The ''Robber's Bible

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The time: about two hundred years ago.
The place: deep in the Black Forest.
The scene: a clearing among the dark trees and a circle of men sitting. One man stood in the center of the ring and, by the light of a flaring torch, was holding up various articles for sale.
It was a gang of highwaymen who had held up a stagecoach that evening. According to their custom, they were auctioning the loot among themselves. Almost everything had been disposed of when a New Testament was held up. The auctioneer introduced this with some crude jokes, which made the forest ring with laughter.
One man suggested that he should "read a chapter for their edification." This was unanimously applauded and the auctioneer, turning the pages at random, began reading in a voice of mock devotion.
While the men were laughing it was not noticed that one of them, a middle-aged man who was one of the oldest members of the gang, became silent and, clasping his hands on his knees, was absorbed in deep thought.
The passage which the auctioneer read was the same as that which that man's father had read thirty years before on the morning of the day when he ran away from home, never to return. At the sound of the words the happy family circle rose to his mind. In his imagination he saw them all seated around the breakfast table. He saw his father, sitting with the open Bible, reading the chapter for the day. He saw his kind, tender-hearted mother sitting by his father's side listening attentively to the Word of God. He saw himself, kneeling with his brother and sisters while his father prayed for the guidance and blessing of God during the day.
It all came as clearly to his mind as if it had happened that morning. Since leaving home he had never opened a Bible, never offered up a prayer, never had a single thought of God and eternity. But now it was as if his soul awoke out of a sleep of thirty years—as if the snow of a long, long winter melted away at the sound of that well-known Bible verse. All the words which his father had spoken to him from his childhood—the lessons and prayers of his mother—which then were scornfully given to the winds—came flying back to his memory.
Absorbed in his thoughts, he forgot all that was around him; he heard nothing of the joking and cursing that were going on, until he was roused by a slap on the shoulder and the question: "Now, old dreamer, what will you give for that book? You need it more than any of us, for you are undoubtedly the biggest sinner on earth."
"So I am," he answered, struck to his heart by the truth in that rough joke. "Give me the book; I will pay its full price."
The next day the robbers scattered through the neighborhood to turn their bargains into money. The man who bought the Bible went also on his errand, but he did not direct his steps to a receiving-house. He went to a lonely place where he spent the whole day and night in the agonies of remorse. But for the consoling words which the Bible held out to him he would certainly have taken his life. But God had mercy on that repenting sinner and he learned that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," and that "Christ died for the ungodly," and peace came to his troubled soul.
At last he too ventured away from the sheltering forest. The first thing he heard was that his gang had been overtaken the night before by a detachment of soldiers and taken to prison. He promptly went to the police and gave himself up to the hands of justice. This proof of the sincerity of his repentance saved his life, for his comrades were all put to death. His story was told to the Grand Duke, and he obtained mercy from man as well as from God. Though he had to serve some time in prison, he was freed to live many more years as a blessing to all around him. At last he died in peace, praising Jesus Christ who came into the world to save sinners, of whom he felt himself to be the chief.
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." 1 Tim. 1:1515This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15).