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Assist us, finally, I heavenly Father, to grow in holiness and in the knowledge of thee, and in the practice of all virtue, till at length we become fitted for the regions of thy glory; and, in thy good appointed time, attain to the perfect unspeakable happiness reserved for thy faithful servants in heaven, and which of thine infinite goodness thou hast promised by Christ Jesus our Lord.
May 9, 1779.
Luke xxiii. 43.
And Jesus said unto bim, Verily I say unto thee,
To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
I shall repeat the whole passage to which these words refer, and then proceed to such reflections as may serve to illustrate it and be useful to us.
(Ver. 39, &c.) “ And one of the malefactors which were hanged (on the cross) 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 in thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily
I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
There is something very solemn and affecting in this account of what passed betwixt the two malefactors, and Jesus the holy and innocent sufferer, whilst they all three hung together in torments upon the cross.
In the composure of our Lord's mind, and the dignity of his behaviour, we behold the real triumphs of true piety and virtue : how it rises superior to the most adverse events, and even to death itself in its most formidable shape, secure of the divine protection and favour for ever. And whilst we have a serious satisfaction in the suitable humbled disposition of one of the malefactors, and the countenance and encouragement held out to him, we are shocked with the hardened unchanged mind with which the other is seen to go out of the world, and are secretly admonished thereby to take heed lest we also be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
As the history and character of this penitent malefactor has been sometimes mistaken, and doctrines unfavourable to the necessity of holy and virtuous habits propagated from it; I propose to consider particularly what appears
to be the true character of the man, and the nature of the request which he made to our Lord, and his answer to him. And,
Although there are but a very few circumstances related concerning this person, we may be able to gather a tolerably satisfactory account of him from them. The nature of the crime for which he suffered appears from the punishment inflicted on him; for crucifixion was a Roman punishment, appropriated to slaves, or to such as had rebelled against the state. Thus, when the Jewish rulers, unable to prevail with Pilate to put Jesus to death because he had declared himself the son of God, the Messiah, craftily suggested that he had assumed the character of a king, and set himself up against Cæsar, and the governor had meanly condescended to pass : sentence on him for it against his own convictions, as it was a state crime, the condemnation to be crucified was prescribed by the Roman law, and followed of course. And it is probable that these two malefactors, who underwent the same punishment with him, had been con