Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE VARIETY IS OUR COMPANIONSHIPS. As each passenger on board found himself inseparably associated with a strange admixture of fellow-travelers, so we find ourselves compelled to mingle, more or less closely, with various companions as we and they journey together over the waters of life. There are
(1) those who have a right to command us (the captain);
(2) those in whose power we stand (the soldiers, ver. 42);
(3) those who are bound to care for our safety (the sailors), many of whom will selfishly neglect their duty (ver. 30);
(4) those who can enlighten, heal, refresh us in spirit or in body (Paul, Luke, Aristarchus);
(5) fellow-sufferers (the prisoners).
II. THE NEED FOR LABOR AND FOR PATIENCE. Not only did the sailors strive strenuously to discharge their nautical duties (vers. 7, 8, 17), but all the passengers worked with all their strength in co-operation with them (vers. 16, 19). And with what long patience had they to wait, not merely at Fair Haven, "where much time was spent," but also and chiefly when the vessel was drifting before the wind, "when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared" (ver. 20), and when riding at anchor, and fearing greatly that they would be forced on the neighboring rocks, they "wished for the day." Labor and patience are the two oars which will bring the boat to shore in the everyday passage of our life.
III. THE CERTAINTY OF HARDSHIP AND PERIL, MORE OR LESS SEVERE. The winds are sure to be contrary, as in the earlier part of this celebrated voyage (vers. 4, 7, 8), and they may be tempestuous, as they were at the latter part (vers. 14, 18, 27). We must reckon upon some adversity, some checks and disappointments, as certain to befall us; we ought to be prepared for calamity and disaster. No human voyager across the sea of life can tell that there is not a very cyclone of misfortune through which he is about to pass.
IV. THE EXCELLENCY OF A REFUGE IS GOD. What an admirable figure does Paul present in this interesting picture! What calmness he shows (vers. 21-25)! What comfort he conveys! What strength he affords (vers. 33-36)! What ascendency he acquires (ver. 43)! It is the prisoner, Paul, who is the central figure there, not the centurion, nor even the captain. If in the emergencies that will arise, in the crises that must occur, on those occasions when the higher virtues and heavenlier graces are demanded, we would show ourselves brave, noble, helpful, truly admirable, let us see to it that we have then - because we seek now - a Friend, a Refuge, a Stay in Almighty God.
V. THE OCCASIONAL DEMAND FOR SACRIFICE. To save life they "lightened the ship" (ver. 18); they "cast out the tackling" (ver. 19); they "cast out the wheat into the sea" (ver. 38). To save moral or spiritual integrity it is well worth while, and sometimes positively necessary, to abandon that which is precious to us as citizens of this present life (Matthew 18:8, 9).
VI. THE POSSIBILITY OF REACHING THE SHORE. (Ver. 44.) In one way or another they all came "safe to land." We may arrive at the end like the captain who steers into port, his vessel whole, every sail spread to the wind, rich and glad with a prosperous voyage; or we may reach the strand like Paul and his fellow-passengers, on planks and broken pieces of the ship. We may die honored, strong, influential, triumphant; or we may reach our end poor, unregarded, shattered. It is of small account, so that we do reach that blessed shore - so that we are "found in him," the Divine Savior, and pass to his presence and his glory. - C.
I. THE CHRISTIAN SETS OUT IN STRANGE COMPANY', AND WITH OFTEN UNCONGENIAL SURROUNDINGS. Romans, Macedonians, prisoners, Alexandrians, are Paul's fellow-voyagers (vers. 1, 2, 4-8). No seclusion, no picked society nor refined retirement, can be or ought to be the usual lot of the Christian. We cannot go out of the world. In society, among all the diversities of human character, our education and trial must go on, our experience be gained. The greater the variety of men, the more eliciting of our capabilities, the larger scope for doing good.
II. THE CHRISTIAN IS SURE TO MEET WITH FRIENDS. A friend and hospitality is to be found at most ports (ver. 3). And love begets love. Captain Julius, another of those fine Roman soldiers who cross the stage of the Christian story, is glad of an excuse to show the kindness of his heart to his prisoner. Oh, let us believe in the human heart; if we speak to it in the tones of love, it will give hack its sweet echo everywhere. Unexpected acts of friendship are revelations of God to us in lonely places and sad hours.
"I fancied he was fled, III. CLOUDY SKIES. (Veto 9-15.) Forebodings of danger are felt as the Christian goes on. Sunny life-seasons, the joys of calm friendship, must give place to dark skies and danger. The changing drama of nature mirrors the story of the human soul. The Christian, taught by experience, becomes prophetic, like Paul. The centurion and the master of the ship may typify that blind obstinacy which will persevere with its designs in the teeth of nature's laws. Nothing fatal occurs without previous warnings. In the natural and in the moral world we constantly come upon effects without visible causes, But the causes exist and are in action. Hence the constant duty of sobriety and watchfulness. The deep lesson of the gospel here illustrated is that we ought not to be taken at unawares. IV. UNBELIEVING FEAR AND BELIEVING CONFIDENCE. The former in vers. 16-20. To save dear life men will cast their treasures as worthless dross into the sea. And when, in spite of all, death seems near and inevitable, nothing is left but despair. But if earthly life itself is well lost for the sake of the immortal soul, hope need not set, but rather rise, like the morning star, above these troubled waves. This contrast is brought out by the behavior of the apostle (vers. 21-26). Through the many sunless and starless days and nights, hope shines unquenched within his breast. There are reflections of such times within the horizon of the soul (Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 63:17). Reason contends with faith; and in struggle with itself the spirit becomes conscious of its power and victory through God. Paul supports himself on a Divine intimation, confirming the promise of the past (Acts 23:11). The great thing is to be intent upon our work and witness; then comes the sense of security, the faith that no harm can come nigh us until our work be done. "Too busied with the crowded hour "On two days it steads not to run from thy grave - V. SHIPWRECK AND LANDING. (Vers. 39-44.) The day breaks. The face of God appears after the night of weeping and watching. When need is sorest, he is nearest. Yet his light leads to strange and unfamiliar scenes: "They knew not the land." The scenery that unfolds before the soul in the great crises of life or in the hour of death is that of a foreign shore. Death is a great break-up of all our familiar and trusted associations, and great experiences of change in the soul may resemble it in this. Their use is to teach self-reliance - that true self-reliance which identifies God with the truest impulses of the soul. At the moment when all seems lost, all is gained. The foreign and seeming unfriendly shore proves a haven and a home; the restless sea tosses them from its bosom to terra firma, and to a rest. So to the faithful soul do the fears and fancies of the terrified imagination give way to fixed prospects, and we are wrecked in transitory conditions that we may find a footing in the eternal. - J.
