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THE ORUCIFIED MALEFACTORS.
LUKE, XXIII. 39---43.–And one of the malefactors, which were hanged, railed on him, saying, If thou be 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 rea ward 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, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Though all the four evangelists agree in relating some circumstances attending Christ's crucifixion, yet they all differ, one from another, in omitting some circumstances attending it. They all mention, that Christ was crucified with two persons. John says, "they crucified him, and two others with him, one on either side, and Jesus in the midst.” Matthew says, " Then were two thieves crucified with him ; one on the right hand, and the other on the left.” Mark says, " And with him they crucified two thieves ; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.” Luke barely calls them malefactors. Matthew and Mark say, that both the malefactors joined with others in reviling him on the cross. Luke mentions only one of them, as railing on him ; and John mentions nothing
that they said. These different accounts of the cir-
I. Wherein these two malefactors were alike;
I. Let us consider wherein these two malefactors were alike. And,
1. They were alike in respect to depravity of heart. They were the descendants of Adam ; and like the rest of his posterity, came into the world in a state of moral depravity. They were totally destitute of true love to God and under the entire dominion of a depraved heart. Every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was evil, only evil continually. They possessed a carnal mind, which was enmity to God, not subject to his law, neither could be. Their hearts were full of selfish and sinful affections, which
totally excluded every spark of holy love, or true benevolence. They were dead in trespasses and sins and altogether destitute of spiritual life. They were both born, grew up, and lived in this sinful and guilty state, till after they became malefactors. This we may justly conclude from their becoming such abandoned characters. We have no intimation, that one was any better than the other, in respect to the total depravity of their hearts.
2. They were alike in respect to their knowledge of Christ. As there is nothing said concerning their being strangers, foreigners, or pagans, we must suppose, they were the children of Jewish parents, born and brought up in Jerusalem ; where they were circumcised the eighth day, and taught to attend all the private and public duties of religion, according to all the laws of Moses. And as Christ often went up to Jerusalem to attend divine ordinances, it is very possible, if not probable, that these two malefactors, as well as thousands of other stupid and profligate sinners, might have had opportunities of hearing Christ preach, or of seeing him work miracles. But there is no probability, that one of them knew any more about Christ, than the other, before they were led with him to Calvary, and extended on the cross. I know, that some have supposed, the penitent malefactor had known more about Christ; and conducted better in general, than the other malefactor ; which was the reason that he repented, while the other remained obstinate. This however, is a mere conjecture, which has no foundation in scripture. Both of them might have been, for aught we know to the contrary, totally ignorant of Christ, until the day of their crucifixion.
Or both of them might have been equally acquainted with the person, preaching, and miracles of Christ, before they were either guilty, or condemned for their crimes. But since all the evangelists are silent respecting their knowledge of Christ, we have no right to suppose, that one knew any more about Christ, than the other, but ought to presume, that they were alike in this respect. We know, however,
3. That they were alike in practice. Though they were born and brought up in Jerusalem, and had been early dedicated to God, and instructed in the true religion ; yet they were certainly sinners in Zion, and extremely vicious. They violated the laws of God
. and man. They were guilty of the detestable crime of stealing. Matthew says, speaking of the crucifixion of Christ, “ Then were two thieves crucified with him ; one on the right hand, and another on the left." Mark speaking of the same solemn scene, says, “ And with him they crucify two thieves ; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.” And Luke calls them both malefactors. It is very probable, that they began their vicious course early in life, and followed one evil practice after another, till they were prepared to perpetrate the enormous crimes, for which they were condemned to die. We know, therefore,
4. That they were alike in condemnation. They were both apprehended, and brought before a human tribunal, where they were tried, convicted, and doomed to die the painful and reproachful death of the cross. When the day appointed for their execution arrived, they were taken out of prison, and led with Christ, in dreadful formality, amidst thousands of spectators, to mount Calvary, where they were extended on the
cross, and where, for some time, they continued to feel and express the astonishing obduracy and malig. nity of their hearts. Hear wbat Saint Matthew says respecting their treatment of Christ, while they were suffering with him on the cross. " Then were there two thieves crucified with him ; one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
Likewise also, the chief priests, mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, he saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him : for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” Mark agrees with Matthew in mentioning the same insulting language and conduct of the spectators of the crucifixion, and subjoins, “ they that were crucified with him reviled him.” This testimony of the two inspired evangelists, leaves us no room to doubt, but that both of the malefactors were alike hardened and impenitent, till after they were actually suspended on the cross ; for they both joined with the surrounding multitudes, in reviling the suffering Savior. Let us next consider,
II. When they began to differ. Luke tells us in the text, that they did differ before they died.
« And one of the malefactors, which were hanged, railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying, Dost