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did. It would appear, from Matthew's account, that he at first sympathized in the feelings of absurdity, that a crucified criminal should claim to be Christ, which his fellow-thief expressed; for that evangelist says, "The thieves also which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” Matthew xxvii. 44. But Luke wrote later, and with fuller information on the subject, derived perhaps from John, who was nearer the cross than his brethren, and was able to testify as to the changed conduct of one of the thieves in the progress of the execution. John, who wrote later still, to supplement the account of the other evangelists, omits the colloquy of the thieves, as Luke had already given it, but simply states a fact of Barabbas omitted by the other evangelists, that "he was a robber,” John xviii. 40, of whom Matthew had simply said that he was " a notable prisoner.” Matthew xxvii. 16. These two facts of Barabbas, would seem to indicate that he belonged to the same class with the two thieves, only that he was more distinguished, perhaps as their captain, or the leader of one of these insurrectionary bands."

The penitent thief, like Saul of Tarsus, being a Jewish zealot, and prepared for any act of violence to realize the freedom of his nation, had, like him, pursued the good end of promoting the religion of the prophets, but by wrong means and with false expectations. He had done it by resisting the Roman power, and had thus involved himself in a predatory and murderous career. But he "obtained mercy because he did it ignorantly in unbelief.” ] Tim. i. 13. The facts indicate the irregular life of a fanatic on the part of this man, rather than that of a thief or highwayman by nature or by instinct. The very words he used, “when thou comest into thy kingdom,” show his familiarity with the religious vocabulary of his time. He had been looking, praying, fighting, robbing, and murdering, with eyes and hopes directed towards the Messianic kingdom. Malignant fanaticism justifies the means by the end, and though intent upon acting the part of devils, and converting earth into hell, it is all for the glory of God. The pious part taken by young Saul in the murder of Stephen, is of a piece with some of the most sanguine expressions of perverted religious sentiment.

What such characters need is, not to be made more sincere, for they verily believe themselves doing God service, Acts xxvi. 9, but to be set right in their sincerity, when the strength of their natural character will illustrate the most exalted virtues. As Saul “ profited above his equals” as a Pharise3, so he was in advance of all his

1 The writer follows the early fathers as to the relative date of the four gospels, but in the full belief of plenary inspiration.

may have

brethren in his views of the gospel, and in his labors for its promotion. Gal. i. 14; 1 Cor. xv. 10. Thus with the thief; as soon as he was set right as to the character of his Messiah, and the nature of his kingdom, — consisting not in outward splendor, but of inward holiness—he was prepared to exercise a faith more extraordinary than that of any other believer-faith not as confirmed by Christ's resurrection, but by the agony, weakness, and ignominy of his crucifixion.

This changed view of the penitent thief seems to have been opened upon him by the Holy Spirit, sometime after he had been nailed to the cross.

How the change proceeded we are not told; possibly it was by what of meekness, gentleness, patience and purity; what of tender love to enemies which he witnessed in Jesus upon the cross at his side. He may have seen or heard of the blameless and benevolent life of Jesus, of his extraordinary powers exercised only in the cause of beneficence — the country was full of the subject at the time - and putting all these thing together in his guilt and agony,

it forced upon him the conviction, that in goodness at least, Jesus was as superior to all others as they had expected their Messiah to be in worldly pomp and glory. Under such circumstances, how natural the query. “Can such goodness, such holiness, such love to enemies, such submission to suffering, in one who had shown himself so powerful to heal the sick and raise the dead, --can all these virtues be annihilated by the cross, or cancelled by death?” The very idea wonld naturally suggest to a mind in his unquiet but receptive state, the impossibility of it under the righteous government of God, and would raise in time the dim and doubtful suspicion that this, after all, might be Israel's Redeemer; that his reign might be one of goodness and spiritual power, rather than of worldly glory. A mind in his state thinks quick, grasps new conclusions with convulsive strength, and condenses into a moment the reasonings and feelings of a lifetime. Can we wonder that faith should have followed doubt, and that he should have prayed to his dying comrade as more than a worldly potentate, the veritable Immanuel, God with us? "Lord, think

“upon me when you reach your heavenly enthronement. I have wasted my life on hate, crime, and hell. But, oh! if thou wilt only think upon me, to make me good by thine own triumphant goodness and love, I shall be at peace even on this cross."

Thus, without presuming too far, we may suppose that truths and motives were as really present in this as in any other conversion. The Holy Spirit may have in no degree departed from his ordinary mode of working by antecedent and consequent means and ends. Miracles may effect changes in brute matter, but not in the human


will. That, as Edwards shows, must be determined by choice and motive, to give a moral quality to its acts.

The answer of our Lord to the poor man's prayer, is so full of benignity; so lovingly forgetful of what he had been and done; so blessedly hope-inspiring—"To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise"—that in it centres the chief interest of the passage.

The words and imagery of this answer, and the truths indicated by it, are the points to be considered.

The imagery is contained in the word paradise. This word is three times used in the New Testament, and in each case with reference to disembodied or heavenly life. In its use by our Lord upon the cross, nothing can be intended but the beatification which follows death, to a good man. The thief prays for this,-for in the word kingdom, as he used it, knowing he should die that day, and that Jesus would pass into a disembodied life, he could have desired nothing short of beatification in a future state of being. He uses the word "remember" in the sense of bearing in mind for one's good, as we speak of remembrance in a will; and the good could only have reference to spiritual or heavenly beatification. And the promise of a paradise short of this, would have been a mockery and deception of which Jesus was incapable.

The paradise into which the apostle was “caught up,” is the same with the "third heaven,” to which he was admitted in a state that left him in doubt whether he was in the body or out of the body, and which therefore can only refer to heavenly life. 2 Cor. xii. 2-4.

The other use of the term is in Revelation ii. 7, where it is said, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” What can this passage also mean, if not the happiness which is consequent in another life upon overcoming the sins and temptations of our present state of existence ?

Thus the state of Christ and the thief, after the death of the body; of Paul transported to heaven in vision; and of those coming up out of great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,-must of necessity be heavenly, and in no sense pertaining to the riches, honors, or pleasures of our wordly life. Such is the sole application of the term in the New Testament.

This heavenly state immediately succeeds the death of the body. To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Both the parties in

-” this conversation were dead men before the sun went down, and if paradise means what we have said, to make our Lord's words true it must have been the state immediately succeeding their death. This accords to Stephen's dying experience of an open heaven, when he


saw Jesus “standing on the right hand of God," to welcome his suffering servant to the beatification of his own presence. Acts vii. 56. It is only in view of this immediate connection between death and heaven that the apostle could have felt that it would be better to depart and be with Christ, than to live on earth. Phil. i. 23. It is only this that could have made him confident of “a crown of righteousness," in his prospect of a speedy martyrdom. 2 Tim. iv. 6–8. The idea of a paradise to consist of ages of unconsciousness in the grave, awaiting the resurrection of the body, conflicts with the plain text and whole scope of Scripture. Nine in ten who lived at the time of the crucifixion had no available hope of any thing short of annihilation in death. Then thought would cease; then the consciousness of pain or pleasure would alike vanish; then the soul, as a flickering flame, would be extinguished in darkness, as the animal or vital forces of the body perished. So settled were the Athenians in this belief, that when Paul held forth a life to come, they “mocked," and declined to hear him further. Acts xvii. 32. The immortality of the philosophers had no hold on the commion mind, while it failed of yielding to the educated an available hope of a life to come. The sect of Sadducees, among the Jews, denied the existence of angels or spirits. Unconsciousness, annihilation, was the sole consolation amid the pangs of death to the suffering masses, both Jewish and heathen. How absurd, therefore, that this should have been the object of the malefactor's prayer! And how much more absurd, that Jesus should have mocked his misery by telling him that it would end in unconsciousness before the sun went down! A kingdom prayed for, nonentity promised! Is such an answer worthy of Him who came to bring life and immortality to light? Does it accord with the strong hold upon heavenly life of which the first Christians give such abundant proof in their glowing words and triumphant martyrdom ? Is not the whole Scripture record, from Genesis to Revelation, as much concerned with the words and deeds of beings with a disembodied life as with those who dwell in tenements of clay? Who is Jehovah but'a conscious personality, infinite and eternal, who dwelleth not in temples made with hands ? Who are the angels of light but disembodied spirits in a state of beatification ? “I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him, on his right hand and his left," is one passage among thousands that have no meaning, if there is not a universe of spiritual as well as material agencies. Hence the promise of our Lord to the penitent thief, that he should that day be in a paradise of beatified spirits, is in harmony with the whole revelation, and his words can admit of no other interpretation.

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I am the more emphatic on this point, because there is an active and deluded class of religionists among us, who deny the existence of the soul, except as connected with the body. They make great reliance upon a false punctuation, in harmonizing our Lord's words with their own theory. To-day is an adverb, they affirm, qualifying "say,” “I say to-day,” that “thou shalt be in paradise at the resurrection of your body some ages hence.” Thus they parry the only sense the words will bear, to make it appear that the thief did not that day go into paradise, that Christ promised him no such thing, and that our Lord did not himself enter paradise that day. And to retain their position, they quote the words of Christ to Mary, after his resurrection, “Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” John xx. 17. The best commentators regard this as a check to unnecessary delay or ceremony, such as embracing the feet; for that he was not immediately going to take his departure from earth, but he would give further opportunities for seeing him; and of this his disciples should be informed, that in a little time he should ascend to God, not only as his Father, but as theirs also; alluding to the more endeared relation between the believing soul and God, introduced by his mediation.

The idea that Christ was not then in paridisaical beatification, is too absurd to be a moment entertained. He spoke of himself as “the Son of man who is in heaven,” John iii. 13, while he was yet upon earth, meaning by it that heaven was in him, and went with him, and he with that in all his changes of location. The idea of heaven as a place to go to and not to be enjoyed till it is reached, is making it depend upon outward conditions rather than fitness of moral and spiritual character. He who is in love is in heaven, for "he dwelleth in God and God in him," 1 John iv. 16. Does not God's presence with the soul, bestowing upon it the smiles of his infinite love, make a paradise, in the full meaning of our Lord's promise to the penitent thief ? This is heavenly beatification, which our Lord enjoyed on earth, before and after his resurrection, and he did not need to ascend to his Father in the sense of finally leaving the earth in order to secure it. Alas for the sensuous ideas entertained on this subject, as if there can be no soul-life nor heavenly happiness without a material body for its basis, and an earthly paradise to contain it!

Though paradise, in our Lord's use of the term, is heavenly beatification, it by no means supposes the highest perfection of it. It

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