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very last book of the Bible, that the glorified Christ takes an interest in each individual member of His Church. His people on their side personally appropriate by faith the blessings of His work, and personally attach themselves to Him and His cause. “My God and my Lord” is their salutation. He has healed them of the diseases which specially hurt them, and defied the skill of man. He has adapted the teaching of His Spirit to their personal needs, and has breathed into their souls words of life suited to their state and to that of none else. And they, recognising Him as a nearer and dearer friend than all other, have confided to Him their deepest longings, have made Him the depositary of their most secret wishes, and have proffered Him, in their closets, a thousand personal requests. Thus bound together, each to each, by special and distinctive ties, as were He and the disciples of old when He walked on earth, a serene and incommunicable joy is the result. No stranger can intermeddle with the believer's personal appropriation of Christ, “My beloved is mine and I am His,” he cries; “Profane not the mystery of our mutual joy.”
2nd. This gladness embraces our joy in the Holy Ghost.
Oh! what an infinite world of unbroken and absolute peace is involved in the phrase, “ Joy in the Holy Ghost.” Direct and unceasing correspondence with God, disregard of the vanities and and vexations of our mortality, and the repose of our whole hearts on the Saviour, are included in it. “Be careful,” says the apostle, who knew from his own experience what it meant, “ for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” To one who can offer in sincerity the prayers and supplications which Paul recommends, an answer will never be long delayed, and it will come to him in the joys of his salvation and his upholding by God's free Spirit. To him will be sent such gifts as have inspired with joyful courage all the faithful servants of Christ, from the first martyr of the cross, whose eyes beheld, through the stones that rained on his bleeding body, the heavens opened and the Son of God, to its latest confessor who, it may be, amongst ourselves, supports the honour of his Lord against the money-worship and earthliness surrounding him. Sorrows which induce that lonely bitterness of heart of which the wise man speaks will give place to the fulness of joy with which a stranger intermeddleth not. No more will he
advance through life as in a funeral procession towards the tomb, singing only the solemn dirges that become a passage to the grave, - he will lift up sweet strains of melody, manifesting his inward joy and peace in the Holy Ghost. In him will be fulfilled, as far as the limitations of earth and time allow, that glorious prediction of the new dispensation, “ The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads—they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
I cannot close this discourse, dear brethren, without one word of practical advice. We have reflected on the text chiefly in its highest religious application ; and doubtless, so far as its latter half is concerned, this is its best and truest meaning. But it is also a seasonable proverb to the discontented. Have you ever envied the fortunate whose ambition has appeared satisfied, to whom fame has given her laurels, and wealth her couch of ease ? Envy them no more, be content with such things as you have. For, they also have their sorrows, bitter and deep, hidden under deceptive appearances; while to the very humblest in this house of God, who truly fear Him, belongs His secret—the source of such a peace as the world can neither give nor take away. Why, then, murmur at your lot, when you possess this inviolable treasure ? Why, with envious imaginations, hanker after perishable wealth and estate, when your faith has already secured an inheritance of gladness which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived ? Vacillating and worthless, indeed, must be that belief in the Gospel of Christ which permits you to forget that sin-however gilded and gorgeously arrayed-produces death, while the holiness that becomes God's house gives rise to joy unspeakable and full of glory. But I hope better things of you. As an earthly crown, for all its authority, cannot conquer sorrow : so, you, for all your worldly poverty and care, cannot be robbed of your inward peace. Your hearts may too often know their own bitterness, but no stranger can intermeddle with your joy.
THE PENITENT ROBBER AND THE LORD
OF GLORY ON THE CROSS :
DAVID BROWN, D.D.,
PRINCIPAL OF FREE CHURCH COLLEGE, ABERDEEN.
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." *-LUKE xxii. 42-43.
Had the Gospel History been drawn up, as some now allege, from floating traditions of actual fact, in which human invention largely preponderated, I think this incident, at least, would have been the last to occur to any writer if it had never taken place. To every unsophisticated reader, it must be seen to bear the stamp of its own authenticity. To have been written as it stands here, it must first have been real, and as such I shall now deal with it.
* The words of verse 42, in the best attested text, stand thus :-"And he said, Jesus, remember me when Thou comest in Thy kingdom.” Also, the word here rendered “thieves” should be "robbers." The Romans never inflicted so extreme a punishment as crucifixion for theft, whereas the crime of robbery was seldom committed without personal violence, often bloodshed, and, in case of desperate resistance, murder. (Compare Luke xxiii. 18, 19, with John xviii. 40.) But in this mistake our translators only followed all the old English versions, not excepting Wiclif, though he had the right word before him in the Vulgate, from which his version was made. Nor has the Rhemish (Roman Catholic) version corrected him here, though in general greatly more accurate than Wiclif. Our translators have made the same mistake in those solemn words of our Lord, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, but ye have made it a den of thieves” (where it should be "robbers”). In fact, in one place only have they used the right word-because there they could do nothing else, both words being there used :-"He that entereth not in by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." (John X. 1).
