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It was sometimes difficult to provide sufficient supplies; and the officer replied that the rations could not be at the place on such short notice. “I cannot march my men without food,” said the commanding general. “I say that the rations must be there at twelve o’clock tomorrow.”
“But, sir, it’s impossible to do it,” replied the officer.
“Well,” said the general, “remember this: If the rations are not there at twelve o’clock tomorrow, I’ll hang you.”
The officer left in a rage. “How dare he talk to me like that?” he stormed. “Hang me! Hang me? We’ll soon see about that!”
The Duke of Wellington was then the commander-in-chief of the British armies, and the officer went to him to complain about the general. The Duke listened in silence. Presently he inquired, “Did the general really say he’d hang you if the rations were not there by twelve o’clock?”
“Yes, sir,” replied the officer.
“Are you sure he said he would hang you?”
“He did, indeed, sir,” replied the officer, thinking that a severe rebuke was in store for his superior.
“Well,” said the Duke, “I know the general very well. I know that he is a man of his word. If he really said that he would hang you, then if I were in your place, I would take good care to have the rations there.”
The officer went away, and the rations were at the place designated punctually at twelve o’clock!
When the man knew that his life was in danger, he took the needed trouble to do the business at once. He could not presume on the chance that for once in his life the general would not keep his word.
When it is a question of life or death, a man generally makes every effort to “save his skin.” He takes good care to put himself on the right side, even if it costs him a world of trouble to do so.
Whether for good or for evil, we usually believe the word of a fellow man. Is God less worthy of credit? We can be fully persuaded that a man will stick to his word. Do we imagine that God will not keep His? God says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned.” Romans 6:23 goes farther: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.”