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Full text of It Won’t Sink!
“I was once captain of a smuggling boat. I remember well one morning, just at daybreak, we discovered a coast guard boat in the distance. We had on board a heavy cargo of tobacco, and we stood to make quite a bit of money if we could land it.
“The coast guard was still a long way off, but we knew that if she gave chase we couldn’t possibly get away because our heavy cargo slowed us so much. We hoped at first we might not be seen, but alas, we soon saw the coast guard turning her course toward us.
“We all knew what would happen if we were taken. Not only would the boat and cargo be confiscated, but we would all be sent to prison. For a time there was a dead silence while we stared at each other in dismay. The coast guard was coming up fast behind us. Suddenly I thought of a way out. ‘Mates,’ I cried. ‘There’s no hope for us by running away—but let them come! They will only find an empty ship.’
“Hastily we first rigged a screen at the stern of the ship to shield us from the sight of the customs men. Then, sending part of the men below, I set them in line to hand up the packages of tobacco and pitch them overboard as they came up.”
“How we worked! All was quiet; nothing was heard but the splash of the tobacco dropping into the sea. The cargo was going down fast. ‘Cheer up, men,’ I cried. ‘We’ll soon be finished with it.’ Just then I saw the ship’s boy was too tired to go on, so I sent him to see if the coast guard was very far off.
“In a minute he came rushing back to me, pale as death. He just gasped out, ‘It won’t sink!’ and fled below.
“In a flash we understood what he meant. I ran to the stern of the ship, and what a sight that was! The sun was just rising behind us, and there, in that long line of light, were the packages of tobacco bobbing up and down in our wake. And the first package in the line reached right back to the oncoming coast guard boat.
“Helplessly, we stood and stared at it. The proof of our guilt was there spread out for all to see. We were lost, and in our ears rang those fatal words, ‘It won’t sink.’ ”
The old sailor stopped speaking for a moment, and then went on again: “In those days my heart was far from God. I belonged to the world. From time to time, though, I had serious thoughts, and then I would resolve to correct my ways and change my course. But resolving is one thing; doing is another. I still went on in the same old ways, and as soon as we were free I went back to smuggling.”
More Cargo Overboard
“About three years after all this happened, I went out in a boat on the river one night. It was New Year’s eve, and in spite of myself my thoughts went back in review of my past life. I saw myself, when a child, kneeling at my mother’s knee to say my evening prayers. Again I heard her tell me of One who came down from heaven to bring life to the world, and at this I sighed deeply. The more I thought about my past, the more horrified I was. God had created me, and I had lived and was still living as though there was neither God nor eternity.”
“That night I went down on my knees in the boat and prayed that God would come to my help. After this I would be another man. I resolved not to touch a drop of liquor and to avoid all bad company. I made many more resolutions like that, what I would do and what I wouldn’t do, and soon I began to feel very good about myself. Then on further reflection I saw that there were a lot more things I ought to clean up, or lighten the ship, as we say. I must throw overboard everything that ought not to be in my boat. My life was to be completely changed. My resolutions were getting more serious and positive every moment, my heart grew lighter, and I was happy in the thought that I had become a new man. As a finishing stroke, I decided to sell my ship and go home to my mother.
“Having made this decision, it seemed as if everything must be in perfect order. I had taken up the oars to go back to land, when suddenly the moon broke through the clouds and cast its beams like a band of silver across the water to where my boat was lying—but why should I start and shiver? What should it remind me of? The memory of that certain morning when, chased by the coast guard, I had cast the cargo into the sea, came over me with overwhelming power. I saw again the ship’s boy’s frightened face and heard his cry, ‘It won’t sink!’
“How blind I was! I had tried to lighten the ship by casting the cargo overboard, and there, behold, it was all floating behind me like an accusing line stretched up to the throne of God. All that I had done, said or thought was there before the face of God, and ‘it would not sink!’ Fool that I was, I thought I could drown all my wickedness in the sea of eternal forgetfulness, without a thought of the holiness of God. If I had been able from that moment on to do only what was good, it would not have changed the evil done in the past. What good was it to be forming good resolutions for the future, and to pitch the old cargo overboard, when it would not sink? Tears of despair filled my eyes. I was hopelessly lost.”
“While in this state, seeing neither relief nor safety, I remembered the teachings of my faithful mother. Hadn’t she often told me about Jesus, the Saviour of sinners? Hadn’t He died on the cross for sinners? And if I should turn to Him now, wouldn’t His precious blood wash away even my many sins? Wasn’t there grace and mercy even for me?
“All at once everything was clear before me. Yes, the Lord Jesus had died for me. He had borne the punishment of all my sins. If I accepted that, they would all be cast into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). ‘Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more’ (Hebrews 10:17) was the passage that came to my mind. Such a joy as filled my heart then! Lighthearted, entirely relieved of my burden, I turned my boat toward the shore and, a new man, I stepped out on the land. I had gone out a lost sinner, but I was coming back redeemed by the Lord.”
Be assured of this, “God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).