by J. Ben Avraham
Jonathan Williams waved goodbye to the aged Reverend Russell as he settled back in the coach that would soon take him to the port of Bristol. He had finished his seven-year tutelage at the home of the kind, white-haired pastor and his wife. In these seven years, Jonathan had learned the basic doctrines from God’s Holy Writ. The knowledgeable pastor had also taught him the basics of Greek and Hebrew and how to understand and interpret the Scriptures. They even went over the powerful message of the great preacher Jonathan Edwards; ‘Sinners in the hands of an Angry God’ which was preached only ten years prior. Most important, the Reverend Russell pointed out how the whole Bible pointed to the LORD Jesus Christ as Savior.
Now it was time to join his mother and father who awaited him in Virginia Colony. He would eventually take his father’s place as pastor in a small church in Spotsylvania. It was there that his father and mother had started a small mission to reach the townspeople and even the neighboring Indian tribes. Since then, it had grown and now, Jonathan would come to help out with preaching and Bible study.
The carriage started forward as the coachman coaxed the horses to trot. As Jonathan settled back in the seat, he pulled out a folded letter that he had received from his mother and father only a few days before by the way of special messenger. He lay back against the coach window and re-read the letter. A smile came to his face as he read the words his father had written a few months before;
Spotsylvania County, Virginia
May 1st, 1751
Your mother and I send you greetings from Virginia Colony. The LORD’s congregation is growing, slowly but surely. Some townspeople come to hear God’s Word and some have even made professions of faith. Quite a few have come to accept Jesus as their LORD and Savior. All praise and glory be to HIM who is on high.
We have ventured out to a village of Indians who live quite a way from here, but no matter, the trip was worth it. We are attempting to learn their language so as to speak to them about the LORD. They refer to God as the “Great Spirit” we need to tell them that the “Great Spirit” is the “Holy Spirit” and that the spirit of God can inhabit them. These natives show no animosity towards us, they are a bit curious though as to why we visit them.
My health is not as good as before. I get tired easily now so I am sending for you to come join us. You have finished your tenure of education in God’s Word with our dear friend and brother in the faith, the Reverend Russell and his wife. I am sending this letter with Captain Bishop of the ‘Bristol Star’ he is also a good friend of mine. He should be in port in a few months’ time given fair winds and calm seas.
He will relay this letter to you via special messenger. The ship will be in port for about five days to take on stores. That should give you time enough to ready yourself and take a coach to the port of Bristol. The fare has been paid. Remember to thank the Reverend Russell and his wife for the time you spent with them. We would have sent you to Bible College had the cost been minimal, but the finances were out of our reach. We thank God that the Reverend Russell agreed to take you in these seven years.
See you soon in a few months’ time, and sooner perhaps if God grants fair winds and calm seas.
Love and Godspeed,
father and mother
He folded up the letter again and returning it to the envelope, he stuffed it inside of his coat pocket. Jonathan knew that the trip to Bristol would be a half day's journey so to take advantage of the ride, he pushed his three-cornered hat forward to cover his eyes and settled back to get some rest. He was dead tired since he had been up almost the entire night packing his things and listening to some last-minute counsel from the Reverend Russell.
The rocking of the coach from side to side along the rocky English road to Bristol slowly lulled Jonathan to sleep. He was suddenly awakened by the coachman’s hand on his shoulder.
“Sir, we’re here. We’ve arrived at Bristol. I’ll get your trunk down.” said the coachman as he went to the back of the coach and untied a medium size seaman’s trunk. Jonathan got out and was awed at the sight of Bristol. It was a seaport bustling with activity of sailors and dockworkers going to and fro from ships to dock. The coachman put Jonathan’s sea-trunk down by his feet and bid him farewell.
“How much do I owe you sir?” asked Jonathan, reaching into his pocket for some silver and copper coins.
“Nothing sir” smiled the coachman, “Captain Bishop paid the fare already, good day to you sir.” And with those words, the coachman climbed back into the coach and was ready to drive off. A last-minute thought came to Jonathan’s mind. How would he know where to look for Captain Bishop? Bristol was a big port and there were so many people walking around, not to mention shops and stores.
“Sir” Jonathan began, “where can I find Captain Bishop?”
“Over there” pointed the coachman, “at the ‘Admiral’s Inn’. That’s where all the sailors go for some conversation and a drink or two.”
“Thank you and Godspeed sir” replied Jonathan as politely as he could. One thing he also learned from the Rev. Russell was good manners and the ways of a gentleman. With that, the coachman drove off down one of the side streets of Bristol, perhaps to await other travelers.
Jonathan looked to where the coachman pointed to and saw a small, two-story inn with a hanging sign above the door which read; ‘The Admiral’s Inn’ There was a picture of a British naval officer under the name, and below the picture, the words; ‘founded 1698’. So, thought Jonathan, this was where the captain would be waiting for him. He then shouldered the trunk and headed for the inn.
The trunk was a gift from the Reverend Russell. It had belonged to him when he had served as a sailor in the king’s navy. On the lid of the trunk were carved the initials ‘S.R.’ for “Samuel Russell”. The night before, Jonathan was busy packing the trunk with a few changes of clothes, his leather-bound bible with a brass clasp, and bible study notes. Jonathan walked the two blocks and stopped at the inn. With one hand he opened the door and stepped inside. He then put the sea-chest down beside the door and looked around.
The inn was crowded with sailors from the different docked ships. They sat around wooden tables and all seemed to be talking at once. Some were laughing loudly, others just sat quietly sipping rum or ale and seemed to be lost in a train of thought, perhaps thinking of their families and friends. At one table, a sailor was playing a fiddle and another accompanied him with a flute. Some stared at Jonathan, looking him up and down as if he didn’t belong in such a place.
There was a bartender dressed in a leather apron washing some glasses in soapy water. He seemed to be really busy washing the glasses to get them ready for the next customers, but not too busy to ignore Jonathan.
“What’ll it be mate” began the bartender as he looked up at Jonathan, “a glass of rum? Some ale?
