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frowned on our attempts, we do most earnestly recommend to your tender and solicitous regard.
Your elder brethren may be spared a little longer, and yet be able to do but little more. We feel the force of the wise man's counsel-(May you feel it too!)—Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.
REMARKS ON THE CASE OF THE CONVERTED THIEF.
Luke xxiii. 39-43.
It is an opinion entertained by some who imbibe rational Christianity, that, character being formed by habits, and babits by a series of actions, sudden conversions are impossible. It would seem to be in support of this bypothesis, that doubts have been suggested as to the previous character of the converted thief; as whether his crime might not consist in some affair of a political nature, wbich being accounted seditious, affected bis life ; and whether be might not, upon the whole, have been a good character notwithstanding. There is nothing however in the story that countenances such a notion. He is called a malefactor, or evildoer; and the term here rendered a thief signifies as much as a robber. It is the same word that is used of Barabbas, who was a
obber and murderer. Besides, be condemns himself; who then shall go about to justify bim
Those who imbibe this opinion could have nothing to say to a condemned malefactor unless it were to examine him as to the reality and heinousnessof his crimes, hoping to find bim less guilty than was alleged. If on inquiry.they find he has been a bad character, they must give him up as to any change being effected in this life. The gospel which they preach will not reach his case. He must die, therefore, in bis sins, and whither the Saviour is gone he cannot go... "
Some, that have not carried matters to this length, have yet considered the conversion of bad characters as every thing but hopeless. They do not say it is impossible, but conceive it to be ex. ceedingly improbable ; as if the probability of a sinner's conversion depended on his prerious character, and was influenced by it. Jesus, however, commissioned his disciples to preach repentance and remission of sins, in his name, among all nations, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM ; the crimes of whose inhabitants, in erucifying the Lord of Glory, were such, that, compared with them, those of ordinary malefactors are but little follies.
The doctrine of grace to the chief of sinners never seems to be guarded in the scriptures, in the manner we sometimes see it in human writings. The salvation of a great sinner is not there held up as a singular instance, which we are not to expect to see repeated ; but rather as a proof that no sinner need despair on account of the magnitude of bis sins.--For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a PATTERN to them who should hereafter believe on him to everlasting life. .
The way in which the scriptures guard the doctrines of grace is not by Jimiting its operations, but by insisting upon its effects. They put no questions to a singer coming to Jesus for mercy, as to the magoitude of his sins ; but they declare without reserve that If any mian be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away ; behold, all things are become new. On this principle let us carefully inspect the case of the converted thief, and apply it as we go along, to cases in our owo times.
First : He frankly acknowledges his guilt, and the justice of his condemnation. We, indeed, justly~we receive the due reward of our deeds. The sinner who palliates or prevaricates as to any part of his conduct, is not a new creature, and therefore is not in Christ.
It is possible, however, that a convict may, through the fallibility of the most upright judge and jury, be condemned to die for a crime of which he is not guilty, although he has been guilty of many other crimes ; while, therefore, he acknowledges the justice of God in his condemnation, he cannot in respect of the proceedings of man say, with the dying thief, 1 suffer justly. Such a case as this may occur, and where it does, it is doubtless right for the party to speak the truth. But before he is entitled to credit, the credibility of the evidence against him requires to be carefully and impartially considered. Truth, also, is consistent, and very rarely devoid of evidence. Before he is entitled to credit in the denial of wbat has been legally proved against him, it should be considered also that he may have an interest in trying to persuade those about him of his innocence in respect of the crime for which he is condemned to suffer, as it is by this only that he can hope for an application being made on his behalf for the mitigation of his punishment. When a compassionate minister attends a convict in such circumstances, and hears him confess how great a sinner be has been in other things, though as to the crime for which he is about to suffer he is innocent, he may be induced to believe him, and this the convict will quickly perceive, and will go on by every means in his power to work up his feelings. The convict may even exaggerate his other crimes for the sake of producing a belief of bis innocence of the crime for which he stands condemned. But it ought to be considered, that for the crimes which he confesses he lies under no indictment, and therefore they do not affect his life : but for the crime which he denies, he stands not only indicted but condemned :—this therefore affecting his life, he is under the strongest temptation that can be conceived to deny it. The sum is, that when a person is found guilty by a humane judge and an impartial jury, it may be laid down as a general rule that he is guilty, and no professions of repentance while he continues to deny it can be sincere : and though there are particutar exceptions to this rule, yet no convict ought to be consid
ered as one of them on his own bare word, upaccompanied with evidence, especially when he is under the greatest possible temptation, though he were guilty, to wish to be thought inno. cent.
