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§ 215. Exhortation to Watch for Christ’s Coming (Luke, xii., 36-48): to Confidence in the Divine Justice.—The importunate Widow. (Luke, xviii., 1.)

On another occasion, when surrounded by a larger circle of disciples, Christ exhorted the faithful to watch for the time when he would re turn from his glory in heaven and demand an account of their steward ship. How earnestly he sought to guard them against all attempts to determine the precise time of his coming, is manifest from his declaring that it was just. as uncertain as the moment when a thief would break into the house at night. It might be deferred, lie told them, until the night was far spent—even to the third watch.582582   It is clear that Paul had these words of Christ in view in 1 Thess., v., 1. Very naturally Peter (conscious of his position and that of the other Apostles) here interrupted Jesus with the question, whether the parable was spoken in reference to the narrower circle of disciples in particular, or to all that were present. The reply of Christ (v. 47, 48) was, in effect, that the greater one’s knowledge, the greater his guilt, if that knowledge be not improved. On this principle the Apostles could decide for themselves the relation in which they stood to others.

Christ exhorted his followers, in all their struggles with the sins of mankind, to trust in the justice of their heavenly Father, who would 319judge between them and a persecuting world (Luke, xviii., 1, seq.); and to seek support and encouragement in prayer. If a judge to whom nothing is sacred does justice to the persevering widow, simply to get rid of her importunity, how could God leave unheard the continued prayers of his chosen ones invoking his justice? Though His forbearance may seem like delay, his justice will not fail; “He will avenge them speedily.”583583   We cannot see a clear correspondence between Luke, xviii., 1, and what follows. The whole passage exhorts to confidence in God’s justice, no matter what wrong we may see done; not to praying always; for constant prayer has another aim and object. It is presupposed that those who are addressed pray, like children, to their heavenly Father; but they are exhorted not to waver, if the answer to their prayers be delayed. The decision of the Divine justice between the degenerate Theocratic nation and the new and genuine congregation of God was, indeed, to prepare its course more and more rapidly.

To long for a revelation of Divine justice before all the world, and for the time when HE shall judge between the good and the bad, is not at all inconsistent with prayer for the salvation of the enemies of his kingdom, as enjoined both by Christ’s teaching and example. The. combination of the two is a thoroughly Christian one.

The Saviour finally put the question whether, under the delays of Divine justice, all that believed on him would hold fast their integrity; whether the Son of Man would find faith remaining in them all when he should reveal himself to his Church a second time.584584   Luke, xviii., 8. This was probably the sense of the words in this connexion; we must remember the various applications of which the phrase “the coming of the Son of Man” admits, and in the intentional indefiniteness in which it was left. It may be applied either to his spiritual or his personal self-manifestation in the progress of human affairs and of the Church. At all events, we find no ground to suppose (as some do) that the passage was modified at a later period, when men were running to and fro in perplexity of opinion about the second advent of Christ. The prophetic description of the last days given by Paul presupposes that intimations of the same had been thrown out by Jesus. It is more likely that the words were transferred from some other connexion in which Christ really spoke of his second advent, than that they were thus modified at an after period.

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