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"IN PERILS IN THE SEA.”—2 Cor. xi. 26.
THOSE “who go down to the sea in ships, and transact their business in great waters,” cannot pass many days without “ seeing the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep." Yet here, as on the land, the merciful interpositions of his providence are ofttimes more visible in the preservation of one man than of another. I say more visible; for there can be no doubt that “the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works; there can be no doubt but infinite mercy and unceasing goodness are ever in operation " to keep the harp of thousand strings in tune so long:" whether it may inhabit a tranquil cottage, or stand exposed amidst convulsive elements and contending fleets and armies. To this day “the sparrow
falls not to the ground without permission :”—“He who keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps :"_“All his angels are still ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation."
Cowper's poor Lacemaker was as much an object of the Lord Jehovah's superintending providence as a Nelson or a Wellington: and every single day of her life will hereafter appear to have been a day in which
Omnipotence preserved her from many perils; perils which she was neither permitted to see nor to feel, but which were not the smaller on that account.
If my reader be one of those whose days have passed away without furnishing any great and conspicuous providential mercies, let him not, on that account, suppose that mercy and goodness have ceased to follow him. If his journey through the troubled ocean of life has hitherto been unruffled by any great storms, let him remember, that it was only because there was One who said, “Peace, be still;" and in consequence of this command it hath hitherto proved a calm. Not so the life of the writer. The same year in which the events recorded in the former chapter took place, he was called on to share in the perils of another and more dreadful shipwreck. The spring and summer had passed away without bringing any thing extraordinary with them; but in October, when the stormy season began “to carry the mariner up to the heavens and down again to the deep,” the ship he then served in was ordered to cruize off the coast of Holland, and in a week after quitting the Downs was totally wrecked on one of those numerous shoals with which that sea abounds.
The weather had generally been stormy, and accompanied with thick fogs, from the time we left port. This not a little confused our pilots; yet, humanly speaking, a very small share of common prudence might have guarded against all danger. But, alas! this vessel was a den of profaneness and blasphemy, which, during the short period she had been in commission, exhibited more of the true features of “
afloat,” than any I had before seen or afterwards knew. The captain was an outrageous blasphemer, tyrant, and drunkard; and the master, whose more especial business it was to navigate the ship, was half an idiot, while the two local pilots were ignorant of their profession; most of the other officers were gentlemanly characters, but all of them detested their ship equally with the crew at large. What this vessel might have become had she floated for a few years longer, time only could show; but God would not permit the experiment to be tried, he was now about to speak in an awful warning voice to some, and in solemn judgment to others. To this end, all whose more immediate duty it was to command and to navigate the ship, seemed given up to strange infatuations. Their wisdom was turned into foolishness, and “when they said, Peace and safety, sudden destruction came upon them.” The ship was lost, and more than sixty souls perished ! I shall not enter into a very particular detail. Let it suffice to say, that with a strong wind blowing right on the land, and with a shore beacon-light for a considerable time in view, we ran down stem-on the coast, while our master and pilots knew not their situation, and the captain, in a state of intoxication, insisted that the light we saw was that of some ship which he would chase. Thus we proceeded until just after midnight, and while the wind blew half a gale, when thick clouds began again to darken the sky, and the angry surge was rising higher and higher, we dashed upon the fatal bank with such violence that those on deck were thrown off their feet, and those below were instantly roused from their slumbers
to hear the doleful report, “ The ship is on shore! the ship is on shore!" All was confusion and alarm; the crew were seen on deck, some half dressed, and others just as they leaped out of bed. The long-boat was hoisted out, and instantly filled, and was dashed to pieces along-side; signal-guns of distress were fired every minute ; blue lights* were burnt; and measures taken to prevent the ship from falling over on her side. The chain-pumps were set to work, but our leaks defied all such resistance. The ship bilged, the sand worked through the bottom, and long before day-dawn the well was choked up, and the lower part of the vessel filled. A raft was now made with our spare top-masts and other available materials, should any means of using it be afforded. This done, nothing now remained for us to do but to wait the return of day. O how anxiously did we look towards the east, if peradventure the opening light might show some token for good! For as yet we knew not where we were, or whether any or no prospect of relief would present itself.
The anxiety with which we passed these hours of darkness, and the eager desire with which we looked forward to the day, have often since reminded me of the Psalmist's earnest longings for the manifestation of God's love to his soul. It has been the best criticism on the force and beauty of the royal mourner's words, when he exclaimed, “ my soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that wait for the morning: I say, more than they that wait for the morning.”
Certain fire-works, composed of sulphur and gunpowder, which may be seen several miles at sea.
At length the sun arose, no doubt to gladden the hearts of millions, while its beams led them forth to the various pursuits of the day; but not so to us, it rather increased than diminished our sorrows.—We indeed discovered our situation, but it was a mournful discovery. The land, at seven or eight miles distance, could not be approached; and our fleet (then in possession of the Texel) was at least four miles farther off, and, under existing circumstances, utterly incapable of affording the smallest aid. The raft was launched into the water, but the sea rolled completely over it, so that this last forlorn hope was more calculated to produce despair than any thing else. Meanwhile the captain remained in his cabin in a state of idiotism and intoxication : and the lieutenants, under command of their senior brother lieutenant, stood ready to act for the best as events might enable them.
In this state of things we continued till noon, when, to our inexpressible joy, the weather in some degree moderated, and a vessel was seen standing in from sea towards us. It proved to be a King's brig: our signals of distress had been observed: she came and anchored as near as her own safety would allow. It was now extremely desirable that no time should be lost in sending a boat to concert the best and most prompt measures for our immediate relief. A consultation was held on the subject; but from the great surf which still surrounded the wreck, the commanding officer foresaw the very imminent danger which must attend those who made the attempt, and therefore very humanely forebore to issue any orders, leaving it to such as chose to volun