On a large, clumsy, and ill-equipped ferry-boat, crossing the Firth of Forth from Newhaven to Bumtisland, were nearly two hundred human beings, proceeding to the great annual fair held at the last-named place. Most of those on board comprised what may be termed the odds and ends of the floating portion of society, comprising pedlars, hawkers, huxters, ballad-singers, jugglers, booth-keepers, etc; but there was one individual on board, who, though one among the passengers, was truly not of themÂ—this was the Rev. John Brown of Haddington. As soon as the motley assemblage began to suspect that they had a member of the clerical order among them, with one consent, and as if by previous concert, they commenced a series of insults and annoyances towards him, which were indeed grievous to be borne. They rudely pushed one another against his person, they swore horribly at each other, and gave utterance to language of the most blasphemous description. And the good man bore all this with a meekness and a forbearance worthy of one whose function it was to tell men of the grace and compassion of the Son of God. He was earnestly engaged in mental prayer on behalf of his persecutors, when the boat having nearly reached the middle of the FirthÂ—which is here about eight and a half miles across Â— suddenly a terrible tempest arose. The rain fell in torrents, and the wind blew with a fury that struck terror into the hearts of all on board. The veteran boatmen quailed under the imminent danger to which they were exposed, and warned the passengers to prepare for the worst, as in all probability they would not be able to keep the boat afloat for another quarter of an hour.
Now what a change came over the aspect, the demeanour, and the language of these people! They now thronged around, and pressed upon the good man, as one who had power with God Â—that God whose honoured servant, a few minutes before, they had grossly insulted, and whose eternal vengeance they had braved. It was really an impressive spectacle to see them, as if for life and death, striving who should get nearest to the pale but interesting-looking stranger. Many a hand was eagerly stretched towards Mr. Brown, for the purpose of laying hold of, or at least touching some part of his clothes; as if mere contact with the person of a human being could shield anotherÂ—and he an unpardoned sinnerÂ—from the righteous vengeance of a holy and sin-hating God. From every part of the boat, and from the lips of almost every person on board, ringing clear above the roaring of the wind and waves, were heard such utterances asÂ—”Oh, sir, pray! Pray for us! Pray for me! I am a great sinner; but, good sir, pray for me!” And the good man did pray. Standing near the middle part of the boat, and partly sheltered from the force of the tempest by a phalanx of the
most athletic portion of the passengers, and lifting up his face and his hands to heaven, he prayed most ferventlyÂ—prayed like one who has indeed power with God,
“And oft has proved the omnipotence of prayer.”
Many a tear was shed, many an obdurate heart was touched, and many a bosom heaved with a new and strange sensation, while that prayer was being offered up; and ere the good man had ceased his supplications, the sweet announcement made in the 29th verse of the Scottish metrical version of the 107th Psalm was realized even to the letter:Â—
“The storm is changed into a calm
At His command and will;
So that the waves, which raged before,
Are quiet now and still.”
Yes, “He who plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm,” had said to the conflicting elements, “Peace, be still;” and there was a great calm. In a short space of time the boat reached the landing-place at Burntisland, and the passengers were about to hasten to the spot where the fair was to be held. But clear, distinct, and in a tone sufficiently authoritative, the voice of the Rev. John Brown was heard calling upon them to stop and gather around him. It was the voice to which they had so eagerly listened amid the wild revelry of howling winds, surging waves, and deluging rain. It was the voice of the man of God who, in the hour of their sore peril, forgetting the insults they had offered him, had generously complied with their request to act the part of intercessor for them in the court of that Omnipotent and Omniscient Being, whom storms and tempests obey. It was the voice of one whom all present felt assured they should never forget, and nearly the whole of those who had been in the boat clustered around him. Taking his stand on a large log and looking earnestly at those whom he addressed, he commenced an appeal to their hearts and consciences, which proved to be a soul-awakening one to not a few of those who heard it. Most attentively and reverentially was the good man listened to by the whole of his auditory. Many an embrowned cheek was that day bedewed with penitential tears; and the power of the Lord was present both to wound and to heal, both to bruise and to bind up. In after years John Brown was gratified and gladdened by many unquestionable attestations to the truth of the fact that on the memorable day of which we have spoken, in reward for the promptitude and faithfulness with which he did his Master’s work, that Master had been pleased to give him many souls for his hire.
Extracted from “Remarkable Answers to Prayer”
by J. R. Phillips.