“Some years ago some Moravian missionaries sailed from London to the island of St. Thomas, where they were going to labour among the slaves, The name of the ship in which they sailed was the “Britannia.” At first the voyage was pleasant and prosperous; and in their hearts, as well as with their voices, the missionaries would often thank God for his goodness to them.
But one day a great danger threatened them. A pirate ship was distinguished far off, but bearing down towards them. Now pirates are at sea what robbers are on land, but even more terrible; because there is seldom any help near. They cruise about the seas in their light-built, swift-sailing vessels; seldom going on land, but making it their whole business to rob other ships. And on their ill-gotten spoils they live. Generally they murder as well as rob. Sometimes they lay a plank over the ship’s side, blindfold the eyes of the unfortunate crew and passengers, and compel them to walk thus along the plank, till, without knowing it, they reach the end; and then they fall into the sea, and are drowned. No wonder that the sight of a pirate-vessel was a very alarming one to the people in the “Britannia.”
It came on, nearer and nearer,—and what could those who saw it do, all alone there, in the wide ocean? Each did what he thought wisest and best. The captain judged it best to put the ship into a state of defence; so he arranged his men, and prepared to resist as well as he could. The sailors, whatever they thought best, had no choice but to obey the captain. But the missionaries thought it best to pray; and they went down into the cabin, and there, heedless of what was going on deck, they poured out their souls in earnest prayer to God; remembering, no doubt, His promises, and the words, “If God be for us, who can be against us ?”— Romans 8:31.
The pirate-ship approached till it came within gun-shot of the “Britannia”; and then from the cannon arranged along its deck, began to pour out a heavy fire. And there were grappling-irons on board, or strong sharp hooks fixed to long ropes, ready to throw into the “Britannia,” and hold her fast, while the pirates should board her, and do their work of destruction. It seemed that there was little chance of escape from such an enemy.” But the captain, whose heart was sinking at the fearful prospect before him, did not know what powerful helpers he had below, in the few peaceable missionaries, whose fervent prayers were then ascending through the noise of the fight, to heaven.
The moment the pirates tried to throw their grappling-irons across to the other ship, their own was tossed violently, and the men who held the ropes were thrown with force into the sea. Vexed by this disaster, the pirate-captain sent others, who shared the same fate. Seeing he could not succeed in this manner, he resolved to fire at the “Britannia”, till she sank with repeated blows. But this effort strangely failed also; for the balls missed their aim, and fell into the sea. The smoke of the frequent charges was very dense, and hung about the vessels for some minutes, hiding them from each other’s view. At last a sudden gust of wind cleared it away; and to the amazement of the pirate-captain, the “Britannia” was seen at a distance, with all her sails spread to the wind, speeding swiftly away from the attack! And they were forced in great anger to abandon their cruel purpose.
Thus wonderfully had God appeared, and saved the vessel, in answer to prayer. The missionaries’ prayers had been greatly honoured; but they were to have a further fruit still.
Five years afterwards, during which the missionaries had been diligently preaching the gospel at St. Thomas’s, they, and the other missionaries on the island, agreed to meet together to celebrate the anniversary of their deliverance from the pirates, and to thank God for his other mercies. As they sat together, word was brought that a stranger wished to speak to them. And at their permission, a tall man entered, with fine bold features and a pleasant expression of face. The missionaries wondered, and one asked, What was the stranger’s business with them?
“First answer me one question,” said he: “Are you the men who came to this island, five years ago, in the English ship Britannia?”
“We are,” replied the missionary who had spoken.
“And you were attacked upon the sea by pirates?”
“Exactly; but why ask these questions?”
“Because,” answered the stranger, “I am the captain who commanded the pirate vessel which attacked you.” Then the missionaries looked at one another in silent wonder, as their former enemy continued:—”The miraculous way in which your vessel escaped was the cause of my own salvation from the power of sin, through faith in Christ.”
It would be too long to tell you all his words; but you may imagine with what unspeakable joy the missionaries listened to his tale, as he went on to tell them how, in his vexation at their strange escape, he bad made inquiries of the captain of the Britannia, and learned that it was through the prayers of the Moravian missionaries of St. Thomas’s,—and how, not understanding how a vessel could be saved from pirates by prayer, he resolved to know the Moravian brothers. He sold his vessel, and in the United States of America one day visited a Moravian chapel, and heard a sermon from the words, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” He sought the preacher, and heard from him the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. “And thus,” he concluded, ” from a pirate-captain, I am become a poor sinner— justified by the grace and mercy of Christ; and my chief hope has been that I might some day be able to seek you, and relate to You my miraculous conversion. This joy is granted to me to-day.”
He ceased, and you may imagine the feelings of the missionaries. They were met to celebrate their deliverance from the pirates on that day five years ago, through prayer. And there stood before them the pirate-captain himself, not fierce now, but humble and pious,—who traced his own deliverance from the bondage of Satan, to the same prayer that rescued them from him!”
And they all knelt down together before God, and thanked him for his great mercies.”