On one of his recent radio broadcasts, Pastor Skip Heitzig made a reference to a man who was condemned to die for his crimes, received a pardon but refused that pardon.
I was intrigued so I went looking for some details. It seems that in December 1829, two men, George Wilson and James Porter robbed a mail carrier in Pennsylvania. They were found guilty of robbery and “putting the life of the driver in jeopardy.” Porter was hanged on schedule, but for some reason Wilson’s execution was delayed.
Apparently some influential friends of Wilson appealed to President Andrew Jackson and asked for mercy. Jackson gave the pardon and the charges were dropped. But when Wilson returned to court, he responded very strangely. He claimed they were trying to “force” the pardon on him.
That case made its way all the way to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed.”
He went on to say, “…it is not completed without acceptance. It may be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered.”
George Wilson rejected his pardon and chose to die.
This is an interesting story that certainly has some application in our every day lives. We too have committed crimes (the Bible is clear that we are all sinners and deserve to be held accountable for them: Rom. 3:23, Isa. 64:6, I John 1:8). It is just for God to punish sinners (Rom. 5:12 and Rom. 6:23). But in God’s great grace, He has offered us a pardon based on the finished work He accomplished for us on the cross (I John 1:9 and John 3:18).
The only thing left to do is to accept that pardon.
As we look around our world this week, let’s all consider carefully the folks that live next door to us. Let’s take a real good look at the people who work around us. Let’s make a list of our family members that we have relationships with. And then, let’s all ask an important question: Have I made sure and proposed this great spiritual pardon to each of them? Who could I share with this week? Who needs this message of forgiveness?
I am betting that very few will reject the potential pardon!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel