The Volunteer

by | Jun 3, 1999 | Sacrifice, Salvation

Many years ago when sailing vessels crossed the sea, one left an American port for Liverpool. All went well for a few days and there was every prospect of a pleasant voyage, when a storm broke in fury about the little craft, tossing it upon the waves until it seemed all hope of weathering the tempest must be abandoned. The captain’s ceaseless vigil and the faithful crew’s efforts kept them afloat until the storm abated, but one morning the dreadful news was passed from one to another in startled whispers, “The ship has sprung a leak, and is sinking!” Fear seized them; a chill threaded each vein and sinew at the thought of death in the depths of the sea. Vainly they searched the horizon for some glimpse of a friendly sail, and finally they appealed to the captain for some word of hope.

Said he: “The water seems to be slowly but surely gaining in spite of all we can do. There is one way to save us, but I hesitate about suggesting it, or advising it,” and with such words of comfort as he could express, he dismissed.

In a few hours the captain commanded the boatswain: “Pipe all hands aft,” and in response to the shrill shriek of the whistle the sailors gathered. The passengers, hearing a great commotion, crowded around in breathless anxiety. “As you know,” said the captain, “our ship is leaking; our pumps are unable to keep ahead of the rush of water, and our lives are in danger. The leak seems not large, possibly only a few inches wide, as wide as a man’s arm.”

He stopped and repeated it slowly, “As wide as a man’s arm,” and as he said it he thrust his arm and hand forward, and waited a moment, but it seemed like years before he spoke again.

“Someone of you must go down into the hold, plunge into the water, and thrust his arm and shoulder into the leak; that one will lose his life, but will save the rest of us. Who will volunteer?”

The sun shone brightly upon the deck through a rift in the clouds as one stepped out of the ranks of seamen and looked into the eyes of the captain.

“I’ll go, sir,” he said, and a smile spread over his face as he realized that he had pronounced his own death sentence; but there was no trace of fear on his countenance.

“You!” Cried the captain, as with blanched face he threw out both hands and leaned forward.

And the sailor answered, “Yes.”

Face to face they stood, the elder and the younger, father and son. Tears filled the captain’s eyes and, all unashamed, he permitted them to roll down his cheeks. He straightened up, removed his cap, and as he leaned over and kissed the youth on the forehead, he said: “My son, my son! Go, and God be with you.”

They watched the lad as he plunged into the deep water in the hold. Hours later, when safe at port, they found him with his arm thrust through the hold in the vessel’s side. So it must have been in the courts of glory when the Son of God offered to give Himself for lost mankind.

By J. L. Tucker, Signs of the Times, December 5, 1939. With permission from Dale E. Galusha Pacific Press Ministries


The Volunteer