In a village of Switzerland there lived an honest
peasant who loved God, and whose head and heart were in the right place.
He was well-to-do; and as his harvest had been good, his barns and lofts
were filled. As he sat quietly one evening with his pipe, his neighbour
came in and said, ''There is a thief in your loft; I have taken away the
ladder; climb up, and you have him." "Well, that is wonderful," said the
peasant. He did not storm, however, for he was of a cold-blooded
temperament, but took a lantern in his hand, and went up the steps to
the loft. There stood the thief as if it had thundered, and as white as
a sheet. He tried to speak, but the words stuck in his throat; a sack of
corn stood beside him, for he was just on the point of carrying it off.
But the peasant said, "Good evening, my friend; this is a late visit.
You might have come during the day at any time. Come with me; I live
below." The thief was scarcely in his senses; he was stupified.
Nevertheless he could not help following the peasant, who was already
descending; and, as yon. may suppose, left the sack of corn behind him.
"Oh," said the peasant, "I beg you will bring the corn with you." The
thief refuses. "Oh, bring it," continued the other, "it is not mine:
bring it." "It is yours," stammered the thief. "No," said the peasant,
"it is God's, who has only lent it to me. You have not stolen it from
me, but from God. Do you know the eighth commandment?"
The thief struggled long, but at length hard as he
felt it, he had to take the sack and bring it down. So the wicked
fellow, trembling and shaking, came down the stairs with his burden, and
entered the peasant's room. "Quick, wife," he cried, "bring bread and
butter, and a can of beer, for we have a guest." The good woman came in,
greeted him kindly, covered the table, and set bread and butter, and a
can of beer upon it. But the guest had no wish to eat and drink. "Fall
to, my friend, and much good may it do you," said the peasant. But the
guest only shook his head: how could he let a bite enter his mouth? If
the man would but cease to press him so hospitably! At last there was
nothing left but to begin, and by and by the meal became less
disagreeable than he had thought. The peasant moreover spoke in a
simple, manly way, as only a good friend can; he asked after the other's
wife and children, and listened with sympathy as he told of his
necessities. The meal was over, and the guest wished himself miles away,
if he had only known how to get off. Then the peasant said, "Will you
stop over the night with me? It is dark without, and the roads are bad.
You will have a decent bed; but if you would rather go, you are quite
free." "I would be very glad to go home," said the thief. "As you will,"
replied the peasant; "then, go in God's name." So the thief bid
good-night, and hurried off; but the peasant stopped him. "You are not
taking the sack of corn with you. You won't leave the corn behind you?"
The man, all ashamed, declined; but the other continued, ''No, no, I
keep my word. You have stolen the corn, and I dare not take it back.
Stolen goods don't prosper." Let the thief beg and entreat as much as he
would, it was no use. He asked to be forgiven: it would never, never be
done again; but the peasant said, ''I have nothing to forgive you. Set
it right with God, whom you have offended. He alone can forgive your
So, hard as it was, the thief had to carry the sack
away with him. An hour before, he could not have thought it would have
been so painful. It was not the sack that was so hard to carry, it was
another burden that pressed him where his conscience was. All alone he
went through the lonely night, yet there was a conversation carried on
the whole time, so that he was often in doubt whether there was not
really another person who spoke to him. One indeed spoke with him; no
man; it was the living God.
The next morning had scarcely dawned, when there was
a knock at the peasant's door. He opened it, and there, outside, stood
no other than his friend of yesterday. ''Where do you come from?" he
asked; "why are you so early?" "I have no
rest," replied the thief; "I had to come to you. The night long I never
closed an eye. I am ashamed that I have stolen from you. I cannot
understand how Satan has so blinded me as to do this sin. Forgive and
The peasant brought him into his room, sat down with
him, and spoke earnestly about the sin and evil of the human heart and
its deserts; he shewed him how sin makes us so comfortless and
miserable, and how, if he is not converted, nothing but judgment and
eternal damnation await the sinner. He opened the Bible and read him the
passage where it is written that thieves shall not inherit the kingdom
of God, and then he preached to him the name of the Saviour of sinners,
who also would save him from death.
From that time the thief was often seen with the
peasant. He was also seen at the sermon and at the table of the Lord.
His neighbours marvelled how it came about, and how he was so changed
and so thrifty in his household. They began to reprove him, and to mock
him by every kind of mocking name; "Pietist," he was called, "Quaker,"
"Lady Prayerful;" but he continued just the same. The grace of God was
with him and helped him through. He remained faithful and steadfast, and
an example of the Divine mercy which out of sinners makes the children
of God. When a year had passed, he seized the courage to declare the
secret of his conversion. ''That peasant," he said, "was my preacher of
righteousness: I stole from him; but he made me rich, and saved my