“Oh no, sir” answered Jonathan, a little quietly. “I’m not here to drink anything, only to look for someone.”
The bartender continued to wash the glasses, he seemed to be a bit annoyed since Jonathan obviously would not be a paying customer.
“Who are you looking for?” continued the bartender, not bothering to look up at Jonathan anymore. He just continued washing the glasses, putting a few in clean, rinse water.
“I’m looking for Captain Bishop of the ‘Bristol Star’ replied Jonathan, with a stronger voice. He felt that he needed to be a bit tougher in a place like this.
“Over there” pointed the bartender to one corner of the inn. Jonathan looked to where the bartender was pointing and noticed a sailor dressed in a long, black cloak and was wearing a three-cornered hat, a bit dirty and worn perhaps from years at sea. He sat there sipping some rum from a small glass. At the words ‘Captain Bishop’ he looked up and noticed Jonathan, then nodded his head once. Jonathan went over to where the sailor sat.
“Are you Captain Bishop sir?” he asked politely as he could.
“I’m Mr. Jacobs, first mate” replied the sailor very curtly, “Are you, Jonathan Williams?”
“Yes sir, I’m here to sail with Captain Bishop to the colonies.”
“Very well then” replied Mr. Jacobs as he threw his head back and swallowed the last drops of rum. “Let’s go, the captain’s been expecting you, he sent me here to await your arrival.”
With those words, Mr. Jacobs got up and headed for the door, he threw a coin on the bartender’s table. The bartender nodded and placed the coin in a small wooden box.
“Have you a sea-bag or a chest?”
“Yes sir, over there” replied Jonathan, pointing to the sea-chest marked ‘S.R.’ but before he could bend down and shoulder the chest, Mr. Jacobs lifted it and placed it on his own shoulders as if it weighed nothing at all.
“Follow me” ordered the first mate as he pushed the door open and walked outside. The two then walked down the dock, passing two ships, then a third. After passing the third, the first mate pointed to a medium sized sailing vessel with three masts, and four furled sails on each one.
“There be the ‘Bristol Star’, and there be Captain Bishop on board.”
Jonathan looked and saw a neatly dressed gentleman on board. He was going over some papers with some dock workers. There was a gang-plank that extended from the dock to the ship. Jonathan followed Mr. Jacobs up the gang-plank and onto the deck of the ‘Bristol Star’ Then the two made their way over to where Captain Bishop was going over the ship’s manifest and making sure that the supplies on board were according to the list.
“Captain sir,” started Mr. Jacobs, “Here be Jonathan Williams.
“Mr. Williams”, replied the captain with excitement, “Welcome aboard, we’ve been expecting you. Your mother and father send you greetings from Virginia Colony but I believe you already have their letter in hand, am I right?”
“Yes sir”, said Jonathan shanking the captain’s hand, “that’s why I am here, ready to join them in the colonies, and thank you for being willing to take me aboard.”
“You are quite welcome Mr. Williams, or, should I say the ‘Reverend Williams’ what title do you prefer?”
“Jonathan will do sir”
“then Jonathan it is, I’m just going over the ship’s manifest and stores making sure we have all the provisions for our trip to the colonies. You’ll be bunking with me in my cabin…Mr. Jacobs?”
“Mr. Jacobs, please take Jonathan to my cabin and get him settled in. Jonathan, I’ll see you later, you must be a bit tired after your trip to Bristol, am I right?”
“Yes sir, I tried sleeping a bit in the coach, but it was a little uncomfortable. I’d like to lay down for a while and rest.”
“Very well, I’ll come in and get you when dinner is served, my first mate, Mr. Jacobs will take you to my cabin.”
So, Jonathan followed Mr. Jacobs to the captain’s cabin. They went down a short flight of stairs and entered a room which had a large, ornate desk, some charts and a small bookshelf with sea-faring books. There were three beds in the captain’s cabin. One bed was near the desk and the other two were bunk-beds, which were on the other side of the bookshelf.
Mr. Jacobs placed Jonathan’s sea-chest at the foot of the bunk-bed. “Take your pick, the top or bottom bunk, your choice. Rest well reverend, we sail at morning’s light.”
With those words, Mr. Jacobs turned and left the cabin leaving Jonathan quite alone, sitting on the edge of the bed, deep in thought. He was really tired, the trip to Bristol took half the day, now it was afternoon and soon, the sun would be setting.
‘I’ll just lie down and rest a few hours, dinner would be good’ he thought as he took off his shoes and stretched out on the bottom bunk, and in no time, he fell fast asleep. When Jonathan awoke, he realized it was already the morning of the next day. He had slept through the night and now, he was really hungry. He turned over in the bunk to see Captain Bishop at his desk going over some charts.
“Good morning Jonathan” greeted the captain getting up from his desk, “I bet you’re very hungry. I came in last night to call you for dinner, but you were fast asleep and I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“Yes sir, I am” replied Jonathan, getting up from the bunk, “I really needed the rest, it helped to get a good night’s sleep.” Then he felt the roll of the ship beneath him.
“Are we…at sea yet?
“Oh my God, yes” answered the captain, a little surprised at the question, “you slept through us leaving the port. It’s almost noon and we are well at sea. But let me show you around, introduce you to the men and get you something to eat.”
Then Jonathan and Captain Bishop went up on deck. Land was just a tiny speck in the horizon as Jonathan could well see. The wind filled the sails and the ocean waves splashing against the hull of the ship.
“You sit here and I’ll get the cook to get you something,” said captain Bishop, pointing to a small wooden bench near the main mast. In a while, the cook came up and handed Jonathan a round, wooden plate with some roasted fish with a biscuit and a cut-up apple on the side. He also handed up a pewter cup filled with tea.
“Welcome aboard shipmate” smiled the cook, whose name was Henry, “hope you like ship’s food, it isn’t the best but it certainly isn’t the worst.” With those words, he walked away leaving Jonathan with the “almost-noon” meal.
