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provoke him to depart, and lest by his backsliding he bring denial and dishonour on the name of his Lord and Master. This fear is also to be cherished in your approaches to the throne of grace, in your conversation upon heavenly things, and in your perusal of the word of truth. It is also the motive which will influence you in your obedience to the will of God. It is, therefore, not without reason that St. Peter enjoins us to “ pass the time of” our “ sojourning here in fear.” So shall you be exempt from every other fear, for who can harm the servants of the Lord? On him you may cast all your care; to him you may make known all your desire; in him, finally, you may confide, in the assured conviction that “the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.”
THE PENITENT THIEF.
LUKE xxiii. 43. “ Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
By the evangelist St. Matthew, the thieves who were crucified with Jesus are represented as both uniting their mockery with that of the profane multitude; both scoffing at the humiliation of their fellow-sufferer. In the Gospel before us, one of these malefactors is exhibited to our notice as a true penitent. There is here, then, an apparent contradiction.
With a view to its solution, some1 have supposed that the thieves at first both railed on the Saviour; but the one received afterward grace to
See Suicer's Thesaurus, s. v. anotis.
repent. A consideration of the terms, however, in which the penitent rebuked his fellow renders this supposition improbable. It would seem rather that St. Matthew has employed a general expression with a reference to the character rather than the persons of the thieves. His design is to record that the Redeemer was now made the subject of ribaldry by all classes and all characters of mankind : insults and taunts were heaped upon him by priests, by scribes, by the populace, by the soldiers, and even by the thieves. Without, therefore, entering into a detail of the incident related by St. Luke, he contents himself with a general form of expression. In similar instances it is usual to adopt the plural for the singular number :2 thus, in his enumeration of a noble army of martyrs, the apostle states, in Heb. xi. 33, that they “ stopped the mouths of lions ;"3 whereas it is of Daniel alone that this fact is recorded. He adds, in verse 37, “they were sawn asunder,” with a sole reference, it would seem, to the martyrdom of Isaiah. Or, not to travel from the scene before us, St. John4 relates that upon the exclamation of Jesus, “I thirst,” “ they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth ;" whereas St. Matthew, in
2 St. Ambrose, p. 493, L. ed. Par. 1549.
4 xix. 29.
narrating the same incident, has stated 5 that “ one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come and save him.” The variety, then, which distinguishes the testimony of St. Matthew respecting the thieves from that of St. Luke, involves in it no contradiction. Their diversity of expression is the natural effect of a diversity of design.
The confession of faith which proceeded from the lips of the dying thief could not fail to arrest the gaze of the multitude. Strange, indeed, must have sounded in their ears the testimony to which he gave utterance. Hitherto he had been no disciple of Jesus; no fear of God had found a place in his heart; nay, it was the absence of this fear which had brought him to his cross. Now, howerer, both in his remonstrance with his fellowsinner, and in his address to the Saviour, there was the evidence of a true repentance.
His companion in crime was, at this moment, loudly joining the hell-cry of the mad populace when he received the severe rebuke, “ Dost not even thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ?” that is, in other words, 'however the infuriated multitude may rerile, does not
5 xxvii. 48.
the fearful retribution with which a righteous God is now visiting our sins impress thee, in common with myself, with a fear of his great name ? In this and the remainder of his remonstrance we have an exemplification of the fact, that “ with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Was it not the evidence of a new heart, that he now laboured for the conversion of his fellow-sinner? that he felt grieved in spirit at the profaneness which assailed his ears ? that he prostrated his soul in lowest self-abasement, acknowledging the righteousness of God in the recompense of his iniquity ? that he confessed Christ, when by the confession he inevitably incurred a share in his ridicule ? that, with a faith which triumphed over sight, he prayed for mercy to the companion of his shame?
But his address to Jesus was the expression of a faith such as hitherto had not been found within the precincts of all Israel. It was no revelation of flesh and blood, but of his Father in heaven, which enabled him to utter that invocation, “ Lord, remember me when thou comest into,”— or, rather, when thou comest in,—“thy kingdom.” Whence was there revealed to him so suddenly the kingship of the Nazarene ? May we not believe that his eye had fastened on that inscription