III. CLOUDY SKIES. (Veto 9-15.) Forebodings of danger are felt as the Christian goes on. Sunny life-seasons, the joys of calm friendship, must give place to dark skies and danger. The changing drama of nature mirrors the story of the human soul. The Christian, taught by experience, becomes prophetic, like Paul. The centurion and the master of the ship may typify that blind obstinacy which will persevere with its designs in the teeth of nature's laws. Nothing fatal occurs without previous warnings. In the natural and in the moral world we constantly come upon effects without visible causes, But the causes exist and are in action. Hence the constant duty of sobriety and watchfulness. The deep lesson of the gospel here illustrated is that we ought not to be taken at unawares.
IV. UNBELIEVING FEAR AND BELIEVING CONFIDENCE. The former in vers. 16-20. To save dear life men will cast their treasures as worthless dross into the sea. And when, in spite of all, death seems near and inevitable, nothing is left but despair. But if earthly life itself is well lost for the sake of the immortal soul, hope need not set, but rather rise, like the morning star, above these troubled waves. This contrast is brought out by the behavior of the apostle (vers. 21-26). Through the many sunless and starless days and nights, hope shines unquenched within his breast. There are reflections of such times within the horizon of the soul (Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 63:17). Reason contends with faith; and in struggle with itself the spirit becomes conscious of its power and victory through God. Paul supports himself on a Divine intimation, confirming the promise of the past (Acts 23:11). The great thing is to be intent upon our work and witness; then comes the sense of security, the faith that no harm can come nigh us until our work be done.
"Too busied with the crowded hour "On two days it steads not to run from thy grave - V. SHIPWRECK AND LANDING. (Vers. 39-44.) The day breaks. The face of God appears after the night of weeping and watching. When need is sorest, he is nearest. Yet his light leads to strange and unfamiliar scenes: "They knew not the land." The scenery that unfolds before the soul in the great crises of life or in the hour of death is that of a foreign shore. Death is a great break-up of all our familiar and trusted associations, and great experiences of change in the soul may resemble it in this. Their use is to teach self-reliance - that true self-reliance which identifies God with the truest impulses of the soul. At the moment when all seems lost, all is gained. The foreign and seeming unfriendly shore proves a haven and a home; the restless sea tosses them from its bosom to terra firma, and to a rest. So to the faithful soul do the fears and fancies of the terrified imagination give way to fixed prospects, and we are wrecked in transitory conditions that we may find a footing in the eternal. - J.
"On two days it steads not to run from thy grave - V. SHIPWRECK AND LANDING. (Vers. 39-44.) The day breaks. The face of God appears after the night of weeping and watching. When need is sorest, he is nearest. Yet his light leads to strange and unfamiliar scenes: "They knew not the land." The scenery that unfolds before the soul in the great crises of life or in the hour of death is that of a foreign shore. Death is a great break-up of all our familiar and trusted associations, and great experiences of change in the soul may resemble it in this. Their use is to teach self-reliance - that true self-reliance which identifies God with the truest impulses of the soul. At the moment when all seems lost, all is gained. The foreign and seeming unfriendly shore proves a haven and a home; the restless sea tosses them from its bosom to terra firma, and to a rest. So to the faithful soul do the fears and fancies of the terrified imagination give way to fixed prospects, and we are wrecked in transitory conditions that we may find a footing in the eternal. - J.
I. THE NEED OF SPIRITUAL REFRESHMENT. Our minds may be comparatively strong; our health may be sound; our spiritual faculties may be capable of very vigorous activity; but the time comes before many months, or perhaps weeks, or even days, when we need recreation and refreshment. The Father "worketh hitherto" - the omnipotent One, he who slumbereth not nor sleepeth, is putting forth untiring activity without cessation. But he is the Infinite One, the everlasting God who fainteth not, neither is weary; and even of him it is said that he "rested from his works." In some sense that was true even of the Supreme. We, with our feebleness and frailty, capable of such small and slight exertion, so soon weary with our work, need frequently recurring rest and refreshment of soul. Not only in mechanical industry or in mental exertion, but in philanthropic activities, and even in religious exercises, we need rest, change, and refreshment.
II. THE JUSTIFICATION OF IT. Can we spare any time from duties so imperative as are ours who are engaged in holy usefulness, for mere recreation? Is it right to be passive, to leave the weapon untouched, the ground untilled, when so much is calling and even crying to be done, when such terrible weeds and thistles are disfiguring the "garden of the Lord"? It is right. We have:
1. The warrant of our Lord himself: "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31); and he himself often retired into the lonely mountain-fold for rest and refreshment of spirit.
2. Apostolic example (Galatians 1:18).
3. The experience of the wise and good of all ages.
4. The argument from necessity. Without it we break down; our spirit and our body are prostrated; the usefulness of our life is cut short. With it we regain strength, heart, and nerve for continued activity and helpfulness.
"Oh, rest awhile, but only for a while; "Rest for a while, if only for a while; III. THE SOURCES OF IT. We naturally suggest (1) relaxation of ordinary effort, of whatever kind it be; (2) change of scene and of employment. These are the simple and efficacious expedients which we commonly adopt. But beside these, we may mention; (3) genial and inspiring companionships - the finding out such "friends" as those of our text, and having free, unfettered intercourse with them; and (4) the solitude which suggests communion with God, that measure of loneliness which, without oppressing us, will send our thoughts first inward and then upward, in quiet meditation and in soothing, sustaining, refreshing prayer. "Oh, rest awhile, for rest is self-return;
"Rest for a while, if only for a while; III. THE SOURCES OF IT. We naturally suggest (1) relaxation of ordinary effort, of whatever kind it be; (2) change of scene and of employment. These are the simple and efficacious expedients which we commonly adopt. But beside these, we may mention; (3) genial and inspiring companionships - the finding out such "friends" as those of our text, and having free, unfettered intercourse with them; and (4) the solitude which suggests communion with God, that measure of loneliness which, without oppressing us, will send our thoughts first inward and then upward, in quiet meditation and in soothing, sustaining, refreshing prayer. "Oh, rest awhile, for rest is self-return;
III. THE SOURCES OF IT. We naturally suggest
(1) relaxation of ordinary effort, of whatever kind it be;
(2) change of scene and of employment. These are the simple and efficacious expedients which we commonly adopt. But beside these, we may mention;
(3) genial and inspiring companionships - the finding out such "friends" as those of our text, and having free, unfettered intercourse with them; and
(4) the solitude which suggests communion with God, that measure of loneliness which, without oppressing us, will send our thoughts first inward and then upward, in quiet meditation and in soothing, sustaining, refreshing prayer.
