By Robert Wayne LaCoste
Not long ago I read one of the saddest stories of the Civil War period. Seems like this young man who lived in Vermont during this period of time, was called on by the authorities of the Union army to enlist and go south to fight. The man was married and had four children. It was not common for the army to draft men with families, but the war was not going well for the north and they needed the extra man power.
One of his dearest friends, from youth up, lived next door to him, but had never married and thus had no children. One reason this man was not married and had no family, is that he was in a family business with his father and this had kept him busy most of his adult life. He and his father were very close and so the family business faired well.
However, when he heard that his best friend was going south to fight, he made an appointment with the Union army officials and said to them plainly, “Please let me go in his place. I have no wife or children and they need him desperately.” The officials contended, “But you and your father are blacksmiths and we need you here to continue to make equipment to supply our army.” “Yes,” he responded, “but my father had a successful business before I started helping him and I assure you, his work will not diminish in the least.” Finally, the authorities decided they would allow this man to go in the place of his friend who was married and had several children. His friend and that family were quite grateful, for their livelihood depended upon him staying home.
The young man trained hard, prepared himself for battle and went south to fight. In one of the hottest battles of the war, the young man fell in death at the hands of a Confederate’s sword at the battle of Chickamauga.
When the news reached the married man and his family back in Vermont, they wept many tears. One morning, after the war was over, the young married man purchased a train ticket and with a few dollars headed south to Tennessee. He stopped over in New York in an effort to converse with the officer in charge of the brigade his friend had served with. He wanted the approximate location where his friend had fallen in battle. In a nearby community he had a stonecutter make a him a tombstone. He rented a buggy and drove to the battle site. He erected the marker, said a prayer of thanksgiving, wept once again and departed to return to Vermont. Two men who had been standing nearby noticed the man placing the marker, praying and weeping and just had to see what was written thereon. After the buggy was out of sight, they went to the marker and read these words which were engraved: He died in my place.
I too must confess I wept also when I read this story’~ It reminded me of our Savior and friend who was our propitiator. A propitiator is one who goes in the place of another in order to appease the desire or will of someone in authority. Truly, this is what Jesus did. John in describing also the advocacy of this precious one wrote, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). John continues, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10).
Dear reader, surely Jesus was eminently qualified to go in our place to die for sin. You and I could not qualify. Paul put it this way, “When we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Paul goes on to point out that, for a righteous man (as in our story), a man would dare to die, but that Jesus died for sinners or unrighteous men, who did not deserve his great sacrifice (Rom. 5:7-8).
However, it must be added that this great Savior who went in our place cannot save us unless we, like the man in our story, show faith and gratitude. Paul penned. these words, “Whom God sent forth (speaking of Christ in verse 24) to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26). 1 have taken the liberty of italicizing the two key terms of this text. They are faith or belief. This is more than just saying, “I believe that Jesus died.” Even the infidel believes that, for he cannot escape the many proofs testifying to that fact in history. The only kind of faith the Bible knows anything about is the “faith that worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Jesus said plainly, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15) and “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46)
The man in our story demonstrated his love for his friend and erected a monument to that friendship and love.
Oh, dear reader, do we not realize that God wants our lives to be that monument! He desires since Jesus has been the propitiation to appease him, and his authority, that now it be our turn to “present your bodies in living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1-2).
Yes, Jesus went in our place. Now, our lives must be ex pended in going forth as shining lights of that eternal love and sacrifice.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 12, p. 363
June 21, 1990