Acts 16:12
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.







And from thence to Philippi.
The apostle had not paused at Samothrace — an island celebrated for its sanctity and its amulets, its gods and orgies, its Cybele and Cobira — a scene where the mysteries of Eastern and Western superstition seem to have met and blended. Nor did he stop at Neapolis, the harbour of the Thymonic gulf, but he pressed on to Philippi; and the ground of his preference was that it was "the chief city," etc. This cannot mean the chief or capital city, for that was Thessalonica; and if there existed at that period a minuter subdivision, the principal town was Amphipolis. It probably means that it was the first city of the province that lay upon his journey. It was the chief city of that part, and there was every inducement to fix upon it as a centre of operations. As it was a city and a colony, its importance in itself, and in relation to other towns and districts, made it a fitting place for present work and subsequent enterprise. You may either say that Paul went to Philippi as the first city in his path, for he had been summoned into Macedonia, and he could never think of passing the first city which he came to; or that he formally selected Philippi because of its rank and its privileges as a Roman colony. Philippi was anciently called Krenides, or the "Springs," on account of its numerous fountains, in which the Gangites has its sources. Philip, about , enlarged the old town and fortified it, in order to protect the frontiers against Thracian invaders, and named it after himself, to commemorate the addition of a new province to his empire. After the famous battle fought and won in its neighbourhood by the Triumvirs, Augustus conferred special honours on the city, and made it a Roman colony. A military settlement had been made in it, chiefly of the soldiers who had been ranged under the standard of Antony, so that it was a protecting garrison on the confines of Macedonia. A colonia was a reproduction in miniature of the mother city Rome. The Roman law ruled; and the Roman insignia were everywhere seen. The municipal affairs were managed by duumvirs, or praetors. Philippi had also the Jus Italicum, or quaritarian ownership of the soil, its lands enjoying the same freedom from taxation as did the soil of Italy. Highly favoured as Philippi had been, it was in need of "help." Political franchise and Roman rights, Grecian tastes and studies, wide and varied commerce, could not give it the requisite aid. It was sunk in a spiritual gloom, which needed a higher light than Italian jurisprudence or Hellenic culture could bring it, It was helpless within itself, and the "man" who represented it had appealed to the sympathies of a Jewish stranger, whose story of the Cross could lift the darkness off its position and destiny. The spear and phalanx of Macedonia had been famous, and had carried conquest and civilisation through a large portion of the Eastern world; the sun of Greece had not wholly set, and Epicureans and Stoics yet mingled in speculation, and sought after "wisdom"; the sovereignty of Rome had secured peace in all her provinces, and her great roads not only served for the march of the soldier, but for the cortege of the trader; art and law, beauty and power, song and wealth, the statue and the drama, survived and were adored; but there was in many a heart a sense of want and powerlessness, an indefinite longing after some higher good and portion, a painless and restless agitation, which only he of Tarsus could soothe and satisfy with his preaching of the God-man — the life, hope, and centre of humanity.

(Prof. Eadie.)

1. They are representatives of three different races — the one an Asiatic, the other a Greek, the third a Roman.

2. In the relations of everyday life they have nothing in common: the first is engaged in an important and lucrative branch of traffic; the second, treated by law as a mere chattel without any social or political rights, is employed by her masters to trade on the credulous superstition of the ignorant; the third, equally removed from both, holds a subordinate office under government.

3. In their religious training they stand no less apart. In the one, the speculative mystic temper of Oriental devotion has at length found deeper satisfaction in the revealed truths of the Old Testament; the second, bearing the name of the Pythian god, the reputed source of Greek inspiration, represents an artistic and imaginative religion, though manifested in a very low and degrading form; while the third, if he preserved the characteristic features of his race, must have exhibited a type of worship essentially political in tone. The purple dealer and proselyte of Thyatira, the native slave girl with the divining spirit, the Roman jailer, all alike acknowledge the supremacy of the new faith. In the history of the gospel at Philippi, as in the history of the Church at large, is reflected the great maxim of Christianity, the central truth of the apostle's preaching — that here "is neither Jew nor Greek," etc. (Galatians 3:28).

