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A Sinful Sea Rover

FRANK T. BULLEN, author of "The Cruise of the
"Log of a Sea Waif," etc., after telling
of his humble origin, running away to sea, many daring
and godless adventures at sea, thus relates his second
birth, in his remarkable book, "With Christ at Sea."
Arriving in Port Natal, N.Z., he relates how: "My ship-
mate and myself were strolling along the pier townwards
with that leisurely swagger peculiar to sailors, and had
reached the open space in front of a warehouse, when a
burst of melody floated overhead on the evening air
brought me up all standing.   It was so sweet, so unearthly,
that all sorts of queer sensations chased one another over

my body, and when my companion said, ‘Come along,’
I waved him off with an impatient gesture.   I could not
bear to be interrupted in my exquisite enjoyment of those
celestial sounds.   They ceased, and my chum said quietly,
‘I know what it is; it's a meetin'.   I ben to 'em before.
Let's go in.’
  ‘Not me,’ I answered.   ‘I don't go shoving
my nose where it isn't wanted.   Maybe it's a few friends
having a few hymns for their own pleasure on a Sunday

   "While I stood anxiously waiting for the music to begin
again, my companion murmured, ‘Hold on a bit.   I'll
go and see if we can get in,’
and hurried towards the
building.   In a few minutes he returned triumphantly,
saying, ‘I told ye so; they begged me to call you in, saying
that we was hearty welcome; it was got up for the likes of
  ‘All right, go ahead,’ I replied, more gratified than
I could express, but I was somewhat surprised still, to
find such an affair under way in a sail loft, an immense bare
room with naked rafters overhead and brick walls just
whitewashed.   The seats were rough wooden forms, with
the exception of a few chairs on the platform, where was
also a small table.   Gathered close to the platform was a
little company of well-dressed men and women intent
upon the words of a thick-set, dark-visaged man, who was
addressing them volubly, with a book in his hand.   Sud-
denly I heard him say, ‘Now then, one, two,’ and with a
sweep of his arm he launched them into another burst of
song, quite unaccompanied, but wonderfully sweet.
   "I sat spellbound.   What with my unfamiliar surround-
ings, the delightful sounds, and my wonder at what would
come next, the time flew past so rapidly that although we
were almost the first arrivals and the preliminary singing
lasted an hour we did not appear to have been there more
than five minutes before there was an expectant hush.
Three gentlemen, including the dark little choir leader,
mounted the platform, and the latter, stepping forward,
said, ‘Friends, we will commence our meeting to-night
by singing with all our hearts that beautiful prayer,
"Jesu, lover of my soul." number ----- in the books you
have.   And will you all remember that it is a prayer?
Although written in rhyme and sung to music, it is as
much a prayer as "Our Father[,]" and I hope that all who

sing it will not for one moment allow the fact to be for-
gotten.   So will you certainly be blessed in your singing.’

   "I listened eagerly, reverently, but when the large
audience which had now gathered rose to their feet, and
at the signal from the leader the choir burst into the open-
ing bars of ‘Hollingside,’ I was reduced to blind dumb-
ness.   The pent-up feelings of years broke loose, scalding
tears ran down, and something stuck in my throat like a
ball.   I knew that tune so well, and I had not heard it
sung since those happy days in the Old Lock Chapel,
which seemed to belong to another life.   But by a strong
effort I recovered my composure, and then, how I did
sing!   I just abandoned myself to an ectasy of pure joy.
The singing ceased and we sat down.   Then a gentleman
on the platform prayed.   He offered up a prayer that,
allowing for the different diction, sent my mind flying
back to poor black Jem of the ‘Arabella.’   For it was a
prayer, not a formula.
   "Then more singing, I could not get enough of that--
followed by another novelty to me, a solo from the choir-
leader, The Ninety and Nine.’   Oh, what pathos, what a
depth of yearning love for the souls of men he did impart
to that simple little poem with its bald tune!   I could
have melted in tears, but with tightly-shut lips and
hardly breathing, I managed to maintain control of
myself.   Then one of the two other gentlemen spoke,
quite nicely, I thought, but not sufficiently clear and
direct to hold my attention.   At its close the energetic
leader of the choir, who had charmed me so much by his
reading, advanced to the verge of the platform and began
to speak.   I was all attention now, for the Gospel was being
unfolded in all its simplicity and directness.   I felt as if
there was only one person there for whom those words
were meant--me.   I listened with all my soul, every
syllable coming with such force to my heart and under-
as I have never since heard.   There were no
tricks of oratory, no declamation, no attempt to frighten;
indeed, it was a tender appeal from a heart overflowing
with loving desire to help a fellow wayfarer out of darkness
into the Lightened Way of Life.
   "I do not know how long the address lasted.   I only
knew that something was being offered to me that I felt

