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ONE of the saddest sights at sea is that of an abandoned ship. The lookout on the bridge or in the cro'nest, as he strains his eyes east, north, west, south, catches sight of some dark object outlined against the sky, or the gleam now fitful as the firelight, now with the regularity of the signal mirror of sunlight reflected from wet surfaces that roll in the sea. It is not a steamer, for no long trail of smoke follows her. It can hardly be a sailing vessel, or else it is one of strange and unlmown rig. But at last they draw near to the strange object. A boat is lowered, brawny arms send it dancing over the rising waves. _With difficulty they board the rolling hulk. As they leap over the side, it is a scene of desolation that greets them. Her foremast has snapped ofi close to the deck, only the stump of her mainmast is standing, the mizzenmast, and that alone is unbroken. From this hangs a loose spar with tangled ropes and a piece of sail. This swings and hammers. The wire stays of the top-spars have held them, broken off as they are, and they have been pounding the ship's shivering sides in the awful wind, one of them driven by the furious force of the waves has burst through the planking like a battering-ram and is stuck fast. The deck and masts are a tangle of wire cordage. Eailings are carried away, the main hatch has been swept off, the deck is broken, the pumps are smashed, the water tank dashed against the rail. More significant than all, the steering wheel is racing now this way, now that, as the waves sweep the rudder back and forth. Its spokes are splintered. Half its rim has been carried away by a falling boom. All this the quick eye of the sailor grasps in a moment. They descend into the fo'k'sle and galley. There are the supper dishes.
444 TPIE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. just as they have been left, a loaf of bread half cut away, a soup bone
on the floor. They pass into the cabin. Deserted! But what is that ? A letter nailed to the table. With one wrench of a knife the nail is loosened and they read : "Bark Alice Roy, bound for Quebec, dismantled in a hurricane the night of August 19th, two days out from New York, off Nantucket Shoals. Officers and crew saved by English steamer bound for London. Master, James McMurtry. Mate, Thomas Teery.^' And so with all her rich cargo within her bosom, her hull unwounded she is left to drift up and down in the steamers' track. Such is the story of the sea the pilot-boat brought back to us one day. A derelict is an abandoned ship, a ship that drifts. I^o hand is at her wheel. No pilot guides her course. As helplessly as a log she rolls in the long wash of the sea or is pushed on before the gale, useless to any one, a menace to every one. God help us, there are lives like that ! Masts may or may not be broken down, sails may or may not be shredded by the wind, rails carried away or not. This ship may be a shapeless hulk or it may be to-day a stately pleasure yacht with every spar and stay and sail intact, without a scratch on polished sides or dent in even keel, but there is no guiding hand at the wheel, no steadfast eye keeps gaze on star or compass. The crew may be still on board. Accomplishments, attainments, endowments may make up a splendid force of men, but they lack one hand, the pilot's ; the wheel races, now this wa}^, now that way ; the ship of that human life flees now before the west wind, now before the east wind dragged northward or southward by the invisible tug of this current or that, and so goes drifting up and down the ocean of life, getting nowhere, a menace to every life that comes near it. We watch them as they heave in sight upon the sea and we say sadly as we see them, "Rudderless, pilotless, derelict!" Study with me the history of a derelict. How it came to be a
derelict, what its middle history, its voyages and its achievements, and what its end is — the unguided life.