Jonathan ate his meal with eagerness. Yes, he was quite hungry and the ship’s food wasn’t so bad. He had to be careful to separate the bones from the meat in eating the roast fish. This reminded him of what the Reverend Russell had told him once about religious writings;
“Jonathan,” he said once, “Some religious writings are like eating a fish, some fish have a lot of bones and a little bit of flesh, so, you need to separate the bones from the meat. Eat the meat and throw away the bones. If the writing doesn’t square with scripture, it’s bones!”
Jonathan smiled at that thought. He ate his meal and thanked the LORD for it. When he finished, he got up and went to look for Captain Bishop. He found him giving some instructions to two sailors.
“Did you enjoy your meal, Jonathan? I know it isn’t what you were accustomed to eating in England, but…we’re at sea and…”
“It was just fine captain, I’m feeling a lot better now. With a full stomach, I can do anything,” answered Jonathan with a smile. He really did feel better and the meal wasn’t quite bad at all, being ship’s food.
“Great” replied the captain, “Let’s introduce you to the crew!” and with that, Captain Bishop and Jonathan walked up and down the deck of the ‘Bristol Star’ and one by one, the captain introduced Jonathan to all the sailors on board.
Some seemed very polite and friendly, others not so much. Some were happy to meet him, others seemed indifferent.
“I’d like to be of some use aboard ship captain,” said Jonathan, hoping to get some kind of a chore to do on board. It only seemed fair since the voyage would be a few months and just walking around with nothing to do would be a little frustrating.
“Yes” answered the captain, “You will indeed have a big job to do on board. You will be our ship’s chaplain. Our spiritual advisor, a counselor. You can present Sunday morning services and if you wish, you may also conduct morning and evening devotionals.”
Jonathan did not know what to say. He would finally put to use what he learned from Reverend Russell. With all those years behind him now, he would now present God’s word to men of different personalities. It would indeed be a bit of a challenge.
“Thank you, captain Bishop, thank you so much!”
“You are very welcome my dear Jonathan, it’s the least I can do. These men need some preaching and teaching from the scriptures. You see Jonathan, it isn’t easy being a ship’s captain and a Christian man at heart, all at the same time. Sometimes I have to be a little tough on the men, but I am always guided by the Word of God. The Bible is my source and standard of living.”
Then Jonathan and the captain walked over to the ship’s railing and looked out across the waves. The captain seemed to be deep in thought, after a few minutes, he shared his thoughts.
“You see Jonathan” began the captain, “my wife Elizabeth brought me to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as my LORD and Savior, and how he died in my place to set me free of the curse of sin. She taught me from the Bible…yes…for five years we shared our lives together, but the LORD saw fit to take her home. She died of the consumption, but I know she’s in heaven and awaits me there.”
Jonathan noticed a few drops of tears in the captain’s eyes. It was good to meet a man with such great responsibility as being a ship’s captain, but also, very human and sincere, not fearing to share his soul with another.
“Now” continued Captain Bishop, “you need to meet old Quentin McGee, an old Irish sea-mate, who is also a good Christian man. He is indeed, one of a kind. Let’s go.”
So, Jonathan followed the captain to a place near the back of the ship. There on the deck, surrounded by old sails sat an old, balding, red-headed sailor. He seemed to be hard at work mending the corner of one of the sails that was torn on the edge.
“Quentin” spoke the captain, “This here is Jonathan Williams, he is our chaplain on this voyage, Jonathan, this here is Quentin McGee, our oldest and most experienced sailor.”
“Welcome aboard shipmate” replied the old-timer, with a strong but a little raspy voice. “first time at sea?”
“Yes” answered Jonathan, “hope the trip isn’t too long.
“Well” continued Quentin, “all depends on the winds. With fair winds, we should make it to the colonies in two months, give or take a week or two.
“I’ll leave you two to talk a bit while I make my rounds.” Said the captain as he walked away.
“I’ve been at sea all these forty and three years,” said old Quentin as he sat back down again amidst the old sails,
“I was once a strong fellow, but now, I just sit here and mend these old, torn sails. Kind of like the Apostol Paul who was a tent maker. Had his needle and thread and thus, made his living.”
Jonathan listened to old Quentin as he talked about the places he had visited, distant ports, high winds, and rough seas, sharks and whales, the names of the ships he had sailed on. The stories were similar to those that the Reverend Russell had told him. He too had been a mariner in the king’s navy. He had been part of left-tenant Maynard’s crew when they attacked and killed the infamous pirate ‘Blackbeard.?”
“Quentin” started Jonathan, “did you ever run into Blackbeard, or other pirates?” he asked with all curiosity
“Blackbeard?” replied Quentin all wide-eyed, “Old Ned Teach, that was his bloody name. Glad I never met him. He was the Goliath of the high seas, plundering ships, taking treasure of gold, silver, pearls, silks, you name it. He sailed a French Merchantman called ‘Queen Ann’s Revenge’ a 40-gun terror, had three-hundred fighting men as well.”
Quentin paused a bit, as if deep in thought, then he continued. “But Blackbeard met his David, Left-tenant Maynard of his Majesty’s navy right off the coast of North Carolina. In 1718, Maynard and his men fought Blackbeard and his crew of cut-throats and in the end, Maynard prevailed.”
“How did it all end?” asked Jonathan, now all excited.
“Why Maynard cut off Blackbeard’s bloody head and tied it to the bowsprit of his own ship” answered Quentin, making a pass with his finger across his throat. “Then he threw his headless body into the sea, and do you know what happened?”
“No, what?” Jonathan was all ears now.
“why his body swam around and around his ship until…it finally sank beneath the waves.” Finished Quentin, a little exhausted now from his own story. Then he settled back again to resume mending the sails.
“Quentin, are you telling pirate stories again?” laughed Captain Bishop who was standing right behind the two.
“Oh, Captain sir, how long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough Quentin, long enough” said the captain, smiling and shaking his head. “Jonathan, this old sailor will talk your head off about pirates if you let him. Blackbeard is his favorite, well, Quentin I believe has some mending to do, don’t you Quentin?”
