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II. Let us consider the words in which he gave expression to his feelings : “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds : but this
man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”—Luke, xxiii. 40–42. Now there are three things to which I would call your attention in these words. Ist. His faith. 2nd. His repentance. 3rd. His faithfulness.
1st. Behold his faith. He recognised the crucified Jesus as the Son of God, and trusted in him to save. The wise men and Scribes of the people had witnessed his might, they had seen him put forth the power of God in healing the sick-in cleansing the lepers -in raising the dead. They had even, at times, been overawed by his presence. Their own officers, when sent to apprehend him, had returned, exclaiming, “Never man spake like this man.” And yet they rejected him, and delivered him to the Gentiles to scourge and to crucify. But this felon sees him upon the cross, when hell appeared to be triumphing over him—when it seemed as though God had forsaken him—when the taunts and reproaches of his enemies appeared to be justified, “himself he cannot save,” and yet he believed. Oh! how opposite is faith to sight. The Pharisees, in the face of all the miracles which he wrought,
persevered in blindness, “ demanding of him a sign ;” but the thief, with the eye of faith, discerned him in apparent weakness, and exclaimed,
* Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” He recognises his innocence when condemned—“ This man hath done nothing amiss ;” and more, he acknowledges him to be “ The Prince of Life,” even in the jaws of death. In the power of faith he rises above the pain which he was suffering, and realises the importance of his soul's salvation. It sometimes pleases God to try the faith of his children, by permitting them to die a painful death ; and difficult it is, indeed, under such circumstances, to realise peace in the soul. How every pain of the tortured body rises up to wage war against calm contemplation and inward peace! But here, as elsewhere, faith is our victory; and in this power the crucified thief overcame the temptations of a tortured frame, and cast his cares, and sins, and sorrows, upon
Jesus. 2nd. See his repentance : “We, indeed, justly, for we receive the reward of our deeds.' sees the connexion between his sin and his punishment. While he contemplates his Saviour, and trusts in him, he also sees himself, and abominates his vileness. Oh! how false the charge which is brought by some against that Gospel faith which rests in joyful assurance upon
the finished work of Jesus, when they accuse it of presumption. Wherever this faith
is, there, and there only, is true humility. He is the presumptuous man who dares to doubt the Word of God, and presumes to hesitate when He speaks-who, under the cloak of feigned humility conceals real unbelief, and says, “I am not presumptuous enough to say that I am saved.” He is a proud man who insults the majesty of the cross, and spractically denies its efficacy, when he refuses to come himself and cast his soul upon its all-sufficient merits, in implicit confidence, for time and for eternity. A heartfelt sense of sin, and an equally cordial unreserved trust in Jesus, will always go together. But
3rd. Behold his faithfulness. See how, while realising his own unworthiness, he does not shrink from vindicating his Saviour's name, and rebuking the blasphemy of his accomplice“ Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ?” It is deeply interesting to observe that the Saviour had not vindicated himself. To the reproaches of the blaspheming felon he answered never a word. “When he was reviled, he reviled not again,” but suffered all in silent patience ; his thoughts were not of anger, but of
But he was not without a vindicator : the dying penitent by his side administered that rebuke which he refrained from giving on his own behalf. If, on the one side, his ears were saluted by the language of reproach and blasphemy ; on the other, he heard the words of faithful vindication, and even then beheld
peace and love.
“ of the travail of his soul." Let us put the question to ourselves, “Are we as ready to witness for Christ, and to bear testimony in his honour, as was this dying thief-not, indeed, in a spirit of self-sufficiency—but in the same spirit of self-abasement, as was manifested by him ? He does not justify himself, or speak in the language of assumed superiority ; it is not “ you, indeed, justly,” but “ we, indeed, justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds."
III. But we have still to consider our Lord's reply—“Verily, I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” There are just two remarks which I would make on these words. Ist. The illustration afforded of the all-sufficiency of the cross ; and 2nd. The light which is thrown upon the state of the separate spirit after death.
1st. “ This day shalt thou,” &c. Who ? What sort of character was this to whom these words were addressed ? Was it one who had passed his life in holy devotedness to God ? One of the Simeons, or Annas who waited for the consolation of Israel ? No. It was a degraded man—an outcast from society-a transgressor of law, human and divine-justly, for the good of society, condemned to die. To such a one it was that Jesus said, “ This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” See here the sovereign efficacy of the cross alone—the unaided cross—to cover the vilest of believing sin
Oh! we never can be too thankful for the record of these words. What could the minister of the Gospel do when called in-as oftentimes he is to visit a perfect stranger, on his bed of death, or to visit one of whom all be knew was this, that, while in the enjoyment of life and health, he had been living far from God ? What could the minister (or any Christian, for all have a ministry to fulfil) do under such circumstances, if these words—these precious words—had not been written ?-if we did not know that even at the eleventh hour the very vilest sinner might be saved ? What a miserable creed is that which
sin must be atoned for by good works, and by penitential deeds, and refuses comfort to the sinner until compensation has been made. Oh! it is an error fresh from hell. What, then, am I not to do something to make me worthy of acceptance ?—to make me fit to be an object of saving mercy ? No, poor sinner, no ; thevery effort does but keep you from the Saviour. Come to him just as you are ; his name is Jesus—his work is salvation ; it is not something to be added unto our works-it must stand alone and in it there is abundant fulness to justifyabundant efficacy to save.
2nd. What a comfortable light do these words shed
upon the believer's prospect in death. The doctrine of the sleep of the soul, in the intermediate state between death and resurrection, entered not into the Saviour's mind when he