Story of Charlie Peace
OnJuly 4, 1854, Charlie Peace, a well-known criminal inLondon, was hung. The Anglican Church, which had a ceremony for everything, even had a ceremony for hanging people. So when Charlie Peace was marched to the gallows, a priest read these words from the Prayer Book: “Those who die without Christ experience hell, which is the pain of forever dying without the release which death itself can bring.”
Peace was shocked at the way he professionally read about hell. Could a man be so unmoved under the very shadow of the scaffold as to lead a fellow human there and yet, dry-eyed, read of a pit that has no bottom into which this fellow must fall? Could this preacher believe the words that there is an eternal fire that never consumes its victims, and yet slide over the phrase without a tremor? Is a man human at all who can say with no tears, “You will be eternally dying and yet never know the relief that death brings”? All of this was too much for Peace.
So when these chilling words were read, Charlie Peace stopped in his tracks, turned to the priest, and shouted in his face, “Do you believe that? Do you believe that?”
The priest, taken aback by this verbal assault, stammered for a moment then said, “Well…I…suppose I do.”
“Well, I don’t,” said Charlie. “But if I did, I’d get down on my hands and knees and crawl all overGreat Britain, even if it were paved with pieces of broken glass, if I could rescue one person from what you just told me.”
– Mixture of Ravenhill and Compolo’s accounts