“Oh, yes sir, I’m getting right on it sir.” Said Quentin, getting back to work bending the torn sails
With that, Jonathan and Captain Bishop continued to walk the deck of the ship, observing the crew and looking out to sea.
“Quentin has been aboard this ship for the past ten years” began the captain, “When I first met him he was one ornery cuss, drinking rum and swearing just like other sailors, but an old sailor named Mr. Lewis, well, he took a liking to him and taught him how to read using a bible. Then I saw a change in Quentin, he began to read the Bible more and more, until five years ago, in 1746, he fell in love with God, accepted Jesus as his LORD and Savior, and now, he witnesses to other sailors.”
“That’s great” replied Jonathan with joy, “I’m glad he’s a good Christian man now.
“I’m glad of that too my dear Jonathan, but at times, he can’t irritate some of these ‘not-so-saintly’ sailors to the bone…Oh, by the way…Blackbeard’s body did not swim around his ship. I do believe it sank into the deep.” Said the captain, pointing down at the waves.
“Oh yes, I agree” added Jonathan with a smile, “and if sharks ate his body, it probably got them quite sea-sick!’
both the captain and Jonathan laughed at that and they continued walking the deck.
“Quentin can exaggerate a bit, but, that’s just the way he is, good old Quentin, our brother in Christ.”
So, the days passed into weeks, and the first month at sea was finished. Jonathan found himself talking to many of the ship’s crew about their faith, about their families, and just about anything that they wished to talk about. Some received him kindly, others, with indifference.
Jonathan delivered his sermons every Sunday morning before the men began their duties. During the weekdays, he gave a small devotional from the Psalms to the men right after breakfast and concluding it with a prayer of thanks for another day at sea.
The winds were fair and the waves pushed the ‘Bristol Star’ closer and closer to the American colonies. Every day Jonathan would sit with Quentin as he mended the torn sails and listened to his sea stories. He told him about whales and killer sharks, and always about pirates. He told him about Captain Henry Morgan and how he plundered Panama for its gold and silver, about Capt. Kidd, and “Calico Jack Rackham” about “Capt. Ann Bonnie” a lady pirate, and of course, he always returned to the story of Blackbeard, and how he had taken hostages at the port of Charles Town in South Carolina, and how he traded them for a chest full of medicine for some of his sick crewmen. Listening to Quentin was always the highlight of the day. At times, Quentin would ask Jonathan questions about the Bible, and Jonathan would answer as knowledge permitted him.
It was around the middle of the second month at sea when Jonathan was walking the deck as usual, he noticed that Quentin was not by the old sails that lay in a pile. He was used to see the old sailor sewing and mending but today, he was nowhere to be seen.
“Where’s old Quentin?” Jonathan asked one of the sailors
“Took sick” he replied without great concern. “He’s in his hammock, captain is with him.
Jonathan went below deck where the sailors slept and found Quentin in his hammock with a wet rag wrapped around his forehead. Captain Bishop was with him and so was the ship’s doctor who looked a bit concerned at old Quentin’s present demise.
“Quentin! What’s the matter?” cried out Jonathan with a voice a bit louder than usual.
“I think the Good LORD is calling me home my dear shipmate Jonathan” replied Old Quentin with a raspy voice. His voice was now weak, speaking only a bit above a whisper.
“Nonsense” replied Captain Bishop, trying to instill a bit of courage and hope into the old sailor. “You just need a few days rest and you’ll be back to mending those sails as usual, good as new.” Somehow, the tone of the captain’s voice betrayed his own words.
Quentin closed his eyes for a few minutes, mumbling to himself. The doctor looked at the captain and slowly shook his head.
“Don’t know what’s wrong Captain” began the doc, “fever just won’t come down.”
“Try your best” pleaded Captain Bishop, “he’s the best sailor, we’ve got, don’t want to lose him.”
“Not up to me” said the doctor with all honesty, “He’s old and weak, can’t promise much. Just keep that wet rag on his head, it will cool him a bit.” and with those words, the doctor left.
The captain and Jonathan were left alone with Quentin as he continued to mumble some unintelligible word, shaking his head back and forth. He finally fell off to sleep. That evening after supper, the doctor called the captain and Jonathan to Quentin’s side again.
“He’s worse” sighed the doctor, “but he wanted to speak with Jonathan.
“I’m here my dear friend and brother in Christ, my old shipmate, it’s me Jonathan.”
At the sound of Jonathan’s voice, Quentin opened his eyes and sat up a bit in his hammock, his face which was covered with sweat seemed to reflect a calm radiance. Finding the strength to speak, he reached out and grasped Jonathan’s hand.
“Jonathan, my good and faithful shipmate, brother in Christ, chaplain aboard this good vessel, I won’t be around for much longer. The LORD is calling me home, he has told me so. Yet he spoke of you, that he did, He has a special message for you, sort of like a ‘prophecy’, yes, that’s what I’d call it, a prophecy.”
Jonathan was taken aback at the word “prophecy” but he continued to hold old Quentin’s wrinkled hand.
“Say on my brother.”
“Thus, says the LORD to my faithful servant” began Quentin, with a strong voice. For a few minutes, the fever had no effect on Quentin’s voice, it was the same voice as when he was well. “You are my chosen servant to minister to these men, yet you will be taken where you wish not to go, and among the heathen you will be my witness, yet a Cushite will set you free and point the way home!”
At the end of those words, Quentin released Jonathan’s hand and settled back again in his hammock. “I don’t understand Quentin.” Replied Jonathan a bit confused. “What do those words mean?”
“Those words are meant for you shipmate, and in time, you will understand.”
“What could those words mean Captain Bishop?” asked Jonathan, now greatly puzzled, wanting to understand something that was meant only for him.
“I have no idea Jonathan” sighed the captain, “but if this prophecy is meant for you, then it will be revealed to you in due time, you just have to wait on the LORD.”
“Captain” cried out old Quentin, trying to sit back up again.
