He was Drowned
I was saved
THE magnificent steamship, Cyprian, left Liverpool on the 13th of October 1881, bound for the Mediterranean. It was blowing half a gale at starting, but it takes a good deal to hinder one of these huge vessels from starting at her appointed time. However, in but a few hours the wind increased to a hurricane, and the decks began to be swept by huge seas. Disaster followed. First the fore-steering gear gave way; then a tube in one of the boilers burst, putting out the fire it was over; again, the aft wheel-house was smashed in, and the remaining steering apparatus rendered useless. More of the boiler tubes gave way, and in a disabled state the vessel labored heavily until early next morning.
Heavy seas now swept the decks, wave after wave broke into the engine-room, until the last of her fires was extinguished. Powerless, rudderless, and unmanageable, the fine steamer was now at the mercy of storm and waves. These proved foes indeed, for she was drifted swiftly towards the Welsh coast. Captain and crew had done their best to save the ship but all hope was past; the black rocks were soon reached and they were driven with violence on to them. Summoning all on to the bridge, the skipper told them it was now a case of every one for himself.
It happened that a runaway youth had secreted himself on board as a stowaway, unknown to any, before the ship left Liverpool. Such passengers are rarely treated with favor by either master or mate. This wretched young waif had got on board in the dock unseen, and had cleverly concealed himself until the ship was at sea; indeed, until the storm brought him from his hiding place. All were too busy and anxious about their own safety to notice the lad. He stood with white face on the deck, terrified at the gale and watching the grand but solemn scene, when the ship struck upon the rock and the billows truly spent their foaming fury upon her, until at last one crash spoke out her utter ruin.
“Every one for himself,” again shouted the captain. Seizing life-belts, oars, barrels, spars, one after another the crew were obliged to leap from her deck and cast themselves overboard, many with but faint hope of reaching the shore. At last there but remained upon the wreck, the captain and the stowaway. The former had just finished putting on his life belt, and was about to jump into the sea as the others had done, when he espied nearby the white face of the terror-stricken boy, that “little sinner of a stowaway” but a human being to be saved if possible.
If anyone had a right to his own life belt, it was the captain; and if any one deserved to go without, it would be the young rascal beside him. Without pausing to consider whether deserving or undeserving, the noble man unbuckled his belt and strapped it upon the urchin, and bidding him save himself, he added, “I can swim, you take this belt, my boy!”
Overboard went the life-belted boy, and even through the heavy surf was kept up, until at last on the top of one huge sea, he was rolled over onto the rocks, sadly bruised, but able to tell the story of his noble friend's heroism. Saved! Only just, but saved!
But what about the captain? Did he reach the coast too? No, never! He had struck out boldly, but the foaming surf was too much for him, and he sank - lost his life through saving another! Every heart on shore was indeed moved as they heard the stowaway's account: “He gave himself for me! He gave himself for me!”
“But,” you say, “this ragamuffin was no friend of the noble captain, all he deserved was a rope's end, and yet the master died for him.”
“Such is the love of Jesus to you. No better than the stowaway, guilty, having sinned against the God of Heaven, and yet Christ had died for you, the just for the unjust, for you.”
That captain need not have died; he owed nothing to the young stranger for whom he gave his life, the friendless boy had no claim upon him; none.
“Why did he do it?” you ask. “Why did he give his life for one not a tenth the value?” Why, indeed? And why did the Son of God lay down His life for you? He upon whom you had no claim, and but for whom you must have inevitably perished.
Sinner, whether you will or not, as you are under the sentence of death, you must take your stand on the platform of hopeless ruin. But there is One, who, seeing you there, left His throne above to come down and take your place: “He suffered for sins, the just for the unjust,” and now He offers you eternal life. God does not overlook your sin, but He has spent the full punishment that was due to it on an innocent One Who has suffered in your stead.
By C. H. Spurgeon