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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe History Of Little Peter, The Ship Boy - Chapter 5. Strength In Weakness
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The History Of Little Peter, The Ship Boy - Chapter 5. Strength In Weakness Post by :Laurie Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2546

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The History Of Little Peter, The Ship Boy - Chapter 5. Strength In Weakness


When little Peter read his Bible on a Sunday while other men were mending their clothes, or sleeping, or amusing themselves with old newspapers or story books, he was generally allowed to do so in peace, but he wished to study it on week-days, as well, convinced that it was intended to guide him in every affair of life. On each occasion that he was found doing so, however, he was sure to be interrupted. The other boys would play him all sorts of tricks, and the men would send him to perform some work or other, and if they could think of nothing else, would despatch him with a pretended message to the man at the helm. Simon Hixon was his greatest foe, and frequently as Peter passed gave him a blow with a rope's-end.

One day as Peter was quietly reading his Bible in the berth, Hixon swore that if he found him again at it, he would throw the book overboard.

"It would be a great shame to do that," answered Peter, "and I hope you won't try. God would, I am sure, not allow you to go unpunished."

"You see, youngster, if I am not as good as my word," growled Hixon.

Peter prayed that the old seaman's hard heart might be softened, and that he might be prevented committing such a crime.

"I don't think if you read the book you would wish to destroy it," said Peter. "It is full of such beautiful things, that you would like to read them over and over again if you were once to begin."

"I can't read, so there's little chance of that," said Hixon.

"But will you let me read them to you?" asked Peter. "I shall be very glad to do that."

"What! when I have told you that I would heave the book overboard if I found you reading it?" said the old man.

"That makes no difference," said Peter, "only just listen to one or two."

"Not I. I don't want to hear your yarns," said Hixon, turning away.

Peter went on reading, and the old man did not further interfere with him.

The ship sailed on. When she was crossing the line the usual ceremonies were performed. Peter heard what was to take place, and, fearing that his Bible would get wet, hid it away carefully. He felt very anxious, however, lest any one should suspect what he had done, and look for it. He and the other young seamen who had not before crossed the line, were ducked, and had all sorts of tricks played on them by Neptune and his attendants. Peter took everything in good part, though he was nearly drowning in a sail triced up on deck and filled with water, when Owen Bell jumped in and pulled him out. He made his escape as soon as the amusements were over, and hurried to the berth to look for his book. To his great joy he found it safe, and immediately hung it again round his neck.

Some more weeks passed away. Hitherto Owen Bell, even on a Sunday, had always made some excuse for not reading with Peter. At length one hot Sunday, when the ship was becalmed in the tropics, and even Owen felt no inclination for sky-larking, Peter got him to sit down while most of the crew were asleep, or occupied in some of the few shady spots they could find. Peter, opening the book, read the account of the visit of Nicodemus to the Lord.

"He was a learned and important man, and yet you see he wanted to be taught, and the Lord did teach him. He showed him he was a sinner by nature, as all of us are, and that he must become a new creature."

"I cannot understand how he could become that of his own accord," said Bell. "It's hard to tell a man to do what he cannot."

"The Lord never did that," said Peter, "when He told him that he 'must be born again.' He showed him clearly how it must be brought about. You remember what He said about the Israelites when bitten by serpents in the wilderness, and how they were cured immediately they looked on the brazen serpent, taking Moses at his word when he told them to do so. So if we only take God at His word, and look to Jesus on the cross suffering for and bearing our sins, we shall be forgiven, and through the power of the Holy Spirit be born again. What I am sure God wants us to do is to take Him at His word, to believe that He will do whatever He says; and Jesus Himself tells us that he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."

"What an old-fashioned little chap you are," said Owen, laughing. "You talk like a book."

"It seems all very clear to me, and I wish that it did to you, Bell."

"Well, the truth is, that I have been such a bad fellow, and have so many sins to answer for, that I don't fancy when God comes to count them up He can pardon me. Even when I seemed most careless and full of jokes, I have often had my heart pressed down with the recollection of all the bad things I have done."

