So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
I. THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH.
1. To encourage and develop Christian talent. When Paul went to Lystra he found the Church there speaking well of a young disciple, Timotheus. This convert was "well reported of by the brethren" (ver. 2), and "him Paul would have to go forth with him" (ver. 3). The Church praised him who was praiseworthy; and the minister trusted and encouraged him who was trustworthy, leading him on to higher things, and placing him in a position in which his consecrated powers would have freer range and extended usefulness. The Church of Christ seldom does better than when it nourishes youthful piety, and paves the way for the exercise and development of growing talent.
2. To make timely concession. "Him Paul took and circumcised because of the Jews" (ver. 3). Paul thought these men wrong in their views, but he consulted their sensibilities for the sake of concord and progress. The true triumph is, not to work well with those with whom we are in full sympathy, but to co-operate, without friction, with those between whom and ourselves there is variance of view or difference of disposition. There is no possibility of rendering any considerable service in the cause of Church organization, without a large measure of the conciliatory spirit, and without a considerable amount of actual concession. Not the man who carries his point by obstinate persistency, but he who yields at the right time and in the right spirit is commended of his Lord.
3. To be faithful to all compacts. (Ver. 4.) Probably Paul and Silas might have safely said nothing about the decision at Jerusalem; the people of Asia Minor would have heard nothing about that. But they were scrupulous to carry out the compromise in all its particulars. Fidelity to an undertaking is a clear and urgent Christian duty; the Church or the minister who should slight it would be doing something which is not only unworthy but discreditable, displeasing to Christ, injurious to itself or himself.
4. To keep in view consolidation and extension: to preserve a fair and wise proportion between these different branches of Christian work. Under the hand of Paul and Silas the Chinches of Asia "were established in the faith, and increased in number" (ver. 5). The missionaries were not more desirous of extending the line of active evangelization than of securing the ground which they had taken. This is Christian wisdom. The two complementary works should always go together; one will minister to the other; one cannot shine without the other.
II. THE REWARD OF THE CHURCH. This is twofold.
1. To glean individual results. True and keen must have been Paul's gratification to find such a disciple as Timothy at Lystra. Well was he recompensed for the cruel stoning he received in that town by gaining such a "beloved son" and valuable helper in his work of faith and love. And it is the individual results of the Christian teacher's labor which are his most appreciated reward now. The recovery of that lost one; the decision of that vacillating one; the consecration of that promising one; - these are his joy and crown.
2. To witness general progress. To find that "the Churches are established," and that they are "increasing in number;" to know that the cause of Christ is advancing, that his kingdom is coming, that his name is being honored, and his praises sung by those who had been ignorant of his dying love; - what joy, what intense and pure satisfaction, is this! Other sources of delight may pass, or they may leave a stain rather than a tint behind them; but this is a gladness that abides, and which purifies and ennobles the heart of him who is made happier thereby. - O.
And they spake unto him the Word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
I. A WHOLE HOUSEHOLD HEARING THE WORD. If we are to have household conversion there must be a household hearing of the Word.
1. Now many fathers never hear the Word of God, because they regard the Sabbath as a day of laziness.
2. The mothers must hear the Word as well as the fathers. Many of them do, but many are detained at home with the children. Now it is the duty of every father, if he does not keep a servant, to take his turn with the wife and let her have her fair share of opportunity for hearing the gospel.
3. Then the children also must be thought of. We desire to see them converted as children. There is no need that they should wait until they are grown up, and have run into sin. Let the little ones be brought to hear the gospel. Let it be said of you, as of "Judah, who stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children."
4. Then there are the servants. You cannot honestly pray God to save your household unless you give the whole household an opportunity of being saved.
II. A WHOLE HOUSEHOLD BELIEVING (ver. 34).
1. They were new hearers, and yet they all believed. Is it not a sad fact that many of my old hearers have not believed? Oh! the responsibilities that are heaped up upon gospel-hardened sinners!
2. They were most unlikely hearers. In the society and associations of a jail there was very little that could be likely to improve the mother, to benefit the children, or elevate the servants. Yet how often are the most unlikely persons led to the Saviour. How true is it still of many who are outwardly religious, that "the publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven before them." This is an encouragement to you who work in the slums of this vast city.
