1100) 104 Years Ago Today

The Sinking of the Titanic, Willy Stower, 1912


From The One Year Christian History, by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, pages 212-3, Tyndale House Publishers, 2003.

     John Harper was born in Scotland in 1872 to a Christian family.  When he was presented with the message of John 3:16 at the age of thirteen, he believed in Jesus and received everlasting life.  When he was eighteen, he had a powerful vision of the cross of Christ.  At that moment he committed his life to bringing the message of the Cross to others.  The very next day he began to preach in his village, urging all his hearers to be reconciled to God.  He made every street corner his pulpit.  His desire to win souls to Christ was unmatched, becoming his all-consuming purpose.

     At thirty-two he had a near-drowning experience when he was caught on a leaky ship in the Mediterranean.  He said of the experience, “The fear of death did not for one minute disturb me.  I believed that sudden death would be sudden glory.”

     In 1911 he spent three months preaching at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago during a revival and received an enthusiastic response.  He was asked to return for three more months of meetings beginning in April 1912.  Originally scheduled to sail on the Lusitania, he sailed on the Titanic after a schedule change.

     When he informed his church of his intent to return to Chicago, a parishioner begged him not to go, saying that he had been praying and felt strongly that something ominous would happen if he went.  He pleaded with Harper, but to no avail.  Harper felt that there was a divine purpose for his trip, and Harper went ahead with his plans.  The night before the ship sank, Harper was seen leading a man to Christ on the deck.

     Afterward, he looked to the west, and seeing a glint of red in the sunset he said, “It will be beautiful in the morning.”

     Moments later the Titanic struck an iceberg, and the sea poured in.  Mayhem ensued as most people struggled to save their own lives.  As they loaded the lifeboats, John Harper shouted, “Let the women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats.”  He then removed his life preserver and gave it to another man.

     At 2:20 A.M. on April 15, 1912, the Titanic disappeared beneath the water.  Harper and many others were left floundering in the icy waters.

     One man, who was clinging to a piece of wood, saw Harper struggling in the water.  Harper shouted, “Are you saved?”  When the man answered no, Harper quoted Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”  The man did not respond, and they lost sight of each other.  A few minutes later the current brought them together again.  Harper asked the same question again, urging the man to believe in Jesus, and received the same reply.  Harper then slipped beneath the water, never to resurface.  The man did put his faith in Jesus Christ and was later rescued by a lifeboat.  He testified that he was John Harper’s last convert.

     After the sinking of the ship, relatives and friends of the passengers gathered outside the White Star office in Liverpool, England.  As news came in about the passengers, names were placed on one of two lists, “Known to Be Saved” or “Known to Be Lost.”  The voyage had begun with three classes of passengers, but now it was reduced to only two— saved or lost.

     John Harper’s name was placed on the list for those “Known to Be Lost,” but it was on the “Saved” list in heaven.


“God said to me, ‘The world is sinking.  I’m giving you a lifeboat.  Save all you can.'”

–Dwight L. Moody, greatest American evangelist of the 19th century  (1837-1899)


 Luke 12:20a  —  God said unto him, “You fool, this very night your soul shall be demanded of you.”

Acts 16:30-31a  —  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

John 3:16  —  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


From dying suddenly and unprepared, Good Lord, deliver us…

–from The Great Litany in The Book of Common Prayer