THE GOSPEL LIFEBOAT or, Salvation for the Perishing.
New Edition based on the Original “Gospel Lifeboat” circa early 1900s produced for The Lighthouse Literature Mission – Samuel H. Strain, Director. “The Lighthouse” Belfast, Ireland.
This new edition of “The Gospel Lifeboat” we hope will be a fitting memorial and witness of the valuable work and ministry of the Lighthouse Literature Mission and Samual H Strain who founded it in 1904. During his lifetime, Mr Strain maintained communication with hundreds of Lighthouse keepers and their families all over the world for 36 years, supplying much needed parcels and literature to those engaged in this lonely and at times perilous enterprise of Lightkeeping.
Most people when they hear or read about lifeboats, will think of the amazing and courageous work of the Lifeboat service – The RNLI – Royal National Lifeboat Institution. But the Gospel Lifeboat picture - what does this mean and what is the inspiration? There is always more to a picture than what meets the eye on canvas or paper and the Gospel Lifeboat is no exception......
So I have been investigating and trying to figure out the inspiration for the picture - What is fascinating is the highly influential preacher - Charles H Spurgeon (1834 - 1892) was often using mariner metaphors in his sermons and had made a particular sermon illustration about the "Gospel Lifeboat" in a sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1862. This was eventually published in 1910 as “Yet There is Room” Could this have been the inspiration behind the “Gospel Lifeboat” published for the Lighthouse Literature Mission? I dont know...but its fascinating to ponder these questions and understand. There is so much in what Charles H Spurgeon is preaching about Lifeboats and what we can see in the picture.
From Charles Spurgeon's Sermon 1862 -
“Here is another picture. There has been a wreck out there upon the coast. The ship has struck upon the rocks and she is fast going to pieces. Some of the poor mariners are clinging to the mast—they have been hanging there for hours. Heavy seas have broken over them and they can hardly retain their hold. Some of the crew have already become exhausted and have fallen off into the deep—and the others who are clinging for dear life are almost frozen with cold! But look there—a rocket goes up—they believe that they have been spotted and, after a while, they see that a lifeboat is coming to their rescue! Perhaps the brave men give a cheer as they row with all their might to let the pour shipwrecked sailors know that there is help at hand. As the lifeboat comes nearer, its captain cries, “Oh, what a lot of men! What can we do with so many? We will take as many of you as we can, but there is not room for all.” The men are helped off the wreck, one after the other, until they seem to fill the boat. Each man’s place has two crammed into it, but at last the captain says, “It’s no use. We can’t take any more. Our boat is so full that she’ll go down if we put in another man.” It’s all over with those poor souls that must be left behind, for before the gallant boat can make another trip, they must all have fallen into the waves of the sea and been lost.
But I have no such sad tale to tell you tonight, for my Master’s gospel lifeboat has thus far taken in but few compared with those she will yet take! I know not how many she will hold, but this I do know, that a multitude which no man can number shall be found within her and, amid songs of everlasting joy, they shall all be safely landed on the blessed shore where rocks and tempests will never again trouble them! The lifeboat is not yet full—there is still room in her for all who will trust in Jesus! Poor mariner, give up clinging to that wreck on the rocks! Poor sinner, give up clinging to your works and to your sins! There is room in the gospel lifeboat for you and all who will put themselves under the care of the great captain of salvation, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! " Source - www.spurgeongems.org
There is no information when Samual H. Strain of the LLM would have had the design of the “Gospel Lifeboat” published. But must be sometime after 1904. The LLM also published the Lightkeeper magazine which ran from about 1909 till 1911.
An interesting feature is the many scripture references which help us to understand and see what the Gospel Lifeboat is all about. Excellent for Bible study, Churches and Youth Groups. Placed at the entrance of churches and fellowships it is sure to focus hearts and minds on the Great Commission.
A number of Gospel themed lithographs have been made during the Victorian era with connections to the sea – The Gospel Compass and The Bible Wheel are among those which are also available.
Another Sermon by Charles H Spurgeon using the illustration of the Lifeboat.
A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, January 6, 1861, By Pastor C. H. Spurgeon. At Exeter Hall, Strand.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. (Col 4:2) 14. 3.
....................."Thirdly, continue in prayer, because souls shall be saved as the result of your entreaties. Can you stand on the beach for a moment,—you can scarcely see, but yet you may discern by the lights of lanterns, various brave men launching the lifeboat. It is out—they have taken their seats; helmsman and rowers, all strong hearts, determined to save their fellows or to perish. They have gotten far away now into the midst of the billows and we have lost sight of them, but in spirit we will take our stand in the midst of the boat. What a sea rolled in just then! If she were not built for such weather, she would surely have been overturned. See that tremendous wave, and how the boat leaps like a seabird over its crest. See now again, it has plunged into a dreary furrow, and the wind, like some great plough, turns up the water on either side as though it were clods of mould. Surely the boat will find her grave, and be buried in the sheet of foam;—but no, she comes out of it, and the dripping men draw a long breath. But the mariners are discouraged, they have strained themselves bending those oars, and they would turn back, for there is small hope of living in such a sea, and it is hardly possible that they will ever reach the wreck. But the brave captain cries out, “Now, my bold lads, for God’s sake, send her on! A few more pulls of the oar and we shall be alongside; the poor fellows will be able to hold on a minute or two longer, now pull for dear life.” See how the boat leaps, see how she springs as though she were a living thing, a messenger of mercy intent to save. Again, he says “Once more, once again, and we will do it,”—no, she has been dashed aside from the ship for a moment, that sea all but did her in, but the helmsman turns her around, and the captain cries, “Now, my boys, once more;” and every man pulls with lusty sinews, and the poor shipwrecked ones are saved. Indeed, it is just so with us now. Long have Christ’s ministers, long have Christ’s Church pulled with the gospel lifeboat, let us pull again. Every prayer is a fresh stroke of the oar, and all of you are oarsmen. Yes, you feeble women, you confined to your beds, confined to your bedrooms, who can do nothing else but pray, you are all oarsmen in this great boat. Pull yet once more, and this week let us drive the boat ahead, and it may be it will be the last tremendous struggle that shall be required, for sinners shall be saved, and the multitude of the redeemed shall be completed. Not us, but grace shall do the work, yet is it ours to be workers for God." Source - www.spurgeongems.org
Artwork © Peter N Millward 2019
“Yet There is Room”