And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.…
George MacDonald, in his story of "Robert Falconer," relates a well-authenticated incident of a notorious convict in one of our colonies having been led to reform his ways, through going one day into a church, where the matting along the aisle happened to be of the same pattern as that in the little English church where he worshipped with his mother when a boy. That old familiar matting vividly recalled the memories of childhood, "the mysteries of the kingdom of innocence," which had long been hid and overpowered by the sins and sufferings of later years. An unfortunate outcast, sunk in misery and vice, wandering in the streets of a large city, meets suddenly a child carrying a bunch of some common wild flowers — hawthorn, cowslips, or violets. A chord is touched which has long slumbered in the outcast's bosom. The innocent past comes back; the little child sitting on the fond mother's knee; the long, happy wanderings in the summer woods and hawthorn-shaded lanes; the cottage home, with all its old-fashioned ways and dear delights; all this sweeps over her like a blissful dream at the sight or smell of these humble wild flowers. Overpowered by the recollections of the past, and the awful contrast between what she was and might have been and what she is now, she turns away and weeps bitterly, perhaps to see at that moment the tender, reproachful eye of Him whom she has long denied, fixed upon her, and to hear His words of pity, "Go in peace, and sin no more." Two young men are spending their last evening together amid the rural scenes in which they have been bred. They are going up to the great city on the morrow to push their fortunes, and are talking over their plans. While they are conversing, one of those little Italian boys who penetrate to the remotest nooks with their hurdy-gurdies, comes up and plays several tunes, which attract their attention, and draw from them a few coins. The young men part. One prospers by industry and talent; the other gives himself up to dissipation, is sent adrift, and becomes a wreck. Worn out with debauchery, and in the last stage of disease, he sends for his former friend. They meet; and at that moment the sound of a hurdy-gurdy is heard in the street. It is the little Italian boy playing the same tunes which he played on that well-remembered evening when the friends bade farewell to the country. It wanted but this to fill up the cup of the dying man's shame and sorrow. All that he has hazarded for the pleasures of the city comes rushing upon his memory. He has lost his money, his health, his character, his peace of mind, and his hope of heaven; and he has gained in exchange sorrow, pain, privation, an insupportable weariness of life, and a dread of death. That sound of the Italian hurdy-gurdy comes to him like the crowing of the cock to Peter. It is the turning point of his life. It awakens within him "the late remorse of love"; and he dies in the peace of Divine pardon and acceptance. All these are not mere fancy pictures; they are true to life; they have often happened, and the number of them might be indefinitely increased. Such examples impress upon our minds the solemn truth that there is nothing really forgotten in this world.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.