There was a singular Oriental custom regarding settled debts. When the debt was settled, either by payment or cancellation, it was the usage for the creditor to take the cancelled bond and nail it over the door of him who owed it, that all might see it was paid.—Dr. A. J. Gordon
(Col. 2. 14)
He gave me back the bond:
It was a heavy debt;
And, as He gave, He smiled and said,
`Thou wilt not me forget.'
He gave me back the bond:
The seal was torn away,
And, as He gave it me, He said,
'Think thou on me alway.'
It is a bond no more,
Yet it shall ever tell
That all I owed was fully paid
By my Immanuel.
This bond I still will keep,
Although it cancelled be.
It tells me of the love of One
Who suffered there for me.
(Is. 53. 5; Luke 22. 19, 20; Col. 2. 14)
From whence this fear and unbelief
Since God, my God, has put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
Can He, the righteous Judge of men,
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged to Thee?
Since Thou hast my discharge procured
And freely in my place endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God will not twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety's hand
And then again at mine.
'It was exacted and He became answerable.'
(Isa. 53. 6; Rom. 3. 25; 1 Tim. 2. 6)
Nicholas II was one of the most beneficent Tsars of Russia, 'the father of the people'. On one occasion he was acting orderly officer to troops stationed in a lonely Cossack fortress. The Tsar was not actually living in the fortress, but billeted some miles away, but the sentries had to be ready and alert whenever the orderly officer came.
It was a cold blustering night and the wind howled mournfully round the tower and rattled the windows of an office in which a young man sat. Count Ivanovitch gazed with dull eyes at the fire; there was nothing he could do—he was smashed.
Ivan was the darling of society, both in Moscow and St. Petersburg; brave, dashing, handsome, he was everybody's favorite. His father had held high military rank and served the Tsar faithfully until his death. Now exposure and disgrace loomed before Ivan.
For months he had been living far beyond his means, and he was head over ears in debt. Then, poor foolish boy, he made what was bad so much worse, for he began to help himself from the regimental funds. He was always going to pay it back, but somehow he never did. It would be quite impossible now; his debts rose like a mountain before him. Tomorrow the military auditors were coming to the fortress to check up the accounts.
The table behind was all spread over with open account books and ledgers; he had been going through them again and again till his head ached. He would be court-martialed and dismissed the Service—perhaps imprisoned. Yes, his career was smashed.
Gazing moodily into the fire, the wretched boy cried out, 'That is the only way out.' He got up and found his pistol and was bringing it back to the fire when the open ledgers and books on the table seemed to draw him. He sat down, went over them again and again then made some rough calculations on a sheet of paper; it was no good, so, pistol in hand, he went back to his seat by the fire.
There was no hurry, he had about five or six hours left. He stared into the fire and thought he saw in the burnt-out coals a picture of his wasted life. Then, because he was very young and unhappy, his eyes drooped and closed and he fell asleep still clutching the pistol.
At midnight the orderly officer arrived at the fortress and went his rounds. Coming along the corridor he was surprised to see a light under the door of the office at that hour. He opened it softly and looked in. A litter of books and ledgers open on the table and his friend, Count Ivanovitch, asleep in a chair with a pistol in his hand—that was what he saw.
Amazed, he went nearer to examine the books, and on the table he found a sheet of paper inscribed, 'What I owe;' a long, long list of figures followed and at the end a boyish scrawl: 'So great a debt, who can pay it?'
The orderly officer looked more closely at the sleeper and marked the misery and despair on his face, then he took up a pen, added a few words at the bottom of the page, quietly removed the pistol and went away. As dawn broke Count Ivanovitch awoke stiff and wretched. The day had dawned which was to bring the dreaded scrutiny. There was just one way out, but where was the pistol? He got up to search for it, then he went over to the table. It was not there; but he saw something at which he stared incredulously. It was just a sheet of paper covered with a long list of debts in his own writing, but something had been added since he fell asleep. Under his last despairing question, 'Who can pay so great a debt?' was now written: 'I will, Nicholas, Tsar.'
Strange things happened at the fortress that day; dispatch riders and couriers came and went. Headquarters postponed the military audit for three months, and Count Ivanovitch was recalled to the capital for a period of duty at the Palace. He never forgot his interview with the Tsar, for it was the turning point to a life that henceforth became straight-forward, honorable and prosperous.—Wing-Commander Knowles, A.F.C., R.A.F. (Abridged)
(Rom. 3. 24-26; Col. 2. 13-14; Philem. 18)