"Oh, rest awhile, for rest is self-return;
Acts 18:14; Acts 19:31, 37. For Scripture illustrations of the power to win confidence, recall the incidents of Joseph's early life in Egypt, and the narrative of the three Hebrew youths as given by Daniel. For illustration in modern life, recall the liberty which the jailor gave to John Bunyan. Very possibly this Julius had heard Paul's address before Agrippa, and the kind consideration of the centurion must have been very helpful to the apostle, whose two years' imprisonment must have told unfavorably upon his health, and who can have been but scantily provided with the requisites for a long voyage. We direct attention to that power which St. Paul evidently possessed, of winning the confidence and the favor of those who came into intimate contact with him; observing that -
I. POWER TO WIN CONFIDENCE IS A NATURAL GIFT. It belongs to some persons in an unusual degree. Children at once recognize and respond to it. We are wont to say that the true teacher is the person who can gain the confidence of the children. From some persons we instinctively shrink, to others we are as instinctively drawn. it is a power that belongs to natural disposition and character; it is a Divine endow-merit or gift, the talent entrusted to some. So far as it belongs to character we may notice its dependence on three elements.
1. Transparency. Some men make you feel their sincerity, honesty, integrity, guilelessness. They make you feel that you know them as they are, and that there is nothing hidden behind.
2. Firmness. Some men are changeable, undecided, and you cannot rely on them. Others may be slower in forming their judgments or expressing their decisions, but you know that you can trust them; they stand fast by their promise; they are as steady as a rock.
3. Sympathy. A mysterious attraction is in some persons as they seem to understand us and feel with us, and their brotherliness commands our confidence.
II. POWER TO WIN CONFIDENCE IS A DIVINE TRUST. It takes its place among the talents. It is our characteristic, a force for good, which is entrusted to our use. It is ours as distinctly as may be the gifts of song, of eloquence, of art, of position, or of wealth. And this particular gift has even an unusual importance attaching to it, for, in inviting the trust of men in us, and meeting that trust faithfully, we may be revealing God to them and helping them to confidence in him. It is hard indeed for that man to have confidence in God who has never been able to rely on any of his fellow-men. This Divine "trust" brings its burden of responsibility. In relation to it we may be found faithful or unfaithful.
III. POWER TO WIN CONFIDENCE IS CAPABLE OF CULTURE. Not so much of direct as of indirect culture. As in other cases so in this, culture comes by use. To employ any talent, to exercise any gift, is to nourish it into strength; but those powers which belong to character are cultured in the general moral culture, in the daily training of the spirit and ordering of the life. Occasion may be taken here to plead for the duty of "keeping the heart with all diligence, seeing that out of it are the issues of life."
IV. POWER TO WIN CONFIDENCE IS SANCTIFIED BY RELIGION. This St. Paul well illustrates; his faith in God, his devotion to men, his renewed disposition, his sense of the living presence of Christ, the measure of his change into the very mind and image of Christ, all told directly on the purifying and perfecting of this his natural gift. Christian faith sanctifies character, especially bearing its force on those three features of transparency, firmness, and sympathy, on which we have seen the power to win confidence mainly depends. Impress that, from the Christian standpoint, a man will only use this power of drawing others to himself in order that he may draw them all to Jesus, and, in and through him, to God. - R.T.
I. FULL ARRANGEMENT BEFOREHAND. Julius had to convey his prisoners westward: for this purpose he wanted soldiers, a sea-route, vessels that would be making the passage at this time. All this he provided carefully or calculated upon correctly enough (see ver. 6). We cannot hope to execute our purpose without a thorough consideration and preparation beforehand. We must always count the cost and provide the means. We may be engaged in God's work, but we must not presume that Providence will interpose to make good our carelessness, our negligence, our want of prevision and provision.
II. PATIENT LABOR. From point to point they made their way; with the winds against them, they at length made Myra (ver. 5). "They sailed slowly many days," but they went on towards Cnidus (ver. 7). They had much work to pass Salmone (ver. 8); but by dint of persevering labor they reached the port. Whether we seek knowledge, material resources, position, influence, or the accomplishment of any great enterprise in philanthropy or religion, we must be prepared for patient labor. We must make our way from point to point, struggling with "contrary winds," hardly passing," but managing to make our way beyond this mark and that, finally reaching our goal - exhausted, perhaps, but successful.
III. THE SUBMISSION WHICH PREVAILS. Julius would not have arrived at Fair Havens when he did, had not the captains of the vessels in which he sailed conquered the forces with which they had to contend by a wise submission. The captain of the "ship of Adramyttium" sailed on the other side of Cyprus from that on which he meant to steer, "because the winds were contrary" (ver. 4). "The wind not suffering" them, they did not enter Cnidus when they were "off it (ver. 7). We must direct our course, guided by events. We are too feeble to carry our projects through without frequent tacking and changing. We may be resolutely firm in our principle, though we may vary our policy as circumstances may demand. We often find it wise to yield one thing in order to gain another which is not inconsistent with the end in view. We do well to concede small things that we may secure greater ones. If our aim is a pure and noble one, we shall gladly bend to the contrary winds," if only we may, by taking another course, reach the Fair Havens which we seek. Between one man surrendering principles to gain position or resources for himself, and another man yielding to opposing winds in order to effect a high and beneficent purpose, there lies all the distance between meanness and magnanimity.
IV. READY USE OF FAVORABLE CIRCUMSTANCES. (Ver. 6.) If we would do good and great things in our day, we must not only use the weapons which are thrust into our hands, but must eagerly and actively seize upon them when they are in reach. The centurion found, on seeking for it, a ship sailing in his direction. Many men are very near to failures in business, in society, in sacred service, because they expect opportunity to seek them out, instead of their looking keenly out for opportunity. Then comes -
V. JOYIUS ATTAINMENT. (Ver. 8.) We arrive at the Fair Havens, the port of our hope, and the peaceful harbor is the pleasanter to our eye for the toil and the submission we have exercised to gain it. - C.
I. THEY MAY BE PREVENTVE OF CALAMITY. St. Paul's would have been if it had been heeded. The warning of Jonah was, for the king and people of Nineveh did give heed to it. Explain that in the Divine rule of the world and men, no events need be regarded as absolutely and irrevocably settled. God's foreknowings and fore-ordainings are quite consistent with the conditional character of all events as regarded by men. We can prevent overhanging calamities up to certain limits of time. We can if we will duly keep Divine principles, and heed Divine warnings.
II. THEY SHOW THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MAN'S CONDUCT AND MAN'S CIRCUMSTANCES. This is always the point of a Divine warning. This connection we are always in peril of denying or of forgetting. If we possibly can we think of events as accidents, and then all moral relations and uses are taken away from them. We never can call them "accidents" in the face of Divine warnings, for these distinctly affirm that the character of the coming events depends upon ourselves. It should be carefully shown that public events may not depend on individuals, but they do upon social conditions; and it may also be shown that the wrongdoing of some one may involve the calamity of many. In further and more minutely unfolding the mission of Divine warnings, it may be shown that -
III. THEY MAKE MEN PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE, AND GIVE THEIR AFTER-ACTIONS A DISTINCT MORAL QUALITY. The warned man does not act at unawares. All excuses are taken away. The character of his proposed conduct is revealed to him in its issues. He acts upon knowledge, and the action is obedient or self-willed, good or bad.
