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restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts i. 6.) meaning a kingdom of temporal grandeur and felicity in this world.
But solitude, and suffering, and the long expected near approach of death, are great teachers. They strip the world and the things of it of their splendid glare and allurements, and show them in their true colours :-how empty and void of all real satisfaction to a rational being who looks beyond them! He had formerly heard, with little emotion, our Lord declaring that what he had to give was eternal life at the last day. Having done with all earthly hopes, he now reflected upon and relished what he had heard. And our Lord's apostles soon became better instructed in this school of adversity.
This man aspires to no honours in that future heavenly kingdom, (which showed how well fitted he was for it,) where the least favour and admittance is infinitely above all human desert:-all he desires is to be remembered by Jesus, not to be overlooked and forgotten by him.
III. Let us next attend to our Lord's answer to
his humble request, which has been much misunderstood, as if he had promised him a thing which was immediately to take place : “ And Jesus said unto him; Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
We shall be able to satisfy ourselves of the nature and extent of our Lord's promise here, if we can only ascertain the meaning of the word paradise with tolerable exactness.
We find it used by the Greek translators of the Old Testament before Christ, who (Genes. ii.) call the garden of Eden, where parents
lived in innocence and happiness, the paradise of Eden.
In the two only places in which the word is found in the New Testament, it seems used to signify the region of supreme happiness, or heaven.
Thus St. Paul, speaking of what happened to him in a vision that he had been favoured with, says, (2 Cor, xii. 4.) “ that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not possible for a man to utter.'
And (Revel. ii. 7.) our Saviour is introduced thus speaking to encourage his followers in
those early times of danger and persecution for the truth; “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God:" i.e. Whoever shall stand up boldly against the enemies of truth and righteousness, and not suffer himself to be turned from his holy ways by the temptations of an evil world, shall enjoy a state of full perfection and happiness in eternal life, as the first parents of the human race would have enjoyed in their paradisaical state, if they had continued innocent. Now if this be, as it seems,
proper meaning of the word paradise, and what was promised to this man was a place in heaven, you will perceive that our Lord could not tell him that he should be that day with him in heaven; for Christ himself was not then to be there himself, but that and the day following he was in the grave and state of the dead, and raised from it to life only on the third day.
And as our Lord could not intend that his promise should be understood to be literally fulfilled that day; so neither does the phrase he uses, imply such a meaning. For in the scriptures, the phrase To-day is frequently applied to a thing because then determined,
fixed and settled, though not to take place till afterwards.
Thus it was threatened to Adam ; “ In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die ;” though it happened not till many ages after (Gen. ii. 17). And (Deut. ix. 1.) “Hear, O Israel, thou art to pass over Jordan this day, —though it was not to be till the next year.
And so our Lord here—“To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”.i. e. You may be certain of having a part with me in the future state of bliss in heaven. It is already fixed, and your own, as if you were in actual possession of it.
And this agrees with the man's humble petition, which was, not to receive
immediate favour, but only in Christ's future kingdom, when and wherever it was to take place, that he might there be remembered.
So that at whatever. period after death the life and happiness of the virtuous and holy men will commence, nothing concerning it can be decided by what passed between our Saviour and this man: for nothing was spoken relating to the time, but only the certainty of his having a portion of heaven's happiness. This only has appeared, that it was not to take place that day, immediately upon his death, as has
been the common mistake from these words of our Saviour to him.
It is enough for us, that we have an assurance by Christ from our merciful and most bountiful Creator, that we shall survive the shock of our frame at death, and live again, and live in bliss for ever, if we be found in the end his true disciples, and the faithful servants of God. The time, place, and nature of this future, immense, endless felicity, we may well submit to his good pleasure who freely bestows it.
IV. We may now correct and rectify a wrong representation and abuse which has been made of the history and character of this person, who met with such favour from Christ when suffering with him on the cross.
And first, to solve the difficulty that is raised, as though both the criminals at first railed Christ as they hung upon the
It is a way of speaking frequent with the sacred, as with other writers, to say
in general way, that a thing was done by all the persons present, when only one of the company was concerned in doing it. So, (Luke xxiii. 36. and John xix. 29.) that