Acts 21:1
God has so made us and so related us that we find ourselves closely and tenderly attached, one to another, in various bonds. It is impossible that these should not have great influence on our minds as the children and servants of God, great effect on our lives as co-workers with Christ. What is that effect?

I. HUMAN AFFECTION WAS A LARGE CONTRIBUTION TO OFFER TO SACRED SERVICE. We find it inciting all the disciples, including "the wives and the children," to accompany Paul on his way, to pray with and for him, and thus to cheer and hearten him (ver. 5). We find it leading Philip (vers. 5-7), and afterwards Mnason (ver. 16) and "the brethren" (ver. 17), to entertain the ambassador of Christ with open-handed and full-hearted friendship. And we find it now constantly leading men and women

(1) to educate and train,

(2) to entertain,

(3) to shelter,

(4) to influence by example,

(5) to evangelize the sons and daughters of men.

II. HUMAN AFFECTION SOMETIMES FORCIBLY INTERPOSES BETWEEN MEN AND THE SACRED SERVICE THEY WOULD RENDER. It did so here. Paul and his party had to tear themselves away from the elders of Ephesus (ver. 1). It required a very great effort to "get away." Clearly the entreaties of affection produced a very strong impression indeed on the susceptible heart of the apostle, and called forth the tender and touching remonstrance of the text (ver. 13). It had a like effect on the mind of the Master himself, and evoked a rebuke of no ordinary strength (Matthew 16:21-23). When conjugal, or parental, or filial, or fraternal love lays its detaining hand on the shoulder and says, "Go not on this perilous mission; stay with us in these pleasant places of affection," it is hard for the human soul to resist that gentle but powerful pressure.

III. HUMAN AFFECTION HAS OFTEN MUCH TO URGE ON ITS OWN BEHALF. The disciples at Tyre claimed to found their counsels on communications which they had from God himself. They said "through the Spirit" that Paul "should not go up," etc. (ver. 4). Undoubtedly the disciples at Caesarea based their dissuasions on the announcements of Agabus (ver. 11), and they probably pleaded, with no little force, that the Divine intimation of danger was given on purpose that the impending evil might be averted. Often with us, now, human affection has much to say that is plausible, and even powerful. It makes out a strong case why special spiritual faculty should refrain from sacrificing itself by presumptuous confidence, why it should "not tempt the Lord its God" by running into needless danger, why it should reserve itself for other paths of usefulness where it could walk with equal fruitfulness and without the threatening injury.

IV. CHRISTIAN DEVOTEDNESS RISES ABOVE THE STRONG. TEMPTATION. With Paul it "will not be persuaded" (ver. 14); with him it says, "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die... for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (ver. 13). The Huguenot will not have the white ribbon bound round his arm even by the tender hand of the sweetest human love. Men will walk to the stake, and women to the open grave wherein their living bodies are to be enclosed, even though there are voices, gentle and strong, calling them to the home of affection. The will of the Divine Savior has been found, and will be found to the end of time, mightier than even these forces of affection.

V. HUMAN AFFECTION WILL RECOGNIZE ITS DUTY AND ACCEPT THE WILL OF GOD. It still says, after a while, "The will of the Lord be done" (ver. 14). - C.







And it came to pass that after we were gotten from them.
I. THE SOUL'S ITINERARY. The daily journeying of this company of God's folk was a matter for record.

1. The details give a good test of the authenticity of the narrative. One soon trips in many and complicated details unless he is speaking the truth. Now the writer of the Acts is never found tripping even amid the most varied incidents. This journey has often been gone over, and the results verify the accuracy of St. Luke's account. There are those who belittle (as there are also those who exaggerate) the value of geographical, historical, archaeological and other studies that tend to uncover the social, political, and natural environments of Biblical peoples. But in such studies, as in natural history, the most trifling things may prove vastly important as necessary links in a chain of evidence. If the Divine Spirit thought it worth while to record them, it is worth our while to look into them. It will be well if, like St. Luke, we keep our eyes open as we go through life, and learn the art of telling what we see.

