George Wilson was a career criminal who, in the 1830s, was indicted on six counts of obstructing and robbing the U.S. mail, including threatening a carrier with bodily harm, and violent assault (wounding a carrier). The violent assault carried a penalty of death. Rising public petition against the death penalty prompted then president, Andrew Jackson, to issue a pardon for the assault conviction.
Amazingly, Wilson declined the pardon. “And now, to-wit, this 21 October, 1830, the defendant, George Wilson, being in person before the court, was asked by the court … whether he wished in any manner to avail himself of the pardon referred to, and the said defendant answered in person that … he did not wish in any manner to avail himself, in order to avoid sentence in this particular case, of the pardon referred to.”
The district court was not sure how to handle the complexities of the case, and eventually the matter was referred to the U.S. Supreme Court which later ruled that, “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. … A pardon is a deed to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him. It may be supposed that no being condemned to death would reject a pardon, but the rule must be the same in capital cases and in misdemeanors.”
Further, Chief Justice John Marshall purportedly pronounced that the value of a pardon “must be determined by the receiver … It has no value apart from that which the receiver gives it . . . therefore, George Wilson must die." He was subsequently executed for his crime.
Who in their right mind would reject an opportunity to be pardoned? We would assume, as the Supreme Court did, that no person "condemned to death would reject a pardon." Yet, the Bible tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life' (John 3:16).
In Christ, God has offered a pardon to everyone of us. Nevertheless, a pardon "has no value apart from that which the receiver gives it."
How many in our world allow day after day to pass without receiving God's pardon? Sadly, George Wilson didn't have to be condemned and neither do you!
God has, "canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14, NLT).