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A Voice from the Sea

by C. H. Spurgeon
From the May 1878 Sword and Trowel


"Yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly."—Isaiah 29:5.
"The Lord sent out a great wind into the sea."—Jonah 1:4.

BOUT four o'clock in the afternoon of Lord's-day, March 24th, the inhabitants of London were startled by a sudden hurricane which all at once brought with it darkening clouds of dust, and for a short season raged furiously. Sitting in our study in quiet meditation we were aroused and alarmed by the noise of doors and windows, and the terrible howling of the blast as it swept upon its headlong course. Unhappy were travelers across heath and moor who were overtaken by such an overwhelming gust, for it gave no warning, and allowed no time to seek a shelter. It was soon over, but it was followed by cold and dreary weather, and it would seem to have been a token that winter meant to make another struggle to assume his ancient throne. His Parthian arrow was driven forward with intense force and left its mark in ruin and death.
    Just at the moment when landsmen were terrified by the threatening storm, her Majesty's training ship "Eurydice," which had returned from a cruise to the West Indies, was rounding Dunnose headland, off the Isle of Wight, with all plain sails, and also her studding sails set. Those on board were all naturally anxious to reach their homes, and having only to round the coast and to anchor off Spithead, they were making the best of the wind. The noble frigate was plainly seen from the lovely village of Shanklin; but one who was watching the fine vessel suddenly missed it and wondered why. She was hastening along with all sails set except her royals, and her ports open, when in a moment the fierce wind pounced upon her. It was in vain that the captain ordered sail to he shortened; the ship lurched till her keel was visible, and in less time than it takes us to write it the ship capsized, and more than three hundred brave seamen perished. Well might her Majesty's telegram speak of "the terrible calamity of the 'Eurydice.'" What mourning and lamentation had that one cruel blast scattered over the hind! How swift is the swoop of death! How stealthy its step! How terrible its leap! In the midst of life we are on the verge of the sepulcher. This lesson is preached to us by those three hundred men who lie enshrouded in the all-devouring sea, with a gallant ship as their mausoleum.

"Toll for the brave!
The brave that are no more!
All sunk beneath the wave,
Fast by their native shore!"

    Great is the peril of the ocean, but there are also dangers on the hind, and at, any moment we also may be summoned to appear before our God. Since this cannot be questioned, let; each prudent man foresee the evil and prepare himself for it.
    Another lesson which lies upon the surface of this sad event is this—never feel perfectly safe till you are in port. Many awakened souls are almost within the haven of peace, and are at this time rounding the headland, of thoughtfulness, with the sails of earnest inquiry all displayed to the breeze. Their condition is very hopeful but it is not satisfactory to those who are anxious about their eternal welfare, nor should it be satisfactory to themselves. They are steering for the harbor, they enjoy favoring winds, they have all sails set, but still they have net quite believed in Jesus, nor surrendered themselves to his grace. We who watch them can see that their ports are open, and we dread lest they should be overtaken by a sudden temptation and should suddenly be overturned at the very moment when our hopes are at their best. Is the reader in such case? Then let us beseech him not to be content till he has found Christ and so by faith has anchored in the harbor of "eternal salvation." Do not be happy, dear friend, till you are moored to the Rock of Ages, under the lee; of the everlasting hills of divine mercy, through the stoning blood. It seems very wonderful that a ship which had been to sea so many times and had just completed a long winter's cruise in safety should at last go down just off the coast in a place where danger seemed out of the question. It is doubly sad that so many men should be within sight of a shore upon which they must never set their foot. To perish in mid ocean seems not so hard a lot as to die with the white cliffs of Albion so near: to die with the gospel ringing in our cars is still more sad. Never reckon the ship safe till it floats in the haven: never reckon a soul safe till it is actually "in Christ." The "almost persuaded" are often the last to be fully persuaded. Aroused, impressed, and moved to good resolutions, to tears, and even to prayers, yet men postpone decision, and by the force of Satan's arts are lost,—lost when we all hoped to see them saved. O that seekers were wise enough to be distressed until they are thoroughly renewed. Any position short of regeneration is perilous in the extreme. The manslayer would have been cut down by the avenger had he lingered outside the walls of the refuge-city; it would have been all in vain for him to have touched its stones or sheltered near its towers: he must be within the gates or die. Seekers after salvation, you are not safe till you actually close in with Jesus, place all your confidence in him and become for ever his. Shall it be so now, or will you abide in death? Rest not an hour. Trifle not for another moment; for death may seize you, or a spiritual lethargy may come over your soul from which you may never again be aroused. Give no sleep to your eyes nor slumber to your eyelids till your anchor has entered into that within the veil and you are saved in Christ Jesus.
    A further lesson should be gleaned from the scant wreckage which as yet has floated up from the sunken vessel. Let us all take warning, and remember that we cannot tell widen fierce temptation may assail us.