IV. THEY SOLEMNLY AFFIRM THE SUPREME KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, AND THE DIVINE OVERRULING OF ALL AFFAIRS. In man's willfulness he says of some things, "They are mere calamities; man's conduct had nothing to do with them;" and then again of other events he will say, "They are simply the natural consequences of men's foolish and wicked doings, and we need not think that God has anything to do with them." Correcting both errors, God's warnings make us understand that he rules and overrules all events, all actions, all sins, "making the very wroth of man to praise him." Show, in conclusion, that warnings still come to us
(1) through men;
(2) through the Word;
(3) through providences;
(4) through the inward witnessings of God's Holy Spirit.
Individuals and nations now cannot press on in paths of evil without finding, again and again, God's angel of warning blocking the way, as he did for foolish, covetous, willful Balaam. - R.T.
I. HOPE IS A CONSTANT RESIDENT OF THE HUMAN SOUL. Thou didst make me hope upon my mother's breasts" (Psalm 22:9). Man must hope for that which is beyond him; otherwise he would sink fast and far in the scale of being.
1. We may set our heart on exchanging the insufficient for the satisfactory. That was the case here. The port of Fair Havens was "not commodious to winter in" (ver. 12); the sailors could not be satisfied that they were safe until they reached another which lay "toward the south-west and north-west" (Phenice).
2. Or we may desire to pass from the unsuitable to the appropriate; as when he who has left boyhood behind him desires to have the heritage of manhood.
3. Or we may long to move on from the good to the better; as when a man strives to rise to the higher post, to the superior position, to the wider sphere. Such hope is, in the first case, obligatory; in the second, desirable; in the third, allowable. But such is the feebleness of our nature and such the frailty of our efforts that -
II. DISAPPOINTMENT IS OFTEN WAITING UPON HOPE. HOW often does the" south wind blow softly" (ver. 13), and we think we "have obtained our purpose," and make ready to enter our "desired haven," when suddenly there arises "a tempestuous wind," and the" ship cannot bear up" (ver. 15), and we have to "let her drive" whither she will, but not whither we will! How often does some relentless Euroclydon interpose between us and the fruition of our hope! From childhood to old age, disappointment embitters the cup of life, saddens the spirit of man. It is the little child that fails to receive its coveted toy; it is the boy that does not quite win the prize; it is the young man who nearly secures the post, but is overmatched in the lists; it is the lover who returns with a heavy heart; it is the mother who cannot save the young life from an infant's grave; it is the statesman who is passed by that a favorite may have the portfolio; it is the student, the traveler that does not make the discovery to which he seemed so near; - it is the seeking, striving, yearning human heart that opens to receive and is bitterly disappointed. Of all the evils which fall upon and darken the path of life there is none more common, none more powerful, none more ill to bear. Beneath its blow, how many a heart has bled to death! under its cruel weight, how many who live about us and whose path we cross are compelled to "go softly all their days"! Let us thank God that -
III. THERE IS A REFUGE EVEN FROM DISAPPOINTMENT. The sailors in our text had very little consolation when they could not "obtain their purpose." There was no other harbor for which to make. But when disappointment comes to the human soul in the strife and conflict of life, there is always a resort to which the heart may flee, a haven m which to hide. It can always fall back on either
(1) the sympathy and succor of the unfailing Friend, or
(2) the hope "which maketh not ashamed," "that sure and steadfast hope which entereth within the veil.' - C.
1. The interplay of human action and of Divine providence, the harmony of human responsibility and Divine purpose, are forcibly illustrated more than once.
2. The moral superiority, the real strength, the solid ground to stand upon, which are the portion of the man with whom the truth of God dwells, in comparison of two hundred and fifty others, though he be the prisoner and they his masters, or at least their own, are most impressively exhibited and vindicated. Supposing that we read rightly, that there were as many as two hundred and seventy-six souls in that tossed boat, we may say that the length of this long chapter shows one man - him the chief prisoner - as the man whose heart fails him not, who revives the hearts of the others, when at all they are revived, and in whom, under God, the hope of all centers. The force of this contrast makes the chapter one of sustained and unique interest, on the one band, and, on the other, strews its path with suggestions of instruction. Though we read nothing positive respecting the state of mind of the personal companions and friends of Paul (the one of whom was the historian of the book, who for that very reason probably modestly abstains from speaking of himself), there is no reason to doubt that they shared the strength and peace and confident faith of Paul himself. In this present passage we may notice these four things in chief.
I. THE FORCIBLE DESCRIPTION OF "MAN'S EXTREMITY."
1. It involves outwardly, in one common condition, the bad and the good.
2. It is day without one sight of the sun, night without the radiance of one star; it is tempest of wind and wave without respite; it is the heart "without hope."
3. It is the strain of long continuance of the same. This scriptural description may be taken to cover pretty well the subject, and brings any one sufficiently face to face with the question whether there be any higher, friendly power able, willing to interpose.
II. THE "PROPER MAN" FOR THE HOUR.
1. He is the man "in chains."
2. He is the man to whom the Roman centurion cannot help showing some consideration (vers. 3, 11, 31, 32, 43), though he has the care of him for Caesar's judgment-seat.
3. He is a man who knows what is due to himself, and, denying all traffic with the spirit of obsequiousness, holds his own, and dares to say, "You see I was in the right" (vers. 10, 21).
4. Though he might well have stood off from the rest in the boat, and been excused for doing so easily by them, yet he does not take this course, not play this part. He throws himself and lot in with them and theirs.
5. He is the preacher of comfort and of courage, and the confident prophet of hope and safety, but tells the bad also with the good (ver. 26).
6. He is the genuine religious man, not "ashamed of Christ," and plainly tells the source of his own confidence and of the firm language he holds to his congregation of the boat, for all that he may be called or thought fanatical.
III. THE GOD WHO MADE THAT MAN OF THE HOUR. Let alone all which that God had done in the remoter past, and the earlier heretofore of his life, what had he done lately?
1. That God did not forget his child, his servant, his anxious sufferer. He had long so served Paul that nothing was more precious to him than to think he was the acknowledged and sure possession of God - "whose I am;" and no livery conceivable so honorable as his - "whom I serve." And now with gentle witness he makes him know that he does not forget him, has not taken his eye off from him, but is following him with that watchful, careful, loving eye. And "he sends his holy angel" to him.
