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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 into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.
But as soon as the penitent thief addressed him with that humble supplication, the language of repentance, faith, and hope, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom, he immediately hears and answers him: and in how gracious and remarkable a phrase! This day shalt thou be with me in paradise! What a triumph was here, not only of mercy to the dying penitent, but of the strongest faith in God, that when to an eye of sense he seemed to be the most deserted and forgotten by him, and was on every side beset with the scorn of them that were at ease, and with the contempt of the proud, he should speak from the cross as from a throne, and undertake from thence, not only to dispense pardons, but to dispose of seats in paradise!
Most ungrateful and most foolish is the conduct of those who take encouragement from hence to put off their repentance 'perhaps to a dying moment: most ungrateful in perverting the grace of the Redeemer into an occasion of renewing their provocations against him, and hardening their hearts in their impieties and most foolish to imagine that what our Lord did in so singular a circumstance is to be drawn into an ordinary precedent. This criminal had, perhaps, never heard of the gospel before; and now how cordially does he embrace it? Probably there are few saints in glory who ever honoured Christ more illustriously than this dying sinner, acknowledging him to be the Lord of life, whom he saw in the agonies of death; and pleading his cause when his friends and brethren forsook him, and stood afar off. (Compare Matt. xxvi, 56, and Luke xxiii. 49.)
But such is the corruption of men's hearts, and such the artifice of Satan, that all other views of him are overlooked, and nothing remembered, but that he was a notorious offender, who obtained mercy in his departing moments. The Lord grant that none who read this story here may be added to the list of those who, despising the forbearance and long-suffering of God, and not knowing that his goodness leads to repentance, have been emboldened to abuse this scripture, so as to perish, either without crying for mercy at all, or crying for it in vain, after having treasured up an inexhaustible store of wrath, misery, and despair! (Rom. ii. 4, 5.)
MATT. XXVII. 45-54.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And some of them that stood by, when they heard that, said, Behold, this man calleth for Elias?
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished.
And when Jesus had cried again with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
MATT. XXVII. 51-56. MARK XV. 38-41. LUKE XXIII. 47-49.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, in the midst, from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Now when the centurion which stood over against him, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, they feared greatly; and the centurion glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man; Truly this man was the Son of God. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts and returned.
And surely we, when we return from such a view of it as this, have reason to smite upon our breasts too, and to be most deeply affected with what we have heard and seen in this lively description. Let us set ourselves as with the mother of Jesus, and the beloved disciple, at the foot of the cross and see whether there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow, wherewith the Lord afflicted him in the day of his fierce anger. (Lam. i. 12.) Well might the sun grow pale at the sight; well might the earth tremble to support it! How obdurate must the hearts of those sinners be, who could make a mock of all his anguish, and sport themselves with his dying groans! But surely the blessed angels who were now, though in an invisible crowd, surrounding the accursed tree, beheld him with other sentiments: admiring and adoring the various virtues which he expressed in every circumstance of his behaviour; and which, while the sun of righteousness was setting, gilded and adorned all the horizon. Let us likewise pay our homage to them, and observe with admiration his tenderness to his surviving parent; his meekness under all these injuries and provocations; his steady faith in God in an hour of the utmost distress; and his concern to accomplish all the pur poses of his life, before he yielded to the stroke of death.
Yet with what amazement must the holy angels hear that cry from the Son of God, from the darling of heaven, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me! Let not any of the children of God wonder if their heavenly Father sometimes withdraw from them the sensible and supporting manifestations of his presence, when Christ himself was thus exercised; and let them remember that faith never appears with greater glory than when, in language like this, it bursts through a thick cloud, and owns the God of Israel, and the Saviour, even while he is a God that hideth himself from us. (Is. xlv. 15.) May we, in our approaching combat with the king of terrors, find him enervated by the death of our dear Lord, who thus conquered even when he fell! May we thus breathe out our willing and composed spirits into our Father's hands, with a language and faith like this, as knowing whom we have believed, and being persuaded that he is able to keep what we commit to him until that day! (2 Tim. i. 12.)
MATT. XXVII. 55-61. MARK XV. 40-47.
AND all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee ministering unto him, stood afar off; among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome the mother of Zebedee's children: and many other women were there, which came up with him unto Jerusalem, beholding these things.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath-day, (for that sabbath-day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye
might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
And after this, when the even was come, behold, there came a rich man of Arimathæa, a city of the Jews, named Joseph, an honourable counsellor, and he was a good and a just man. The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them: but also himself waited for the kingdom of God, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews. This man went in boldly unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus, that he might take it away. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave him leave, and commanded the body to be delivered to Joseph. And he bought fine linen, and took him down.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, which he [Joseph] had hewn out in the rock, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore, because of the Jews' preparation-day, and the sabbath drew on: for the sepulchre was nigh at hand; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre : and there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary the mother of Joses, sitting over against the sepulchre, and beheld how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments: and