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his crime, and the evil of it, and of those other sins that have been the inlets to it, than to convince another of his sin upon a deathbed, as common observation sheweth. Hence our Lord says, " that the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before the self-righteous Pharisees,” Matth. xxi. 31. Many a time is sabbathbreaking, disobedience to parents, drunkenness, neglect of the means of grace, confessed and regretted on a scaffold, while there is not one word of them from a death-bed, in cases where there is perhaps as good ground for it. When the corruption of nature breaks out in some atrocious crime that brings a person to an untimely end, there is more access to convince them of it, than others who have the same plague in them, but it has not so appeared.

(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. The one: see they must die without peradventure, the other have some hopes of life generally while they have breath, And so the terror of death must needs be more operative in the one than the other; forasmuch as there is such a difference in the certainty of the view of it.

(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; forasmuch as the one is tossed with bodily sickness and indisposition, the other commonly is not.

5. The conversion of the thief on the cross was an extraordinary manifestation of our Lord's power, made for special reasons. And therefore though it shows what the Lord can do; it does not show what ordinarily he will do. Consider here, to evince this, that,

1st, It was done in such a juncture of time, as the like never was, and the like never will be again; namely, when the Lord of glory, the Saviour of the world, was actually hanging upon the cross, paying the ransom for the lost elect world; Roin. vi. 9, “ Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more ; death hath no more dominion over him."

2dly, It was a wonder wrought in a time allotted in a particular manner beyond all times, for God's working wonders. The time of the Lord's giving the law on Mount Sinai, was a time of wonders ; but not comparable to this. The leading wonder there was God's making his voice to be heard, and speaking forth a holy law; and it was attended with other wonders, namely, thunders, lightnings, a thick cloud upon the mount, smoke, and fire, and the sound of a terrible trumpet waxing louder and louder, Exod. xix. 16, &c. But the leading wonder on Mount Calvary was yet greater, namely, the Son of God, and Saviour of the world, hanging, groaning, dying on a cross : and therefore the attending wonders were proportionably greater. For,

(1.) The sun was under a dreadful eclipse, for the space of not a few minutes, but three hours, Matth. xxyii. 45. The eye of the visible world was struck blind at the sight.

(2.) The vail of the temple was, without hands, rent from the top to the bottom, Matth. xxvii. 51; to shew that by this death an end was put to the ceremonial law, and the way unto the holiest of all

made open.

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(3.) The earth quaked at the dreadful fact of crucifying the Lord of glory, Matth. xxvii. 51.

(4.) The hard rocks rent, upbraiding the spectators and guilty multitude with the hardness of their hearts, Matth. xxvii. 51.

(5.) The graves were opened, and many of the dead saints arose, to shew that Christ by his death had overcome the power of death over his people, Matth. xxvii. 52.

(6.) The spectators of those strange things smote their breasts, being struck to the heart, Luke xxiii. 48.

(7.) Lastly, the centurion and his soldiers were convinced, that he whom they had crucified was the Son of God, Matth. xxvii. 54.

Now, upon all these I would make these reflections.

[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. Were Christ to come again, and to be crucified a second time between two malefactors, and thou wert one of them to be crucified with him, it might be that thou mightst be converted at thy last hour. And yet thou couldst not be sure ; for it might be thy lot to be the hardened one, as it was the other thief's. But since it is not so, how darest thou trust to such a late repentance ?

[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 ? that the same power that was rending the rocks, did mercifully open the heart of one of those thieves to receive Christ and his grace? But how canst thou think, that the time of thy departure will be a time of such wonders? And if not, how canst thou deceive thyself into a delay of repentance, in expectation of receiving such a signal display of divine grace and mercy ?

[3.] Was it not very becoming the divine wisdom, that when the

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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 ? that when his judges, and the rulers and people had got him on the cross as å malefactor, he shonld have his glory owned by one of those crucified 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 oné trophy, one sign of his victory, in the field of battle? Col. ii. 15. Was it not very natural, that he who when he should be lifted up, was to draw all men after him, should actually at the time draw one after him? But what encouragement can that be to thee to delay to the last, when that nick of time is over long ago ? And now there are thousands of visible monuments of Christ's conquest by his death set up, so that thou wilt never be missed, though thou die as thou livest, impenitent.

