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out of sight the gold seems gold, and when the dross is rising, the gold itself seems oftentimes nothing but dross. So a child of God has to cry out in the bitterness of his soul, finding so many hidden evils disclosed, that he hardly dreamed of, Oh, alas! I am all dross, all dross! when the Lord Jesus is making him really better than he was before. Let not the lump of gold upon the goldsmith's counter, boast itself above that which is tortured and groaning in the crucible.
In such sweet conversation the time passed rapidly away, and meanwhile no language can tell how soft and beautiful continued to be the weather and the prospect. The sea was serene and quiet, the air , balmy, and the breeze delightful. It was so lovely, that for whole days, and almost weeks, they hardly changed a sail, and things went on so easily and regularly, that it seemed hardly worth while to be at the trouble of a daily observation. And yet it was just precisely here that a mistake was made in their reckoning, which, had it not been for the Lord's great mercy, would have led them to destruction in the midst of apparent peace and safety. The uninterrupted calmness of the weather, the regular daily progress of the ship, and the fine appearances in every direction, had made them forget about the currents, and not taking account of those, their real progress was by no means what it appeared to be by the log, and they had been carried aside from the point where they thought they were upon the Chart.
It was just precisely here that some sunken rocks were laid down in the Chart, and they were now in that vicinity without knowing it. For the currents hereabouts could not be put down with any accuracy at a given point, because they were very changeable, and it was so much the more necessary to have been upon the watch, and to have used every means for detecting both their force and direction. A concealed current is a thing that may be very powerful the wrong way, even when the wind, waves, sails, helm, weather, and everything in the vessel's progress, may seem to be right. There is no time at sea, when men can be safely off their watch, and no time when they can safely neglect any necessary precaution. They know not what may come of it. The sins that do so easily beset us, 14 need a steadfast care and patience against them, for they may ensnare us in a thousand unsuspected and dangerous ways.
Enjoyment and security had made the pilgrims almost feel as if there could be no change in the weather, and yet it came. The sky was no seen, although there were neither clouds nor tempests. They had had a bright clear air and serene
14 Heb. xii. 1.
heavens, up to this time for weeks; and a slight haze in the horizon, like the smoke of the Indian summer on the land, was the first indication of change; but soon a bank of mist rolled up and then unrolled and spread over the ocean, till they were in the midst of a thick, damp fog, so like a blanket round about them, that nothing could be seen, not even the water a fathom from the ship's side.
Now as soon as this was the case, the danger from the sunken reefs might be considered imminent, simply because, as I said, they had not reckoned the strength nor discovered the direction of the currents, and therefore were really to a great degree ignorant of their position. The fog distressed them much, and though they had no idea of the neighborhood of rocks, yet they kept as good a look-out as seemed possible. When the night fell, the darkness was like Egypt, and Peter and John, as they went forward to the bows of the ship, and gazed earnestly out into the gloom, felt an awe stealing over their spirits, and a presentiment of evil, they hardly knew wlay. But they called to mind the direction, Who is among you that feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. So they besought the Lord's guidance, and kept watching, and that night sleep fled from them, and they continued in prayer.
15 Isa. 1. 10.
And well was it that they did; for about midnight suddenly a cry was made of breakers, a loud startling cry; and hurrying on deck, there was, sure enough, the angry dash of the waves over the rocks, and as the fog had lifted a little, the foam could be seen cresting and creaming right ahead of the ship, and seeming hardly the ship's length distant.
Hard up the helm, shouted Peter. Let fly the main sheets! Then he rushed to the helm himself, while John flew to the men's assistance, for their life depended on the rapidity and correctness of their movements. Peter saw at a glance the direction of the reef, and now the whole reality of the rocks in the Chart came to his mind like a sudden revelation, and the anguish of the conviction that they had stumbled into this danger by their own carelessness was exceeding great. Lord, save us! cried Peter; we perish ! 16
And here, if the vessel had been in the same condition as she was when they were tossing off the coast of Self-Conceit, she must have gone upon the rocks in spite of all their manoeuvring; but she minded her helm since Humility and Self-Distrust had had the handling of her ballast, and escaped, though very narrowly, in the midst of appalling peril. A little delay in the watch, a little later, a little further, and she must have struck. The men treinbled from head to foot, when they saw the danger, and it was not till daylight came, and the fog lifted, showing them that they had a clear sea before them, that they found any relief.
16 Matt. viii. 25.
Then Peter and John went to work upon their reckoning, and they had to cry out, Who can understand his errors?" But pleasant it was to see the exceeding great earnestness with which they now studied the King's Chart. With compasses in hand they were poring over it day and night, and making their measurements, and with new anxiety and many tears they sought to be taught of God, for they found that a sailor might speculate excellently well, and yet, but for God's mercy, go to the bottom. The warning ran in their minds continually, Let us, therefore, fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short.18 They trembled for the danger of Self-delusion.
17 Psa. xix. 12.
18 Heb. iv. 1.