Brethren Archive

The Bible and the Christian’s Compass.

by W.G. Rhind

WHAT the compass is to the sailor, such should the Word of God be to all that cross the stormy ocean of life.  Some there are whose eye, like that of the faithful helmsman, is never off the Compass—they steer by the Word, both in the storm and in the calm.  It has made them wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. iii. 15); and trusting in His atoning sacrifice and finished work on the Cross, all is well with them.  They seek to adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour in every good word and work; and keeping a sharp look out for quicksand, rock, and shoal, and for the gallant ship or the galley of the great enemy (Isaiah xxvii, 33), they enter the fair haven with the well-known cry, so sweet to a sailor's ear, "steady she goes," and so casting anchor within the vail, "abide there for ever" (Heb. vi. 19).
Others there are who profess a great veneration for the Word, say it is their compass, and promise to steer by it; and yet you continually find the binnacle door shut.  It is manifest, that if they go on in this way, inevitable destruction is before them; for if the helmsman's eye is seldom on the compass, it must go ill with him.  Again, there are others who do not, in so many words, reject the compass; indeed, they say, "it is a very good thing to have one on board;" and yet they never look at it.  Ah! how strange it would be if we met a ship at sea and hailed her—"Where are you from?" and they were to reply, "I do not know. I have forgot."  "Where are you bound to?"  "I do not know."  "What is your course?"  "I don't look at my compass just now, but I hope to do so at the end of my voyage." Alas! such a vessel will founder in the mid ocean; she has despised God's compass, His guide over the stormy ocean of life.  A fourth class will say, "I'll have none of your compass, there is many a move in it.  I do not understand, this always turning to the north puzzles me.  I won't believe what I cannot comprehend."  These are the Infidels of this age.  Look over the history of those who have   made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Tim. i. 19), and there you will see this infidel fleet sinking amid oaths and blasphemies.  The shattered hulls of the Voltaires, Volneys, Paines and Humes, darkening the coast, and vessels of less magnitude—all wrecked—they threw the compass overboard, and perished in the fearful storm of their last struggle.  
Lastly, there are others who, dissatisfied with the compass, will have an extra one of their own contriving (without a magnet), in the same binnacle and forbid all others to steer by the true one only.  See especially Jer. xxiii. 29-31.  But ah! how different their end will be who take God's Word as their guide."  The Lord will be to them a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley, with oars, nor gallant ship pass thereby.  For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us.  Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail; then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.  And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick, the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity" (Isaiah xxxiii, 21-24).  How beautifully does Cowper describe the “abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom" (2 Peter i. 11):—
Thou, as a gallant bark from Albion's coast
(The storms all weathered and the ocean crossed,)
Shoots into port at some well haven'd isle,
Where spices breathe and brighter seasons smile.
There sits quiescent on the floods that show
Her beauteous form reflected clear below,
While airs impregnated with incense play
Around her, fanning light the streamers gay;
So, thou with sails how swift hast reached the shore
"Where tempests never beat nor billows roar."
“The Shipwrecked Mariner” 1862


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