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Death in two of its most awful forms now encompassed us, and we seemed left to choose the terrible alternative. But always preferring the more remote, though equally certain crisis, we tried to shut the ports again, to close the hatches, and to exclude the external air, in order if possible to prolong our existence, the near and certain termination of which appeared inevitable.
The scene of horror that now presented itself, baffles all description
Then rose from sea to sky the wild farewell;
The upper deck was covered with between six and seven hundred human beings, many of whom, from previous sea-sickness, were forced on the first alarm to flee from below in a state of absolute nakedness, and were now running about in quest of husbands, children, or parents. While some were standing in silent resignation, or in stupid insensibility to their impending fate, others were yielding themselves up to the most frantic despair. Some on their knees were earnestly imploring, with significant gesticulations and in noisy supplications, the mercy of Him, whose arm, they exclaimed, was at length outstretched to smite them; others
were to be seen hastily crossing themselves, and performing the various external acts required by their peculiar persuasion, while a number of the older and more stout-hearted soldiers and sailors sullenly took their seats directly over the magazine, hoping, as they stated, that by means of the explosion which they every instant expected, a speedier termination might thereby be put to their sufferings. * Several of the soldiers' wives and children, who had fled for temporary shelter into the after-cabins on the upper decks, were engaged in prayer and in reading the Scriptures with the ladies, some of whom were enabled, with wonderful self-possession, to offer to others those spiritual consolations, which a firm and intelligent trust in the Redeemer of the world appeared at this awful hour to impart to their own breasts. The dignified deportment of two young ladies in particular, formed a specimen of natural strength of mind, finely modified by Christian feeling, that failed not to attract the notice and admiration of every one who had an opportunity of witnessing it. On the melancholy announce
Captain Cobb, with great forethought, ordered the deck to be scuttled forward, with a view to draw the fire in that direction, knowing that between it and the magazine were several tiers of water casks; while he hoped that the wet sails, &c. thrown into the after-hold, would prevent it from communicating with the spirit room abaft.
ment being made to them that all hope must be relinquished, and that death was rapidly and inevitably approaching, one of the ladies above referred to, calmly sinking down on her knees, and clasping her hands together said, "even so come, Lord Jesus," and immediately proposing to read a portion of the Scriptures to those around her; her sister with nearly equal composure and collectedness of mind selected the 46th and other appropriate Psalms, which were accordingly read, with intervals of prayer, by those ladies alternately to the assembled females.
One young gentleman, of whose promising talents and piety I dare not now make farther mention, having calmly asked me my opinion respecting the state of the ship, I told him that I thought we should be prepared to sleep that night in eternity; and I shall never forget the peculiar fervour with which he replied, as he pressed my hand in his," my heart is filled with the peace of God;" adding, "yet though I know it is foolish, I dread exceedingly the last struggle."
Amongst the numerous objects that struck my observation at this period, I was much affected with the appearance and conduct of some of the dear children, who, quite unconscious in
the cuddy cabins, of the perils that surrounded them, continued to play as usual with their little toys in bed, or to put the most innocent and unseasonable questions to those around them. To some of the older children, who seemed fully alive to the reality of the danger, I whispered, now is the time to put in practice the instructions you used to receive at the Regimental School, and to think of that Saviour of whom you have heard so much; they replied, as the tears ran down their cheeks, "O Sir, we are trying to remember them, and we are praying to God."
The passive condition to which, we were all reduced, by the total failure of our most strenu ous exertions, while it was well calculated, and probably designed, to convince us afterwards, that our deliverance was effected, not " by our own might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord," afforded us ample room at the moment for deep and awful reflection, which, it is to be earnestly wished, may have been improved, as well by those who were eventually saved, as by those who perished.
It has been observed by the author of " the Retrospect," that "in the heat of battle, it is not only possible but easy to forget death, and cease to think; but in the cool and protracted
hours of a shipwreck, where there is often nothing to engage the mind, but the recollection of tried and unsuccessful labours, and the sight of unavoidable and increasing harbingers of destruction, it is not easy or possible to forget ourselves or a future state."
The general applicability of the latter part of this proposition, I am disposed to doubt; for if I were to judge of the feelings of all on board, by those of the number who were heard to express them, I should apprehend that a large majority of those men, whose previous attention has never been fairly and fully directed to the great subject of religion, approach the gates of death, it may be, with solemnity, or with terror, but without any definable or tangible conviction of the fact, that "after death cometh the judgment."
Several there were, indeed, who vowed in loud and piteous cries, that if the Lord God would spare their lives, they would thencefor ward dedicate all their powers to his service; and not a few were heard to exclaim, in the bitterness of remorse, that the judgments of the Most High were justly poured out upon them, for their neglected Sabbaths, and their profligate or profane lives; but the number of those was extremely small, who appeared to dwell