2. That God strengthened and refreshed the confidence of his child and servant in a very noteworthy manner. For he condescends to repeat himself. Again he sends his angel, again the visit is the visit of the night, when "deep sleep falleth upon men" generally, but when little now visited the eyes of Paul or of others in that boat. Again the angel "stands by" Paul, ready for march, for work, for conflict, for victory. He does not over-hover nor seem in the attitude that would suggest the upward flight for Paid. Firmly on earth that angel of God condescends to plant his feet. Again the former words are repeated (Acts 23:11). Was it not enough that "God had spoken once," saying that the eyes of Paul should see Rome, and that he should preach in Rome? Again, however, the assurance is given him, and again the word of direct encouragement is addressed to the heart of Paul, "Be of good cheer" (Acts 23:11); "Fear not, Paul."
3. That God sets double and very high honor on his despised child and suffering servant. He "gives" to Paul "all them that sail with him." And it is not a secret covered gift, it is such a one as Paul can quote, and quoted, no doubt, not without Divine warrant, though this is not asserted. Thus the God who made Paul the man of the hour made him such in the strength of his kindly memory of him, in the comforting and assuring language he addressed to him, and in the practical honor, a very boon of honor, he bestowed upon him. It may have required some courage for Paul to have made this last announcement, except for one fact, significant enough, that by far the more part of "them that sailed with Paul" had none at all, had lost heart, and hope, and the tongue to jeer, and lip to mock, arid countenance to laugh unbelievingly, with all which it is highly likely his announcement would at any other time have been received.
IV. THE MEANS BY WHICH THAT MAN GOT HIS HOLD ON GOD. The declaration of these means stands on the page of the book and shines on the life of the man in simplicity, brevity, grandeur, unique. "For I believe God," says Paul. What a word is this! What a thing it is! How few say it firmly I How few who say it and even firmly, do it! How fewer still by far who consistently and persistently do it! Yet is it the secret of peace, of strength, of influence, of the only kind worth having and enduring, and of heavenly wealth. What does the man possess who can say this with simple, full truth," For I believe God '? And what can he want? Of him this may be said, and it is enough. He has all things and abounds." How mournful, pitiful, sinful, the instability of the man who cannot say this from the heart I How strong and safe from "shipwreck" the man who can! - B.
I. HIS FIRM FAITH IN HIS GOD, AND THE PEACE OF SOUL THENCE FLOWING, We may compare the picture of the Savior on the lake of Galilee, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?"
II. HIS CONSEQUENT CALMNESS AND PRUDENCE IN COUNSEL. He sets aside, with clear presence of mind, mistaken plans (vers. 27-32); he encourages dispirited minds (vers. 33-38); he acts with the fidelity of a pastor to the souls he feels committed to his care.
III. HIS PROPHETIC POWER. It is seen in warning of danger (ver. 10), and exhortation amidst trial. The spirit of the prophet is at home amidst the storms of the world; flits like the petrel above the troubled waves. He has heard of the still small voice; the noise and crash of elemental war cannot shut out the melody of God. He rides upon the waters, directs the storm, furnishes an ark for the faithful in secret. God is our Refuge and Strength; this song was singing throughout in the heart of Paul.
IV. HIS LOVING, THANKFUL, AND HOPEFUL SPIRIT. (Vers. 34-36.) He breaks bread with the company, gives thanks, and utters the divinest and most successful consolation. A picture again that recalls the scene of the last Supper. - J.
I. THE GOOD MAN'S REPROOF. (Ver. 21.) It might seem unfitting and unkind to remind the officers of their past mistake; but St. Paul was a moral teacher, and everywhere he sought to do his moral and religious work. He would not miss the opportunity of producing a sense of sin which might be the beginning of better things. If his reproof had been a mere taunt, in the spirit of our irritating way of saying, "I told you so," it could not be commended. It belongs rather to the reproofs of which it may be said, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
II. THE GOOD MAN'S ASSURANCE. (Ver. 22.) It was found in the strong brave words St. Paul used, but even more in the tone with which they were uttered. There could be no question about his own assurance. On his own faith he could uplift and cheer others. Compare the calmness of St. Paul with the unnatural calmness of Jonah when the storm raged about him; and give illustration, from modern tales of shipwreck, of the power of the godly man to quiet alarm and prepare men for death.
III. THE GROUND OF THE GOOD MAN'S CONFIDENCE. (Vers. 23-26.) In this case a Divine communication. In other cases more general grounds, such as
(1) our good. Father's care and power;
(2) the "exceeding great and precious promises;" or, sometimes, a strong impression made upon our minds. Impress that the power to cheer others may be won by any and every godly man. It follows upon a real living faith in God; it is the proper power of the man who is calm by reason of his trust in God, and cherished sense of the Divine presence. - R.T.
I. THE EXTENT OF Tile DIVINE CLAIM. "Whose I am." God's claim upon our service is simply complete; it is impossible to conceive of a tie stronger or more perfect. It rests on:
1. His absolute sovereignty over the universe.
2. His creation of our spirit; the fact that he called us out of nothingness into being, that he conferred on us our spiritual nature and our bodily life.
3. His preservation of us in being.
4. His provision for all oar wants, constant and generous.
5. His fatherly love prompting him to the bestowment of all His gifts, and greatly enhancing their value.
6. His redemption of us by Jesus Christ his Son; in this the last manifestation of Divine goodness, ratifying, multiplying his claim on us beyond all measure. "We are not our own: we are bought with a price;" "Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ." (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; 1 Peter 1:18, 19). Resting on such solid ground, God's claim on us is very great. He asks of us that we "yield ourselves unto him;" that we offer ourselves, all that we are and have, to himself and his service, that he may enlarge and employ and bless us. This giving of ourselves unto God, this act of self-surrender by which" living or dying we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8), involves
(1) the subjection of our will to the will of God;
(2) the opening of our heart to the love of Christ;
(3) the purpose of our soul to spend our lives and powers in His service.
II. THE DIVINE COMMUNICATION. God has been pleased to make some special communications to certain favored individuals of our race. The Apostle Paul was one of these, and this shipwreck through which he passed was one of the occasions on which he sent his angel with a message from his own mind (text). But though the great majority of our race pass through life without such direct and special manifestation, we are all addressed by the Father and Savior of our spirits. God speaks to us:
1. In his Word.
2. By his Son, who is ever saying to each human heart that hears his gospel, "Believe in me;" "Abide in me;" "Follow me;" "Work in my vineyard."
3. By his Holy Spirit, who comes with enlightening, quickening, renewing energy to the individual soul.
III. THE RESPONSE WE SHOULD RENDER.
1. Faith. "I believe God." God
(1) gives us strong and sufficient evidence that it is he who is speaking; and then
(2) asks as to believe unquestioningly what he tells us. He tells us many things of himself and of ourselves, and particularly of our direct relation to himself, which we could not nave divined by our own imagination, which we cannot prove by our own reason, which we are not able to comprehend by our own perceptive powers; but it is reasonable and right that, having the strongest evidence that God is speaking to us, we should accept with creature humility and filial trust what we cannot fathom now, assured that, by believing his Word and acting on our belief, we shall rise to a height where we shall see what is now invisible and understand what is now beyond us. This is only what we have already done in the days of our childhood, on a smaller and earthly plane.
