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THE LOSS OF THE PEGASUS.
Few public events have occurred of late years, more painful in themselves, and more strikingly illustrative of the vanity of human life, and the utter uncertainty of all human expectation, than the loss of the steam-ship Pegasus, on the night of the 19th of July, 1843. The number of lives lost on that melancholy occasion—the peculiar interest attaching to more than one of the sufferers-and, above all, the circumstances of unexampled security and unpreparedness under which the accident occurred, conspired to produce throughout the country a deep excitement, and to connect the remembrance of it with feelings of unusual solemnity.
The Pegasus, which for several years had plied between Leith and Hull, sailed from the former place at five o'clock in the afternoon of the 19th. It was calm, and, with the exception of a light and favourable breeze toward night, so it continued. On passing inside the Ferne Islands, near what is called the Golden or Goldstone Rock, while the captain from the bridge was taking a last look-out before retiring for the night, she struck on a sunken rock. She was backed off, and her head turned toward the shore; but ere she had proceeded many hundred yards, the water rushing in, extinguished the fires, by which means her course was inevitably stopped; so that she rapidly filled, and went down. If ever there was a body of persons who, on the bosom of the great deep, were justified in retiring to repose without contemplating danger, it was the company on board of that ill-fated vessel. With the sea calm and unruffled, and the weather in every respect propitious, within sight of a shore, where the verdant turf descends almost to the water's edge-on board a vessel, which was announced to have been newly repaired, and which seemed in all respects worthy of being fully trusted, under the conduct of a captain and crew familiar, from repeated and long experience, with every feature and every possible peril of the voyage—there was nothing to
excite in the most timid bosom any emotion of alarm. No such feeling seems, accordingly, to have visited the passengers. As the shades of night gathered round them, they appear, with few exceptions, to have retired to rest, anticipating no other summons than that which should call them to witness, amid the splendours of the morning, how far they had sped on their
Alas ! how far different a summons awaited them in that fearful shock, which, ere their slumbers had well nigh commenced, was, to all but a slender remnant of them, the knell of death; for before many minutes had elapsed, of all that mass of living beings which this sudden catastrophe had crowded together upon the deck, only a scanty few were left to tell the melancholy tale.
To such a tale it were impossible to listen, without emotions of the most intense interest. As the mind pictures to itself each part of the thrilling scene, succeeding each other with fearful rapidity—the amazement—the inquiry—the terrorthe instinctive rush to the deck-to the boats - the fruitless effort to make for the shore-the gush of the water through the crashed and opening timbers—the quenching of the furnace fires—the sudden righting of the vessel-and then the going down at once into the deep—the heart becomes oppressed in its musings, and is tempted to seek relief in turning away to other and more inviting objects. Yet it might be beneficial to detain some of the varied emotions which have been excited in the bosoms of thousands who have read the affecting narrative. Many, doubtless, have been the stirrings of deep regret, over the awfully sudden summons out of this world, of so many who had no expectations but those of a longer continuance amid its duties and engagements. The thoughts of not a few have darted in a moment to the wives who would become widows, and the children fatherless-to the hearts that would be riven with sorrow, when the tidings of that catastrophe should reach them. And mingled with such feelings have been the hearty expressions of self-gratulation, on the part of some, and of sincere gratitude to the Disposer of all events, on the part of others, that themselves were not among the passengers of that vessel, and sharers in the alarm and the fatal issues of that night.
But it may be—it must be, that there have been readers, who, while they have been affected by all these, and many more considerations of a similar character, have been led to place themselves-as far as a fixed and serious effort of the imagination would allow them—in the very position of the sufferers whose untimely end has awakened their sympathies. They have attempted to conceive of all the melancholy circumstances as actually occurring to themselves—themselves as having paced that deck-gazing on the sea-all calm-all serene-all cheerful, until nature asked repose; themselves as being roused from their slumbers—themselves as hearing, with a shudder of horror, that danger was instant and imminent-themselves as realizing, for a few seconds, their inevitable nearness to another world—themselves, when the vessel, as if with a sudden spring, shot to the bottom, and when, a moment of heart-rending screams and struggles being over, the silence of death prevailed over the face of the deep. And then the personal question has proposed itself-—it has come unsought, but with an appropriateness, which, however unwelcome, could not but be acknowledged -Had I been of the number of those who were on the wreck, with death and eternity just before me, what would have been the state of my mind ? Serious as such an inquiry is in its very nature, it
have been allowed to pass away, without receiving any distinct and definite reply. And yet the production of such an act of self-inquiry, is so evidently a part of God's intention in these otherwise inscrutable providential dispensations, that to recall the question, and to plead with those to whom it was suggested, as well as to propose it to those whose reflections stopped short of it, is but the dictate of Christian regard for, and interest in, the welfare of immortal souls. Had you been, then, reader, one of those who were startled from your slumber, to discover, that in a few moments the ocean would be your grave, what would have been your state of mind ? In this form of the question, possibly, you may be at a loss to answer it. Even a becoming self-diffidence may prevent you.
