Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH.
1. To encourage and develop Christian talent. When Paul went to Lystra he found the Church there speaking well of a young disciple, Timotheus. This convert was "well reported of by the brethren" (ver. 2), and "him Paul would have to go forth with him" (ver. 3). The Church praised him who was praiseworthy; and the minister trusted and encouraged him who was trustworthy, leading him on to higher things, and placing him in a position in which his consecrated powers would have freer range and extended usefulness. The Church of Christ seldom does better than when it nourishes youthful piety, and paves the way for the exercise and development of growing talent.
2. To make timely concession. "Him Paul took and circumcised because of the Jews" (ver. 3). Paul thought these men wrong in their views, but he consulted their sensibilities for the sake of concord and progress. The true triumph is, not to work well with those with whom we are in full sympathy, but to co-operate, without friction, with those between whom and ourselves there is variance of view or difference of disposition. There is no possibility of rendering any considerable service in the cause of Church organization, without a large measure of the conciliatory spirit, and without a considerable amount of actual concession. Not the man who carries his point by obstinate persistency, but he who yields at the right time and in the right spirit is commended of his Lord.
3. To be faithful to all compacts. (Ver. 4.) Probably Paul and Silas might have safely said nothing about the decision at Jerusalem; the people of Asia Minor would have heard nothing about that. But they were scrupulous to carry out the compromise in all its particulars. Fidelity to an undertaking is a clear and urgent Christian duty; the Church or the minister who should slight it would be doing something which is not only unworthy but discreditable, displeasing to Christ, injurious to itself or himself.
4. To keep in view consolidation and extension: to preserve a fair and wise proportion between these different branches of Christian work. Under the hand of Paul and Silas the Chinches of Asia "were established in the faith, and increased in number" (ver. 5). The missionaries were not more desirous of extending the line of active evangelization than of securing the ground which they had taken. This is Christian wisdom. The two complementary works should always go together; one will minister to the other; one cannot shine without the other.
II. THE REWARD OF THE CHURCH. This is twofold.
1. To glean individual results. True and keen must have been Paul's gratification to find such a disciple as Timothy at Lystra. Well was he recompensed for the cruel stoning he received in that town by gaining such a "beloved son" and valuable helper in his work of faith and love. And it is the individual results of the Christian teacher's labor which are his most appreciated reward now. The recovery of that lost one; the decision of that vacillating one; the consecration of that promising one; - these are his joy and crown.
2. To witness general progress. To find that "the Churches are established," and that they are "increasing in number;" to know that the cause of Christ is advancing, that his kingdom is coming, that his name is being honored, and his praises sung by those who had been ignorant of his dying love; - what joy, what intense and pure satisfaction, is this! Other sources of delight may pass, or they may leave a stain rather than a tint behind them; but this is a gladness that abides, and which purifies and ennobles the heart of him who is made happier thereby. - O.
I. THE YOUNG DISCIPLE. His case shows:
1. The blessing of a pious mother. The mother's love gives force to all her lessons, sanctity to the curliest of life's recollections. "Knowing of whom thou hast learned them."
2. The blessing of Christian society. He enjoyed the testimony of the brethren in Lystra and Iconium. Not only the good influences we receive from Christian brethren, but the certificate which their good will and commendation affords us, is to be considered.
3. The blessing of sound instruction. He had an apostle for his teacher. There were things he had "heard and been assured of" from those weighty lips.
4. These advantages turboed to account, he was the pride and consolation of his mother, and the more so as her husband was an unbeliever. He was an ornament to his community, as we may see from the Epistles to Timothy, from Philippians 2:22 and 1 Corinthians 16:10; and a joy and support of the apostle.
II. SPECIAL ENCOURAGEMENT FOR CHRISTIAN MOTHERS.
1. How many examples have we not of devout mothers in the Old and New Testaments! Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Mary, the mother of Jesus; Salome, the mother of Zebedee's children; Eunice, the mother of Timothy. And with these may be compared Monica, the mother of Augustine.
2. A mother's prayers are as guardian angels about the life of her child; and the godly son possesses the happy harvest of a mother's tears.
3. The mother's early influence is the best preparation for future service. Paul laid stress upon it; and the happy connection between himself and the disciple - so fruitful for both and for the world - rested upon the early foundation laid by the mother. - J. Vers. 9-15. -
The journey to -Macedonia: the happy beginning. The transplantation of the gospel into Europe was a great epoch. We see the seed-corn of the kingdom germinating and growing from small beginnings.
I. THE PROVIDENTIAL INDICATIONS. It came, as on many occasions to prophets and men called and sent of God, in a vision of the night. The Macedonian appears and cries, "Cross into Macedonia, and come to our aid!" From the 'Confessions' of St. Patrick, the evangelist of Ireland, a dream is cited, in which, by a letter addressed to him, with the inscription, "The voice of the Irish," he was called as a missionary to Ireland, where he had spent some years of his youth, having been captured and enslaved by pirates. Let us regard this vision as an allegory of the constant cry of the heathen world, "sitting in darkness and the shadow of death," to the loving sympathy of Christian hearts. "Christians, help poor Patagonians!" is the refrain of a plaintive mission song. It is a cry that rises from the lands of the West to the lands of the East in this narrative; and again it becomes, in the course of history, a cry from the East to the West. It may sound again from now so-called Christian lands, should our candlestick be removed from its place, and the gospel light pass over to those who prove themselves more worthy to enjoy it. May we know the day of our visitation!
II. THE HAPPY CONSEQUENCES.
1. There was quick apprehension of the Divine command. They gathered (Luke glides into the narrative) that God had called them to preach. The presence of the Divine Leader, manifesting itself in such indications, is everything in these new enterprises. "Jesus, still lead on!" He was already before them in Macedonia, and the vision assured them of this. Here is a great lesson. So soon as we are assured of the direction of the Divine will, let us be prompt to obey.
2. They enjoyed a straight course to their destination. If a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes his enemies to be at peace with him, and the winds and waves to be calm as he proceeds. Their confidence grew at every step of their cruise. "'Hearty welcome! ' cried Europe" (Bengal).
3. The arrival. They came to Philippi, the chief city of that part of Macedonia. The arrival at a great city for the first time is an impressive moment in one's life. Who can see the dome of St. Peter's in the distance the first time without a thrill? The city is the epitome of mankind. Great cities have great vices, but likewise contain eminent virtues and flowers of piety. Poets, prophets, and apostles have generally found their sphere in the busy town life.
4. The leading of events. The sabbath day came, and the Christian missionary band repaired to the banks of the river. How good the simple devotional habit! We are ever in the way of getting good and doing good when in the way to prayer. How simple and natural the true method of fulfilling a Divine call!
"The trivial round, the common task, 5. The woman's heart conquered to Christ. Not by conversion en masse, but by gaining the hearts of individuals, does the gospel proceed. The kingdom of God is like seed sown in the ground. When it takes root in but one life, how great may be the results! The noble Church at Philippi, which gave the apostle so much joy, sprang from the conversion of Lydia. How beautiful is the description: "Her heart the Lord opened" ] The teacher's voice strikes vainly upon the ear, until God opens the heart. But the heart may refuse to open and the word runs, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man will," etc. True works of a heart divinely and graciously opened are named. Here is humility - she submits herself to the judgment of Christians more advanced. Teachableness, thankfulness to God, busy love and kindness, the setting of a good example. She dedicates her house, with herself, to the service of Christ. - J.
5. The woman's heart conquered to Christ. Not by conversion en masse, but by gaining the hearts of individuals, does the gospel proceed. The kingdom of God is like seed sown in the ground. When it takes root in but one life, how great may be the results! The noble Church at Philippi, which gave the apostle so much joy, sprang from the conversion of Lydia. How beautiful is the description: "Her heart the Lord opened" ] The teacher's voice strikes vainly upon the ear, until God opens the heart. But the heart may refuse to open and the word runs, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man will," etc. True works of a heart divinely and graciously opened are named. Here is humility - she submits herself to the judgment of Christians more advanced. Teachableness, thankfulness to God, busy love and kindness, the setting of a good example. She dedicates her house, with herself, to the service of Christ. - J.
I. ENLARGED WORK THE FRUIT OF ENLARGED CAPACITY AND EXPERIENCE.
1. In his own spirit - by faithful service and abundant grace received.
2. In his higher standing among his brethren. The sympathy and confidence expressed by the Churches of Antioch and Jerusalem lifted up Paul's spirit to a higher level.
3. In the clearer course opened by the settlement of the controversy as to the position of the Gentile converts.
II. INSTRUMENTS PREPARED TO MEET GREATER DEMANDS. Timothy specially gifted to be Paul's companion. His Greek education. His mother's and grandmother's piety. His father possibly a proselyte. He himself Paul's son in the faith. Silas more Jewish. The Holy Spirit guides us when we seek out helpers in dependence on higher wisdom. The young minister had the confidence of the Churches, where probably he had exercised his gifts. Those who are selected as candidates for the ministry should be approved and well reported of, and in some degree tried. Paul's own judgment was sustained by that of others.
III. IN ALL WORK DIFFICULTIES AND SCANDALS SHOULD BE SHUNNED, even at the cost of suppressing personal feeling. When it was a question of maintaining principle, Paul would not consider Jewish prejudice; when it was a question of conciliating and preparing the way for the gospel, he would put his own broader views in the background. An example showing that promises and conciliation can be mingled in the same character; a warning against self-assertion.
