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One was taken, and the other left; this was the distinguishing act. “ Two men shall be in one bed, the one shall be taken and the other left ; two men shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, the other left ; two women shall be grinding together, the one shall be taken and the other left;" two malefactors were on the cross together, the one was taken and the other left. Is it asked, “ What, could the Saviour love a thief ?" Yes, the Lord loved him with an ev

everlasting love, and therefore with loving kindness did he draw him.

Let not a sinner presume, because an instance of the salvation of a thief has been exhibited, that he must necessarily be saved, and that, because he has never committed so gross a crime against the laws of God and man.

Be assured, there are many who have not only not sinned in this way, but, on the contrary, have lived lives of morality and virtue, to whom the Lord will finally say, “ Depart, I never knew you !"

How, then," it may be asked, “ did the thief find acceptance ?" The answer is, simply, in the same way that

every sinner may find acceptance. THERE WAS A DESIRE TO BE SAVED; and nothing operates so powerfully to prevent this salutary feeling as fancied merit; and it is far from uncommon to hear one and

“ I have lived a correct, honest, and virtuous life, have never wronged any one, have been charitable to my neighbours, and have forgiven my enemies, and therefore hope to be forgiven my trespasses." It should be remembered that there is no salvation, not even for the most moral, correct, and virtuous, until such feel their undone condition without Christ, and then the desire to be saved will be felt and evidenced by coming to Jesus. How did the thief come to him ? By prayer—" Lord, remember me !" And there is no other way.

It may not be a

another say,

way that the sinner has been accustomed to, but nevertheless there is no other; and if any one fancies that it is not an easy one, let him retire, and fall upon his knees before God, and say, “ Lord, teach me to pray; cause thy Holy Spirit to descend upon me; make me to feel my lost condition without an interest in Christ; give me a sense of the magnitude of my sins ; give me true repentance and sorrow for them; give me grace to preserve me from the recurrence of them ; receive me into thy favour, for the Lord the Saviour's sake.”

Sincerity is the touchstone of prayer. Prayer, to be acceptable, must be offered in faith.

66 These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."

The thief's prayer was accepted because it was offered in faith. The words are expressive of this—" When thou comest into thy kingdom.” But why is it that prayer is so often ineffective ? “ Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss :" then, “ if any lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him ; only let him ask in faith, nothing wavering."

The end of faith is the salvation of the soul; this the dying thief realized. The sinner who is equally sincere, will find his salvation equally sure ; but let me offer a caution not to delay. Think not that because the thief was saved at the last hour of life that therefore you may be ; who would risk it? The time of health and vigour is the best time to seek God, before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl be broken ;' before you are subject to disease; before you are seized with burning fever, and suffering the languors and restless tossings which precede, and prove to be, the forerunners of death.

115

THE FOLLY OF SIN, AND THE WISDOM

OF HOLINESS.

old age.

The Book of the Ecclesiastes was written by the wisest man that ever lived, after he had had experience of the ways in which men in general look for happiness; and supposed to have been dictated in his

From the fact of his having had it in his power to try every means of earthly happiness, having had great possessions, and therewith combined great wisdom, that which he says respecting happiness ought, with us, to have the greater weight.

This book was written with the express design of directing others in the road to true enjoyment; and, deprecating all earthly pleasures, and possessions, and pursuits, it fixes upon the fear of God, and the things which relate thereto, as the only source of unfading pleasures, both in this life and that which is to come.

In this book, wisdom is proved to be desirable, and worthy of pursuit; while its opposite, folly, is shewn to be odious and hurtful. Let it not be imagined that knowledge is wisdom, or that ignorance is folly ; it is the knowledge of good things, digested and reduced to practice, that renders its possessor worthy of being entitled to the praise of wisdom, as it is the determined perseverance in ignorance-a man setting his face against the knowledge of things that would make

him wise, were it possessed and pursued—that entitles him to the appellation of fool.

A fool natural, is called so from being weak in intellect, or being altogether an idiot; but this is not the scripture sense of the term. Such an one is an object of pity, not of contempt; an object of charity, not of reproach.

As in a natural sense a person of weak intellect does not penetrate to by thought, or foresee evils to prevent them, so it is in a spiritual sense ; the man who does not set himself to meditate upon his lost state by nature, the evil of sin, its magnitude, its folly, its debasing properties, and the end to which it leads the dishonouring God, and destroying the soul-that man, in a spiritual sense, is weak in intellect, he is a fool, an idiot! For, would it not appear to be rational to avoid evil, and to choose good ? to forsake the ways that lead to death, and to pursue the paths that conduct to happiness supreme, especially when it is to be done without any sacrifice of present pleasures ? Nay, more, so far from a sacrifice of present enjoyments, the very exercise of this feature of rationality adds greatly to them, increases them, sublimes them, gives a zest to them that the worldling, the irrational, the fool, can never taste.

Perhaps a worldly-minded reader may not be willing to assent to, or acquiesce in, this position, having always looked upon a religious life as a life of gloom and melancholy, a life of deprivation and misery; and who has been accustomed to conceive of religious duties as a task. Let me lead such an one to consider the nature of that mirth and merriment, the opposite of which he is pleased to call gloom and melancholy. And what are the pleasures of the man of this world, who has no hopes, no reasonable expec

tations, no happiness to look forward to beyond it ? Are they not in general pleasures of sense, the greater part of which are not fit to name ? I admit that here and there is to be seen one whose chief pleasures and sole pursuits are in philosophy, or politics, or book learning; and with these things the mind of that individual is perhaps wholly absorbed; these are his prime enjoyments. But the generality of those who despise the ways of wisdom, and brand religion with gloom and melancholy, are such as look nowhere for happiness but in the pleasures of sense.

Let us give the pleasures of sense their due, and allow them all their claims, yet they amount to nothing more than in most instances is enjoyed by the brutes, which have the advantage in the enjoyment over rational creatures, because with them there is no drawback from after reflections; whereas, the mere pursuer of pleasure has a conscience that will often admonish him that the ways in which he indulges are wrong; that his pleasures are frequently criminal, and lead to death ; and besides, he frequently experiences an aching void in his bosom, a something that is not satisfied with his pursuits ; he is frequently conscious of this sensation, and because it is an uneasy one, that he cannot always rid himself of, and has not wisdom to examine into, he thence plunges deeper into forbidden pleasures and pursuits, to drive out that which it would have been his wisdom to have entertained, inasmuch as by so doing it might lead to a salutary result. The apparent happiness and hilarity of those who derive their enjoyments from pleasures of sense, is often only assumed; of this most of them are aware; they know that they have often put on the appearances of joy and mirth, while their hearts have been heavy ; and then of course those efforts being soon at an end,

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