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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