Text Luke xxiii. 42, — And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.1. As a vicious stomach corrupts the best of meat; so impenitent sinners abuse the best things to their own ruin:
2 There is a particular disposition in the hearts of impenitent sinners to abuse and wrest the Scriptures.
3. Abused Scripture is one of the chief pieces of Satan's armour,
4. Reigning love to sin makes people very dexterous to find out shifts to preserve their lusts;
I. There is ground of hope for trembling sinners.
1. They may go long on, and far on in the way to hell, whom yet God may bring home to himself.
2. Grace sometimes catches them that in appearance, and to the eyes of the world, are farthest from it.
3. Grace makes a vast difference betwixt those betwixt whom it finds none.
4. Lastly, While there is life there is hope.
the use that is to be made of this, is,
1. Let those that seek God early be encouraged from this, that they shall find him:
2. Let not those whose day is almost gone, before they have begun their work, despair.
3. Lastly, Let us sow beside all waters, in the morning and in the evening.
II. But there is no ground here for the crafty delaying sinner to put off repentance,
1. It is a most rare example.
1st, What less could there have been to have cleared a possibility of acceptance with God,
2dly, As one swallow makes not spring, so neither can this one event make a general rule
3dly, Are there not eminent instances to the contrary,
4thly, The most that this so rare an example can amount to, is a possibility.
2. Though there were two thieves on the cross at that time, yet it was but one of them that got grace to repent.
1st, Is it not possible that thou mayst die blaspheming, if thou do not repent now in time?
2dly, It is at least an equal venture, that thou mayst die impenitent, as that thou mayst die a penitent.
3dly, It is inconsistent with common sense, to leave that thing to a venture,
4thly, Nay but the venture is very unequal;
And what casts the balance here in case of likelihood, is,
(1.) Common observation, that tells us, that most people even die as they live.
(2.) It is certain that few are saved, in comparison of them that are left:
(3.) The sad threatenings denounced against sinners going on in their sin,
(4.) Corrupt nature sticks fast in thee;
(5.) Repentance is not to be wrought by the sinner's being brought to an extremity,
(6.) The most powerful and likely means of grace will not prevail, unless accompanied with a special operation of the Spirit.
(7.) They that delay repentance till a dying hour, readily find they have another thing to do then, than to repent;
3. There is no evidence that this thief had before such means of grace as you have.
1st, It is unreasonable to think, that it should fare at the last with those who have had means of grace all their days, and despised them, as it may do with those who never have such means till they come to die.
2dly, This conversion of the thief doubtless was a perfect surprise to him,
4. This thief was converted, when by the hand of public justice he was to die.
lst, It is evident, that wicked men who are running on in such courses as will bring them to an untimely death, by the laws of the land, such as thieves, robbers, murderers, &c. have a fairer ground from this to delay repentance till they come to the scaffold, than you have,
2dly, If we compare the case of this thief put to death for his crimes, and of other malefactors so dying, with the case of men that have lived impenitently dying in their beds; though grace is alike free to both, yet, humanly speaking, there is more hope of the repentance of the former than of the latter.
(1.) It is more easy to convince a malefactor upon the scaffold,
(2.) The view that the thief had of eternity upon the cross, and that other malefactors have in such a case, is more certain than what impenitent sinners generally have on a death-bed.
(3.) If we except the time wherein both are actually grappling with death, the one with a violent death, the other with a natural one; the former have less hinderances from the body to prepare for death than the latter;
5. The conversion of the thief on the cross was an extraordinary manifestation of our Lord's power,
1st, It was done in such a juncture of time,
2dly, It was a wonder wrought in a time allotted
(1.) The sun was under a dreadful eclipse, for the space of not a few minutes, but three hours,
(2.) The vail of the temple was, without hands, rent from the top to the bottom,
(3.) The earth quaked at the dreadful fact of crucifying the Lord of glory,
(4.) The hard rocks rent,
(5.) The graves were opened, and many of the dead saints arose,
(6.) The spectators of those strange things smote their breasts,
(7.) Lastly, The centurion and his soldiers were convinced,
[1.] Is it reasonable, because the thief was converted at the last hour, in a time that the like never was, nor will be, for thee to expect that it shall fare so with thee?
Thou mayst as well throw thyself into a burning fiery furnace, and hope to come forth safe, because Daniel and his fellows were once so delivered.
[2.] Is it any wise strange, that amongst all these wonders of justice, power, and faithfulness, there was one wonder of mercy upon the thief on the cross?
But how canst thou think, that the time of thy departure will be a time of such wonders?
[3.] Was it not very becoming the divine wisdom, that when the divine glory of the Son of God was veiled upon the cross, a ray of it should break forth in the conversion of one of two that were hanging there with him?
but what is that to thee in a day wherein it is long since Christ was set down at his Father's right hand, and his glory published through the world by the gospel?
[4.] Is it any thing strange, that when our Lord was triumphing over principalities and powers, he set up one trophy, one sign of his victory, in the field of battle?
But what encouragement can that be to thee to delay to the last, when that nick of time is over long ago?
6. Lastly, The penitent thief on the cross was not only sincere, but he glorified Christ more in his late repentance, than thou art capable to do by thine, nay more than if thou hadst lived a penitent all thy days.
1st, When our Lord was in his lowest step of humiliation, he professed his faith of his divine nature, and his being King of the other world:
2dly, When others had crucified him as a malefactor, and were mocking him, and railing on him, as one that deserved not common compassion, he was praying to him,
Lastly, All this he did, and more, publicly before a multitude of spectators,
To conclude this matter:
1. If it be got, death-bed repentance is the most unuseful repentance for God, and the most uncomfortable for one's self.
2. Death-bed-repentance is seldom sincere.
3. Lastly, Many trust to deathbed repentance that never see it.