Vicarious Punishment by Unknown

[Illustration: "<i>Are you going to whip Eunice</i>, sir?"]

This is the term applied to such punishment as that which Christ bore when he suffered on the cross, the just for the unjust. You do not quite know what it means, do you? I think I hear you say, "Oh, we do not want to know what such long words mean."

But stop a moment, I have a story to tell.

It was a warm summer afternoon; a lazy breeze stole through the windows of a little district schoolhouse, lifting the curtains, and rustling the leaves of the copy-books that lay open on all the desks.

Thirty or forty scholars of all ages were bending over their writing, quiet and busy; the voice of the master, as he passed about among the writers, was the only sound.

Perhaps you might not have thought it possible, but I assure you, that this hot little schoolroom has its heroes and heroines as certainly as many another place which might have seemed far more pretending.

The bell rang for the writing to be laid by; and now came the last exercise of the day, the spelling, in which nearly all the school joined. At the head of the class was a delicate little girl, whose bright eyes and attentive air showed that she prized her place, and meant to keep it.

Presently a word which had passed all the lower end of the class, came to Eunice. The word was privilege. "P-r-i-v, priv—i, privi—l-e-g-e, lege, privilege," spelt Eunice. But the teacher, vexed with the mistakes of the other end of the class, misunderstood and passed it. The little girl looked amazed, the bright color came into her cheeks, and she listened eagerly to the next person, who spelt it again as she had done.

"Right," said the teacher; "take your place."

"I spelt it so," whispered Eunice partly to herself; the tears springing to her eyes as she passed down. But too timid to speak to the master, she remained in her place, determining soon to get up again. But her trials were not yet over.

Many expedients had been tried in the school to keep out that arch-enemy of all teachers—whispering. At length the following plan was adopted:—

The first whisperer was stood upon the floor in front of the teacher's desk. Here he acted as a monitor; as soon as he detected another whispering, he took his seat, and the next offender kept a sharp lookout to find some one to take his place; for, at the close of school, the scholar who had the whisperer's place was punished very severely.

This plan appeared to operate very well; every one dreaded to be found last on the floor; but, though it secured an orderly school, many of the parents and scholars doubted its justice.

The boy who was on the floor when Eunice lost her place, was an unruly, surly fellow, who had often before smarted for his faults; and as school drew near its close, he began to tremble. The instant Eunice's whispered complaint reached his ear, his face brightened up; he was safe now. And when the class was dismissed, he said, "Eunice whispered, sir."

Eunice rose, and in a trembling voice related what she had said; but the teacher saw no excuse in it, and she was called to take the place of the ungenerous boy who had told of her.

The books were put away, and the waiting school looked on in sorrow as Eunice left her seat to take the dreaded punishment. She was one of the best scholars; bright, faithful, sweet-tempered, and a general favorite.

Every one felt that it was unjust; and many angry glances were cast at the boy who was mean enough to get a little girl whipped. Overcome with shame and fear, she stood by the side of the desk crying bitterly, while the teacher was preparing to inflict the punishment.

At this moment a tall boy stepped out of his seat, and going to the desk, said:—

"Are you going to whip Eunice, sir?"

"Yes; I never break my rules!" the teacher answered.

"We will not see her whipped!" said the boy in an excited voice; "there is not a boy here but that one, who would see her whipped! Whip me, sir, and keep your rule, if you must, but don't touch this little girl!"

The master paused; the school looked on tearfully.

"Do you mean to say you will take her punishment?" asked the teacher.

"I do sir," was the bold reply.

The sobbing little girl was sent to her seat, and without flinching, her friend stood and received the punishment that was to have fallen upon her. The school was dismissed, and the boys paid him in admiration and praise for all he had suffered.

This was vicarious punishment,—one suffering from his own free will the punishment that was to have been borne by another.

You see, do you not, that this is just what He did who bore our sins in His own body upon the tree—the Saviour of men? What He suffered we cannot know in this life; but God laid on Him the iniquity of us all; and this He willingly bore to save us from death. With His stripes we are healed. How great the gratitude each of us owes such a Friend.

"Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."