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suddenly overcast, the wind rose to a storm, and the waves began to roll with a violence which threatened almost instant destruction to the boat, which, in addition to its being fearfully overladen with its living freight, was very old, clumsy, awkward to manage, and insufficiently manned.
The storm increased to a terrible tempest. Rain fell in torrents, and the wind blew with a fury that struck terror into the hearts of all on board. It is needless to say that the sport was over for that time. Presently came forward the captain of the ferry-boat.
" I and my men have done all in our power,” said he to the affrighted crowd of passengers, who, pale and prostrated by sickness, were huddled together in every variety of attitude on the wet and slippery deck: we can do no more," he explained, adding that there had never to his knowledge been so furious a storm before on the Frith; that there was no hope of reaching shore on either side, and that a short quarter of an hour-even if the old battered boat should hold together so long-was all that they could reckon on for life.
We may imagine if we cannot describe the scene which followed this announcement. Horror-stricken countenances on every side; muttered
mercy; shrieks of terror and despair ; mute misery; wringing of hands in hopeless agony: embraces ; foolish, maudlin, and extravagant offers of reward for impossible rescue; the wind howling the while around, the water washing over the deck, the boat-timbers strained and creaking with every angry blow of the waves; blackness above, a dark seething caldron below, and a thick mist all around.
There were no loud curses now to be heard; but presently arose a bitter cry which gave atterance to the thought,
“ The minister! the minister ! Can be do nought for us?”
The minister of the gospel, whom in utter despite for the gospel's sake they had abused and insulted both with deeds and words, was now, all at once, the greatest man on board.
"Pray for us! Oh! minister, will ye not pray for us?" And stretched out to him in supplication were hands which but a short half hour before were ready to buffet him, now would have touched “if it were but the hem of his gar
ment," conceiving themselves more safe when by his side;
as though,” says the narrator, mere contact with the person of a human being could shield another and that other an unpardoned sinner-from the righteous vengeance of a holy and sin-hating God!"
A man of like passions, and also of like infirmity with his fellow-passengers, Mr. Brown was suffering from the effects of the terrible storm when the loud, agonizing shrieks of the despairing wretches reached his ear from every quarter of the deck; for the cry had been caught up and repeated as soon as heard.
“Oh, sir, pray! Pray for us! Pray for me! I am a great sinner! Ob, minister, pray for me! pray, pray!
!” And forgetting his own weakness ; banishing, too, from his thoughts all recollection of the taunts and insults and persecutions he had just before suffered, or rather bearing in mind the injunctions of his Master, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you," the good man, standing in the midst of the terrified passengers, who had eagerly gathered round him, lifted up his voice to God in earnest and urgent supplication. Above the noise of the elements, the howling of the wind and the beating of the waves, the voice was heard by all, praying that God would have mercy upon the miserable sinners on whom his hand was now. so evidently laid in threatened anger; that He who rules over all things, who holds the winds in his fist, the waters of the sea in the hollow of his hand, would be graciously pleased to say to the storm, “Peace, be still."
He prayed and prayed, and still the apparently-doomed vessel rolled fearfully; yet it held together. He continued in prayer, and his prayer was accompanied by the deep groans and convulsive sobs of many a fearful sinner who, it may be, for the first time for many a day, if ever, witnessed and listened to “the fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man."
Effectual! Yes; for while he prayed a marvellous and utterly unlooked-for change commenced. The wind began to moderate its force, the waves, though still rough, abated in their fury; the pelting rain ceased, and gleams of sun. shine broke through the murky atmosphere, bringing with them some gleams of hope which brightened and strengthened, until at length the voice of prayer became the voice of praise for so prompt an answer, and so wonderful a de liverance from imminent danger and threatened death. Never before had any on board that old ferry-boat witnessed so literal a fulfilment of the psalmist's words
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths : their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.'
