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THE HISTORY OF THE PENITENT THIEF.
ST. LUKE xxiii. 42, 43.
And he said unto Jesus, 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.
We come now, as we proposed, to consider another remarkable circumstance which befel at the time of the crucifixion of our blessed Lord, viz. the behaviour, and the story of him who is usually called the penitent thief.
When the enemies of Jesus had succeeded in their malicious purposes, had procured from Pilate his condemnation, and had even put the sentence into execution by nailing him to the cross, still they were not satisfied till they had embittered even death itself with revilings and execrations. They shook their heads at him in scorn, and with taunts they desired him, if he was the Christ, to come down from the cross and save himself. In these jeers and expressions of contempt they were joined by one of the malefactors who were crucified with him, and who, notwithstanding the dreadful situation in which he was, could dare to vent his soul in curses and reproaches. “ And one of the malefactors which were hanged, railed on him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ? And we, indeed, justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Here, then, is an instance of a man, who, after that he had, as we have reason to believe, all his life long, passed his days in sin and wickedness, after that he had lived without the fear of God before his eyes, and after that he had so far offended against his fellow men as, even by his own confession, justly to have forfeited his life to the offended laws of his country, yet who, upon a repentance of his past crimes, and an appeal to his merciful Saviour, received from that very Saviour himself, a promise of pardon from God, and of peace and happiness in the world to come.
This, then, is a blessed assurance to all men, that if their repentance is sincere, and embraced upon the first means offered them of conviction, even if it should be so late as at the eleventh hour, they will be accepted by God, and their peace made with the eternal Father of mercies, who rejoiceth not in the death of a sinner, but would rather that he should be converted and live.
But this, which is so inestimable a privilege to man, and far beyond what he could by himself hope to obtain, appears
in some instances to have raised expectations in Christians of the present day, which are not borne out by our Lord's expressions. For finding from this example, that a man was pardoned for his sins, when even at the point of death, there have been those who have encouraged themselves in a life of sin, with the hope and intention of at length on their death-bed, reconciling themselves with their Judge at the last; and thus, with little trouble to themselves, obtaining the recompence of the just, and the blessings of eternity. An idea of this sort must, to frail mortals, be one dangerous in the extreme, in refuting which it is hoped our time will not be unprofitably employed. I will therefore, at present, call your attention to this subject, and will endeavour to set before you this story, in the light in which it appears to me that it ought to be seen, and in the reference which it seems to bear to repentance in general, and to a death-bed repentance in particular.
This subject brings immediately before us the consideration of God's dealings
Now there is nothing which
i James i. 17.
Heb. xii. 8.
3 Num. xxiii. 19.