3. Yet they were converted, there and then. I do not know how long Paul's sermon was; he was a wise man, and I should not think he would preach a long sermon in the dead of the night, just after an earthquake. As the lightning flash can split the oak from its loftiest bough to the earth in a second, so the ever blessed lightning of God's Spirit can cleave the heart of man in a moment.
4. It is said particularly of them all that "they believed." Was that the only thing? Could it not be said that they all prayed? I daresay it could, and many other good things; but then faith was at the root of them all.
5. Though converted suddenly, all of them were, nevertheless, very hearty converts. They were quick to do all that in them lay for the apostle, and for the good cause. It is delightful to meet your hearty Christian, who, when he gave his heart to Jesus, meant it, and devoted his whole body, soul, and spirit to the good Lord who had bought him with His blood.
III. A WHOLE HOUSEHOLD BAPTIZED.
1. "He" was baptized — the jailer. Then "all his" followed.
2. This was done straightway. There was not one who wished to have it put off till he had tried himself a little. In those days no one had any scruple or objection to obey. No minister has any right to refuse to baptize any person who professes faith in Jesus Christ, unless there be some glaring fact to cast doubt upon the candidate's sincerity.
IV. A WHOLE HOUSEHOLD AT WORK FOR GOD. They all did something. The father called for a light, the servants bring the torches. Here is work for himself, and for gentle hands to do: to wash out the grit that had come there through their lying on their backs on the dungeon floor, and to mollify and bind up their wounds. There was suitable occupation for the mother and for the servants, for they set meat before the holy men. The kitchen was sanctified to supply the needs of the ministers of Christ. Even our children when they are saved can do something for the Master. The little hand that drops its halfpence into the offering-box, out of love to Jesus, is accepted of the Lord. The young child trying to tell its brother or sister of the dear Saviour who has loved it is a true missionary of the Cross.
V. A FAMILY ALL REJOICING.
1. If the family had been left a fortune they would have rejoiced, but they had found more than all the world's wealth at once in finding a Saviour, therefore were they glad.
2. Though their joy sprang mainly from their believing, it also arose from their being baptized, for the Ethiopian, after he was baptized, "went on his way rejoicing." "In keeping His commandments there is great reward."
3. They rejoiced, no doubt, because they had an opportunity of serving the Church in waiting upon the apostle. They felt glad to think that Paul was at their table. And Christian people are never so happy as when they are busy for Jesus.
4. I have no doubt that their joy was permanent. There would not be any quarrelling in that house now, no disobedient children, no short-tempered father, no fretful mother, no purloining servants, no eye servers. Conclusion: That household is now in glory. With some of you the father is in heaven, and the mother is on the road, but the children! With others, your little ones have gone before you, and your grandsire is also in glory; but, ah! husband and wife, your faces are turned towards the ways of sin. There will be broken households around the throne, and if it could mar their joy — if anything could — it would be the thought that a son or husband is absent while the wife and mother sing the endless song. This is the last question, "Will my family be there?" Will yours be there?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. In this Philippian jailer's case everything is sharp, clear, distinct. In considering it, I will first call your attention to the fact that HERE IS A PERSON CONVERTED AT ONCE.
1. There was no previous thought. There is nothing that I can imagine in his previous life that led up to it. He had not been plied with sermons, instructions, invitations, entreaties. Nothing could be a greater contrast than the ethics of Rome and the teachings of Christ. What do you think impressed this man?
2. I think, in part, it may have been the behaviour of Paul and Silas. They had no curses on their lips when he made their feet fast in the stocks. He went to bed that night with many thoughts of a new character. Who were these men? Who was this Jesus of whom they spoke?
3. Then, in the middle of the night, a singular miracle was wrought. The prison was shaken by an earthquake. The idea of being lost has come over him. It is not that he is afraid to die, for he is about to put himself to death; but he is afraid of what is to follow after death. He is a lost man, and therefore he asks, "What must I do to be saved?"
4. Now it is that he is plainly told the way of salvation. It was put with great brevity, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Probably he did not understand it when he heard it; and so "they spake unto him the Word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." It is a happy circumstance that the gospel is so simple. There are certain preachers who seem as if they must mystify it, like the man who said, "Brethren, I have read you a chapter, and now I will confound it." No doubt there are many who are always making out the gospel to be a very difficult thing to understand; philosophical, deep, and so on; but it was meant for the common people, and the gospel is suitable to be preached to the poor.
