The shore in sight
The British naval vessel HMS Orpheus cut an impressive sight as she moved, in full sail, towards the lonely, rugged coast of New Zealand. It was Saturday, February 7, 1863, and a fine clear morning.
The Commodore was on the bridge, studying the chart and giving commands to set the course of the ship. Every now and then he lifted his spyglass to take a quick look at the signal mast up on the hill. The signalman was putting up signals to help guide the ship safely up the channel, clear of dangerous sandbanks, and into the harbour.
But…what was that commotion? It was Fred Butler, held as a prisoner on board for attempting to desert. This man had sailed into the harbour before. He knew that the treacherous sandbanks had shifted, and that a new chart had been drawn up for ships to follow. He could see from his tiny porthole that the ship was on the wrong course. Now he was banging on his door and shouting.
At last someone unlocked the door. Out rushed the prisoner onto the bridge, crying that the ship was ‘going wrong’. The Commodore showed him his chart. But Fred Butler cried, in great agitation, “That’s the wrong chart!” He kept pointing out the right channel. Men gathered around, worried.
The Commodore shouted orders for his men to change the course of the vessel, but it was too late. There was a great jolt. The Orpheus had hit a sandbank!
Men were flung off their feet. Guns came loose and skidded across the deck, and hatches broke open. The ship swung round. A great wave swept over her. It was early afternoon and she was stuck fast.
Soon the wind arose, and waves broke over the ship again and again. The Orpheus began to break up. The men climbed up the masts and clung to them. Then it began to get dark. By now the ship was almost under the water. Suddenly, with a great crack, the main mast broke – taking dozens of men with it. Soon the second mast went down, then the third, carrying more of the men into the raging sea. Some grabbed at pieces of wreckage, some were picked up by a steamer that hadÂ come to help, but most were drawn down under the waves to drown.
That night, 189 souls, including the Commodore, perished. Only 69 lived – among them Fred Butler, who tried to save the ship.
This tragic event reminds us that life is uncertain. You sail among the shifting sands of sin; there are hidden dangers ahead. You need to follow the right chart. Otherwise, no matter how careful or how sincere you are, you will end in shipwreck, and be lost forever. This was exactly the problem with the Orpheus. They were relying on the wrong chart. If you set your course by the chart of the Word of God, you will never ‘end up on a sandbank’ and perish. Your safe arrival in the Heavenly Harbour will be certain. The Lord Jesus died so that all who believe in Him might be saved. He said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
The survivors from the Orpheus were taken to the signal station. There they met the distressed signalman. “I gave the right signals,” he said, “but the ship didn’t obey them.” Has someone been sharing the gospel with you? They are giving you unerring signals for salvation and deliverance from God’s judgment. You dare not disobey their message.
Did you note that the one person who could have saved the Orpheus was shut up as a prisoner? He called and knocked, but by the time they decided to listen to him – it was too late. The Saviour is calling; don’t ignore Him! Don’t leave it too late to pay attention to His loving call.
The men were close to the shore, but most couldn’t reach it. How terrible it would be to get close to salvation – ‘almost persuaded’ – and then to miss out. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The Saviour said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
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