“And Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:43
My soul, hear the gracious words of thy Jesus. This was the third cry of the Redeemer on the cross. And Oh! how full of grace, rich, free, unmerited, unexpected, unlooked-for grace, to a poor lost perishing sinner, even in the very moment of death. Let. the self-righteous pharisee behold this example of redeeming love, and wonder, and be confounded. Surely no one will venture to suppose that this man’s good works were any recommendation, when the poor wretch was dying under the hands of justice. What was it then that saved him but the complete salvation of Jesus? The Son of God was offering his soul on the cross a sacrifice for sin, and being between two notorious sinners, gave a rich display of the sovereignty of his grace, and his love to poor sinners; and in confirmation, snatched this one as a brand from the burning— took him from the very jaws of hell, and that very day led him in triumph to heaven; thereby manifesting to every poor sinner, in whose heart he puts the cry for mercy, that, that cry shall never be put forth in vain. And mark, my soul, how powerful, the grace of the Lord Jesus wrought upon this man. He and his companion both knew that before night they would both be in eternity. The thought affected neither; they joined the rabble in insulting Jesus. “Save thyself and us,” was the language of the heart of both, until the grace of Jesus wrought on this man’s mind, and changed the reviler into an humble suitor. What could there be in Jesus thus to affect him! Jesus hung upon the cross like a poor Jew. Jesus had been always poor, and never more so than now. And yet, in the midst of all these surrounding circumstances, such a ray of light broke in upon this man’s mind, that he saw Jesus in all his glory and power, acknowledged him for a King, when all the disciples had forsook him and fled, and prayed to be remembered by him when he came into his kingdom. Precious Lamb of God! bestow upon me such a portion of thy grace as, under all the unpromising circumstances around, may call forth the like conviction of thy power, and my need. And Oh! that this pattern of mercy might be reviewed by thousands of poor perishing dying sinners! Methinks I would have it proclaimed through all the public places of resort, through all the haunts of licentiousness, among the numberless scenes of hardened sinners who fear that they have sinned beyond the possibility of forgiveness. Oh look at this example of Jesus’s love, ye that are going down to the grave full of sin and despair! behold the thief! behold the Saviour! And Oh for a cry of grace like-that of the dying malefactor—”Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom;” and Jesus’s gracious answer—”To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was an Anglican (High-Calvinist) preacher who served as Vicar of Charles Church, Plymouth. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“The prominent features…in Robert Hawker's testimony…was the Person of Christ….Dr. Hawker delighted to speak of his Lord as "My most glorious Christ.” What anxious heart but finds at times in the perusal of the doctor's writings a measure of relief, a softening, and a mellowing? an almost imperceptible yet secret and constraining power in leading out of self and off from the misery and bondage of the flesh into a contemplation of the Person and preciousness of Christ as "the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely." Christ and Him crucified was emphatically the burden of his song and the keynote of his ministry. He preached his last sermon in Charles Church on March 18th, 1827, and on April 6th he died, after being six years curate and forty-three years vicar of the parish. On the last day of his life he repeated a part of Ephesians 1, from the 6th to the 12th verses, and as he proceeded he enlarged on the verses, but dwelt more fully on these words: "To the praise of His glory Who first trusted in Christ." He paused and asked, "Who first trusted in Christ?" And then made this answer: "It was God the Father Who first trusted in Christ."