II. HERE IS A PERSON CONFESSING HIS FAITH AT ONCE. "He was baptized, he and all his, straightway." Should a person be baptized as soon as he believes? As a rule, yes; but there may be good reasons why he should not be.
1. There was no good reason for delay in this man's case, for, in the first place, his conversion was clear as noonday.
2. In his case, also, there was no other reason for delay. In the case of many young persons, there are reasons for delay.
3. In this man's case, note also, that he was not hindered by selfish considerations. Had the jailer been like some people that I know of, he would hove found plenty of reasons for delaying his baptism. First, he would have said, "Well, it is the middle of the night. Would you have me be baptized at this hour?" He would have said that he did not know that there were conveniences for baptism, for it is so easy to find it inconvenient when you do not like it. He might also have said, "I do not know how the magistrates will like it." He did not care about the magistrates. Perhaps he would lose his situation. He did not take his situation into consideration. Then, what would the soldiers in the Philippian colony say when they heard that the jailer had been baptized into the name of Christ? Oh, the guffaws of the guard room, the jokes that there would be all over Philippi! This brave man did not take those things into consideration; and if he did, he dismissed them in a moment.
4. The fact was, this man was in downright earnest, and therefore he would not delay his baptism. He had enlisted in the army of Christ, and he would wear Christ's regimentals straightway.
III. NOW, HERE IS A PERSON USEFUL AT ONCE. Useful? What could he do? Well, he did all he could.
1. He performed an act of mercy: "He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes." Dear, good men, they were covered all over with the marks of the Roman rods. I do not know that he could have done anything better to show his sincere repentance. He washed their stripes; and when he had done that, and had been baptized, we read that he brought them into his house, and set meat before them.
2. Thus he exercised hospitality. He used his hands and his bath in washing the disciples; now he uses his table, his larder, and his dining room to entertain them. What more could he do? Seeing that it was the middle of the night, I cannot think of anything more that he could do. So now, if you love the Lord, if you have only just believed in Him, begin to do something for Him at once. It is a pity that we have so many Christian people, so-called, who do nothing for Christ, literally nothing. They have paid their pew-rent, perhaps; and that is all Christ is to have out of them! We want to have a Church in which all the members do something, in which all do all they can, in which all are always doing all they can, for this is what our Lord deserves to have from a living, loving people bought with His precious blood.
IV. HERE IS A PERSON PERFECTLY HAPPY AT ONCE. When the jailer bad brought Paul and Silas into his house, "he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." Oh, that was a happy, happy time! "He rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."
1. He rejoiced that he was saved. His heart kept beating, "Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah!" As he sat at that table with his two strange guests, he had indeed cause for joy. His sin was forgiven; his nature was changed; he had found a Saviour.
2. And then he rejoiced that all his household were saved. What a delight it was to see all his household converted! There was his wife. If she had not been converted, it would have been a very awkward thing for him to have asked Paul and Silas in to that midnight meal. I do not like it when you count up your household and leave out Mary Ann, the little servant girl, the last you have had in. You treat her as a drudge; but if she has come into your family, reckon her to be a part of your household; and pray God that they may all be converted.
3. The jailer's rejoicing was also a seal of the Spirit upon his fidelity.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Homiletic Review.Looking now more especially at the human side of this instance of an immense moral and spiritual change in the Philippian jailer, let us think, under the guidance of this example, of conversion, its means and tests. Certainly here is an evident conversion. If ever man were squarely turned about, this jailer was. He is no spurious instance of conversion, like Mr. Facing-Both-Ways, in Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress."
I. Consider the MEANS of conversion. It seems to me we can divide these means into two sorts — subsidiary and essential. Means subsidiary.
1. The prayers and songs of Paul and Silas. What I mean is that I am sure the brave and beautiful carriage of themselves by Paul and Silas under all his unnecessarily harsh treatment of them — for he far exceeded his instructions — must have made some impression upon the jailer. And it seems to me that this must have been a kind of outlying and subsidiary cause of the jailer's conversion. It is a kind of gospel that even such stupid and cruel eyes as this jailer's must read. And something of blessing is bound to come of it. It is likely to make a path for somebody's conversion. Let us see to it that even amid the most painful circumstances we carry ourselves as Christians should.
