« PreviousContinue »
SERM. Lord's other adversaries," If thou be XV.
“ the Christ, save thyself and us. But the other rebuked him, saying, “ Doest thou “ not fear God, seeing thou art in the same
condemnation ? and we indeed justly, for
we receive the due reward of our sins; “ but this man hath done nothing amiss.” And then addressing himself to Jesus, as if claiming a recompence for thus speaking in his vindication,-“ 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.”
There are many men, who, though not very attentive to scripture in general, nor very apt to lay a stress on particular parts of it, yet dwell much and insist strongly on this story of the dying thief: they console themselves under their own apprehensions by this precedent, and endeavor to persuade themselves from it, that a profligate life and
eternal salvation are by no means incom- SERM.
XV. patible, provided the sinner do but cry out to his Redeemer for pardon a short time before his death, • If, say they, mercy
was thus granted to the murderer and • the robber, to one who had carried his
iniquities to such an enormous pitch, • that they had drawn down on him an ig" nominious death from the laws of his country; if such a flagitious person, only
calling on his Saviour in his last mo• ments, could receive the promise of Pa
radise, surely we may expect it on better grounds, who, though we confess that ' we do not altogether conform to the pre
cepts of our religion, yet at least steer • clear of those atrocious crimes which are ' the objects of capital punishment from • human laws. Alas! how desirous men are to deceive themselves, and how eager to seize on every circumstance which may contribute to the delusion! In the first
S E RM. place, the case before us is of so particular
a nature, that it can never happen again ; its singularity alone in a matter of such unspeakable importance, and where a mistake is irreparable destruction, ought to prevent us from laying any stress upon it,
, The redemption of the universe was at this instant accomplishing by the death of the Son of God himself!
Surely, when mercy on so extensive and magnificent a plan was working to the whole of mankind, no general conclusion can be drawn from a particular act of grace, which was youchsafed to an individual, a partaker of the same sufferings with the Lord of life, and who in that dreadful extremity, when all others were either insulting or forsaking him, openly acknowledged his faith and reliance upon him :-“ Lord, remember me, “ when thou comest into thy kingdom!' Surely, what happened at such an extraordinary juncture, affords no argument of
the efficacy of a dying repentance in ge. SERM,
XV. neral, even though we were certain that this favoured malefactor had never repented of his sins, and acknowledged his Redeemer before. But this is by no means so clear ; it is very possible, that of whatever enormities this poor penitent might formerly have been guilty, his repentance might have been begun some time before his punishment, and there are circumstances in the story which render it very probable.-It is not unusual, you know, for some considerable portion of time to intervene between the commission of a crime, and the infliction of punishment; even if the culprit be apprehended immediately, it may be some time before he is brought to a. trial, and some time after that before his sentence be executed. It does not, I fear, happen very often, but yet it certainly does in some instances, that the gloom of a prison, the apprehensions of impending
SERM, punishment, the time allowed for thought XV.
and reflection, the removal from the usual objects of temptation, and the separation from vicious companions, produce in those not entirely hardened, a conviction of the folly and danger of their past evil ways, and a sincere resolution of forsaking them.
Who can tell but that this might be the case with the person whose story we are now considering! As I observed above, it is possible, and if it should be true, all consolation drawn from this example, as to the efficacy of a dying repentance, falls immediately to the ground: but still farther, that his conversion was of some standing, there are, as I remarked above, circumstances in the story which render it likewise probable. He certainly had a proper sense of his own guilt, and of the justice of his punishment; nor was he backward to acknowledge both. " Doest thou “ not,” said he to his fellow-sufferer,