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from the city; and there, where the multitudes are congregated around that slight eminence, the well-known Calvary, you have the whole before you.
On the spot so fitly designated Golgotha, the place of skulls, you may see, high above the heads of the populace, three outstretched forms, each fast nailed to the horrible cross. The Roman centurion, with his guard of soldiery, is at hand. There, too, you may note the high priest, with his numerous attendants; there stand the Pharisees, scowling with undisguised hatred on him who hangs on the middle cross, the centre of interest to all for that is he whom the populace so lately hailed as the greatest of prophets, whom now they denounce as an impious impostor, unfit to live! Bitter taunts break from the ranks of the Jewish priests gazing near. "He saved others; let him save himself, if he
, be, as he pretended, God's chosen Messiah !" The soldiers, too, rough and unthinking, as is the wont of their class, throw out cruel jeers : “ If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself !”
Nay, the very thieves hanging at his side seem to catch the general spirit of mockery; for one of them railed on him, saying,
If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us !"
And is there no eye to pity, no heart to feel, no voice to utter tones of sympathy for one around whom, but a few hours ago, thousands were thronging with congratulation, with triumphant hallelujahs, and with songs of praise ? None! The priests
, themselves mock him; the soldiery jeer him ; the fickle populace wag their heads in derision, and shoot out the lip; and outlawry and crime itself affect to look down upon him as basest of the base! Who, in such a scene, would venture to brave this unequivocal indication of public sentiment, by treating with even a shadow of respect one thus openly proscribed and universally abhorred! Had you and I been there, our feelings would doubtless have fallen in with the popular current; our lips would have curled with equal scorn, and possibly our voices would have risen with biting mockery too.
But yet, amid this general torrent of insult, one voice, one soli. tary voice rises in another strain, and that too from a quarter whence it might perhaps be least expected. With the reckless hardihood of desperate villany, one of the suffering malefactors had thrown insult in the teeth of the crucified Galilean prophet; but the other culprit promptly and boldly reproved him: "Dost thou not 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."
After this burst of honest indignation, he turned to the calumni. ated companion of their shame, and accosted him in the words of my text: “ Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
Employed at such a time, and under such circumstances ;
employed in addressing a person condemned and scorned ; writhing though he was in nature's last agonies; taunted on all hands as a blasphemous imposter; spurned of men, and rejected, as it might seem, of Heaven itself; this one brief sentence not only evinces profound respect, but it is a monument unparalleled of faith ; of true, genuine, saving faith in the Redeemer of mankind; of faith unsurpassed and unexampled. History presents nothing like it ; earth has never seen its fellow. It was an ACCEPTED FAITH : and, thief though he was, perishing though he was, even then, under the merited stroke of human justice, the dying Saviour, whom he was not ashamed to acknowledge as such, even beneath the heavy cloud of shame that then was obscuring his glory, pronounced the blessed assurance to him: “ This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Here, then, we may discern the “ marks of an acceptable faith;" and on the possession or the want of such a faith, your destiny and mine for eternity must depend.
1st. True faith is self-condemnatory; it is rooted and grounded in sincere repentance.
In the Word of God, Christ is presented to us as a Saviour of the lost. He offers pardon to the guilty.
It was for sinners undone by their transgressions that the Redeemer undertook to procure pardon and justification before God, and for such only.
If I merit not condemnation, I need no pardon; and until I discern distinctly and fully that I am guilty, and righteously condemned, I cannot feel my need of pardon; and not feeling my need of it, I cannot desire it. The thief hanging at the Saviour's side did feel his guilt; he acknowledged to his companion in guilt the perfect equity of the punishment he was enduring, even at the hands of his fellow-men ; and, by plain implication, much more did he deserve punishment at the hands of God. This, his language both to his fellow-culprit and to the Saviour clearly implies. He makes no attempt to conceal, to justify, or to palliate his guilt. He acknowledges it distinctly and fully. “W’e, indeed, justly." And thus, taking the entire blame on himself alone, he throws himself at once on the clemency of the suffering Messiah at his side. A similar heartfelt contrition, an unsparing selfcondemnation, is the uniform attendant on a saving faith. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." But, “whoso covereth his sins shall not prosper."