“I’m here old friend”
“The LORD has revealed to me that both you and I will be with Him, very soon…very soon!” and with that statement, the old sailor lay back and feel into a deep sleep, a sleep which would take him into the arms of his creator.
“Why did he say that?” asked Jonathan, now a bit worried.
“Oh, maybe…he’s…a bit delirious…you know…the fever and all,” replied the captain, but a look of concern came into his eyes, a wonder about his own fate on this voyage.
Jonathan and Captain Bishop left Quentin and went to their cabin. The two then settled down for the night but guarded within their hearts the message of an expiring sailor. In the morning, Jonathan was awakened by the captain.
“Jonathan, Quentin is gone, he passed away during the night. Please, prepare some words and we’ll commit him to the sea.
Yes, he would. Jonathan came up on deck and saw old Quentin at peace. He lay there on the deck of the ship all wrapped up in his hammock with the British flag draped over him. Captain Bishop came over and stood next to Jonathan. Together, they read from God’s Holy Writ.
“We commit this dear soul to the bosom of the deep to be resurrected in the last days.” With those words thus ended the memorial service for old Quentin, sailor and brother in Christ. All the crew responded with “Amen”. One of the sailors blew a whistle and Old Quentin’s body slid off a narrow plank of wood and into the waves of the Atlantic. The captain and Jonathan watched sadly as Old Quentin sank beneath the waves and out of sight.
“I’ll miss him captain” said Jonathan with a few tears in his eyes.
“I will too and so will the whole crew.” Replied Captain Bishop, “he had a way with the men and the men respected him for his beliefs, although not all the men on board are Christian men. They still listened to him…and…who knows what kind of influence he had. We may only know in the here-after.” And with those words, the captain, Jonathan and all the crew returned to their duties.
The following morning as the captain and Jonathan were walking together on deck, the look-out in the crow’s nest cried out; “Sail Ho!”
“from which direction Mr. Maynes?” inquired the captain, looking up at the look-out on duty.
“Off starboard sir.”
The captain and Jonathan went to starboard and strained their eyes into the distant ocean looking for tell-tale signs of white sails. Then they saw it in the distance sailing parallel to their position.
“Can you make out a flag Mr. Maynes? I left the spy-glass in my cabin.”
“I can get it for you sir.” Replied Jonathan, ready to be of assistance.
“Yes, get it, it’s on my desk.” As Jonathan went to the captain’s cabin, the look-out shouted a reply.
“British sir, I can make out the red, white, and blue colors.” Jonathan ran to where the captain was standing.
“Here’s the spy-glass sir”
“Thank you, Jonathan,” replied the captain, taking the spy-glass and looking outward towards the approaching vessel.
“Sir” shouted the look-out, “she’s turning sir, straight towards us!”
“Strange,” said the captain quietly, “why would that ship come straight towards our position, and it isn’t even in distress?” the captain continued observing the approaching ship coming at them at full sail.
As the ship came nearer, the captain and Jonathan noticed that the ship was a bit larger than the ‘Bristol Star’
The minutes passed, and the ship approached even nearer, straight towards them.
“I don’t like it” said the captain in a worried tone lowering the spy-glass, “why would it…”
“Captain, she’s lowering the flag!” shouted the look-out with alarm. The captain looked again through the spy-glass, observing the ship lowering the British flag, and in its place, a black and white skull and crossed-bones was raised.
“I knew it!’ shouted Captain Bishop with alarm.
“Pirate vessel Captain!” shouted Mr. Maynes.
“Mr. Maynes, call general quarters and order the gun-ports to be opened. We’re in for a fight!”
“Captain, how can I help?” asked Jonathan, now well aware of the situation at hand.
“You can help by going to my cabin and getting under the bunk and staying there until this is over, now go!” shouted the captain, losing a bit his gentile composure. With those words, he gave Jonathan a shove away from him. Jonathan ran as fast as he could towards the cabin. As he reached the cabin door, he heard the captain behind him.
“Jonathan” said the captain, trying to speak calmly yet his voice trembled a bit, “I don’t know how this will turn out. She’s a larger ship than ours and she out guns us, and probably has a larger crew.”
“But…the LORD is with us captain, He has to give us victory” shouted Jonathan, yet his voice resonated a bit with fear.
“The ways of the LORD are mysterious at time my brother.” replied the captain, “if the outcome is in our favor, we will continue our voyage, and if not, then…submit…and stay alive! Do you hear me, stay alive!” said the captain, embracing Jonathan…perhaps for the last time. With those words, the captained turned and returned to the deck where the crew sprang into action.
The pirate ship had now turned to a parallel position, within guns’ range. The buccaneer vessel now sprang to life as well with about one-hundred pirates shouting and brandishing cutlasses. Jonathan obeyed the captain’s order and rushed inside the captain’s cabin and headed straight for his bunk, he quickly crawled underneath and waited, listened, hoped, and prayed.
The outside sounds of battle got louder and nearer, cannon balls rocked the ship as a few slammed into the side of the ‘Star of Bristol’. The Star also returned fire. Suddenly, he felt the whole ship shake and shudder as the two ships touched side by side. He heard the sound of grappling hooks as the pirate ship held the ‘Star of Bristol’ fast. Then there was a rush of footsteps overhead as the pirate crew engaged Captain Bishop and his crew in hand to hand battle. There was the sound of metal against metal as cutlasses drew blood and pistol balls found their marks on bodies of both sides. After what seemed to be an eternity, the battle drew to a close.
Jonathan could hear the footsteps overhead on deck. He heard voices, but they weren’t the voices he was accustomed to, rather strange new and gruff voices. Then he heard the splashing of water as bodies were thrown over the side of the ship into the ocean. Should he come out? He wondered who had won the battle. Certainly, the LORD had given the victory to his captain, he was a good Christian man and the pirates were evil heathens. At the thought of the word “heathen” his mind returned to the prophecy of old Quentin. “Among the heathen you will be my witness”.