IV. THE INFLUENCE OF A WELL-MAINTAINED CHURCH ORDER ON THE STABILITY AND PROSPERITY OF SPIRITUAL WORK. There was no despotism of Jerusalem over the Gentile Churches, but these were decrees ordained; not the decrees of those who sought dominion over the faith of others, but the decisions of wise, good, inspired men, who spoke under the influence of the Spirit. We should obey the will of the Spirit, whether we hear it from Jerusalem or from any other quarter. A true, humble, and zealous desire to be strengthened and to increase will be the best preservative against schism. There is no inconsistency between liberty and reverence. They support one another. - R.
connects them as effects with their just causes, or with that which was in part, and as matter of fact, their just cause. Observe, then, that -
I. THE LOVE OF APOSTOLIC HEARTS ESTABLISHES FAITH IN THE HEARTS OF OTHERS AND INCREASES THE SPREAD OF IT.
II. THE KINDLY PASTORAL VISITING OF THOSE OF SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE, AND WHO HAVE BEEN SET AND CALLED OF GOD, AS LEADERS, ESTABLISHES THE FAITH OF WHOLE CHURCHES AND INCREASES THEIR NUMBER.
III. THE ACTIVE ZEAL OF THE OLDER AND HONORED LEADERS IN SEEKING AND ENCOURAGING YOUNG RECRUITS THROWS ENERGY INTO EXISTING FAITH AND PROVIDES DIRECT MEANS FOR PROPAGATING IT.
1. Paul selects Timothy, observing him to be the right sort.
2. Paul recognizes the need of new blood and young blood, and lets the Churches see that he does so.
3. Paul suggests the circumcision of Timothy, as son of a Jewish mother, that no time should be unnecessarily lost in removing objections on the part of the Jewish elements in the Churches he was visiting.
IV. AN EQUITABLE ADMINISTRATION OF THE DECISIONS OF THE "APOSTLES AND ELDERS," AND A JUST ATTENTION TO ECCLESIASTICAL ORDER, STEADIES THE FAITH RESIDENT IN THE CHURCH AND PROMOTES THE GROWTH OF IT ELSEWHERE. (Ver. 4.) To try to "put a yoke upon the neck" of any Church is to "tempt God" (Acts 15:10). To give it true liberty is like giving it air and light. - B.
alter ego of the apostle. Their knowledge of each other was mutual; and one whose yearning and often lacerated heart had such deep need of a kindred spirit on which to lean for sympathy, and whose distressing infirmities rendered necessary to him the personal services of some affectionate companion, must have regarded the devoted tenderness of Timothy as a special gift of God to save him from being crushed by overmuch sorrow." Timothy was brought to Christ by St. Paul's preaching, and the way in which the apostle reminds Timothy of his sufferings at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra (1 Timothy 3:10, 11), suggests that Timothy was an actual "witness of St. Paul's injurious treatment; and this at a time of life when the mind receives its deepest impressions from the spectacle of innocent suffering and undaunted courage. And it is far from impossible that the generous and warm-hearted youth was standing in that group of disciples who surrounded the apparently lifeless body of the apostle at the outside of the wails of Lystra."
I. THE ADVANTAGES OF TIMOTHY IN A GODLY ANCESTRY. It is certain that he was of a naturally amiable and affectionate disposition, and had this advantage from his birth. His mother, and her mother before her, were amiable and pious women, and transmitted their natural grace to this young man. It is often observed that children bear the disposition of their mothers; and just such a gentle tone of character as Timothy showed has often been traceable to such a godly ancestry as he had. It may seem as if women had but little work to do; but what a noble mission is theirs if their patient culture of natural disposition gives their children the vantage-ground of amiable and attractive character! Few blessings resting on our life surpass that of the hereditary influence of good and godly ancestors.
II. THE ADVANTAGE OF A WISE AND CAREFUL EARLY TRAINING. "Of a child he had known the Scriptures." Show how this involved
(1) an early awakening of the intelligence;
(2) a guardianship of his youth and young manhood from folly and temptation;
(3) a preparedness for the fuller light and truth brought to him by the apostle;
(4) a fitness for the Christian ministry to which he subsequently became devoted. It may also be shown he was the influence of his early teachers tended to encourage
(1) a studious habit;
(2) a cultivation of the passive graces almost to the disadvantage of the active. No more beautiful characters are found on earth than those who are naturally amiable, and whose amiability is sanctified by Divine grace.
III. THE CHARACTERISTIC EXCELLENCES OF HIS SANCTIFIED MANHOOD. From the Epistles written by St. Paul to him we gather what were the leading features of his character.
1. Great affectionateness of disposition, which made him cleave closely to any one he loved, and enabled him to make cheerful sacrifices for them.
2. Great steadfastness and trustworthiness, so that St. Paul found he could always rely on him. He acted from principle, not mere impulse; and had a strong sense of duty.
3. A studious habit of mind, which, no doubt, made him valuable to St. Paul for his writing work, but became a snare to him, as unfitting him, to some extent, for public ministerial duties. Out of this, and the consequent frailty of his health, came a shyness and timidity which St. Paul urges him to overcome. It has been well said that Timothy is a beautiful example for young men, as "one of those simple, faithful natures which combine the glow of courage with the bloom of modesty." - R.T.
I. THE CALL OF GOD. Paul and Silas went whithersoever they were directed. They forebore to go to some places because the way was closed by the Divine hand (vers. 6, 7); they went to others because "they assuredly gathered that God had called them" (ver. 10). God does not vouchsafe to us now such plain and indubitable signs of his will as he granted in apostolic days; we have no such visions and voices as they had to guide them. Nevertheless he does direct our steps. He either calls us or "suffers us not" to go where we had designed to work, by some method, of his Divine procedure.
1. He may enlighten our minds by enlarging our faculties; so that, though we are not conscious of any special influence, we see clearly what is the right and wise course to pursue.
2. He may inspire us with such promptings that we feel assured that we are being moved by his own hand.
3. He may, by his providential ordering, shut us out from, or shut us up to, the path in which he would not, or would, have us walk. It is for us to inquire reverently what is his will, which way he does not desire us to take, when he calls us to preach the gospel, and then promptly and cheerfully to obey.
II. THE APPEAL FROM MAN. (Ver. 9.) Thin vision appeared to Paul In the night." We need not wait for the night in order to have a vision and to hear a voice, in which men will cry, "Come over and help us." If we had but the car to hear" the still, sad music of humanity," we should have borne to us on every wind the pitiful plaint of the sin-stricken children of men. We should hear:
1. The cry of conscious spiritual distress. There are those who know the hollowness of their old superstitions, or are vainly looking out for the truth; from those who are groping in the darkness, we may well hear the cry," Who will lead us into the light of life?"
2. The prayer of inarticulate distress. There are countless multitudes that hunger and thirst for they know not what. They have empty, aching, longing hearts, with boundless-capacities. These hearts are unfilled, unsatisfied, and they are inarticulately but earnestly pleading for the bread of life, of which if any man cat he shall never hunger more. There are also the vast multitudes of the suffering - of the sick, of the lonely, of the disappointed, of the bereaved. These are praying us, with silent but strong supplication, to send the knowledge of the Divine Comforter, of him who alone can bind up the broken heart and heal its wounds.
3. The appeal of pitiful degradation. The advocates of slavery used to contend - for lack of better argument - that those who were in bonds were contented with their condition. As if this were not the very heaviest indictment against the cause they pleaded! Surely the fact that slavery made men and women satisfied with degradation and dishonor was the most damaging impeachment which could be framed! And it is the fact that so many thousands of those who were created for purity, wisdom, worship, righteousness, eternal life, are satisfied with the darkness and death of sin, - it is this which constitutes the most eloquent appeal to take them that enlightening truth which will awake them from their shameful apathy, inspire them with a manlier and nobler hope, and satisfy them with a treasure which cannot fade, with a joy that abides for ever, with a life which is eternal and Divine. Unchristianized humanity stands ever before the eyes of a living Church and pleads with a powerful if not a passionate entreaty, "Come over and help us!" - C.
I. SUPERNATURAL GUIDANCE LED THE WAY.
1. The messengers naturally inclined to continue their work within narrower limits. Much against advancing West. Unknown region. Great demands in the more educated heathenism of Europe. Possibly the Jewish element was powerful in Asia, and therefore some religious basis to work upon. But all such considerations put aside when the mind of the Spirit manifested.
2. The Spirit of Jesus clearly pointed the way Westward, whether by miraculous indications, or by providential circumstances too plain to be misunderstood. Troas was reached in a waiting, inquiring state of mind.
3. The decisive commandment was given by vision to Paul. Not a mere dream, but a prophetic vision, which, being accompanied by a supernatural impression of its Divine origin and meaning, left no doubt on the mind.
II. THE CHANGE OF THE SPHERE OF LABOR from Asia to Europe fruitful in results.
1. On the Gentile world - in the direct assault on heathenism in its stronghold.
2. On the character of Paul himself. He was fitted for a higher work than preaching to the semi-barbarous tribes of Asia Minor - where great as the success was, it would be necessarily almost limited to the region where it was obtained. To touch Greece was to open a thousand doors to the world at large.
3. On the development of the Christian Church. It was necessary that Christianity should reveal to the world its superiority to all merely human systems of philosophy; that it should satisfy the intellectual as well as the spiritual wants of man. Had Paul never visited Europe, we should not have had his Epistles to the Romans and Corinthians, nor probably that to the Ephesians; for his own views of the Church were raised to a higher level by his contact with the larger world of thought and life. - R.
facts marking periods of special gifts and special inspiration and special "dispensations" point to principles available for other periods in the whole history of the Church and the world. What might otherwise seem among the driest historical or sometimes almost geographical statements are accordingly threaded together by an invisible bond of connection, which lends them abundant interest. And here, from the apparently bare narration that is given us of where Paul and Silas went, where they did not go, and where they wished to go but were overruled, we may learn -
I. THE REALITY OF THE SPIRIT'S PROFFERED CONDUCT OF THE CHURCH.
II. THE ABSOLUTE ERROR INVOLVED IN NOT SEEKING, OR NOT FOLLOWING, THE TRACKS OF THE SPIRIT.
III. THE CLEAR DIRECTION THE SPIRIT MAY BE RELIED ON TO GIVE TO A REALLY FERVENT LOVE, EARNEST PURPOSE, AND ACTUAL ZEAL.
IV. THE CONFIDENCE THAT MAY BE INSPIRED, AMID ALL THE WEAKNESS OF A MERE HUMAN HEART, IN THE UNERRING AND UNFAILING ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE SPIRIT.
