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land, we found ourselves in shoal water, with fearful breakers just ahead.
As quick as thought the order was given to change our course, and yet was it almost too late. A moment more and all had been lost; for though the ship obeyed the rudder with an almost miraculous celerity, yet so near was the shoal, and such headway had she, that in turning, she rose high on a lofty surge, –
“Then headlong plunging, thundered on the ground;
With deep convulsions, shakes the solid oak.” Had the ship, with waves thus raging, remained aground, she must, in a few minutes, have sprung a leak, and in an hour or two, have gone to pieces. No boat could have lived in such a sea, and all on board must soon have found a watery grave. Again a high-rolling billow raised the ship from the bottom, and again she struck. Then the third time she rose, and swinging off, was, for the moment, safe. But the danger was by no means past. Unknown perils lay thick around. Another surge might dash her on the shoals. It was a time of deep and most intense excitement. Then truly were the wonders of God seen in the mighty deep, as
“High on an awful wave we hung,
Suspended by His hand.” And here, for the present, leaving the ship, let us visit the wardroom and steerage, where most of the officers sleep. Roused from their slumbers by the shock when the ship first struck, there was, for a moment, a pause of deep and intense anxiety, whilst she recoiled, and again plunged upon the bottom. Then all was wild confusion, which became extreme when the third shock was felt, and the timbers creaked and groaned as if already yielding to the raging tempest and the surging waves.
“What's that?" .“ What now?" cried the officers, as they rushed from their state-rooms, or leaped from their cots. “We 're aground," —“We've struck," —“We 're gone,” “It's all over with us," was heard from twenty voices at a time. The ship was wildly tossing and heaving, the sudden check in its onward course
having caused the water to rush from aft into the wardroom, and, as it dashed about the deck, carried chairs, with other furniture, and articles of clothing, along with it. Many but partly clad rushed to the upper deck to see what was passing there. Those who had known the sea longest and best, thought, for the time, that our fate was hopelessly sealed.
As I stepped upon the ward-room deck, there stood, in a state-room near me, an officer of skill and judgment, whose home had, for years, been upon the ocean. Assured that the time of his death was near, he was at first in doubt whether to meet his fate quietly below, or to go above, and take his lot with the rest. He soon decided on the latter course, and then opening his locker, he took from it, and placed about his person, some articles which he wished to have with him when he died. Among these, perchance, was the likeness of one dear to him as his own soul.
“With this bright image pendant from his neck,
Prepared to perish with the sinking wreck,
As in fully dressing, and in securing some books and other articles, which were floating under foot, delay was caused, I was, I believe, the last that ascended to the upper deck. The first wild rush of horror, and of deep anxiety and fear had passed, and all was hushed, save the loud roaring of the wind, and the dashing of the mountain waves : yet might the ashy paleness of fear be seen in many a face. There stood the first lieutenant, with his firm, upright, and manly form, a man of the utmost decision, coolness, and courage, and yet most deeply absorbed in what was passing. Ever and anon a word passed between him and the captain, who stood beside him; then raising the trumpet to his lips, he shouted forth his orders. He was quickly obeyed, as well by those at the helm and the ropes below, as by such as were tossed aloft upon the yards, in peril of their lives.
In the anxious group around me, there was one, a man of science, and of habitual dignity, self-possession, and gentlemanly bearing. But few short weeks had passed, since, in solemn and changeless vows, he had pledged his heart and hand to one he loved. His bride had come with him from the sunny south, and they had parted only when the sailing of our ship had brought the dreaded hour. As the ship struck, he had thrown his cloak around him, and, without shoes or hat, rushed to the upper deck. Ascending the ladder aft, with his long hair streaming in the wind, and a look of wild excitement, he eagerly gazed towards the land we had left, where his heart's warm affections had centred; and oh! what an age of anxious agony and blighted hope did a few short moments then appear to him. With the poet, might he' truly say
“Deem'st thou I tremble for my life?
Sir Childe, I'm not so weak;
Will blanch a faithful cheek,"
Turn now, for a moment, to yet another of this excited, anxious throng. Wrapped in his cloak, he stood beside one of the guns, and supported himself by leaning against it. He had come among these bold and daring men, to sympathize with them in their joys and their sorrows; to console them in the hour of darkness and distress, and to guide them to the haven of eternal rest. He closely watched all that was passing around him, and soon the tears flowed freely from his eyes. But he wept not for himself. As he looked on the long, dark rows of men who stood by the ropes, and saw, too, the deeply anxious groups in every part of the ship, he contrasted their solemn and grave-like stillness with the profanity and recklessness of feeling, which had pained him at other times. He felt that the spirit of God was, indeed, moving upon the face of the waters, and with its silent and mysterious influence, filling the most reckless and daring with deep and solemn awe. Then he looked forward to eternity, and that throne of judgment, before which they might all, so soon, appear together. And, was it strange that he should weep, as the affecting scene before him called up these high-wrought and far-reaching visions, rising like « spirits from the vasty deep”?
