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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 24: The Voyage and Shipwreck.

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Part:  A  B  C

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 and said:—

"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 held.

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 vessel.

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 sea.

Part:  A  B  C

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