« PreviousContinue »
rence, to be my Lord, do thou help he was permitted to experience all me! Remember me in that invisible the joy of a present salvation,—the world to which thou goest, and, in assurance from the omnipotent Rethat wide dominion, be there my Sa- deemer that his soul was safe for viour!” What a wonderful exhibi- eternity. We cannot altogether aption of the power of faith! a sinner preciate what was the joy of this dying on the cross rests all his hope man's mind, till we ourselves shall be for eternity on the power of the Sa- on the verge of eternity, and realizing, viour dying on a similar cross by his in the agonies of death, the assurances side ; and expires with no other con- of a triumphant faith, and looking fidence than that which he had newly out, with ardent anticipation, to the and instantly placed on Him whom things which are invisible; but if we he saw speedily a corpse before him. know anything of the reality of forYet with a few circumstantial features giveness, and of a good hope, origiof difference, this is the character of nating in our having fled for refuge to our hope, whoever we are, and in what- the Redeemer, we may form some ever circumstances. If we are hear- notion of the change in the poor tily and really Christians, we must man's state of heart. Oh, what hours take the same low ground of con- of wondrous delight must have been fession and humiliation; and we have the remaining hours that he hung no other hope of beholding the glory upon the cross! With what feeling of God in heaven, but that this same of abhorrence he would now look back crucified Jesus will mercifully remem- upon a life of ignorance and sin. ber us now He has come to His With what disgust would he consider kingdom.
the wilful indulgence of the corrupt The same unmerited agony and passions of the heart. With what humiliation which wrought on the elevated devotion he would approach mind of the thief, is at this moment his God, now discovered through the the confidence, and the only confi- Redeemer as a reconciled God. With dence of the whole believing Church. what delight would he now contemThe faith which Christ had wrought plate the real value of his immortal by His Spirit in the heart of the peni- nature, and the glorious occupation tent thief, was met by Him with the of knowing, loving, adoring, and most gracious assurance of help. The obeying God, to which, through an Lord of life and glory, who hath the entire forgiveness, he was raised ; and keys of death and of hell, said to rise superior to the sentence of death him, “Verily, I say unto thee, to-day in his agonized and bleeding body. thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” In such wondrous contemplations the The transitions which the mind of the remaining hours of his painful strugthief underwent must have been rapid gle would be absorbed : and as his and extraordinary. He had expe- natural strength failed, his natural rienced, within a few hours, the new eye grew dim in death, and the sensation of repentance, and humilia- prayer and the praise faltered upon tion, and confession - the discovery his thirsty lips, with what intense arof Christ as a Saviour, and the ear- dour of soul would he anticipate the nest application to Him, on account privilege of following the already deof his dying, perishing soul; and now parted Saviour into the promised Pa
radise : and when the soldiers came death, shall be with Christ in Parato break his legs, how thankfully dise. Let us take, then, the practical would he receive the blow which ter- lesson which this event teaches. minated the sense of sin and suffering 1. It shews us the sovereignty of for ever, and dismissed him from the Divine grace. This event is an inbody of sin, and humiliation, and stance, or specimen, of that system death, to realize all the joys of for- of mercy under which we are placed; giveness, and perfected holiness, with and intended to teach us how soveChrist in heaven.
reign is the Lord of Hosts in the apAnd this is the glorious fact by plication of the mercy of salvation to which the almighty Saviour has been our lost souls. Two men hung on the been pleased to adorn the period of cross by His side when the Redeemer His own wondrous humiliation :- A was crucified. Neither of them, as poor wretched sinner, without a par- far as we know, had the least moral ticle of hope, is led by Him to the recommendation of character to His knowledge and to the experience of regard, and not one more than the His gracious salvation. Lost as the other; yet, in the exercise of a holy man was in sin, his life of probation sovereignty, He leads one by His wilfully and desperately thrown away, spirit to seek Him in repentance and and the grave about to close on him faith, while the other remains a railer and on all hope for ever, the Redeemer and a blasphemer. And here we learn put forth His mighty arm,-mighty that He hath “mercy on whom He to save, and snatched him as
will have mercy.” It would have brand from the burning; gave him been no injustice to these men to leave power to become the son of God; them both to the deserved consegave him repentance, gave him faith, quence of their transgressions. It is gave him the pleadings of earnest no injustice to him who died impeprayer, and then answered that nitent, that the merciful Redeemer prayer by the bright, unequivocal changed the heart, and the hope, and assurance of complete salvation :- the eternal state of the other, and “ This day thou shalt be with me in made him a child of grace, and an Paradise.”