2. Service. "Whom I serve." This service
(1) begins with the grateful and cordial acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of the soul: "This is [to do] the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29; see 1 John 3:23);
(2) continues through life in the endeavor to please Christ in everything, to adorn his doctrine, to exalt his Name and extend his kingdom;
(3) is consummated in the heavenly service of the future life. Then, there, in very deed and truth, with undimmed and untiring devotion, "his servants shall serve him" (Revelation 22:3). - C.
him," and this so certainly that the apostle could say without qualification, "There shall be no loss of any man's life" (ver. 22), how could the desertion of the shipmen (ver. 31) have imperiled the safety of the passengers so that Paul exclaimed, "Except these abide," etc.? The answer to this question is found in the truth that God's promises to his children are always conditional on their obedience to his will. So truly is this the case, and so practically, that it is not only possible we may bring about the non-fulfillment of the Divine promise, but certain that we shall do so, if we do not comply with the conditions which are expressed or understood. We may find -
I. HISTORICAL ILLUSTRATIONS of this principle.
1. Genesis 1:26-31 and Genesis 6:5-7.
II. INDIVIDUAL ILLUSTRATIONS OF IT.
1. Our entrance into the kingdom of Christ. We know that it is the will of God that all who hear the gospel should be saved by it (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11). But we also know that those will never enter the kingdom who will not repent and believe (John 3:36; John 5:40; Acts 13:46).
2. Our progress in the Christian race. God wills our sanctification; he has arranged that they who enter into life by faith in Jesus Christ shall grow in grace, in strength, in virtue (1 Thessalonians 4:3; Ephesians 5:26, 27; 2 Peter 1:5-8, etc.). But it is certain that if we neglect the means of grace and growth we shall not advance, but recede (John 15:4, 6; Hebrews 10:23-25).
3. Our admission to the heavenly kingdom. God promises his children a place in his eternal home (John 14:2, 3; 2 Timothy 4:8). But the crown of life will only be given to those who are faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10). It is only he that overcometh that will "eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7), and who will be made "a pillar in the temple... to go no more out" (Revelation 3:12). It is only they who have put out their talents to whom the "Well done" of the Divine Lord wilt be addressed (Matthew 25:14-30). "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest: any of us should seem to come short of it" (Hebrews 4:1). - C.
spoken unto him."
I. TRUE FAITH OVERCOMETH THE WORLD.
1. By bringing in the light of the better world - so foreseeing the end, measuring present circumstances, maintaining physical and moral strength.
2. By lifting up the individual life into the sphere of the Divine purposes. Paul felt that he was living for Christ, and, as an ambassador, must be protected.
3. By cheering the heart with benevolence. "God hath granted thee all them that sail with thee." The sense of a philanthropic value in our own life is wonderfully cheering. We are doing good; what does it signify where we are, and how we are placed? Those around us must bless God for us.
II. THE VICTORIOUS LIFE OF FAITH IS THE ONLY LIFE WORTH LIVING.
1. The shipwreck of worldly confidence. Human wisdom, physical force, political supremacy - all fail. Our temptation in these days to trust in schemes of social remedy. Christianity alone can say, "Be of good cheer."
2. The Christian in the presence of suffering and death. Instances resembling Paul's. Mackenzie in the Pegasus. Then comes the trial of confidence, and what we want is to say, "I believe in God."
3. The ministry of the believer in a perishing, despairing world. Each one able to say to some and somewhere, "Be of good cheer."
4. The prophetic power of Christianity. Not idle dreaming, not fanatical predicting of events, but the certainty of the future brought to bear upon the present. One who can say," I believe that so it shall be," and who can show by his fortitude and cheerfulness that he does believe it, will be as a light in the world's darkness. Such a narrative rebukes the folly of our modern necromancy and soothsaying, and incites us to be true children of the day and of the light. - R.
I. BY THE SHIPMEN. That is, by the "master and owner" of the ship (ver. 11), and evidently the officers and crew (ver. 27) of the ship. Every sentiment of honor, every plain demand of duty, called upon them to stand by their ship to the last, and to be the last to leave it. They now try to do all the reverse of this, competent to purpose it, and taken in the attempt to do it by craft, "under color" of doing something else. They reveal:
1. Cowardice. That they should fear was natural and a sign that nature had not gone callous in them. But cowardice began when they did not face to the end what had now some days been a common danger, one for which they were in part themselves answerable, which they could best meet, and which others must meet.
2. Selfishness. They try to save themselves,
(1) regardless of others who belonged to them, as if only so much freight;
(2) and yet worse, doubling the risk of them, by
(a) withdrawing their own professional help, and
(b) withdrawing the boat.
3. The unfaithfulness of the hireling. Seldom could there be found a more typical instance of this (John 10:11-13). They were hired, they "cared nothing" for the lives of those entrusted to their charge, and they did attempt to "flee."
4. The "wisdom in its generation" of human nature. For, baulked of their purpose, and baulked in a most transparent and peremptory manner, they are too "wise" to court lynch law; and they appear to follow the policy at once of saying nothing, and making the best of it. They fall into their places, and do whatever is to be done. So versatile can human nature be when it suits her.
II. BY PAUL. Paul under any showing was the character and the hero of the boat. We should not be content without knowing anything of him that opens to our view. A great deal does open to our view. He steps out not now for the first time since the storm began. It would be very far from the truth to say now that it was only human nature that we have the opportunity of seeing. No; the subordination of human nature was, perhaps, not yet perfect. Yet there was no willing strife (Romans 7:15-25), no great strife, no very distorting strife, between the human and the Divine in him.
1. Paul was the one calm watcher of everything that transpired.
2. His was the eye that read and that was then engaged in reading nature in others. It was in very deed, at any time, part of his office to do this very thing.
3. His was the eye that, so clear itself, detected the fraud, the would-be fraud of others.
4. His was the unfaltering tongue that declared it, though probably with no addition of safety to himself.
5. His was the mind conscious in its own rectitude and confident in God's truth and providence, that does not for a moment hesitate to expose itself to being taxed with certain theological inconsistency. Most positively and publicly had he committed himself to the statement that God had promised him himself and "all them that sailed with him." And yet he brings to the fore a condition, a new sort of proviso, and that one that postulated the help and co-operation of a number of godless and inhuman hirelings. These things all show, not only that the truest Christian need be no less a true man, but rather that it is only the true Christian who touches at all sufficiently the possibilities of the true man. For Paul the prisoner, on the way to trial, of many the despised, is nevertheless the man in every essential respect, in that boat, and succeeds in commanding not only a professed respect, but a practical obedience from all the rest.
