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Finally: to bestow pardon without a mediator would be treating the offence as private, or passing over it as a matter unknown, an affair which does not affect the well-being of society, and which therefore requires no public manifestation of displeasure against it. Many a notorious offender would, doubtless, wish matters to be thus conducted, and from an aversion to public exposure, would feel strong objections to the formal interposition of a third person. Whether this may not be another reason of dislike to the mediation of Christ, 1 shall not decide; but of this I am fully satisfied, that the want of a proper sense of the great evil of sin, as it affects the moral government of the universe, is a reason why its adversaries see no necessity for it, nor fitness in it. They prove, by all their writings, that they have no delight in the moral excellency of the divine nature, no just sense of the glory of moral government, and no proper views of the pernicious and wide-extended influence of sin upon the moral system: is it any wonder, therefore, that they should be unconcerned about the plague being stayed by a sacrifice? Such views are too enlarged for their selfish and contracted minds. The only object of their care, even in their most serious moments, is to escape punishment: for the honor of God, and the real good of creation, they discover no concern.
The amount is this: If it be indeed improper for a guilty creature to lie low before his Creator; if it be unfit that any regard should be paid to the honour of his character; if the offence committed against him be of so small account that it is unncessary for him to express any displeasure against it; and if it have been so private and insulated in its operations, as in no way to affect the well-being of the moral system; the doctrine of forgiveness through a mediator, is unreasonable. But if the contrary be true; if it be proper for a guilty creature to lie in the dust before his offended Creator, if the honour of the divine character deserve the first and highest regard; if moral evil be the greatest of all evils, and require, even where it is forgiven, a strong expression of divine displeasure against it; and if its pernicious influence be such that, if suffered to operate according to its native tendency, it would dethrone the Almighty, and desolate the universe, the doctrine in question must accord with the plainest dictates of reason.
The sense of mankind, with regard to the necessity of a mediator, may be illustrated by the following similitude. Let us suppose a division of the army of one of the wisest and best of kings, through the evil counsel of a foreign enemy, to have been disaffected to his government; and that, without any provocation on his part, they traitorously conspired against his crown and life. The attempt failed; and the offenders were seized, disarmed, tried by the laws of their country, and condemned to die. A respite however was granted them, during his majesty's pleasure. At this solemn period, while every part of the army and of the empire was expecting the fatal order for execution, the king was employed in meditating mercy. But how could mercy be shown? To make light of a conspiracy,' said he to his friends, 'would loosen the bands of good government: other divisions of the army might be tempted to follow their example; and the nation at large be in danger of imputing it to tameness, fear, or some unworthy motive.'
Every one felt, in this case, the necessity of a mediator, and agreed as to the general line of conduct proper for him to pursue. 'He must not attempt,' say they, to compromise the difference by dividing the blame: that would make things worse. He must justify the king, and condemn the outrage committed against him; he must offer, if possible, some honorable expedient, by means of which the bestowment of pardon shall not relax, but strengthen just authority; he must convince the conspirators of their crime, and introduce them in the character of supplicants; and mercy must be shown them out of respect to him, or for his sake.'
But who could be found to mediate in such a cause? This was an important question. A work of this kind, it was allowed on all hands, required singular qualifications. He must be perfectly clear of any participation in the offence,' said one, or inclination to favour it; for to pardon conspirators at the intercession of one who is friendly to their cause, would not only be making light of their crime, but giving a sanction to it.
'He must,' said another, be one who on account of his character and services stands high in the esteem of the king and of the public: for to mediate in such a cause, is to become, in a sort, responsible for the issue. A mediator, in effect, pledges his honour
that no evil will result to the state from the granting of his request. But if a mean opinion be entertained of him, no trust can be placed in him, and, consequently, no good impression would be made by his mediation on the public mind.
"I conceive it is necessary,' said a third, that the weight of the mediation should bear a proportion to the magnitude of the crime, and to the value of the favour requested; and that for this end it is proper he should be a person of great dignity. For his majesty to pardon a company of conspirators at the intercession of one of their former comrades, or of any other obscure character, even though he might be a worthy man, would convey a very diminutive idea of the evil of the offence.'
A fourth remarked, that he must possess a tender compassion towards the unhappy offenders, or he would not cordially interest himself on their behalf.'