V. THE "COMFORT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT" FOR THOSE WHO SURRENDER THEIR GOINGS AND THEMSELVES TO HIS LEADING. Devout musings, holy feelings, and right resolves will be as much and more to them than" vision" or dream? Nor would that comfort be least gratefully felt and acknowledged, when across the famed straits Paul heard an unusual voice, in the accents of an all too unusual prayer. At a moment's glance he saw why he had been prevented from halting, nor suffered to turn to the right hand or to the left, that he might the rather now come direct to Europe, and there preach and plant the gospel. And to see the meaning of all was comfort and "joy of faith" for him. - B.
1 Peter 1:21), "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and his words precisely convey the idea which is to be entertained concerning the apostles and first missionaries. In the passage before us the Holy Ghost as the actual present Guide of the apostles, directing them where they may go and where they may not go, is presented to us. Lives that are truly and fully consecrated to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ are taken out of men's own control and committed to the charge of the Holy Spirit; and those who realize such a full consecration find no practical difficulty in following the Divine lead. Reviewing the incidents narrated in these verses, it will be seen that St.. Paul expected no external revelations and no miraculous guidances. In whatever way he realized the presence and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it was a way in which we may realize it too; and we may set forth two of the ways which are common features of Divine leading in all generations.
I. THE HOLY GHOST LEADS BY INWARD IMPULSES. Men's actions are decided upon more subtle motives and considerations than they usually imagine. Perhaps it would be found that very few of them depended upon decisions of the intellect. Some result from careful judgment; some from self-will or passion; some from emotion; and into many men are led by the passing influences of the hour. Men are acted upon by many influences, which reach the mind, the heart, or the will. But the supreme inward influence is that of the Divine Spirit. He has access to every part of our inward being. He can
(1) suggest thought for consideration;
(2) direct the judgment to wise decisions;
(3) move the will to fitting resolves;
(4) tone the feelings to right harmonies;
(5) and preside over the plans which are formed.
It is by missing this relation of the Holy Ghost to the very springs of action within us, that men - Christian men - so often doubtingly ask, "But how can we know that we are doing what God would have us do?" Openness to God's inward lead is surely followed by God's response in an inward leading; and when we are set right towards God we may feel sure that the decisions of our judgment and the resolves of our will are divinely controlled and ordered. St. Paul followed the inward feeling that he must not go into Mysia, etc.
II. THE HOLY GHOST LEADS THROUGH PROVIDENTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES. These will always be found to match the inward leadings, and they help to give us assurance that we are following in the way that we should go. Nothing is more surprising in our lives than the opening of providential doors. If we will but
(2) watch, and
the path will surely clear before us, and the Divine finger point us, and the Divine voice in circumstances say, "This is the way, walk ye in it." We may, on this matter, fall into errors which may seriously depress us.
1. We may mistake providences for accidents, and so fail to see God in them.
2. We may cherish the unbelieving notion that God does not work by things.
3. We may take up notions of natural law which deprive us of faith in God's living working.
4. And we may fail to wait for God's providential openings, and try to force our own way; so grieving that Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us. - R.T.
I. HUMANITY WITHOUT THE GOSPEL. The Macedonian life representative.
1. The social failure of Rome. The corrupt state of society. The loss of liberty. The lack of real advancement. Help required in every department of men's lives.
2. The intellectual failure of Greece. Contradictions of philosophy. Neglect of the poor and ignorant. Follies of heathenism. Worship of human nature itself. Awful vices by the side of wonderful development of mental faculties.
3. The spiritual destitution of the world. Idea of God. Degradation of the masses. Comparison between the state of the Greek world and the state of the Jewish. Nothing like synagogues.
4. The Macedonian a type of the moral helplessness of men, both in heathen nations and in the heathenish portion of Christendom. "Come over and help us.
II. THE CHARGE OF THE SPIRIT TO THE CHURCH.
1. We must shut our ears to all other voices but that of the Holy Ghost; as, e.g. reasonings about the future destiny of the heathen; attempts unduly to exalt the uninspired books of heathen religions; exaggerations of difficulties and discouragements; pretended special regard to home claims. Look to the marching orders. Go over and help them.
2. As God speaks to his most eminent servants, let the voice of the Spirit command us through them. If they tell us an enterprise is charged upon them, we must support them with all our might. If Livingstone says Africa is open, then follow his lead, even though at great cost, and let there be no looking back.
3. The missionary enterprise is a great lesson to the Church to find its blessedness in listening to the cries of needy souls. An extended sphere demands a deepened faith and zeal. If we cannot go over with a true gospel and with a self-denying spirit, let us stay at home; if we carry the power of God with us, then we shall find, in the fullness of the Gentiles brought in, not only the reward of a satisfied conscience, but the elevation of our own faith and the glory of our Jerusalem. A larger Christianity has been taking the place of the old and narrow religion of former days, since the Spirit was poured out, and we sent the Word forth to the ends of the earth. We help ourselves when we help others. Wonderful signs of the times, showing that God is opening the minds of men to the universal claims of the gospel. All things uniting to say, Go into all the world," etc. - R.
1. That we should instantly carry out the will of Christ when we are distinctly assured of it.
2. That we should chemise the largest and likeliest sphere - "the chief city" (ver. 12) - for our activity.
3. That those who are least honored of man are they who find most solace in the service of God.
4. That those who go reverently to worship are in the way to secure a greater blessing than they seek. God reveals himself in unexpected ways to us, as now to Lydia: going to render the homage of a pure heart, she returned with a new faith in her mind, a new hope and love in her soul, a new song in her mouth.
5. That holy gratitude to God will show itself in a generous, constraining kindness toward man - a kindness that will not be refused (ver. 15). But the lesson of our text is the truth which we learn concerning the gentle power of God in opening the closed heart of man: "Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul" (ver. 14). We may regard -
I. THE FACT THAT HE DOES WORK THUS UPON US. If we appeal to our own consciousness we find that it is the case. Often God's Spirit so touches and moves the human soul, that it is only just aware, at the time, that it is being wrought upon; or he so operates that we can only tell, by comparing past things with present, that we have changed our spiritual position. It is found by us to be the fact that the Lord is not in the storm, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but rather in the "still small voice."
"Silently, like morning light, he lays his hand upon us and touches the deepest springs of our nature. Any faith which does not include the action of God's gentle power in awakening, enlightening, renewing, reviving, the souls of men is utterly inadequate and completely fails to cover the facts of human experience. II. THE WAY IN WHICH HE WORKS. God opens our hearts in different ways. 1. Sometimes it is by making us gradually sensible of our own unworthiness, and therefore of our need of a Divine Savior. 2. Sometimes by drawing our thought and love upward, higher and higher, from the true and pure and gracious that are found in the human, to him who is the true and pure and gracious Friend Divine. 3. Sometimes by constraining us to feel dissatisfied with the seen and temporal, and to seek our joy and our treasure in the unseen and eternal. III. THE MEANS BY WHICH HE WORKS. These are manifold: the sacred Scriptures; the services of the sanctuary; the friendship of the holy; the opening, enlarging experiences of life; the trial which, though not startling and terrible, is yet arresting and revealing. IV. THE EXCELLENCY OF HIS WORK. Some may suppose that they have more to be thankful for when they can point to one quickening and arousing circumstance in their life, sent of God to awaken and change them. But there is as much of the Divine in the opening of the flower by the light of the morning as in the upheaval of the lava by the fires beneath the crust of the earth; and there is as much of Divine power in its gentler action on the soul as there is in its more palpable and more terrible manifestations. It is open to us to think that there is even greater kindness shown in the former than in the latter. It behooves us (1) to recognize the reality of his gentle power; (2) to bless him most gratefully for his exercise of it upon ourselves; (3) to seek that he would put it forth on those with whom we have to do - children, etc.; (4) to watch for its operation in them, and to co-operate with God therein. - C.
he lays his hand upon us and touches the deepest springs of our nature. Any faith which does not include the action of God's gentle power in awakening, enlightening, renewing, reviving, the souls of men is utterly inadequate and completely fails to cover the facts of human experience.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH HE WORKS. God opens our hearts in different ways.
1. Sometimes it is by making us gradually sensible of our own unworthiness, and therefore of our need of a Divine Savior.
2. Sometimes by drawing our thought and love upward, higher and higher, from the true and pure and gracious that are found in the human, to him who is the true and pure and gracious Friend Divine.
3. Sometimes by constraining us to feel dissatisfied with the seen and temporal, and to seek our joy and our treasure in the unseen and eternal.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH HE WORKS. These are manifold: the sacred Scriptures; the services of the sanctuary; the friendship of the holy; the opening, enlarging experiences of life; the trial which, though not startling and terrible, is yet arresting and revealing.