2. The shock of the earthquake and the opened doors and the unloosed bonds of the prisoners, and Paul's beautiful calming of the jailer's fear when he would have killed himself, since, if the prisoners had escaped, according to the Roman law death must have been visited on him. This jailer was stirred through his whole nature. In the grip of the earthquake he was convinced of his own helplessness; in Paul's calm bravery he felt himself confronted by the presence of a strange moral power; in the apostle's service, in pro. venting the escape of the prisoners, to him who had been so needlessly cruel, who in harshness had so far exceeded his instructions, the jailer found himself smitten by a new sense of shame — shock, I think that is the word for it. The man was thrown out of his old bad routine into strange and other thoughts about his cruelty and his sin. Well, I do not think conversion possible unless it be preceded by something to which this shock is parallel. It may be an influence very steady and gentle. It may be the quiet result of the education of a Christian home; but somehow, in some way, the man must be, as this jailer was, actually and squarely confronted by the necessity of change in himself. Means essential — Faith. The Greek for "Sirs" in ver. 30, and "Lord" in ver. 31, is the same. He addresses them as "Sires" or "Lords"; they reply, "Trust in the one and only 'Sire' or 'Lord' Jesus Christ." Faith is the only and lonely Jesus Christ: this is the essential means of conversion.
II. THE TESTS OF CONVERSION.
1. Rejoicing hearing of the Lord's word (ver. 32). A man really turned toward the Lord will want to know all he can about Him.
2. Immediate change of life (ver. 33). The cruel jailer becomes at once the merciful man.
3. Immediate confession of Christ (ver. 33). "And was baptized." A thoroughly converted man will not attempt to be a secret Christian.
4. Helpfulness (ver. 34). "And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them." That is to say, there is a quick instinct of ministry in him.
5. Joy in the new life (ver. 34). "And rejoiced." When a man turns towards God, God floods him, and that is utmost joy.
6. The man's home is changed (ver. 34). Believing in God wish all his house. A conversion which does not help a man's home amounts to little. Mark also that here is certainly a sudden conversion. The influences which lead up to it may be long, as they are in many cases may be quick, as in this ease; but the conversion, the turning, is, in the nature of the case, sudden. Do not be afraid of sudden conversions.
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.Philippians 4:2). See the meanest relief done to Christ and His members hath a patent of eternity. A little manna, but a vanishing meteor, lay it up in the ark, it never putrefies. The cheapest alms to Christ and His Church, the memory of it shall never be abolished. For the purpose of the words, conceive them to be an holy action of this convert, following upon and so manifesting and expressing the truth of his conversion. A few words, a small action in appearance, and yet a powerful evidence of his new birth. This small work, dipped and coloured in the blood of Paul, appears like that red thread on the hand of the newborn child, as a testimony of his birthright; and stands here upon record, and hangs, like Rahab's scarlet thread, fastened on his house as a pledge of his salvation. "Indeed," as Basil speaks, "'tis his first sacrifice of thanks he offers for his conversion; a sacrifice, an whole burnt offering, and yet not by fire, but by water kindled and enflamed." First, conceive this action of his, in respect of his person, that doth exercise and perform it, as it arises from him and is his action. He washed them. Look first upon him as a man quickened and enlivened with a principle of faith, and then conceive this action of his, as 'tis a fruit of his faith. So soon as he believed, presently the same hour he washed their stripes. And the observation hence is briefly thus much: That a true believer is readily and presently a religious worker. Faith is not a frontlet to thine eyes only in illumination, but 'tis a tablet on thine hands for employment and action. The work of faith and labour of love, St. Paul unites them, and they are never asunder, and that upon a threefold ground.
I. The very life and being of faith makes it naturally working. As at the beginning the Lord created trees with fruit on them, not a trunk or a stock, but flourishing and abundant, so in our new creation, the tree of faith, 'tis presently furnished with the fruit of piety. See how suddenly in this convert the seedtime, and the spring, and harvest do follow each other. A lively faith, it longs to be working, like St. John's converts, seeks employment presently. "What shall I do?" Deny it working, you deprive it of being; like the soul, it stays no longer in the body than it may act and quicken it; hinder the actions of life, it forsakes us presently. O let thine heart by faith be bathed and warmed in the blood of Christ, and thou mayest as well keep the fire from burning, and the sun from shining, and the heavens from moving, as true faith from working.
