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subjects are “kings and priests unto God and his Father.” Rev. i. 6. Their crowns are styled-crowns of life, crowns of righteousness, and crowns of glory, which fade not away, James i. 12, 2 Tim. iv. 8, 1 Pet. v. 4. They are appointed to reign on thrones of glory; for thus saith the Lord, “ To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down on my Father's throne.” And again, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things,” Rev. iii. 21.xxi. 7.
Secondly. Our Lord not only promised to the dying thief the possession of heaven, but also the enjoyment of his unspeakable glorious presence, “ Thou shalt be with ME in paradise.” This is the crowning blessing of all others. " If it were not for this additional glory, heaven itself would not be desirable to the children of God; all its sweetness would be lost, and its splendour imperceptible.
It is the presence of the king constitutes the court, whether it is in a cottage or a palace. The world to come would be a solitary wilderness, a desert of wants which no created fulness could supply without the glorious
presence of our covenant God and lovely Redeemer. The
person who is convinced of the vanity and unsatisfactory nature of sublunary things, and experimentally knows what it is to enjoy in this vale of tears that peculiarly transcendent blessing, the spiritual presence of Christ, can unite with the Psalmist in his elevated devotional ardour, and sublime appeal to his Almighty Friend,
Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee !" Psalm lxxiii. 25. To be with Christ in paradise, implies a sight of his personal glory as God-man, and the enjoyment of his majestic presence connected with endless duration. First, they shall see the exalted Redeemer in his personal and mediatorial glory. Now they “ walk by faith, not by sight,” and only see “ through a glass darkly," a few glimpses of his glory; yet these inspire them with fervent desires to depart from a world of sin and warfare, tribulation and death, " to be with Christ, which is far better." For then they “shall see him as he is,” and shall,“ know even as we are known." No mists of sin and unbelief shall then cloud the bright and refulgent rays of his lovely countenance, which constitutes the felicity of saints and the glory of heaven!
One of the ancients said to his friend, when thou hast seen Solon, I shall have shown thee all the glory of Greece.' The instant the soul enters rest, and sees Christ, he will have seen all the glory of paradise. “He is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person." If the church, when she had only a sight of him by faith, rapturously exclaimed, “ Yea, he is ALTOGETHER Lovely," what will she say when he appears in the full blaze of his mediatorial glory?
This is the astonishing representation of heaven given by him who possessed an infinite knowledge of it, and equitably demands of his Father in the character of our righteous Advocate in behalf of his elect people : “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." From this animating description of heaven we learn, that its happiness will chiefly consist in beholding with our immortal eyes the glory of Christ, and in singing the ceaseless praises of a Three-One God.
My christian friends, were these 'heart-reviving truths more powerfully felt, and through the unction of the Holy Spirit more exemplified in our walk and conversation, we should not view death with such fear and dismay, but rather welcome its approach, for this stingless enemy will be the means of bringing us to our heavenly home, to dwell with him whom our souls love. We read that when Socrates was at the point of death, he comforted himself with this consideration, that he was going to the place where he should see Homer, and other wise men who lived in the ages before him. And shall a heathen philosopher receive more consolation in death from the thought of being with other pagans, than christians in the reviving thought of being with the blessed Saviour ? God forbid. Did Homer die for Socrates ? Were they not both without God, without Christ, and without a wellgrounded hope in the world to come ? O believer, take care that you do not dishonour your Lord by a stoical apathy, and frigid affections, which many heathens have not had in reference to their departed companions, their idol-gods, and false deities.
2. Those that are with Christ in paradise not only see but enjoy conimunion with him. This divine fruition is inseparably connected with his glorious presence, as spiritual joy is with his gracious presence.
comforts go and come; they ebb and flow like the tides. To a heaven-bound traveller fair weather is as uncertain as an April day : one hour a bright sun and clear sky, the next overshadowed with clouds, windy storm, and tempest, Ps. lv. 8. But the celestial joys in our Father's house are permanent and abiding. In this land of sin and sorrow, when we are keenly exercised with afflictions and temptations, our spirits droop, and our hearts faint. The difficulties of the way are many and insupportable to flesh and blood : often the believer is constrained to cry out, “ Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit, for my sighs are many and my heart is faint. When wilt thou come unto me? Do not forget me, O Lord !” These heavy complaints will not be heard in heaven, for the saints shall not only behold the Saviour, but shall be glorified with him. The scriptures affirm that glory shall not merely be revealed to them, but in them, Rom. viii. 17. The King of Zion says to every one of his blood-bought family, immedi. ately upon the separation of the soul from the body, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” It is his joy, for he is the author, object, and source of it.