IV. THE EXCELLENCY OF HIS WORK. Some may suppose that they have more to be thankful for when they can point to one quickening and arousing circumstance in their life, sent of God to awaken and change them. But there is as much of the Divine in the opening of the flower by the light of the morning as in the upheaval of the lava by the fires beneath the crust of the earth; and there is as much of Divine power in its gentler action on the soul as there is in its more palpable and more terrible manifestations. It is open to us to think that there is even greater kindness shown in the former than in the latter. It behooves us
(1) to recognize the reality of his gentle power;
(2) to bless him most gratefully for his exercise of it upon ourselves;
(3) to seek that he would put it forth on those with whom we have to do - children, etc.;
(4) to watch for its operation in them, and to co-operate with God therein. - C.
Acts 16:11-15 (or ver. 14)
I. THE GOSPEL WAITING TO FIND A PLACE IN THE HUMAN HEART.
1. Devoutness, religiousness, not all that is required. Apostles preached Christ to religious people. Christianity a positive system of truth, which must be known and received. The moral side of it not separable from the spiritual. This specially seen in the mission of the Church to the world. If Lydia was herself to preach to her neighbors, she must be taught.
2. Attention to truth a work in the heart. Curiosity, habit, sentiment, all may fall short of bringing the mind to lay hold of truth. Personal application. The spring of affection opened. Love of Jesus shed abroad. Faith fixed on its objects.
II. THE GRACE OF GOD WORKING THROUGH HUMAN AGENCY. Paul preached; the Lord opened the heart.
1. The distinction must be recognized in all ministrations.
2. The record of the apostolic ministry an example. The greatest preachers may fail. If they succeed, to the Lord's Name be the praise.
3. We are cast by such a mystery on prayer.
4. The opened heart is the pre-requisite to the changed and consecrated life. - R.
I. THE OPPORTUNITY THAT WAS EMBRACED BY THE APOSTLE. 'We must judge that there was little or no choice open to him. We are glad even to take up the position that this, too, was of God. It may be worded, therefore, in this way, that the opportunity Paul used was that which Providence offered. With how many is it the case that opportunity is the very thing which is slighted, unheeded, altogether ignored! The opportunities that life offers, that our existing position offers, that God therein offers, are those that we despise, oh-earning of others, which for that very reason, if for no other, may well be withheld! Let us honor, then, the God who sent and the servant who faithfully used this opportunity, by looking at it somewhat minutely.
1. Landed in Europe, some" certain days" seem to have counted for little at Philippi; the only record of them this: "We were in that city abiding certain days?
2. The sabbath day comes, and there is no fine building into which to enter to preach; there is no respectable synagogue - Judaea is far away now; there is no excited and eager crowd as at Antioch to be harangued, with all the skill of the inspired logician and the Heaven-born orator and the faithful gospel preacher. Dull will the hours of this sabbath pass compared with those of many other of late years fresh in the recollection of Paul.
3. The day is nevertheless to be made use of and to be turned to account. And Paul and his companions resolve to join the humble prayer-meeting of a party of women, outside the city and by the river-side. The occasion is unique, pretty nearly as much so as could be. It must be taken from the tenor of the narrative that there were few, if any, men there. But Paul and his companions neither seem to view themselves nor to be viewed as intrusive. And they sat down and in a most informal manner "spake to the women." It were the essence of preaching sometimes rather to speak; and to speak to a few, and to speak appropriately to them and pointedly and unassumingly and kindly. This was the day, and this was the place, and these were the persons, and this was the manner of Paul and his friends, which made up the opportunity that looked so humble.
II. THE FROST SHOW OF RESULTS. There is one woman among the little group who is to become the first known Christian convert in Europe. And she came from Asia. By all appearance she was a proselyte, and knew and worshipped one God, according to her light and scanty opportunity, among a mere disunited remnant of Jewesses, if it were so indeed. And she was presumably a woman who did a good business, and had a 'house,' to the hospitality of which she could pressingly invite the new-comers, and invite them to stay there, too, days together (vers. 15, 18, 40).
1. Lydia is a woman not altogether shut off from light and knowledge.
2. She is a woman who owns to her own conscience and does "worship God."
3. She is one of no bigoted conservative prejudice, and she "listens" patiently, respectfully, to what the strangers said.
4. For all that, her heart was as yet sealed, shut. There may be some light, some knowledge, some movement and life of conscience in a Person, and yet the heart itself be shut to the pure truth of God and of the soul.
(1) Sin may keep shut the heart.
(2) The pride of nature may obstruct it.
(3) Stolid habit may fearfully close it.
(4) The simple "love of the world" may effectually exclude all better, higher things from the heart. And something of this kind was the state of Lydia. Nature had closed her heart, or nature had not availed to open it, and at this time it was in some material sense shut. And the one first result of this occasion was now seen. "The Lord," with his omnipotent power and with his facile grace, "opened the heart of Lydia " - opened it so that "she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul." It is evident that the change that took place within, under the touch of the Lord, led her to attend with ear, with mind, with heart, and with life. For "she and her household" are baptized speedily.
III. A FURTHER GLIMPSE OF RESULTS.
1. A generous heart is unlocked. More than one prophet's chamber is found, and more than a meal or a day's entertainment.
2. A very graceful way of showing generosity is exampled. Lydia does not proffer hospitality in any patronizing tone. She begs to be allowed to render it; and rests her urgency on Paul's faith in her sincerity.
3. Lydia becomes installed in that place as one who may be "counted faithful "to give an asylum for the persecuted, and a home to the released prisoners (ver. 40).
4. A strangely significant type is given of that elevation of women which Europe should ere long be destined to witness, and which has been just due to one presence - the presence of Christianity. Since the time of Lydia, what influences for good in the Church of Christ, what very Saviors and leaders of the Church, humanly speaking, have women been, whose "hearts the Lord has opened"! Thus the gospel began its course in Europe, thus for "many days" silently, thus condescendingly. And as the Master himself seldom more significantly marked the character of his own condescendingness than in condescending to do the apparently little, to heal only one out of a multitude, to "choose" only a "few," to fill for a long time but a small space in the eye of the world, so has his true Church and its humbler history rejoiced to share his lot; and when it has done so, has then most testified its own approximation in likeness to him. - B.
Whose heart the Lord opened. Describe the joy that St. Paul must have felt in this first sign of the Divine blessing attending his labors in a new sphere. If God was with him, opening the hearts of the people, then his labor could not be in vain. Review the circumstances under which the apostle had been brought to Philippi - the night vision at Macedonia, etc. Explain that Philippi was the first city, regarded geographically, not politically. Show the distinction between a synagogue and a proseucha. Commend St. Paul's sabbath habits; and describe the scene at the river's side. It is interesting to note that the first Christian convert made in Europe was a woman, and a most important part of the work of Christianity in Europe has been the elevation of woman. Fixing attention on the sentence taken for a text, we notice -
I. THE BRINGING OF A SOUL TO CHRIST IS THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT. The Lord, the Spirit, is the Opener of hearts. Such opening is the necessary beginning of the work of grace. Mother, friend, minister, have the simple power of agency; none of them can, by any endeavors, reach to the heart and effect the saving change. Illustrate by the way in which the florist produces new colors and new varieties of flower. He carefully puts the pollen grains on the top of the pistil, but he cannot get them down the pistil to fructify the seeds below. The mysterious power of nature can alone accomplish that. Or illustrate by the peculiar kind of stone which may be smashed to pieces, but, if set aright to the blow, will split into useful slabs. God alone can set men right for the influence of the preached Word. It is our duty to bring saving truth and sinful souls together, but with the Lord alone is the opening to receive. Show how this may become an encouragement to all Christian workers who can see that God is working with them, and that in some of those whom they seek to bless the work of grace is evidently begun.
II. GOD THE SPIRIT HAS VARIOUS WAYS OF BRINGING SOULS TO CHRIST. That which describes the work of grace in the heart of Lydia is not said of any one else it was just the way in which the Spirit was pleased to deal with her. We find that in creation God always acts on fixed principles, but he is never trammeled by the necessity for expressing those principles in fixed forms. Landscapes, plants, trees, countenances, minds, all take form upon definite and invariable vegetable, or animal, or mental laws; but no two of them are alike in their form. Infinite diversity is quite compatible with vital unity. It is equally true in the new creation. God has laid down certain principles on which the return of souls to him must be arranged. There must be
but the exact way in which these are to find expression is left undefined. Show, then, how improper it must be to make any one man's experience a necessary model for another man; and consequently how injurious Christian biographies may become to young seekers after God, if such seekers take up the idea that they must think and feel and act precisely as others have done. The workings of the Divine Spirit in man are divinely free.
III. THE GENTLENESS AND THE GRACE OF DIVINE DEALINGS ARE SEEN IN THE ADAPTATION OF METHODS OF CONVERSION TO INDIVIDUALS. Some can only hear God when he speaks in the loud tones of earthquake, storm, or fire. But it is equally true that others pay no heed until there comes to them the "still small voice; "and therefore the voices of God are so graciously varied to men. Illustrations of the variety and adaptation of God's methods may be taken from Scripture. Shepherds from the Bethlehem plains were guided to the infant Savior by direction of the holy angels; and star-gazing Magi were guided by the sign of the heavenly light. Godless and persecuting King Manasseh was humbled in the dust, put in a prison-house, and prepared by affliction to listen to his fathers' God. The eunuch of Queen Candace was led by Divine providence, and prepared by studious and meditative habit, to see in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah-Savior of Old Testament prophecy. St. Paul was brought to faith by a sudden and overwhelming revelation suited to convince a man of so impulsive a character. The jailor at Philippi was broken down by terror, and plucked from the very edge of a self-inflicted death. And Lydia felt the constraining power of the story of the Crucified. In each case the grace of Divine dealing may be shown in the adaptation to character and circumstances. Apply to:
1. Those who have long known the power of God opening their hearts to the truth. What is now needed is the full acceptance of faith.