A fine stroke of policy the chief priests and Pharisees doubtless thought it, when they resolved to suspend their victim between two such malefactors—thus to proclaim Him the worst of the three. But He who taketh the wise in their own craftiness turned their counsel into foolishness. For, when to all human appearance at His lowest—helpless, and expiring—lo! His glory breaks forth; He speaks with the majesty of a king, shows Himself able to save to the uttermost, and opens to a penitent at His side the portals of Paradise.
Had we only the first two Gospels, we should have concluded that both the malefactors reviled our Lord. “The robbers," says Matthew, “cast the same in his teeth ;” “They that were crucified with Him reviled Him,” says Mark. But when, in the more detailed narrative of Luke, it is said that “one of the malefactors railed on Him while “the other, answering, rebuked Him,” the real state of the case is seen in a moment. All that the other evangelists mean to say, in their one brief verse, is that the scoffs at our Lord came from all the parties present-from " them that passed by,”—from the ecclesiastics, from the soldiers, yea, even from the cross itself; while Luke's interesting addition to their statement that the jeer came only from one side of the cross, while from the other came a withering rebuke-imparts a thrilling effect to the scene, and opens up to us a unique display of the glory of our dying Lord. I am aware that mere mechanical harmonists, and those who follow them, insist on it that, since two evangelists use the plural number, we are bound to believe that the revilings came from both, but that one of them afterwards repented. To me, however, this is absolutely incredible. For I should then have to believe that a man who had just reviled our Lord, turned suddenly round upon one who had done the same thing, and, amazed at his heartless impiety, sternly rebuked him. With me that will not believe, because it is against all the known laws of human action. No, the man who administered this rebuke to his fellow must, ere he reached the cross, have been of another spirit from his hardened fellow-criminal. When and how the change came over him, we can only conjecture—by and by I will indicate what may help us to conceive of it-meantime, the fact is beyond dispute, if these records are to be believed.
Observe his language:-“ Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ?” Enough, surely, that these cruel jeers come from the multitude; but wilt thou also fling them at a fellow-sufferer ? If nothing else restrain thee, might not the fear of God, into whose presence thou art soon to come, have some effect ?' Still, any dying criminal, softened under agonizing suffering, might say all that. But what follows rises into a very different key.
"And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss.” Not content with a simple rebuke, he seems almost to preach to his fellowcriminal:— Our doom is of our own earning-richly deserved ; but he at whom thou railest—what hath he done to bring him here ?' "Nothing amiss”—what does that mean, as used here? Literally, it means “nothing out of place”-unsuitable, unbecoming, improper. Does it mean, then, 'He has not been guilty of crimes like ours—of robbery, violence, insurrection, murder ?' With nothing of that sort was He ever charged; and none in the city, good or bad, could be a stranger to the one charge brought against Him; for the whole country, as well as the crowded streets of the metropolis, was full of it. He was dying under the charge of high treason against Heaven-of blasphemy -of not only laying claim to royal honours, but making Himself equal with God. I take it, therefore, that in saying “this man hath done nothing amiss," his words must mean, 'He has made no false claim: He said, “I am the Christ," but in that He did nothing amiss; “I am the King of Israel,” but in that He did nothing amiss; He called Himself the Son of God, the Light of the world, the Rest of the weary, the Physician of the sick at heart—but in this He did nothing amiss. Not that I for a moment suppose that this penitent criminal had knowledge enough to say all this as I have said it; but I feel confident that he had gleams of it, and that I have not gone beyond the spirit of his testimony to the innocence of our Lord. Amidst the buzzings about this new kind of criminal-innocent, by universal consent of all the ordinary crimes, yet charged with a crime never before laid to the charge of any—some account of the marvellous works ascribed to Him, and of the words of heavenly grace He was said to have uttered, might easily reach this man's ear; and just as the wind bloweth where it listeth, so that grace which is the Spirit's breath upon the soul, might send what he heard like arrows into a softened breast—as not seldom it does even still. However this may be, we have the wonderful result of it here, when, turning from his impenitent companion in crime to Him whose lofty innocence he had just expressed, he addresses Him with a shrinking tenderness and yet the courage of faith—" Jesus, remember me