For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.
You heard the name in history class—John Wilkes Booth, assassin of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. This is the lesson that was never taught:
After the mortal shooting of the President at Ford's Theater in April, 1865, Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, fled into Maryland, spending a restless night in an inn. At four o'clock in the morning, they awakened Dr. Mudd in his home, asking him to set Booth's broken left leg. The two fugitives hid five days until it was safe to cross the Potomac to the Virginia side of the river. A detachment of twenty-five soldiers tracked the killers to a barn on the Garrett farm near Port Royal.
The Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, ordered that these men be taken alive. But this would not be an easy task. Booth was heavily armed and determined to fight his way out; his companion surrendered, held out his hands through the slats of the barn door, was dragged outside, and tied to a tree. Simultaneously the barn was fired, the hay catching quickly.
When Booth leaned toward the barn door to get away from the flames, a soldier noticed the carbine in his hand. Sergeant Boston Corbett had been positioned at a crack in the barn; when he saw Booth raise his rifle, he fired, hoping to disable him in the arm. A sudden movement by Booth resulted in the bullet striking him in the neck. He was carried from the barn to the porch, unconscious, but was revived; unable to swallow the offered medicine, he lifted his hands and said, "Useless, useless!" He died two hours later.
Sgt. Corbett's commendation by his superiors reached the commanding general: ". . . [he]was untiring in his efforts to bring the murderers to justice. His soldierly qualifications have been tested before this occasion, and, in my judgment, are second to none in the service."
Sgt. Corbett was arrested for disobeying orders, but the charges were dropped. Sadly, due to repeated erratic behavior, he was declared insane twenty-two years later and was committed to an asylum in Kansas, where he escaped after a year and disappeared for good.
When it comes to salvation, you and I are no different from John Wilkes Booth. Salvation came when you looked at your life and cried, "Useless! Useless!"
Like Sgt. Corbett, all the good works you do will not give you peace of mind. All the Sundays you attend church, and all the money you give to charitable causes will not assure your gaining salvation. Those things are useless, vain, without meaning.
It is recorded in Hebrews 9:27 that ". . . it is appointed for men to die . . . " and then to face "judgment," but we who are in Christ will not have to face that judgment day. Christ has already been through the fire of God's wrath, dying the death of a criminal on our behalf, gaining peace for us, that we may have eternal life in Him.
Our hands are not stained with the deeds of the world—they have been washed in the cleansing blood of the Lamb! We can sing for joy at the works of our hands when they perform the most important work in the world . . . the work of God.
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord again for saving you when you could not save yourself. Thank Him for lifting you up with His loving hands and rescuing you from the wrath that you deserve.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 37 (especially vs. 24) which speaks of our security in the "hand" of God.
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