Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)

Ms 17, 1885

Shipboard Meditations

S. S. Cephalonia [en route for Europe]

August 14, 1885

Portions of this manuscript are published in TDG 235; EGWE 28-29.

[Steamer Cephalonia, Cunard Line, en route for Europe.] 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 1

“They that were ready went in with Him to the marriage: and the door was shut.” Matthew 25:10. I have been reflecting some upon this text. While obliged to occupy my berth because of the rough waves and the violent motion of the vessel, I have time to meditate and pray. Cannot write much of the time; cannot read and have no appetite. My berth gives me a good sight through the portholes. We see the white-capped waves and watch the motion as far as the eye can extend. Out of sight of land, a mere speck upon the ocean, a few peeks between us and eternity, and I think how many have felt as secure as the passengers on this boat who have, while full of merriment in the midst of feasting or of dancing, closed their probation. The noble bark may strike some hidden rock. We were obliged to move very slowly at times because of the fog, and for hours the fog’s mournful whistle like a voice warning was saying, Beware. At these times I could not sleep, only pray. The boat delayed some hours, fearing driving in collision with the vessels or schooners that sail upon these broad waters. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 2

I thought of those upon the boat who had no faith in God, no hope in Jesus Christ, the world’s Redeemer. In sunshine where no danger threatens all is hilarity and full of amusement. But when the vessel is driven by fierce winds and tossed, when peril comes, when life is hanging in the balance, the appetite for amusement is at [an] end. Folly and hilarity and playing, feasting, drinking, dancing, and joking are turned into sorrow, terror, and despair. The day of doom seems to be opening upon those who have never thought seriously of the words of Christ. “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: I will shut it, and no man can open it.” [Revelation 3:7, 8.] 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 3

How wretched will it be for those who have had no faith, no confidence in God! Amid the rough waters and the storm and the fog, I felt that Jesus was never nearer to me, never more precious. My faith reposed in God, however dark the surroundings. The faith of the believer is like the ship’s compass. The ship may be struggling with the waves and by the tempest, tossed by the everrestless sea; yet the compass keeps its position, doing its work, maintaining its level amid plunging and tossing, pointing to the pole. I felt that my soul could stay upon God whatever comes, calm waves or boisterous. We may be driven by fierce winds, the fog like a pillar of cloud may surround us, but my soul had comfort in God. My faith like the compass ever turned steadily to my Redeemer, to Him who can rebuke the stormy waters and say, Peace be still. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 4

I found my mind again and again drawn out to contemplate the case of Noah, who with his family found refuge in the ark. He had faith, he obeyed God. His faith led him to make ready for a refuge from the terrible storm that God had told him would come upon the wicked inhabitants of the old world. Noah obeyed God implicitly. It was a heavy cross for him to move out by faith in preparing that ark, building it on dry land; but he did according to all the Lord commanded him. He did not pick and choose among the precepts and commandments of God those things that were agreeable and for his present comfort and convenience and reject those that required self-denial, that if he obeyed would make him the subject of sport and derision of the godless. This course of Noah will be the course of all who have genuine faith. As soon as he knows the will of God, he will do it. He does not consult his will, his own choice; but although to obey is to sacrifice and to suffer loss of friends, of property, of name and life itself, he will carefully and conscientiously walk in the path which God has indicated. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 5

It was Noah’s consistent faith and works combined that condemned the world. He not only preached the present truth appropriate for that time, but he acted every sermon. Had he never lifted his voice in warning, his works, his holy character among the corrupt and ungodly would have been condemning sermons to the unbelieving and dissolute of that age. He bore himself with a Christlike patience and meekness under the provoking insults, taunts, and mockery. His voice was often heard in prayer to God for His power and help, that he might do all the commandments of God. This was a condemning power to the unbelieving. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 6

But the time comes when the last appeal of Noah is made to the guilty race. He bids them yet once again heed the message of warning and find refuge in the ark. He stretches out his hands in supplication with voice full of sympathy. With quivering lip and tearful eye, he tells them his work is done, but the loud coarse mocking and scoffs and insults more determined are heaped upon Noah. Enthusiast, fanatic, crazy, falls upon his ear; he bids them all farewell, he and his family enter the ark, and God shuts the door. That door that shut Noah in shut out the world. It was a shut door in Noah’s time. And the Lord shut him in. Up to that time, God had opened a door whereby the inhabitants of the old world might find refuge if they believed the message sent to them from God. But that door was now shut, and no man could open it. Probation was ended. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 7

