Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: The Titanic's Last Hero

The Titanic's Last Hero: A Startling True Story That Can Change Your Life Forever. Moody Adams. 2012. 120 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: AS THE DARK, FRIGID WATERS of the Atlantic crept slowly up the decks of the Titanic, John Harper shouted, “Let the women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats!” Harper gave his life jacket—his last hope of survival—to another man. After the ship had slipped beneath the silent water and left Harper floundering, he was heard urging those around him to put their faith in Jesus Christ. It was the night of April 14, 1912, a night for heroes, and John Harper met the challenge. Though the waters swallowing him were bitterly cold and the sea about him was dark, John Harper left this world in a brilliant blaze of glory.

Premise/plot: Most of this one is a reprint of a much, much older title: John Harper: A Man of God (1912). The first chapter tells the essentials of the story of this Christian hero. The remaining chapters are written by a diverse group: John Climie, George Harper, eleven assorted preachers and missionaries, and an assorted gathering of testimonies of his converts. The book also includes, I believe, four sermon outlines by John Harper.

My thoughts: I have no doubt that demand was high for a book about John Harper in the year or two following the Titanic disaster. But I have to say that the book is uneven in quality. The first few chapters were really insightful and interesting. But most were not. The chapters written by eleven different pastors/evangelists/missionaries were essentially fillers. Like someone had put out an advertisement: have you ever spoken to John Harper? have you ever been in the same room with him? how would you like to be published in a book?! That is a bit mean of me, I suppose. But I really wish that the publisher had not made such a BOLD and DRAMATIC subtitle. It promises more than it can deliver.

That being said, I think there's room for a NEW book about John Harper that gathers the facts of his life and ministry. Perhaps a picture book for older readers?! I think this story would lend well to illustration. It would be lovely to gather together select quotes from John Harper and others that knew and loved him. I think the bare facts of the story are inspiring.
“Oh that we could only have more faith in a loving, living Savior, and that we would only open our hearts wide enough to receive more of His sweet, consuming, constraining, heart-piercing love, and oh! That we would open our ears to hear the sweet voice of the Bridegroom as He whispers to our souls, ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away, and leave the fleeting phantoms of this fleeting day.’ And oh, that His soul-ravishing voice would so reach our cold hearts that we would be made to thirst and cry out for a closer fellowship with the crucified Savior.” ~ John Harper
Many of the men, women, and children who were left on the sinking ship screamed their way toward a dreadful silence. In contrast, a confident John Harper faced death with absolute assurance that Jesus had conquered death and given him the gift of eternal life. This assurance overcame the terror of drowning.
Harper’s heroism was not just one shining moment in an otherwise unheroic existence. He burned, wept, prayed, and worked unselfishly for others throughout his entire life. Harper reclaimed drunkards, gamblers, and former prize fighters for the Lord. As a pastor, he would sometimes spend the entire night in his church praying for his hundreds of members by name. Harper worked day and night, in homes and on the streets, pointing the downtrodden to a better life. He labored ceaselessly among the common people, seeking to care for them. 
In the End, There Were Only Two Classes of Passengers Following the sinking of the Titanic, the White Star office in Liverpool, England, placed a large board on either side of the main entrance. On one they printed in large letters, “KNOWN TO BE SAVED.” On the other, “KNOWN TO BE LOST.” When the Titanic’s voyage began, there were three classes of passengers. But when it ended, the number was reduced to only two—those who were “saved” by the rescue boats and those who were “lost” in the deep waters.
John Harper plunged into death with reckless abandon, knowing he would be among the lost passengers. But he had absolute confidence that his name would be on the “saved” list at the throne of God. 
During those fifty minutes, a young man from Scotland who was clinging to a board drifted near John Harper. Harper, who was struggling in the water as well, cried, “Are you saved?” The answer returned, “No.” Harper shouted words from the Bible: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Before responding, the man drifted away into the dark night. Later, the current brought them back in sight of each other. Once more the dying Harper shouted the question: “Are you saved?” Again the man answered, “No.” Harper repeated the words of Acts 16: 31. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Bereft of strength, Harper released his hold and sank downward into his watery grave. The man to whom whose soul Harper had with his last breath thrown a verbal lifeline was indeed saved. That man not only put his faith in Jesus Christ but also found himself rescued by the SS Carpathia’s lifeboats. In Hamilton, Ontario, four years later, this survivor whose identity remains a mystery (although some investigation might lead one to believe he was John “Jack” Stewart, one of the ship’s stewards), described what happened and testified that he was John Harper’s last convert. Harper’s final convert was won by Harper’s last words: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
An eager student of the Bible, Harper devoured the sacred Book. He meditated upon it. He used any commentary that would throw light upon it or that would help him to draw light from it. He yielded himself to its sway. He expounded it. Few could make better use of it than he “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3: 16). Whatever form of doctrine was found in it, he adhered to. This he did tenaciously. He held fast to the instruction it gave him. He esteemed it as his life. Whatever doctrine was not found in the Holy Scriptures, it mattered not how fancifully put, nor by whomsoever it was proclaimed, it found no place with him. “Thus saith the Lord” was his standby. He stood on the Rock of revelation. Men’s theories to him were sand. God’s Word was rock.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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