heir of glory. And this is the nature This is the salvation on which we of the election made in Scripture. It. must rely, and not hesitate to believe is the merciful choice of some out of that it was the purpose of our blessed a multitude of deservedly condemned Redeemer, who died for us, thus to sinners to inherit eternal life: it is brilliantly exhibit and illustrate all the rescue of some when all deserved the riches of His mercy for our en- to perish : it is the leading the chosen couragement: and we need it all. It objects of grace, the vessels of requires no small encouragement be- mercy, in a way consistent with their fore we are brought to lay hold, with moral constitution, to inquire, to beassurance, of the hope set before us lieve, to repent, and to ask assistance; in Christ's atoning death; before we and then the ensuring to them the can renounce our native unbelief, and joys of eternal life. But in this act cherish the unquestionable conviction of sovereign selection, there is no that, through that death, and that regard to the previous life. It may only, we, after the moment of our be a dying thief, as well as a decent
member of society. The election is in hours of His dying, was the forgivethe mind of God, antecedent to the ness of a notorious criminal, expiring merits of the life: as in the case of as a victim under the rod of public Jacob and Esau, — the purpose of justice. It was a notorious malefactor God, according to election, is before whom He led to penitence, and faith, the children have done either good or and prayer; and to the assured hope evil. It is God, as a good and wise of an entrance, that day, upon etersovereign, doing what He will with nal happiness. This is the idea which His own: and to this we should bow He has associated with His atoning without reserve.
Let us only be sa- death, that we may see His mercy, tisfied with the scripture revelation of not only in the abstract, but in the the goodness of God as a God of love, application, — the real efficiency of and we shall humbly and readily com- the imputation of guilt to Him, to remit to the Maker and Governor of mit it to the malefactor in whose stead the world the right of choice as to He stood, and that we may ascerthe vessels of mercy whom He pre- tain how free it is, how rich the grace, pares unto glory.
how abundantly suited to the utmost We learn here, also, the freeness of depth of our necessities. The disthis grace :-Christ did not come to tinction between us and a dying thief “call the righteous, but sinners to is far less than we are aware of; not repentance:” and the Scriptures la- such as to make us to require a less bour, as it were, to impress on our valuable atoning sacrifice than he; minds this essential feature of God's and such a case as his was singled out mercy; and to shew us how widely expressly to prevent the worst and the door is opened, and how full an the most discouraged from doubting encouragement is administered to poor that there is mercy for them, if they guilty creatures of mankind to return will but come in sincerity, acknowto God.
ledging the justice of their own conIt is one of the extraordinary fea- demnation, and saying, from the depth tures of our lost state, that we hate of their hearts, Lord, remember me, the freeness of the mercy which God and bring me in mercy to thy kinghas offered to us; and labour to mis- dom.” It warrants any one who berepresent it, that we may narrow the gins to awaken to the sense of his door of hope and comfort both for guilt, and to inquire after the hope of ourselves and others; and under this forgiveness, and eternal life, to say, influence we shrink from this glorious “A thief, who was ending his life example of Divine grace. Had the upon the cross, found mercy of the crucified Jesus called forth from the Lord, when he turned to Him sincrowd the most devout and correctly cerely and asked it; then there is living Pharisee in Jerusalem, and mercy now for me: to delay will be said, “This night shalt thou be with sinful,— to doubt will be sinful. Let me in Paradise,” we should have been me go, as he went, to a crucified Sabetter satisfied; and then we might viour, in godly sincerity, and lost as I have been more warranted in our en- am, I may yet be with Him in deavour to qualify the doctrine of Paradise.” grace --- but it is not so. The exam- There has been on this
of ple with which Christ illustrated the Gospel history, a remark often re
peated, that one thief was saved in that we may be saved from despair ; order that none may despair; and not merely from an uncertain and only one, that none may presume. It transient gleam of hope; but that we is a remark unwarranted by the pas- may realize, in the forgiveness of sin, sage. Such a remark may minister in the total blotting-out of transgressalutary caution to those who presume sion, the consciousness that we are on a death-bed repentance; but it is the children of God, and "joint heirs a remark which goes to limit the les- with Christ.” Then mark the power son of encouragement which was here of this grace :—Wherever it saves it inculcated: it eats out the pith and sanctifies : it saves by sanctifying : substance of this glorious pattern of there is no other salvation in the Gosmercy. The salvation of one, and the pel; and in this way it defies the passing by of the other, may teach calumnies of its enemies. We see us the awful sovereignty of God in some evidence of the operations of the choice of the objects of His a gracious influence on this man's mercy; but it was never intended, mind. Experience teaches us what are surely, to limit the encouragement the moral habits of gross and notowhich Gospel grace imparts. We are rious offenders :-Full of pride, and taught here that salvation is wholly hardness of heart, and self-sufficiency, of grace; wholly irrespective of hu- and their tongues full of reviling. man merit; and any comparison of But how different, in a short time, are the merits of one thief with the other, the habits of this individual :- He is will only darken the case, and encou- brought to a voluntary confession of rage those false and self-righteous the justness of his sentence, and to views which we are always too prone an open rebuke of the companion of to cherish. Manifestly this instance his guilt, and a religious abstinence of mercy was permitted, to assure our from indulging in the sin of others lost race how free and unconditional round him, and to an open and earare the mercies of salvation to all who nest application to that Saviour whom really seek them.
