Our hearts had ached, as above the noise of the raging storm had come to us sounds of distress over the foaming waters, and we had known too surely that some vessel or vessels were battling with the waves, and that many a one might be finding a watery grave.
When morning came I stood on the seashore; the storm had ceased, and now the sun shone brightly; the sea sparkled and the birds sang sweetly, and the storm and its accompaniments might have seemed only a hideous nightmare, but for the scene on the shore. There, truly, were traces enough of wreck and ruin.
Sadly I gazed, and wondered as to how many had been saved from present death. As I thought this, I became conscious that a sailor had come up close to where I stood. I turned and asked him somewhat of the events of the night. He told me of the brave attempts at rescue, of their partial success; and then, as sorrowfully I spoke of the lost, he said to me very earnestly: “Beg pardon, ma’am, you’ll forgive a plain question. Are you saved or lost yourself? I mean,” he added, “do you know Jesus?”
Very sweet the question was, for I could assure the questioner that his Saviour was my Saviour too. And as we spoke a little of the One dear to both our hearts, and shook hands heartily, I asked him how long he had known this blessed Saviour, and what had brought him to Him.
“It’s nigh on to five years since He saved my body from a watery grave, and my soul from the lake of fire,” he said. “Never will I forget it, for two died for me.”
“Two?” I questioned in astonishment.
“Ah, ma’am, two,” he answered. “My Saviour died for me 1800 years ago on Calvary’s cross, and my mate died for me just five years since, and that brought me to my Saviour.”
Seeing I was interested, he continued: “It was just such a night as last night that our vessel was driven onto a rock just off the coast of ________. We hoisted signals of distress, and fired guns; and by-and-by brave men on shore manned the life-boat and put out. We hardly thought it could live in such a sea, but they tried it, and God helped them to succeed. With difficulty we got our women and children in, and she put back to shore. Once more, manned with another crew, she put out, and this time the passengers were got on board. Then we knew some of us must die, for if the life-boat could put out again, she could not hold all that were left, and the vessel must sink ere a fourth journey could be accomplished. So we drew lots who should stay. My lot was to stay in the sinking ship. What a horror of darkness came over me! “Doomed to die and be damned,” I muttered to myself, and all the sins of my life came before me. Still I made no outward sign, but oh, ma’am, between my soul and God it was awful!
“I had a mate who loved the Lord. Often he had spoken to me of my soul’s welfare, and I had laughed, and told him I meant to enjoy life. Now, though he stood by my side, I could not even ask him to pray for me, though even then there was a moment’s wonder that he did not speak to me of the Saviour. I understood it afterwards. His face, when I once caught a glimpse of it, was calm and peaceful, and lighted up with a strange light. I thought bitterly, ‘It is well for him to smile; his lot is to go in the life-boat, to be saved.’ Dear old Jim, how could I ever have so mistaken you? Well, ma’am, the life-boat neared us again; one by one the men, whose lot was to go, got in. It was Jim’s turn, but instead of going he pushed me forward. “Go you in the life-boat in my place, Tom,’ he said ‘and meet me in heaven, man. You mustn’t die and be damned: it is all right for me.’ I would not have let him do it, but I was carried forward. The next one, eager to come, pressed me on. Jim know it would be like that, so he had never told me what he was going to do. A few seconds, and I was in the life-boat. We had barely cleared the ship when she went down, and Jim, dear old Jim! with her. I know he went to Jesus; but, ma’am, he died for me! –he died for me! Did I not tell you true, two died for me?
For a moment he paused, his eyes filled with tears. He did not attempt to disguise them. They were a tribute to the love that had gone into death for him. Presently, when I could speak, I just said ‘Well?'”
“Well, ma’am,” he said, “as I saw that ship go down, I said to God in my heart, ‘If I get safe to land Jim shall not have died in vain. Please God, I will meet him in heaven. Jim’s God must be worth knowing, when Jim died for me that I might get another chance of knowing Him.'”
“Was it long,” I asked, “before you found the Saviour?”
“It was not long, though it seemed so to me then. I did not know where to begin. The thing always before me was Jim going down in that sinking ship, with the quiet smile of peace I had seen on his face; waking or sleeping it was before me. At first I thought more of Jim than of the Lord. Then I thought I would get a Bible, because I had seen Jim reading it, and he loved it so, and before I began to read it, I just said a bit of a prayer. I was very ignorant, and I told the Lord so, and that I did not know the way to get to heaven, and meet Jim, and I asked Him to show me.”
“And He did?”
“Ay, ay, ma’am, that He did. I did not know where to begin to read in the Bible, so I thought I would just begin the New Testament and read straight on, till I found out how I was to be saved. But oh! I had an awful time of it at first. When I came to the fifth, and sixth, and seventh chapters, every line seemed to condemn me, and I said to myself–‘It’s no use, Tom; there is no chance for you. You have been too bad,’ and I shut up the book. Then Jim’s last words came over me again, ‘Meet me in heaven, man.’ So I thought Jim must have thought there was a chance for me, and he knew about God and his Bible, and about my life too. So I opened it again and read on, and on, and on, I was always at it whenever I could get a few minutes.
“At last I came to that part about the two thieves, and the Lord saving the one, and I thought, ‘here is a man almost as bad as I am.’ So I dropped my Bible and fell down on my knees and said, ‘Lord, I am as bad as that thief; will you save me just like you did him?’ My Bible had dropped down open, and as I opened my eyes, after praying this, they fell on these words: ‘Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ I took them as my answer. I did not think I was going to die: I almost wished I was; but I thought Jesus had sent these words to tell me He had forgiven me. So I went down on my knees and thanked Him. Of course I was very ignorant, but bit by bit, I saw the way of salvation–how Jesus had died instead of me, and taken away all my sins by His precious blood, for ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin;’ and next to seeing the Lord Himself, I do long to see Jim shine up there.”
And now let me ask you, my reader, the same question my sailor friend asked me — “Are you saved or lost yourself? I mean do you know Jesus?”