Imágenes de páginas

State requires. If you think, however, that any thing is due from the Commonwealth to the memory of Regulus, or to his surviving friends, let it be paid in happiness, not in suffering. There are, in the public prisons, many miserable convicts condemned for their crimes. Let them be forgiven for Regulus' sake, if they will acknowledge their crimes, and return to their duty.”.

A Roman Senate would have granted, undoubtedly, such a request as this, if made under such circumstances as I have described. Let us suppose they had done so; and that the prison-doors had been opened, and the offers of pardon had been circulated among the convicts there.

Now I wish my reader to bear in mind, that I am not intending here to offer an illustration of the way in which our salvation is effected by the sufferings of the Son of God. No analogy drawn from any earthly transactions can fully illustrate the way in which the Lamb of God taketh away the sins of the world. My object is, to illustrate the spirit with which the offer of mercy through Him is to be received; and I have made this supposition for the purpose of placing these prisoners in a situation somewhat like that of condemned sinners in this world, that I may shew how the Bible brings relief to those suffering under the burden of sin, by offering them mercy through a Saviour.

A messenger comes then, we will suppose, among the imprisoned malefactors-tells them he brings good news to them-an offer of pardon from the Roman Senate. The prisoners look incredulous. They know that the Roman Government is an efficient one, and that it is accustomed to execute its laws. We are justly imprisoned," they would say, and our time is not yet expired: there can be no forgiveness for us, till the law sets us free."



The messenger then relates to them, that, in conse


quence of the distinguished services and subsequently cruel sufferings of a great Roman General, the Senate had wished to make to his widow some public expression of the sympathy and gratitude of the Commonwealth; and that she had asked it as a boon, that every penitent prisoner, willing to abandon his crimes, and return to his duty, might be set free, for her husband's sake.

Now, unquestionably, if there were any who should hear this message, who were really penitent for sin, and willing to return to duty, their abhorrence of their crimes would be increased, and their determination to be faithful citizens in future would be strengthened by receiving such an offer of pardon. Nay, it would not be surprising if some, still hardened in their sins, and even in the midst of noise and revelry in the prison at the very time the messenger appeared, should be arrested, and their feelings touched by such an address.

"How different," they might reflect, "is the conduct of Regulus from ours! We have been, by our vices and crimes, bringing injuries without number upon our country. He, by his labours and sufferings, has been unceasingly endeavouring to do her good. And Marcia, too, it was kind of her to think of us! When we were at liberty, we thought only of gratifying our own passions; we made no effort to promote the happiness of others or to diminish their sufferings. We will return to our duty; and imitate the example they have set us."

It would not be surprising if such a transaction had awakened those reflections in some minds; and, on the whole, the effect of the offer of mercy through Jesus Christ produces very similar effects in the world, to those I have above imagined in the prison. When men are told, in general terms, that God is merciful and will forgive their sins, it does not, in ordinary cases, really relieve them. Though, perhaps, they do not say it distinctly,

yet they feel that God's government, to be efficient, must have strict laws, and penalties strictly executed; and they are afraid that a mere reliance on God's general mercy may not be quite safe. Thousands trust to this, till they come to their dying hour; and then abandon it.

But when men are told, by the word of God, that Jesus Christ died for them, the just for the unjust-and that they must come, asking forgiveness in His name and for His sake-it throws a different aspect over the whole case. A bright gleam of hope, from a new and unexpected quarter, darts in. Though they may not know fully in what way the sufferings of Christ may be the means of opening the way for their forgiveness, they still can see that it is very possible it might in some way do this. It is not necessary that we should understand fully the way. The convicts might be released, without knowing all about the story of Regulus, or comprehending exactly how such a transaction, as their release on his account, would affect the public mind in Rome, so as to avoid the evil effects of laxity in the administration of public justice. There might be many a poor ignorant convict who could not comprehend such subjects at all, and yet possess the spirit of mind which should bring Such an him most fully within the conditions of release. one might come to the officer appointed for the purpose, and say:

"I am very grateful to the Roman Senate, for offering to pardon me for the sake of Regulus. I was really guilty of the crime for which I was sentenced; and the term of my imprisonment is not longer than I justly deserve: but I am glad to be restored to freedom and happiness now. I hope always to be grateful to the Senate, and cherish the memory of Regulus as long as I live."

Now, if a prisoner had this spirit, there is no question

that he would be released, whether he was or was not statesman or philosopher enough to understand fully the moral character and influence of such a transaction. And so, my reader, if you are willing to acknowledge and to forsake your sins, and to accept of freedom and happiness in future, on account of another's merits and sufferings, you need not distress yourself because you do not fully comprehend the nature of that great transaction of which Gethsemane and Calvary were the scene. It cannot be fully understood here. From the windows of our prison-house, in this world, we can see but a small part of the great City of God. We cannot, therefore, appreciate fully any of the plans of His government. We, however, can feel as we ought, ourselves. We can ask forgiveness in Christ's name, and believe, on the authority of God's word, that God has "set forth Jesus Christ to be a propitiation," that we might be saved through faith in His blood-that is, by our trusting in His sufferings, that God might be just, and yet save those who trust in the Saviour. (Rom. iii. 23-28.)

But to return to the Roman prison. I have represented one prisoner as accepting the offer, and going out to freedom in consequence of it. Let us now suppose that the public officer appointed by the Senate to carry the message to the prisoners, and to receive their replies, should meet, in one of the rooms, a very different reception. He passes, we will suppose, along a dark passage-way, until he comes to the door of a gloomy dungeon. The keeper removes the heavy rusty bars, and unbolts and unlocks the door; and as he opens it, he hears the unexpected sounds of mirth and revelry within.

As he enters, he sees the wretched-looking inmates, lying around the cold stone floor, upon their beds of straw. In a corner, sit some, with wild and haggard looks, relating to each other, with noisy but unnatural mirth,

the profane jest or immoral story. In the middle of the room, two are quarrelling for a morsel of food, which each claims, filling the air with their dreadful oaths and imprecations. Near the door lies a miserable object half covered in his tattered garment, and in vain endeavouring to get a little sleep. A small grated window, high in the wall, admits a dim light, just sufficient to reveal the objects which compose the scene of vice and misery.

The quarrellers and the rioters pause a minute, each retaining his attitude, and listen while the messenger from the Senate lays before them the offer of forgiveness and freedom. They gaze upon him for a few minutes, with vacant looks; but before he has fairly finished his message, the angry combatants recommence their war, the storyteller in the corner goes on with his narrative, the sleeper composes himself again to rest; and, perhaps, some fierce and angry looking criminal comes up to him, and says, in a stern voice of defiance, "Away! you have no business here!"

Do you think that these prisoners would be liberated for the sake of Regulus? No! The bolts and bars must be closed upon them again; and they must bear their sentence to the full.—This is the way that multitudes receive the offers of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Once more. -Suppose this messenger were to meet, in some part of the prison, one of the convicts walking to and fro alone in his cell, and should repeat to him the story which he was commissioned to bring:


"Forgiveness for the sake of Regulus!" says he, with a tone of scorn: I want no forgiveness on account of another. You have no right to shut me up here for any thing I have done. It is unjust and cruel. I demand release on my own account, without any condition, or any acknowledgment of my dependence for it upon the sufferings of another!"

« AnteriorContinuar »