Page images
PDF
EPUB

and we indeed justly ;but he prayed, “ Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom- a short and comprehensive petition ; every word of it is full of meaning, and so much so, that the more we think of it, the more we wonder how he came to put up such a request ; we feel constrained to inquire how he wished to be remembered ? What idea could he form of Christ's kingdom ? Had Jesus informed him that he was going to possess a kingdom—that it was a spiritual kingdom ? or that he had crowns, and sceptres, and princedoms to dispose of when he arrived at the seat of government ? He saw Jesus Christ dying, but who had informed him that the spirit was a never dying principle ? Could he suppose, think you, that he to whom he prayed was Jupiter, or Mercury, or Mars, or some one or other of the gods the Romans worshipped ? Indeed, unless he had been spiritually and very powerfully taught too, he could not have put up such a petition; it was expressive of some undefined wish, and might be put either with entire submission to the divine will and bounty, (for he believed Jesus to be Lord,) or so worded because he did not know the nature of the kingdom which Christ was going to possess. I do not wish to imply that the penitent thief was studious of words, or how he should address the Saviour, for the prayer was an effusion of the Holy Spirit; but the sense will allow of either of the above constructions.

This petition also expressed the belief that Jesus was a king, that he possessed, or was going to possess, a kingdom—“When thou comest into thy kingdom.” Now the rule or condition of salvation stands thus :Those who believe shall be saved, those who believe not shall be condemned; that believing ye might have life through the name of the Son of God. It was through believing that the thief's prayer was heard and answered ; it was offered in faith, and it forms a lesson both for instruction and encouragement to all who feel sin to be a burden; he was in a more forlorn and hopeless state than any one who reads this essay. His life was most rapidly ebbing away, and yet he proved it to be not too late ; he was in earnest, and obtained mercy; he washed in that fountain of living waters that had been but newly opened, and he was made clean; he prayed in the true spirit of prayer, and he was heard; he asked, believing, and he began to receive as soon as his prayer was offered; he felt himself to be a sinner, and he sought the Saviour; he felt himself lost, and undone, and wretched, and he prayed, “Lord, remember me;" he felt himself disinherited, suspended between both worlds, and he aimed at and pleaded for an inheritance in that kingdom which cannot be moved ; and he found favour, he obtained, he was accepted.

This prayer was not only expressive of adoration and worship, of divine teaching, of submission,-it was not only offered with earnestness, with a believing spirit that Christ was a king, and that his kingdom was durable, and to be possessed,—but it was expressive of a belief that he then possessed infinite power,-a power that would reach him, his case and circumstances, though dying!

It is not to be supposed that this penitent malefactor had been studying the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, or that such a hardened sinner as he had formerly been had even thought seriously of a future state of existence. The gospel had never been preached in those days; he might possibly have heard of Pluto's regions, and Charon's boat, and have fancied at death his spirit would be conveyed by the ferryman of hell to the sulphureous plains of Tartarus. Of salvation by grace he knew nothing, and yet it is very

evident that, when almighty grace had changed his heart, his faith was so strong that he believed Jesus Christ's power would be so great when he came to his kingdom that, wherever he might be, it would reach and rescue him. We cannot suppose that his knowledge in spiritual things was extensive; a ray of light had broken into his benighted mind, and he had been divinely taught to offer to the crucified Saviour the petition, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom :” but he was only a babe in Christ; a great change had been made in him, and in an hour or two a still greater was to be made, when he would know fully, and that which was in part would be done away.

But what argument did he use to induce Christ to remember him ? When any one presents a petition to a king, their request is founded upon some argument; the body of the petition shews cause why their request should be heard ; if they require pecuniary aid, they plead poverty; if they require judgment against oppressors, they plead the aggravation of their case ; if assistance against their enemies, they shew the danger of their situation. Now upon this custom and practice of procedure, what was the argument in the petition under our notice ? 66 Remember me.” Who was he? A highway robber. What had he done? He had broken the laws both of God and man. And to whom was he applying ? To the great Lawgiver, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who had established the laws of nature and morality. “ Thou shalt not steal,” had been engraven in tables of stone; and yet, having broken this commandment, he requires to be remembered ; and what could he think he deserved ? He was now subject to the curse of a violated law, and was

then suffering for a breach of the laws of civil society ; and while undergoing the punishment of temporal death, he meets with the great Lawgiver who will finally judge the world in righteousness, and pour out upon a guilty people “the vial of the fierceness of his wrath.” And he says unto him, “Lord, remember me,” who have broken your laws, and trampled under foot your

commandments. Surely he did not know to whom he was speaking, or he would rather have wished to have hidden himself from his notice, and not thought of attracting his attention. But no, he was better taught; he was urged on to proffer a request by some secret unknown impulse, and, without debating with himself whether or not he should be heard, or whether it would be expedient to make the attempt, he boldly, though humbly, addresses his Lord. He had just rebuked his companion in iniquity, and confessed the justice of his condemnation, and then pleads for the Saviour's pity and compassion, "Lord, remember me.” Observe, he did not plead his own righteousness, for happily he had none, or he might have made that his plea, and so have lost his cause, as thousands have done and are doing. “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess,” &c.

All who come unto the Saviour must come as this thief came, dependent entirely upon the sovereign love and

mercy

of him who laid down his life a ransom. “ Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched.”

“ And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

A request implies the desire after something good, or the withholding of that which is evil, either real or imaginary. The thief's prayer, though indefinite, implied both ; first, deliverance from merited punishment, having broken the laws of God; secondly, happiness in the kingdom of God. Let us examine the reply that was made to this request, and see whether or not it was of a nature to give satisfaction to the petitioner, and whether it was worded or expressed so as to be comprehended by him.

The reply is ushered in with “ Verily, I say unto thee.” Mark my words, for thy comfort ; here was strong assurance for the confirmation of his faith :

The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." The answer was gracious.' The Lord might have said—What! now you feel yourself in a condition to serve sin no longer, and can no more follow your heart's lusts, you come to me. This he will say to those who put off seeking him till such times as they can enjoy the world and its pleasures no longer; and he will add thereto, “ Depart from me, for I never knew you.” This de. nunciation may be expected by all who have heard a preached gospel, but have despised reproof, and set at nought instruction. Is the inquiry put—" May not we hope for pardon at the last hour, as well as the thief? We never stole, or committed any crime half so enormous”? It may be answered, that those who have heard of, and neglected seeking the Saviour, have less ground of hope for mercy than he who had never heard of a Saviour until he met him on the cross. Sinners now reject the overtures of reconciliation which are made continually in their ears, with the vain hope of a future opportunity of closing in with them ; they, therefore, are resisting the strivings of the Spirit, and the convictions of conscience; consequently, their offences are more aggravated, inasmuch as sinning against light and knowledge is more heinous and un

« PreviousContinue »