Acts 16:16
One day as we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl with a spirit of clairvoyance, who earned a large income for her masters by fortune-telling.
The Day that Looked Like the Day of Small ThingsP.C. Barker Acts 16:14, 15, 40
The Kingdom of Light Revealing ItselfR.A. Redford Acts 16:16-18
The Witness of Evil to the GoodE. Johnson Acts 16:16-18
Five Truths from PhilippiW. Clarkson Acts 16:16-25
Paul and the Damsel of PhilippiJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 16:16-25
The Devil of AvariceD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 16:16-25
The PythonessDean Plumptre.Acts 16:16-25
The Rescue of a SlaveH. J. Martyn.Acts 16:16-25
The Soothsaying Damsel At PhilippiJohn Elstob.Acts 16:16-25
An Illustrious Triple Triumph of ChristianityP.C. Barker Acts 16:16-39
We learn -


1. Sometimes in mockery, as with this poor Philippian slave. She probably caught up the words she heard Paul use, and in the spirit of ribaldry uttered them again. So men have sometimes preached or sung in the spirit of mere raillery and indecent mirth.

2. Sometimes in insincerity; when those who have no care to secure a livelihood by honorable means resort to religion as a source of income. It is melancholy to think of the thousands who have adopted the preacher's function as a worldly calling, on whose lips the sacred truths of the gospel would be as ill placed as on those of this damsel of Philippi.

3. Sometimes in inconsiderate enthusiasm; when they who are animated by a desire to do good, but allow themselves to act without due thought, use the most sacred terms with a freedom which is very near to flippancy. In all cases the irreverent use of Divine names and heavenly truths is to be strongly if not sternly deprecated.

II. THAT SELFISHNESS WILL NEVER WANT A GARMENT WITH WHICH TO HIDE ITS UGLINESS. (Vers. 18-21.) The masters of this poor woman, when they found that "the hope of their gains was gone," determined to rid themselves of men who were actually sacrificing their temporal interests to the cause of truth and of humanity! So they incited the mob, and brought Paul and Silas before the magistrates, and played the part of indignant citizens, whose religious equanimity was being shamelessly disturbed (vers. 20, 21). They would not have ventured to show themselves as they were, in the nakedness and ugliness of utter selfishness; so they borrowed the flag of patriotism to cover themselves withal. The worst of this kind of sophistry is that men in no great time deceive themselves, even if they do not deceive their neighbors. Sin soon imposes on itself; it thinks itself benevolent and humane when it is mercenary and cruel.

III. THAT ERROR IGNORANTLY IMAGINES IT CAN EXTINGUISH TRUTH BY FORCE. The magistracy of Philippi, well sustained by the violence of the mob (ver. 22), caused truth, in the person of its advocates, to be beaten and imprisoned. It doubtless imagined that there would be an end of this new and "pestilent" doctrine. But as the names of these prisoners were to be honored long ages after those of their judges had been forgotten, so the truths which they proclaimed were to be preached and sung many centuries after those bonds were broken and those dungeon walls had crumbled. How vain the magistrates' court, the scourge, the gaol, the scaffold, when it is the living truth of the Divine Redeemer of mankind which men are trying to stifle or to slay (Philippians 1:12-14).

IV. THAT FAITHFUL SERVICE OF CHRIST IS SONGFUL EVERYWHERE. Songs in the sanctuary are as natural as they are common; that is to say, when we are worshipping that God who is our God, even the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their devotees could not praise the "gods of the nations," because there was nothing in their character to call forth reverence, trust, gratitude. But the followers of Jesus Christ find in him everything for which to pay homage and to present thanksgiving; But it is not only in the act of Divine worship, but at all times, that "his praise is m our mouth." Even in prison - in such a prison as that of Philippi, and after such lacerating blows as they had endured - Paul and Silas "sang praises unto God." They rejoiced that they were "counted worthy to suffer shame for his Name" (Acts 5:41; see Matthew 5:10-12). And if the faithful servants of Christ could "lift up to God the voice of praise" in the dungeon, those who are engaged in his service now should carry about with them everywhere the spirit of sacred song. We should, we can, cherish the spirit of gratitude and holy joy in the home, in the place of business, in the social circle, in every sphere of our activity. For as there is no engagement in which we should not be honoring Christ, in which we should not be realizing his presence and enjoying a sense of his Divine favor, so is there none in which we may not find a source of satisfaction, in which we may not find a reason for holy song.