The long forbearance of God had ceased, the figures in the books of God’s reckoning had been accumulating, the cup of the unjust was full. Mercy then ceased, and justice took the sword of vengeance. The door shut, hope for the world dead; the last warning rejected, the golden opportunity past, forever past. The last appeal has been made by the man of righteousness, the forbearance of God exhausted, and how terrible now is His wrath. The unbelievers saw the beasts and fowls and animals of all kinds of themselves enter the ark. This was something they could not explain. They saw Noah and his family go in, and a premonition of something they cannot comprehend thrills through them as they see that wondrous door of the ark shut not by human hands. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 8

The rain in a few days began to fall. The waters cover the surface of the earth while the inhabitants leave the groves where there are beautiful things, objects, this wisdom has made for idolatry. They leave their mansions, their works of gold and temples of precious stones, and bemoan the loss of the luxuries. The waters continue to rise higher and higher. They are filled with remorse, but not repentance, filled with hatred and some with sorrow, as convictions bring the sermons of Noah vividly to their minds. The denunciations of God against their practices ring in their ears as they are compelled to flee from one place to another, always seeking a foothold higher for safety. The last refuge is reached. They look abroad upon a world of water. How gladly would they now welcome that voice which invited them to find shelter in the ark. How glad would they be to listen now to the prayers offered in their behalf by faithful Noah—prayers which they mocked at and put far off the evil day. The sweet voice of mercy no longer is heard. This door is shut. But Noah and his family are safe in the ark under the protecting care of the God of the storm and tempest. A divine hand guided the ark in safety amid the roar of the tempest, the thunderous voice, and the sharp lightning’s gleam; trees uprooted were thrown into the boiling, seething waters; wrecks of palaces, temples, were tossing about upon the waters; but the ark was safe. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 9

There was a shut door in Noah’s time. There was a shut door to the unbelievers in the destruction of Sodom, but an open door to Lot. There was a shut door to the inhabitants of Tyrus, a shut door to the inhabitants of Jerusalem to those who disbelieved, but an open door to the humble, the believing, those who obeyed God. Thus it will be at the end of time. Those that are ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 10

August 15

There are invitations now that come to the youth, to those of mature age, to put on the wedding garment, the robe of Christ’s righteousness. My mind is anxious in regard to our youth who have to meet temptations of this age. They have great advantages [in] our Sabbath schools and religious meetings. They have so many rich privileges that they do not appreciate them. The enemies of God and of the truth surround us as they surrounded Noah. Severe tests will come to every soul who is on the side of Christ, and every advantage is opened for the youth to obtain a knowledge of the truth if they desire. You should [be] stored with knowledge of Bible truth, that you may be qualified to give to every man that asketh thee a reason, the hope that is within thee, with meekness and fear. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 11

Stephen was the first Christian martyr. The church believers in Christ had been taught by the wonderful Teacher, the Majesty of heaven. What zeal was in their midst, what faith and devotion to the work. Of these spiritual works it is stated Jesus was not ashamed to call them brethren. [Hebrews 2:11.] There was a constant increase of young members, and the whole city was moved by the divine movings of the Lord among them. Stephen was full of faith and power. The enemies of God and the truth felt stirred with hatred and opposition. Satan impelled them to resist the truth. Stephen had to meet in argument the most artful, deceptive disputants, hoping to confuse and put down his arguments. If Stephen had not searched the Scriptures and himself become fortified with the evidence of God’s Word, he could not have borne the test; but he knew the foundation of his faith was firm, and he was ready to answer his opponents. Stephen came off victorious. He spoke with assurance and wisdom and power that astonished and confounded the enemies of truth. When they found themselves baffled and defeated at every attempt, then they were bent on his destruction. Had these professedly honest and wise men been really seeking for the truth, they would have admitted evidence which they could not controvert. They would have acknowledged their error and yielded to the convincing arguments of truth and been on the Lord’s side and on the side of truth. But such was not their purpose or character. They hated Christ, they hated all His followers, and they put Stephen to death. If they could not controvert his arguments, they could stop his mouth by stoning him to death, which they did. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 12

Just such things our workers will meet individually. We must be tested and proved; and if we are not pure gold, we shall fail, prove to be dross. The vilest slanders will be set in motion, misrepresentations will be made as were uttered against Stephen, but those who have made God their trust will not swerve one hair from their duty and from the truth. Who of our young workers are fitting themselves with the lips to bear testimony to the truth and stand fast in the faith, willing to seal it with their blood if required? I entreat of our youth to learn at the cross of Calvary; a mere knowledge of the truth is not enough. We must be sanctified through the truth. There must be a living connection with God, a firm hold from above. We may have a deep and earnest piety. By doing good as well as receiving God and the work of character building going forward for time and for eternity, we have on the wedding garment and enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb, that when the door is shut we will be on the right side—shut in, but not shut out. 4LtMs, Ms 17, 1885, par. 13