Sketches From The Life of Paul
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 24: The Voyage and Shipwreck.
< Prev Contents
... Next >
After a time they neared the small island of
Clauda, and while under its shelter they did all
in their power to make ready for the worst. The
boat would be their only means of escape, in case
the ship should founder; but while in tow it was
every moment likely to be dashed to pieces.
The first work was to hoist it on board the
ship. This was no easy task; for it was with the
utmost difficulty that the seamen could perform
the simplest duty. All possible precaution was
taken to render the ship firm and secure, and
then there was nothing left to do but to drift at
the mercy of wind and wave. There was no
place into which they could run for shelter, the
wind was driving them, and even the poor
protection afforded by the little island would not
avail them long. Such was the disastrous ending
of the day which had begun with soft breezes
and high hopes.
All night the tempest raged, and the ship
leaked. The next day, all on board—soldiers,
sailors, passengers, and prisoners—united in
throwing overboard everything that could be spared.
Night came again, but the wind did not abate.
The storm-beaten ship, with its shattered mast
and rent sails, was tossed hither and thither by
the fury of the gale. Every moment it seemed
that the groaning timbers must give way as the
vessel reeled and quivered under the tempest's
shock. The leak rapidly increased, and passengers
and crew worked constantly at the pumps.
There was not a moment's rest for one on board.
"The third day," says Luke, "we cast out with
our own hands the tackling of the ship; and
when neither sun nor stars in many days
appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope [p. 266] that we should be saved was then taken away."
A gloomy apathy settled upon those three hundred
souls, as for fourteen days they drifted, helpless
and hopeless, under a sunless and starless heaven.
They had no means of cooking; no fire could be
lighted, the utensils had been washed overboard,
and most of the provisions were water-soaked
and spoiled. In fact while their good ship was
wrestling with the tempest, and the waves talked
with death, no one desired food.
In the midst of that terrible scene, the
apostle retained his calmness and courage.
Notwithstanding he was physically the greatest
sufferer of them all, he had words of hope for the
darkest hour, a helping hand in every emergency. In
this time of trial, he grasped by faith the arm
of infinite power, his heart was stayed upon God,
and amid the surrounding gloom his courage and
nobility of soul shone forth with the brightest
luster. While all around were looking only for
swift destruction, this man of God, in the serenity
of a blameless conscience, was pouring forth his
earnest supplications in their behalf.
Paul had no fears for himself; he felt assured
that he would not be swallowed up by the
hungry waters. God would preserve his life, that he
might witness for the truth at Rome. But his
human heart yearned with pity for the poor souls
around him. Sinful and degraded as they were,
they were unprepared to die, and he earnestly
pleaded with God to spare their lives. It was
revealed to him that his prayer was granted.
When there was a lull in the tempest, so that his
voice could be heard, he stood forth on the deck
"Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and [p. 267] not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained
this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to
be of good cheer; for there shall be no loss of any
man's life among you, but of the ship. For there
stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I
am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul;
thou must be brought before Caesar; and, lo, God
hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe
God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island."
At these words hope revived. Passengers and
crew roused from their apathy, and put forth all
possible exertion to save their lives. There was
much yet to be done. Every effort within their
power must be put forth to avert destruction;
for God helps those only who help themselves.
It was the fourteenth night that they had been
tossed up and down on the black, heaving
billows, when, amid the sound of the storm, the
sailors distinguished the roar of breakers, and
reported that they were near some land. They
"sounded, and found it twenty fathoms; and
when they had gone a little further, they sounded
again, and found it fifteen fathoms." They were
now threatened by a new danger, of having their
ship driven upon some rock-bound coast. They
immediately cast out four anchors, which was
the only thing that could be done. All through
the remaining hours of that night they waited,
knowing that any moment might be their last.
The leak was constantly increasing, and the ship
might sink at any time, even if the anchors
At last through rain and tempest the gray
light fell upon their haggard and ghastly faces. [p. 268] The outlines of the stormy coast could be dimly
seen, but not a single familiar landmark was
visible. The selfish heathen sailors determined
to abandon the ship and crew, and save
themselves in the boat which they had with so much
difficulty hoisted on board. Pretending that
they could do something more to secure the
safety of the ship, they unloosed the boat, and
began to lower it into the sea. Had they
succeeded, they would have been dashed in pieces
upon the rocks, while all on board would have
perished from their inability to handle the sinking
At this moment, Paul perceived the base
design, and averted the danger. With his usual
prompt energy and courage he said to the
centurion and soldiers, "Except these abide in the
ship, ye cannot be saved." The apostle's faith
in God did not waver; he had no doubt concerning
his own preservation, but the promise of
safety to the crew had been conditional upon
their performance of duty. The soldiers, on
hearing Paul's words, immediately cut off the
ropes of the boat, letting her fall off into the
< Prev Contents
... Next >