Daniel J. Draper

It was a prayer meeting that ended in heaven

DANIEL JAMES DRAPER, an English Methodist, went as a missionary to south Australia in 1836. There he witnessed the building of thirty new churches and under his leadership saw membership increase tenfold.
Draper and his wife made their first visit back to England twenty-nine years later. On January 5, 1866, they left Plymouth, England, to return to Australia aboard the London. As they sailed out at midnight, the sky and sea were calm. Two days later the wind increased but not enough to prevent Draper from holding a worship service in the ship’s saloon. But within twenty-four hours the wind greatly increased, and much of the ship’s rigging was blown away. The winds became so violent that the wreckage from the masts could not be cleared, making the ship rock even more, furthering the damage to the ship. The winds continued until they became a full-blown hurricane. By 3:00 P.M. Wednesday, January 10, 1866, the ship turned back toward Plymouth, sailing as quickly as it could in its damaged state in an attempt to reach safer, calmer waters.
At ten-thirty that night a “mountain of water” fell on the main deck, taking out the engine-room skylight, completely filling the engine room and extinguishing the engine fires. As the men worked furiously to repair the damage, nature showed no mercy. Finally, Captain Martin told his men to say their prayers, for the ship was doomed.
The darkness that night was an eerie forerunner of the deeper darkness that would soon engulf them. At midnight Draper began a prayer meeting in the saloon. All the passengers and crew not on duty gathered. In between the prayers Draper exhorted the people to come to Christ for salvation. Many brought their Bibles and read them with earnestness. Survivors later reported that mothers were weeping as they held their bewildered children and friends bid each other good-bye, but there was no hysteria.
At dawn Captain Martin calmly told the passengers and crew that all hope was lost. Draper broke the somber silence that followed this announcement by standing up to address the crowd once more. With tears flowing down his face, he said in a clear, strong voice, “The captain tells us there is no hope; that we must all perish. But I tell you there is hope, hope for all. Although we must die and shall never again see land, we may all make the port of heaven.”
The survivors reported that from the beginning of the prayer meeting at midnight until the boat sank at two the next afternoon, Draper was ceaseless in his prayers, admonitions, and invitations. Among his last heard words were, “In a few moments we must all appear before our Great Judge. Let us prepare to meet him.”
A survivor said that as he left the ship, he heard people singing:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold thee on thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.

Daniel Draper’s sole concern as the ship went down was making sure that everyone knew the way of salvation. What do you think you would do if you were on a sinking ship?
God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:18-19.