"But Jesus tells us in another place that 'He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,' and when He says, 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,' He means by 'whosoever,' everybody, good people and bad people."

"But do you think if I was to try and please God and serve Him He would pardon me?" asked Bell.

"He doesn't say that," said Peter. "He promises to forgive only those who trust in Jesus Christ, because Jesus was punished instead of them, and if one person was punished instead of another He will not punish that other; it would be unjust to do that. Oh, Bell, why don't you take God at His word, and believe on Jesus, and then you would be able to obey Him and serve Him, because He will send you the Holy Spirit to help you as He has promised?"

Much more to the same effect the young boy urged on his friend, while he read numerous portions of Scripture to him to prove his words.

The boys were now called off to their duty on board, and the conversation was interrupted. Owen seemed very quiet and serious; but he had no opportunity of speaking to Peter for some days. At last, when they were alone together again he said to him:

"I am sure you are right, Peter; I never before understood that Jesus died instead of me on account of my sins, and therefore if I believe on Him I shall be helped to overcome my sins, and shall not be punished for them, but shall go to heaven, and live with Him in happiness; I see it, and believe it now. The Bible is no new book to me, Peter, I have heard it read often and often at home, and have read it myself too, though I could not understand its meaning."

After this, Owen Bell took every opportunity of reading with Peter, and as he was as strong as a man, and respected by the crew, no one interrupted them.

One evening they had been reading together, when Owen turned suddenly to Peter, and said:

"Do you think if I was to die to-night I should go to be with Jesus?"

"I know you would, for I am sure you believe on Him."

"That I do, with all my heart and soul," exclaimed Owen Bell. "And I wish that I could serve Him and make known His love to others. I feel it myself, and I have been trying to speak to Emery about it, and though he is little better than a heathen, he said he should like to know more about one so good and kind as Jesus must be who died to save others; and Bill, the cook, was ready to listen. I think, Peter, if you offered to read to them they would let you, and tell them all about the love of Jesus, as you told me, and I cannot but fancy that they would trust to Him as I have done. It will be a hard matter to get at the captain and mates; but I should not despair of them if they were to hear of the glorious things which the Gospel contains."

Peter often afterwards recollected this conversation with Owen Bell.

That night he was aroused from his sleep by the cry of "All hands shorten sail!"

The men rushed on deck half-clothed, for they knew the summons admitted of no delay. In an instant they were flying aloft. A heavy squall had struck the ship, and she was heeling over, her masts bending like willow wands and threatening to go every instant. The sheets were let fly, but before the sails could be furled there came a crash, and the fore-topmast with its yard, to which several of the crew were clinging, was carried away. Their cries were heard as they struggled in the foaming waters under the lee, but no help could be rendered them. Away the ship flew. Every effort was made to clear the wreck and to furl the sails. Some time passed before it could be done. The gale continued to increase.

The captain stood back over the spot in the hopes of picking up some who might have clung to the spars. The names were called over. Among those who did not answer was Owen Bell.

"Poor fellow," said several.

"A fine young lad," said the captain, "I hope we may pick him up."

Peter hoped so too; but he did not mourn for his friend as his shipmates did, for he was sure that if Owen Bell was drowned he had gone to be with the Master, who, though lately found, he had been brought truly to love.

The search was vain, the ship wore round and continued her course. Peter missed Owen Bell greatly. The rest of the men treated him, for his friend's sake, perhaps, with less unkindness than before, and a more subdued tone was perceptible among them; even the captain and mates seemed to feel for the loss of the men, and fewer oaths were heard than usual.

Peter found an opportunity of speaking to Emery, the negro. "That just what Owen Bell say," answered the steward; "If Jesus die for me, and love me, I ought to love Him."

"Yes," observed Peter, "but not only that; you must believe that He died to take away your sins, and that your sins are taken away; that God looks upon you as free from sin, and will receive you into heaven when you die."

"How can that be?" asked the black.

"Because God says it," answered Peter; "what He says must be true."

"In that book you read?" asked the black.