2. The soul's itinerary through the world is a matter of record before God and men. Perhaps it did not occur to any in that company that the incidents of their trip would be conned by millions. Yet such was the purpose of God. Is it not somewhat so with every man's life journey?(1) There is much comfort in this thought (Psalm 37:23, 24; Genesis 28:15). The consciousness of this truth brings one very near to God, and every spot may be a "Bethel." The best of men are exposed to misunderstanding, but there is comfort in an appeal from the false record of one's pilgrimage made by his fellows, to the true, full itinerary kept in heaven (Job 19:21-27; Malachi 3:16).(2) There is also admonition. "Thou God seest me!" (Psalm 139:2, 3). Life is a great responsibility when we remember that God above records the soul's itinerary through life. The lives of men below keep the record too, whether for good or ill. May Heaven help us so to go over life's pilgrimage that every milestone may be for ourselves and others an "Ebenezer" — a stone of helping!

II. A STORY OF BROTHERLY LOVE AND SYMPATHY. "After we were gotten from them" means having been torn from them — a painful and reluctant separation. The reference is to Acts 20:37. A somewhat similar scene occurred at Tyre, where the company found "disciples." Such demonstrations must have cheered the heart of Paul and given him new strength. Men are so used to turn to the Christian minister for comfort and sympathy that they often forget that he needs the words of good cheer. Note that the "children" of Tyre had part in these demonstrations. Teach the young to love and reverence those who are their spiritual guides. How pleasant to contrast the conduct of these Christian children with that of the young roughs who insulted Elisha. The same honour and sympathy greeted Paul at every stopping place until the hospitable home of Philip received him. No doubt the four daughters were quite as ready for the ministry of home duties as for the public work of the Church. How much more of Divine sweetening the world would have if the Church would return to this simple and primitive life!

III. SUBMISSION TO GOD. The stay at Philip's house was marked by the advent of a prophet — Agabus (see Acts 11:27-30), who was deeply imbued with the spirit of the Old Testament prophets, and used the symbolical method so commonly practised by them. Then followed the beseeching remonstrance which brought out that noble utterance, "I am ready not to be bound only," etc. Paul knew but one law — the will of God. He would do his duty, even though bonds and death awaited him. Would that all Christians might catch this spirit of the great apostle! Luther had it when, being warned not to go to the Diet of Worms, he made the memorable answer, "Even should there be as many devils in Worms as tiles on the housetops, still I would enter it!" So, again, when his friends said, "They will burn you as they did John Huss," he replied, "Though they should kindle a fire all the way from Worms to Wittemberg, the flames of which reached to heaven, I would walk through it in the name of the Lord Jesus." "The will of the Lord be done!" Thus at last reluctant friends exclaimed. They, too, learned the lesson of submission. They gave their friend up to Him who called to the sacrifice. Those who thus give up their friends to the path of self-sacrifice have often the harder lot. Women who have given husbands and sons to their country's service in the hour of need have felt a keener pain than those who wrought and marched and fought. The parents of those who go far hence unto the Gentiles have not unfrequently felt profounder grief than the devoted missionaries themselves.

(H. C. McCook, D. D.)

S. S. Times.
I. A FRIENDLY WARNING.

1. Paul and his companions immediately looked up the Christians in the cities they visited. It is easy to learn a man's character from the sort of people he prefers to associate with — especially when he is away from home.

2. Paul, like every other Christian worker, received a large amount of well-meant advice that he could not well heed. It is sometimes as needful to say "No" to one's friends as it is to one's enemies.

3. Paul said "No" when his friends wished him to turn back, but he said so courteously, tenderly, prayerfully. He could refuse a man without insulting him.

4. Paul and his companions were not ashamed to kneel down on the open beach in sight of everybody and pray. Secret prayer is helpful and precious, but there are times when public praying becomes a duty.

5. Paul and his companions and the disciples bade each other farewell with prayers and benedictions. When we say, "Good-bye" to our friends, let us remember that we are in form at least breathing a prayer over them, for "Good-bye" means "God be with you."

II. A PROPHETIC WARNING.

1. It is instructive to note that the evangelist Philip who now entertained the Christ-loving Paul had years before been driven from Jerusalem to escape the fury of the Christ-hating Saul. See Acts 8:1-5.

