Saved. (32 - "Gospel Messenger" Series) (12pp)
IT was early morning, at the pretty watering-place of E——, a bright summer's morning. The blue sea rippled and sparkled underneath the blue sky, and the sun shone cheerily down, but as yet there were but few people astir.
The beach was almost deserted, save by here and there a straggler who thought the fresh cool morning hours too precious to be missed.
Had there been any watchers, they might have seen a swimmer strike out boldly to sea, through those rippling waves. A strong swimmer he was, and every stroke told, and put the shore at a greater distance from him. He was alone, and a stranger to the place, having only arrived there the evening before.
Had he asked the fishermen, they would have told him of strong and dangerous currents; they would have warned him of risk, and counselled him to care; but he was in the very prime of manhood's strength, and he never thought of danger; so, on the swimmer went, and never turned his head to see how far he had left the shore behind, till at last, a little wearied, he rested a moment and thought of returning. Then he found he had been carried out far beyond his thoughts or intentions by the strength of the current, and that between him and the shore, there was a long distance. "It is time, indeed, to return," he said to himself, and struck out once more for land.
But the Lord's eye was on him, and He had something to say to him alone on the face of the deep ere he touched the land again.
I have said he was strong, and a bold swimmer, but now he found he had wind and current both against him, and his utmost efforts made no appreciable headway against them. For long he battled on, but the shore was still far off, too far off for any cry of distress to reach it. He raised himself and shouted; no answering voice, no friendly shout replied. Still he struggled on, till, worn out by his exertions and utterly exhausted, he felt nothing but a watery grave was before him. His strokes got feebler and more unsteady each time, and he knew he was losing the little way he had made and was being drifted seaward. Then he ceased struggling, turned on his back, and gave himself up for lost.
There and then the Lord spoke to his soul. He had been religiously brought up; nay more, Lord's Day after Lord's Day, from the pulpit of a fashionable church, he had preached to a large congregation, Bible truths as to the way of salvation. He had made Scripture his text, and discoursed ably from it. He had read prayers in public and in private. He had visited in his parish, and administered the sacrament to the dying. He had lived a careful life, and attended to every rite; and till this moment, he had been on very good terms with himself, fully persuaded that a life such as his was fit to bring to God.
Now, with death and eternity before him, his soul awoke to find he had no hope for eternity; he had never met God, he was not ready to die—he had one thing lacking, he had no link with Christ.
Horror and agony seized him. The noise of the waves seemed to be roaring this verse into his ears again and again, "Lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
He felt he had preached a Christ he did not know, had told others of a salvation he himself had not got. His whole life came before him, with its outward ceremonies and its inward hollowness. The life he had so prided himself in, he loathed now as only mockery of the God who had said, "My son, give me thine heart."
He felt he had given Him his time and his money, but never his heart; and had thought to merit Heaven by these poor gifts. Now he saw them at their true value, "dead works." Now he saw that "without faith it is impossible to please him,” that the work that could save his soul must be done for him, and done by another—that the righteousness he had prided himself in, God looked on as "filthy rags," and his offerings to God had been like Cain's bloodless offerings, and "without the shedding of blood there is no remission."
It was not concerning his body, but his soul, that he cried there on the mighty deep, there alone with God on the waves, a great cry, "Lord, save me, or I perish; God be merciful to me a sinner, a hypocrite—save me!" Even as he cried, the answer came, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin; whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."
Faint and weary, with the natural life almost gone, the once strong man murmured, "Lord, I believe that precious blood was shed for me;" and with that murmur, life, and peace, and rest, came to his soul, and then utter unconsciousness.
"Father, father, look ahead; what is that on the waters—surely it's a man?" said the young son of the skipper of a fishing smack, which was putting in towards the shore. One moment the father looked in the direction his son indicated, the next he sprang to an oar, calling out to the little crew, "Row for very life, men, there's a fellow-creature perishing." The men rowed with a will, not waiting even to ask a question; rowed in silence, bending all their energies to the task. The skipper looked ahead, saw the body of a man sink once and rise again, rise farther from the shore and nearer to the boat; sink a second time, and this time he concluded it would rise almost close to them if they made a desperate effort. "Bend to your oars, men," he cried, "for one last pull, and then stop; it is now or never." They did so. When next the body rose, it was within arm's length of the boat. Strong arms were stretched out to grasp it, and more than one was prepared for a plunge.
