My regiment was marshaled on the parade ground, at strict attention. The silence could be felt.
A soldier one of my friends had been caught stealing and held for court-martial. He had been a good soldier so far as training was concerned. He had come from a home with little of this world's goods. On brief furloughs I had taken him to my home in Glasgow, Scotland. On our latest trip he had asked for a loan, but unfortunately I had been broke also. In the barracks the next day he had been caught stealing. At the court-martial I had been called with others as a witness and asked if I had lent him any money. Regretfully I had to answer no. Whence then had the money in his pocket come? The evidence against him was overwhelming. He had been found guilty and sentenced to be drummed out of the British army.
Now, in the awful silence a bugle sounded. The door to the guard room swung open and the prisoner with his guards appeared. A quick march brought them to the assembled troops where they halted before the officers. The colonel in command addressed the prisoner, "Private, you have been found guilty of stealing. You have disgraced your king, your country, and your regiment. The court has sentenced you to be drummed out of his majesty's service." Turning to an officer he said, "Captain, you have your orders. Take over."
The captain removed the prisoner's cap, cut off the badge identifying his regiment, and removed from his shoulders the epaulets with the regimental insignia. Next he cut the brass buttons from the man's uniform. The prisoner stood uneasily before the regiment, his shoulders slumped, his head hanging.
"Remove him from the barracks," ordered the captain. With a sad, sad heart I saw my friend standing alone, bearing his tragedy before the regiment.
Slowly the drummers began a tattoo. As the sound rose in a swelling crescendo like the roll of approaching thunder, the guards marched the disgraced man to the gate and ordered him to leave. Rejected by his majesty the king, banished from the army forever, my disgraced friend ran down the street. The rolling drums suddenly ceased. The ceremony of disgrace was over.
As I read this sad story, I was struck with the importance of the symbols that were cut off his uniform. While he was a loyal soldier he was allowed to wear the emblems of honor that marked him as a member of the king's army. Those symbols not only identified whose army he belonged to, but they also implied something about the character and behavior of the wearer. When he broke the laws of the king, his actions proved that he was not worthy of the character implied by those ensigns, and he was no longer allowed to bear those marks.
The emblems on his uniform were easily visible. His character was not so easily visible. The Bible says that man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Our next story illustrates one of those less easily seen marks of character.