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It is ask'd by the orphan, whose cheeks are so pale,
It is ask'd by the Christian, and lo! a bright beam
Though my path through the waters so troubled may seem, The rude tempest shall only my glory display.”
Then falls, in soft whisper, that voice on the ear,
CHRIST IN THE VESSEL.
BY ANNA MENNELL.
At the close of a lovely afternoon, a little boat pushes off hastily from the shore of Gennesaret's Lake. Our Saviour and his disciples, a few simple, pious-hearted fishermen, are its only occupants. And it is to gain needful rest and retirement that they are hastening away from the crowd which stands eagerly and sorrowfully watching their departure. For Christ is wearied with the day's exertions. He has been proclaiming to a large and attentive auditory those simple yet sublime truths which He came from heaven to unfold: and in the words of his own beautiful and inimitable parables many a hallowed lesson has fastened itself upon their memories and their hearts. How striking the scene upon which the sunbeams fell by the sea of Tiberias this day! In a small ship, just at the water's edge, sat the faithful and loving-hearted Teacher, whose ministrations evoked, even from the lips of the rude soldiers, this encomium, “Never man spake like this man ; while
the listening multitude lined in rows the slopes of the ascent, “as if in an immense amphitheatre; all so still that the little birds were not frightened in their approach ; and the whole was reflected upon the clear waters at their feet.”
Ah, it is no wonder that such a congregation are unwilling to return to their homes. They did not think the sermon too long! Do you wish, dear reader, that you could have heard it? Then turn to the thirteenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, and as you read the seven parables which it contains, listen to the Saviour's voice, for He speaks by them as directly and as intentionally to you as He did to those favoured ones whom He instructed at the lake-side.
And now, with their Master resting his wearied head upon a pillow in the stern of the vessel, the disciples set out on their short voyage.
Before they have crossed the lake a storm bursts upon them from the hills. The position of the lake, embosomed deep in higher tracts of country, exposes it to violent gusts of wind, and in winter-time to tempests. But the disciples are seafaring men, and they are used to the lake and its peculiarities, so that they are not afraid. Presently, however, the storm increases : the wind from the south, sweeping down the sides of the mountains, and setting up against the strong current of the Jordan, renders the waters boisterous and full of peril ; the waves lashed into fury, break over into the boat, and the rain descends in torrents. In spite of every effort the little vessel is gradually filling; it has got beyond all control; and every roll of the wave threatens to sink it. And now those strong. armed, brave-hearted men, see death staring them in the face: they are greatly alarmed, and in their distress they turn to Jesus.
And where is He, and what is He doing ? His worn-out frame still reposes upon its rough and temporary resting-place; and so tired is He that the rage
of the tempest, and the shouts of the mariners, have failed to arouse Him from his deep slumber. In haste and agitation the terrified disciples awaken Him with the exclamations, "Lord, save us; we perish ! Master, carest Thou not that we perish ?”. With a gentle reproof for their want or weakness of faith, the Saviour calmly arises, and says to the angry elements, "Peace, be still!” And, at the sound of his voice, the wind is quieted, the waves are husbed, and there is a great calm!
Now, dear reader, there are some points in this touching little episode wbich we may trace out in our own personal experience. For we may gather, in the first place, from the incidents in this lake-storm, this inference, that trials and difficulties will frequently overtake the Christian even when he is in the path of duty, and has the Saviour's presence with him. It was not upon their own responsibility, but at the command of Jesus, that the disciples launched forth their ship. Nor were they alone, for He Himself accompanied them. Yet there came down a storm of wind upon the lake, and their lives seemed to be in jeopardy. Is there not sometimes an analogy between our case and theirs ? In following Christ fully in fulfilling his will, we meet with trials and distresses ; we are tossed up and down on the waves of this troublesome world ; exposed to contempt and opposition, and strongly agitated by many an internal conflict, until, in the plaintive language of one of God's sorely-tried servants, we are ready to say, thy waves and thy billows are gone over me!” Ps. xlii. 7. Should this surprise us? We thought, perhaps, that when we entered upon Christ's service, and embarked for that glorious country to which He pointed us, that our little bark would glide across an unruffled sea, and that the sky would ever be serene and cloudless. But was this expectation founded upon either promise or probability ? Had not our
Saviour forewarned us of impending trouble, when He told us, “ In the world ye shall have tribulation ?” John xvi. 33. Ought not his own example to have prepared us for it? “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord ; if they have persecuted Me they will also persecute you,” John
20. The kind of trouble we may have to bear is not revealed to us, but trouble of some kind we shall assuredly, if we really strive to follow Christ, be called to endure. These tempest-tossed disciples all found it so. And how repeatedly in their writings do they endeavour to enforce upon us the same truth which their Divine Master had taught them. that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” 2 Tim. iii. 12. “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” Acts xiv. 22. “Let no man be moved by these afflictions, for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto," 1 Thess. iii. 3. “ Beloved, think it not strange, ” 1
, concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you," 1 Pet. iv. 12.
Then, dear reader, be ready for the storms that may come, that will come. Your safety is secure; you have set sail with Christ in the vessel, and
shall reach presently the land on the other side; but there are perils to be surmounted, and tempests to be passed through, first. “Ye are not as yet come to the rest which the Lord your God giveth you, (Deut. xü. 9,) and until that is gained, you must be willing to brave the discomforts and the dangers of life's troublous ocean.
But there is one trying feature which sometimes marks our heavenward passage, and which distresses us even more than the unexpected threatening storm. It is this : that in the time of our deepest anxiety, the Saviour seems to take no notice of us.
He was fast asleep in the ship on Gennesaret's lake, while the
storm was raging around! Was He, then, ignorant of the danger; was He indifferent, to the apprehensions of his disciples ? Certainly not; and yet He made no attempt to allay the tempest, or to remove their fears, until they besought Him to do so. He left them for awhile to themselves, in order that they might realize their entire dependence upon his aid, and that He might awaken within them the spirit of earnest and heartfelt supplication. For some time the disciples toiled on in their management of the vessel; they supposed, probably, that they should be able to get it safely through the storm; or, it might be, that they were unwilling to disturb their Master. Impelled, at length, by the urgency of their fears, they came to Christ, and, with impetuous grasp, and powerful remonstrance, they aroused Him from his slumber. Then, and not till then, “ He arose and rebuked the wind, and the raging of the waters; and they ceased, and there was a calm.”
Now is not this the way in which the Saviour often acts towards us? We find ourselves in a position of great peril and solicitude, and, to our great dismay, Christ appears either unconscious of it, or unconcerned about it. He speaks to us no word of comfort. He puts forth no effort to help us. Why is this ? Ah, we are tempted, at such a season, to harbour the suggestion that He is unacquainted with our situation, or to give way to the suspicion that He does not care for our distress. But his omniscient eye never slumbers nor sleeps ; and his tender and never-failing love cannot disregard the most trifling event which befalls his people. Nay, so intimate is the relationship between Öhrist and us, that in all our afflictions He is Himself afflicted; and so sensitive is his regard for us, that whoso toucheth us toucheth the apple of his eye! But his silence is intended to quicken the ardency of our prayers, and to draw us closer to Himself. In moments of ease and prosperity, we too often content