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said, This day shalt thou be with me in paradise;" nor has it any place in the revelation of God. Every child of God may take the assurance of these words unto himself, and know that his spirit is not dependent upon his mortal body for the power of consciousness and the capacity of enjoyment, but that “to be absent from the body" is to be “present with the Lord.” Each believer upon Jesus may, not indeed with the eye of sense, but with the eye of faith, behold, with St. Stephen, the heavens opened to reveal “the glory of God,” and “ Jesus standing at the right hand of God;" and in his dying hour exclaim with him, in the blessedness of anticipation which shall surely be realised, “LORD JESUS, RECEIVE MY SPIRIT.”
“ This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The Lord, we know, did not on that day ascend to heaven; it was not until his soul and body were reunited that he ascended there ; and yet he says unto the converted thief, that on that very day he should be with him in paradise. What can this mean? Does the emancipated spirit of the Christian go elsewhere than to heaven, the place where Jesus is? Are paradise and heaven two distinct localities? No. In 2 Cor. xii. 2-4, we read as follows: “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I cannot tell ; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth), such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man (whe
ther in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth), how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” From this passage we learn that “paradise” and “the third heaven”—the place where God reveals his glory—where the Lamb of God is seated in the midst of the throne-are one and the same. And yet it is equally plain that before he ascended into heaven he descended into paradise ? What, then, is the inference? Are there two paradises-two distinct abodes of redeemed spirits? No; the Scripture does not warrant such distinctions. The invisible region of departed souls consists of but two places; the one the abode of the lost, the other of the saved -of all the saved. But it appears that this latter abode, the locality assigned to the spirits of the just, was not, as it now is, “ the third heaven," until Jesus rose from the dead, and in human nature ascended there. “He must in all things have the pre-eminence;" as he must be the first to rise from the dead, so must he be the first to introduce humanity into the immediate presence of God; and thus, while the abode of the souls of God's redeemed was always one of perfect peace and happiness, still, by his descent into Hades, and ascension up on high, they have been promoted to greater honour. Paradise is no more below;
it is above. Our prospect now in death is not to go to “ Abraham's bosom,” but to
where the protomartyr in his dying moments pointed the way the third 'heaven"—the dwelling-place of Christ our Lord.
May God of his infinite mercy bless this instructive chapter in the history of the cross to all our souls. May we learn from the case of the impenitent thief the awful folly and danger of protracting repentance, and trusting to the fancied opportunities of sickness and death; may we seek the Lord while he may be found," and “call upon him while he is nigh,” remembering that “the accepted time” is
NOW”-" DAY;" to-morrow it may be too late. And from the case of the accepted penitent may we learn the readiness and cordiality with which the repentant sinner is welcomed to the Saviour's breast, and the all-sufficiency of his cross to atone for sin, and justify the worst of sinners before God. Are there any here in anxiety about some dear friend whose days are numbered, and who yet is not “in Christ?" Oh, let them earnestly and hopefully testify to that cross, and rest assured that, even at the end of a misspent life, if the sinner's heart be opened to receive it, it is OMNIPOTENT TO SAVE.
THURSDAY, APRIL 5.
FROM THE SIXTH TO THE NINTH HOUR.
“ Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"-MATT. xxvii. 45, 46.
We have now arrived at a crisis in the history of the cross fraught with the most intense interest and deepest solemnity. We stand in the presence of the burning bush, and hear the voice of God himself commanding, “ Take off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Oh! may the Holy Spirit descend in power on all our hearts, to sanctify and solemnise our thoughts, to enlighten our understandings, and to purify our lips, that we may feel, and think, and speak, in a manner becoming this solemn theme ! 0 Lord most holy !-0 God most mighty -0 holy and most merciful Saviour ! vouchsafe to reveal thyself to every one in this place, and give us all to realise the presence of our God.
“ Now from the sixth hour there was darkness all over the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. Now, there was set a vessel full of vinegar : and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished ; and he bowed his head, and said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”—Matt. xxvii. 45, 46; John, xix. 28–30; Luke, xxii. 46.
66 And behold, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom ; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent ; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now, when the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this man was the Son of God.”—Matt. xxvii. 51-54. You have thus before you, in a connected view, the next great period of this eventful history, which, you will observe, admits of being subdivided into two-the one, the interval between the