As Jonathan thought of the prophecy, he heard the sounds of footsteps coming down-stairs to the cabin door. The door opened and a man entered the cabin, going here and there. He turned his head to the side to try and see if the man who came in was indeed Captain Bishop, or one of the crew. The man was hidden from view as he was now rummaging through the charts and papers which were on the captain’s desk.
“Captain” shouted Jonathan, thinking that perhaps, it really was him, “Is the battle over? Did we win?” with those words, he crawled out from under the bunk. He then looked up at the figure of a complete stranger. He was rough looking and was missing a few teeth. Dressed in a cloak with a wide leather belt around his waist he carried two flintlock pistols and a cutlass. His cloak was wet with blood. He had a cruel look on his face as he looked down at Jonathan.
“Well, well, well, who do we have here?” spoke the pirate as he yanked Jonathan to his feet.
“Where’s captain Bishop, what have you done with him?” cried Jonathan, fearing the worst.
“Captain Bishop eh?” replied the pirate with his rough voice, “You have a new captain now English boy and you’re about to meet him.
With those words the pirate pushed Jonathan ahead of him, up the stairs and unto the deck. What he saw horrified him. There were pools of blood everywhere. Part of the ship’s railing was torn away by the cannon balls fired from the pirate ship. The bodies of both pirate and the ‘Star of Bristol’ crew were being thrown into the sea. Jonathan watched in horror as the water churned bloody red as sharks thrashed about, devouring the corpses.
“Captain!” shouted Jonathan, as he saw his captain lying next to the main mast, his shirt being wet with blood. With that he broke away suddenly from the tight grasp of his captor and ran to where his captain lay dying. He knelt beside his captain and dear brother in the faith.
“Jonathan” moaned Captain Bishop with the little strength he had left. “We lost… there were too many of them… we were overpowered. Now… I am going home… to meet my Savoir and LORD and be with Him forever. He’s…he’s calling for me even now… he’s calling my name.” Then the captain pointed up toward the sky as if trying to touch something…or someone.
“I see my dearest Elizabeth… the wife of my soul…she’s dressed all in white…she has her arms opened to welcome me. Behind her…yes…behind her are the arms of my Savior and LORD, He is there, a glowing and radiant light, a light so bright…Yes…I come my LORD…I come.”
With those quiet words, the captain dropped his arms to his side and went into his eternal rest. Jonathan’s demeanor suddenly changed. It changed from sadness and grief to anger and wrath. He turned around to see a rather tall and stout buccaneer with a dirty three-cornered hat. He had on a ruffled blood-stained white shirt and tied to his waist was a leather belt similar to that of the other pirate. He sported two pistols and a cutlass by his side. He wore a reddish beard and two gold earrings hung from his ears.
The pirate who had entered the cabin was next to him. They both looked at Jonathan trying to decide what to do with him.
“See what I found in the cabin?” spoke the pirate who had found Jonathan. “A fine cabin boy he’ll be at that, won’t he Captain Red?”
“Yes” sneered the pirate captain, “a fine servant he’ll make.
“You murderer” shouted Jonathan as he jumped and ran with all fury against this invading pirate captain. Both the captain and the pirate were taken aback at this rush of fury, not expecting this rush of fury. With the back of an open hand the pirate captain struck Jonathan with all his might, knocking him backwards onto the deck. The blow stunned Jonathan for a few seconds. When he went to get back up he saw the pirate captain approaching him with sword in hand.
“I’ll cut you to pieces and feed you to the sharks!”
“Wait captain” said the pirate who was beside him, “did you see that? He came at you with no weapon in his hand. He has valor, just the kind of fighter we need. He’d make a fine pirate. I can teach him to fire a pistol, to throw a knife and to cut and slash with a cutlass. I can teach him what he needs to know!”
“Yes, you’re right Mr. Simmons” answered the pirate captain, looking at his fellow crewmate. “A fine member of our crew he’ll make indeed…Take him aboard!” and with those words, the pirate captain turned and jumped aboard his own ship leaving Mr. Simmons and Jonathan on the deck.
“I’ll never be a pirate” spoke Jonathan as he got to his feet again. “I’m a man of God, a preacher and teacher of God’s Word!” his voice still resounding anger and rage.
“I just saved your worthless life Englishman” growled Mr. Simmons as he grabbed Jonathan by his arm. “Think twice, we have no need for holy men on this ship, only fighters, so shut your mouth and stay alive, now move!” As Mr. Simmons pushed Jonathan towards the railing that joined the two ships, Jonathan thought of his belongings.
“My sea chest, it’s in the cabin!”
“Get it quickly” snapped Mr. Simmons as he released his grip on Jonathan’s arm. Jonathan went quickly to Captain Bishop’s cabin. He looked around for the last time. Tears came to his eyes as he noticed that the whole cabin had been looted by the pirates, yet his sea chest was still by his bunk, untouched.
He shouldered it and returned on deck. Mr. Simmons was still there waiting for him. He suddenly remembered the prophecy of old Quentin, that he would be ‘taken where he didn’t want to go’. Now he was sure that this was the beginning of the prophecy foretold.
The other pirates were looting the ‘Bristol Star’ taking all the was of value. Jonathan knew that the ship did not carry much gold or silver, with exception to the pay owed to the sailors. He suddenly felt a heavy hand push him from behind.
“Move now” growled Mr. Simmons, “you’re coming with us, in a while there won’t be anything left of this ship.”
Then both Mr. Simmons and Jonathan climbed over the railing and onto the deck of the pirate ship. Once on board, Jonathan put the sea chest down next to the main mast. He watched as the rest of the pirates climbed aboard, some with captured fire-arms, others with clothing and boxes filled with dried food and kegs of water and rum. The pirates then loosened the hooks and ropes that held the two ships together, and soon, the two were separated by the wind and waves.
When the pirate ship was a short distance away, it turned and sailed parallel to the ‘Star of Bristol’. Then the pirate captain came to stand at the rail to observe the ‘Star of Bristol’ now void of life. Jonathan learned that the name of this pirate captain was ‘Captain Red’ perhaps because the color of his beard was a fiery red color, to match his character.