I must have.   I felt like one who after long wandering in a
gloomy labyrinth, so long that he had grown to accept
the gloom and the maze as the settled conditions of his
life, from which there was no hope of escape, had suddenly
meadows with a delightful prospect stretching beyond
into infinity.   Any words, however, can only feebly
express the intense longing of my being, for an experience
of this personal, loving acquaintance with the sym-
pathetic Man Christ Jesus, so earnestly set forth by the
   "Presently all was quiet, and I sat with my face buried
in my hands just waiting for--I knew not what.   My
mind was a confused whirl of thoughts, out of which
nothing definite emerged but that deep sense of heart-
hunger.   While I thus sat in painful expectation of the
performance of some miracle a hand was gently laid upon
my shoulder.   Looking up, I saw a man whom I had not
noticed before.   He sat down by my side and began to
ask me questions, such as, Did I want to be saved?
What was my difficulty?   Why did I not come to the
Lord now?’
and so on, questions which I felt utterly
incapable of answering.   I did not know what I wanted--
I did not know anything, except that I was trembling
with eager anticipation of a possible blessed setting free
from a life I hated, and being placed in intimate relation-
ship with this intensely lovable personal Friend of whom
I had been hearing.
   "While in this sad frame, oblivious of all that was
passing around me, another hand touched me.   Now, it
may seem difficult to believe, but I declare that the
touch of that hand gave me a thrill of hope.   Why, I do
not profess to explain, but the fact I know and record
gratefully.   Looking up, I saw the face of the dark little
man* who had so moved me by his earnest commendation
to his hearers of the brother-love of the sorrowful Man.
Meeting my dim, stupid gaze with a look full of sympathy,
he held out his hand, and when I took it he did not let it
go, but drew himself down by it, as it were to a seat by
my side.
   "‘My dear boy,’ he said, ‘I am not going to ask you

       *Mr. W. E. Falconer, of the Seamen's Bethel, known to the Editor.

what your difficulties are.   I have no right to do so, but
I am going to tell you that He who has removed mine is
ready to remove yours.   Ready, yes, and eager to take
that despairing look from your eyes, to show you the
delights of His unchangeable love.   Listen, "he that
believeth in [M]e, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in [M]e shall never die.
Believest thou this?"
(John 11. 25, 26).   As he looked
inquiringly I replied, ‘Yes, I believe; I dare not say I do
not believe.   I have always believed, even when through
hearing my shipmates denying His existence, I have been
tempted to agree with them.’   ‘Then you have entered
upon everlasting life,’
he said triumphantly.   I sorrow-
fully shook my head, saying, ‘Oh, no, I can't, I dare not
say that; it wouldn't be true!   I haven't the slightest
feeling of the kind, and it would be a lie to say that I have.’
   "‘Oh, I see!’ he answered.   ‘Very well, then, let me
put a case.   Supposing that you were worrying dreadfully
about a debt which you could not pay.   You know me as
a very wealthy man, who is not only fond of doing kind
deeds, but whose trustworthiness is beyond suspicion.   It
comes to my knowledge that you are in trouble, and I tell
you that I have paid your debt.   You say that you believe
me because you feel that I deserve to be believed; you
profess entire faith in me, but you still go on worrying
about that debt.   Instead of going about with a light
heart rejoicing in your freedom, you are bowed down with
care.   Would that not prove that you did not really
believe what I said, but that you were waiting for some
other proof of my truth to produce the feeling of safety
you longed for?’

   "‘Yes, it would,’ I replied.   ‘Well, then, listen to me,
or, rather, listen to the Lord Jesus: "He that heareth [M]y
[W]ord, and believeth on [H]im that sent [M]e, hath everlasting
life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed
from death unto life"
(John 5. 24).   Do you believe this?’

‘Yes,’ I whispered.   ‘Then you have passed from death
unto life, you are in the timeless state of eternal life, are
you not?’
  ‘No,’ I answered doggedly.   ‘Ah, I see how it is,
friend.   You are waiting for the witness of your feelings
to the truth of Him who is the Truth.   You dare not take
Him at His word unless your feelings, which are subject

to a thousand changes a day, corroborate it.   Do believe
Him in spite of your feelings, and act accordingly.’

   "Every word spoken by the earnest little man went right
to my heart and when he ceased there was an appeal
in his eyes that was even more eloquent than his words.
But beyond the words and the look was the interpretation
of them to me by some mysterious agency beyond all my
comprehension.   For in a moment the hidden mystery
was made clear to me, and I said quietly, ‘I see, sir; it is
the credibility of God against the witness of my feelings.
Then I believe God.’   ‘Let us thank God,’ answered the
little man, and together we knelt down by the bench.
   "I love that description of conversion as the ‘new
birth.’   No other definition touches the truth of the
process at all.   So helpless, so utterly knowledgeless,
possessing nothing but the consciousness of Life just
begun is the new-born Christian."

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