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when Thou comest in Thy kingdom :”— In Thee, O Thou dying One, mine eyes behold a King of another sort than those of this poor earth; Thy kingdom lies beyond death and the grave; the keys of that kingdom are in Thy hands, to open or to shut, to admit or reject whom Thou wilt.' But mark how this is said. He is not making his formal confession of faith—not repeating his creed, as if he had said, Let others think and speak as they will, this is my belief. He already, as it were, sees Him invested, even in the agonies of death, with all the authority of an eternal kingdom, as its sovereign Lord; and so regarding Him, he petitions for what? To be received into it? Well, doubtless that was what he fondly hoped for, but that he dares not to ask in words. With a humility that could have come only from the depths of a broken heart, and in words which, we may be perfectly sure, we have as they came from his own lips—so inimitably natural are they-he simply says, “Jesus, remember me !” “Could I but have the assurance, that, when Thou comest in the glory of that kingdom, Thou wilt not forget the poor criminal who hung by Thy sidewho, when he heard Thee in silence reviled on every side, was unable to endure the revilings of his fellow-criminal, and in his own poor way stopped his mouth-could I but hope that even I, when Thou comest in the splendour of Thy kingdom, might not be forgotten, I should die content.'
Now hear the reply. To the jeers of all around of the passers by, the ecclesiastics, the soldiers, even of the criminal at his side
-He answered nothing. But this was an appeal which He could not resist. To His own spirit, in the untold gloom by which it was now borne down, it was “a song in the night.” Rising, therefore, in all His conscious majesty and grace and power, He responds in right royal style, “Verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise : "—Not at some far distant day shalt thou be remembered ; for this thou shalt not need to wait till I come in my kingdom ; never shalt thou be parted from Me at all ; ere this day close, when, through the gate of death, I enter into Paradise, thou shalt find thyself with Me there; as for thy body, the earth shall receive it till the kingdom come, but thy spirit shall be with Me in unseen bliss.'
So much for the facts of this case : now for its teaching.
Contrast the faith of this poor dying penitent with that of His privileged apostles. This man, no doubt, beheld Him for the first time hanging as a criminal like himself—dying the death of a traitor to Heaven-adjudged an impostor by the highest legal tribunal, deserted by His chosen apostles, covered with insults, and to all appearance helpless. They, on the other hand, believed in Him as the Christ, the Son of God, the King of Israel; but as a King who, instead of taking possession of His kingdom through the gateway of death, was to ascend the throne here and now, while themselves as His faithful followers were to share its honours. When He told them He was to be crucified and slain, at the instigation of the great authorities whom they expected to hail Him as their king, they could not take it in, so fast bound were they in their traditional prejudices; and not only so, but when all this came to pass, they were ready to think that His cause had been buried with Him: on the morning of His resurrection, when two of them met Him by the way, as an unknown traveller, they frankly confessed to Him that they had all but given up their faith. Now all this was after three years of the closest fellowship with Him, while the faith of this poor criminal was awakened under every possible disadvantage, when the Lord in whom he believed seemed to be expiring in helplessness, and deserted of Heaven. How strange all this ! However it is to be explained, the result was, that the brightest crown came to be reserved in this form for that blessed head, just when it was to be covered with every human infamy.
But ought we to rest in the bare fact of so extraordinary a contrast as we find here-between the favoured apostles, only slowly struggling into the belief that their Lord, though rejected by all the authorities, and crucified, and slain, might yet be the Son of David, the King of Israel; and this poor dying criminal, under every disadvantage, descrying in the dying One the Lord of a kingdom not of this world-a kingdom beyond death and the grave—a kingdom in the glory of which for him to be remembered would be bliss never yet imagined ? Such a contrast forces the question, Can it be explained ? Well I think it can, and the sources of an explanation I will now indicate.
Religious convictions depend far more on the state of the heart, than on the light which is thrown into the mind. When our Lord said, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself,” He expressed a deep principle. But when He said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick," He expressed a yet deeper principle. When one has been trained in certain wrong beliefs, and grown up in the conviction that these alone are correct, it is always difficult to dislodge them, even from honest minds; and the full conviction that they are false may only come by facts which there is no resisting. But when the truth which has to be received is, that there is healing for those who have never felt themselves sick, rest for those who complain of no weariness, salvation for those who know not that they are lost, it is of small use to preach to such about the excellence of the Physician—the preciousness of the Saviour. Accordingly, when the publicans and sinners were welcomed at the table of Matthew the publican—now the grateful disciple-in the hope that others of his own former class might thus get something of what he had found, the Pharisees and scribes murmured at it, and asked of the disciples, “Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners ?” To this question our Lord gave His own reply:—'I came hither as a physician, but ye are not sick, and have no need of Me; these penitents are my patients-not ye-for “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.". And what was the result? “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” On another occasion, we are told that “all the publicans and sinners drew near for to hear Him.” What could be the attraction to such characters of the Holy One and the Just? Ah! They knew nothing of Him theologically; they were not able to scan His claims to be the Christ of God; but there was a spell about His teaching which drew them to Him, as the needle to the pole. He spoke to their hearts ; He spurned them not, as did all others; He touched their case with a sympathy, a tenderness, a healing power they could not resist. As usual, the Pharisees and scribes murmured, turned away in disgust, and said, “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." Yes, He did so, and for once He will let them into the secret of it. By three incomparable parables He tells them how Heaven yearns to treat these sick souls, and does it; to save these lost sinners, and does it; and that when done, even in one case, “there is joy in the presence of the angles of God over one sinner that repenteth,” while the “ninety and nine just persons needing no repentance," in their own esteem, are passed by.
