A man who broke the commandment “Thou shalt not steal” has returned a 200-year-old Bible that he pilfered from a British church four decades ago.
Simon Scott, treasurer of the Holy Trinity Church, in the coastal resort of Hastings, England, received the large, leather bound, book in the mail earlier this month.
It followed an anonymous note, inside an envelope marked with a German return address, that he'd received a few days earlier from the man who said he's taken the text back in 1971.
“I hoped it was something to help fill our coffers,” Scott told his local newspaper, The Hastings and St Leonards Observer. “But it turned out to be a 200-year-old Bible which was of little monetary value but came with a major story behind it.”
The anonymous note said: “I've never managed to pluck up the courage to come and hand it back personally. But now that I've retired, I've definitely decided to get on the right side of things.”
The author of the note explained that he was from Germany and had gone to the town to take an English language course with his wife but the lecturer seemed to be “very old, and had no teaching skills.”
Some of the classes had been held at the church and when he saw some unused Bibles he thought he would take one “as compensation for the poor course” and to read at home.
“In fact,” he said in the letter, “I never got around to doing it,” adding that his wife was “very angry” with him for taking the book.
“Whenever I came across the bible I would have this guilty conscience about doing it,” he added.
Scott, who has been a church member since 1980, said the Bible in question was not small and would likely have sat on a lectern in the church.
“It wouldn't have been an easy steal,” he said. “It would have taken a bit of carrying, really.”
He added that he had sent a reply to a return address given on the anonymous note.
“I thanked him for sending it back and told him that it had created a lot of interest,” he said.
He added that he hoped the culprit could now sleep easier at night.
“I think he is a God-fearing chap and this was his attempt at a confession,” he said. “It must have weighed very heavily on his mind. I'm sure he will be able to rest a little easier in his bed now.”