“Now English preacher, you will see some fire-works” said Captain Red with a sneer. “Fire the ship!” yelled the captain. With those words, a few of the pirates threw some lighted torches onto the deck of the ‘Star of Bristol’ a few landed onto the sails that were on the deck. The dry canvass lit up quickly.
“Gunners, man your cannons!” cried out Capt. Red, “fire when ready!”
The pirates went to their cannons and lit the fuses, then, taking careful aim, fired against the ‘Star of Bristol’. The cannon balls blew holes into the side of the ship. One cannon ball hit its mark, the power room where the gunpowder was kept. There was an explosion and the ship spilt in two pieces. Slowly, the two pieces of the ‘Star of Bristol’ sank beneath the waves and out of sight.
There went up a cheer from all the pirates. After that, they all went below deck to celebrate by drinking rum. Captain Red followed his crew and nodded to Mr. Simmons.
“Bring the preacher below!”
“You heard the captain, he wants you below, certainly he wants a word with you. Better be careful what you say if you value your miserable life Englishman.” And with those words, Mr. Simmons gave Jonathan a push towards the stairs that led below deck.
Below deck seemed to be very spacious, with a room like a large galley with three long, wooden tables. At the head of one sat the pirate captain, Captain Red. Around him sat almost all the pirate crew, with mugs of rum they were laughing and shouting words of triumph over the ‘Star of Bristol’ which now lay at the bottom of the ocean.
When captain Red saw Jonathan, he held up his hand for silence. He put the pewter mug of rum down on the table and began to speak. All the pirates now observed Jonathan and they waited for the conversation to begin.
“Hear me now Englishman and hear me good” began Captain Red with a stern voice, “your life was spared for only one reason. I need mates of character and spirit, also guts and valor to cut and slash with a cutlass. You seem to have all of that. A pirate you shall be by thunder!” ended Captain Red slapping the table hard with a heavy hand.
“Never!” replied Jonathan with holy boldness, “I’m a preacher of God’s Word, his Living Word and that I’ll always be and nothing else!”
The pirate captain glared at Jonathan as he slowed got up from the table, his eyes glared with anger; “I need pirates, not holy men!” shouted the captain, “so you can choose, either a pirate you shall be or you can preach to the sharks below the waves!” the pirate crew all applauded and shouted at the words of their captain, then the captain again raised his hand for silence once more. The whole pirate crew hushed as their captain continued his discourse.
“But to show you all fairness I’ll make a deal with you Englishman. You can preach God to us once, just once…and…if you can convert us heathens, well then…we’ll all surrender our cutlasses and firearms and you can lead us all to church…or the magistrate!”
With those words, all the pirates broke out into laughter, slapping their hands down on the tables and drinking more rum. The captain raised his hand again and the crew all hushed to continue listening to their captain.
“But” he continued, “if you fail to convert all of us heathens, us sons of devils to your God, then, a pirate you’ll become and you’ll share in all the riches of gold and silver, what say you to that Englishman?”
The whole crew was silent now, awaiting the response of Jonathan. Jonathan knew that he’d never submit to becoming a pirate, and he now realized that the second part of the prophecy was falling into place…’and among the heathen you will be my witness…’
“I need some time to prepare message” replied Jonathan with a bold voice.
“You have an hour” said the pirate captain, “so go prepare to convert us into fine Christian gentlemen!” and the whole crew broke out laughing again. They returned to drinking rum and began to sing vulgar pirate songs about blood, bones, and death.
Jonathan turned and climbed the stairs to the deck once more. The sun was dipping below the Western horizon bringing on the evening. One of the pirates appeared to light the lamps that were on deck. One was hanging from the main mast where his sea chest lay. The lamp gave Jonathan enough light to open his chest and dig through his clothes to take out his leather-bound Bible.
He took out some notes and outlined that he had made when he was with the Reverend Russell. Now all his training and education in God’s Word would pay off. Then he prayed, looking up into the starry sky he lifted up his voice to his heavenly father.
“Father in Heaven” he began, “In Jesus’ name, give me your words to penetrate the hearts of these pirates, if not all of them, at least a few might be touched and saved by your Word of grace, forgiveness, and salvation. Let your Word not return void, may it take root in the hearts of stone converting the stone into flesh…amen”
Then Jonathan set to work. He sat down on top of the sea chest and went through his notes, looking up Bible verses, making mental notes. The time was passing very quickly. He could hear the pirates down below getting drunk, laughing and singing songs of the sea and of death. Now he was ready. With Bible in his hand he went back down stairs to the large galley. Upon seeing him, Captain Red raised his hand and commanded silence. The whole crew quieted down and waited.
“Now then” began Capt. Red, “What does God have to say to us vile, evil sinners Englishman?”
Jonathan began with the Genesis account of Adam and Eve and how they were created in God’s image and how they fell into sin, bringing the curse of death into the world. He continued and spoke about Abraham and Moses and how he was called ‘God’s Friend’ He talked about the ‘Seed of Abraham’ being Jesus Christ and how he accepted and welcomed all sinners.
He reviewed some portions of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon; ‘Sinners in the hands of an Angry God’ and how unrepentant sinners would be cast into a fiery hell. As he was speaking, he noticed the facial expressions on some of the pirates. Some frowned and stared down at the floor, others ignored him and went on drinking rum. Capt. Red said nothing, only looked at Jonathan with a stern but thoughtful look.
He also noticed one negro pirate who was rather tall and bare chested. He had a tattoo on his chest and wore a gold earring. The pirate looked at Jonathan and slowly nodded his head, looking at the floor. Jonathan ended his message with some verses from the Book of Romans and said;
“My dear friends, I call you friends because that is what God would like to call you as well. You are not beyond God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ. He died in your place on the Cross of Calvary. He has already forgiven your sins, crimes, murders, and evil deeds. You just have to repent of your ways and receive Him as your LORD and Savior. Ask Him to come into your heart and he will do just that. You will have a new heart with new desires. The alternative is eternal damnation, eternity in hell. It is a place of suffering, of wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is a place void of forgiveness and love. Turn now to Jesus and choose the right path, the path of Jesus, and the Way of Salvation!”
