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striking incident, (which has been very grossly misunderstood, and very dangerously misapplied) as some doubts have been entertained respecting the import of the word Paradise, we will endeavour to fix its meaning. The term, I believe, is not found at all in the Old Testament, and only three times in the New. St. Paul, referring to certain visions and revelations, speaks of one caught up into Paradise, and hearing unspeakable words. In the book of Revelation, it is promised to them that overcome, that they shall eat of the fruit of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of GOD-a plain allusion to the garden of Eden: and in the passage before us, our Saviour promises the penitent—“ To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Heaven could not here be meant;, for thither Christ did not ascend till forty days after his resurrection. St. Paul tells us, that “ He descended first into the lower parts of the earth;" and St. Peter, that, “ being put to death in the flesh, he was quickened in the Spirit, by which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison.” From these texts, the fathers of the Church adopted, and inserted in the creed, the article of the descent into hell, that is, Hades, or the mansions of departed souls. To this abode,
then, this intermediate state, I conceive, the spirit of the malefactor, when released from the body, was to accompany the Spirit of the Lord.
From this most singular and unexampled circumstance, a hope has been heldout, and fond expectations have been cherished, of acceptance with God, after a life of disobedience and wickedness, by an earnest and devout appeal to the Saviour at the very last moment of existence ;—with how little warrant, every man, of plain sense and unbiassed judgment, may readily perceive. Here is an instance, says the sanguine sinner, who is unwilling to renounce present unlawful gain or pleasure,here is an instance of a notorious culprit, subsisting by fraud and rapine, in violation of the laws of God and man, and terminating his baneful career by the hands of public justice; yet at last, actually pardoned, and even assured of happiness, in consequence of his sudden faith and tardy contrition : why, then, may not I indulge the same comfortable hope of finding mercy on the bed of death ?-1, who am not half so criminal, and whose future penitence and remorse may be equally sincere ?
Let us then examine whether there be any real foundation for such hopes, either in this example, or in the general purposes and declarations of the Gospel.
In the first place, the penitent thief was so peculiarly circumstanced, that his case can admit of no parallel. No human being ever was, or ever can be, in the same situation. A robber, convicted by the common process of law, is doomed to pay the penalty of his crimes, by undergoing that cruel death which the Romans inflicted on their slaves and fugitives : close beside him, the Lord of life and glory is affixed to the ignominious tree. The criminal, perfectly sensible of his own baseness, indignant at the impiety and brutality of his comrade, penetrated with remorse, and struck with the conviction, that the injured partner of his sufferings, though not of his guilt, was the long-desired King of Israel,-implores, not present deliverance, but favour hereafter, when a death of torture shall, in some measure, have satisfied Justice on earth,
_“ Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thy kingdom.” The Being, to whom the prayer was addressed, “ knew what was in man.” He could read the heart, which no priest, “ taken from amongst men,” can do, and He accepted the penitence which He knew to be sincere. He,
who by his blood redeemed mankind, and He only, could forgive sin; and He assumed that judicial authority, to which He had been from eternity appointed by the Father; and, in the benignity and majesty of the Divine nature, replied, “ Verily, I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."
Is there any thing in the death-bed of an ordinary Christian that can be compared to this? The sinner, expiring in a sick chamber, partakes not in the mortal agonies of his murdered Lord: he cannot be sure,-having no longer the means of proving it by a change of life, when life itself is come to a close,-he cannot be sure that his heart is renewed, his soul purified: he cannot hear the acquittal from the mouth of the Judge himself, and exult in the personal promise of Him, who is “Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
Again, as this was certainly the last, so probably it was the first, and the only, opportunity, ever vouchsafed the malefactor, of imbibing the faith, and embracing the salvation of the Gospel. In the former part of his life, he could have known nothing of Jesus of Nazareth but from vague and distant report. Men of his lawless occupation,-if occupation it may be called,
were not likely to attend the synagogue, or frequent the temple, where most of our Saviour's discourses were delivered: nor can it be supposed that they would ever mix in the train that followed a poor and despised Master,--a train of obscure and needy fishermen, who had nothing to attract the pilferer or the plunderer. The character and actions of a great prophet, a teacher sent from God, were hardly likely to be the subject of discourse among a knot of felons, within the walls of a common prison; and therefore, it may reasonably be presumed, that his knowledge of our Lord and his doctrine could be little more than what he might gather from the guard, or the surrounding crowd, while he was conducted to the place of execution. Nor is it at all improbable that, though for a time engaged in a course of life dangerous and destructive to the community, he had not sunk into total depravity. The silence, the solitude, the gloom of a dungeon, might operate upon a mind not desperately wicked,-might teach him to look into himself, might excite that godly sorrow, which worketh repentance,-and prepare him to receive, and profit by, whatever impressions the grace of heaven, and the solemn scene on which he was about