V. THAT ABOUNDING CHRISTIAN LIFE OVERFLOWS TO THE BENEFIT OF ALL. "And the prisoners heard them" (ver. 25). Not that Paul and Silas sang for their benefit, but that abounding happiness in suffering for Christ overflowed and made itself felt by all around. How these men, whose mouths, if opened at all, doubtless poured forth oaths and curses, must have been struck with surprise, and perhaps smitten with shame, to hear these two prisoners singing psalms of praise! If our Christian life be not the poor, ill-fed, shallow streamlet it may be, but the well-fed, strong, swift, ever-flowing river it should be, then shall we live to bless others even when we are only acting to express our own souls. - C.

A certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.
The words, literally, are as in the margin, a spirit of Python, or, as some MSS. give it, a Python spirit. The Python was the serpent worshipped at Delphi, as the symbol of wisdom, from which the Pythian priestesses and Apollo, as succeeding to the oracular power of the serpent, took their distinguishing appellative. The fact that St. Luke, who in his Gospel describes like phenomena as coming from daemonia, "evil spirits," "unclean spirits," should here use this exceptional description, seems to imply either that this was the way in which the people of Philippi spoke of the maiden, or else that he recognised in her state phenomena identical with those of the priestesses of Delphi, the wild distortions, the shrill cries, the madness of an evil inspiration. After the manner of sibyls, and sorceresses, and clairvoyants of other times, the girl, whom describes as a faemina ventriloqua — the phrase probably expressing the peculiar tones characteristic of hysteria — was looked on as having power to divine and predict ("soothsaying," as distinct from "prophesying," exactly expresses the force of the Greek verb), and her wild cries were caught up and received as oracles. ("de Defect. Orac.," p. 737) speaks of the name Python as being applied commonly, in his time, to "ventriloquists" of this type. As she was a slave, her masters traded on her supposed inspiration, and made the girl, whom prayer and quiet might have restored to sanity, give answers to those who sought for oracular guidance in the perplexities of their lives.

(Dean Plumptre.)

1. None can bear such testimony to the real nature of goodness as bad spirits. How the fallen angels could preach! They could speak of goodness with all the vividness which comes of conscious contrast. Could not he say much of friendship who has lost it? Could not he speak tenderly of home who has abandoned it? So the spirit that has known God and wandered from Him could speak with soul-touching pathos — of salvation. But Christianity will not have such service. The poor damsel said truly, but her cooperation was declined. The devil can have no part or lot in Christian service. He is not in it! Though his word be true, his tone is wrong. What Paul could have done with this aid! How he could have turned upon all those who held in captivity the infatuated girl, and said to them, "She is our ally; she knows the truth, and is not afraid to proclaim it." These temptations are not without force; but the truth being devil-spoken, is not to be received upon such authority, because the authority would not stop there. Have nothing to do with him. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." We see from such incidents the pureness and nobility of the apostolic mind and the independence of truth. In the hands of the apostles the truth did not go a-begging for patronage. When will the Church refuse the bad man's money? The same kind of aid was offered to Christ, but He would never accept it.

2. The girl had masters who made a profit out of her. It is possible that some of ourselves may be under the influence of evil "masters." It is in the nature of selfishness to make slaves. Older and craftier men may be making experiments upon your green youthfulness. Christ would have us all free. "If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."

3. "And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone —." The bad man has a larger sphere in which to make money than the good man has. Think what they were doing! Living upon this brain-bewildered damsel. Such men would sell the very Church of God and defile the dead for money. Do not imagine that this is an ancient instance; it is the work of today. There is no stopping place in selfishness short of the very destruction of the universe. Begin, therefore, early to resist the devil. "It is not all gold that glitters." There are some coins that honest fingers dare not touch. Do not call yourself poor if you have today's honestly-gotten dinner waiting for you. That is a proof that you shall also dine tomorrow. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Crafty masters, dealers in superstition and quackery, may have their gain-bringing damsels taken away from them, but they who bank in heaven have effects inexhaustible.

4. Look at the spirit of the damsel's masters (ver. 19, etc.). What liars they were! Not a word did they say about the "gains." Here is the crime of today, of working from one motive and trying to get credit for another. Do we not sometimes hate a man, and do all manner of evil to him, and then say that we have no personal jealousy, but are concerned about some great question or public good? And yet there are persons who quite disdain the idea of original sin! The gospel will have no pretence, mental reservation, or moral obliquity. It will insist upon trying all our work by the square add plummet of heaven.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. TRUE TESTIMONY FROM A QUESTIONABLE QUARTER. This testimony Was as true as if it had been spoken by an angel. But the testifier was under the influence of a devil, and God's servants need not his praise either in behalf of themselves or their work. But what could induce this woman to bear this true testimony?