"Be watchful, be vigilant, danger may be
At an hour when all seemeth securest to thee."

As the wind bloweth where it listeth, and we cannot tell whence it cometh, our want of foresight keeps us in constant jeopardy, and should therefore induce unceasing watchfulness. The gale may burst upon us either from the north or from the south, and if we make ready for an easterly breeze we may be assailed from the westward instead. He who has sailed upon the sea never trusts it; he who has been at the mercy of the wind never depends upon it.
    Beloved believer, you have had a long stretch of fair sailing; let a brother whisper in yore, ear, "keep a good look-out." Those who are familiar with spiritual navigation know that there is never more likelihood of storm than when the barometer stands at "set fair."

"Whene'er becalm'd I lie,
And storms forbear to toss;
Be thou, dear Lord, still nigh,
Lest I should suffer loss:
Far more the treacherous calm I dread
Than tempests bursting o'er my head."

The danger of a foreseen tempest is comparatively little, for your ship with close-reefed sails, and bare poles, is ready for whatever comes; but the perils of the calm lie in the temptation to security, and the liability that sudden temptation may find us unprepared. "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch": for if the good captain of the ship had known at what hour the storm would come he would have lowered all his sails, and have weathered the gale. He did all that a brave man could do, but all was little enough, for the huge ship was tossed over and sucked down, and but two remained to tell the tale. Be ye always ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the danger will be upon you.
    One other warning let us collect from the wreck while yet it lies beneath the wave. Always be most afraid of sudden temptation when all sails are filled with a fair wind. Personal experience teaches some of us that our gladdest times attract perils to us. The temper of the placid may readily be ruffled when they have newly come from solitary communion with God: the rude shock of the, world's rough speech tells most upon a mind which has been bathed in heaven. Even the love of Jesus may lead us in the heat of our spirit to wish that we could invoke fire from heaven on his foes. Great, power in prayer, unless we guard ourselves well, may be followed by a fit of depression, even as Elijah fled from Jezebel very soon after his wrestlings upon Carmel. High and rapt enjoyment may be followed by fierce temptation, for the enemy watches for loaded vessels when he allows the empty bark to escape. Even our Lord found but a short interval between the testimony from heaven at his baptism and the temptation from hell which beset trim in the wilderness. Our full sails tempt the prince of the power of the air to rage with more than his usual malignity. It is right that, all sail should be set when the wind is favorable. Why should we not avail ourselves of everything which may speed us on our way? Still, let us. never forget to watch unto prayer, or our happiness may be our danger. Brother, mark well your steps in coming down from the mount of communion, for at the foot of it you may meet mocking Pharisees, dispirited disciples, and perhaps one possessed of an evil spirit of the kind which goeth not out save with prayer and fasting.
    Let the self-exalting professor specially beware; but remember, dear brother, that you may soon become such a character. When your sails are big with the wind, and you are flying over the waves, clap your hands if you please and hope soon to have perfected your voyage, but take care to have all hands ready for an emergency. Perhaps one of the best things that could happen to you would be that when you are sailing along so bravely, confident and at ease, your topsails of pride should be carried away; you would be all the better for losing such lofty gear. Plenty of ballast must be stowed away or our royals may be our ruin. Better have our glory rent to ribbons by the gusts than for the ship itself to be blown over. Mark this.
    Are you prospering in business? Keep your eye on the weather, and do not flatter yourself that you will never be moved. Is all going well with your family? Be grateful, but rejoice with trembling. Is every desire gratified? Thank God, but do not fold your arms, or suffer the watch to go below. Are you progressing wonderfully in the spiritual life? Doubtless Satan has told you that you are somebody now, strong in which, exceedingly earnest, wonderfully busy, and altogether an crumple to others! Do you not see that the storm-fiend is near you, and do you not know what a wind he can raise? Remember how he slew Job's children by a wind which smote all the four corners of the house, He saves up those four-cornered hurricanes for men in high estate as Job was; therefore beware. Brother, take in those sails, for the weather is very gusty just new and cannot be relied on for five minutes. As you would, dread shipwreck cultivate a holy jealousy, maintain, godly fear, and evermore look to him that keepeth Israel. He never slumbers nor sleeps, for he knows that his children always need his watchful eye.

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