Page images

" fear God, seeing thou art in the same sERM.

XV. “ condemnation ? and we indeed justly, “ for we receive the due reward of our " deeds.

Now this consciousness of having acted wrong, and this readiness to acknowledge that he merited what he was suffering, clearly shew that he was not an hardened sinner; and though they do not amount to an absolute proof, yet they certainly afford grounds for believing, that he was sincerely sorry

for what he had done, and that if his life had been given him, he would no more have returned to his wickedness. But I have still more to say in his favour: however flagitious his former life might have been, it seems not improbable that he was now become almost, if not altogether, a Christian. That he was acquainted with some parts of our Saviour's history, and believed him to be a divine personage, is certain: in his rebuke to the other thief


SERM. he vindicates our Lord's innocence: XV.

« We indeed receive the due rewards of our deeds; but this man hath done no

thing amiss.” He likewise knew something of the nature of our Saviour's king. dom, and appears to have been fully persuaded of the authority which Christ was going to assume :-" Lord, remember me “ when thou comest into thy kingdom !

Here you have a most remarkable instance of the exercise of that virtue, which is in the sight of God of such high price, and which is so much insisted on in the character of a Christian faith! The combination against our Lord was now universal; his divine instructions and wonderful actions seemed to be entirely forgotten, and with whatever majesty and superiority he might once have appeared invested, he was now evidently (as it seemed to human eyes) unequal to the power of his enemies;


The Jewish nobles and high priests ac- SERM.

XV. cused him ; the Roman magistrates condemned him ; the people, once his adherents, reviled him, and his own particular disciples forsook him : yet was this peni. tent malefactor so far from joining in the general ery, even though he saw Jesus suffering the same ignominious death with himself, that he confidently testifies his conviction of his being a divine person, and lays claim to his remembrance, when he should be arrived in his kingdom.Such a high degree of faith as this can scarce be supposed to have been infused into a sinner in an instant; it is a presumptive evidence that his conversion was of some standing, and warrants us in the conjecture, that the reflection and information, for which his confinement had given opportunity, had persuaded him of the truth of our Saviour's mission, and the excellency of the religion which he taught.


SERM. But to what does all this tend to this XV.

important caution, that we draw no conclusion that a death-bed repentance will avail us, from this story of the forgiveness of the dying thief! You see there is great reason to believe that his penitence had commenced long before this late hour; and therefore his case is entirely different from that of those who persist in their sins till they can practise them no longer, and then flatter themselves, that if with him they call out in their last moments on their Saviour, with him they shall obtain admission into Paradise.

But though we were sure that he had never been brought to reflection before, that his conversion was instantaneous, and began not until he was nailed to the cross, I do not see what presumption the salvation of one sinner affords of the general pardonable nature of wickedness continued until death. At the best, the instance is


single, and therefore at any rate ought not SERM.

XV. to be built on. What should we say of a min, who threw himself from a lofty precipice, beciuse he had heard of one person, who had fallen before him, and escaped without injury! Should we not justly conclude, that his brains were distempered ? And does not his rashness, who ventures to persist in his sins till death, because he imagines one person has done so before him, and yet obtained salvation, subject him to the like imputation of extreme folly and madness ? But dismissing this story, let us examine what ground we have from scripture and reason to rely on the efficacy of a death-bed repentance. But first, I will take for granted for a moment, no matter how improbably, that however wickedly we may have lived, if we have a little warning before we die, and express our sorrow for what is past, and ask for: giveness, all will be well : supposing even Vol. I.



« PreviousContinue »