And who can fail to think of that Pharisee who invited our Lord to dine with him, and of that woman, who had been a sinner, standing at the feet of his guest, behind Him, weeping profusely over His feet, and manifesting thus intensely her gratitude to Him. Thinks the Pharisee within himself—This man cannot be the
prophet he is taken for, else he would never tolerate such offices. On this the Lord reveals the secret of that love to Him so profusely shewn, in contrast with the cold reception of His host:-“Therefore I say unto thee, Her sins which are many are forgiven, for she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." Here, then, is a woman, a sinful woman, with as few opportunities, perhaps, as our dying criminal, yet getting, like him, far deeper into the real errand of Christ into the world—" to seek and to save the lost”-than the apostles themselves, with all their opportunities. And why? Because, whatever others might feel, those who were sinners of her sort knew themselves—and, by the scorn of all around them, were made to feel—how bad they were. For such, it was not an earthly monarch, but a Saviour that was needed; and having seen in Him the lineaments of such a character, they flocked to Him as doves to their windows. Coming back, now, to the case of our dying criminal, about to be ushered into the presence of an angry God as his Judge—what comfort would it have given to such a man to be told of the earthly honours and earthly dignities which the Messiah would confer on His faithful followers, about which the twelve, even to the last, kept dreaming and doating? To Him these were but baubles
“ Poor fragments of this low earth,
Such as in sleep would hardly soothe
"-(KEBLE.) Ah! friends, to broken hearts, to weeping penitents, such as this man in view of an awful eternity, one gracious look from that Eye is more than the wealth of all the world. They would "count it but dung that they might win Christ.” Yes, conscious unworthiness, soul distress, that can utter its burdens only in "groanings that cannot be uttered”—there is no school like that for clarifying the spiritual vision. Such apprehend things with amazing rapidity, and shoot far ahead of the greatest scholars and best theologians who are strangers to that school, or who, though they have been in it, have stayed in it too short a time, and have learned too few of its lessons. Hence, as I take it, the rapidity with which this dying penitent came to discern in Him who was suffering by his side the death of a blasphemer, the innocence of the true Son of David, the King of Israel, the Lord of glory, who, through the gates of a mysterious death, was to take possession of a kingdom not of this world. There is no teacher like this felt wretchedness. When crushed under a sense, of sin, sick of present things, and yearning after some gleam of hope for eternity, you can only look in one direction for relief. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” When Christian in the “Pilgrim's Progress” came to the Valley of Humiliation, he rose every morning by daybreak to visit it, lay down in it, kissed its flowers, and could hardly be torn away from it. And of Rowland Hill it is recorded by a near relative, that when his friends around his dying bed expected that his eyes, closed for sometime, would never open, he raised his huge frame on the pillow, opened wide those eagle eyes of his, and, looking up, broke forth in some such strain as this:-"O Repentance, thou sweetest of my earthly companions, Repentance! If I could shed a tear as I enter the portals of heaven, it would be at parting with thee, thou sweetest of my earthly companions, Repentance !” O, ye that read these lines or hear them read, cultivate much this frame of spirit! It will so clarify your spiritual vision that you will see much that is hid from the wise and prudent, and steady you amid winds of doctrine by which the wise in their own eyes, but light of heart, are too ready to be carried away.
But I must now come to those remarkable words, “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”
The word rendered “Paradise” is said to be a Persian one. It occurs first in the Septuagint (or Greek) translation of Genesis, for “the Garden of Eden.” The Jews afterwards employed it to express the place or state of future bliss. Then, in the New Testament, we find the Apostle telling us that he was “caught up into Paradise,” which in another verse he calls the third (or highest) heaven. Finally, in the Revelation we find these words, “To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” But this last, you will observe, points to the final state of glory, whereas the Paradise of our text comes immediately after death; for “To-day” both our Lord and this penitent were to be there, while their bodies were to lie in the dust.
What, then, is this state ?—a question, this, more easily asked than answered. Of its details, if we except such figurative language as cannot yield much light, we have scarcely any information in Scripture. Indeed, this is one of the things in which the silences of Scripture are as marvellous as its utterances. It indulges no prurient curiosity; and on some things about which we yearn to know something more, on these we are left quite in the