2. It is evident that "there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." The disciples and Agabus advised Paul wisely so far as they knew, but he was better informed than they.

3. It is apparent that Paul did wisely to seek his marching orders directly from headquarters. So doing, he was sure of avoiding all mistakes.

4. It sometimes emphasises advice to accompany it with action. Thus Agabus, binding himself with Paul's girdle, spoke to the eyes, as his voice did to the ears, of the apostles.

5. It is always true that the bonds most to be feared are those a man puts upon himself. Agabus may well shudder at the bonds with which he binds himself, Paul may well disregard the fetters with which hostile Jews threaten him.

6. It was true, as Agabus prophesied, that bonds awaited Paul in Jerusalem. Whatever awaited him, Paul went on just the same. It is always best for one to follow the straight line of duty, even though it lead him inside of prison walls.

III. AN UNHEEDED WARNING.

1. A man may have the firmest kind of a will, and yet the tenderest sort of a heart. Paul was such a man.

2. A man of the right sort is more moved by the tears of his friends than by the assaults of his enemies.

3. A man who is ready to be bound for Christ ought certainly not to fear being freed for Christ. And what is death but being set free from the bondage of this world?

4. A man who would do the most for the good will not throw away his life. Paul was careful to have it understood that he was risking his life "for the name of the Lord Jesus."

5. A man having fully determined to risk his mortal life to save the immortal lives of others, it is the right thing for that man's friends to cease their dissuading talk about missionary dangers, and missionary hardships, and the unhealthfulness of foreign climates.

6. A man having fully determined to do the Lord's work in the Lord's way at home or abroad, it is the part of a friend and a Christian to say, "The will of the Lord be done."

(S. S. Times.)

I. REASONS PAUL SHOULD NOT GO TO JERUSALEM.

1. The needs of the churches. These churches were still in the mission stage, small and weak. Church organisation was so imperfect that it still required a constant apostolic oversight. On the face of it, God would not raise up a man by such a wonderful experience as Paul had had, and take him away when to all human judgment he had before him the best ten or fifteen years of his life.

2. The appeals of the brethren. These were hard to bear. Paul was a man of tender feelings. All the arguments to show why he should save himself for their sakes were tearfully urged. And these were his children.

3. The warning of the Holy Spirit.

II. REASONS PAUL WENT TO JERUSALEM.

1. The purpose of his life. He had before him his ministry for Christ, Everything was for that. His calling was to testify of Him whose name was called Jesus, because He should save His people from their sins. He believed that the next service for the name of the Lord Jesus was going to Jerusalem, whatever should befall him there. Therefore he went.

2. The law of self-sacrifice. Paul had laid himself on the altar as a voluntary offering, to live and to die for his Saviour. He was not a rash man; but he knew that there are ends which sacrifice can accomplish, and which can be accomplished by no other means. It was not certain that his life was needed any longer. The death of Stephen had proved an occasion of a wonderful enlargement of the gospel. These churches which Paul had been visiting probably owed their existence to the sacrifice of the life of that glorious deacon whose mantle had fallen upon the shoulders of Paul. Could Paul make a better use of his life than to die for the name of the Lord Jesus, if he could do as much by dying as Stephen had done? If a Christian would accomplish anything worthy for God, he must understand this Divine law. Our suffering, like that of our Saviour, has its place in the price of the world's redemption.

3. The leading of the Spirit. The disciples were led by the Spirit. So was Paul. Their leading did not conflict with his, though it seemed to do so. The warning voice said: "If you go on you will be imprisoned and slain." But the voice within said: "Go on, though you are imprisoned and slain." The two voices were of the same Spirit. The interpretation of the voices was for Paul to give. Every man has the voice of the Spirit for himself. Listen to the voice of the Spirit within you; yield yourself to His influence. You can tell whether you are following Him.

(G. R. Leavitt.)

