I found on Sermon Central by Melvin Newland on Run the Race. Some may want to use it in a sermon on the cross. The illustration is below:
If you ever take the tour in historic Williamsburg, VA they will explain to you why, even to this day, we hold up our hand & swear that we will “tell the truth, the whole truth, & nothing but the truth, so help me God” whenever we give testimony in court.
The story goes all the way back to medieval times. When someone was being tried for a crime & the evidence seemed overwhelmingly against him, there was a way out. He could stand up & say, “I plead the benefit of clergy.”
Now when he pled “the benefit of clergy” everyone was aghast because that was the same as an admission of guilt. But it was his last hope, his last chance.
So a clergyman would come in with a selected passage of Scripture, usually from Psalms 51, the confession of David for all the sins that he had committed. He would hand it to the accused & say, “Here, read this.” It was kind of a fore-runner of the lie detector test.
The law said that if he could read it without stammering or stuttering he would be set free even though the evidence against him was overwhelming. But if he stumbled or stammered just one time he was judged guilty.
Usually a guilty person could not read that passage without stammering or stuttering. So they were found guilty. But when someone read it perfectly & was set free, they branded the palm of his hand with the brand of the cross.
You see, you could only claim the benefit of clergy one time. So whenever anyone testified in court he would have to hold up his hand so that all could see if the brand of the cross was there.
One day, folks, we’re all going to stand before the judge of the universe, as guilty as we can be. The evidence is overwhelmingly against us. Satan, the accuser, will be there to accuse us of all the sins we have committed.
Our only hope is to claim the benefit of the cross.