Earned Freedom Through Bravery
( Originally Published 1902 )
THE Governor of Virginia, with a number of members of the State Penitentiary Board, paid a visit recently to the farm where the convicts are kept at work. The arrival of the distinguished visitors caused some excitement, in the midst of which four of the convicts seized rifles and made a dash for liberty. Their escape was not noticed at first, except by another convict, who volunteered to an officer to recapture the leader, a notorious and desperate offender. Permission was given, and immediately the chase began. Gradually the fugitives became aware that they were being overtaken, and they turned and pointed their rifles at their pursuer, warning him by shouts that they would kill him, rather than be caught. Heedless of threats and shots, the pursuing convict held on his way until he had the leader in his hands and disarmed him. The delay of the struggle was fatal to the remainder of the party. The guards, who had followed in the chase, came up and overcame the other three convicts and brought them back. The Governor was so much pleased by the courage and promptitude of the convict who had captured the leader that, then and there, he remitted the remainer of his sentence, covering two years, and he returned a pardoned man to Richmond the same day.
There is no man, however good, in whose nature there is not some weak place, which can be discovered easily by looking for it; there is no man, how-ever bad, who has not some good trait in his nature, which can be discovered by searching for it. Here is a man suffering the penalty of a broken law, shut off from society like a moral leper, branded with disgrace, who has the sense of right in his nature strong enough still to make him realize that his fellow-convicts were doing wrong in attempting to escape, and to prompt him to help the officers maintain their authority. And the courage which was displayed by this convict was worthy of the leader of an army. He could have run away with his companions, like any coward would have done, but he stood his ground like a man and faced death to maintain the majesty of the law.
While the soul is set free from the bonds of sin and death by the pardon of the Divine Governor through the grace of Jesus Christ, there is the largest liberty in obedience to God's law and in a fearless maintenance of it.