The Restraining Principle
Luke 23:39-43
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you be Christ, save yourself and us.…

And what is this fear? This fear is a solemn dread of the creature in presence of the Creator. Well, then, with real thought on the Passion, why must we feel, as a prominent principle, a fear of God?

1. The Cross, my brothers, witnessed to two things — God's awful and necessary judgments on human sin. It must be so. God could not be God if it were otherwise. The atonement is nothing else but the fearful statement of Divine holiness in relation to sin. Our first clear intimations of God, it has been truly argued, are not conclusions from reasoning on final causes, or evidences from the harmonies of a material world. No; they are the voice of conscience, and the self-evident consistency of the moral law. It is always possible to conceive, so it has been wisely said, all sorts of changes in the structure of the material world, and we find no difficulty to the intellect, whatever may be said about the imagination in the revelation of its final transformation by fire — that unimagined and yet inevitable catastrophe. But one thing is impossible — we cannot conceive right being otherwise than right, and wrong than wrong; we cannot imagine created dissonances in the harmony of the moral law, and what is that but saying that there are eternal necessities in the being of our Creator? And if so, being good, His judgment must be severe, must be awful, on persistent sin. We say so in our saner moments, but how are we to feel the truth of our saying? The answer is — Calvary.

2. But this fear is also a serious apprehension of the dreadfulness of evil in itself. The Cross showed the intensity of the love of God, and, by the form of the revelation, was revealed His knowledge of our fearful danger. The genius of Michael Angelo made the Sibyls splendid on the ceiling of the Sistine from the magnificence of proportion quite as much as from the softness of colour. Proportion is the secret of lasting charm. It is holy fear that is the principle of proportion in the relation of the creature — the fallen creature — to his Creator. To see God in suffering is, by grace, to have a proportionate affection. By it we are restrained, by it we are awed and solemnized, by it we act as men should in the felt presence of their Maker, by it we learn, in fact, our proper place.

(Canon Knox Little.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

WEB: One of the criminals who was hanged insulted him, saying, "If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!"

The Impenitent Thief
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