Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

many prisoners and sent them to Rome. At length, however, the scale was turned, the Roman army was conquered, and Regulus himself was captured and thrown into a Carthaginian prison.

After some time, however, had elapsed, the Carthaginians, foreseeing that the Roman power would, in the end, overwhelm their own, concluded to send an embassy to Rome to propose peace. They proposed to Regulus to go on this embassy. They intrusted him with the commission, saying to him, "We wish you would go to Rome, and propose to your countrymen to make peace with us, and endeavour to persuade them to comply. If you do not succeed, however, we expect you to return to us again as our lawful prisoner. We shall confide in your word.'

Regulus accepted the trust. He set off to Rome, promising to return to Carthage, if the Romans should not accede to the peace. He sailed across the sea, and up the Tiber, and was soon approaching the gates of the great city. He had determined, however, to do all in his power to prevent a peace, knowing that it would not be for the interest of his country to make one. He understood, therefore, that he was going to his native city only to communicate his message, and then to return to imprisonment, torture and death, at Carthage.

His wife came out of the gates to meet him,-rejoicing in his return. He received her dejected, silent and sad. "I am a Carthaginian prisoner still," said he, "and must soon return to my chains."

He refused to enter the city. He had, indeed, a message for the senate, but the Roman senate was not accustomed to admit foreigners to their sessions within the city. He sent them word, therefore, that Regulus, no longer a Roman general, but a Carthaginian prisoner, was the bearer of a message to them, and wished them to hold, as usual, a meeting without the gates, for the purpose of receiving it.

The senate came. They heard the proposal which the Carthaginians sent, and the arguments of Regulus against it. The arguments prevailed. They decided against peace, and Regulus began to speak of his return.

"Return!" said his friends and the senators, and all the

people of Rome. "You are under no obligation to return to Carthage."

"I promised to return," said Regulus, "and I must keep my word. I am well aware that the disappointed and exasperated Carthaginians will inflict upon me cruel tortures, but I am their prisoner still, and I must keep my word."

The Romans did all in their power to persuade Regulus that a promise extorted under such circumstances was not binding, and that he could be under no obligation to return. But all was vain. He bade the senate, and his countrymen, and his wife farewell, and was soon sailing back to the land of his enemies. The Carthaginians were enraged at the result of his mission. They put him to death by the most cruel tortures.

When the tidings of his death came back to Rome, the senate and the people, who had already been much impressed by the patriotism of Regulus, and his firm adherence to his word, were overwhelmed with admiration and gratitude. This feeling was mixed, too, with a strong desire of revenge upon the Carthaginians, and a decree was passed giving up the Carthaginian prisoners then in their hands to Marcia, the wife of Regulus, to be disposed of as she might desire. She, most unjustly and cruelly, ordered them all to be put to death, by the same sufferings which her lamented husband had endured.

My story, thus far, is true; that is, it is substantially true. The dialogue I have given is intended to exhibit the substance of what was said; not the exact words. The facts, however, are correctly stated. The whole occurrence, as above described, is matter of history.

In order, however, to make the use of this story which I have intended, I must now go on in fiction. I will suppose that Marcia, instead of desiring to gratify a revengeful spirit, by destroying the lives of the innocent prisoners at Rome, in retaliation for the murder of her husband, had been actuated by a nobler spirit, and had sent such a message as this to the Roman senate, in reply to their proposal to her.

"I do not wish for revenge. It will do little good either to Regulus who is dead, or to his unhappy widow who survives, to torture or to destroy the miserable captives in our hands. Dispose of them as the good of the State requires. If you think, however, that any thing is due from the com

monwealth 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 show 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 consequence 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 who were 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 for 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 for 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.

A

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. 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 him most fully within the conditions of release. Such a 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 to happiness now. I shall always be grateful to the senate, and shall 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 can, however, feel right 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.*

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. passes, we will

He

*See Romans iii. 23-28.

« AnteriorContinuar »