In that most interesting
volume just published— "Captain M'Clintock's Narrative of the Search in
the Arctic Seas" for Sir John Franklin and his brave men—touching is the
account, when, after manifold perils and hairbreadth escapes, the sad
memorials they were in quest of were discovered.
As one of their number was
travelling amid these icy solitudes he came upon a boat containing some
bleached skeletons. These he was at no loss to identify from the clothing
as the remains of Englishmen. Silver spoons and forks, with the initials
and crests of the gallant explorers, confirmed without a doubt the
mournful story of their fate. There were other evidences, moreover, still
more affecting and impressive. At the bottom of the boat, and scattered
around the mutilated and wasted bodies, were a number of English Bibles,
Testaments, Prayer-books, and books of devotion. Many of these were
carefully marked and underlined, and bore proof of having been diligently
read—as if the owners had the conviction too truthfully impressed on them
that their " night was far spent, and their day was at hand." In addition
to what have been mentioned, and not the least impressive of these silent
relics, were two double-barrelled guns—one of the barrels of each being
loaded and on full cock. These were resting over the side of the boat,
pointing upwards, occupying the same position which their owners had given
them twelve years before. They had remained there ever since.
A friend in London writes
that he had been lately at the United Service Museum, where all these
precious relics of the Franklin Expedition are collected. There, are the
marked Bible and the under-scored verses, and there, too, the guns just as
they were found, leaning upwards, at their side. He mentions that as he
was looking down on one of the sacred volumes, his eye fell on the words
in Psalm cxxxix. They seemed to be the voice and utterance of these
deserted men—destitute but "not forsaken"—cleaving in their hour of lonely
despair to Him who is " the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and
of them that are afar off upon the sea:"—
"1. O Lord, thou hast
searched me, and known me.
"2. Thou knowest (though
earthly friends are ail in ignorance of my sad fate in these regions of
snow and ice, yet Thou knowest) my downsitting and mine uprising; thou
understandest my thought afar off.
"3. Thou compassest my path
and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
"7. Whither shall I go from
thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
"8. If I ascend up into
heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
"9. If I take the wings of
the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
"10. Even there shall thy
hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me."
Brave men ! rest in peace;
the icy crevices your sepulchre, the snow your winding-sheet! Yours is a
picture all worthy of a place in the mind's gallery —a noble allegory is
it of true Christian life! A little band "falling into a place where two
seas met" (Acts xxvii. 41); the little sea of Time and the great ocean of
Eternity. The truths and promises and directions of God's blessed Word
scattered around you; your guide in life, your light in death; the loaded
guns, their muzzles pointing upwards and heavenwards, types of diligence,
courage, watchfulness, "not slothful in business," while "fervent in
spirit, serving the Lord."
Do we in this land of
Bibles value and treasure their divine guidance as did these
hero-explorers? Is God, as with them, "our refuge and strength; a very
present help in trouble?" Let us see that on the great and solemn day,
when that icy sea shall "give up its dead," these noble-hearted
Bible-readers and Bible-lovers may not rise up in judgment against us, and
condemn us ! Be this our habitual attitude—"Having our loins girded," the
lamp of truth "burning," the "sword of the Spirit" unsheathed, '' the
armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left," trusting God
in the hour of our bitterest extremity, adoring His sovereignty, clinging
to His Word, magnifying His grace, "waiting for His salvation;" and then
it matters not how soon or how suddenly the summons may be addressed to us
as to them—"Get thee up and die!"