"Yes, that book contains God's messages and promises to man. It is through this alone, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, that we know anything about God. Without that we should be worshipping blocks of stone, just as Owen Bell was telling me the other day your countrymen do."

"Yes, and many other people in the world, and in the countries we are going to," observed Emery. "But I can't stop to listen longer; another day you tell me more of this."

Peter gladly promised that he would do so.

To his surprise one evening, after he had cleaned up the pots and pans, the cook asked him to come and sit in the caboose, and begged him to read a chapter or two in the Bible. Peter did so, and explained it to the best of his power, and frequently after that he spent an hour in the evening in the same way.

The ship had now rounded the Cape of Good Hope. The wind was fair, the weather continued fine. Peter had determined to try again to get Hixon to let him read to him. It seemed so sad that an old man should continue to refuse listening to God's message of love. One Sunday he found him sitting by himself, as he usually did, stitching away on the sleeve of a jacket. Peter sat down near him and began to read to himself. Hixon eyed him, but not with that angry look which he generally cast when Peter was reading.

"Would you like to hear some of it while you are at your work?" asked Peter at length.

"Well, boy, as you are a good sort of chap after all, and axes me so often, I don't mind hearing one of your yarns out of your book; though I don't see how it can do me much good," he replied, after a little time.

This was all Peter wanted. He read the parable of the "Pharisee and Publican."

"Which of them do you like the best?" asked Peter.

"Can't say I care for that proud chap who thought himself better than anybody else. I like t'other more, a good deal."

"Because he says, 'Lord, be merciful to me a sinner'?" asked Peter.

"Ay," said Hixon, bending down his head. He had for some time ceased to ply his needle.

"Then do you know how God says He alone will be merciful?" Peter asked.

"No, 'cept to them as be sorry for what they have done bad, and try to do better."

"Oh, no, no! God does not say that; Satan is always trying to make people believe it, because he well knows that if people try to make themselves better, trusting only in their own strength, they will fail. God says that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. By faith ye are saved." And Peter, in his own simple way, went on to explain that Jesus Christ, by dying on the cross for our sins, has become our Saviour, and that if men will lovingly trust to Him, God will not punish them, but, on the contrary, will look on them as possessed of the righteousness of Christ.

"That's wonderful," exclaimed old Hixon, after Peter had explained the truth in several ways to make him understand it. "I can hardly believe it; and yet I suppose if one chap deserved a thrashing from me, and a bigger one said, 'Thrash me instead,' and I did thrash him, and well too, I could not thrash the little one also."

Hixon continued silent for awhile and said nothing. He was evidently in deep thought, as though perplexed with something he was trying to make out, but could not understand.

"But I suppose a chap must not go and do what he likes after that?" said old Hixon at length, eagerly fixing his eyes on Peter.

"No. If he really loves Jesus, which he must do when he knows that Jesus suffered so much for his sake, and saved him from hell, he will try and be like Him and serve Him, and turn away from and hate his sins," was Peter's answer.

"For my part, I don't feel as how I could ever be good, and give up swearing, and getting in a rage, or drunk, too, if the liquor came in my way. I could only cry out--loud enough, too, like the man you were reading about--'Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!' and I don't think God would hear such a wicked chap as I have been," muttered the old man.

"The Bible says that Jesus Christ came into the world to save the worst of people as well as the best; 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.' These are the words of Jesus Himself. God promises to hear all who come to Him. He says, 'Knock, and it shall be opened unto you; seek, and ye shall find.'"

"I will try and ask Him for what He knows I want," said the old man. "And, Peter, just do you pray for me, and if you see me growing sulky, come and speak to me those words you spoke just now, 'Jesus loves you.' I don't think I could stand hearing that and go on fighting against Him as I have been so long doing--though it's wonderful! very wonderful!"

Peter did not fail to do as Hixon asked him. He seldom had occasion to repeat the blessed announcement. The old man got into the habit of saying to himself whenever he found his anger rising, "Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me," and his ill-feelings were subdued.

How blessed would be the result if all who read this, and many more, too, were to act like that rough old sailor.

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