Acts 16:11
Promptly obedient to the heavenly vision, Paul and Silas went "with a straight course to Samothracia," and by Neapolis to Philippi. There, eagerly awaiting a sacred opportunity, they "abode certain days." They availed themselves of the weekly gathering "at the river-side," where women, who everywhere are the most devout, were wont to meet for prayer. The whole narrative suggests the by-truths:

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,
Putting mists and chills to flight;"

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.

Paul felt that he was not called to spend a peaceful though laborious life at Antioch, but that his true work was "far off among the Gentiles" (Acts 22:21). He knew that his campaigns were not ended; that as a soldier of Jesus Christ, he must not rest from his warfare, but must endure hardness, that he might please Him who had called him. As a careful physician he remembered that they, whose recovery from sin had begun, might be in danger of relapse, or to use another metaphor, he said, "Come, let us get up early to the vineyards: let us see if the vine flourish" (Song of Solomon 7:12). We notice here for the first time, a trace of that tender solicitude concerning his converts, that earnest longing to behold their faces, which appears in the letters which he wrote afterwards, as one of the most remarkable and attractive features of his character. Paul was the speaker, not Barnabas. The latter's feelings might not be so deep, nor his anxiety so urgent. Paul thought, doubtless, of the Pisidians and Lycaonians, as he thought afterwards at Athens and Corinth of the Thessalonians, from whom he had been lately taken (2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). He was "not ignorant of Satan's devices." He feared "lest by any means the tempter had tempted them, and his labour had been in vain" (1 Thessalonians 3:5). He "stood in doubt of them," and "desired to be present with them" once more (Song of Solomon 4:2). We are here reminded of the importance of continuing a religious work when once begun. We have had the institution of presbyters, and of councils, and now we have an example of that system of Church visitation, of the happy effects of which we have still some experience, when we see weak resolutions strengthened, and expiring faith rekindled, in confirmations at home, or in missionary settlements abroad.

(J. S. Howson.)

Solomon tells us that "to everything there is a season," etc. Among these he specifies a time to plant and a time to build up. The husbandman must not only sow, but he must use other arts of cultivation, to ensure the abundant crop; and the architect must not content himself with laying the foundation, but must rear the superstructure. Thus, too, it should be with the ministers of the gospel. There is a season when they are to break up the fallow ground, and one in which they should examine whether their labours have been successful — a season when, having laid the basis, they are to build thereon, and raise to higher elevation that structure which is to grow into a holy temple of the Lord.


1. Christianity is a religion of benevolence. Those greatly mistake its character who suppose that its possessors are to become recluse. Nor does it merely refine and direct our social affections, in reference to the ordinary engagements of life, but it renders their subject solicitous for the best welfare of those by whom he is surrounded. It was on the principle of holy love giving birth to pious zeal, that Paul and Barnabas went among the heathen preaching the gospel of the kingdom. They were solicitous for the improvement of those who had received the truth in the love of it. Here is a test by which to try our ministry — we are not to be content with calling men "out of darkness into marvellous light," but we must be anxious for their advancement in religion.

2. Christian ministers and people should stir one another up to works of usefulness. Barnabas was incited to this particular part of his work by Paul. Now this teaches us to provoke one another, "to love and to good works." This association is important. It often happens that one has knowledge but no wisdom, ardour but no discretion, and therefore his companion may act as a regulator to the rapid movements of the watch or a machine, etc. Besides which, "two are better than one," in counsel, strength, courage, probable success, because, bye combination of their talent and energy, they may accomplish what the solitary individual could never effect.

3. Wherever the disciples of Christ travel, they should endeavour to do some good on the spots which they visit.

4. Expectations of fruitfulness in proportion to the means of cultivation are justly cherished. Paul and Barnabas visited the Churches, hoping to witness the auspicious results of their missionary efforts.


