Some graciously called at the hour of death.
There are some brought in to Christ in a way yet more declarative of His free grace; and this is, when He effectually calls men at the hour of death. We find somewhat recorded of this way in that pregnant example of the ‘thief on the cross.’ (Luke 23: 39-45.) Although this seems not very pertinent for the purpose in hand, yet we shall speak a little of it, that, on the one hand, men may be sparing to judge and pass sentence on either themselves or others before the last breath; and we shall, on the other hand, speak so particularly, that none may dare to delay so great a business to the last hour of their life. We find these remarkable circumstances in the conversation between Christ and the thief. 1. The man falls out with his former companion. 2. He dares not speak a wrong word of God, whose hand is on him, but justifies Him in all that has befallen him. 3. He now sees Jesus Christ persecuted by the world without a cause, and most injuriously. 4. He discovers Christ to be a Lord and a King, whilst His enemies seem to have Him under. 5. He believes a state of glory after death so really, that he prefers a portion of it to the present safety of his bodily life, which he knew Christ was able to grant him at that time, and he might have chosen that with the other thief. 6. Although he was much abased in himself, and so humbled that he pleaded but that Christ would remember him, yet he was nobly daring to throw himself upon the covenant, on life and death; and he had so much faith of Christ’s all-sufficiency, that he judged a simple remembrance from Christ would supply all his need. 7. He acquiesced sweetly in the word which Christ spoke to him for the ground of his comfort. All which are very clear in the case of that poor dying man, and prove a real work of God upon his heart. As this example may encourage some to wait for good from God, who cannot as yet lay clear claim to any gracious work of His Spirit; so we entreat all, as they love their souls, not to delay their soul’s salvation, hoping for such assistance from Christ in the end, as too many do,–this being a rare miracle of mercy, in which Christ honorably triumphed over the ignominy of His cross; a parallel to which we shall hardly find in all the Scripture besides. Yea, as there be but few at all saved: ‘many be called, but few are chosen’ (Matt. 20: 16); and fewest saved this way; so the Lord has peremptorily threatened to laugh at the calamity, and not to hear the cry of such as mocked formerly at His reproof, and would not hear when He called to them: ‘Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear comes’ (Prov. 1: 24-26): which scripture, although it does not shut mercy’s door upon any, who at the hour of death do sincerely judge themselves and flee to Christ, as this penitent thief did; yet it certainly implies that very few, who reject the offer until then, are honored with repentance as He was; and so their cry, as not being sincere, and of the right stamp, shall not be heard. from The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie