April 14: The Sinking of the Titanic (1912)

A Tragedy of Speed
by Rev. David T. Myers

It seems every generation experiences at least one major catastrophe which, for that generation, defines our nation’s character and conduct. That tragedy then can be seen to offer spiritual lessons about life in general.

Back in the early nineties of the last century, most of our readers can remember what they were doing when the Twin Towers in New York City were destroyed by two planes under the control of Islamic terrorists.

Before that, many of our readers can relate exactly where they were when an assassin killed President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas in the early part of the nineteen sixties.

In 1912, an unthinkable catastrophe happened on April 14 when an ocean liner named the Titanic sunk while on her maiden voyage, with the loss of over a thousand of her passengers. The ship was supposed to be unsinkable, with one construction expert going so far as to make the foolish claim that God Himself couldn’t sink her. But it did sink when it struck an iceberg. And as you might expect, all over this land ministers took to their pulpits to reflect on this terrible loss of life.

One such minister was the Presbyterian pastor of Washington Heights Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., the Rev. William D Moss. The latter preached on the tragedy, using a text from Psalm 29:3 “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters.”

His message spoke of the common responses of blaming this and that for this terrible tragedy. Was the cause the builders who constructed the great ship? Was it an Old World government that failed to properly govern the laws for ships in a new century? Could business corporations be held responsible, when they vie with other corporations for supremacy of the ocean? Are there individuals who should be held responsible, such as the president of the company, or the captain of the great vessel herself? Even back then, people were quick to blame other people.

In the studied conclusion of this particular Presbyterian minister, the loss of this great ocean liner ultimately came down to a matter of speed, the necessity of traveling faster and faster from one location to another. There was no stopping or slowing down, even as the great vessel entered into an area of icebergs. After all, nothing could sink her, or so they thought.

And then the Rev William D. Ross spread out the sin of speed in people’s lives, speaking to the spiritual needs of his own congregation, sparing no one, even including the teaching elders of many a congregation in our land in his aim. Ross’s words particular regarding pastors provide a terrible description of many ministers of our age as well. Consider his words:

“The minister of religion who thinks more of members than individual souls, who makes speed to add names to a church register, caring less that they also be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; anxious that respectable individuals be chronicled in his yearly report; and caring less to how dividends are raised or to what object they are contributed; content when the wheels of ecclesiastical machinery go smoothly around, even if tradition usurps the place of the Cross in homes and hearts under his care; who is ambitious merely for his own church and denomination and hesitates not to have success through the depletion of other religious institutions about him – that man is an individual who has also claimed that he has looked upon Calvary! And he is the land equivalent in daily life of this tragedy on the ocean.”

Other callings in one’s life receive the minister’s application as well in words equally convicting. You can read the entire sermon online, for those of our readers who are interested [though this is a rather poor scan of the document and somewhat difficult to read]. But let us, who look upon unthinkable catastrophes in life—and this is our Words to Live By— remember there are no accidents within the framework of God’s sovereign rule over earth. He either decrees or permits them for His own glory and our good. We do well to heed them in our lives, for His glory and our good. In all things seek to make the Lord your God the center of your life, and all else will fall into its proper place.

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