1. Personally.(1) Sinners! How is it with you? Have you reaped any advantage from the discourses which you have often heard?(2) Believers! How do you do? What of your knowledge? is it more clear, extensive, deep? What of your faith? does it embrace more firmly the testimony of Jesus? What of your love? is it more fervent? What of your patience? does it bear with more submission the afflictive dispensations of providence? What of your zeal?(3) Backsliders! How is it with you? Have you seen your error and mourned your departures from God?(4) Afflicted Christians! How do you do? Are your trials mortifying your corruptions?(5) Young people! How do you do?(6) You that are advanced in life! how is it with you? Are you like old trees stretching your fibrous roots wider and deeper into the earthly soil on which you stand?

2. Relative. My inquiry is, whether you whom God has set in families have established an altar in your houses. Is there a spirit and life in your sacred transactions? And are you guarding against those hindrances to these engagements which will multiply upon us without great caution? Do you, mothers, take your little ones alone, and converse with them about Him who says, "Suffer little children to come unto Me"? Do you, fathers, charge your offspring to fear the Lord in their youth? But, perhaps, some will say, we have no families. Have you any leisure hours? Are you living an idle and a selfish life?

3. Collectively. Suffer me to ask whether as a Christian society you are constantly bearing one another on your hearts before God in prayer — whether you are regular in your observance of the Lord's Supper, and are walking in love, as Christ also loved you and gave Himself for you? whether you are sustaining the several institutions connected with your place of worship?


1. It will tend to the removal of obstructions to the prosperity of our Christian society. The artificer and the engineer frequently look into the works of the watch, or the wheels and different parts of the machine, that they may remedy any defect which examination may discover. The husbandman often walks along the fields which he has sown, to notice whether the weeds are growing there; and he cuts down the thistles and nettles, which would hinder the growth of the corn. Thus we may discover and correct those evils which are apt to creep into the best constituted communities on earth.

2. It sets the minds of many at work. The spirit of anxiety on behalf of yourselves will necessarily produce a solicitude on behalf of your families, etc. Thus all reap the benefit.

3. May I be allowed to make a reference to our own ministerial encouragement and satisfaction? You, who are in business, are not content unless you are making a profitable concern of your avocation, and are grieved if you are not making a good percentage on your capital. And do you think that we do not long for success in our occupation of saving souls from death, and winning them to Christ?

4. To all which I will add, that another result will be the extension of such an aspect in the Church, as to produce a favourable impression upon spectators without. They will see that Christianity is not a mere profession, but a real and important business.

(J. Clayton, A. M.)

Sermons by the Monday Club.
I. REVISITING THE CHURCHES. The converts' old faults still clung to them in part, and their union in the same Churches stirred up strifes. They were but weak bands in the midst of worldly and licentious communities. No wonder that their spiritual father felt the necessity of confirming their faith (vers. 36, 41). Brief report of a large work, parts of which are more fully disclosed in the epistles. Such labours are the main work of every pastor, too commonly underestimated in comparison with revival effort. The evangelist comes to a people with many advantages, and no wonder that he succeeds. But the hardest work yet remains — to lead the new converts from the excitement of revival scenes to the steady activity and growth to daily religion in commonplace surroundings.

II. THE NEW WORK. Old scenes arouse longings for new service. On the edge of the light the darkness is terribly visible. The better to do this new work, Paul finds a companion to take Mark's place in Timothy, who had doubtless been converted with his mother and grandmother during the apostle's first visit, and had already gained the confidence and praise of the Church. He is circumcised, simply to avoid needless irritation of Jewish prejudice, and then ordained, making a good profession before many witnesses. The work in Phrygia and Galatia is told in a single sentence, with that inspired reticence which is more surprising than speech. Paul and his companions seem to have been inclined to devote themselves to a region so important and receptive; but God was calling them another way. We note in passing that this heavenly control is attributed first to the Holy Spirit, then to the Spirit of Jesus, then to God. So Ananias and Sapphira are said to lie to the Holy Ghost, unto God, and to tempt the Spirit of the Lord. These unstrained allusions show how deeply fixed in the early Church was the doctrine of the Divine Trinity. Very striking, also, are the disclosures of the Lord's guidance of His servants. In planning his journey to this point, the apostle depended upon what we may call business sagacity — his knowledge of the Churches and their needs. Now pushing on to promising work, he is suddenly turned away by direct supernatural interposition. Then comes the most vivid disclosure, calling to strange and overwhelming tasks. How like the Christian life of today! At one period our path leads on in common, uneventful ways. We realise no Divine guidance, no special care or appointed mission. Again, in the thick of useful labours, we are hindered, forbidden. Sickness, loss, failure, etc., sharply arrest us, to our wonder and grief. But there are glorious hours when the call comes divinely clear, as it did to Paul at Treas. The blood of Trojan and Greek had stained the earth where he stood. Xerxes, Alexander, and Caesar had lingered here, and crossed to their conquests. But the grandest event which ever happened on that shore was the vision and the cry which led the gospel of Christ into that continent which ruled for centuries the mind and the heart of the world. Conclusion: One great truth breathes through the whole — the living Christ is always present in His Church.