III. BY THE ROMAN CENTURION AND SOLDIERS.
1. So soon as Paul has had his say, they see quickly, because their eyesight is keen by reason of the instinct of self-preservation.
2. They are not nice as to the source from which they derive their clue. Extreme peril has done a great deal to strip off from them all unnecessary artificiality, all dignified ceremony, all officialism and mere sense of authority. Nature itself stares them in the face, and puts not lispingly the alternative - Where may all these be very soon?
3. They act, act at once, and act trenchantly too. They cut off escape from the coward and the knave and the supremely guilty. Let what may be said to them, let what may be threateningly looked at them, they act, for so it is given to human nature to do in the last resort. And those who do not act in the presence of the solemn, supreme dangers of life, cutting off escape from the evil-doers, though these be themselves, are the men who will be left yet more "without excuse" for what is written in the book, in this threefold illustration of human nature in the presence of peril. - B.
lies with goodness. It lies with the man who lives with God, works for Christ, is ruled in conscience and life by the dictates of the Spirit. Long periods may wear away first, and the most unpromising entanglements seem to forbid hope, but the vindication comes at last, and often in the most extraordinary and unanticipated way. For what a transformation it is now which shows the prisoner of the whole company, and the man who before has seemed to run the gauntlet of one continuous contradiction of then, standing forth, not merely the observed of all observers, which he had often been before, but the one respectfully listened to, followed obediently, and really appreciated by the witness and unanimous consent of cheered hearts (ver. 36).
(A) Notice, then, the persecuted and misunderstood good man comes to be regarded -
I. AS A FRIEND TO BE LISTENED TO.
II. AS A FRIEND WHOSE GOOD CONFIDENCE IS WELCOMED AND SPREADS A GRATEFUL INFLUENCE.
III. AS A FRIEND WHO IS PERMITTED TO URGE SIMPLE PRACTICAL DUTY.
IV. AS A FRIEND NOT MOCKED WHEN HE TEACHES RELIGION. Paul did thus teach, both
(1) by word and
(2) by his own act.
V. AS ONE WHO, BY THE SIMPLE PURITY OF HIS FRIENDSHIP, IS RAISED TO THE POSITION OF THE MASTER OF ALL, IN A MORAL SENSE.
(B) But a second series of suggestive lessons lies before us in the same passage. Notice -
I. WHAT RESOURCELESS FEAR THE FEAR OF THE WICKED IS!
II. WHAT DISABLING FEAR THAT FEAR IS!
III. How IT TAKES ITS VERY FIRST REVENGE ON THAT OUTER LIFE FOR WHICH THE SINNER LIVES!
IV. WHAT DISCORD, DISTRUST, AND EVEN DISSERVICE ARE WROUGHT BY IT AMONG "THE COMPANY OF THE UNGODLY" THEMSELVES! They who were one long time to oppose the true, soon fall to opposing one another.
V. TO WHAT DEEP SELF-CONVICTION OF SHAME AND HUMILIATION THE FEAR OF THE WICKED, EVEN IN THIS WORLD, REDUCES THEM, WHEN THEM FOR THE FIRST TIME THEY LEARN RESPECT FOR THE GOOD, AND BORROW CHEERFULNESS FROM THEM! - B.
sea, bring willing to lose everything if they could only save dear life. "Skin after skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." There is no intenser passion in the creature than the desire to preserve life. Not the tiniest insect, not the gentlest animal, but holds life most dear, and will do battle for it to the very last. The foe that man most dreads, all earthly creatures dread. God does not permit us to see anywhere around us life that is not valued, and for the sake of which all else will not be sacrificed. Man can do everything but die. Man can calmly lose everything but his life. Circumstances the most wretched, pains the most violent, desolation the most complete, can all be borne rather than life should be lost. Poor men cling to life as much as do rich men. Ignorant men hold life as tightly as do wise men. Young men value life no more highly than do old men. Well does the poet say, "All men think all men mortal but themselves, themselves immortal." Now, why has God made life thus sacred, and implanted such an instinct for the preservation of life in one nature?
I. TO ACCOMPLISH GOD'S PURPOSE THE TIME OF EACH MAN'S LIFE MUST RE IN HIS OWN HANDS. Life is a probation for us all, and one man requires a longer probation than another. One lad may be fitted for the business of life with four years' apprenticeship, while another may require six years. So it is in our schooling for eternity. God must hold in his hand both the incomings and the outgoings of our life. Some end life almost as soon as it is begun, while others drag wearily through their seventy or eighty years. And yet man has the power of taking away his life at any moment. God has, indeed, hidden away all the vital parts of our frame in secret places: covered the brain with bone and hair; set the arteries deep down beneath the flesh, and preserved the lungs and heart within a bony cage. Nevertheless, man can easily reach and spill his life. The poor suicide finds easy entrance into the secret chambers where his life dwells. It would almost seem that, if the entrance of life is in God's hands, the exit of it is in man's. And yet it must not be so. For man's own sake it must not. But how shall man's hand be guarded from touching his own life? God has done it by simply making the love of life the one master instinct in every man. He has also done it by revelation and by law, declaring, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." But, more important than any merely outward revelation is the inward revelation found in the clinging of the creature to its existence, so that, until the brain reels and self-control is lost, man will bear anything and lose anything rather than die. So God alone knows the appointed time for man on the earth, and he can accomplish in each his purposes of grace.
II. THE ORDER AND ARRANGEMENT OF SOCIETY COULD NOT BE MAINTAINED IF MEN HAD UNLIMITED CONTROL OVER THEIR OWN LIVES, Consider how the reasons which now induce men to take their lives would then be multiplied. For the smallest things, a little over-anxiety, a little unusual trouble, a commonplace vexation, slighted love, or unsuccessful effort, men would be destroying themselves. We think life is sadly full of change now that, at God's bidding, homes are here and there broken up, and hearts are rifled. But what would be the uncertainties and the crowded miseries of this world's story, if men were unchecked by this universal feeling of the sanctity of life? Widows moan, and orphans weep, and homes are desolated now; but then - if life were felt to be without value, and might be flung away for trifles - then, everywhere men would walk amidst ruins, fallen pillars, broken carvings, shattered roofs, scarce one stone upon another, and the wretched remnant would soon cry out of its desolation that God would seal again the sanctity of life.
III. BUT FOR THIS INSTINCT OF LIFE, MAN WOULD HAVE NO IMPULSE TO TOIL. We know that toil is necessary for the well-being of every creature; that Adam had to till the garden of Eden in the days of his purity and innocence. We know that the judgment on sinning man, that "he should eat bread at the sweat of his face," was no mere punishment, but the indication of the process by which he should be recovered to goodness. We know that through work moral character is cultivated, that alike the common necessities and the higher training of human nature demand toil. We must work if we would eat. We must work if we would know. We must work if we would be "meetened for the inheritance of the saints in the light." Yet who would work if there were not this instinct of life? What motive would be left sufficient to urge us to earnest endeavors, and to the mastering of difficulties? Though men do not say it to themselves in so many words, their real reason for working is that they must live, they want to live, they cling to life, they will do and bear anything if only they may, as we say, "keep body and soul together."