Let it, then, be distinctly understood and carefully remembered, that without this sincere and unaffected condemnation of himself, as deserving the fearful curse of God's law, there is and there can be in no man an acceptable faith in the Saviour, who alone delivers from the curse of the law. It is only when filled with a touching
sense of his personal unworthiness, that any man can urge aright the appeal of the dying thief: “ Lord, remember me."
2d. But his faith was also unhesitating, full, and confiding. Whatever may have been the process by which his mind had been led to the conclusion that the taunted sufferer hanging at his side was the long-expected Messiah of his nation, the hope of Israel, and the refuge of the guilty, no sooner, as it would seem, was that conclusion actually reached, than he acted upon it promptly and at once, and urged his appeal to Jesus, desperate though his case might appear. Condemned of men, condemned of God, and condemned by his own conscience, he probably. felt that the shame and the torment he was then enduring were but the foretaste of deeper pangs and a darker doom awaiting him, when the law of man should have done its worst upon his body.
Human sympathy could no more avail him ; Divine Justice frowned upon him. Beside him was one, covered indeed with obloquy, and loaded with shame, yet one whom he saw reason to 1 regard as not only innocent of crime, but holy; a prophet of God, yea, the long-expected Messiah. The ancient prophets, he well knew, had in their day been rejected and killed ; and perhaps even then some of the prophecies respecting the wounding and bruising of God's chosen servant, and those setting forth the taking away of sin by the sacrifice of himself, to be made by Messiah the Prince, recurred to his thoughts; and then, as he heard the unfeeling taunts and the base charges thrown out against the meek sufferer he beheld at his side, it may be that he recalled the rumours he had heard of devils cast out, of diseases removed, yea, of life restored to the dead by this very sufferer. It may be, even, that he had himself witnessed some of these manifestations of superhuman power and benignity on the part of this his fellow-sufferer, so immeasurably superior as he felt him to be above himself, in all moral qualities; and, as he thus eyed him, and thus reflected, conviction gradually fastened on his mind, and moved his heart, and awakened even hope in his guilty bosom. Here, if any where in the wide universe of God, might lie the power to rescue even him from at least the second death; and with that conviction he turns, reproves his scoffing companion, acknowledges his own guilt, and then, to the suffering yet spotless victim suspended between them, at once he prefers his plea : “ Lord, remember me." There is no hesitancy, no circumlocution, no peradventure in his language or his movements. He sees his guilt ; he feels his peril; he thinks that he discerns in Jesus evidence of power to help him; and at once and earnestly his suit is urged : “ Lord, remember me." No conditions are propored, no terms offered; he throws his hopes on the mere mercy of him he styles Lord. All he asks is remembrance, notice, pity; just what his Lord, of his own spontaneous goodness, might be disposed to do for him.
And truly, this is the genuine temper of true faith. While only alarmed under conviction of sin, a man will attempt much, .and do much, and promise more, in hope of obtaining favor with God; but when thoroughly humbled ; when, really penitent, he begins to apprehend the true character, the all-sufficiency, and the matchless grace of Christ Jesus, as the Saviour, preeminently and alone, he then abandons all self-reliance ; he throws aside every condition ; he offers no terms; he simply and cordially submits to the good pleasure, the unrestricted disposal of God in Christ; and the language of his very heart is, “ Lord, remember me.” If Christ, as the Saviour, as the Redeemer, will but remember me, a sinner, he will remember me as the Saviour, mighty to deliver, rich in grace, and not as an angry judge. “Lord, remember me."
