And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band.
I. God judged that St. Paul was concerned with the lives of the crew of the ship he sailed in, and gave these men their lives as a precious gift. Here we have what may be called the head and the feet of the same truth: the head—God's estimate of the value of life; the feet—man's estimate of the contempt deserved by any one who, being strong, uses his strength to benefit himself at the expense of his neighbour. The value of life on the one hand, and on the other the meanness of selfish gain, that even life itself must be quietly thrown away when compared with the meanness of saving it by selfishness.
II. And round this great truth as a fence and encircling wall, determining where it is to be practised, runs the strong enclosure of the same place and the same common object, unity and communion, through living together, typified in the ship. And how true this is! Whether we like it or not, we share largely in the fortunes and reputation of the place we live in, even as we contribute largely to it by good and evil, however loose the tie of place may be. But when it takes the ship form, that close association, which comes from all on board at the time depending on one another, and on the well-doing of the place in which they are, then, indeed, from the highest to the lowest, however discordant the mixture of persons may be, the welfare of the place is their welfare, its reputation is their reputation, and it becomes more than ever true that the lives of all belong to each other, and it is unutterable meanness for the strong to take advantage of the weak, or for the weak to endeavour to overreach the strong or not give true service in their way. In many societies, the actual safety of all as much depends on each doing his duty as in a ship. The golden rule of life is, that weakness is at once a claim on every one who is stronger. The prisoner Paul, the weakest man there, saved the whole crew.
E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. ii., p. 140.
References: Acts 27:25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1335. Acts 27:27-29.—A. G. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 339. Acts 27:27-37.—T. Gasquoine, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 35. Acts 27:29.—J. Thain Davidson, Sure to Succeed, p. 177; Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 364. Acts 27:30, Acts 27:31.—J. M. Neale, Occasional Sermons, p. 44; Homilist, vol. iv., p. 263. Acts 27:38-44.—T. Gasquoine, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 52.
Acts 27:44Safe to Land.
I. In reading the narrative of this voyage and shipwreck (1) the first impression on the mind is produced by the prisoner, the Apostle Paul. He is singularly unlike a prisoner. He is the true captain, the foremost man, evidently, on board the ship. (2) The narrative is a statement of the unconditioned freeness and the glorious fulness of Divine goodness. (3) See what an important thing in the scheme of means human responsibility is. "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved." Even the boards and the broken pieces of the ship are all parts of the Divine purposes. (4) Here we have exemplified and illustrated the mystery of the salvation of sinners for the sake of the saints. This text most solemnly illustrates to us that God has somehow set together human earnestness and human conversion.
II. "Some on boards and some on broken pieces of the ship." All means are good means which save—none are insignificant which give security. In the storm of darkness and unbelief, in the tempestuous night, it seems as if all is shipwrecked in thee, broken in pieces; and yet, see what scattered glimpses, what broken, imperfect appearances, what scattered discoveries of Jesus Christ float up and down and do at any time appear in thy spirit! Thou wilt see some if thou wilt look and watch for them. Cast thyself upon them: these are the broken planks, the most imperfect, darkest, narrowest glimpses of Christ. Many a sacred text has been the board, the broken piece of ship, on which souls have escaped safe to land.
III. God is a good Captain. If the ship is lost, He saves the crew. There is land, and all who sail in the ship are safe. Gather up all the promises which, like so many planks, have floated over and sustained on death's waves, and you will build a ship to hold the Church.
E. Paxton Hood, Dark Sayings on a Harp, p. 313.
References: Acts 27:44.—H. J. Wilmot Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, p. 18; Talmage, Old Wells dug Out, p. 239. Acts 28:1-6.—T. Gasquoine, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 57. Acts 28:7-10.—Ibid., p. 93. Acts 28:11-15.—Ibid., p. 108.
And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.
And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.
And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.
And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone;
And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.
Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.
Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.
And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.
And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:
Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.
And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.
And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.
But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;
And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.
Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.
And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,
Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.
And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.
Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.
And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.
Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.
And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.
And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.
And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land:
And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.