1. Perhaps the hope of getting gain. She might think that Paul would reward her for her public proclamation.

2. A wish to conciliate. The evil spirit, fearing expulsion, might influence her to bear this testimony so as to gain favour.

3. A desire to heighten her authority and increase her success. She saw evident tokens of the Divinity of their cause; and by proclaiming this she may have hoped to acquire a higher reputation for being inspired.

4. The hope of bringing discredit on the cause of God. The stratagem might lead the people to conclude that Paul and Silas were in league with evil spirits.

(1)That there is a way of salvation. Plain, safe, exclusive.

(2)That there is need to show this way.

(3)That the work of God's servants is to show it.


1. To see a human being the victim of demoniacal power. Many similar saddening sights are still to be seen. The demons avarice, ambition, pride, envy, and sensuality possess men's souls and rule in their hearts. Who can see them and not be grieved?

2. To see the malignant design with which the testimony was borne. The girl was only the instrument of the devil, whose design might be to bring discredit on Christianity; and who might also aim at exciting the self-complacency of Paul.

3. To see the sordid motives of the masters of this girl. They cared not how her nature was degraded, or how the people were imposed on, if only their mercenary ends were answered. Many are still as unscrupulous. They will lie, and cheat, and sell both body and soul for gain.

III. MALIGNANT PERSECUTION BY DISAPPOINTED MERCENARIES (ver. 20-22). If you would not enrage a selfish man, do not interfere with his gains, or he will persecute you. Your enterprise may be of God, and there may be evident tokens of this, yet it must not be allowed to live if it frustrates his selfish purposes.



1. "They prayed" —

(1)for themselves, that they might be supported and delivered;

(2)for their persecutors, that they might be forgiven and saved; and

(3)for their new converts, that they might be strengthened and established.

2. "And sang praises unto God." A consciousness of having done right makes a man undaunted in danger, unswerving in suffering, and triumphant in tribulation.

(John Elstob.)

I. IN THE PURSUANCE OF ITS PURPOSE. Mercenariness in truth was the demon which inspired her. In pursuing its sordid aim we discover —

1. The prostitution of mind. This young woman's sympathies and talents were consecrated to the greed of her masters. Mammon ever hires the genius of the world for its service. A more terrible sight than this can scarcely be witnessed.

2. The practice of falsehood. This woman pretended to withdraw the veil of the future for money. Men build up their fortunes by falsehoods. Lies are considered the life of trade.

3. Religious profession. To impose upon the spectators, she professed almost a reverence for the apostles. Perhaps she had sufficient prescience to see that their mission would be successful, and that her declaration of their success would heighten her reputation and increase her authority. Alas! avarice uses religion for its own ends, puts on its garb, uses its vocabulary, and kneels to its heroes.

II. IN THE FRUSTRATION OF ITS PURPOSE (ver. 18). Does this mean the exorcising of a personal spirit of evil who had taken possession of her? or does it mean the expulsion of the spirit of evil from her? I incline to the latter opinion, and regard Paul as effecting her conversion. This he did, as all conversions are accomplished, "in the name of Jesus Christ," and at once — "in the same hour." The change which Paul effected in her now interfered with the gains of her masters. Observe —

1. The vindictiveness of this frustrated avarice (ver. 19). Selfish men will oppose any enterprise, however divine, that interferes with their gains. Vested interests are the great antagonists of truth everywhere.

2. Its hypocrisy. Did they say, these men have interfered with our traffic? This would have been truth. No; they prefer a false accusation. These wounded grubs would be thought patriotic heroes.

3. Its power. These rich men had sufficient power to move the multitude in their favour, and to command the magistrates to do their work (vers. 22, 23). Such was the power which avarice had in Philippi eighteen centuries ago, and such is the power, alas! which it has ever wielded, and still wields. It can move magistrates and monarchs. "Money answereth all things," "and the love of it is the root of all evil."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Some facts connected with —


1. The power by which she was swayed.

2. The profession she made.

3. The testimony she bore.


1. Their tenderness of heart.

2. Their great power.

3. Their habitual prayerfulness.


1. The degradation of their nature.

2. The vengeance of their hearts.

3. The power of their hate.

(H. J. Martyn.)

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