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To a heart which the Lord had opened these sayings would be more than so many sermons. Nor was this all : he would gather from the very jeers of his enemies, that Jesus professed to be Christ the Son of God, and the Saviour of men. Even the impenitent thief knew this, and joined in reproaching him for it. The superscription written over him, This Is THE KING OF THE Jews, was equal to saying, This is the Messiah ; and so contained a testimony for him, on which account the Jews wished to have it altered. He would also perceive the spirit of the sufferer, and that of his persecutors. Altogether he saw that he had done nothing amiss ; and his mind, being open to conviction, would quickly adınit the consequences-He must be what he professes to be, Christ the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world.
From this conviction proceeded his petition to be remembered by him ; and considering the well known character of Christ, it was not surprising that it should be heard and answered. He had declared in his discourses, Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise casi out; and he acted up to it.— Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Of the reproaches that were cast upon him by his enemies he took no notice ; but the prayer of the contrite and believing sinner arrested · his attention. At a time when he was grappling with the powers of darkness, and sustaining the load of human guilt, we should have thought he might have been excused from attending to individual applications ; but a siņner can never come to him in an unacceptable time. He gives him an answer of peace, and that without delay. There was a case in which be held the petitioner a while in suspense, alleging, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to the dogs; but this was an urgent case. In a very little time the spark of life would be extinguished. The word must be nigh him, or it will be unavailing. Had he been required to ascend to heaven, or to descend into the deep for the blessing, it had been utterly out of reach. Had it been necessary for him to possess a set of virtuous babits, each acquired by a series of virtuous acts, the way had been too circuitous for him: but the word of Pol. VIII.
faith was nigh him, and he laid hold of it; with his heart believing únto righteousness, and with his mouth making confession unto salvation.
As the request to be remembered included much, so did the an. swer. To be with Christ in paradise, not only supposes that bis 'soul would exist when separated from the body, but intimates the forgiveness of bis sins, and all that was necessary to salvation. It exceeds all that he asked or thought : he asked to be remembered by him; and is told he shall be with him : he asked to be remembered at a future time, he knew not when ; and is assured that before the day should end, they would be together in paradise. And lest it should seem too much to be true, Jesus prefaced the assurance with the solemn asseveration, Verily, I say unto thee. The dying man, no doubt, believed him, and rejoiced in hope of eternal life.
But Fourtbly : Though assured of being with Christ in paradise, there is no mention of his making this a part of his confession, or telling the spectators that he was going to heaven.- What was said on this subject was by Christ, and not by him. Is it unpatural to suppose that the circumstances under which he died would induce him to suppress things which might have been proper in other circumstances ? Had he been a martyr to the truth, be might bave declared with great propriety, that, though they had cast him out, God would receive him; or bad he died in his bed, like other righteous men, he might have said with, an apostle, If the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not inade with hunds, eternal in the heavens ; but dying as a malefaclor, whatever were his hopes, or joys, he would not be forward to speak of them. If in cases where men are buffeted for their faults, the most exemplary patience loses its glory and thankworthiness, much more where they are executed for their crimes. It must appear to the dying thief, and I think to any true penitent in bis situation, that the expressions of a lively hope would bave no glory, bút must rather appear incongruous and disgusting. In guch circumstances, therefore, be would rather choose to steal out of the world in silence. Duty required bim to acknowledge bis
sin, and he did so, without prevarication or reserve. Let the world think ill of his conduct; the more they do this, the better; but, as to their thinking well of his future state, be discovered no concern about it.