II. Except thy faith be lively and working, 'tis an unuseful faith, altogether unprofitable.
1. That St. James assures thee (James 2:14), "It cannot save him." The working faith, though it do not purchase heaven, yet it effectually procures it; it abhors works as merits, embraces them as means.
2. 'Tis not light, but heat, that purges and purifies; not a contemplative notion swimming in the brain, but a devoted affection seated in the heart. Nay —
3. 'Tis only the working faith that obtains thy pardon: in this case, though faith be actually destitute, yet 'tis such a faith as will be industrious. God gives grace unto it as to a poor beggar, but not as to a lazy one, and faith receives it with an empty hand, but not with an idle one.
III. Except thy faith be active and operative 'tis no way acceptable. In this case, as thine outward services without inward faith, like the emperor's sacrifice that had no heart in it, are prodigious and loathsome, so the inwards of faith, without the body and-substance of works, are offals and refuse. "God," saith Gregory, "requires not only the shake breast of faith, but the heave shoulder and arm of obedience. Before thou believest, God freely forgives thee even all thine evil works, but when thou believeth He strictly exacts the performance of good." Conceive this action of washing their stripes, secondly, as arising from a second seed of grace wrought in conversion, the principle of repentance. The observation from hence is thus much: Repentance, it makes us undo all that we did before. It enforces us to befool ourselves, look back upon all our actions with grief and sorrow; make us wish and desire we had never committed them. How did this jailer now smite on his thigh, as the prophet speaks? How did he question with himself and upbraid his folly — "What have I done?" Oh then! in the beginning of thy life, when thou first settest out, aim right and advisedly, lest at the long run thou befool thyself. Learn this lesson, ye wise fore-plotters of what you undertake, that account it your wisdom in all other business not to be mistaken, that judge it a point of folly to excuse yourselves. Happy be you that have your action in your hand, and may take a true level. This is the fore-counsel of repentance to thee. It persuades and forewarns, as St. Paul did the mariners (chap. Acts 27.): "Undertake not this desperate voyage, it will be much damage of your goods and lives." But if thou wilt on for all this warning, then comes repentance with an after-counsel, as the same St. Paul: "Sirs, you should have been advised by me, and so you should have gained this harm and loss." Consider this action of the jailer in washing their stripes as arising from, thirdly, a third principle of grace wrought in conversion, and that's as it springs from a seed and principle of renovation. And so 'tis an evidence and fruit of the changing and reforming his former life, and that in three several considerations.
I. This washing and cherishing the apostles, it evidences the renewing and changing of his nature and former disposition. And from hence take notice of this observation: That grace and religion mollifies, changes, and sweetens the profanest natures and most barbarous dispositions. This jailer, before a savage persecutor, like the demoniac in the gospel, exceeding fierce, no man could tame him, now behold him dispossessed of his fury, he sits at Christ's feet peaceable and gentle. Religion, it persuades us and woos us, in St. Paul's language (Colossians 3:12). Education, laws, magistrates, may suppress for a time, but 'tis grace alone that can thoroughly and effectually transform us. Thus the primitive fathers undertook the performance of those desperate cures. 'Twas the voice of religion in their times, "Hast thou an unchaste wife? Bring her to religion, 'twill make her temperate. Hast thou an undutiful child? Bring him to religion, 'twill make him obedient. Hast thou an unfaithful servant? It will teach him fidelity." Monsters of sin by the power of this have been converted into miracles of virtue.
II. It arises from the seed and principle of renovation in respect of his particular actual fault, of which he was now in present commission. He was even now exercising his barbarous cruelty towards the apostles; and in this sin the hand of God now finds him, and the guilt of this sin the mercy of God now pardons him; and therefore of all other sins, he will beware of this sin, presently puts himself into the practice of the contrary virtue. Observe, a true convert, though he resolves of a general reformation, yet, above all others, he will have a special eye at that sin which was the cause of his greatest ruin, and which God made the occasion of his rising and conversion. As a man recovered from a dangerous sickness, he carefully uses a general good diet, but especially desires preservatives and antidotes against the disease he was lately cured of. I surfeited of this meat; this proved my bane, and he knows relapses to be dangerous and deadly. A captain is careful to strengthen every corner of his castle, but that place where the enemy broke in before shall have a double watch, that's fortified especially.
