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The Man Who Refused a Pardon

In 1829 two men George Wilson and James Porter, robbed a United States mail carrier. Both were subsequently captured and tried in a court of law. In May of 1830 both men were found guilty of six charges, including robbery of the mail “and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy”. Both Wilson and Porter received their sentences: Execution by hanging, to be carried out on July 2nd.

Andrew Jackson 7th President of America

Porter was executed on schedule, but Wilson was not. Influential friends pleaded for mercy on his behalf to President Andrew Jackson. President Jackson issued a reduced sentencing decree. Wilson would only have to serve a prison term of 20 years for his crimes with the possibility of an early parole for good behavior. Incredibly, George Wilson refused the pardon!

John Marshall 4th Chief Justice of America

An official report said that, Wilson chose to, “wave and decline any advantage or protection which might be supposed to arise from the pardon ….” Wilson also stated he, “ … had nothing to say, and did not wish in any manner to avail himself in order to avoid sentence ….” The U.S. Supreme Court determined, “The court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon, unless he claims the benefit of it …. It is a grant to him: it is his property; and he may accept it or not as he pleases.” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “ A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws …. {But} delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and … we have no power in a court to force it on him.”

George Wilson knowingly committed a crime, was tried under the law and found guilty. He was sentenced to be executed, but a presidential pardon spared his life. When he freely chose to refuse that pardon, he knowingly chose to die. Reading this story one might wonder, how could anyone refuse a freely given pardon for their crimes knowing they will suffer the death sentence? That person would be a fool … right?

Now consider that all people who do not have faith in the redemptive power of Christ are also, in effect, refusing a pardon from a death sentence. They are knowingly making the choice not to spend eternity in the presence of God and instead receive a sentence of eternal separation from their loving Creator. A separation that only brings torment and destruction.

The Bible plainly teaches both in the Old and New Testaments that all people are sinners and as such, have repeatedly broken the commandments of God. Scripture goes on to state that the penalty of a life of sin brings death and destruction. For example, the Old Testament tells us that the person that sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4). The New Testament tells us that the reward for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Apostle John states that if a person thinks they have not sinned, then they have deceived themselves and the truth is not in them (I John 1:8). Jesus prayed to His Father that only those who have faith in Him will receive eternal life (John 17:2-3, 9-10, 20, 24).

So, in His Grace, God has created the one and only guaranteed way to receive a pardon from the judgement and penalty for sin. In His Mercy, He has also provided a reward of eternal life. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Seek you the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked leave their ways, and the unrighteous person their thoughts: let them return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on them; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

So it is clear that God has given each adult the inalienable right to accept or refuse a pardon from the judgement, sentencing and punishment of their sins which are many and grievous. The question is, will a person accept His pardon while “He may be found” and while “He is near” meaning while they are alive and while they are capable of making this decision? Or, will they reject His offer? Every person must make this decision of their own free will. In not making a decision, they have made the decision. Sadly, George Wilson refused his pardon. And over the years, billions of people have also refused their pardons. The Apostle John wrote, “He that believes in Him {Jesus} is not condemned: but he that does not believe is condemned already, because he had not {chosen to} believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God {Jesus}.” (John 3:18)

So the question is, have you accepted your pardon, or have you refused it?

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