2. Those just conscious of new feelings and desires. Whence do they come? They must be the Spirit working in you. Whither do they tend? Surely to the faith in Christ that saves.
3. Those who fear that they have had no inward movings of the Spirit of God. Perhaps they are only unnoticed. Maybe that even now you are ready to hear of Christ, the living Savior, who wants your love and trust. - R.T.
I. THAT SACRED TRUTH IS SOMETIMES FOUND ON IRREVERENT LIPS. (Ver. 17.)
1. Sometimes in mockery, as with this poor Philippian slave. She probably caught up the words she heard Paul use, and in the spirit of ribaldry uttered them again. So men have sometimes preached or sung in the spirit of mere raillery and indecent mirth.
2. Sometimes in insincerity; when those who have no care to secure a livelihood by honorable means resort to religion as a source of income. It is melancholy to think of the thousands who have adopted the preacher's function as a worldly calling, on whose lips the sacred truths of the gospel would be as ill placed as on those of this damsel of Philippi.
3. Sometimes in inconsiderate enthusiasm; when they who are animated by a desire to do good, but allow themselves to act without due thought, use the most sacred terms with a freedom which is very near to flippancy. In all cases the irreverent use of Divine names and heavenly truths is to be strongly if not sternly deprecated.
II. THAT SELFISHNESS WILL NEVER WANT A GARMENT WITH WHICH TO HIDE ITS UGLINESS. (Vers. 18-21.) The masters of this poor woman, when they found that "the hope of their gains was gone," determined to rid themselves of men who were actually sacrificing their temporal interests to the cause of truth and of humanity! So they incited the mob, and brought Paul and Silas before the magistrates, and played the part of indignant citizens, whose religious equanimity was being shamelessly disturbed (vers. 20, 21). They would not have ventured to show themselves as they were, in the nakedness and ugliness of utter selfishness; so they borrowed the flag of patriotism to cover themselves withal. The worst of this kind of sophistry is that men in no great time deceive themselves, even if they do not deceive their neighbors. Sin soon imposes on itself; it thinks itself benevolent and humane when it is mercenary and cruel.
III. THAT ERROR IGNORANTLY IMAGINES IT CAN EXTINGUISH TRUTH BY FORCE. The magistracy of Philippi, well sustained by the violence of the mob (ver. 22), caused truth, in the person of its advocates, to be beaten and imprisoned. It doubtless imagined that there would be an end of this new and "pestilent" doctrine. But as the names of these prisoners were to be honored long ages after those of their judges had been forgotten, so the truths which they proclaimed were to be preached and sung many centuries after those bonds were broken and those dungeon walls had crumbled. How vain the magistrates' court, the scourge, the gaol, the scaffold, when it is the living truth of the Divine Redeemer of mankind which men are trying to stifle or to slay (Philippians 1:12-14).
IV. THAT FAITHFUL SERVICE OF CHRIST IS SONGFUL EVERYWHERE. Songs in the sanctuary are as natural as they are common; that is to say, when we are worshipping that God who is our God, even the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their devotees could not praise the "gods of the nations," because there was nothing in their character to call forth reverence, trust, gratitude. But the followers of Jesus Christ find in him everything for which to pay homage and to present thanksgiving; But it is not only in the act of Divine worship, but at all times, that "his praise is m our mouth." Even in prison - in such a prison as that of Philippi, and after such lacerating blows as they had endured - Paul and Silas "sang praises unto God." They rejoiced that they were "counted worthy to suffer shame for his Name" (Acts 5:41; see Matthew 5:10-12). And if the faithful servants of Christ could "lift up to God the voice of praise" in the dungeon, those who are engaged in his service now should carry about with them everywhere the spirit of sacred song. We should, we can, cherish the spirit of gratitude and holy joy in the home, in the place of business, in the social circle, in every sphere of our activity. For as there is no engagement in which we should not be honoring Christ, in which we should not be realizing his presence and enjoying a sense of his Divine favor, so is there none in which we may not find a source of satisfaction, in which we may not find a reason for holy song.
V. THAT ABOUNDING CHRISTIAN LIFE OVERFLOWS TO THE BENEFIT OF ALL. "And the prisoners heard them" (ver. 25). Not that Paul and Silas sang for their benefit, but that abounding happiness in suffering for Christ overflowed and made itself felt by all around. How these men, whose mouths, if opened at all, doubtless poured forth oaths and curses, must have been struck with surprise, and perhaps smitten with shame, to hear these two prisoners singing psalms of praise! If our Christian life be not the poor, ill-fed, shallow streamlet it may be, but the well-fed, strong, swift, ever-flowing river it should be, then shall we live to bless others even when we are only acting to express our own souls. - C.
I. THE SOOTHSAYING DAMSEL. Here was a girl living upon imposture, and bringing gain to her masters out of traffic in fancies and lies. Magic and soothsaying trades upon the imagination and wishes of the popular mind. Instead of leading the mind to the truth, it leads the mind to the habit of postponing truth to device and interest. It is the very opposite temper to that of true Christianity.
II. HER WITNESS TO THE TRUTH. It was doubtless involuntary, extorted from her by overpowering conviction. So does the truth not seldom come from strange lips. The girl felt the contrast in these men to herself. Here were servants of God; she was the servant of lucre and self-interest. They with truth upon their lips, and their lives in their hands; she with cunning lies and deceits, framed to defraud men of their substance and injurious to their souls. They lead on the way to salvation and blessedness; she, to disappointment and ruin.
III. THE CONDUCT OF THE APOSTLES. It gives a rule to us. There can be no fellowship, and therefore no pact nor even momentary compromise, between light and darkness. Truth needs no such help, and never have such devices been known to forward its course. Compliments are to be distrusted by the worker for God. The tinder of vanity is ever ready to be inflamed. The temptation is to put down to our own merit that which is the work of Divine grace. Jealousy against evil is disarmed, watchfulness relaxed. Good men may thus be seduced from the service of God into that of men, or worse. Before firmness and loyalty to conscience the evil and seducing spirits flee. - J.
I. TRUTH NEEDS NO FALSEHOOD TO HELP IT. The Church of Rome has acted very differently. Had it not been stopped, the gospel would have been regarded at Philippi as another form of divination. Simplicity the greatest strength.
II. THOSE THAT ARE RESTING ON THE ROCK CAN AFFORD TO WALT. "After many days the spirit was cast out.
III. The kingdom of Christ brought into collision with the kingdom of Satan reveals ITS VICTORIOUS MIGHT. So throughout the history. That very hour." The Name of Jesus Christ exalted, all the more for the evil device against it. Mercy to the deluded and miserable. Judgments to the deceivers. The swine and the spirits perish together. - R.
I. THE RISE OF THE OPPOSITION, AND VICTORY THE FIRST. The first note of discord was sounded by an agent unusual but not altogether unknown, and it was unintentionally occasioned by that actor in the whole scene.
1. The damsel possessed by the spirit of divination, possibly responsible in the first instance for being thus the victim of evil powers, may be held to be not responsible in her present conduct.
2. The utterances of spirits of evil by means of her bodily organs of speech need not be supposed to be necessarily the utterances of mockery, or of any evil design to prejudice those who might have listened to Paul, had he and his companions not been advertised by an agent of so unwelcome a kind. It is said Christ" suffered not the devils to speak because they knew him." And the possessed slave spoke what she spoke because she was under the influence of those who really discerned and knew of what sort Paul and St]as were. 3. The objection of Paul may have been due
(1) to a repetition, which of itself might turn seriousness into mockery;
(2) to the deep grief, that he would inevitably feel that the words of truth should be now, not the utterance of intelligent and converted human beings, as such, but of human powers usurped, and though under the domination of superior Tower, not under the governance of superior goodness, but the contrary.
4. Paul is empowered to speak the command of dispossession, with which the "many days'" cry stopped, and the evil spirit went, and her" right mind" returned to the slave. And from the barest facts of the painful but wonderful incident we learn how tyrannical is the usurpation of the powers of evil; how nevertheless the powers of evil do sometimes press into the service of the truth; how their unsought aid (if aid it be) is refused by the Spirit of truth and by the true themselves, who will not encourage the evil that good may come; on the other hand, how their designed injury is baulked; but finally how, from all the humbling mournful scene, a victory "in the Name of the Lord Jesus" was won by Paul. Whatever it was that was most offensive in what had been taking place was summarily ended, human powers were disenthralled, a whole market of human iniquity was soon closed, if not bankrupt, and the true power was exalted and magnified.
II. THE OPPOSITION ITSELF, AND VICTORY THE SECOND.
1. The opposition was not on account of the religious views or preaching and teaching of Paul and Silas. They were Gentiles and Romans who were the opponents now, not, as so often hitherto, Jews. The cause of the opposition was most radical to the human heart. The miserable slave had been gain to cruel masters, never so cruel as when cruel to humanity, and as her gainfulness was gone their opposition was come, and was decided and determined and bitter, and withal disingenuous. They pleaded they were Romans, and they forgot to make sure that there was not a sense in which Paul and Silos were Romans to whom it was yet more necessary to show respect. But the cause was stated to consist in what Paul taught as a "Jew."
2. The opposition was conducted in every sort of disregard of justice and order. Angry people and rulers, and magistrates and multitude, are mingled together against a couple of men who had brought a possessed slave to her right mind; and stripes and imprisonment, and innermost prison and stocks, are their punishment, and, it is supposed, the silencing of them.
3. The opposition, instead of silencing them, had taken the means to keep them awake even at midnight, when perhaps every one of their enemies slept. What can they do but pray? But prayer sometimes brings very ready, very present help, and they sang praises, and though the jailor heard them not, other suffering prisoners did. And God above heard, and brought speedy and full deliverance. No stone of the prison building but it moved, no locked door but it opened, no fetter but it was loosed. And immediately the second great victory began to be apparent.