III. 'Tis a fruit arising from the seed of renovation in respect of his private calling and profession. He is a jailer, and they, you know, are usually merciless, hard-hearted men. Now he is converted he reforms the abuses of his calling, uses his prisoners mercifully and with much pity. He shows the truth and power of his conversion in his private personal calling and profession. He is not only a good Christian, but a good jailer, hath care of his prisoners; a good father and master, all his house must be taught and baptized. Observe, the truth of conversion will evidence itself in the ordering and reforming of our personal calling. Religion, 'tis not a matter merely of public and common profession, dwells not in churches and temples only, but it will enter into thine house, bids itself home to thee, as Christ to Zaccheus, "Come, I must lodge in thine house," have access and sway in all thine employments. Secondly, take notice of it, as it respects and passes upon these men to whom he performed it; he washed their stripes. And so the divers considerations of the object will specify the nature of the act and fruit of conversion. First, then generally and briefly conceive them as proximi, as men, brethren, and neighbours, in that common reference, so 'tis actus charitatis, an act of charity. And then observe, the truth of conversion will express itself in the works of love to our neighbours and brethren. This is the main evidence of our new birth.
I. 'Tis the best sign and proof of our love if we love our brethren. Who doth not boast of his love to God? 'Tis every man's profession, and we cannot convert them. Bring them to this trial, "Dost thou love Him that is begotten of God; wheresoever thou seest His image and similitude?" "By this ye are known to he My disciples, if ye love one another."
II. God sets over this love to our brethren that they might receive the fruit and improvement of it. The benefit of our love it cannot reach Him; His self-sufficiency admits no addition from our poor charity; He makes our brethren the receivers of it.
III. This love to our brethren multiplies and strengthens and increases our love to God. That's hearty love that rests not upon the party, whom we chiefly affect, but enlarges itself to His children and followers and all that belongs to Him. And that's the first consideration of it, as they are proximi, and so this washing, 'tis opus charitatis, he loves them as brethren. But, secondly, conceive them as they are afflicti, as Christians in misery and affliction, whipped and imprisoned; and then 'tis actus misericordiae, an action of mercy. Before we considered them as members of Christ, and so He loved them; now behold them as the afflicted members of Christ, and so now He pities them. Observe, the naturalest motion of an heart converted is to commiserate the poor saints of God, and to show mercy towards them. The works of mercy are the most kindly returns of mercy received. Wert thou furnished with all other graces, yet thou fallest short if thou wantest this one. These fruits of piety and relief to the poor saints, Christ —
1. Most strictly exacts.
2. Most graciously accepts.
3. Most bountifully rewards.Saith Basil, "Liberality to the poor saints, 'tis not liberality, but usury to God, and that of the highest increase." Thirdly, conceive them as they are men that were wronged and oppressed by him, and so 'tis an act of satisfaction. The truth of conversion as it shows itself in all duties of love and commiseration; so to those we have injured it will express itself in a due satisfaction. Without this, saith St. , all acts of repentance prove ineffectual. Nay, 'tis no true repentance, but a mere counterfeit. Fourthly, conceive them as they are the ministers and means of His calling; and so 'tis a testimony of thankfulness. These are the servants of the Most High God; these have brought the glad tidings of grace and salvation; not only their feet, but their wounds and stripes and sores are beautiful. He thankfully embraces, refreshes, and comforts them. And then give way to this observation: That the truth of this conversion will manifest itself in all fruit of thankfulness to the ministers of salvation. See now this jailer draws out the apostles, as Ebed-Melech did Jeremy, from the depth of the dungeon; makes his prison, like Obadiah's cave, to nourish these prophets; becomes a Lot and an Abraham to entertain these angels and messengers of heaven.
