Overcoming Evil With Good

William Savery was a tanner by trade, and reported by all who knew him as a man who "walked humbly with his God." One night a quantity of hides were stolen from his tannery; and he had reason to believe that the thief was a quarrelsome"drunken neighbor, whom I will call John Smith.

The next week the following advertisement appeared in the county newspaper: "Whoever stole a lot of hides on the 4th day of this month is hereby informed that the owner will keep the whole transaction secret, and will gladly put him in the way of obtaining money by means more likely to bring him peace of mind."

This unusual advertisement attracted considerable attention, but the culprit alone knew by whom this kind offer was made, When he read it, his heart melted within him, and he was filled with sorrow for what he had done.

A few nights later, as the tanner’s family was about to retire for the night, they heard a timid knock at the door, When the door was opened there stood John Smith with a load of hides on his shoulders. Without looking up he said, "I’ve brought these back, Mr. Savery. Where shall I put them?"

"Wait till I can light a lantern, and I will go to the barn with you," he replied; "then perhaps you will come in and tell me how this happened and we will see what can be done for you."

As soon as they were gone out, Mrs. Savery prepared some hot coffee, and placed meat and pies on the table. When they returned from the barn, she said, "Neighbor Smith, I thought some hot supper would be good for you."

He turned his back towards her and could not speak. After leaning against the fireplace in silence for a moment, he said in a choked voice, "It is the first time I ever stole anything, and I have felt very badly about it. I don’t know how it is. I am sure I never thought that I should ever come to be what I am, but I took to drinking and then to quarreling. Since I began to go down hill, everybody gives me a kick; you are the first man who has ever offered me a helping hand. My wife is sickly and my children are starving, You have sent them many a meal; God bless you, and yet I stole the hides from you, intending to sell them at the first chance I could get. But I tell you the truth when I say that it is the first time I ever was a thief."

"Let it be the last time, my friend," replied William Savery "the secret shall remain between ourselves. You are still a young man and by the grace and help of God you can make up for lost time. Promise me that you will not drink any intoxicating liquor for a year, and I will employ you tomorrow at good wages. I will also pray to God for you. Perhaps we can find some employment for your family also. The little boy can at least pick up the stones. But eat a bit now and drink some hot coffee; perhaps it will keep you from craving anything stronger tonight. No doubt you will find it hard to abstain at first; but keep up a brave heart for the sake of your wife and children and, with God’s help and protection, it will soon become easy. When you have need of coffee, tell Mary and she will always give it to you."

The poor fellow tried to eat and drink, but first the food seemed to choke him. After a while he ate and drank with good appetite; and his host parted with him for the night with this kindly exhortation: "Try to do well, John, and you will always find a friend in me." The next day he entered his employ and remained with him many years a sober, honest, and faithful man.