“I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on the spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr John Harper of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. ‘Man,’ he said, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ The waves bore him away; but, strange to say brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Are you saved now?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that I am.’ He said again, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper’s last convert.”
It precisely 107 years since the Titanic sunk, but such a grand scale sea tragedy cannot be forgotten in just a century. A century is such a short time in history.
The opening words belong to one Aguilla Webb, a Titanic survivor, as narrated in Moody Adam’s book ‘The Titanic’s Last Hero.’ Aguilla Webb gave the testimony in Canada four years after the dreadful Titanic disaster.
It is unusual that John Harper, who was one of the passengers on the ill-fated Titanic, is one of the least mentioned whenever the Titanic account is retold. Harper was a Scottish preacher travelling to the Moody Church in Chicago, United States, for a preaching assignment.
It is reported that Harper was travelling with her daughter, little Miss Nina Harper. The girl was only six years old. Jessie Leith, the cousin to the little girl was also aboard. As the things went south on the night of April 14, 1912, Reverend Harper wrapped his daughter in a blanket, told her that she would see him one day, and passed her to one of the crewmen. Children and women were given priority in the few available lifeboats. It was not survival of the fittest. Rather the strong let the weak survive. The evolution theory could not work here.
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men (act like men), be strong, let all your things be done with charity (Love)” (1 Cor. 16:13-14).
The Reverend removed his lifejacket and gave it to one of the passengers. One of the survivors heard him shout, “Women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats!”
“Because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). May God raise up such men!
He then ran along the decks entreating people to turn to Christ. By then the fate had been sealed; the ship was sinking, and there was not going to be any help for those remaining on board. He then called upon ship orchestra to play, “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”
As the ship began to rock, Harper jumped into the cold ocean waters and frantically swam to all he could reach, pleading with them to be saved before hypothermia got the best of him.
The early morning of April 15, 1912, was indeed dark. But for Harper, it was as bright as the Morning Star. The orchestra that had tried to keep the passengers’ spirits high also went down as they sang their last.
“Hold me up in mighty waters
Keep my eyes on things above,
Righteousness, divine Atonement,
Peace and everlasting Love.”
Only seven people were pulled from the cold water alive that night, and Aguilla Webb was one of them.
The story of Harper is a challenge to us. We need to seize every opportunity available and share the Good news of Jesus Christ. Nothing should separate us from the Love of God. Nothing ought to stop us from spreading the Gospel.