(Bp. Brownrigg.)1. The old cause produces the old effect. Here is a man converted, and he instantly seeks to make up for the past. What did it all mean? Exactly what our own repentance must do. He tried to rub out yesterday's injury. Christianity always drives men back upon their yesterdays. The Christian says, "I must pay the money that I am owing. I know that the Statute of Limitations would excuse me, but there is no statute of limitations in the regenerated heart." The penitent says, "I must find out the life I once bruised, and if that life is no longer on the earth I must find some descendants, and for David's sake I will love Mephibosheth." The religion that does this proves its own inspiration. It does not need our eloquence, nor ask for our intellectual patronage. Any argument in words may provoke a retort in words; but a jailer washing stripes undeserved, feeding hunger unmerited, will carry the day.
2. The natural result of receiving Christ into the heart is joy (ver. 34). Christianity never brings gloom; it is a religion of light, morning, summer. There are three possible views of God. There is the view which afflicts the soul with a sense of terror. There is the view which elevates veneration without touching emotion. The third view is the Christian one, and that always brings with it joy. We ought to enter into joy now.
3. There are results of Christianity on the other side; hence we find that the magistrates were afraid; they sent to announce their willingness that Saul and Silas should leave the city. The bad man has a ghost on the right hand and on the left. There are "earthquakes" representing all kinds of physical difficulties, material alarms and afflictions. Following these came the discovery that the apostles claimed the protection of the Roman law. The bad man has no peace. The very law turned to a serpent in his grip and stung his arm. The bad man is always getting hold of the wrong end; always mistaking the case; always prosecuting the wrong party. Then add all the fears which come from spiritual doctrine, and the bad man has a poor time of it. There is no peace but in goodness; no rest but in righteousness. If thou hast turned away from thy Father in heaven, "acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace."
4. This incident throws some light upon the character of Paul. He did not tell at first that he was a Roman citizen. He kept it back until he could use it with the happiest effect. Paul was probably the only Roman citizen in the little band, and was Paul a man to get off and let the others go to prison? Now that he could smite the magistrates as with a fist of iron, he said, "They have beat us...being Romans," etc. He knew how that message would bite all the soul such men had left. This is the way we should stand by one another. Mark the dignity of his innocence. "As for your sergeants, we are much obliged to you for your civility, but let the gentlemen themselves put on their boots this cold morning and come down." So the magistrates, what with earthquakes, and Roman citizenships, and converted jailers, and one thing added to another, came down and said in effect, "If you will be so kind, gentlemen, as to go, we shall be deeply obliged to you." In former days they besought Christ Himself to depart out of their coasts; and the bad world is always asking Christianity if it will be so kind as to leave it. It will interfere with the world's weights and measures; with life at home and life in the market place; with dress and speech, and with honesty of heart; so the wicked world says to it, "If you be so kind as to go away." Sooner would the rising sun go at the bidding of some poor insect, or the rising tide retire before the waving hand of some impotent Canute.
5. Being liberated, the apostles did not take the shortest way out of Philippi; "they entered into the house of Lydia"; they called the brethren together and "comforted them." The sufferer comforting those who have not suffered! Then they departed with the ineffable dignity of Christian uprightness.
6. So the Church of Christ was first established in Europe; see what a hold it has today. I am aware of the corruptions of Christianity, but underneath all the Christian idea has been the mightiest force in European civilisation and progress. Take out of European cities the buildings which Christianity has put up, and those cities would in many instances lose their only frame. What is Cologne but the foreground of its infinite cathedral? What would Milan be but for its august and overwhelming church? Take away St. Peter's from Rome and Notre Dame from Paris, etc., and see how frightful a mutilation would be made in the map of European grandeur. If you tell me that the great galleries of art would still be left, I would ask you to take every Christian picture and statue, and then call for your estimate of the boundless cavity. If you tell me that the great centres of music will still remain, I would ask you to take away the productions of the Christian poets and musicians; and after you have removed Beethoven and Handel, Mendelssohn and Haydn, I will ask you to state in figures the stupendous and irreparable loss. When you call these things to mind, and then remember that Paul planted the first Christian Church at Philippi, you will see how important are the incidents recorded in the chapter. We cannot tell what we are doing. He who plants a tree cannot forecast the issue of his planting. The penny you gave to the little poor boy may be the seed of great fortunes. The love grasp you gave the orphan's cold hand may be the beginning of an animation lasting as immortality.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being RomansI. PAUL'S RIGHT AS A ROMAN CITIZEN. To Paul this was invaluable. It was in itself an honour, and would be everywhere so regarded. It gave to him who enjoyed it the protection of the best system of laws known among men. In any part of the world, moreover, where the Roman power extended, it conceded that right. A Roman citizen might not be crucified, nor scourged. The privilege of Roman citizenship also secured the right of a public trial. This tended, in an eminent degree, to maintain justice.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THESE RIGHTS HAD BEEN VIOLATED. The wrong done was a palpable injustice, in all respects, at variance with the requirements of the Roman law. They were condemned unheard; and at the demand of a mob; they were publicly whipped; they were cast into prison. Every one of these things was contrary to Roman law. They suffered, moreover, further indignities at the hands of the jailer.
