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concern for the interests of a future world. Yet in that brief interval, between the sixth and the ninth hour, one of them is awakened to a sense of his spiritual state, and comes for acceptance to Him, who has promised to the weary and heavy laden the forgiveness of sins and rest to their souls; and the peace which he solicits, is instantly granted : Christ looked upon his contrition, and approved his faith; and without the delay of a moment, gives the complete assurance of rest with Himself; of admission into Paradise ; and hence, of all the blessings of His spiritual and heavenly kingdom.

On what ground then, my brethren, should we despair of mercy, even to the chief of sinners? or why should we hesitate to assert, in the strongest terms, the readiness of the Son of God to welcome every one who in the true spirit of humility and faith comes to Him? Are there transgressions which He cannot pardon? Is the man who has sinned even to the eleventh hour, beyond the reach of His mercy? Does it necessarily require long solicitation or repeated entreaties, before we can hope for the favourable attention of the Redeemer? To the prayer of faith, the sigh of genuine repentance, nothing is impossible : however brief the petition, however awful the situation of him who makes it, there is no sincere suppliant from whom the face of Christ will be averted; there is no time in which the Redeemer of the world is not waiting to be gracious, and to answer the cry of the needy. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever :* and there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek : for the same Lord over all, is rich unto all that call upon Him: for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.t

2. Let us in the second place guard the subject from perversion.

The silent and practical effect of this narrative upon some minds, is to furnish an argument for deferring repentance till the world can be enjoyed no longer : such persons, without perhaps distinctly acknowledging so much even to themselves, are led, from instances of God's long-suffering mercy, to presume upon His goodness under the careless persuasion, that what has happened in other cases, and especially in one so remarkable, as that of a culprit obtaining forgiveness even in the article of death, may not improbably happen in their own * Heb. xiii. 8.

+ Rom. x. 12, 13.

case.

In so vague and dangerous a notion do men too often acquiesce; as if, under any circumstances, and at any time, they had but to ask for pardon, and God were too compassionate to refuse them !

But for what purpose, let us ask, was this history transmitted to us? was it, indeed, to encourage a spirit of presumption, and to induce us to continue in our sins till our last hour shall arrive? was it to confirm the thoughtless transgressor in his habits of iniquity? was it intended to impress us with the belief that there will be opportunity on a death-bed to make our peace with heaven, whatever be the previous character of our minds, and however great, up to that period, be our neglect of salvation; and however habitual and determined be our resistance to the truth? If that, indeed, be the intent of the narrative; if the dying thief were pardoned, and that pardon recorded, only to give encouragement to sin, then, be such the application and effect of it. Think not of repentance, while you may still have the sinful pleasures of the world: leave the care of the soul till the season when it urgently presses, and you can attend to other cares no longer; but if the design of this history be, not to give countenance to sin, but to encourage the humble; to display the riches of divine grace to the contrite; to comfort the desponding; and generally to bring men to Christ; then beware lest the perversion of it, as affording a licence to sin, lead you on to eternal ruin.

The circumstances in which we are placed, are, in many respects, widely different from those of the penitent thief. We live in a Christian land, and hear continually the great truths of the gospel. But we have no evidence that this man had ever rejected the offer of mercy, It is probable, that he had violated no vows of obedience to Christ, nor resisted, as we have done, the warnings of the Holy Spirit. Before his case can be considered as affording any justification, or furnishing any hope to those, who in a Christian country, presume upon it, it must be shown that his advantages were equal to ours, and that he had wilfully and deliberately broken his own solemn engagements of obedience, and had resisted the Spirit, and would not come unto Christ that he might have life.

And the occasion, be it observed, was such as hitherto never had occurred, and cannot occur again. We behold the Son of God at that moment in the lowest state of humiliation, suspended as a malefactor, between earth and heaven; apparently powerless and friendless ; forsaken even by His father, and regarded by the multitudes around Him, as an object of scorn and execration. It seemed good, therefore, to the Divine wisdom, that He should give at that time to the spectators and to the world, an evidence of His power and authority; that He should assert at that time the dignity which He had claimed through the whole period of His ministry; and a dying criminal was made the object of His grace. Thus did Christ triumph, even upon the cross; thus did He vindicate the riches of His mercy, and the efficacy of His atoning blood. It was an event suited to such an occasion. The one malefactor was snatched as a brand from the burning : the other died as he had lived, in ignorance, and wickedness, and hardness of heart.

To those, then, who even in their last moments, become truly penitent, we are authorised by this history, to speak the language of encou

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