From this —

I. WE MAY FIND A STIMULUS TO OUR FLAGGING ZEAL AS WE CONTEMPLATE THE APOSTLE'S SEARCH FOR AND IMPROVEMENT OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR USEFULNESS. He had one end in view — Pentecost at Jerusalem, and from this no entreaties could divert him. But while moving steadily forward he filled in every interval with service, e.g., at Troas, Miletus, Tyre, Caesarea. Men speak with enthusiasm of Caesar's devotion to literary pursuits during his military journeys, and of Cicero, who amid the multiplicity of his judicial and political engagements found time for philosophical discussions; and the younger Pliny tells with glowing admiration the industry of his uncle, who dedicated every fragment of time to study. But we have in Paul a devotion to work not less remarkable. Well might he have excused himself had he spent the pauses of his journey in taking rest. Is he then less worthy of admiration because in him the love of souls took the place of love of literature, etc.? But his example is also worthy our imitation. Success is only to be had by the means he employed. Ponder this journey, and you will cease to marvel that in one brief life so much was accomplished. Take that inflexible firmness which held him to what he believed to be right; add to that his quickness to perceive and his readiness to improve an opportunity; then let these be vitalised and sustained by love to Christ, and it becomes easy to account for his perseverance and success.

II. WE MAY ASCERTAIN THE TRUE SOURCE OF MORAL COURAGE. That ver. 13 was not an idle utterance we know from Paul's calm self-possession in the Temple. There is such a courage as is merely muscular, which in its place is good, but which is mostly involuntary and instinctive. He who has it is brave in the presence of danger because not sensible of anything of which to be afraid. But it is quite different with him who is of a delicately nervous temperament. His tendency is to fear physical danger; and there is need of an effort of will, and as sustaining his will there is need of enthusiasm for some sublime cause. The soldier who feels fear, but who holds himself at his post by a supreme devotion to duty, is more courageous than he who, with an instinct like that of the warhorse, "mocketh at fear." The latter was the case with Paul, who had two considerations which made him ready to brave every danger.

1. Love to Christ. We know what great things love for a fellow mortal will defy, as in the case of wives and mothers; and love to Christ will fire a man with an enthusiasm which will sustain him through the fiercest opposition.

2. Confidence in God. Like Moses "he endured as seeing Him that is invisible." Like Elisha, he saw with his faith's eye the hosts of the Lord encamping round about him. He knew that he was doing God's work, and had the most implicit trust that the Lord would uphold him till his work was done. If it were His will that he should perish at Jerusalem, then he would only be the sooner with Christ; or, if it were His will that he should testify before tribunals and in prisons, God would give him grace. Thus he possessed his soul in peace in spite of his natural susceptibility.

III. WE MAY SEE HOW MAN PROPOSES BUT GOD DISPOSES. The course suggested by James (ver. 20, etc.) was admirably adapted to conciliate all parties; but see how it was frustrated. In spite of all their efforts at conciliation, nay, in consequence of them, something occurred which defeated their end. Paul's safety was imperilled by the course suggested for the good of the Church. Yet what good came out of it after all. The most carefully laid plans may be frustrated by unforeseen circumstances, but God will work out His will notwithstanding.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Note —

I. THE POWER OF LOVE TO CHRIST.

1. It brings the unacquainted near.

2. It forewarns of possible danger.

3. It gladly cultivates fellowship.

4. It humbles itself before God in mutual prayer.

II. PAUL'S READINESS TO SUFFER FOR THE CAUSE OF CHRIST.

III. THE CHRISTIAN'S PILGRIMAGE TO HIS HOME.

1. Faith holds forth to him the glorious end.

2. Love helps him to accomplish the difficult journey.

(Lisco.)

(Children's Sermon): — Suppose you were travelling from Edinburgh to London, and at every station you stopped at, at Carlisle, Leeds, Leicester, friends were waiting to beg you not to go any further, because they had learnt that bad men would ill use you. It would have to be a very good reason that would make you still go on. This was something like St. Paul's situation now. Still he went straight on. Why?

1. Because he felt that, although he was going into great danger, he was going to his duty. A true Christian always feels so. When arrested, Cranmer's friends tried to persuade him to escape. But Cranmer said "No; it is quite right for you to get away, but I ought to stay and stick to my colours." So St. Paul (ver. 13). And if we want to be good soldiers of Jesus, we shall have to learn so to love Him as to be ready to do and bear anything for Him.

