Christ’s Love and Prayer for 700 “Quaking Souls.”
“I remember clearly lying in my berth early that Saturday morning (Nov. 26th, 1892, on the steamer Spree when she was one thousand miles out from Southampton on her way to New York), congratulating myself that I had gotten passage in so swift a ship, when my thoughts were stopped by a great crash that shook the vessel from stem to stern.
“My son, William Revell Moody, jumped from his berth and rushed on deck. He was back again in an instant, crying that the shaft was broken and the ship sinking. Then ensued a scene the like of which I hope never to witness again. There was no panic, but the passengers, who had scrambled on deck at the first warning, looked at each other in an appealing way that was, if anything, more terrible than demonstrative fear. The captain told us there was no danger, and some of the second cabin passengers returned to their berths only to tumble back pellmell a moment later. The rising water had driven them out. Some of them lost all their clothes and valuables.
“At this point the officers buckled on their revolvers, but there was no need to use them. The people, though terribly frightened, did not seem to realize what had happened. The women didn’t scream, but stood around trembling and with blanched faces. Nobody said a word, but each waited for his neighbor to speak. We felt that we might be looking on our graves.
“The captain told us at noon that he thought he had the water under control and was in hopes of drifting in the way of some passing vessel. The ship’s bow was now high in the air, while the stern seemed to settle more and more. There was no storm, but the sea, was very rough, and the ship rolled from side to side with fearful lurches. I think that if she had pitched at all the overstrained, bulkheads would have burst and we should have gone to the bottom. The captain cheered us by telling us that he thought we should run in with a ship by 3 o’clock that Saturday afternoon, but the night drew on and no sail appeared to lighten our gloom.
“We knew the ship was sinking when we came on deck, but there was no panic. The big engines of the ship were all working at the pumps, but the water was steadily gaining in spite of them. With each roll of the ship it could be heard like the roar of the surf. All the day was passed in anxiously watching for a sail. We could not talk of religion, for the first word brought forth a hundred exclamations, ‘Are we sinking?’ Then in that first night one woman went insane. It seemed an age until the Sabbath morning came, When the vigil on the deck was resumed.
“I think that was the darkest night in all our lives. None of us thought to live to see the light of another day. Nobody slept. We were all huddled in the saloon of the first cabin–Americans and Germans, Jews, Protestants, Catholics and skeptics–although at that time I doubt if there were many skeptics among us. For forty-eight hours we were in this mortal fear.
“Sabbath morning dawned upon as wretched a ship’s company as ever sailed the sea. There was at that time no talk of religious services. I think that if this had been suggested then there would have been a panic. To talk of religion to those poor people would have been to suggest the most terrible things to them. Everybody was waiting for his neighbor to say: ‘Are we, then, doomed to die?’
“But as night approached I gathered those 700 quaking souls together and we held a prayer meeting. I think everybody prayed. There were no skeptics present. I have been under fire in the war, I have stood by deathbeds during the cholera epidemic in Chicago, but I never was so sorely tried. I could with difficulty command my voice as I read the ninety-first Psalm. I read without comment, and then I prayed that God would still the anger of the deep and bring us safely to our desired heaven. The people were weeping all around me. I also read from the 107th Psalm.
“We tried to sing. I gave out the first verse of ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul,’ and General Howard started the tune. He sang the hymn through in a strong voice, but very few joined him. Instead, the melody was punctuated by broken sobs and exclamation of grief. That night I went to bed and slept, I felt that everything would be all right.
“Never was a more earnest meeting held than this. All prayed together, and I did not hear much talk of skepticism, I can tell you. At 2:30 o’clock in the morning a ship’s light was sighted, and in a few hours we were comparatively safe, although our danger was not over. The strain on our minds was almost as great, and minds gave way under it. Two women became violently insane and it was necessary to confine them. A young man from Vienna threw himself overboard and was drowned.
“When we were finally safe in port we had a thanksgiving service, and then such singing as there was–such praises that went up.
“We prayed that the ship be brought to a haven, and relief came on the night after our prayer meeting. I am a firm believer in prayer. I always have been. I believe and I know that God saved the Spree in response to our prayers.”