Titanic Preacher


Harper ferries sinking souls to heaven

April 15, 2012 was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the world’s largest ocean liner at the time, and with it over 1,500 lives were lost, buried at sea in calm, frigid waters. Fortunately, there is a good chance that some of those who were lost were not lost, after all. That is because of a preacher named John Harper.

The maiden voyage of the Titanic was scheduled to be the final voyage of the captain, who was retiring after this trip. Perhaps it was the captain’s desire to set a new speed record for crossing the Atlantic that led to his regrettable decision to ignore the iceberg warnings and continue sailing into the danger. Perhaps it was the boasts experts had made that this ship was unsinkable. Whatever the case, the captain sailed on confidently until an iceberg was spotted in the ship’s path. With too little time to turn away from it, the ship collided with the ice and began to fill with water. By 2:45 a.m. on April 15, within three hours of striking the iceberg, the Titanic had sunk.

While the ship was sinking, lifeboats were being lowered into the water. Women and children filled the boats, one of them the 6-year-old daughter of John Harper, an evangelist who, after securing his daughter’s safety, left the only hope he had of survival to hurry through the ship’s corridors warning people of the danger, and sharing the gospel to those who would listen. He finally had to jump into the icy Atlantic graveyard, and while clinging to a piece of wreckage, he witnessed to a man nearby, imploring him to believe in Jesus Christ. That was the last that was seen of John Harper before he perished in the sea. We do not know how many people heeded Harper’s pleas, but we can surmise that heaven is a little more populated now because of his efforts.

Calling all Harpers

We are all on a sinking ship. The earth as we know it is living on borrowed time before it succumbs to a sea of fire when God sends his final judgment upon it. The whole world is about to drown, swiftly sinking into an irreversible eternal fate, and no one knows the day when he will have to give account of his life before God. John Harper had the advantage of a sinking ship to convince the souls on board that they needed to prepare for eternity immediately. Today it is not so easy to convince people of the urgency of the hour. In the days of Noah, the people kept on eating and drinking and living life as usual, refusing to believe that they were all about to drown. The world today is like that, just as Jesus warned (Mat 24:37-39). But one day Jesus is going to return from heaven without warning and will judge the world as suddenly as the Titanic sunk on April 15, 1912. Perhaps the only way the world will realize how desperate the situation is will be by the urgent sound in our voices and the passionate looks on our faces as we plea with them to save their own lives by letting Jesus save them from their sins.

Today, we call singers and athletes and actors “stars” or “idols.” Just a few days ago I was struck when I heard a narrator on television refer to a popular country singer as a “superstar.” On the same program one of the actresses in a recent movie was at a ceremony where she was surrounded by movie “stars.” She confessed to being extremely nervous around such iconic legends of the screen. What a sad picture it is when we are mesmerized by people just because they can act or sing or run fast, but true heroes, like John Harper are quickly forgotten, or worse, never heard of in the first place.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are all John Harpers, called to warn the people of this world about the disaster that is about to overtake them if they do not repent. We do not care if we are remembered, or even noticed by the world. All we care about is receiving the applause of heaven. Let us not waste our time on frivolous things like entertainment, as the world does, but let us busy ourselves trying to salvage as many souls as we can before it is too late. Jesus is the only lifeboat that can save mankind. We must go to every cabin of the world and tell people what they must do to be saved.

This article is dedicated to the hundreds of BRSM and FIRE grads who are dedicating their lives to doing what John Harper did on that fateful day in 1912. Thank you for going to Asia and Australia and Africa. Thank you for going to Atlanta, to Chicago, and to Charlotte. Thank you for going to Europe and Mexico and South America. Thank you for all you do, and by all means, please keep doing it. The world desperately needs you.


3 comments on “Titanic Preacher

  1. Tom Watson says:

    That’s encouraging Mr. Alt! Did the man survive that Harper preached to in the water? How do we know what happened?

    • Yes, the man he witnessed to was one of only 6 people who entered the icy water and survived. Four years later, at a survivors’ gathering, he testified to getting saved as a result of Harper’s witnessing. Harper said, “are you saved?” The man said, “No.” Harper said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” The two drifted away, then came closer together again. They repeated the dialogue and then Harper went under the water and was not seen again, but the man repented and then was rescued.

    • The man Harper witnessed to survived to tell the story. At the four year anniversary of the disaster, he tearfully testified how Harper on two occasions asked him if he knew Jesus. Each time Harper said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” After the second time, Harper disappeared under the water and was never seen again, but the man he witnessed to accepted the Lord while clinging to a piece of wreckage. Soon thereafter he was rescued, one of only 6 survivors out of more than 1,500 that went into the water. All the other survivors were in lifeboats.

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