THE HISTORY OF A DEEZLICT. 445 How does a derelict come to be one? How does a ship come to be abandoned? How does a life come to be Tinguided? The old htilk rolls and tosses^, helpless, wretched. On another day "She stands With her foot upon the sands Decked with flags and streamers gay, In honor of her marriage dav, Eeady to be The bride of the gray old sea ... . Then at last With one exulting, joyous bound, She leaps into the ocean's arms! And lo, from the assembled crowd There rose a shout, prolonged and loud, That to the ocean seemed to say, Take her, O bridegroom, old and gray, Take her to thy protecting arms, With all her youth, and all her charms l" From that to this, how ? Many are the ways. It was an awful storm that struck the Alice Pioy. Bowling along, all sails spread, the crew did not notice the signs of sea and sky, and the blast beat her over on her beam ends, tore ofi her masts, lashed her quivering sides with her own spars, pounded her with airy and watery battering-rams and drove her crew from out her. Some awful calamity, some sudden attack of Satan, some unexpected storm of sin, some blast of temptation swooped down upon that life just laiinched, not two days out, and took heart and hope and conrage and will away, and on a starless
sea, or nnder a sky bright with promise to saner souls, the life drifts now. ••'Xo nse to straggle, no nse to strive. Life's first great failure means I can never succeed.'' Snch is the wail of that beaten life. It is not true, but while it is believed, one more derelict is added to ocean's sadness and ocean's dangers. It became a derelict because insidions disease or slow, creeping cold has sapped or frozen the life of the crew. I have read of those who boarded a floating hulk and found there a crew of dead men. In the forecastle dead men. In the galley a dead man. In the cabin
446 .THE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. dead men. The deadly sway of the yellow fever was over all. I have read of those who passed a full rigged ship, sheathed in ice. Her hull was plated with ice. Her shronds were sheathed in ice. To them clung sailors sheathed in ice, and icy to the heart. At the wheel a form still with death, sheathed in ice. That may be a story, but it is true. Sin sapped the power of the will, a secret disease poisoned the fountains of life, a wicked habit, a subtle worldliness relaxed the muscles of the guiding hand. It came very slowly. Life struggled long, conscience fought its fight, but one by one the forces of life or of control or of enthusiasm or righteousness surrendered or sought the inner fastnesses and were there shut up, half dead, or dead. Now the life drifts up and down at the call of every passing wind of pleasure, impulse or circumstance. Sometimes there is a mutin}^, quick decisive work. The rebellious crew seize the captain and the steersman, and go sailing on their own account. Sin masters conscience. Appetite conquers selfcontrol. Ambition deposes principle, and the ship rushes headlong before the gale. But did you ever hear of one who launched his ship upon the sea for a long voyage without any steersman, any pilot, any plan? There never was a hand upon the wheel, it always raced to and fro as the waves swept the rudder backward and forward. It always obeyed the present current and the fickle wind. It had no aim. It
never sailed against the wind. Was there ever a shipmaster as insane as that? N'ever, with a ship of wood and rope and iron, but with immortal souls, capacious for heaven or for hell, countless shipmasters ! We see them all around us. Let her drive ! Spread all sails! Give her head! Let her drive where she will! The unguided life ! But what is her middle history? The intermediate story of the abandoned ship ? It is a story of fruitless, because aimless, wanderings. She never gets anywhere. She has plenty of sailing, but she makes no port. She is no nearer port this month than she was last. If as in one imaginary story of the sea, there were those on board who understood the significance of it, the oscillation from nowhere to nowhere
THE HISTORY OF A DERELICT. 447 would be most terrible. Look at the people around you. Morally, intellectually, spiritually, where are they going? Nowhere! And they are going there at lightning speed, some of them. They will arrive before many days. Unconscious ? That is the tragedy ! It is a story of strange alternations. Headed north to-day and south to-morrow, far up in the icebergs^ track this month with the fog and chill over life and soul, far do\m to the Southern Trades next month or two, where the brain reels under the awful glare and the "paradise craze" tantalizes its delirious victims; bounding high with hope to-day, over on its beam-ends to-morrow, now dancing over laughing ripples, now driven like a leaf before some demon of the hurricane. ' 'Oh, well for him whose will is strong ! He suffers, but he cannot suffer long. He suffers, but he will not suffer wrong! " On him, too, the north wind swoops, but he is ready ; it drives him, but it cannot drive him far. Him, too, the undercurrents grip, but
he makes the winds nullify the waves and the very waters that seek to drown him lift him heavenward and bear him to his port. , That is the life-history of the unguided soul, as far as itself is considered, alternations, fruitless wanderings. But there are others to be considered. The chief meaning of the derelict at sea is not its loss but is menace. It is one of the awful perils of the deep ! Who can forget Victor Hugo's description of the cannon that broke loose on shipboard ? He describes it as a living thing, possessed by a devil. Its fearful leaps and bounds and plunges, its returns and ricochetings seem like those of some infuriated demon on fire with a malice and a cunning supernatural. It batters the ship's sides, it finds its way to destruction over the crushed bodies and severed heads of men. What that escaped carronade is in the ship, the black hulk of the derelict is in the sea. It ranges up and down like an animated battering-ram, seeking what it may destroy. There is no avoiding it. The Inchcape rock is terrible, but it is stationary. You know at least where it is not. A derelict sunk hea^y in the sea sometimes afloat just beneath the surface, is the Inchcape rock set afloat with-