(1) The cause of Paul and Silos is one for which miracle and earthquake and Heaven will appear.
(2) The jailor's life is saved by prisoners forsooth - those whom be had fastened so securely and so hastily a few hours before.
(3) A greater, better life is roused in that jailor, so that his hands to wash the stripes, and his house and his meat and his very heart, are all at the feet of his prisoners, and "he and all his" numbered among the followers of Christ! Wonders like these passed all Philippi had ever dreamed of before.
III. THE ENTIRE COLLAPSE OF THE OPPOSITION, AND VICTORY THE THIRD,
1. When God's judgments are abroad in the earth, the very air is rife of their rumor. The magistrates, before ever day dawned, had heard, if it were only a whisper, what moved them more than the earthquake. They send simplest order that the men be "let go." It is not only humble hearts moved to salvation, that own to the interposition of Paul's God and Savior; hearts proud, unchanged, and haply unchangeable quake to their center, and will try the shortest way and the least-observed way or any way, if they may feel free again to breathe, and free from what is to them the most dread incubus.
2. But the hour of the supreme triumph of the servants of Christ had arrived. They show no hurry to go. They have been silent when the market-place howled around them. But when an almost deathly stillness prevailed that day-dawn, and those who were about spoke with hushed and bated breath, a very few, very quiet, but very authoritative words of Paul's lips finally complete the transformation of the scene. What a contrast, and what a proud hour for truth, when Paul pronounces on certain magistrates a sentence of more moral grandeur and far-reachingness, than all the sentences they for centuries have pronounced! You can hear those words, and the climax of them, "Nay verily!" Certainly all the rest "went indeed by saying." Nor can we doubt that to God Paul and Silas gave the glory; to Jesus, Master, King, Captain, they gave the glory; to the energetic Spirit of light and power and conversion, they gave the glory; nor took one atom of the proud satisfaction to themselves when the "magistrates came" in person, "and besought" them and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city." What triple triumph Jesus won in Philippi of Europe, when he disenthralled the body and the mind of the slave, when he made the jailor's heart and life all his own, and when he sent the magistrates on their knees to the scourged, imprisoned, but now dictating Paul and Silas! - B.
doemonia, evil spirits, unclean spirits, should here use this exceptional description, seems to imply that either this was the way in which the people of Philippi spoke of the maiden, or else that he recognized in her -phenomena identical with those of the priestesses of Delphi, the wild distortions, the shrill cries, the madness of an evil inspiration. After the manner of sibyls, sorceresses, and clairvoyants of other times, the girl was looked on as having power to divine and predict, and her wild cries were caught up and received as oracles." Remembering the well-established doctrine that the Bible is not given as a revelation of science, medical or other, we are able to recognize in this narrative simply the general opinion of the age concerning spirit-possessions, and we need not affirm that either our Lord, or the apostles, in dealing with such cases, seal for us the truth of this explanation of them. In view of the common sentiment, it was not well that such persons should be allowed to witness to the Christian teachers. Their witness may have been true enough, but it was certainly liable to be misunderstood. no wholly satisfactory explanation has yet been given of the devil-possessions recorded in the New Testament, but this much we may fully admit - there was a remarkable accession of spiritual-evil force in the early Christian age.
I. OUR LORD'S TREATMENT OF THESE PHENOMENA. For the apostles followed the example of their Lord. One striking instance may be referred to (Matthew 8:28-34). Our Lord
(1) delivered the victims from the evil power; making this an illustration of his moral and spiritual mission; and
(2) he resisted the association of his work with the witness of disease, mania, hysteria, or evil possession. It was necessary that every association of the conjurer should be dissociated from Christianity. Its appeal is to the sober reasonings of the mind and the normal and natural demands of the heart. The gospel is for men in their senses; and it properly refused then, and refuses still, all testimony from ecstasy, spiritualism, jugglery, oracle, or any unnatural forms of excitation. A truth may be sadly disgraced and misrepresented and prejudiced by its champions, though it does not therefore cease to be the truth. The witness of evil spirits too certainly bears for men an evil tone, so Christ refused to permit it.
II. THE APOSTLES' TREATMENT OF THESE PHENOMENA. Something may be due to St. Paul's personal annoyance at the constant repetition of these clamorous cries, which hindered his work, and very possibly disturbed him when talking in the proseucha. He may also have felt great pity for the poor suffering girl; but no doubt his chief reason for putting forth the miraculous power entrusted to him was the misapprehension of his character and his work which her witness was likely to produce. Men might be led by her to think that he was possessed by some of the gods, or was a messenger of some of the idols, and so his work would be hindered, as it had been at Lystra. We must remember that the apostles' message was directly antagonistic to paganism and idolatry, and they were right in jealously guarding it from so perilous an association with it. Impress, in conclusion, that Christianity makes its appeal to the intelligence, conscience, and affections; and, then and now, it needs, and it will bear with, no adventitious or questionable aids. - E.T.
I. SELF-INTEREST IN ARMS AGAINST THE TRUTH. So often - especially in our day - are men's interests and profits on tile same side with Christianity; we need to be reminded that godliness and gain (in the immediate and lower sense) are not identical.
1. The root of opposition to the truth. They saw their hope of gain was gone. Wherever men strike a blow against pure morality, sound and unrefuted principles of teaching, we may rely upon it some "vested interest" is at bottom the cause. The progress of the gospel has put an end to many false callings, and, let us hope, will put an end to many more.
2. The weapons of falsehood. False accusations, misrepresentations. Malice knows that the most effective mode of attack is the indirect. If you cannot disprove a man's arguments, you may blacken his character. If his private life is blameless, try to show that his principles are dangerous to society. If he speaks unwelcome truth, accuse him of breaking up the general peace and good feeling (1 Kings 18:17; Amos 7:10). The wolf in the fable! Crafty use of catch-cries is another instrument of passion and malice. The great Roman name and power is assailed, and that by hated and despicable Jews! This the first time that Roman law is invoked against the Christian. Observe the half-truth in the arguments of malice. Christianity does make men restless - it frightens the evil out of false repose. It does unhinge old customs, and was destined to overthrow the Roman pride. Thus was the multitude excited, as often under such circumstances, and, amidst howls of rage and gusts of indignation, the apostles are roughly handled, their garments torn; they are beaten and cast into close confinement.. So do malice and passion often appear to gain their will, while they are preparing for themselves a defeat.
II. INWARD JOY AMIDST OUTWARD DARKNESS; INWARD LIBERTY IN BONDS AND PRISON. At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns. What seems to be the gate of death and of hell may be converted by prayer and song into the gate of heaven, the avenue to Paradise. 'Tis not the place that sanctifies the spirit, but the spirit that sanctifies the place. Great the triumph of the spirit, to sing, not within the safe walls of the church, but behind the barred doors of the dungeon! Sweet are "songs in the night"! It is suffering which wrings the very soul of music from the heart; and to the prayers thus uttered, a deep Amen echoes in heaven.
III. DIVINE POWER MADE MANIFEST TO SENSE AND SPIRIT.
1. The earthquake. This was the outward answer to the prayer and song. Heaven and earth are moved at the prayer of the holy. As it trembled awfully through the prison, opening doors and loosening bonds, hearts also were smitten and flew open at the touch of God.
2. The agitation of the soul. The jailor wakes, at first to anguish and despair. The prisoners have escaped; he is a lost man! There is a sudden temptation to suicide, and at the eleventh hour crime is averted and salvation received. "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here!" Those who love allegorical treatment of texts may find matter here. Duty and the will of God are firmer bonds than handcuffs and the stocks. "We are all here" cry the servants of God, with the witness of our word, the pattern of our life, the intercessory prayer of our love. But a new fear, more awful than the former, seizes on the jailor's soul: "What must I do to be saved?" When it comes to this question in earnest, the soul is ripe for salvation. One such cry brings all the mercy of Heaven down.
3. The great question. It is not unprepared for. He had heard the apostles praying. Doubtless seeds of filth, dropped into his mind on some former occasion, now germinated and swiftly broke into life. As the earth breaks forth into greenness after a thunderstorm, so was new life born in the man's soul in the midst of the dread earthquake.
4. The great answer. Believe! "'Faith' is all your wisdom," said the skeptical emperor Julian. True! and let us abide by it. Affiance in the Holiest and Divinest, for time and for eternity; this and this alone is wisdom. Faith in the ever-blessed One makes blessed. In him we obtain a Divine Friend in the home; a holy domestic order; sweet domestic peace; assured domestic stability; a portion in the heavenly home.
5. The great decision. It is rather implied than expressed; shown by practical results than by words. Faith works in the jailor's heart by love. His thankfulness to Christ is shown by attentions of thoughtful kindness to his servants. The stern keeper of the stocks is transformed by the magic of love into the physician and the host. The jailor has become a "prisoner of Jesus Christ." Having washed his now honored guests from the stains of outward defilement, he receives at their hands the baptism of spiritual purity. The scene closes amidst purest jay. Thus do the darkest places and most repulsive associations become glorified and idealized by the Spirit of the living and loving God. The prison becomes a chapel; a dread place of judgment; a school of penitence and faith; a home of love and kindness; a place of new birth and new life. - J.
I. It was in no way instigated by Jews, but it proceeded from RULERS AND MAGISTRATES, under the instigation of HEATHENISH ERROR. An important distinction. Christianity, when it enlarged its sphere of operations, had to encounter the opposition of:
1. The state.
2. False philosophy regarding it as folly.
3. Heathen priestcraft, fearing the loss of their profitable superstitions.
II. The method of persecution was generally through LAWLESSSESS AND UPROAR. There was no trial, no proper charge. Only the multitude against them.