2. He knew that God had not yet done with him, and that no one could kill him till God gave them leave. God had said that Paul should bear his name "before kings," and the apostle was sure his Lord would not be baulked of His purpose by wicked men. But do people never get hurt when they are doing God's service? Did not John Bunyan suffer any hurt when he was thrown into, and for long months kept in, Bedford jail? Yes; but he wrote the "Pilgrim's Progress" there. And did not that more than make up for the sufferings of the prison? And so with Paul. So, after all, not harm came of it, but good.

3. Look at another thing. There are some strong brave men who are not very pleasant to deal with, because they always will do things in just the way they like, and can't give way to others. St. Paul was not like that. He was strong and bold in going into danger, but he did not try to make the danger any greater than was necessary. The other apostles told him that they would like him to do something he did not much care for, but they thought if he would do it, it would please the people and save all disturbance (vers. 20-40). And he did it at once. To the Jews he became as a Jew. There is a great difference between firmness and stubbornness. Always be firm for the right, but be willing to give way in small matters.

4. It is a matter for regret that though Paul tried to please he failed (vers. 27-40). But he could not help that. They had got into a bad temper, and therefore could not judge him fairly (vers. 28, 29). Rage makes people fancy things that never happened. If we try to do what is right, as gently as possible, and people won't be pleased, we must quietly leave it to God, asking Him to turn their hearts.

(J. Taylor, M. A.)

Note —

I. THE SOCIAL LOVE GENERATED BY THE GOSPEL. There is an affection which man has for man, an affection of animal sympathy, personal interests, mental reciprocities. But the social love generated by Christianity is of a higher character. It is —

1. Strong. So strongly did it bind Paul and the Ephesians together, that they had to "tear themselves asunder." The parting scene on the Tyrian shore, and the tears wept on leaving Caesarea, also indicated the strength of Christian love. The love which genuine Christians have for each other is not the thread of a passing sentiment, but a golden chain which binds all in an indissoluble unity of thought, aspiration, interest, and pursuit.

2. Hospitable. Paul a guest in Philip's house! This is one of the Divine marvels which sometimes occur in the history of men. The name of Saul at one time was a terror to the heart of Philip (Acts 8:3-5). What a change the gospel has accomplished. He from whose presence he rushed as from a fiend, he now entertains as a brother.

3. Tender. Christianity quickens the sensibilities. In nearly all the partings recorded in these verses there were tears.

4. Religious (ver. 5). Christian love turns to God as the open flower to the sun. The best way of serving one's friends is to commend them "to God," as Paul did, and to "the word of His grace."

II. THE FALLIBILITY OF HUMAN AFFECTION. The good men of Tyre loved Paul, yet they sought to dissuade him from duty; so also did the good men of Caesarea. So urgent and powerful were they that Paul exclaims, "What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?" In both cases they quoted the Holy Spirit's influence. Paul was deeply moved, but not mastered. All their arguments were the arguments of mistaken love. The mistaken kindness of parents has ever proved the greatest curse to children. Never does the devil act so mightily as when his errors are urged by the arguments of those who love us most. Let us learn to act in relation to this as Christ acted in relation to Peter (Matthew 16:23).

III. THE UNCONQUERABLENESS OF A CHRIST-INSPIRED PURPOSE. Mighty as was the influence which love brought to bear upon Paul, it could not break his purpose (ver. 13). This was not a caprice, wish, intention formed in haste, a resolution based on expediency, but a determination based on the strongest convictions of his judgment, backed by the whole current of his sympathies, and deeply rooted in him by the Spirit of Christ. Such a purpose cannot be broken; it defies opposition, it removes mountains.

IV. THE SUBLIMEST VICTORY OVER SOUL (ver. 14).

1. "The will of the Lord be done," does not mean, "We must bow to necessity." Many men are brought to do this who have no Christianity. The ungodly father, when life has fled from his child; the reckless speculator, when he has wrecked his fortune; the criminal in the hand of justice, say, when all hope is gone, "The Lord's will be done." In their case it means despair. But here it is a cordial acquiescence, and implies a belief —

(1)That there is a God.

