On many occasions I have related the following story during a sermon I
preach on the subject of "Divine Pardon." In Pennsylvania, during
1829, George Wilson was convicted of mail robbery and murder. He was
sentenced to death. Later pardoned by President Andrew Jackson, Wilson
refused the pardon. Confusion reigned among all who were concerned about
the case. Nothing like this had happened before. What were they to do with
a man who refused a pardon and chose to die on the gallows instead?
Finally, the Chief Supreme Court Justice, John Marshall, ruled: "A
pardon is a paper, the value of which depends upon its acceptance by the
parties implicated. It is hardly to be supposed that one under the
sentence of death would refuse to accept a pardon. But if it is refused,
it is no pardon. George Wilson must hang."
A few weeks went by and Wilson walked up thirteen
steps. A black hood was placed over his head and a rope around his neck.
Like a bolt of lightning, his body fell six or seven feet. The head
jerked, the neck snapped, a few convulsive movements, and all was quiet.
Wilson was dead! Why? Because he had to die? No. Because he refused the
Friends, I know another, much sadder story. It is
the story of our refusing the "pardon" God provided for us. Man was in sin
and could not save himself. Neither could he reach into heaven and probe
the mind of God to obtain salvation. What did God do? He sent His Son to
die as a sacrifice for our sins. "For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish
but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Jesus shed His blood to redeem
sinful man. He sent the Holy Spirit to reveal the Divine Remedy and to
give sinful souls instructions for its application. In Acts chapter 2, we
read of the first occasion when people applied the "remedy" of the
Divine Pardon on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 souls were pardoned from
the condemnation of their sins. "But we see Jesus, who was made a
little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with
glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for
everyone." (Hebrews 2:9) Jesus died to give men the "pardon" they need
to be saved. Does this mean all men will be pardoned?
When the Jews were convicted of their sins on
that day in Acts 2, were they told to do something? Or did Christís death
automatically pardon them? In verses 38 and 39, we read "Then Peter
said to them, ĎRepent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of
Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of
the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to
all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." They
accepted and received their pardon! This pardon is available to all
mankind. Since all have sinned (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8), all men
need this "remedy." Have you accepted His pardon? Do you want to die and
be eternally lost when you can avoid it? The choice is yours to make. I
hope your choice will be different from George Wilsonís!