And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
A man must be able to show that when stretched on a death-bed, he shall be in the same moral position as the thief when nailed to the cross. It is clear that nothing can be more unwarranted than his arguing from the certainty of the thief repenting, to the likelihood of himself repenting; and we are confident that you cannot possibly, when your death-bed draws nigh, stand morally in the same position, and hear the gospel for the first time on your death-bed. Yet this in all probability was the case with the thief. The man who professedly puts off repentance, must necessarily smother conviction; he will therefore carry with him to his death-bed a seared and a blunted conscience; he will have refused Christ fifty, or a hundred, or a thousand times; he will have grieved the Spirit, and possibly have quenched it by his obstinate resolve to defer what he had been made to feel essential; whereas, in all probability, the thief had never determined to put off repentance; he had never resisted the Spirit; he had never heard the gospel; he had never rejected Christ. And will any one dare to think, that with all this difference between himself and the malefactor, he can be warranted in so identifying the cases as to consider the last hour of life well-fitted for the work of repentance, or to bolster himself up with the flattering persuasion, that what happened to the dying thief will happen also to him — that just as life ebbs away there shall flow in upon one who has despised a thousand warnings and steeled his heart by long despite to the Spirit of God, all that glorious tide of faith and of assurance which rolled into the soul of a long-lost prodigal, who had never before been invited home, never heard the wonderful announcement, that those condemned justly at a human tribunal, might still find acquittal at a Divine, and who still, in this, his last extremity, having shown an unprecedented faith by giving utterance to the prayer — "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom," was sustained by those gracious words of the Redeemer — "Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise." We are as clear as upon a Scriptural truth, that the only man who can think of repenting on a death-bed is the man who never stood by a death-bed. It is want of acquaintance with the frightful power with which bodily disease assails the strongest mind — it is this only that will lead men to harbour the idea that such stupendous things as the things of eternity may be fairly grappled with in a fever or a consumption. We do not say sickness throws a man beyond the limits within which repentance is possible; but we do say that in sickness there is commonly such a prostration of mind — the mind so sympathizes with the body, or rather is so swallowed up in it, that the probability is almost as an infinity to a unit, that he who has neglected God in health will be unable to seek Him under the pressure of disease. And from all this mental overthrow the dying thief was exempt. Tell me, then, is it quite right to think, that amid the emaciation of your last sickness you shall have power and collectedness of soul for this amazing prayer — "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom"? And what right have you to hope that you shall be soothed by the gracious words, "To-day... paradise"?
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.