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The First Man To Enter Paradise





after the veil of the Temple was rent. If we could look up yonder,
and catch a glimpse of the throne, we would see the Father there,
and Jesus Christ at His right hand; and hard by we would see that
thief. He is there to-day. Nineteen hundred years he has been there,
just because he cried in faith:

"Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom."

You know Christ died a little while before the thief. I can imagine
that He wanted to hurry home to get a place ready for His new
friend, the first soul brought from the world He was dying to
redeem. The Lord loved him because he confessed Him in that dark
hour. It was a dark hour for many who reviled the Savior. You have
heard of the child who did not want to die and go to heaven because
he didn't know anybody there. But the thief would have one
acquaintance. I can imagine how his soul leaped within him when he
saw the spear thrust into our Savior's side, and heard the cry:

"It is finished!"

He wanted to follow Christ. He was in a hurry to be gone, when they
came to break his legs. I can hear the Lord calling:

"Gabriel, prepare a chariot. Make haste. There is a friend of mine
hanging on that cross. They are breaking his legs. He will soon be
ready to come. Make haste, and bring him to me?"

The angel in the chariot swept down from heaven, took the soul of
that penitent thief, and hastened back to glory. The gates of the
city swung wide open, and the angels shouted welcome to this poor
sinner who had been washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

And that, my friends, is just what Christ wants to do for you. That
is the business on which He came down from heaven. That is why He
died. And if He gave such a swift salvation to this poor thief on
the cross, surely He will give you the same if, like the penitent
thief, you repent, and confess, and trust in the Savior.

Somebody says that this man "was saved at the eleventh hour." I
don't know about that. It might have been the first hour with him.
Perhaps he never knew of Christ until he was led out to die beside
Him. This may have been the very first time he ever had a chance to
know the Son of God.

How many of you gave your hearts to Christ the very first time He
asked them of you? Are you not farther along in the day than even
that poor thief?

Some years ago, in one of the mining districts of England, a young
man attended one of our meetings and refused to go from the place
till he had found peace in the Savior. The next day he went down
into the pit, and the coal fell in upon him. When they took him out
he was broken and mangled, and had only two or three minutes of life
left in him. His friends gathered about him, saw his lips moving,
and, bending down to catch his words, heard him say:

"It was a good thing I settled it last night."

Settle it now, my friends, once for all. Begin now to confess your
sins, and pray the Lord to remember you. He will make you an heir of
His kingdom, if you will accept the gift of salvation. He is just
the same Savior the thief had. Will you not cry to Him for mercy?

. . . . . . . . . .

A cross,--and one who hangs thereon, in sight
Of heaven and earth.

The cruel nails are fast
In trembling hands and feet, the face is white
And changed with agony, the failing head
Is drooping heavily; but still again,
And yet again, the weary eyes are raised
To seek the face of One who hangeth pale
Upon another cross. He hears no shrill
And taunting voices of the crowd beneath,
He marks no cruel looks of all that gaze
Upon the woeful sight. He sees alone
That face upon the cross. Oh, long, long look,
That searcheth there the deep and awful things
Which are of God!

In his first agony
And horror he had joined with them that spake
Against the Lord, the Lamb, who gave Himself
That day for us. But when he met the look
Of those calm eyes,--he paused that instant; pale
And trembling, stricken to the heart, and faint
At sight of Him.
. . . . . . . .

At length
The pale, glad lips have breathed the trembling prayer,
"O Lord, remember me!" The hosts of God
With wistful angel-faces, bending low
Above their dying King, were surely stirred
To wonder at the cry. Not one of all
The shining host had dared to speak to Him
In that dread hour of woe, when Heaven and Earth
Stood trembling and amazed. Yet, lo! the voice
Of one who speaks to Him, who dares to pray,
"O Lord, remember me!" A sinful man
May make his pitiful appeal to Christ,
The sinner's Friend, when angels dare not speak.
And sweetly from the dying lips that day
The answer came.

Oh, strange and solemn joy
Which broke upon the fading face of him
Who there received the promise: "Thou shalt be
In Paradise this night, this night, with Me."

. . . . . . . .

O Christ, the King!
We also wander on the desert-hills,
Though haunted by Thy call, returning sweet
At morn and eve. We will not come to Thee
Till Thou hast nailed us to some bitter cross,
And made us look on Thine, and driven at last
To call on Thee with trembling and with tears.--
Thou lookest down in love, upbraiding not,
And promising the kingdom!

. . . . . . . .

A throne,--and one
Who kneels before it, bending low in new
And speechless joy.

It is the night on earth.
The shadows fall like dew upon the hills
Around the Holy City, but above,
Beyond the dark vale of the sky, beyond
The smiling of the stars, they meet once more
In peace and glory. Heaven is comforted,--
For that strange warfare is accomplished now,
Her King returned with joy: and one who watches
The far-off morning in a prison dim,
And hung at noonday on the bitter cross,
Is kneeling at His feet, and tasteth now
The sweet, sweet opening of an endless joy.






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