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been the common mistake from these words of our Saviour to him.
It is enough for us, that we have an assurance by Christ from our merciful and most bountiful Creator, that we shall survive the shock of our frame at death, and live again, and live in bliss for ever, if we be found in the end his true disciples, and the faithful servants of God. The time, place, and nature of this future, immense, endless felicity, we may well submit to his good pleasure who freely bestows it.
IV. We may now correct and rectify a wrong representation and abuse which has been made of the history and character of this person, who met with such favour from Christ when suffering with him on the cross.
And first, to solve the difficulty that is raised, as though both the criminals at first railed upon Christ as they
as they hung upon the It is a way of speaking frequent with the sacred, as with other writers, to say in a general way, that a thing was done by all the persons present, when only one of the company was concerned in doing it. So, (Luke xxiii. 36. and John xix. 29.) that .
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.
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
any such change made in this person; and we have cause to believe that a true repentance had
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 miay 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