But why dwell longer on this painful scene, - painful even in the recital, and a thousand fold more so in the dread reality. Suffice it to say, then, that the third stroke was the last; and, beyond the hopes of the most ardent and skilful, the ship swung clear. For a time there was a breathless suspense; I had almost said, a silent agony, as the ship rolled about among the mountain waves, and then righting herself, was again dashing boldly onwards in her course. All waited until the soundings gave many fathoms of water.
Then they felt as if a mountain of lead had been removed from their hearts, and the most thoughtless acknowledged, that God had delivered them out of their distresses. An hundred fold more horrors than have been here described, sometimes occur, in a few brief moments, during a storm at sea, ending, too, in a death the most awful, when, helpless, and hopeless, with none to cheer or comfort, and with scarce a warning of their coming fate, with a wild shriek of agony, a whole ship's company sink down into the deep and fathomless abyss, where the sea-weed is their winding sheet, and the ocean cave their only sepulchre.
Who, then, will say that those exposed to such perils, do not peculiarly need the elevating hopes and consolations of the Christian faith. Scenes, thus trying and awful, do not occur on land. Men are not there called, when in the full vigor of health, and hundreds together, to look death in the face, and feel, that in a few brief moments, their eternal destiny will be decided. Nor are they, as in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, so rescued by the hand of God, from the very gates of death, that emotions of awe and gratitude, subdue the hardest hearts. Scenes like these give a peculiar vitality and power to the moral and religious sympathies and sensibilities of our nature, and deeply impress the enlightened and reflecting mind, with the value of the religion of Christ, and the need which fallen and guilty man has, of its rich and heavenly consolations.
And here let us turn to another scene. On the Sabbath which succeeded the events described above, our ship, free from danger, was ploughing her way through the high-rolling waves; and though the motion of the ship, the loud surging of the billows, and the piping of the winds, seemed to forbid our assembling for worship, still, even those from whom it might have been least expected, were most anxious that public and united thanks should be given to God, for our signal deliverance from danger and from death. All, therefore, collected together, in one dark, dense mass, upon the deck. Their heads were uncovered, and, in the centre of the group, was one who was to be the organ of their devotions. It was an hour of tender, yet sublime, emotion. The sea rolled high around, while the heavens were our only canopy, and the lofty masts, like so many towering spires, pointed to the rest above. The voice of the speaker was raised to its loudest tones, that thus it might be heard above the noise of the ele
ments. A portion of that sacred ode was read, which, with so much power and beauty, describes the peculiar perils of those “who go down to the sea in ships, and do business in the great waters, — who see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble.” And when, in view of deliverance from such peril, the writer exclaims, “O, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men”; these words had to us a meaning, such as they had never had before.
Allusion was then made to the peculiar perils of our course of life; our constant exposure to death; our sad and awful fate, had we all, in one short hour, from amid the surging billows, and the floating timbers of our shipwrecked bark, sunk to rise no more. And then, the bitter anguish of a thousand friends, who loved us, when long and dread suspense, or certain knowledge of our fate, had filled their souls with woe. And, yet again, our solemn summons before the Judge on high, where all would have received together, the sentence of their changeless doom. Then came the call of gratitude to God, for having saved us from a watery grave. And when the voice of thanksgiving and of praise was heard, there came forth with it all the warm and unchecked feelings of the sailor's heart. Tears flowed freely down the weather-beaten cheeks of those, who, unmoved, had looked the raging tempest in the face, and had not cowered at the near approach of death. It needs not, at such times, the tongue of the eloquent to reach the heart, when the finger of God hath so touched it, that the breath of a child might cause each of its thousand strings to vibrate.
Silently we dispersed, but the memory of the scenes through which we had passed, will never fade from our minds; and often may they lead us to feel the value of his protection, who once said to the raging tempest, Peace, be still, — and the winds and the waves obeyed him. Often, too, in view of them, may emotions of reverence arise within us, as they vividly suggest to the mind the power of that Being, who "rides upon the whirlwind and directs the storm”; who says to the raging ocean, “ Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”
One result of our meeting for worship, in such circum