448 THE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. out a bell. No man knows where it is or where it is not. The course of a certain famous floating wreck was noted one season by ships that sighted her. She drifted up, down, over, across, hundreds of miles. Another steamer is a terrible thing to meet, but she has lights and carries boats to save. An iceberg is more terrible. "Captain/^ said one of the women on shipboard, who exist to make life pleasant for that long-suffering functionary, "Captain, which would you rather meet at night, another steamer or an iceberg?'^ The captain and the spectators were speechless for a moment. But he collected himself and calmly said, "Madam, an iceberg does not usually carry lights and boats." But the iceberg does often send a warning chill ahead of it. The derelict displays no lights, carries no boats, sends ahead no chill. In the darkness she drifts in front of jout rushing bows and your great steamer plunging through the night with the force of a million cannon balls crashes into her and sinks. The derelict is one of the most dreaded dangers of the deep. But it cannot compare with that moral derelict, an aimless life. Stone is
weight}^ and sand is weighty, but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both. An unguided life is a fireship sent discharging rockets and bombs in every direction. There is absolutely no knowing when or where or how it may involve your happiness and mine in a loss we cannot avert. Its ill-considered rashness may send the railroad train that carries our loved ones speeding over a precipice. Some temporary appetite or passion or whim may cause him to do that which shall destroy our noblest hopes and plans for a liftime, A moment's contact of that fever-smitten life may inoculate with eternal evil the life and soul of one over whom we have travailed in prayer and longing. It may sweep along in its careless voyage to eternal night, one who but for that had reached the shining port. The wildcat engines that go pounding over the rails with no guiding hand at the throttle are not as dangerous. You can see and hear them coming. You know that they can move in but one direction. But no man can reckon on a fool. If a man's aim is a wicked one, you can reckon on that, foresee his movements, keep out of his way, but if he has no aim, no man can tell from what quarter or in what way he will hit next. The warship's tactics may be guessed, the
THE HISTORY OF A DERELICT. 449 derelict is unpredictable. I had rather let loose upon our streets a lioness robbed of her whelps than one of these idle, good-natured lives. They will burn your house down to warm their hands. They will cut down your choicest trees to make a whistle. What they will do next, only God knows ! Such is the history of the derelict, for itself uselessness and wandering, for others menace and injury. What is the end of the derelict ? One end in various forms. Destruction ! Man and nature and God are all against it. If there is no change, if no pilot is admitted on board, if no ship tows it into port, destruction. Sometimes a gradual destruction. Each wave that dashes over it contributes to its dissolution, snatches a splinter, helps to sm^ash a plank. The sun warps its timbers. The salt water eats into its skin. The barnacles cluster on its keel. The teredos bore into its sheathing. Its masts grow shorter. It sinks deeper into the trough of the sea. It is dangerous yet. But one day it
shivers, shakes, settles. "Thank God, it's gone!" and everybody breathes a sigh of relief because the man is dead. Sometimes the process is still more gradual. Nature does not always take the trouble to destroy her derelicts, she segregates them. The bullet in the flesh would do harm. She makes a cyst about it and leaves it there. So this useless life gathers such sea weed that at last she takes it and floats it out of the way into the Sargasso sea. Many lives are like that. ISTobody cares for them, everybody understands them, influence gone, power gone, ciphers in existence. They did harm once. They can't do any now, or good either. They drop out of life and nobody knows it. Their names were famous once. But men start with surprise when possibly the newspaper speaks of it. "Why, I thought he died forty years ago !" He did ! Nay, rather now he is dead, we find that he had never lived ! Sometimes the process is not so gradual. This is a lumber ship, waterlogged, unsinkable by any gale, too massive to be borne off to Sargasso sea. It must be gotten out of the way. It must not menace life and property any longer. Men have tried to tow it ashore, but it is useless. Cables parted under the strain. It would not be captured. No, there is only one cure for it. Dynamite. A while ago there set out, in fact, continually there are setting
450 THE AMEEICAX BAPTIST PULPIT. out, gOYernment vessels in search of famous derelicts. Their mission is to destroy the destroyers. They cruise up and down in the supposed track of the enemy. When they sight it, they make for it, board it, deposit their dynamite, set their fuses, retire to a safe distance, and wait, not long. Sometimes it takes many successive charges, but they follow it up until only a few scattered timbers are left to tell the story. Be it known to all the world that the more harmful an aimless life is, by reason of its position, its ability, its intellect, the more desperately on its track are the dynamiters of God. The chase may be long but it will be decisive.
Whether in one way or another, nature and man and God are against the aimless life. The life that has God in it, as any life may, is a self -repairing and a self-perpetuating life; the life that drifts is a blot, an inertia, a pestilence upon this sea of time. May none of us live it. May none of us find our last home in sunless depths or Sargosso sea. May all of us take on board the one true Pilot, keep all our powers submissive to his sway. Then, whatever gales may blow, whatever currents tug, whatever derelicts infest our track, our Pilot shall safely guide us home, for he always guides aright — for us the peaceful harbor, the quiet shore, and when we have rested for a little, grander voyages in seas where no rocks are, where no wrecks float, the boundless ocean of God's love and presence.
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