The shore in sight
The British naval vessel HMS OrpheusÂ cut an impressive sight as she moved, inÂ full sail, towards the lonely, rugged coast ofÂ New Zealand. It was Saturday, February 7,Â 1863, and a fine clear morning.
The Commodore was on the bridge,Â studying the chart and giving commandsÂ to set the course of the ship. Every nowÂ and then he lifted his spyglass to takeÂ a quick look at the signal mast up onÂ the hill. The signalman was putting upÂ signals to help guide the ship safely up theÂ channel, clear of dangerous sandbanks,Â and into the harbour.
But…what was that commotion? It wasÂ Fred Butler, held as a prisoner on board forÂ attempting to desert. This man had sailedÂ into the harbour before. He knew that theÂ treacherous sandbanks had shifted, andÂ that a new chart had been drawn up forÂ ships to follow. He could see from his tinyÂ porthole that the ship was on the wrongÂ course. Now he was banging on his doorÂ and shouting.
At last someone unlocked the door.Â Out rushed the prisoner onto the bridge,Â crying that the ship was â€˜going wrongâ€™.Â The Commodore showed him his chart.Â But Fred Butler cried, in great agitation,Â â€œThatâ€™s the wrong chart!â€ He keptÂ pointing out the right channel. MenÂ gathered around, worried.
The Commodore shouted orders for hisÂ men to change the course of the vessel, butÂ it was too late. There was a great jolt. TheÂ Orpheus had hit a sandbank!
Men were flung off their feet. GunsÂ came loose and skidded across the deck,Â and hatches broke open. The ship swungÂ round. A great wave swept over her. It wasÂ early afternoon and she was stuck fast.
Soon the wind arose, and waves brokeÂ over the ship again and again. TheÂ Orpheus began to break up. The menÂ climbed up the masts and clung to them.Â Then it began to get dark. By now the shipÂ was almost under the water. Suddenly,Â with a great crack, the main mast brokeÂ â€“ taking dozens of men with it. Soon theÂ second mast went down, then the third,Â carrying more of the men into the ragingÂ sea. Some grabbed at pieces of wreckage,Â some were picked up by a steamer that hadÂ come to help, but most were drawn downÂ under the waves to drown.
That night, 189 souls, including theÂ Commodore, perished. Only 69 lived â€“Â among them Fred Butler, who tried to saveÂ the ship.
This tragic event reminds us that lifeÂ is uncertain. You sail among the shiftingÂ sands of sin; there are hidden dangersÂ ahead. You need to follow the right chart.Â Otherwise, no matter how careful or howÂ sincere you are, you will end in shipwreck,Â and be lost forever. This was exactly theÂ problem with the Orpheus. They wereÂ relying on the wrong chart. If you set yourÂ course by the chart of the Word of God,Â you will never â€˜end up on a sandbankâ€™ andÂ perish. Your safe arrival in the HeavenlyÂ Harbour will be certain. The Lord JesusÂ died so that all who believe in Him mightÂ be saved. He said, â€œI give them eternal life,Â and they shall never perishâ€ (John 10:28).
The survivors from the Orpheus wereÂ taken to the signal station. There theyÂ met the distressed signalman. â€œI gave theÂ right signals,â€ he said, â€œbut the ship didnâ€™tÂ obey them.â€ Has someone been sharingÂ the gospel with you? They are givingÂ you unerring signals for salvation andÂ deliverance from Godâ€™s judgment. YouÂ dare not disobey their message.
Did you note that the one person whoÂ could have saved the Orpheus was shut upÂ as a prisoner? He called and knocked, butÂ by the time they decided to listen to himÂ â€“ it was too late. The Saviour is calling;Â donâ€™t ignore Him! Donâ€™t leave it too late toÂ pay attention to His loving call.
The men were close to the shore, butÂ most couldnâ€™t reach it. How terribleÂ it would be to get close to salvation â€“Â â€˜almost persuadedâ€™ – and then to missÂ out. The Bible says, â€œBehold, now is theÂ accepted time; behold, now is the day ofÂ salvationâ€ (2 Corinthians 6:2). TheÂ Saviour said, â€œI am the way, the truth, andÂ the lifeâ€ (John 14:6).
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