This account was written by Horatius Bonar.
Many years ago, I was walking with a friend along the pleasant banks of a Scottish river, in one of the early months of summer, when the trees had just begun to show their fresh verdure and to offer us a shade from the sun. A man in rags came up to us begging. We supplied his wants somewhat, and entered into talk with him. He could not write nor read: He knew nothing of his Bible, and seemed not to care about knowing it.
“You need to be saved, do you not?”
“Oh yes; I suppose I do,” he said.
“But do you know the way of being saved?” we asked.
“I dare say I do,” was the reply.
“How, then, do you expect this?”
“I have not been a very bad man; and am doing as many good works as I can.”
“But are your good works good enough to take you to heaven?”
“I think so; and I am doing my best.”
“Do you not know any good works better than your own?”
“I know about the good works of the saints; but how am I to get them?”
“Do you know of no good works better than those of the saints?”
“I don’t think there can be any better.”
“Are not the works of the Lord Jesus Christ better than the works of the saints?”
“Of course they are; but of what use are they to me?”
“They may be of great use to us, if we believe what God has told us about them.”
“How is that?”
“If God is willing to take these works of Christ instead of yours, would not that do?”
“Yes, that it would. But will He?”
“Yes, He will. For this is just what He has told us; He is willing to take all that Christ has done and suffered instead of what you could do or suffer; and to give you what Christ has deserved instead of what you have deserved.”
“Is that really the case? Is God willing to put Christ instead of me?”
“Yes, He certainly is.”
‘But have I no good works to do myself?”
“Plenty; but not to buy pardon with them. You are to take what Christ did as the price to be paid for your pardon; and then, having thus got a free pardon, you will work for Him who pardons you, out of love for His love to you.”
“But how can I get this?”
“By believing the gospel, or good news which tell you about the Lord Jesus Christ: how He lived; how He died; how He was buried; how He rose again—all for sinful men: as the Bible says, ‘Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things.’ ”
The beggar stood and wondered. The thought that another’s works would do instead of his own, and that he might get all that this other’s works deserved, seemed to strike him.
We never met again. But the Word seemed to tell upon him; he seemed to take it with him as something which he had never heard before—something which seemed almost too good news to be true.