Friday, August 14, 2015

Is your name Hugh Williams? - You are not welcome on my cruise!

The story has often been told that a ship sank in the Menai Straits off the coast of north Wales on December 5, 1664, and all 81 passengers were drowned, except one man and he was called Hugh Williams. Then on December 5th, 1785, another ship with 60 people aboard sank in the Menai Straits. Again the only survivor then was also a man named Hugh Williams. Lastly in 1820 – again on December 5th - a third vessel sank in the Menai Straits. All 25 aboard were drowned except; yes you’ve guessed it, a man named Hugh Williams! This extraordinary coincidence could only be explained by the fact that the name Hugh Williams was very common in those parts, and that in December the tides in the Mania Straits can be quite treacherous.

This story has been called the 'strangest coincidence ever recorded', and seems a story worth telling. However, the story then gets complicated, because another version has the first wreck in the Mania Straits, but the second disaster as a pleasure schooner wrecked off the Isle of Man. Then the third was a picnicking party on a boat on the Thames run down by a coal barge, or was it a Leeds coal barge with nine men aboard floundered – all but two were drowned and both were named Hugh Williams! To make things even more interesting, there is also an account of a British trawler sunk by a German mine in the Mania Straits on 10th July 1940 and only two men survived, one man and his nephew - they were both called Hugh Williams! So apart from the coincidence of the name Hugh Williams, the story has a number of variations. Is it true or is it only an urban myth? Who knows? Someone was quite confused by the variation in these stories, and the only thing he could conclude that if he were ever to go sailing on the Mania Straits, he would make sure that there wasn’t someone called Hugh Williams on board!

Whichever way you take these stories, the gospel of the Lord Jesus is of course very believable. It has many descriptions in the New Testament. For instance when the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Colossae, he spoke about ‘the word of the truth of the gospel’, Colossians chapter 1 verse 5, by which they ‘knew the grace of God in truth’, v. 6.

At the trial of the Lord Jesus, Pontius Pilate cynically asked the question, ‘What is truth?’, John 18. 38. In fact it turns out that the truth is not ‘what’ but ‘who’, since Jesus had said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’, John 14. 6. Jesus is the one-and-only way to God, and His death on the cross made it possible that individuals could come to God though Him.

The apostle Paul looked back with the Christians at Ephesus to the time of their conversion and reminded them about ‘[Jesus] in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’, Ephesians 1. 13.  The gospel – the good news – was about their salvation, when they were rescued from the penalty of their sins.   

God wants you to know the truth: in fact in the New Testament we read that He is the God who wants ‘all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth’, 1 Timothy 2. 4. Why not get saved and come to know this truth for yourself?

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