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all the soldiers offered our Lord vinegar to drink when he was upon the cross; but St. Matthew marks it more distinctly to have been done by one of them only.
And in the case before us, Matthew and Mark speak in general, that they that were crucified with Jesus reviled him: while Luke, who treats distinctly of it, specifies particularly that it was done by one of them only. This solution is obvious and satisfactory.
Yet there are those who will have it that both the criminals were guilty of reviling Christ, and hence make this unhappy conclusion concerning him so highly favoured by our Lord; That here was a man, who to that very moment had been a grievous sinner, by the power of divine grace suddenly changed, cleansed, and sanctified, and assured by Christ himself of a place among the blessed with God's most faithful and laborious servants; and this by a sudden conviction wrought in his mind, that his sins were pardoned, and that his faith in Christ was accepted, and had made him holy and acceptable to God. And this is an example by which sinners are led to encourage themselves to hope for salvation at the last moment.
We may be assured that there is a great mistake here: because this would be to undo the work of our Lord's life; to supersede the necessity of righteousness and a holy life, which he continually inculcated; and tell sinners that they might be saved without the trouble of reformation and amendment.
But besides what has been remarked, of the sacred writers giving no countenance to such expectations, we have seen that there are no grounds to conclude that this person's former life had been wicked or profligate. It has been shown, that this can by no means be inferred from the crime for which he suffered: and the wisdom, piety, and sobriety of his present behaviour leads us to a contrary persuasion; and the more, as these are also the only circumstances by which any judgement can be formed of him.
Nor is there any countenance here given to the supposed efficacy of a repentance made in the last moments of life, and the expectation of some sudden extraordinary change then to be effected in the sinner by the power of God: for there is no appearance of any such change made in this person; and we have cause to believe that a true repentance had · long
long before taken place in him, and brought forth its genuine fruits.
Should any, therefore, now be unhappily overtaken by the hand of death in the midst of a life of thoughtless dissipation and immoral ungodly practice,-they are not to be encouraged from this example to look for any sudden change from Heaven to be made in them, but exhorted to turn to God and entreat his mercy and powerful aid, while life and time are afforded, to make them sensible of the odiousness, deformity, and misery of sinful habits and dispositions, and of the happiness of a life of piety and virtue; and, especially, to endeavour to repair the injuries and mischief they have done to others, of whatever kind they be, in their fortunes, their reputation, and whether respecting their happiness in this world or another.
So far as any the least degree of real abhorrence of evil, and love of God, of truth and virtue, of piety and goodness, are generated, they may contribute to lessen their future sufferings.
But we that are alive and in health, shall do well to remember, that the sincerity of the
conversion of sinners at so late an hour of life is rarely to be depended upon. For too often it has happened, when, after the most fervent vows and professions of repentance, the lives of such persons have been unexpectedly spared, they have become the more profligate; and, to use the homely but serious reprehension of the apostle,-" it has happened to them according to the true proverb; The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." (2 Pet. ii. 22.)
Lastly: If the behaviour of one of these men who were condemned to suffer death at the same time with the holy Jesus, was and had been so humble and exemplary, and gives all just encouragement to the returning sinner, though none to those who put off repentance to the close of life; the conduct and temper of the other criminal may give cause to fear to every one that lives in known wilful sin, and does not forsake it.
In him we behold to what a horrid pass men may bring themselves by long continuance in a course of wickedness, so as to lose
all sense of God and of decency, and common humanity to others, when they are themselves in the most awful situation, and the hand of death upon them: and at such seasons to appear easy and satisfied with themselves, when they have not only neglected all those virtuous improvements for which they were sent into the world, and had the means of them put into their hands, but also go out of the world with such indulged evil passions, and selfish, malevolent, ungodly tempers and dispositions, as must make them miserable whereever they are placed.
There were such monsters of impiety and iniquity in Judea, where the true God was known and worshiped, and when the blessed Jesus himself preached and laboured to reform them.
It is to be feared, there are not a few instances of vice and impiety of the same magnitude in this our native land, blessed beyond many others with the knowledge of the one true God, and the most awakening calls and powerful motives to holiness delivered in the gospel.
But the universal neglect of instilling principles of piety and virtue into the minds of youth,