robbing her of something that she had to help her in her loneliness. He has, perhaps, been taking the children and selling them into slavery; and, smarting under her wrong, her whole soul wrung with the villainy and deceit, she flies to the Court of Justice, to meet there this callosity, this lump of proud flesh, this deaf adder, this without ear,
blood for either justice or mercy. And our Lord, I have no doubt, caused a smile when He told it, as the grim humour of a toofamiliar scene broke upon His hearers. Never mind the ponderous nonsense you hear from some people, that you should never smile. In English, the description loses a little. It was a common sight, when a judge went to his house, to be besieged along the street, with people half-mad with injustice making themselves ridiculous, making the crowd to laugh at them as they shook their fists, and yelled at the top of their voices the story of their wrongs. This illustration is of a yelling, frantic, maddened woman, making herself ridiculous to officials, to this judge, to all cool, fat, sleek, comfortable people who had no wrongs, who were not widows, or who, if they had troubles, could grease this man's palm, and get out of him by bribery what justice would fail to win.
What a picture! And this "scene" has happened so often, that at last the Lord shows us the big, fat, bulky, corrupt creature sitting there, putting his hands to his ears, as the widow burst into the room, and with brutal cynical frankness saying, “ Though I fear not God, neither regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest in the end she strike me.” The very word that Paul uses
in reference to his body, when he says, “I beat my body, subject it to cruel treatment, lest my body run off with my soul, and I become a castaway."
And the Lord deliberately brings out the grotesque element of the situation. “Why," thinks the judge," she will go from bad to worse; she has worried me already; but she will go further than that; what a fury it is in; the creature will scratch; she will blacken my eyes — I see it in her face ; I had better grant her request. I hate a scene." And as you would toss a bone to a dog, or a copper to & beggar-contemptuously, to get rid of her, he avenged her of her adversary and granted her plea. She prevailed by her weakness; she had no wealthy friend or clever lawyer to take up her cause; the very contemptible thing about her was the thing by which she wrought, and fought, and won. She was just as contemptible as you would think any person out there on the street would be ;-clamouring to some policeman and telling, with all manner of frantic gesticulations, some story of real wrong which she has suffered from neighbours, but telling her case with such exaggeration of emphasis that the policeman smiles, as all do round about. That was this woman.
There was nothing fine about her; you have to import all that. And the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge saith." I never would have dared do that. There is God, and there is the judge, and He puts them before you and says, “ See this man, with no tender point in him, nothing to appeal to; as to call justice, and judgment, and mercy, you might as well have spoken to a wall; and yet she won by her weakness, by clamour, by shamelessness, by importunity." Now, see Him at whose feet you kneel, see the face you gaze into --that one bloated, hardened, corrupt, sensual, devilish; but this one, it is heaven to look at it, and the angels veil their faces with their wings before it. This heart is filled with love unfathomable, unutterable. “Shall not God”-the emphasis is on God, and on avenge—"shall not God-shall not God avenge?" Was ever such a one in the world? Was ever judge on a bench whose heart so thrilled with the story of wrong as His at whose feet the Church pleads in prayer? If any judge likes to hear a cause well put, our God does ; if any judge likes to hear a tale well told, surely He does. Keep telling; you have a good case.
I think in this story the Lord is referring more particularly to the whole Church, pleading for her final redemption; but pleading, either as a whole or as individuals, have not we a good case ? Have not we been oppressed of the adversary ? Father, mother, have not you a good case with your son, with your daughter, wrested from you by the adversary, the world-have not you a good case ? Go back to your praying-closet, and tell your case-it is a good one; and, unlike the poor widow, you are not telling it to deaf ears, but to One whose heart overflows with sympathy. Whatever you feel, He feels the same, and much more abundantly. So with us all. Has not Christ's whole Church in London a good cause ? Have not we something to go in before the Father with that should tell? Ah! the great lack we have is that we are not like the widow. We are too wise, we are too-I don't want to put it too strongly—but are we not too accursedly cool ? Are we like people who are barried by the adversary ? Like people whose blood boils, whose eyes flash with gleams of lightning ; nearly maddened, nearly delirious, that after all that God has said, and Christ has done, harlots fill our streets; that dram-shops, like batteries of hell, sweep the community at every corner; that 60,000 of the people are swept every year into a drunkard's grave; that we do the same thing for other places of the earth by sending gin, rum, and fire-water by the hundreds of thousands of gallons to distant lands? Has not Christ's Church a cause ? “ It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul !" And yet, how cool we are !
Show me your knees; how unmarked they are with persevering prayer ! We have a cause for which it would be only sane and wise did we rise, like John Welsh of Ayr, whose knees were callous with all-night prayer. He would rise at midnight, and fling a plaid across his shoulders, and go into his church that was next door to his house, and kneel down, and cry to God, “I cannot sleep with 3,000 people out there in the town, and I know not how it is with many of them."
“Prayer is better than sleep!" the Mohammedan watchman cries, as he goes about the city through the silent watches of the night. As he rings out the hour, even he, with his false religion, cries, “ Prayer is better than sleep! Prayer is better than sleep!” Would to God we could learn that! I say that it is what we want; we have a Judge who is upright, and just, and filled with mercy; but we are not like the widow. He plays His part well, while we play the widow's part most wretchedly. If ever you feel annoyed, you theatre-going friends, by a poor player who mouths, and struts, and gasps his part that is evidently only pinned on to him, so may God be offended with what we call praying at the throne of grace. There is no gasp in it, no sob in it, no perseverance in it, no blood-heat in it, no desperation.
Now, Christ anticipated that as the long procession of