“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42, 43).
Conversion does not happen in the same exact way for many a man. But the state and condition of the many a man is changed from darkness into light (Eph. 2) The means which God applies therefore are different. Some men are converted “smoothly” by mercies of love—whilst another hardenned heart, I say, God uses His fearful justice to break and humble the sinner.
I say, some men are saved by the threatenings of the decalogue. Others are won by the sweet mercies offered in the εὐαγγέλιον. That is, the good news. Or, what is well known as, “The Gospel.”
“Whether sincere conversion began now, or before, or after,” wrote, Baxter, “I was never able to this day to know…God breaketh not all men’s hearts alike.”
But another person asks, “Can a man be converted and not know it?” Answer. Can Christ be in your heart and therefore thou fail to know He is there? “Can one king be dethroned and another crowned in your soul, and you hear no scuffle?” Let conscience answer these two questions, O man. The pragmatic test of conversion is to grow in grace. A converted Christian is a growing Christian. But a subterfuge Christian is like a picture painted upon a wall, who, as it were, grows not but is meant for show only.
Wherefore now, dear beloved, we must seek to answer the primary question above: Are death-bed conversions genuine? We all know the narrative of that wicked hanged sinner. The thief at the cross—placed next to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He did reach Christ’s heaven before the professed Pharisees of his day. In our modern nomenclature that could be translated thus: He got to Christ’s heaven before the holier than thou’s.
We read in the Scriptures of men who were called at their infancy, as Jeremiah, Samuel, and John the Baptist. Some were chosen in their prime age of youth. As we can see in the four Hebrew children, i.e., Shadrack, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel. Others were called in their almost advanced adulthood. As the disciples, John, James, Peter, and Andrew. Other were called whilst carrying out their business of the day. As Matthew (also called, Levi) and Luke, the physician. Others were called whilst in their sin-business. As the forgiven harlot and the woman at Jacob’s well. Others whilst beholding the tree and climbing thereof. As Nathaniel (also called, Barthlomew) and the man, Zaccheus. But still, others were called in their advanced old age. As Joseph of Arimathea and the Jewish scholar, Nicodemus. And last of all, behold, at their death-bed—The thief at the cross.
What then shall we say? Are we to wait until our death-bed to turn unto Christ in faith and repentance unto God? Flatter not yourself that you’ll be converted at the last. Has the, Lord, bid you to wait till at the end? As God is merciful and just to forgive at the last, yet, I say, He has not warranted any man that they shall be saved at their death-bed.
What flatters you that you’ll have strength to turn to him in your almost vapouring life? Therefore, O man, use not the thief man as an example for your persistence in your loveable sins. “There be few at all saved…and fewest saved this way.”
Them that resolve to repent tomorrow intend to be wicked today. A delay of repentance breastfeeds and strenghens our sin.