Brighter and brighter grew the hopes of captain, crew, and passengers as the yet labouring boat slowly made way towards the landing-place which they had despaired of ever reaching. The wind and waves which had seemed ready in their fierceness to overwhelm and engulf them, now, in their abated strength, speeded them onward to safety, and ere long the desired haven” was reached. The Lord had brought them to it.
Delivered now from their fears, and with the full tide of worldliness again rushing in upon them, the passengers hastily disembarked, and were making towards the fairground, when the clear voice whose tones and accents had yet scarcely died away from their hearing, called upon them to remain where they were. “ It was the voice,” writes the biographer, “to which they had so eagerly listened amid the wild revelry of howling winds, surging waves, and deluging rain. It was the voice of the man of God who, in the hour of their sore peril, forgetting the insults they had offered him, had complied with their request to act the part of intercessor for them in the court of that Omnipotent and Omniscient Being whom storms and tempests obey. It was the voice of one whom all present felt assured they should never forget; and nearly all of those who had been in the boat clustered around him.”
Then, raising himself above them on a timber-balk, the minister preached to them the Saviour whom they had despised, the God whom they had so lately defied, and whose power, both to punish and to deliver, they had just experienced--preached to them the gospel of Him who came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He faithfully unveiled to them their guilt and danger, and besought them, now that it was the accepted time and the day of salvation, to receive the offered mercy, and flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in the gospel.
Out of the fulness of his heart the mouth of the preacher spake, and he was listened to with rapt attention and strong emotions. Many a sun-browned cheek,” we are told,
was that day bedewed with penitential tears; and the power of the Lord was present both to wound and to heal, both to bruise and to bind up."
The preacher ceased, and the audience departed. Would the effect be lasting? He had cast the bread on the waters; would it be seen after many days ?
My word,” says Jehovah, “shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” It is not always given to the faithful servant of Christ to know how successful his labours have been. He never can know perfectly and in full to what extent he-or rather the gospel he has preached, either by word or by life—has been “ the savour of life unto life.” But sometimes God is pleased, for the encouragement of those who work for him, to bring home to them the knowledge that their labour has not been in vain in the Lord. It was so with the courageous
and prayerful man of whom we have told. He had witnessed for Christ, and Christ witnessed for him. Instrumentally the means, by earnest prayer, of bringing temporal deliverance to his persecutors, he was permitted to know, in after days, that the Holy Spirit had deigned to acknowledge and bless his efforts for their rescue from the greater danger of spiritual death to which they were exposed. It would be pleasant to be able to give the particulars of some of the conversions witnessed that day, and to show how, in the after-life of the converted, God was glorified and souls were saved. Fancy, however, though well directed, cannot be permitted to interfere with the current of a true story; and we content ourselves with the statement that “ in after years John Brown was gratified and gladdened by many unquestionable attestations to the fact that, on the memorable day of which we have spoken,
in reward for the promptitude and faithfulness with which he did his Master's work, that Master had been pleased to give him many souls for his hire.”
It is possible that some reader of this narrative may ask, • Is it likely that God would, at the prayer of his servant, so interfere with the ordinary course of nature as to turn away the storm, and save the imperilled ferry-boat and her wicked passengers, especially supposing that the storm had been sent as a punishment for their guilt? The Christian, however, who really believes in the efficacy of prayer has a ready answer to the question in his own soul and experience that God is the Hearer and Answerer of prayer, and can adopt the words of the Christian hymnwriter
“wondrous power of faithful prayer !
What tongue can tell th' almighty grace ?
As Moses or Elijah prays.
O blessed word of gospel grace,
Which now we for our Israel plead;
Whom thou hast out of Egypt freed :
In Jesus' power and spirit pray ;
Oh, turn thy threat'ning wrath away!
Accept his all-prevailing prayer,
In honour of our Spokesman there,
And speaks the rebels up to heaven.” Verily “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Hear the inspired apostle : “ Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain ; and it rained not on the eartń by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” And “whatsoever things were written aforetime," says another apostle, “were written for our learning."