Secondly: The few things uttered by the dying thief had no bearing on his temporal interest, but were the pure dictates of truth and righteousness.- In comdemning his own conduct, he justified his countrymen as to their treatment of him : yet at the same time he condemned them as to their treatment of Jesus. If by the first, he might be supposed to conciliate them, and induce them to make interest for his being taken down from the cross, the last would have a contrary effect. His words, therefore, taken together, must have arisen from a regard to what was true and right. '
Thirdly : His repentance toward God was accompanied with faith towurd the Lord Jesus Christ.--The prayer that he offered was that of faith, and, considering his circumstances, of great faith. A man of his habits cannot be supposed to have been much acquainted with the prophecies, or the miracles of Christ. Excepting the general notion, which may be considered as common to every Jew, that the Messiah would come, he would probably know little or nothing of religion. · It is not unlikely that till he saw Jesus in the bands of the rulers, he knew nothing of bim; and now that he saw him, it was under every circumstance of weakness and disgrace : his enemies were triumphing over him, his friends had mostly forsaken him, public opinion was agaiost him, and his very crucifixion was deemed inconsistent with his messiahship. The lowliness of his condition from the beginning was a great stumbling-block to the Jews, and the circumstances of his death must render it more, especially to one who had never seen him but in this situation. Even those who have believed in him were made to doubt by his crucifixion. Yet under all these dsadvantages, he bad the fullest conviction of his messiahship, or he could not have offered the prayer which he did, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom! By the request to be remembered, he must have meant as much as if he had asked to be saved, which implies his belief in Jesus as the Saviour. Indeed he must bave believed him to be the Saviour, even of the chief of sinners, or he
would not have lioped to be remembered by him. A self-righteous spectator would bave cried shame on such a petition ; and had he himself been influenced by that spirit, he might have suppressed it, as being unworthy of so great a favour. He must also have believed that this Jesus, though now expiring upon the cross, would shortly be in possession of a kingdom in the heavenly world. In this again he was before the apostles, whose notions of an earthly kingdom blinded their minds. Finally, it would seem as if he believed that in that blessed kingdom Jesus would make indoreession for transgressors; why else, did he ask to be remember. ed by him? This is certain, that if he had possessed the clearest views of the intercession of Christ, he could not have expressed himself better.
How full and appropriate was the term which his heart diciated! It is as if he said, “Think of me when it shall be well with thee.' He might have said, pardon me ; save me; bless me ; but the words remember me include them all. An interest in Christ's heart will comprehend an interest in all his benefits. Nor was the term less appropriate to the condition of the petitioner; an outcast from society, who will remember him? The public would think no more of him ; his friends would be glad to forget him, as having disgraced the family ; but there is one with whom he ventures to lodge a petition, Lord, remember me !
How shall we account for so large a portion of faith and spiritual understanding in one circumstanced as he was, and in so short a tine? Without divine influence, it cannot be accounted for ; but with it, that which he saw and heard was sufficient for every purpose. When led to the place of execution, he heard the answer of Jesus to the women who lamented him. Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, aud for your children: for, behold, the days are coming in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us ; and to the hills, Cover us : for if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? He also heard the prayer for his enemies, when they were nailing him to the cross, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.