III. The gospel brought into light WHAT WAS GOOD IS THE ANCIENT WOULD, and drew it to itself. Roman order and discipline is here distinctly on the side of the persecuted, and the persecutors are afraid. So henceforth, when the gospel is seen at work in Europe, we find the Roman law serving it.
IV. God speaks among the heathen by the voice of his PROVIDENCE and of NATURE. The earthquake assisted the cause of truth. A wonderful testimony to the whole city and neighborhood.
V. The conversion of the Philippian jailor a GLORIOUS CONSUMMATION OF THE PERSECUTION. So always - the wrath of man praises God.
VI. THE CONTRAST of the praying and singing prisoners and the terrified authorities a striking testimony to the truth. Lydia and her companions prayed too. The little Church at Philippi, increased by the whole occurrence, "comforted them and departed." "Filling up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ for his body's sake, which is the Church." - R.
I. A BRIGHT EXAMPLE OF FAITH.
1. It overcame fear, shame, suffering.
2. It lay hold of the future - praying and praising, under the influence of hope. The time was midnight, but there was morning in their souls.
3. It was faith which was proved by experience; they remembered past deliverances. "His love in time past," etc.
II. GOD WORKS WITH HIS PEOPLE.
1. He opens their lips, when the world would shut them. The inner prison and the stocks cannot silence truth. The audience is there - the prisoners and the Roman jailor.
2. Fellow-workers called in. "The earth helped the woman (Revelation 12:16). God is doing much under the surface of events. Streams of providential government unite with streams of spiritual influence. The revival of intelligence and humanism preceding the Reformation. The two great currents of the eighteenth century, spiritual and political; and now science helps the advancement of Christianity.
3. Leave God to find opportunity for us. Be patient, and hope to the end. The trouble of Christianity to the world works out peace. - R.
says, "It was the first of three such scourgings with the rods of Roman lictors which Paul endured, and it is needless to dwell even for a moment on its dangerous and lacerating anguish. We, in these modern days, cannot read without a shudder even of the flogging of some brutal garotter, and our blood would run cold with unspeakable horror if one such incident, or anything which remotely resembled it, had occurred in the life of a Henry Martyn or a Coleridge Patteson. But such horrors occurred eight times at least in the story of one whose frame was more frail with years of suffering than that of our English missionaries." With their wounds untended, St. Paul and Silas were roughly thrust into the inner prison, a foul and loathsome dungeon, there to sit for hours with cramped limbs, shivering in the dampness and cold. Everything in their circumstances was against them, and yet "with heroic cheerfulness they solaced the long black hours of midnight with prayer and hymns." They would doubtless sing well-known psalms, and selections may readily be made of such as would precisely suit their purpose. It is a remarkable incident. It is a triumph of character; a triumph of grace; a sublime declaration of what Christ's realized presence can be to the suffering believer. He can give "songs in the night." Making the incidents the subject of meditation, we observe -
I. THE UNITY OF BODY AND SOUL. A unity so complete that the one never can suffer without the sympathetic suffering of the other. If the soul be depressed or distressed, the nervous condition of the body is sure to respond. Vigorous bodily health can never be known when the mind is diseased or the soul overworn and troubled. And, on the other hand, depression of soul comes oftentimes out of pain of body; and as long as the pain is limited the depression continues. It is singular to note that a prolonged little frailty is more trying to the spirit than a sudden and intense distress or pain. The soul seems to make a great effort to meet a great occasion, but fails to resist a continuous wearying influence. Illustration may be taken from various classes of physical and mental sufferers. It may be shown how often spiritual doubt and distress are found to be due to the sympathy between the body and the soul. And, in view of this, the infinite tenderness of God's dealings with us may be urged. Most gracious God, "he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust! '
II. THE DIVORCE OF BODY AND SOUL. It can be said that "as the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day." The records of the afflicted will bear out the statement that, under two circumstances or conditions, the soul may force itself free of the body and rise above bodily reach in the power of its own life.
1. When pain is extreme. Illustrate from martyrology, or from records of great sufferers. There seems to be a possibility of pain reaching such an extreme as to swing the body loose from the soul, and leave the soul free to sing. This we may, perhaps, see in the ease of St. Paul; the very intensity of his suffering in part explains his triumph.
2. When the soul-life is strong. Swelling into power under sudden impulse, as in the martyrs; nourished into a holy fullness of vigor, as in the afflicted and diseased, and as in St. Paul.
III. THE FULFILLMENT OF DIVINE PROMISES IN THIS MASTERY OF THE SOUL OVER THE BODY. Such promises in the Old Testament as, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee," etc. And in the New Testament as, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Impress what a holy witness is made for God by all Christian sufferers who can win calmness, submission, and peace, and even sing their "songs in the night." - R.T.
in the still small voice" (1 Kings 19.); there are times when he makes himself known in other forms. We learn from our text -
I. THAT GOD IS SOMETIMES, IF NOT OFTEN, IN THE TERRIBLE. (Ver. 26.) "By terrible things in righteousness," as well as by gracious things in mercy and in love, does he answer us. He is in the earthquake and in the fire and in the great and strong wind, sometimes. He was, here. The earthquake was the moving of his hand, the utterance of his voice, the expression of his mind. It was his condemnation of human injustice and cruelty; it was his declaration on behalf of human innocence and worth. As in nature we have the solemn as well as the pleasant, the fearful as well as the delightful, the storm as well as the sunshine, so in God's providential dealings with us, and also in his revelation of himself in Jesus Christ, we have the awful and the stern as well as the benignant and the merciful, the rebuke as well as the invitation, punishment as well as reward, death as well as life.
II. THAT GOD'S AIM, IN THE TERRIBLE, IS TO AWAKEN THE SLUMBERING SOUL. "The keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep" (ver. 27). It was the sleep of sin from which this earthquake called him, rather than from bodily slumber. God aroused his spirit thus; and from a guilty, deadly unconsciousness of all that is most precious in the human heart, he awoke to "newness of life." "God doeth it that men should fear before him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14). God sends the earthquake; he shakes the very ground under men's feet; he makes their life-prospects to rock and quiver; he threatens with loss, or he permits terrible bereavements, to compel men to think of those things which otherwise they would continue to disregard, to make men see the solemn realities which are about them, to place judgment and eternity in full view before their eyes.
III. THAT SPIRITUAL AGITATION STILL ASKS THE OLD QUESTION AND RECEIVES THE OLD REPLY. Let men say what they will about "refined selfishness," it will always remain true that a man's first duty to God is the duty he owes to himself; that the first thing a man awakened by God has to do is to consider how he can come into a right and happy relation to the God with whom he has to do; in other words, to ask him how he can "be saved," how his sin can be forever and himself be taken back into the favor and the service of the living God. And the answer of Paul will always be the reply of the Christian teacher. The earnest seeker after salvation must be directed to a Divine Savior, in whom he can "believe." For us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is to accept him for all that he offers to be to us - to accept him
(1) as the Savior in whom we trust for Divine mercy;
(2) as the Friend to whom we give our heart;
(3) as the Lord to whom we dedicate our life.
IV. THAT THE ACCEPTANCE OF JESUS CHRIST IS TO BE FOLLOWED BY DISCIPLESHIP AND PROFESSION. The converted jailor, so far from being satisfied with his first change, gave his mind to the further and fuller understanding of the truth (ver. 32); moreover, he showed the sincerity of his conversion by being baptized into the Christian faith (ver. 33), by carrying with him all the members of his household, and by offering hospitality to those whom he had treated as criminals and now welcomed as friends. We, too, if our faith be genuine, shall
(1) be eager to learn more of Christ and of his holy will;
(2) make profession of our change of heart and life;
(3) do all we can to befriend and further those who are the ambassadors of Christ.
V. THAT FAITH IN CHRIST TURNS PASSING PLEASURE INTO ABIDING JOY. "He rejoiced" (ver. 34). He had often laughed and been merry before; now joy takes up its home in his heart. "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." - C.
I. AWAKENED ANXIETY.
1. A realization of personal dangers and need.
2. A forsaking of all other refuges.
3. An appeal for help to those who, by their confidence and peace, showed that they had a better hope.
II. SINGLE-MINDED INQUIRY.
1. Different from mere curiosity or speculation.
2. Ready humbly to wait for brotherly sympathy and direction.
3. Casting the will as well as the mind on the truth. "What must I do?"
III. RISING FAITH.
1. Salvation possible, therefore sought after.
2. Self-surrender at the feet of the messenger, as expressing desire for the message.
3. Doubtless "the way of salvation," of which the city bad heard, was something definitely before his mind as something to be found. Why is not such earnestness universal? - R.
I. MANY OF YOU ARE NOT QUITE SURE YET THAT YOU NEED TO BE SAVED. That is the gravest hindrance to the preaching of Christ to you. You attach very little meaning to the expression. You say, "Saved! Saved from what?" You need to be saved from two things:
(1) the penal consequences of your sin; and
(2) the moral power of your sinfulness.
That is, you need to be saved from all that is gathered up in the word hell, and from all that is gathered up in the word self. You are not your own; you are a creature of God's. Your first duty is to love, trust, and obey God. To help you God has made his will known with sanctions. Do you think he will fail to keep his sanctions? His "Law is holy, his commandment is holy, and just, and good; and The soul that sinneth, it shall die. Moreover, you are as one stricken with a foul disease, the leprosy of sinfulness, You need to be saved from a foulness that pollutes you, from delusions which vainly seek to shatter you, and from bondages which you are powerless to break. How can a. man be just before God, a sinful man be clean in the presence of his Maker? Verily you need to be saved.
