Czar Nicholas of Russia often used to wander about his military camps and barracks, clothed as an ordinary officer, in order that he might know, without being known, what was going on.
Late one night when all lights were supposed to be extinguished, the Czar was making one of these tours of inspection. He noticed a light shining under the paymaster's door, and quietly opening it, stepped inside, intending to have the offender punished. A young officer, son of an old friend of the Czar, was seated at a table, his head resting on his arms, and sound asleep. The Czar stepped over to awaken him, but before doing so, noticed a loaded revolver, a small pile of money, and a sheet of paper with a pen that had fallen from the hand of the sleeping man. The light of the little candle let the Czar read what had just been written, and in a moment he understood the situation.
On the sheet of paper was a long list of debts, gambling and other evil debts. The total ran into many thousands of roubles. The officer had used army funds to pay these wicked, reckless debts, and now having worked till late into the night trying to get his accounts straight, had discovered for the first time how much he owed. It was hopeless; the pitifully small balance on hand left such a huge deficit to be made up! On the sheet of paper, below the terrible total, was written this question: 'Who can pay so great a debt?'
Unable to face the disgrace the officer had intended shooting himself, but completely worn out with sorrow and remorse, he had fallen asleep.
As the Czar realized what had happened, his first thought was to have the man immediately arrested, and in due course brought before a court-martial. Justice must be done in the army, and such a crime could not be passed by.
But as he remembered the long friendship with the young officer's father, love overcame judgment, and in a moment he had devised a plan whereby he could be just toward the army and yet justify the culprit. The Czar took up the pen that had dropped from the hand of the wearied, hopeless offender, and with his own hand answered the question with one word - 'Nicholas.'
Yes, the Czar himself, Nicholas, could pay that debt, and voluntarily undertook to do so. The young officer waked soon after the Czar had gone, and took up his revolver to end his life, but as he did so, his eye caught the answer to his question. In bewildered astonishment he gazed on that one word, 'NICHOLAS.' Surely such an answer was impossible! He had some papers in his possession which bore the genuine signature of the Czar, and quickly he compared the names, for it seemed too good to be true. To his intense joy, yet bitter humiliation, he realized that his Czar knew all about his sins, knew the utmost of his mighty debt, and yet instead of inflicting the penalty he deserved, had assumed the debt himself, and justified the debtor.
Joyfully and peacefully he lay down to rest, and early the next morning bags of money arrived from the Czar sufficient to pay the last cent of "so great a debt."
Reader, you and I have a mighty debt. We may well ask, "Who can pay it?" Thank God, love has provided an answer, and like the answer given by the Czar it is the word-
Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ knows all about your debt. He knows how great it is. He knows how you came by it. He knows all the shame of it. He knows the cost of payment, and in spite of such intimate knowledge of you and it, He has assumed the full liability of it Himself. One word, "Nicholas," set the heart of that young man at rest-even filled it with joy. One word, "JESUS," has set my heart at rest and filled it with joy. Has that "one word," that one blessed name, filled your heart with rest, peace, and joy? It can. "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:38-39).