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. For consider,

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 : “Lord,” says he, “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” What wonderful faith was this, that while Christ was so low as hanging on a cross, he owns him King of heaven; that dying, he was going to receive a kingdom; that he has all power there; that he is full of mercy, compassion, and faithfulness; so that the very remembrance of him would be sufficient to secure his eternal welfare! thou mayst believe and profess all this, but never at such a time. He is now the exalted Redeemer, who has ascended far above all heavens, and sits on the right hand of God. But what is that to the glorifying of him in his lowest humiliation ?

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, as Lord of the other world. If thou shouldst now do so too; yet remember how small a thing is that in comparison of what the good thief did in these circumstances.

Lastly, All this he did, and more, publicly before a multitude of spectators, which thou art not likely to have when thou comest to a

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death-bed. He jnstifies God before them all; he condemos himself'; he does what he can to convince and convert his poor graceless companion, who possibly sinned with him as he did suffer; he condemns those that crucified Christ, and gives his public testimony against them, as men that feared not God.

To conclude this matter: Repent ye timeously, and trust not to a late repentance. Let not this example of the thief on the cross, or any thing else, make you to delay. Many a call ye have had to return to the Lord; but, alas ! to the most part they have been ineffectual. God is giving us a providential call to repentance, at this time : he is saying to us, as he did to the church of Ephesus, Rev. ii. 5, “Remember therefore from whence thon art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come onto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent." God knows what our present trial may end in. But in that dark dispensation we may clearly see that God is a jealous God, and makes people's sins to find them out. Repentance would be the most feasible means to extricate us out of our difficulties. If there were a spirit of prayer and mourning for the causes of the Lord's controversy with us, it would be a token for good. But, alas! the work of repentance for the most part is put off from time to time, till it be put off to a death-bed; and who can secure the tryst to be kept there?

There are three things I would say of death-bed repentance.

1. If it be got, it is the most unuseful repentance for God, and the most uncomfortable for one's self. Unuseful; for then men begin their work for God, when their time is ending; and so though they may be saved, yet God gets little honour from them. And uncomfortable to persons themselves; for being saved, they are saved so as by fire; they must go to heaven by the brink of hell; while they see their last sand running, and get their consciences awakened, eternity must be to them a dreadful spectacle.

2. Death-bed-repentance is seldom sincere. The king of terrors may make a Pharaoh say, I have sinned. But what sincerity is in the most part of those things that begin on death-beds, may be learned from the case of many, who being past hopes of recovery from their sickness, either as to themselves or others, do yet recover, and turn just the old men and women they were before. When the best appearances of death-bed repentance are, it is hard to make sure conclusions; but as Augustine said in such a case, Non dico damnabitur, non dico salvabitur ; sed tu, dum sanus es, poeni

.*

tentiam age.*

i. e. I don't say, that such a person shall be damned, or that he shall be saved; but do thou, whilst thou art in health, mind the business of repentance.

3. Lastly, Many trust to deathbed repentance that never see it. Some are surprised into eternity; some are tossed so with sickness that they cannot have a composed thought; some quickly lose the use of their senses and reason; and most part die as they live : Therefore repent ye in time, and delay no more, lest ye bring the ruin on your souls that will never be recovered.

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GOD'S DELAY OP EXECUTING THE SENTENCE OF CONDEMNATION AGAINST UNGODLY MEN, OFTEN MISERABLY ABUSED BY THEM.

Several sermons preached at Ettrick, in summer, 1728.

Eccl. viii. 11.

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily ; therefore

the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. This book of Ecclesiastes is in a particular manner a book of providence, wherein Solomon gives his observations upon it. It is a subject that has puzzled the best of men, how to reconcile it with the being and attributes of God: but there is no inconsistency; all odds will be made even at length.

He had observed some set on high to their ruin, made rulers of others to their own destruction, to the feeding of their own lusts, and so aggravating their own condemnation, ver, 9. He had observed them live prosperously in their wickedness, die in honour, and buried magnificently, ver. 10. He opens the secret of this dispensation in the text, namely, That a reprieve is no pardon. In the words we have,

1. God's patience with, and forbearance exercised towards ungodly sinners : " Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily." (1.) It is supposed that sentence is passed in their

There is a righteous sentence standing against an evil work, and the evil worker for what he has done : it is not overlooked, nor forgotten. (Heb.) doing of the evil; by which is meant an ungodly course. This is plain from 1 John iii. 8, 9, “ He that committeth sin, is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God duth uot commit siu; for his seed remainuth in him : and he can

case.

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