Finally It was suggested by a fifth,' that for the greater fitness of the proceeding, it would be proper that some relation or connexion should subsist between the parties. We feel the propriety,' said he, of forgiving an offence at the intercession of a father, or a brother; or, if it be committed by a soldier, of his commanding officer. Without some kind of previous relation or connexion, a mediation would have the appearance of an arbitrary and formal process, and prove but little interesting to the hearts of the community.'
Such were the reasonings of the king's friends; but where to find the character in whom these qualifications were united, and what particular expedient could be devised, by means of which, instead of relaxing, pardon should strengthen just authority, were subjects too difficult for them to resolve.
Meanwhile, the king and his son, whom he greatly loved, and whom he had appointed generalissimo of all his forces, had retired from the campany, and were conversing about the matter which attracted the general attention.
'My son' said the benevolent sovereign, what can be done in behalf of these unhappy men? To order them for execution violates every feeling of my heart: yet to pardon them is dangerThe army, and even the empire, would be under a strong
temptation to think lightly of rebellion. If mercy be exercised, it must be through a mediator; and who is qualified to mediate in such a cause? And what expedient can be devised by means of which pardon shall not relax, but strengthen just authority? Speak, my son, and say what measures can be pursued ?'
'My father!' said the prince, I feel the insult offered to your person and government, and the injury thereby aimed at the empire at large. They have transgressed without cause, and deserve to die without mercy. Yet I also feel for them. I have the heart of a soldier. I cannot endure to witness their execution. What shall I say? On me be this wrong! Let me suffer in their stead. Inflict on me as much as is necessary to impress the army and the nation with a just sense of the evil, and of the importance of good order and faithful allegiance. Let it be in their presence, and in the presence of all assembled. When this is done, let them be permitted to implore and receive your majesty's pardon in my name. If any man refuse so to implore, and so to receive it, let him die the death!'
My son' replied the king, you have expressed my heart! The same things have occupied my mind; but it was my desire that you should be voluntary in the undertaking. It shall be as you have said, I shall be satisfied; justice itself will be satisfied; and I pledge my honour that you also shall be satisfied in seeing the happy effects of your disinterested conduct. Propriety requires that I stand aloof in the day of your affliction; but I will not leave you utterly, nor suffer the beloved of my soul to remain in that condition. A temporary affliction on your part will be more than equivolent to death on theirs. The dignity of your person and character will render the sufferings of an hour of greater account as to the impression of the public mind, than if all the rebellious had been executed and by how much I am known to have loved you, by so much will my compassion to them, and my displeasure against their wicked conduct, be made manifest. Go, my son, assume the likeness of a criminal, and suffer in their place!'
The gracious design being communicated at court, all were struck with it. Those who had reasoned on the qualifications of a mediator, saw that in the prince all were united, and were filled
with admiration: but that he should be willing to suffer in the place of rebels, was beyond all that could have been asked or thought. Yet, seeing he himself had generously proposed it, would survive his sufferings, and reap the reward of them, they cordially acquiesced. The only difficulty that was started was among the judges of the realm. They, at first, questioned whether the proceeding were admissible. 'The law,' said they, 'makes provision for the transfer of debts, but not of crimes. Its language is The soul that sinneth shall die.' But when they came to view things on a more enlarged scale, considering it as an expedient on an extraordinary occasion, and perceived that the spirit of the law would be preserved, and all the ends of good government answered, they were satisfied. 'It is not a measure,' said they,' for which the law provides: yet it is not contrary to the law, but above it.'
The day appointed arrived. The prince appeared, and suffered as a criminal. The hearts of the king's friends bled at every stroke, and burned with indignation against the conduct which rendered it necessary. His enemies, however, even some of those for whom he suffered, continuing to be disaffected, added to the affliction, by deriding and insulting him all the time. At a proper period, he was rescued from their outrage. Returning to the palace, amidst the tears and shouts of the loyal spectators, the suffering hero was embraced by his royal father; who, in addition to the natural affection which he bore to him as a son, loved him for his singular interposition at such a crisis: Sit thou,' said he,' at my right hand! Though the threatenings of the law be not literally accomplished, yet the spirit of them is preserved. The honour of good government is secured, and the end of punishment more effectually answered, than if all the rebels had been sacrificed. Ask of me what I shall give thee! No favour can be too great to be bestowed, even upon the unworthiest, nor any crime too aggravated to be forgiven, in thy name. I will grant thee according to thine own heart! Ask of me, my son, what I shall give thee!'
He asked for the offenders to be introduced as supplicants at the feet of his father, for the forgiveness of their crimes, and for