And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you be Christ, save yourself and us.…
To defer the time of conversion, and as a pretext for persevering in the ways of sin, the worldly-minded flatter themselves with three principal delusions.
1. One delays his conversion because he imagines that a time of sickness and suffering will present a more favourable opportunity to think of it. He flatters himself that he will not be carried away by a violent or sudden death; that a long and slow malady, during the course of which he will have time to reflect, and to make an account of his ways, will permit him to prepare himself for the meeting with his God. But how does he know whether a malady, under the weight of which the very organism of the constitution sinks, will not oppress his senses, dull his spirit, take from his mind its energy, and paralyze his faculties? Who can be ignorant that, in such a case, nothing is more usual than hesitations, adjournments, and delays, seeing the man has accustomed himself to the deceitful hope of a recovery, sooner or later?
2. A second reason, as I said, for which the worldly-minded defer their conversion is, that they suppose that at the hour of death Providence will work miracles of salvation, other and more efficacious than those which they have been able to enjoy during their life; and that the most pressing invitations of grace, the most irresistible attractions of the Holy Spirit, the most powerful manifestations of Divine love will be afforded. Where has God promised such manifestations? Nowhere. But so be it; what does this prove? When the heart is hardened by a long course of sin, will it not resist the evidence of truths the best established, and facts the most palpable, even the most powerful miracles of salvation?
3. Lastly, impenitent sinners defer their conversion upon the pretext that, at the time when they shall see death to be near, love of the world will disappear from the heart, carnal passions will be extinguished, and the soul will open itself to the influence of the truths of the Word of Life. But if the experience of many centuries is not sufficient to attest that such a time has not upon the soul that regenerating power which is supposed; that, instead of detaching himself from the things of earth, the unregenerated man will strive to attach himself more, and to cling more strongly, to measures which may prolong his existence in this world; that so far from becoming more susceptible to the beauty of truth and love, a long course of resistance renders the heart incapable of feeling their attractions, surely the example of the dying robber will be sufficient to dispel for ever those fatal delusions. Not only is this robber not touched by the truth, but he repels it; not only does he continue to sleep in the security of sin, but he is incensed against the Word; and whilst shame and remorse should have closed his lips, he unites with the multitude to insult the Saviour of the world: and to all his other sins he adds an impudent irony against the Son of God; he crowns all his crimes by blasphemy. After that, will you still count, O all you who defer your conversion, on the changes that accompany death, as if they could miraculously break the chain of your sins, or promote your eternal salvation? Three things have struck us in the history of the unconverted robber: first, that death was not startling; second, that extraordinary succour of grace was not received; third, that he aggravated his condemnation and hardened himself in circumstances, which it seems should have ameliorated his state. The conversion of his companion in iniquity presents to us reflections of quite another nature. And can you doubt, that if in this moment some one had been able to bring down the converted thief from the cross, had been able to lavish upon him the succours of art, and, in the end, cicatrize his wounds: if one could have contrived to arrest the fever to which he was a prey, to give him the use of his members; to restore him to life; can you doubt that, such being his feelings, the remainder of his earthly existence would have been other than a noble demonstration of the power of the faith and love which lived in his soul?
Parallel VersesKJV: And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.