Besides, except his acknowledgment of the justice of his sentence, he had no claim to the credence of the spectators, for the sincerity of his repentance. Unless his life had been prolonged, he could give no proof of it : what right then bad be to expect to be credited as to his future happiness! The testimony of a single witness was not admitted in certain cases under the Mosaic law; whatever, therefore, such a witness might know, he would not be forward to utter, and still less to claim credit for the truth of that of which he could produce no legal proof : so the truly penitent convict, knowing that he has no such means of proving bis sincerity as he would have if his life were prolonged, will not bę eager in proclaimingi t. . ..! "The above remarks are submitted to the serious consideration of those ministers or private Cbristians who are called to attend persons under sentence of death. Let the case of the dying' thief hare all its weight in encouraging us to use means for their conversion ; but let us not bastily flatter ourselves, and still less the unhappy convict, that we have succeeded. If his supposed penitence be attended with an eagerness to proclaim his own sincerity, and his certain expectation of future bappiness, it should be strongly suspected ; and if, with a denial of what has been clearly proved against him, or a disposition to palliate or prevaricate, utterly discredited.
The boasting language so common among convicts who profess to repent and believe the gospel, in our times, has caused some to ask whether the gallows was not the surest way to heaven?
There certainly are principles, apart from religion, which account for much, that in such circumstances passes for conversion. Besides what has been observed under the first remark, of men being induced to profess 'repentance for their other sing, while tbey deny that for which they are to suffer, in hope of saving their lives, there may be strong feelings respecting a future state, while
yet there is no true repentance. When a man has received the sentence of death, and he knows he must shortly stand before his Maker, is it surprising that his heart fails him? And if, when his character and condition are faithfully stated to him, he weeps, is it any wonder? I add, if when the hope of salvation by Jesus Christ is held up to him, he catches at it with eagerness, as bis only refuge against terror; and if a gleam of hope be thus kindled in his mind, and he be encouraged to think well of his state, it does not require the supernatural influences of the Holy Spirit to cause him to weep for joy. And this, in the account of a good minister, whose desires are ardently drawn forth for his salvation, will render him an object of hope. But after all, should the convict be pardoned, the minister, if he be wise as well as good, will have many painful appprehensions lest the event that terminates his terrors should also terminate his religion !
If only one in ten of those for whom hope is entertained in the hour of terror, should, on their lives being prolonged, prove truly religious characters, it is sufficient to encourage the utmost efforts for the conversion of such unhappy men, but not to justify our pronouncing on every one, who dies with apparent contrition, that he is gone to heaven.
The longer a Christian lives, and the more he observes of what is passing before him, the more reason he will see for preferring a candid and impartial judgment of men and things. All parties in their turn declaim against prejudice and party zeal, but it is not from declamation that we must form our judgment. If we wish to
know the truth, we must read those who think differently from us, who, whether they be impartial towards us or not, will be much more likely to detect our faults than we are to detect them our. selves.
These remarks have been occasioned by reading a critique on The History of Dissenters by Messrs. Bogue and Bennett, and some other kindred pieces in The Quarterly Review for October 1813. This article, though manifestly written by one who is no more a friend to the Puritans and Nonconformists than he is to the present race of Dissenters; and probably no more friendly to evangelical religion in the church than out of it, yet contains a considerable portion of impartiality towards individuals, and even his censures are often worthy of our attention. From reading this review, as well as from perusing the volumes reviewed, there is one truth of which I am fully convinced ; which is, that both eulogy and censure are commonly bestowed with too little discrimination, and often applied to communities where they ought to be confined to individuals. If a few men excel in a community, such is the vanity of human nature, that the whole must arrogate to themselves the praise ; or if a few be guilty of impropriety, such is the invidiousness of partyzeal, that the whole must be censured on their account. Could we be more discriminate, both in our praises and censures, we should be much nearer the truth, and what we write would be far more likely to do good. We can consent for every man to have his due, and to bear his own burden; but are disgusted with those who are continually eulogizing their fathers that they may exalt themselves, and stigmatizing other men's fathers that they may depreciate their neighbours.
In reading the lives of the Puritans and Nonconformists, I read the lives of men of whom, with all their faults, the world was not worthy: but if I be impartial, I shall find many of the excellent of the earth who did not rank with either of them : and among those who did, I shall find many whose principles and conduct it will not be in my power to vindicate. Hardly as the Puritans were treated, if I had been one of them, and bad held those intolerant principles which many of them arowed and carried with them into the New World, I do not perceive how I could have expected differ