III. THE PROPRIETY OF THE DEMAND THUS URGED. The principles of the gospel seem to require that we should bear injuries not only with no malice, but even with no resistance (Matthew 5:39-41; 1 Corinthians 6:6-8). But note —
1. That the conduct of the Saviour interprets His own words. In the numerous injuries which He suffered at the hands of individuals, He offered no resistance. Yet, in entire consistency with all this, when He came in contact with the law, and when, under the forms of law, injustice was about to be done, He demanded that the provisions of the law should not be violated (John 18:23).
2. This leads us to notice, then, the value of law for the protection of rights. That value was recognised by Paul on other occasions (Acts 23:2, 3; Acts 25:11). The history of the world, in regard to law, has been a little more than a succession of struggles to secure the rights of individuals against arbitrary power; and the points gained in that respect have been the beginning of new eras in the history of the world, each of these epochs sending its influence far into the future. Law itself, as we now have it, has been the slow growth of ages; and is the result of effort to save from arbitrary punishment. Under wise provisions, in favour of general liberty and individual rights, we are permitted to live; and the business of the world now is to protect and defend these principles as the ground of security in all time to come. They are of inestimable worth, and it is every man's privilege and duty to appeal to them and to demand that they shall be observed and enforced. Pym and Hampden are immortal as having defended the great principles of liberty; and Paul stands thus among the great benefactors of mankind for having asserted and maintained the right of an appeal to the law.
3. It remains only to remark, in the vindication of the conduct of Paul, that the character of a good man belongs to the public, to virtue, to truth, to religion. Paul had not only his own individual rights to maintain, but he was a representative man, entrusted with the rights pertaining to the Christian religion. All that he had endured in his imprisonment, he could privately and personally bear and forgive. But the public wrong which had been done was a wrong to justice; and not only so, but a wrong to religion; a wrong to him as the minister of religion; a wrong which, if acknowledged, might greatly hinder the success of his future labours.
(A. Barnes, D. D.)
Scientific Illustrations.There is a thing which passes for generosity which, when analysed, is found to be nothing but selfish policy. Sometimes a flint-hearted magistrate makes a great show of generous consideration for the condition of the prisoner, and pompously discharges him on that ground, as he says. Whereas it will often be found that the charge against the man was one of which the law could take no cognisance, or else which the magistrate felt himself unable to grapple with. He gets great credit for his clemency. His manoeuvre, however, reminds those who see through it of the spider's tricks. We well know that the moment an ill-starred fly or other insect comes in contact with the net of the spider, it is sprung upon with the rapidity of lightning, and if the captured insect be of small size the spider conveys it at once to the place of slaughter, and having at its leisure sucked all its juice, throws out the carcase. If the insect be somewhat larger and struggles to escape, the spider envelops its prey in a mesh of thread passed round its body in various directions, and its wings and legs thus effectually secured, it is conveyed to the den and devoured. But when a bee or large fly, too powerful to be mastered by the spider, happens to get entangled in its toils, then the wary animal, conscious of its incapacity to contend against such fearful odds, makes no attempt to seize or embarrass the victim. On the contrary, it assists the entangled captive in its efforts to free itself, and often goes so far as to break off that part of the web from which it may be suspended. This act has upon it the colour of seeming generosity, but in reality it is nothing more than the performance of selfish cunning. The tyrant, feeling himself incapable of doing an injury, determines to have no molestation. To obtain this end he performs an act of manumission. In this policy he is not unlike the magistrate referred to.
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