“Who- they crucified. All the evidences of ever will, let him come and take of a new heart which, in such a moment, the waters of life freely.” We have could have been given, he gave; and no right so to limit this stupendous they were not given by him to win instance of grace, as only to allow for him a pardon and a release from sinners not to despair, and to warn men; they were the rather calculated them against presuming: this is to to aggravate the severity of his rob the whole transaction of its pecu- judges, and, if possible, to increase liarly comforting and encouraging his punishment. This was a holy character. Surely we speak more in change; and while the operations accordance with the spirit of the deed, of the grace that forgives are so holy when we say, it was recorded to teach and so sanctifying, why should we the guilty and perishing children of suspect them, or limit their influence men to throw aside that diffidence on our hope? If both the malefactors which haunts them, to doubt no longer, had been so saved by a sanctifying and to come to the Redeemer as able influence, how could this have led the and willing to save unto the utter- wicked to presume? As well might most; and to come to Him, not merely we say, that the unlimited promises
of the Gospel are unholy in their ten- object, to give them, in near and indency; and that from the fear lest we timate connection with the Redeemer's give undue encouragement to sinners, atoning death, a practical illustration we must keep back the fact, that yet of the perfect freeness, irrespective of there is room in heaven; and that ul- all claim to merit, on the part of man; timately an innnumerable company of the perfect freeness with which it guilty sinners shall be redeemed unto saves, that is, justifies and sanctifies God, and shall fill the courts of glory. a perishing sinner. The presumption does not lie in be- Let us come then, to the fountain lieving the saving and sanctifying grace opened for sin and for uncleanness; of Christ, in all its freeness and fulness, let no unscriptural caution keep us but in daring to invent a salvation of back. We are perishing in our sins, our own instead, which is to save us we are on the verge of eternity, and from punishment, while it leaves us the curse of God is on us, as long as the slaves of iniquity. If we would we are not found by faith in Christ. be saved, there is but one way: it is Let us not then delay, nor expect to coming to God in Christ for a whole make ourselves more fit to come to and not a partial salvation. It is Christ : let us come in the belief that coming as the thief came: it is feeling there is for us a complete salvation our lost case in all the humiliating and that God is to us a reconciled depth of our necessity; looking back God; and let us come to it as it warupon our way; looking into our hearts; rants us to come, for a complete sallooking at the facts of our condemna- vation,-salvation both from the guilt tion; and perceiving how totally lost and the power of sin. The same Rewe are in ourselves, and how utterly deemer lives, and with the same heart unable to renew ourselves to repent- of love that dictated and sustained ance, and calling upon God; much Him in His sufferings. He is not less to remove the overwhelming load now on the cross, though even there of guilt already recorded against us : He wrought such miracles of
mercy; and then it is coming to the once but He is on the throne, and all things crucified but now exalted Saviour, to are under His feet, and all hearts are forgive our sins, to justify our per
in His hand. All we want for present sons, to renew our hearts, to sanctify and eternal peace, is the realizing our lives, and make us meet for the belief which filled the heart of the inheritance of His saints in light." penitent malefactor; and till we have This, and nothing short of this, was that, we never can be happy. Let us the grace applied to the dying thief, then be encouraged to take our lives or he never would have been with and our hearts of sin to Him who is Christ in Paradise, where nothing able to save, and ask Him to do for entereth that defileth; he never would us all that conscience tells us that we have seen the Lord. If, therefore, need. May He give us grace here this case is rightly considered in all to carry us blamelessly through life, its bearings, there is nothing in it and remember us in that day when whatever which would tend for a mo- He comes in the glory of His eternal ment to encourage men to sin that kingdom. grace may abound. It has only one
Φωνη τεθνηκότος. .