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on, and an Error, that draws a world of ill Confequences after it. For even thofe Prayers, if we hold faft any darling Luft, are an Abomination; an Hypocrify, that mocks God, and deludes ones own Soul. And I wifh all People could be made duly fenfible, that although a Week's Preparation, when fuch extraordinary Addreffes are added to a Confcience void of offence toward God and toward Man, may be exceeding well; yet nothing can be depended upon, but the Communicating frequently and reverently; and living, as if we were every Day to communicate, between one Opportunity and another. To cease to do evil, and learn to do well; To love God, and keep his Commandments; To follow the Works of our Calling with Industry; And to provide for our Families with Honefty; To truft in God's good Providence, and be content with our Condition; To preferve Unity in the Church, Peace and Order in the State; To ftudy to be Quiet, to do our own Bufinefs, and the Duty of the Capacity and. the Relations we ftand in; To abhor Uncleannefs, and Evil-fpeaking, and all Uncharitablenefs; This is true Preparation. And he that thus communicates, tho' at a Minute's warning, will never be rejected of God, or deferve to be condemned by Men. And therefore Men would do well to confider this; and, how they can answer, either living out of fuch a State, or neglecting the Sacrament, when they are
St. Luke xxiii. 1.
ND the whole multitude of them arofe, and led him unto Pilate.
3. And Pilate afked bim, faying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he anfwered bim, and faid, Thou fayeft it.
4. Then faid Pilate to the chief priests, and to the people, 1 find no fault in this
5. And they were the more fierce, saying, Heftirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.
6. When Pilate beard of Galilee, be asked whether the man were a Galilean.
7. And affoon as be knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, be sent him to Herod, bo bimfelf was also at Jerufalem at that time.
8. And when Herod far Jefus, be was exceeding glad, for he was defirous to fee bim of a long feafon; because be bad beard many things of him, and be hoped to have feen fome miracle done by bim.
9. Then be queftioned with bim in many words, but be answered him nothing.
10. And the chief priests and fcribes flood, and vehemently accufed him.
11. And Herod with his men of war •fet him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed bim in a gorgeous robe, and fent him again to Pilate.
12. And the fame day Pilate and Herod were made friends together, for before they were at enmity between themselves.
13. And Pilate, when he bad called together the chief priests, and the rulers, and the people,
14. Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people, and bebold, I, baving examined him before you, bave found no fault in this man, touching those things whereof ye accufe bim,
15. No, nor yet Herod: for I fent you to bim, and lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto bim.
16. I will therefore cbaftife bim, and release him.
17. For of necefity be muft release one unto them at the Feaft.
18. And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.
19. (Who for a certain fedition made in the city, and for murther, was caft into prifon.)
20. Pilate therefore willing to releafe Jefus, fpake again to them:
21. But they cried, faying, Crucify him, crucify bim.
22. And be faid unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath be done? I bave found no caufe of death in him, I will therefore chaftife him, and let him go.
23. And they were inftant with loud voices, requiring that be might be crucified : and the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.
24. And Pilate gave fentence, that it should be as they required.
25. And be releafed unto them bim that for fedition and murther was caft into prifon
26. And as they led him away, they laid bold upon one Simon a Cyrenian, coming
higheft, as well as the most beneficial, Inftance of Charity. Such, as no perverseness of our Enemies can obftruct; but fuch withal, as cannot come in regularly, till we have brought our felves to thofe that went before. Because They may be counterfeit and defigning, where we tranfact with Men only; but in This God is a Party: and Prayer appeals to Him, for the Earneftnefs of our Wishes, and the Integrity of our Hearts.
2. Secondly, The Greatnefs of our Saviour's Charity is most confpicuous, from the Time of putting up this Prayer. It was not only for Men, who had perfecuted him to the Death, prefaced that Death with all the Calumnies and Reproaches, the utmost Infolence and Indignities, that unrelenting Malice could invent or execute; But it was at the very Instant, when he was expiring under unconceivable Torture and Anguish, and, in the most infamous manner, bleeding out an innocent Soul. It was for merciless Wretches, hardned Murtherers, who were even then infulting over his laft Agonies, and triumphing in their own wicked Barbarity. So far above the Power of Shame, and Pain, and Wrong, and still obftinate and exafperating Spight, was the Firmness and Meeknefs of his Holy Mind. And, What a Pattern have we here, to fet before our Eyes? We, who are generally fo foon provoked, fo violently tranfported, fo implacably incenfed, at Injuries or Affronts of no mighty Confequence: So hard to forgive, even when we feel no Smart, even when the Heat is over, and the Damage imaginary only. Oh! How far fhort is this of His Perfection? How unlike to His true Greatness of Soul; who is faid, in His Patience and Charity more especially, to have left us an Example, that we should follow his Steps? 3. A Third Inftance of this Charity confifts in the Apology, made here in behalf of his Murtherers, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. They might indeed, and ought to have known; but the Scrip
1 Pet. ii. 21.
tures bear them witness, that if they had
1 Cor. ii. 8.
II. The Cafe of the Penitent Thief was the Second Thing I promised to speak to. And here Two Things are fit to be confidered. (1.) The Comforts it adminifters, when rightly understood. (2.) The falfe Security too commonly grounded upon it, and confequently, the Great Danger of its being misunderstood.
1. As to the First, It is remarkable, that the Other Evangelifts fay, the Thieves reviled our Lord upon the Crofs. Now, tho' it be an ufual and very allowable Figure of Speech, to put a plural Number for a Singular; yet St. Chryfoftom and St. Jerom have chofen to reconcile thofe, with St. Luke's Account here, by understanding Both to have been guilty of it; but This to have retracted, and to have been converted, as we fee. Admitting their Interpretation of the Place; The Operations of Grace upon his Mind were still more wonderfully fudden and strong. But, be that as it will; the Scripture furnishes no Instance like it, of so happy a Change, at a Man's last Moments. The Labourers of the Eleventh Hour are indeed a mighty Encouragement, to all People, who have had the Mifery, of living long in Ignorance and Sin.
Yet thofe Labourers had one Hour left, in which, we are at liberty to fuppofe, they signalized themselves, and wrought with extraordinary Diligence. But here we have a poor Wretch almost expiring, certain Death upon him, dying under publick Punishment for a very heinous Crime; And yet, at the end of a Life, led probably after the rate that Theirs generally are, whofe Wickedness at length brings them to an untimely and fcandalous End: This Creature is foftned at once, received into Favour, and promised a Translation from the Gibbet into Paradife, that very Day.
This certainly is a Monument of Mercy; a ftanding Comfort, to all who truly repent, though at their last Hour. An Anchor of Hope to Sorrowful Sinners; and a plain Argument, that fincere Amendment never comes too late. For even They, who have long lain in the Snares of the Devil, and, through the courfe of a whole Life, been taken captive by him at his will, fhall, like this reclaimed Thief, be refcued, accepted, rewarded; provided They, like Him, return to God, and improve their, never so small, Remainder of Time to the best Advantage.
But the fatal Delusion in this Cafe, is, That few People confider, what it is to be converted like Him. They look at the Event, but forget the Circumftances, which led to it. And hence grow thofe falfe Confidences, and the great Danger of misunderstanding and mifapplying the account of this Matter; which I am endeavouring now to prevent, by my Second Particular upon this Subject.
For, when this Action comes to be throughly weighed, Some things will be found in it very extraordinary, Some that feldom have, Some that can never have, a Parallel. This Man, 'tis probable, had never seen or heard of Chrift before; Or, if he had, 'tis yet more ftrange, that He, who had stood out till then, fhould come in to the Acknowledgment of him now. Now,