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foolishness unto men vainly wise, spread abroad the knowledge of thee, the only true God: and in all times and periods since, where this thy truth and holy word has been searched into, the shades of darkness, idolatry, and superstition, have fled before it.
But do thou be pleased, O Lord, of thy goodness, to make our advances in the knowledge of thy sacred will, to which we shall attain, effectual to produce its genuine work of holiness in the heart and life: for, without this, all our knowledge will be vain.
It hath pleased thee, O Lord, to speak to us in the language of men, which is fluctuating and imperfect, so that labour and diligence is required of us, rightly to understand thy truth.
Make us to love thy testimonies; and fill us with ardent zeal to search the sacred volumes of thy holy word, that we may find the treasures of wisdom that are hidden therein.
But above all things, inspire us with holy and humble dispositions, with a love to thee and thy truth, and a delight in it: because thy wisdom will not enter into an evil heart, or dwell in a body given to sin.
Assist us, finally, O heavenly Father, to grow in holiness and in the knowledge of thee, and in the practice of all virtue, till at length we become fitted for the regions of thy glory; and, in thy good appointed time, attain to the perfect unspeakable happiness reserved for thy faithful servants in heaven, and which of thine infinite goodness thou hast promised by Christ Jesus our Lord.
May 9, 1779.
And Jesus said unto bim, Verily I say unto thee,
To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
I shall repeat the whole passage to which these words refer, and then proceed to such reflections as may serve to illustrate it and be useful to us.
(Ver. 39, &c.) “ And one of the malefactors which were hanged (on the cross) railed on him, saying ; If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying ; Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ? And we indeed justly ; for we receive the due reward of our deeds : but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
There is something very solemn and affecting in this account of what passed betwixt the two malefactors, and Jesus the holy and innocent sufferer, whilst they all three hung together in torments upon the cross.
In the composure of our Lord's mind, and the dignity of his behaviour, we behold the real triumphs of true piety and virtue : how it rises superior to the most adverse events, and even to death itself in its most formidable shape, secure of the divine protection and favour for ever. And whilst we have a serious satisfaction in the suitable humbled disposition of one of the malefactors, and the countenance and encouragement held out to him, we are shocked with the hardened unchanged mind with which the other is seen to go out of the world, and are secretly admonished thereby to take heed lest we also be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
As the history and character of this penitent malefactor has been sometimes mistaken, and doctrines unfavourable to the necessity of holy and virtuous habits propagated from it ; I propose to consider particularly what appears