Young Converts On The Battleship Maine
( Originally Published 1902 )
WHILE a pastor in Brooklyn, I promised the local chaplain of the Navy Yard that I would preach for him some time. One morning he called at the parsonage and said : " I want you to help me tonight. There are several ships in the Yard, and we are likely to have a good audience. Come and preach a short, earnest Gospel sermon." I consented, and at the hour appointed I crossed the little ferry to the cob dock, where services were held in the chapel. The room was full of sailors and marines. An enthusiastic preliminary service of song and prayer was led by the chaplain. I preached a short sermon on " Present Faith in a Present Saviour for Present Salvation." The sight of so many men, with lives exposed to peril and giving themselves up to the service of their country, affected me greatly and made me peculiarly anxious that some souls might be saved during the service. The Holy Spirit seemed sensibly present, melting the heart of the speaker and of the hearers. I could not keep back the tears, as I told them of Christ's love for them in his death upon the Cross, and his desire to accept them as children, there and then. The boys wept also, as they yielded to the constraining power of divine grace. Seldom have I ever felt the burden of souls resting upon me as I did that night. I felt, in the depths of my soul, that there were some listening to me who, if they did not receive Christ at that time, would never have another opportunity to do so, and in the exhortation which closed the sermon I frankly expressed my anxious fear that that might be the last public opportunity some of them would ever have to give themselves to God. When the invitation was given, about fifty of those strong men arose for prayers, a large number of whom, before the meeting closed, professed Christ. Several of those professing conversions were from the battleship Maine. A day or two afterwards they were ordered to Cuba, and, perishing in the explosion in Havana harbor, they became martyrs of the Republic. They embraced, perhaps, the last public opportunity they ever had to give their hearts to Christ.
It is especially important for men whose lives are full of unusual peril, to attend promptly to the matter of personal salvation ; but the uncertainty of life in all ordinary occupations is so great that it is the safest thing to give the heart to God without a moment of delay.