1. How else could He trust us with such interests?

2. How else could we bear such responsibilities.

(Sermons by the Monday Club.)


1. Working together. The Council at Jerusalem had been an interruption, but was more profitable to the Church than if the apostles had kept on with their work. For the settling of great principles, at times even a revival may well stop. And the principle which they went to settle was one that strengthened the nerve of revival effort among the Gentiles.

2. Working apart.(1) The cause of the separation, from which we learn that a quarrel can arise —

(a)Over a very good cause.

(b)Between very good men.

(c)Between very good friends.(2) The results of separation. A division of the field of labour. By this the whole field was more quickly revisited, and Mark made into a good worker for Christ.


1. The workers increased (Acts 16:1).

2. The Churches increased. The Churches were strengthened by the visit, and so "increased in number daily." Each day was a birthday of souls. There were no blank days in their books of record.


1. Guided by the Spirit. Twice the Spirit did not allow the missionaries to preach the Word where they were inclined to proclaim it. He suffered them to work in Galatia and Phrygia. In the latter region they gathered some disciples (Acts 18:23), and in the former there grew up some Churches as the fruit of their labours (Galatians 1:2). But they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to speak the word in Asia, and when they essayed to go into Bithynia, the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not.

2. Called by the Spirit. "Come over into Macedonia, and help us." Now they understood why they had not been permitted to preach in Asia, or to go into Bithynia. God had closed those doors that He might open to them a wider one. The call of the heathen today for the gospel is a call of the Spirit.

(M. C. Hazard.)


1. The reason for this decision. It shows Paul's zeal. Had he not already done his share of this perilous work? It was very pleasant at Antioch. It needs a missionary fully to understand the sweetness of that simple phrase, "with the disciples." It was not only pleasant to abide at Antioch; certainly they were very useful there, "teaching and preaching this word of the Lord." Why not let well enough alone? What an appalling mass of work yet remained to be done at home! But God saw that the best thing for Antioch herself was to send forth her best men to distant and still darker fields. The missionary force sent to Antioch, and then to Asia Minor and to Europe, did not weaken — it strengthened — the Church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:3, 4). It rolled back to the Churches at home accumulating and mighty evidence of the power and faithfulness of their living Lord.

2. The preparations for the journey. Who shall form the party? Important question! It is a vital matter, both for their happiness and their usefulness, that they should be congenial companions — especially that they should feel great confidence in each other. Paul felt that he must be sure of his comrades. Still, it is not strange that Barnabas should have favoured his young relative. They could not agree, and accordingly they wisely decided to divide the field. So, to a great extent, our missionaries do today. It would be somewhat difficult for Methodists and Baptists and Presbyterians and Episcopalians all to work together in the same party and on the same ground. And they need not. The field is large enough to give to each body a place of its own. Yet their hearts are one. Paul chose Silas, already well known and useful, for his companion, and after a farewell meeting in which the Church with prayer and words of love "commended them to the grace of God," the two departed.


