A Second Chance
“Do you believe in purgatory?” asked a Romanist.
“I do not,” was the reply.
“But surely you do not think a man can go straight from C—, or B—, or S— into the heavenly choir without being further sanctified. No; a man will have a second chance.”
“There’s no hope beyond the grave. If I am not sanctified before I leave S—, I never shall be. A man must trust to the merits of the Crucified One before he goes, or he never will be there.”
Thus ran a conversation on the railway. How little the first speaker knew of the grace of God. How great was the darkness he was in as to the result of the work of Jesus, the Son of God.
From an Irish town to the heaven of bliss seemed too marvellous a step. Surely he could never have read of the journey of a sinner from a gibbet outside Jerusalem into the paradise of God and the company of Jesus. Luke 23, brings such a history before us, and unfolds for our instruction the wonders of the grace of God, and of the efficacy of the blood of Christ.
Nothing could exceed the distance from God, and the degradation among men, of the dying malefactor. Cut off from among his fellows on account of his sins; reckoned too bad to be allowed to continue his course of life any longer, and therefore crucified in shame; held up as an example of the result of crime, and as a warning to his fellows—his heart being embittered, he reviles the Son of God, crucified by his side, joining the other malefactor, who, possibly, had been his associate in crime, in his railing against the one who, in love to us and on account of our guilt, had allowed Himself to be placed between them.
Could any position be more terrible? Could sin be blacker? Could wickedness be more gross?
Upon the midnight of his iniquity the light of God arises. Amazed, it may be, at the patience of the sufferer amid the storm of insult, imprecation, and blasphemy hurled at Him by His creatures, the heart of the robber is arrested. The truth dawns upon his astonished soul. This is indeed the Christ, the Lord, the long-expected King. Taught by the Holy Ghost, he condemns himself, and then champions the innocence of Jesus, asking his companion in suffering, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? and we indeed justly . . . but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:40-41).
The fear of God, the condemnation of his course, and the perfection of the person of the Saviour are all declared in this utterance. He was on the Lord’s side against over-whelming odds of evil. The judgment of the High Priest, the King, and the Governor all went for nought. His eyes, which had been blinded, were open now. He saw all things clearly.
Then, turning to the suffering Christ, he cried, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into [or in] Thy kingdom” (v. 42).
His lordship, His coming, His kingdom were all apparent to his new-born faith, and at the same time the sense of grace in the heart of the Glorious One, even for such a vile sinner as he.
The cry of faith and repentance is ever answered. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” was true then, and, thank God, is true today. The over-abounding grace of the Lord is displayed in the reply, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”
What words of love and beauty to cheer that dying penitent.
“Verily I say.” He who had authority uttering the statement, emphasized by His “verily.”
“Unto thee.” Knowing the evil-worker’s course and crime, yet speaking personally to him in answer to his cry.
Not waiting for the postponed glories of the kingdom. “Today,” to be the first trophy of the efficacy of His work, and the power of His cleansing blood.
“Shalt thou be with Me.” Not at a distance in the outer circles of blessing. Not among the angels who perform His pleasure. In the very presence of the Saviour. In His company.
“In paradise.” The darkest spot on earth exchanged for the brightest spot in heaven. The garden of his doom for the garden of God’s delights.
Here, then, is exhibited the fullness of mercy, the riches of grace.
To the Romanist, in his delusion and darkness, the journey direct from an Irish town to the heavenly choir was improbable, impossible. He needed a “second chance” of purifying himself, and fitting himself thus for the realms of light, for the courts of joy. His system taught him nothing of present assurance, of present approach to God in all the intimacy and relationship of children, “giving thanks unto the Father, which
HATH MADE US MEET
to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).
My reader, the darkness is deepening. The shadows of superstition are enveloping many who once professed to know the realities of the truth. The traditions of men are taking the place of the word of God. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” said the psalmist. Human tradition, if in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, may be of value in its place, but the Scriptures themselves are profitable to furnish the man of God completely unto every good work.
In conclusion, let me add that the knowledge of salvation (Luke 1:77) will never produce laxity of walk. The assurance of being fitted by the Father for glory, of being fully purged by the blood of Christ, sets the believer free from dead works for salvation—from vain endeavours to merit the favour of God—in order that he may serve, not his own natural lusts and pleasures, but the living God (Heb. 9:14).
It is only the truly saved who can truly serve.
Scattered Seed 1892, p. 1