ONE Sunday morning, just as we were preparing for breakfast, a cry was raised that a ship had run ashore, and hastening down to the beach sure enough there we saw her lying. She had been battling with the storm for a long time, but was at last driven close in to the coast of Scotland, and finding they could no longer keep her off shore they ran her head on. It was a rocky beach, but fortunately she turned into a cutting, made for the convenience of getting out the fishing boats, and was thus driven within about twenty-five fathoms of the shore.
In a few minutes every fisherman around had turned out, and finding it impossible to get the lifeboats out, the Rocket apparatus was the only thing that could be used. It was a time of the greatest excitement and anxiety, as every sea that came over her threatened complete destruction. The oldest men there had never seen such a sea on the coast before.
The tide was rising fast, every moment was precious. Several attempts were made to get a line on board by means of the rockets, but the wind being so strong they were beaten down into the water before reaching the ship. They succeeded at last, however, by using an empty barrel, which was thrown overboard with a small cord attached, by which, after some hard work on the part of those in the ship, a large rope was hauled in and made fast to the foremast.
There were eleven men on board, but only four or five were able to do anything, the remainder being down below, entirely helpless from long exposure to the cold. As soon as the apparatus was in working order for the traveling cage, which was to be drawn along the rope, one young sailor was put into it, and, a few minutes found him on shore in the hands of kind friends.
This first man was scarcely saved when through the fast rising tide and the strong wind beating upon the ship, her stern was suddenly raised up over a reef of rock which previously had kept her head on. And swinging round broadside on to the beach, she settled down across another rock, her back broken and her mainmast splintered almost to pieces. The traveling apparatus becoming entangled across her bow; it was rendered unmanageable, and it could no longer be used.
At this juncture we saw through the blinding surf a man descend from the vessel and try to save himself by coming along the rope hand over hand; but alas, such an attempt was evidently useless. The waves were beating over him like falling houses, and the poor fellow had gone but a little distance from the ship when one heavy sea swept so completely over him that he was soon done. When it was passed we saw that strong man hanging helplessly by the bend of one of his arms. In a few more seconds he dropped into the surging waves.
When his body was picked up two days afterwards it was found that the sea, which came over him while on the rope, had dislocated both his shoulders.
A few moments after this man was lost; the bow of the ship lifted again over the rocks which were keeping it, and in almost a moment she was once more head on to the beach, the apparatus disentangled and again workable. No time was lost now, as the doomed vessel was fast breaking up, and in half an hour the men were all safely landed, the helpless ones being first of all put into the apparatus by those who had a little strength left.
One brave fellow who had helped to put the captain and all his shipmates out of the ill-fated ship into the hands of the friends on shore remained on board till the last, with a quiet fearlessness that astonished all who saw him. Almost the first question put to him when he came ashore was respecting the secret of his calmness. He said, "I was converted at one of Mr. Moody's meetings, and I knew that I was safe, the source of my confidence being, 'The Lord is my salvation, whom shall I fear'?" (Psalm 27:1).
We then asked him about the poor lost man. "Ah," he said, "we tried to persuade him not to attempt such a useless task, as it would be impossible for him to reach the shore in that way; but he would-he would, and would not listen to us." "A fine fellow he was," added the captain, with tears running down his face, "the best man in the crew; but he was lost because he tried to save himself in his own way." Yes all the rest were saved, but by other hands than their own.
If you try to save yourself as that fine sailor did, God then says to you, "To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt."
by James Lovell