1. The former fields were revisited.(1) What did those fields need?(a) Sympathy. He knew that the converts must suffer "much tribulation." And there are tens of thousands of Christian converts in heathen lands today in equal need of sympathy from us.(b) Inspection. "Let us go again and see how they do." Read closely the allusions in the Acts and Epistles to the first Churches, and you will see that they needed careful supervision. These converts had just been plucked out of utter paganism. Even their elders and preachers were in many cases men who had never seen a Christian example except for a few days in Paul. It was inevitable that errors and abuses should creep in. This necessity is the same now.(c) Instruction. A thousand questions plain to us were new and full of perplexity to them. Discussions about so simple a thing as the meats they might eat arose, and there was need of special warning and teaching respecting some matters of the most ordinary morality (chap. Acts 15:29). Think of Paul in the fulness of his Christian knowledge and his power burying himself for years in remote provinces to teach these weak, dark-minded people the first beginnings of Christian truth on such points as these! It may well rebuke the folly and fastidiousness of any Christians who feel themselves too nicely educated to take a Sunday school class, and the vanity of any preachers who think themselves too gifted to expend their lives on the heathen or even on a "country parish" in their own land.(2) What they gave.(a) Multiplying converts. Paul found that the Churches he had planted "increased in numbers daily." His visit gave them a new impulse. The parallel between missions then and now is still maintained. In no part of Christendom today is the rate of increase in the Churches equal to what we see in the Churches planted in heathen lands.(b) Ripening Christian character. These converts were "established in the faith." Notwithstanding the faults to be expected both in Paul's day and ours, there has always been witnessed growth in knowledge and grace, and on every field lives which have filled the hearts of our missionaries with joy.(c) Most notable help. From the neighbourhood of Derbe came Timothy. The annals of modern missions tell of numbers who, without his advantages, have more than equalled the devotion and courage of Timothy. Have you ever read the life of Quala, the native preacher of Burma, or of Papehia, the first fruits of Tahiti?

2. New fields were opened. Phrygia and Galatia, large provinces north of Lycaonia, are traversed by them. There also Churches sprang up as the result of their labours (1 Corinthians 16:1). At a point about a hundred and fifty miles from the coast Paul would stand with Bithynia on his right, mountainous, but wealthy and populous, a favourite region with the emperors of Rome; on his left Asia, with its great ports and cities, Ephesus, Sardis, Thyatira, Laodicea, Philadelphia, Smyrna, with vast populations sunken in idolatry and utterly ignorant of the gospel. What a field! And it is just at hand. It seems a well-laid plan, but it is for some unknown reason "forbidden by the Holy Ghost." Paul then turns northward; but again "The Spirit suffered them not." Mysia also, under the same Divine intimations, they are compelled to "pass by." It must have seemed a strange providence! What is this unknown plan which God has laid? At length they reach Troas. It is a great mercantile city. Is this their destination? No. Thus far all their own plans are thwarted, although no doubt formed with thought and prayer. But they need not mourn. They are now to see God's plan disclosed. That night there is given to Paul a vision: "There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us." Yes, to another continent the seed of the gospel is to be borne. It is to be planted. God shall watch over its growth and spread in those new lands. Then Paul may return and preach in Asia.(1) It is a circumstance useful for us to notice that even so good a man as Paul is often led by God in the dark.(2) A lesson is found in Paul's interpretation of the vision. That Macedonian phantom called for help. Upon the wharf at Troas stood four wayworn travellers, unknown, penniless. What succour had Greece to ask from them? There never had been a civilisation on earth equal to hers, and yet there she lay, wretched and guilty beyond anything which we are permitted to describe. What wonder is it that when Paul heard that prayer for help he "gathered assuredly that the Lord had called him to preach the gospel unto them"! Give the gospel, first of all, if you would give sure help to any people. Would you help a fellowman? Tell him of Christ. Would you help your country? See to it that every village and every lane in her crowded cities is reached by the gospel. Would you help this unhappy world? Then hasten in the spirit and the wisdom of Paul to bear the gospel to every Macedonian shore.

(A. Mitchell, D. D.)

1. Christianity is essentially missionary in its purpose.

2. God will direct by hindering or helping His servants in doing His work.

3. God wants the best equipped servants for missionaries.

4. God will not allow honest differences among His servants to hinder "the gospel's progress.

5. God will always give increase in numbers where His people are established in the faith.

6. The gospel will have accomplished its purpose only, when there shall be none to cry — "Come over and help us!"

(J. M. King, D. D.)

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