Rejoice in the Lord, Oye righteous, for praise is comely for the upright.” O what a delightful day will that be when all the ransomed of Jehovah shall come and return to Zion, with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away,” Isa. xxxv. 10.
3. To be with Christ in paradise, denotes an endless duration of unspeakable happiness. The fashion of this world passeth away. Here we have no continuing city. This place is not our rest, it is polluted. Misery and woe are entailed upon the man whose only hope is in this life. The good things confined within the narrow span of time are comparable to a sea of glass, brittle and deceitful : it is mingled with fire, and will soon be consumed. “ The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up,” 2 Pet. ii. 10. How different the portion of the righteous! In the end of the world they shall receive
the adoption, to wit, the redemption of their bodies. These shall be changed and fashioned like unto the glorious body of the Son of God. He saith to them, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live ; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
“ Because I live shall live also; and behold I am alive for ever
The eternity of hell torments is the gnawing worm, and the fire unquenchable, which fills the damned with black despair and inconceivable anguish. And the saints reigning with Christ in glory everlasting, constitutes the heaven of heavens, and will cause their be perpetual for the completing that felicity which is worthy their gracious God to bestow. Let us hear the crowning epithets of this heavenly paradise. It is eternal life-eternal glory - an eternal weight or mass of glory -a crown of glory that fadeth not away-an eternal house-an eternal inheritance, and an everlasting kingdom. Well might the apostle close his discourse upon a subject which has no end, with these consoling words, “ So shall we be ever with the Lord ; wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Thirdly. The time when this promise was made. The converted thief desired Christ to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, To-day thou shalt be with me in paradise." The remarkably gracious answer was suitable to this extraordinary prayer; in which the expiring petitioner was assured that the Lord would not only remember him in paradise, but that very day he should be with him. It is also observable, that when our Saviour spake the word, it was about the sixth hour of the day, which corresponds with our noon; consequently the day was half how delightful to him the reflection when in the agonies of death, to know before its expiration he should be with the Lord in his kingdom of ineffable joys. There is something, my attentive hearers, so surprising in the Saviour's prompt reply to the request of the dying thief, that the exceeding riches of sovereign grace displayed in it beggars all description! Had he been a faithful servant of righteousness all his days, he could not have made to him a more glorious promise. Were we to judge after the manner of men, we should be inclined to think the Son of God was addressing some eminent saint who
gone ; and
from love to him had borne the burden and heat of the day, and for his sake was laying down his life, and not a man who was a notorious highwayman in heart when first nailed to the cross. Did the Saviour say to him, Thou hast been a wicked malefactor; for thy heinous crimes thou art transfixed to the ignominious tree; ever since thou hast been suspended there, thou hast united with thy miserable companion and my cruel murderers in reviling me? No. Blessed be his name, he upbraideth not, for he hateth putting away. Neither did he reply, I will surely show thee mercy, but I intend to consign thee first to the yawning gulf of perdition for a few years, that the flames of purgatory may purify thy polluted soul. “Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, 0 earth!” to the confusion of devils, the mortification of self-righteous pharisees, the encouragement of broken-hearted sinners, and the joy of angels, the adorable Redeemer answers,
Verily, I say unto thee, To-day thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
There are persons who imagine that the souls of the righteous and the wicked fall asleep when separated from the body, and are in an unconscious state of existence until the resurrection morn. And they have been very much perplexed with this text, because it absolutely contradicts their unfounded and unreasonable supposition; therefore they cavil at the punctuation, and remove the comma from the pronoun thee, and place it after the phrase to-day, contending that it ought to be pointed thus," Verily, I say unto thee to-day, thou shalt be with me in paradise." This alteration restricts the day to the time when our Lord spake these words ; instead of denoting the time when the converted thief was to enter his kingdom ; and leaves the exact period undetermined, when he was to enter glory, in the vague declaration,“ Thou shalt be with me in paradise" at some distant undetermined future period. If this impious conduct is pursued, and this unwarrantable licence permitted in interpreting the word of God, farewell common sense and unchangeable truth! If the uncertain notions of fallible men are to be preferred before the simple and plain testimony of scripture, there are no delusions, however absurd, but what might be inculcated as consistent with the inspired volume, according to the wild reveries of men of corrupt minds, who wrest the scripture to their own destruction, because they hate the light, and