3d. But again : His faith was frank and open. There is a noble ingenuousness in this appeal of the dying thief, that is worthy of all admiration, and of all imitation too. He spake, not to one courted, admired, and applauded; it was not in the hour of the Galilean prophet's triumph, when the risen Lazarus was before bim ; when those who had long been lame, halt, crippled, paralytic, or lunatic, were gratefully proclaiming the power that had healed them; not when thousands miraculously fed by his hand were shouting his praise, and hailing him as the prophet foretold, the Son of David, Israel's long-promised Mesiah King! No, no, no! All that was past and gone. The dying thief spake to Jesus, the despised, calumniated, condemned Jesus, when hanging on the cross; when surronnded by a hooting crowd, mocked by the rude soldiery, and bitterly taunted by the priests and scribes of his nation. Nay, the very man thus hated, rejected, scorned, charged with blasphemy, and actually dying under the hands of the public executioner, this once guilty thief, but now right-minded and noble-hearted penitent, addressed in terms of profound respect, of reverence, nay, of adoration. He styles him Lord, solicits his favorable notice, and throws himself on his mercy. There is here discovered a matchless moral grandeur in this dying thief.
Unmoved by example, unawed by power, unaffected by ridicule, contempt or mockery, this boldest of believers judged for himself, and obeyed the impulse of his own conscience; and, while all the world rejected Jesus; while his very disciples were hiding in cowardly desertion ; this poor, suffering criminal, this despised outlaw, this guilty, but now penitent thief, dared, alone and in defiance of Jews and Romans, of torturers and scoffers, to single out the very person on whom all others thus heaped contumely and insult, as the one whom his heart and his voice, solitary though it was, should hail in open acknowledgment, as the great Prophet, the promised Messiah, the Lord of all, the one only hope of his guilty, his perishing soul: “ Lord, remember me."
Such is always the temper of a true faith. That religion which is avowed only when popularity attends it, and which shrinks and retires and hides its head when contempt and opposition assail it, is spurious and unsound! May not some who among us are ranked as Christians, find cause to blush, on a comparison with this poor, dying thief?
Some there are who would feel deeply affronted, should we question their veracity, their ingenuousness, their frankness; and yet in places and at times where religion was reputable and the Saviour honored, they avowed themselves the friends of religion and followers of the Saviour. But, on passing into scenes and moving in a society where the Saviour is contemned and his religion is in disrepute, they cast away the badge of discipleship, and strive to conceal every token of connection with Christ! Ah! how little, how fickle, how base the conduct of such, compared with the noble frankness of the guilty thief, addressing the Saviour, as he did, when surrounded by mocking thousands, “Lord, remember me !"'
4th. Once more. His faith was spiritual ; it looked through and over all mere outward circumstances.
It was in disregard of all outward appearances, in contempt of mere external circumstances, in defiance of all that met the senses, that the penitent thief acted and spoke. So far as the senses alone could report, there was nothing to inspire respect, nothing to awaken confidence or to infuse hope !
He himself was condemned, and dying as a criminal. By his side hung one in like condemnation, a criminal to all appearance; a base and impious impostor, said the popular voice. Thus his companion in suffering was denounced by the heads of the church, condemned of the magistrate, and suffering under the hands of the public executioner; the eyes of thousands were scowling at him ; the popular cry was loud and clamorous against him; and to all appearance he was a guilty man, suffering but as his crimes deserved.
But all this biased not the judgment of the poor thief. Whence he had derived his information, we know not; but in this rejected sufferer he saw only an innocent being, the victim of popular caprice and cunning malice. His benevolent actions, his pure and heavenly doctrines, his surprising miracles, and his present meekness and patience, all combined to bring conviction to the heart of the thief, long before those prodigies of darkness and earthquake that afterwards sent conviction to the breast of the centurion; and this outlawed sufferer hesitated not to avow his deep convictions, in the earnest plea he advanced, “Lord, remember me !" Every other thought seemed lost in a view of the spiritual excellence of the suffering Nazarene and his own spiritual necessities. He asks for no honors, no emoluments, no dis