They saw that the man was apparently lifeless; he could not help himself; if he were to be rescued, it must be entirely through the work of those in the boat.
It was no easy task. Had there been more sea on, it would have been an impossibility to bring that apparently lifeless body into the boat. But they managed it, and then took every means in their power to restore animation, making all possible haste towards the shore to get more efficient help. By the time they reached it, they had the satisfaction of seeing the man they had rescued show some signs of life.
Plenty of willing hands were found to carry him ashore, for it was a living breathing man they carried, and not a corpse—a living man in two ways, possessing now not merely natural life, but eternal life.
A week later, in that same fishing smack, the one that had been lifted into it from the waves in utter helplessness, was sitting in the calm of a summer's evening, telling the skipper and his crew, with some others of the fishermen who had gathered round, the story of what the Lord had done for his soul only a week before, when death and judgment to follow had threatened him.
The men listened intently. He was an object of special interest to them; for had they not saved him from a watery grave?
He spoke to them of Jesus the Saviour, of the impossibility of our doing anything to save ourselves, the work must all be done by Him, or we must be lost; and he read to them these verses from God's Word:
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved) . . . For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."
He illustrated his meaning by referring to his own condition. "When you saw me in the water that morning, was I in need of salvation, skipper?"
"Ay, ay, sir, indeed you were, as much in need of it as ever I saw any one yet."
"Could I help myself?"
"No, sir, you were o'er far gone for that, you were like dead."
"Did I feel my need even?"
"No, sir, no, you were past feeling."
"Then I owe everything to you and your brave men?"
"Well, sir, if we had not been bye, it would have gone badly with you."
"Exactly; did I pray and beseech you to help me or save me, or take me into the boat?"
"Why, no, sir, you couldn't have done it, and we didn't need it; we should have been worse than brutes to see a fellow-creature perishing, and not put out a hand to save him."
"Just so; I did not pray you to save me, I did not help you to save me; you did all the work, and I got all the good, I never even lifted a finger for myself. Now, my friends, do you not see how it is with the Lord and us? He does all the work, and we get all the good. We, dead in sins, could do nothing for ourselves. We did not even ask Him to come and save us. He came unasked, took our sins on Himself, the sinless One, suffered in our stead, and now offers salvation as His free gift; that is, He took our place, and offers us His place. You risked getting into my place in order to bring me into your place that morning."
"Oh, sir," said the men in concert, "don't say any more about that; you make too much of what we did. But we see what you mean sir, it's very plain; we think God has taught us all a lesson by this."
"One word more, my friends, let me say about your act. Do you think, however long I live, I shall ever forget that morning, ever cease to be thankful to the brave men who rescued me from a watery grave? Do you not think I shall always carry about with me, feelings of gratitude and love for the men who did so much for me? Nay, do not mind my saying it," he continued, as the men disclaimed having done anything but what any one would do, "I must feel and express my gratitude to you, and this is how it is with us to the Lord. When I know He has saved me at such a cost, I cannot go on just as I did before, as though it were all nothing. I want my life to show out my gratitude and love and praise; I want to be a friend of Christ, as I am your friend to-day.”
The men were silent; there was a reality about the whole thing which deeply touched them, and every head was bowed and reverently uncovered during the few words of prayer that followed—earnest supplication for their souls. In more than one case, there was complete surrender to Christ at the time, and the whole of the fruit unto life eternal of that morning's incident, will perhaps never be known till "the day" declares it.
Reader, what must you do to be saved, beyond believing in Jesus?
"Nothing either great or small;
Nothing, sinner, no;
Jesus did it, did it all,
Long, long ago." X.
“The Gospel Messenger” 1887