IV. THIS INSTINCT OF LIFE IS THE MEANS OF PRESERVING US FROM THE LAWLESS AND THE VIOLENT. That clinging to my own makes me jealous of my brother's life. As I would not imperil my own, so I would not endanger his. Let him be in the waters or in the fires, we would do our utmost to save his life. But suppose there was no such instinct; suppose life were of no higher value than property, - then we should be at the mercy of every lawless, vicious man, who would not hesitate to kill us for our purse. Every robbery would be liable to become a murder, a robbery with violence. But now, even in the soul of the thief and the vicious man is this impress of the sacredness of life, and only at the utmost extremity will they dare to take it. We may therefore bless God for this universal instinct, recognizing its importance in the economy of this world. We may be comforted, as Christians, when we find it so strong within us as to make us even dread death. It is better for the race, it is better for all, that this should be a mastering instinct; and we may be willing to bear a seeming disability which is so evidently for the good of the many. - B.T.
I. THEIR RELIGIOUS FAITH. They start on the voyage of life with that one chart in hand which alone can take them safely to their journey's end - the Word of the living God. Then they come into contact with fascinating but unbelieving companions; or they meet with a number of specious but shallow objections; or they look, with foolish and cruel persistency, on the one side of the difficulties, neglecting to pay proportionate attention to the arguments on the other side; and the end is that the vessel of their faith breaks up and at length goes down.
II. THEIR MORAL HABITS. Trained in godly homes, our youths and maidens acquire habits of moral excellency; they enter active life, honest, pure, sober, reverent, prudent. But they encounter those hurtful and deadly influences which, after a while, if not at the first attack, lead them down to dishonesty, to impurity, to intemperance, to profanity, to the pestilent habit of gambling. Usually they "make shipwreck of a good conscience," as the vessel is drawn upon the relentless rocks when it is caught in the strong current from which it cannot escape. Slowly, going further and further in the wrong direction, by every movement getting more at the mercy of the foe, the vessel drifts to destruction.
III. SPIRITUAL LIFE. One of the sad spectacles which we have often to witness is the decline and disappearance of the spiritual life which was in the soul. By degrees - for this loss is commonly gradual - reverence becomes weaker, zeal decays, sacred joy grows dim and dull, habits of devotion are relaxed, the regard for the will of Christ becomes feebler and less effective, until life is really gone, and the soul has become a spiritual wreck. The shipwreck of the soul is:
1. Inexpressibly sad. By how much the spiritual is greater than the material and the destinies of a human soul lager and longer than the fortune of a piece of human handiwork, by so much is the wreck of a soul a more pitiful thing than the loss of the noblest bark that ever foundered on the ocean.
2. Not absolutely final. Sometimes, but very seldom, a sunken vessel is raised, and "ploughs the main" once more; sometimes, but seldom, a soul that has lost faith, virtue, piety, is raised up from the deep, and sails again on its voyage, and attains its port. Let none presume; let none despair.
3. An evil that may always be averted. The mind that is open to the truth which is before it, that keeps clear of the dangers of which it is warned, that uses the spiritual resources which the generous Lord has supplied, will not make shipwreck, but reach, unharmed and safe, the heavenly harbor. - C.
I. A LESSON OF HUMAN MEANS AND ACTIVITY. No one of all the two hundred and seventy-six were saved by anything that looked like supernatural help. All were saved either by their own exertions in swimming, or by these together, strange to say, with the aid of the mere fragments of their broken vessel.
II. TRUE GOODNESS HAS ITS IMPRESSION FOR THE MOST IGNORANT AND THE WORLDLY, ESPECIALLY IF THESE ARE HONEST. Whatever might be the religious ignorance or inexperience of the centurion, he evidently was impressed and attracted by the manner of Paul, or by his evident quality, or by both. He saves Paul. And probably his honesty was the real account of the impression he took.
III. THE GOOD CHARACTER OF ONE MAN WILL AVAIL TO SAVE OTHERS WITH WHOM HE MAY BE CLASSED BY THE WORLD OR BY PROVIDENCE, THOUGH THEY BE NOT GOOD. Doubtless the righteous do sometimes perish with the wicked. How often are the wicked saved and the city spared for the sake of the few righteous! All the rest of the prisoners owed their safety (under God) to Paul and the silent influence of his integrity.
IV. GOD HIMSELF VOUCHSAFES TO SET ON ONE FAITHFUL SERVANT OF HIS THIS SAME MOST DISTINGUISHED KIND OF HONOR. It is written, ay, it was divinely said by the angel that God "gave all them that sailed" in that boat to Paul.
V. ALL THINGS COME OF GOD. He it was, he only, who saves all. - B.
I. SOME GET HOME AS SHIPS THAT SAIL INTO HARBOUR AFTER A SUCCESSFUL VOYAGE. Somewhat bruised and battered, indeed, by the wild winds and the stormy seas, but whole and sound, and with sails all set, and ropes trimmed with flags, and shouts of joyous welcome from the shores. And thus all God's redeemed children ought to go home to him, and would go home, if in the voyage and the storms of life they fully trusted and fully used his offered grace. There ought to be for us all "the abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom."
II. SOME GET HOME AS SHIPWRECKED MARINERS COME ASHORE. With life hardly saved. With all the works of the life abandoned and lost, like a shipwrecked vessel. Illustrate cases of Christian lives in which the conflict against sin has not been maintained, and the poor soul is almost lost; or cases in which the frailties and easy besetments are unmastered to the end; or cases in which intellectual doubts spoil Christian faith up to the very hour of passing; or cases in which the passion for luxury and worldliness and pleasures give a wrong tone to Christian conduct all through life; - all such cases may coincide with a genuine and saving faith in God, but in all such cases the home-coming is sadly like the picture of the strugglers for dear life given in our text. St. Paul presents the same thought under another figure. He speaks of some as "saved, yet so as by fire." In the great testing-day, every man's life-work is to be "tried by fire, of what sort it is." Some will find their life-work, in which they had so prided themselves, prove nothing but wood and hay and stubble. It will all burn up, and burn away, if God can find nothing but self-seeking and self-serving in it, and the poor soul will cater into life like one plucked naked from a burning house. Surely if we magnify the exceeding grace which permits us all to reach safe home at last, we may well long and pray and strive to win our way to heaven and God with all sails set, bringing safely in the full cargo of a life of good works, done in a good spirit, under Divine leadings. Such a cargo as God may make to "enrich the markets of the golden year." - R.T.