The sea sparkled and the birds sang sweetly one beautiful morning after a fearful storm. On shore a lady and a sailor stood beholding a ship, the wreckage of which showed the strength of the storm. After lamenting any loss of life that may have occurred, the sailor asked, “Do you know the Savior?” The lady then asked him how long he had known the Savior, for all was well with her soul. He replied, “It’s nigh on to, five years. … Never will I forget it, for two died for me.”
“Two?” she questioned.
“Yes, ma’am, two. My Savior died for me eighteen hundred years ago on Calvary’s cross, and my mate died for me just five years ago, and that brought me to my Savior.”
Then he told of the shipwreck when his mate died in his stead. In a terrible storm the vessel was driven on a rock. Signals of distress brought out a lifeboat from the shore. It hardly seemed possible for it to reach them, but it did. The women and children were first taken ashore. Then the sailors knew that some of them must die, for the ship would surely sink before the lifeboat could reach them the fourth time. So they drew lots to know who should go and who should stay.
“My lot was to stay in the sinking ship. What a horror of darkness came over me! ‘Doomed to die and be damned,’ I muttered to myself, and all the sins of my life came before me. Still I made no outward sign, but, oh, ma’am, between my soul and God it was awful! I had a mate who loved the Lord. Often he had spoken to me of my soul’s welfare, and I had laughed and told him I meant to enjoy life. Though he stood by my side, I could not even ask him to pray for me. I wondered why he did not speak to me of the Savior. I understood it afterward. His face, when I once caught a glimpse of it, was calm and peaceful and lighted up with a strange light. I thought bitterly, ‘It is well for him to smile; his lot is to go into the lifeboat, to be saved.’ Dear old Jim, how could I ever have so mistaken you?
“Well, ma’am, the lifeboat neared us again. One by one the men whose lot it was to go got in. It was Jim’s turn, but instead of going into the lifeboat, he pushed me forward, ‘Go you in the lifeboat in my place, Tom,’ he said, ‘and meet me in heaven, man! You mustn’t die and be damned! It is all right for me.’ I would not have let him do it, but I was carried forward. The next one, eager to come, pressed me on. Jim knew it would be like that, so he had never told me what he was going to do. A few seconds, and I was in the lifeboat. We had barely cleared the ship when she went down, and Jim, dear old Jim, with her. But, madam, he died for me!”
As the ship went down, Tom said in his heart, “If I get safely to land, Jim shall not have died in vain. Please, God, I will meet him in heaven! Jim’s God must be worth knowing, when Jim died for me that I might get another chance of knowing Him.”
It did not take long for Tom to find the Savior, but at first he did not know how to begin. He was continually seeing Jim go down with the sinking ship with the quiet smile of peace on his face, day and night awake and asleep. At the beginning he seemed to think more of Jim than of the Lord. Then he bought a Bible, for Jim had loved it so. But before he began to read it, he offered up a little prayer, telling the Lord how ignorant he was about the way to heaven, and asking Him to show him how to get there. Then he began reading the New Testament, but after reading several chapters he became discouraged, for every line seemed to condemn him. So he said to himself, “It’s no use, Tom. There is no chance for you. You have been too bad.” But as he closed his Bible, suddenly Jim’s last words came to him with power: “Meet me in heaven, man!” So he opened the Bible again and kept on reading it in all his spare moments. Then he told how he found the Savior:
“At last I came to that part about the two thieves, and the Lord saving the one; and I thought, ‘Here is a man almost as bad as I am.’ So I dropped my Bible and fell down on my knees and said, ‘Lord, I am as bad as that thief. Will You save me just like You did him?’ My Bible had dropped down open, and as I opened my eyes after praying, they fell on these words: ‘Verily I say unto thee shall thou be with Me in Paradise.’ I took them as my answer. So I went down on my knees again and thanked Him. Of course I was very ignorant, but bit by bit I saw the way of salvation-how Jesus had died instead of me and taken away all my sins by His precious blood.”
There are many who feel much like the sailor: that they are too wicked to be forgiven. They behold their sins, but not the Savior. Let them behold Jesus as He breathes out His spirit into the hands of His Father.
There are those who long to meet their faithful loved ones in heaven at last, but know not the way. But as they search to know the way, the dear Savior, with infinite tenderness of compassion, opens up the way before them and encourages them to put their trembling hand in His and let Him lead them all the way to the Paradise above.
They may have been deeply sunk in sin, but as they turn to Him like the dying thief and grasp His wonderful promise that they will be with Him in His matchless kingdom, the peace of Heaven enters their hearts, a new and holy life is begun in them, and they go forward with rejoicing in the faithful service of their Lord and Savior.
Romans 5:7, 8 tells us:
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.