The whole galley was silent, a deathly silence, then the captain began to smile, the smile turned into a laughter, a laughter of scorn, then he started pounding his fist on the long, wooden table.
“Think you can scare us do you English boy? We’re all sons of the devil himself and hell bound we are all!”
“You need to take a look at the big picture captain!” responded Jonathan with holy boldness. “Eternity is a long time. You might have riches now and pirate fame, glory, and fear, but someday you will be hunted down and once in the fires of hell, there will be no escape. You will long for the coolness of the ocean waves and the breeze that fills the sails of this ship, but you will find only pain, fire, and torture by hell’s demons. I invite you once again to turn to Jesus while there is breath in your bodies, all of you.”
For a few seconds, the whole pirate crew seemed to be fixed on Jonathan’s words, but it didn’t last long. A few started to snicker and laugh, then the whole crew started to roar with laugher and scorn with the captain slapping his heavy hand on the table again and again.
“More rum!” bellowed the captain, and the ship’s cook came in running with a corked bottle of the fiery liquid. Jonathan looked to where the negro pirate was but he was no longer there. Without any more words, Jonathan turned to go upstairs to the deck, but not before the pirate captain called out to him.
“Englishman, tomorrow you will start your lessons in piracy. We’ll all teach you to be a fine cut-and-slash man, to throw a knife and fire a pistol or the devil take us all.”
“May your own words judge you captain,” replied Jonathan as he turned one more time to face the captain and the crew, “for I will never be a pirate, only God’s witness to all who wish to hear his word.”
“Then” replied the captain with a roar, “you can preach to the sharks, maybe they will repent.” With those words, the pirate captain took another swig from the bottle of rum which was almost empty.
Sadly, Jonathan climbed the stairs to the deck. The moon had risen now and the there was a cool breeze blowing across the waters. Below the pirates continued their drunken party. He found his sea chest and opening it, he slowly secured his Bible under some changes of clothing. After closing the chest, he began to pace back and forth along the deck and thought about the souls he had preached to. Did his message reach at least one crew member? Or did they all have hearts of stone? He walked back towards the helm, yet he didn’t notice the helmsman that was behind the large, wooden wheel.
“Your message touched my heart Englishman” said the helmsman in a deep voice.
Jonathan turned to look at the large, bare-chested negro pirate who was behind the wheel. The helmsman continued speaking.
“Thanks to you I have made my peace with God. Your words were not spoken in vain.”
Jonathan couldn’t believe his ears. God’s word did not return void, just as the scriptures say. The word of God had indeed touched and changed a heart.
“My name is Jonathan, I’m from England.”
“My name is Benjamin,” replied the helmsman. “I am a run-away slave from South Carolina. I ran from my master because he was an evil and cruel man and I joined these pirates. They accepted me and made me their helmsman. I steer this ship and now we are headed toward Port Royal.”
Jonathan became interested in Benjamin. He didn’t seem to be like the rest of the pirate crew. He was rather quiet and had a gentle demeanor, yet he was tall and seemed very strong physically.
“Were you born in South Carolina?” ask Jonathan, now very curious about this ex-slave, now a pirate.
“Yes”, answered Benjamin, “but my great, great grandparents were brought from Africa in a ship like this one.”
Benjamin continued to talk while his hands rested on the wheel. Every now and then he looked at the ships compass which was right next to the wheel. He talked about his ancestors from Africa. According to a story-teller, his tribe lived close to the Gambia river. It was a peace-loving tribe but it was attacked by a hostile tribe and his ancestors were sold as slaves to slave-traders.
“My people did not always live by the Gambia River”, continued Benjamin, “according to our story-teller, thousands of years before, they came to the Gambia region from a land called Cush.”
At the mention of “Cush” Jonathan recalled the prophecy of old Quentin. It was all making sense now. The he started to tell Benjamin about how he came to be onboard the “Star of Bristol” and how he had met old Quentin. He talked in detail about Old Quentin’s prophecy about the pirates and about the “Cushite” who would set him free and point the way home.
“I am in the prophecy?” questioned Benjamin in amazement. “Can it really be true Jonathan, that God would use me, even me?”
“Yes Benjamin,” replied Jonathan, now very excited, “The last part of the prophecy says that the Cushite will set me free and point the way home.”
“Then” replied Benjamin in his deep voice, “I will do exactly that.”
With those words, he locked in place the stern with a wooden peg and walked with Jonathan to the side of the ship. Then, with an outstretched arm, he pointed toward the West.
“There, to the West, about a day’s sailing are the Carolinas. Now we must hurry before the pirates awake from their drunken stupor. I will give you one of the longboats.”
Then Benjamin and Jonathan went to where one of the ship’s longboats was tied to the side of the ship. Then Jonathan went and picked up his sea-chest and put it inside the longboat.
“In this boat, you will have a pair of oars, two small barrels of fresh water and a bag of hard biscuits in case you get hungry.” Said Benjamin who was untying the boat from the side of the ship. Jonathan noticed that there were two wooden pullies that held the boat in place.
“Untie your end and I will untie this end, and we will lower the boat into the water,” said Benjamin who now had his hands on the rope near one of the pullies.
Together, Jonathan and Benjamin lowered the long boat into the water, slowly releasing the ropes that were attached to the pullies. Finally, the boat hit the water with a small splash.
“Here, take these coins, they aren’t much but they will buy you passage to Virginia.”
Benjamin took out of his pants pocket six coins; four silver pieces-of-eight and two gold sovereigns. Jonathan didn’t know what to say. He could hardly believe it, a pirate who was now helping him escape, a pirate who had now made his peace with God.
“How can I thank you my friend?” said Jonathan, embracing Benjamin with all his might.
“Just get home and fulfill Quentin’s prophecy, and I will be happy that I was part of it as well” answered Benjamin softly, looking into Jonathan’s eyes with deep compassion.