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quiry seemed sincere; and the character he gave of himself was such, ás men, who see not the heart, might have judged exemplary and praiseworthy. When our Lord referred him to the precepts of the law, he answered that he had kept them all from his youth. Yet one thing, we read, was wanting. What could this one thing be, which rendered this fair character of no value? We may collect it from the event. He wanted a deep sense of his need of a Saviour. If he had been possessed of this one thing, he would willingly have relinquished all to follow Jesus. But ignorant of the spirituality of the law, he trusted to a defective obedience; and the love of the world prevailing in his heart, he chose rather to part with Christ than with his possessions.
On the other hand, how readily our Lord received sinners, notorious sinners, who were vile to a proverb, appears from the remarkable account given by St. Lukep of a woman whose character had been so infamous, that the Pharisee wondered that Jesus could permit her to touch him. But, though a great sinner, she found great forgiveness; therefore she loved much and wept? much. She had nothing to say for herself; bnt Jesus espoused her cause, and pronounced her pardon. He likewise silenced the proud caviller by a parable, that sweetly illustrates the freeners and genuine effect of the grace of God, which can only be possessed or prized by those who see they must perish without it.
And this was the general effect of his preach
p Luke, vii. 37.
q She washed his feet with tears. Hpšalo Bpexelv, she began to rain tears upon his feet. Her heard was waters, and her eyes fountains. To receive a free pardon of many sins, a pardon bought with blood-'tis this causes the heart to melt, and the eyes to flow,
ing. Publicans and sinners thronged to hear him, received his doctrine, and found rest for their souls. As this discrimination gave a general offence, he took occasion to deliver the parable of the prodigal;' in the former part of which he gives a most endearing view of the grace of God, in pardoning and accepting the most undeserving. He afterwards, in the close, shows the pride, stubbornness, and enmity of the self-righteous Pharisees, under the character of the elder $ brother, While his language and deportment discovered the disobedience and malice of his heart, he pretended that he had never broke his father's commands. The self-condemned sinner, when he first receives hope of pardon, experiences a joy and peace in believing: this is represented by the feast and fatted calf. But the religious, orderly brother had never received so much as a kid. He had found no true comfort in all his formal round of duties; and therefore was exceedingly angry that the prodigal should at once obtain those marks of favour, which he, who had remained with his father, had been always a stranger to,
But the capital exemplification of this, and indeed of every doctrine of the Gospel, is contained in the account given of the thieft upon the cross; a passage which has, perhaps, been more
r Luke, xv. 11,
s It may be objected to this interpretation, that the father speaks to the elder brother in terms of complacence. “ Son, " thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." But this is not the only place where our Lord addresses the Pharisees in their own style, according to the opinion they conceived of themselves. Thus, Matt. viii. 12. he says, “ children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer « darkness” he does not mean those who were truly the children of the kingdom, but those who pretended to
+ Luke, xxiii. 39-43.
mistaken and misrepresented by commentators, than any other in the New Testament. The grace of God has shone so bright in this instance, that it kas dazzled the eyes even of good men. They bave attempted to palliate the offender's crime, or at least to suppose that this was the first fault of the kind he had committed; that perhaps he had been surprised into it, and might in other respects have been of a fairer character. They conjecture that this was the first time he had heard of Jesus, and that there was not only some sort of merit in his faith and confession under these circumstances, but that the death of Jesus happily coinciding with his own, afforded him an advantage peculiar to himself; and that therefore this was an exempt case, and not to be drawn into a precedent to after-times.
If it was my professed design to comment upon this malefactor's case, I should consider it in a different light. The nature of bis punishment, which was seldom inflicted but on those who were judged the most atrocious criminals, makes it more than probable that he did not suffer for a first offence. Nor was he simply a thief. The history of those times abounds with mischiefs committed by public robbers, who used to join in considerable bands for rapine and murder, and commit the greatest excesses. In all likelihood, the malefactors crucified with Jesus were of this sort, accomplices and equals in guilt, and therefore judged to die together, receiving (as appears by the criminal's own confession on the cross) the just reward of their deeds." Here was indeed.
• It seems probable from the history that-these were of Barabbas's gang. They had niade an insurrection, committing murder, and were, with their ringleader, convicted and condemned. He, in dishonour to Jesus, was spared, whilst these his accomplices were executed with him.
a fair occasion to shew the sovereignty and triumph of grace contrasted with the most desperate pitch of obdurate wickedness; to show, on the one hand, that the compassion and the power of Christ were not diminished, when his sufferings were at the height, and he seemed aban,doned to his enemies; and, on the other, the insufficiency of any means to change a sinner's heart without the powerful efficacy of divine grace. The one malefactor, brought at length to deserved punishment, far from repenting of his crimes, regardless of his immediate appearance before God, thought it some relaxation of his torments, to join with the barbarous multitude in reviling Jesus, who hung on a cross by his side. He was not ignorant that Jesus was put to death, for professing himself the Messiah ;. but he upbraided him with his character, and treated him as an impostor. In this man we see the progress, wages, and effects of sin. His wickedness brought him to a terrible end, and, sealed bim up under a fatal hardness of heart, so that he died desperate, though Jesus Christ
crucified before his eyes. But his companion was impressed by what he saw; his heart relented. He observed the patience of the divine Sufferer; he heard him pray for his murderers; he felt himself miserable, arzd feared the God with whom he had to do. In this distress he received faith to apply to Jesus, and his prayer
w Comp. Matt. xxvii. 39. How can it be expected that no inore than a constant repetition of Christ's death, should be an invincible means of changing the heart, when the actual sight of his sufferings was attended with so little effect! Sin must be felt as the disease and ruin of the soul, and the sufferings of Jesus acknowledged as the only possible remedy, before we can truly sympathize with him, and say, I am crucified with Christ.
was granted and exceeded. He who sent the fair-spoken ruler away sorrowful, answered the first desire of a malefactor at the point of death; “ This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” This certainly was an instance of free distinguishing grace. Here was salvation bestowed upon one of the vilest sinners, through faith in Jesus, without previous works, or a possibility of performing any. And as such, it is recorded for the encouragement of all who see themselves destitute of righteousness and strength, and that, like the thief on the cross, they have no refuge or hope, but in the free mercy of God through Christ.
5. The medium, by which the Gospel becomes the power of God unto salvation, is Faith. By faith we do not mean a bare assent, founded upon testimony and rational evidence, that the facts recorded in the New Testament are true. A faith of this sort experience proves to be consistent with a wicked life; whereas the Gospel-faith purifies the heart, and overcomes the world. Neither do we mean, a confidence of the forgiveness of sin impressed upon the mind in a sudden and instantaneous manner. Faith is, indeed, founded upon the strongest evidence, and may often be confirmed by ineffable manifestations from the Fountain of light and comfort : but the discriminating property of true faith, is a reliance upon Jesus Christ, for all the ends and purposes for which the Gospel reveals him ; such as the pardon' of sin, peace of conscience, strength for obedience, and eternal life. It is wrought by the operation of the Holy Spirit, and presupposes a knowledge of him and of ourselves; of our indigence, and his fulness; our unworthiness, and his merits; our weakness, and his power. The true believer