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Christ bears him. He who turned his back toward him on the way to Calvary, and suffered him to bear his cross, now turns his face on him with a smile which is a heaven in Heaven.
Do not wait till it is easier for you, as you suppose it may hereafter be, to become a Christian. That might be an irreparable loss, and, when Christ distributes our last rewards, an occasion for great regret. Come then, take up your cross. "Jesus, also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. LET US GO FORTH, THEREFORE, UNTO HIM WITHOUT THE CAMP, BEARING HIS REPROACH. FOR HERE HAVE WE NO CONTINUING CITY, BUT WE SEEK ONE TO COME." And, "IF WE SUFFER, WE SHALL ALSO REIGN WITH HIM."
THE PENITENT THIEF.
LUKE XXIII. 42, 43.
AND HE SAID UNTO JESUS, LORD, REMEMBER ME WHEN THOU COMEST INTO THY KINGDOM. AND JESUS SAID UNTO HIM, VERILY I SAY UNTO THEE, TO-DAY SHALT THOU BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.
THE three crosses which stood together on Mount Calvary, are a continual emblem of our world. A dying Saviour had, on one side of him, an enemy and unbeliever, and on the other side, a friend and believer. Thus it is to-day in every part of the globe where Christ is preached; thus it is in every Christian congregation.
This narrative is an instance of those discrepancies which we find in the several accounts of the same events by the different evangelists. One of them says, "The thieves which were crucified with him cast the same in his teeth," that is, the same reproaches with the scribes: If thou be the Christ, save thyself.' But another evangelist represents that only one of the thieves upbraided Christ; and therefore
some are disposed to reflect upon the accuracy and trustworthiness of the sacred penmen.
The discrepancy is satisfactorily explained in either of two ways. 1. It is a common method of speaking to use the plural number, when only one of a multitude may have been intended. We have an instance of the same kind in the story of the alabaster box of ointment. "And they that sat at meat with him had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?" But another evangelist says that this remark was made by Judas Iscariot; and his motives are given. All that one of the evangelists wished to intimate was, that fault was found at table with this precious gift; while the other historian enters into particulars. We use the same method of speaking. If a mob surrounds a house, and we say, They threw stones, this would be true, though but one man threw them. The idea is, stones were thrown; and this mode of speech is deemed sufficiently accurate in a general narrative, while, in a court of justice, the narrator might be required to tell whether he saw more than one man commit the outrage. So, one evangelist merely notices, in passing, the affecting circumstance that Jesus, in the agonies of crucifixion, received insult from among the two who were themselves dying by crucifixion. Even they who were crucified with him contributed to his sufferings. This is sufficiently accurate for the purpose.
But there is another way of explaining and reconciling this discrepancy. 2. It is possible that, at the first, both of the thieves did join to insult Christ. Who will undertake to say that they did not, or to deny that one of them afterward relented, and took the Saviour's part against his fellow?
Many interesting and important truths are illustrated by this narrative.
I. THE HISTORY OF THE PENITENT THIEF IS A
STRIKING ILLUSTRATION OF FAITH.
There are two remarkable expressions in the brief prayer which he addressed to Christ, both of them exhibiting wonderful faith. One is, "thy kingdom." Thy kingdom!-as though the suffering, dying Jesus had a kingdom. This idea was a subject of sport and ridicule below, while on the cross it was an object of faith. Above the cross, even Pilate writes a caricature: "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." To let every man of every tongue in that motley crowd have his chance to understand the criminal pretensions of Jesus, this accusation was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. But let the Hebrews, and the Greeks, and the Romans, with Pilate at their head-let the whole priesthood, and all the scribes insult at the idea of that crucified victim having a kingdom; nevertheless, this poor thief speaks to the Saviour of his "kingdom." Numbers,
rank, laughter, jests, nails, and spears, have no effect on him. His faith is like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved. It was a singular word, indeed, that ascended amid the hellish revelry around the cross, addressed to him who was despised and rejected of men, "When thou comest into thy kingdom."
What evidence had this penitent thief that Christ had a kingdom? What did he know which was not known to his fellow on the other side of Christ? Absolutely nothing. Yet we hear him expressing his faith in Jesus as being all which he professed to be. His ideas were necessarily vague with regard to Christ's kingdom, but his faith was nevertheless genuine faith.
What a reproof this is to unbelief-the unbelief of those who, with all the accumulated evidence which a Christian education affords, still say that they cannot bring themselves to believe. Surely unbelief is not always owing to a want of evidence ; nor is faith always proportioned to evidence; for the penitent thief had, in the circumstances of the case, very little warrant for his belief. What, then, is the explanation of such faith? It is simply this: his heart was touched; his feelings were disposed to look favorably on Christ. So true it is, as the inspired word declares, that "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Where the feelings are inclined toward any view of the case, it is easy