(2)That that God has a will in relation to individuals.

(3)That the working out of that will is the best thing.

2. This is the sublimest conquest over souls. It is a conquest over —(1) The folly of souls. The greatest folly in the universe is to oppose the will of God. The wisest thing is to acquiesce in that Will which is all-wise, all-good, all-mighty.(2) Over the wickedness of souls. Opposition to the Divine will is the very essence of all sin.(3) Over the misery of souls. Opposition to the Divine will is hell. Obedience is heaven. The sublimest victory in the universe is this victory, for which Christ and His followers are fighting.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. There are some endings which seem to be final Such an ending we found in the last words of the apostle to the elders of Ephesus. After such agony there is only one possibility — silence. Whether things will ever come into natural course and shape again gracious time will reveal. Blessed silence! blessed time! Have periods of silence in your life; remit many of the controversies and difficulties to the adjustment and healing of silent, gracious, patient time. You will only spoil its purpose by your impatience. Let Paul alone for a time; let him have his sail out. Bless God for the alternative of the water for the land; of the night for the day. By these alternatives we are rested and quieted and made young again.

2. In ver. 3 we read, "We landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden." Poor ship! she must have rest, too, in a way. Whilst the ship stands still Paul is on the alert. Business arrangements are turned into spiritual opportunities. The sail has done him good, and now he turns a necessity of the ship into an opportunity for Christian aggression. Is there not a lesson here for us — the sailors of today? The place of business is closed — why not inquire of an opportunity of doing religious good? The stop of one course should be the beginning of another. He never lacks opportunity who looks for it. What was done at Tyre? We read, "And finding disciples." It should be, "And seeking out disciples." Why not seek out beautiful scenery? Because Paul's purpose was to advance the kingdom of Christ. Paul and his company sought out the disciples — not an easy thing then and there; not always an easy thing here and now. You wait for them to turn up. You, who could ask if there were artists, authors, poets, men of business, dare not ask if there were any praying people in the locality; and yet the man sitting next you at this moment would thank God if he could have an opportunity to speak concerning spiritual things.

3. Leaving Tyre, they "came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day." Make the most of religious opportunities. What a day it was! Only one; but so crowded, so many questions to ask. What eager listening! "The apostle will be gone tomorrow; now is our opportunity; let him speak and pray and bless and comfort." That is the case always; we have never more than one day together with any certainty; we should look upon every opportunity as the last. But we allow our opportunities to pass: when the man is gone, then we begin to whine about his greatness, and the opportunities we had of praying with him in his mighty intercession. So the hearts of men are broken every day. Paul is still here; his great epistles are with us; his written soul lies in our houses neglected. Let us not add to our lies by whining over his personal absence!

4. "And the next day —" Oh that there should be any next day to festivals of the soul! Mocking word! speak of it as some other day, a million centuries off. Yet not so, because other people must have the festival as well as we. Paul is advancing in his course, and scattering blessings as he goes. "The next day we came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip." If we had our choice of any day which we might spend with Paul, I think some of us would choose this particular day. What a meeting that was! Philip might not have been there at all but for the very man who was now visiting him; it was owing to Paul's persecution that Philip fled away. May our meetings with old enemies be as sweet and gracious! You cannot escape from your old self. Sometimes our reminiscences are of the most joyful kind, and we bury twenty years in one grip of the hand. Sometimes those reminiscences are of the other sort, and a look doubles our age. The solemn fact to remember is that we meet men again. Life is not closed today. Let us take care how we live. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

5. Now Paul was besought not to go forward; but he said nothing to the daughters of Philip, nor to Agabus. But in ver. 12 we read, "And when we heard these things, both we —" That was the sting. When a man's nearest comrades fail him, then, poor soul, what can he do but break right down (ver. 13)? There the Roman spoke — the Christian Roman. We are told that for a Roman to fear danger was treason, but for a Lacedaemonian to hesitate was treason. Here is a man in whose tone you can find no hesitancy. Having consecrated the life first, all the details of suffering which led up to the last oblation were mere trifles.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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