The suddenness and fearfulness of the circumstances, you may reasonably allege, might have shocked and shaken many a mind, and thrown it for a time off its balance, especially if associated with keenly-felt peculiarities of relative connexion, and therefore it would be very harsh and unjust to conclude, on that account, that you were destitute of faith and piety, and in a state of unpreparedness for eternity. It is not every mind-it is not even every pious mind-that could manifest firmness and self-possession at such a moment. Nay, the very fact, that these astonish and delight so much when they are apparent, is a proof of their rarity. We admit the force of the plea. We put the question, therefore, in another form. What is now the ground of your hope? What is now the state of your preparation for eternity ? You have not now the plea of sudden and distracting agitation. What, then, we repeat, is your hope, and what your preparedness now? Whatever they are now, they would have been then; whatever they are here, they would have been there. Nervous agitation, it is granted, might, at such an hour, have discomposed your spirits; but if you really believe in Jesus, in that sense of unreserved confidence in Him as a Saviour, and entire obedience to Him as a King, which the Scriptures require, the sure foundation on which, previously, you had reposed your hopes, would not have been unsettled. The question, then, is one of paramount importance, and its importance is equal to men of all characters, and of all conditions—“to high and low, rich and poor, together.” The consequences depending upon a true answer to it, are momentous—beyond expression-beyond conception. They belong not to time only—they stretch to eternity. They affect, for weal or for woe, the perpetuity of your being. Oh! remember, what, alas ! we are all sadly prone to forget—but what it is of unspeakable consequence for us to bear in inind—what needs not proof, but greatly needs impression-the proverbial uncertainty of the tenure by which you hold life. Forget not forget not, that there are a thousand ways in which sudden death may come, besides shipwreck. Many who have been affected with the narrative of this catastrophe, may have congratulated themselves, that there is no great probability of their perishing out of the world, in the same way as perished the passengers and crew of the ill-fated Pegasus. But what of that? Have you, otherwise, a lease of life? You know the contrary. You know that you have no security, even for a moment: that you cannot tell when, or how, your departure is to come; whether suddenly or slowly; whether by disease or by accident; whether in a way which will leave you ability to think, or in a way that will prostrate mind and body alike, and incapacitate you for either reflection or anticipation. Let the monitory voice of Providence, then, be heard and listened to. It confirms, impresses, and urges upon attention, the warnings of the Divine Word. Both are solemn- both are salutary. Examine-examine well the foundation on which you are building for eternity. Linger not in thoughtless indecision. Say not, By-and-by. Trust not in moments yet to come. Rest not on grounds which may flatter you in life, but which will fail you in death, and fail you in that day, when God will "lay righteousness to the line, and judgment to the plummet." Flee to the only refuge. Place your confidence on the only sure foundation. Believe in Christ. Trust in Christ. Love Christ. Live to Christ. Renounce self, and sin, and the world, and make Jesus Christ your all. Then—let death come to you, how, and when, and where it may-how, and when, and where it may please the God of your life and the Rock of your salvation -- slowly or suddenly-by accident or by disease - on land or on sea- -all is safe-safe for judgment-safe for eternity! To you to live, having been Christ-to you to die, will be gain!
A striking proof was given, amid the terrors of those few moments which intervened between the first alarm and the shock with which the vessel sprung to the bottom, of the power of real religion-of habitual faith in Jesus, leading to personal and practical holiness—to support and to sustain, when the stoutest hearts were quailing, and when the seamen, generally the last to yield, were shaking hands with each other, in that stern silence which told its own hopeless tale. “Looking around me,” says one of the survivors, “I saw the Rev. Mr. M.Kenzie, on the quarter-deck, praying, with several of the passengers on their knees around him. Mr. M.Kenzie seemed calm and collected. All the passengers were praying with him too, but Mr. M*Kenzie's voice was distinctly heard above them all.” He had been heard to call to them, and suggest, that as there was no hope of safety, they should engage in prayer. Long had he known, by personal experience, the unspeakable worth of evangelical religion: and now, having no concern for his personal salvation, his whole solicitude was on behalf of his companions, thus suddenly summoned to appear before the bar of God. Beloved by a wide circle of Christian friends,rising daily higher and higher in the estimation of the wise and good, -possessed of commanding talents, which were studiously consecrated to the service of God, – many were the hearts that sorrowed, many were the tears which fell, when tidings came that he too was numbered with the dead. But while so many wept to lose him, none felt surprised, who knew him, at the affecting detail of his last moments, and of their employment. Was his deportment, then, that of a man who had any misgivings as to the truth of his principles—who had yet his religion to seek—who then for the first time was brought to think of the solemnities of death and judgment—whom that day overtook as a thief in the night? Seeing the full amount of the peril; hope holding for the moment, and departing; his heart glanced a last look of love to wife and friends on earth, and commended them to the providence and grace of a covenant God; and then absorbed in all the blissful hopes of eternity, on the verge of which he felt himself; and in all the yearnings of a soulitself safe--for the safety of the perishing around him; his fellow-passengers, at his summons, on their knees on either hand of him ; he, all calm, firm, resigned, collected—the eye