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upon, notwithstanding the objection the chief priests made to it, to make any alteration.
As Pilate refused to alter the superscription, the people who stood by, and those who passed along, together with the chief priests und rulers, began to ridicule the title, by bidding JESUS come down from the cross, and they would believe him ;--by calling on him, if he were really the King of the Jews, to exert his power and save himself; and to let them see that he was the Son of God by being instantly delivered from the cross. The soldiers also joined in the ridicule, and in derision offered hin vinegar. The malefactors too, who were crucified with him, both of them probably at first, reviled him, and called on Jesus to prove himself to he the CHRIST, by exerting his power to save both himself and them ; but one of them, as they were hanging, struck with the meekness and patience of the suffering Jesus, and particularly by that compassionate prayer which he poured forth for his crucifiers, when they were in the very act of fastening him to the cross, rebuked his companion for his blasphemy, confessed that the punishment which they suffered, was just; but that Jesus had done nothing amiss; and at the same time acknowledged his divinity, although he was dying on the cross; and from a heart, softened and convinced, poured forth a most fervent prayer, Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thy kingdom. To this prayer the ears of JESus were open; he answered the repenting sinner, Verily, I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise. A gracious promise! a reviving cordial to a repenting sinner alınost in the agonies of death!
But, my Christian Brethren, take heed lest you inisapply this your Saviour's mercy shown to the penitent thief;-lest it tempt you to continue in your sins, through a vain hope, that, as that sinner was pardoned on the cross, you also shall be forgiven on your death-bed, when in your last moments you may cry out, LORD, forgive my sins, and remember me in thy kingdom. What mercy God will shew to a death-bed repentance, the scriptures give us no authority to say, farther than that a sincere repentance will at any time be accepted: but as no proof can be given of the sincerity of such late repentance, great must be the uncertainty of it. This, however, we may truly say, that the circumstances of the penitent thief dying on the cross, are so different from those
of a Christian on his death-bed, that the case of the one cannot become the case of the other. This was probably the first opportunity offered to the thief of becoming acquainted with the character and claims of CHRIST, of being convinced and converted. To him, therefore, the mercy of God was shown. But with regard to the professed Christian, the invitation of Christ is continually repeated in his ears during his life; and he who will refuse to listen to it till the hour of death, has less reason to flatter himself with a hope of the mercy, than to shrink with terror from the justice, of God.Take heed, therefore, I repeat, 0 Christians, that you do not misapply this case: for by so doing you will find yourselves miserably mistaken.
But to return to a most tender and affecting scene, which is next presented to our view, and in which is exhibited to future generations a striking example of filial piety. The mother of Jesus with some other women had not been deterred from following her persecuted Son to the cross; who seeing her and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, recommended them to the affectionate regard of each other : and addressing first his mother by a title, frequently applied in ancient times, even to persons who were most respected, he said, Iloman, behold thy son, meaning his beloved disciple John : and then to this disciple himself he added, Behold thy mother; for I recommend her, as such, with my dying breath, to thy particular care; and from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home, treated her with the tenderness and respect due to a mother, and maintained her as cheerfully and affectionately, as if she had really been so*.
The sixth hour of the day, that is noon, was nearly arrived; at which time a sudden darkness overspread the sun, and threw an awful gloom upon the whole transaction, which continued till the ninth hour, that is, about three o'clock in the afternoon. That was the awful hour, in which JESUS, who had now hung six hours on the cross, patiently enduring his bitter sufferings--that was the awful hour, when in unutterable bitterness of his soul, he: cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani : My God, my Gon, why hast thou forsaken me. Some of them who stood by, pretending to mistake his words, began to deride him again, saying, This man calleth for Elias; and
* Soe Doddridge's Family Expositor.
while one ran to reach a sponge full of vinegar, at the end of a reed, to his mouth, when in completion of the scripture he had just said, I thirst ; another in a contemptuous manner checked him, saying, Let him alone ; let us see whether Elias will come to save him. JESUS then having received the vinegar, said, It is finished : the prophecies are now fulfilled, as far as belong to my life* : then crying out again with a loud voice, and bowing his head, as in a gesture of adoration and prayer, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, and instantly expired.
How awful--how tremendous--how miraculous was the scene which immediately followed this great event. The sun remained darkened-the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom-the earth did quake-and the rocks rent. And the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept, arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Nor among other testimonies of the awful grandeur of this great event, should that of the Roman centurion, who attended the