II. EVEN WHEN AROUSED TO ANXIETY, MANY TURN ANYWHERE FOR REFUGE RATHER THAN TO CHRIST. Many are like Lot - they will not do just what the angel-messenger commands, they will seek for some little city near to which they may flee; but there are no Zones now for seeking sinners, they must flee to the mountain. Show some of the subtle refuges in which awakened souls try to find shelter and rest; e.g. waiting for deeper conviction; intenser effort to make themselves good; devotion to the externalities of religion; expecting to get more feeling, etc.
III. EVEN WHEN DRIVEN FROM OTHER CONFIDENCES, AND LED TO CHRIST, MANY OF US CAN SCARCELY BE SATISFIED WITH "ONLY BELIEVE." The very simplicity of the gospel terms of salvation we turn into a hindrance. Yet this is the gospel - God, of his free mercy, is willing to pardon, deliver, and receive all who seek him, solely on the ground of what his Son has done for them, and is in relation to them. And God is pleased to make their justification depend on their believing in his Son. "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life," etc. "By this Man is preached unto us the forgiveness of sins." Does any man now ask, "What must I do to be saved?" The old answer is ever new, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." - R.T.
I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Of the men who let the sufferer down through the roofing, it is said, "When Jesus saw their faith." Of the people at Capernaum the sad remark is made, "He did not, many mighty works there because of their unbelief." And the apostles also required faith. "All that believed... had all things common." "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." "Faith cometh by hearing." "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." "The just shall live by faith." "Perceiving that he had faith to be healed." Faith is seldom won by mere descriptions of what faith is. Such descriptions too often only hinder and bewilder. Faith is most surely won by setting forth the great Object of faith, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and able to save unto the uttermost. From the text we note two points.
I. THE FAITH THAT SAVES IS FAITH IN A PERSON. Illustrate from the appeal at Pentecost. "That same Jesus... both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). The application of the sermon connected with the healing of the lame man is, "God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you" Acts 3:26). Philip drew near to the eunuch, and "preached unto him Jesus." Peter said to the sick AEneas, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." To Paul of Tarsus the Person Jesus appeared and spoke. At Athens Paul declared that God would judge the world by one Man whom he had appointed. The object of saving faith is
(1) not any scheme of doctrine;
(2) not any historical record;
(3) not any finished work,
conceived as distinct from a living person with a present power. A salvation that was a mental apprehension of a form of truth could not suit everybody. Trust in a person is possible to everybody. So Christ's own way of salvation is this: "He that hath the Son of God hath life." And the apostles' way is: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." But it may be urged that we must know something about Jesus if we are to trust him. It may be answered that the essentials of a saving knowledge are very few and very simple. They are these: Jesus was the promised Messiah; Jesus lived a life of innocence and self-denial; Jesus died on the cross, a sacrifice for sin; Jesus rose from the grave that he might have power to redeem; and Jesus lives, able to save us now. It is Christ himself lifted up who draws all men unto him.
II. THE FAITH THAT SAVES IS FAITH WITH THE HEART. Minds believe doctrines, hearts trust persons. It is necessary to distinguish carefully between faith in a thing and faith in a person. We believe things on reasons which can be submitted to the intellect. We believe persons because we feel their goodness, their character. Illustrate by the trust of a child in a father; of a patient in his physician; of a wife in her husband. It is that kind of faith or trust which the Lord Jesus seeks to win as the condition in us to which he may respond with his saving grace. If we "know him" well, we shall find in him just the goodness which will make our faith in him easy. Do you say, "Is the Lord Jesus really one whom I may fully trust"? See him taking the children in his arms. See him speaking so tenderly to the woman who was bathing his feet with her tears. See him talking to Mary in the Bethany home, whose "eyes were homes of silent prayer." See him standing up on the great day of the feast, and yearning over the multitude, and calling them to come to him, and drink, and live forever. See him on his very cross praying for his murderers. Surely we can trust him. Our hearts respond to such goodness. He is worthy of our love. Appeal that Jesus is really God manifest, God revealing himself to your soul. He would win your love. What will your response to him be? - B.T.
I. THE HOUSEHOLD JOY.
1. A new beginning. Contrast with the old.
2. A new security - both against the evils of a disordered earth and the infirmities and sins of human life.
3. A new fellowship. A family may be a Church; daily worship, common service; mutual joy, development of individuality in the light of faith.
II. THE HOPE OF THE WORLD.
1. Rapid spread of religion when household faithfulness is maintained.
2. Education is the basis of Christian teaching.
3. The young the hope of the Church.
4. The representative character of Christian profession. We cannot assume responsibility for children, but we can surround them with a circle of light. Our baptism should be their baptism, not instead of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but in view of it. - R.
I. THE PITIFUL END OF PRECIPITANCY. (Vers. 35, 38, 39.) These magistrates of Philippi had hastily adopted the opinion of the clamorous multitude; they had made no sufficient investigation; they had not ascertained the citizenship of the prisoners at the bar; and now they have to pay for their precipitance. They send a sneaking message to the prison, "Let those men go; ' thus virtually confessing themselves in the wrong. Then when Paul refused to be thus dismissed, and placed himself in the position of one whose legal rights had been violated, they were fain to come in person, and beg of their own prisoners to go on their way! To such dishonor did a hasty and unfaithful use of their power bring these men. They who are in any office, whether in sacred or secular affairs, should remember that rashness is certain to suffer in the end, that precipitancy in judgment conducts to the shame of him who judges, that we should take ample time and make full inquiry before we condemn and punish. Otherwise judging others, we condemn ourselves and bring down the blow on our own head.
II. THE CHRISTIAN DUTY OF REMONSTRANCE. Paul refused to be ignominiously dismissed, having first been illegally punished. He uttered an indignant, a fervent remonstrance (per. 37). He declined, being innocent and wronged, to be treated as if he were guilty and as if he had nothing of which righteously to complain. It is often our Christian duty to act in the same way. In this matter there are:
1. Two laws to which we may make our appeal: either the law of man, which the magistrates of Philippi had now broken, and which Paul claimed they should have regarded; or the law of God, the law which makes its demand on every human conscience, requiring truth, equity, respect, etc. When this is palpably violated, we may make our appeal to it against the iniquity and ill usage of our fellows.
2. Three laws by which we must be bruited.
(1) The law of purity. We are not at liberty to indulge in remonstrance if there is nothing in our mind but self-assertion; the spirit by which we must be animated is a sense of wrong having been done, and of a righteous resentment of that wrong. A remonstrance which is nothing more than an attempt to recover something for ourselves, into which the feeling of pure indignation against evil does not largely enter, is not worthy of the name; that is only a contention.
(2) The law of innocence. We must take care that we have clean hands, or we shall not be in a position to upbraid others. Too often there are faults on both sides, and those who use the language of remonstrance are open to damaging retort. Only the innocent are at liberty to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" (see Romans 2:17-23).
(3) The law of considerateness. We must consider what is the probable effect of remonstrating. If the outpouring of our indignation, though it Would relieve our own mind, would endanger the comfort, the liberty, or even (as is possible) the life of others, then we should restrain ourselves and be silent. If remonstrance, though it should bring down bitterness or even blows on ourselves, is likely to benefit others, then it becomes our Christian duty to let loose our tongue and give play to our indignation. The question to be considered is - Will utterance honor Christ and benefit our fellows? According to that verdict let our behavior be.
III. THE DIGNITY OF INNOCENCE. These magistrates will always present to the Christian eye the picture of undignified officialism; first hastily condemning, and then ignominiously retreating. Paul and Silas will ever be to us the types of true dignity; first patiently suffering, then loftily refusing to be secretly dismissed, then composedly uniting and comforting the disciples, and then quietly departing. They who have God on their side are in a position to be above the fretting and fuming of the world, to possess their souls in patience and in calmness. - C.
I. THE SECRET WORKING OF THE HEART UNDER DIVINE POWER. The decision of the magistrates to let the apostles go free is not explained. Paul and Silas had given no account of themselves. But the conscience of the magistrates had been smitten. While his servants suffer in silence, God conducts their affairs. The coincidence must have struck the jailor, and filled his heart with joy. Sore would have been the trial to the jailor's new faith had he received command to throw his now honored guests into stricter confinement. Such coincidences, although nothing can be demonstrated from them, may nevertheless well convey to the believing heart the sense of an ever-working Divine love.
II. THE PROTEST OF THE APOSTLES. To slink out of prison at the bidding of the jailor, as if they were escaped convicts, was not agreeable to Paul's sense of right. They were Roman citizens. Cicero, in eloquent words, had said that it was a crime to flog a Roman. In this case they had been beaten, imprisoned, thrust into the stocks, treated with every harshness and indignity. Paul stands upon his rights as a Roman citizen: "Let them... fetch us out!" Christian meekness requires us to reserve our strength, to subdue our anger, and to prefer the good of another to our own pleasure; but not to connive at injustice and submit to wrong. The Christian ought to maintain his honor and insist upon his rights, when his reason is not wounded self-love, but injured sense of right and zeal for God's honor; when his course is not that of a rude independence, but that of right and calm self-vindication; and if his object is not the overthrow of the oppressor, but his conviction and improvement.
III. THE HONORABLE DISMISSAL. Alarmed at the attitude of Paul, the magistrates send to beg the apostles to depart. Thus they receive their dismissal, "Go in peace!" from the lips of friend and foe alike - from the friends to whom they have brought peace and salvation; from the foes who dare not touch the anointed of God; from the Master himself, who has been with them in their trouble, whose promises have sustained, and whose providence has watched over and delivered them. - J.