4. The order of these conversions is significant: first the proselyte, next the Greek, lastly the Roman. Thus the incidents in their sequence, no less than in their variety, symbolise the progress of Christianity throughout the world. Through the Israelite dispersion, through the proselytes whether of the covenant or the gate, the gospel message first reached the Greek. By the instrumentality of the Greek language, and the diffusion of the Greek race, it finally established itself in Rome, the citadel of power and civilisation, whence directly or indirectly it was destined to spread over the whole world.

(Bp. Lightfoot.)

I. ACCEPTING CHRIST (vers. 14, 15). It is well to note —

1. Who this convert was.(1) She was a woman of business. Her perceptions had been sharpened by trade. She was free from the bondage of local prejudice.(2) She was from Thyatira, a city of "Asia," in which district the missionaries had been forbidden to speak the Word. When the Holy Spirit shuts the door in one place, it may be that He intends to reach it by the way of another.(3) She was a Jewish proselyte. She had learned to worship the true God. Having made that much progress, she was prepared to go still further — much more prepared than the Jews themselves.

2. How she was converted. "Whose heart the Lord opened," etc., Paul spoke the Word, but the Lord gave the Word fruitfulness. "I planted, Apollos watered; God gave the increase."

3. How her conversion was shown.(1) Her whole family was converted with her. Through her faith, her servants, and her children, if she had children, were brought into the kingdom of Christ.(2) She constrained the missionaries to abide with her, which was no small burden. Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke made quite a party to take care of. And note how she puts her request. She makes it appear as though they were doing her a favour, rather than she them. They had done so much for her soul that she wanted to do something for their bodies.

II. SAVED THROUGH CHRIST. We turn from one who was ready to accept Christ to one who was in the power of Satan. But the power of Christ was shown in the one ease as in the other. The Lord opened the heart of the one, cast out the evil spirit from the other.

1. The evil spirit in possession.(1) Bringing gain. The unfortunate girl was owned by a joint-stock company. Her owners speculated in the credulity of men. Her insane ravings were taken as the revelation of an oracle.(2) Bringing reproach. "The same following after Paul and us, cried," etc. This she did for many days. The testimony which she bore was the same as that of the evil spirits to the Saviour. The witness was true, but it was not from a good source.

2. The evil spirit cast out.(1) Why? "Paul being sore troubled," etc. At what? Presumably at the character of the endorsement he and his friends were receiving. With this, however, there may have been a great sympathy for the poor girl.(2) How? "I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." The act was done in such a way as to show the faith of Paul in Christ, his dependence upon Christ, and as to honour Christ. Those who witnessed the miracle could not have any doubt as to the power through which the marvel was accomplished.

III. SUFFERING FOR CHRIST.

1. The anger of the masters.(1) How it arose. "Her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone." The maid now spoke rationally, instead of raving, or giving wild, weird utterances that made people think that they were listening to something supernatural. Now no one would pay anything to hear the girl speak good sense. It did not matter to them that the maid was released from a most cruel thraldom. Let a drunkard burst his bonds, and what rum seller will rejoice over his deliverance? Let a gambler throw off the terrible fascination, and how angry are those whom he has been enriching.(2) How it was manifested.(a) "They laid hold on Paul and Silas," etc. The dragging, we may be sure, was not gently done.(b) "They said, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city," etc. The formal complaint did not correspond to the offence. They knew that the magistrates could take no cognisance of such an injury as they had received. They craftily word their complaint. They appeal to the Roman prejudice against the Jews.

2. The anger of the magistrates. The multitude became a mob, and the magistrates not much better. No form of a trial was even pretended. Against these Jews, the accusation of such respectable, dividend-receiving citizens was taken as conclusive evidence. Judgment and sentence were instantaneous.(1) The missionaries were beaten "with many stripes," more cruelly than if they had been committing a crime.(2) They were cast into the "inner prison," and their feet made fast in the stocks. What land is there where a similar heroic record has not been made?

(M. C. Hazard.)

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