But when our time there had ended, we set out on our journey. All the disciples, with their wives and children, accompanied us out of the city and knelt down on the beach to pray with us.
I. IT HAS RAISED WOMEN TO SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE WITH MEN THE BENEFITS, THE JOYS, THE SPONTANEOUS OFFICES OF FRIENDSHIP OF WHICH CHRISTIAN LIFE AND CHARACTER ABE THE SUBJECT.
II. IT HAS YET MORE SIGNIFICANTLY BROUGHT INTO A NEW KIND OF PROMINENCE A VERY OLD PRECEPT AS TO THE TRAINING UP OF CHILDREN.
III. IT HAS HALLOWED THE COMBINED EFFECT OF THE UNITED LIFE OF THE FAMILY. Nature itself does not make a whole family so really one as Christianity does. Many a time we read of a whole family being baptized, when presumably not only the wife but little children were embraced in the number. And now wives and children of the "disciples," in helpful company, cheer the steps of the departing Paul and his special fellow-laborers. True as we feel this was to nature, it is true to a nature that had long become disaccustomed to its better self, in those days of Tyre. And Christianity and Christian occasion have now begun to enable nature to "lift its head again?'
IV. IT HAS FOUND A NEW WAY OF LINKING FAMILY WITH FAMILY. How often is the family unit a wonderfully selfish unit! It is truly something larger than the individual, and so is the selfishness somewhat larger also - larger in its sphere of exposure, and larger in its spreading mischief, and larger in its shame. There are not a few who would be astonished to think they could be taxed with selfishness as individuals, who nevertheless may be powerful factors in making, sanctioning, keeping, the selfishness of the family. This latter covers itself also under many a more sacred name. And because the family should be the very shrine of one affection, those who compose it "do this," but mournfully "leave the other undone." But now family with family attended the departing steps of Paul. And had they never caught the idea before, now they see or begin to see that it takes many a family of men to number up the one family of the "Father," "from whom every family in heaven and earth is named" (Ephesians 3:14, 15, see Revised Version).
V. IT FINDS THE GENUINE LARGER FAMILY CIRCLE IN PRAYER. They all "kneeled down on the shore, and prayed." It was a prayer of pilgrim apostles, pilgrim fathers and mothers, and young pilgrim children.
1. Well did they kneel on the sands.
2. Well did they pray in sight of life's sea.
3. Well did all lift their eyes and thoughts from sand and sea to heaven in prayer; but meantime, forgot selves awhile, that all might pray for others. Paul prayed for them of Tyre, fathers and mothers and children, that they might love and do and keep the faith. And if no tongue spoke it, who can doubt that the loving, regretful group, who so grudged losing Paul into the midst of the dangers that were waiting for him at Jerusalem, commended him also to God and the Word of his grace? and commended that Word itself to God? - B.
And we kneeled down on the shore and prayed.
1. Prayers; the best office one Christian can do for another; in which we may note —(1) The place; upon the shore. And this was no unusual thing. tells us, "They sent their prayers to heaven from every shore"; and elsewhere he calls them "shore prayers." So customary it was for holy men to be taken into the ship from their knees, not from the tavern.(2) The posture — "they kneeled down." All postures have been used in prayer, but this is the common posture.(3) The scope of the prayer may with great probability be argued, for a prosperous voyage and Divine protection.
2. As their affections were mutually manifested by this sacred action, prayer, so by civil ones too, affectionate embraces and salutations. Hence note: Those that undertake voyages by sea, had need not only to pray earnestly themselves, but also to engage the prayers of other Christians for them. They that part praying, may hope to meet again rejoicing; and those designs which are not prefaced with prayer, cannot wind up with a blessing.
I. WHAT THOSE SPECIAL MERCIES ARE THAT SEAMEN SHOULD PRAY FOR, WHEN THEY ARE TO UNDERTAKE A VOYAGE.
1. The pardon of sin. Guilt is that Jonah in the ship, for whose sake storms, shipwrecks, and ruin pursue it (Psalm 148:8; Numbers 32:23). If sin be pardoned, you are safe, you need fear no storms within, whatever you find without. But woe to him that finds at once a raging sea and a roaring conscience; ship and hope sinking together.
2. That the presence of God may go, with you (Exodus 33:15). If that be graciously with us, it will guard the heart against terror in the most imminent distress (Psalm 23:4). And indeed there is no room for fear; for with whomsoever God is present, these three mercies are secured.(1) That God's special providence shall watch over him in all dangers (Psalm 91:1, 4).(2) He appoints for them a guard of angels, whose office is to watch over and minister to them in all their straits (Psalm 91:11).(3) He readily hears their cries in a day of distress, and is with them to save and deliver them (Psalm 91:15).
3. That you may be kept from the temptations to sin you will meet with when you are abroad in the world.
4. That you may have Divine protection in all the dangers and hazards to which you shall be exposed (James 4:13, 14).
6. That you may have. success upon your lawful employments and designs, and own it to be from the Lord (Genesis 24:12).
II. WHAT INFLUENCE PRAYER HATH AS TO THOSE MERCIES YOU ARE TO PRAY FOR.
1. It is a proper and effectual means to obtain and procure them. God will have everything fetched out by prayer (Ezekiel 36:37). Though prayer be altogether needless to His information, yet it is very necessary to testify our submission (Jeremiah 29:11, 12).
2. As prayer hath an influence into the procuring of our mercies, for it hath a singular influence into the sweetening of them.
3. Prayer hath a sanctifying influence upon all our enjoyments, and therefore no. wonder it makes them so sweet (1 Timothy 4:5). One mercy of this kind is better than ten thousand promiscuously dispensed in the way of common providence.
III. WHAT AID THE PRAYERS OF OTHERS MAY GIVE TO THE PROCUREMENT OF THE MERCIES WE DESIRE. It was the united prayers of the disciples with Paul, that on this occasion was judged necessary. There may be much zeal and strength in the prayer of a single saint; Jacob alone may wrestle with God, and as a prince prevail; but if one can do much, many can do more.
1. This may serve sharply to reprove the generality of our seamen, who mind everything necessary to their voyage except prayer, the principal thing. And here three sorts of persons fall under rebuke.(1) Such as do but mock God, and delude themselves by heartless, dead and empty formalities.(2) Such as wholly neglect prayer as a useless and vain thing. And it is justly to be suspected there are multitudes of such practical atheists among seamen, as well as other orders of men. Poor men! It was anciently said, "He that would learn to pray, let him go to sea." But now, how long may a man be at sea before he hear a praying seaman! The very heathens will rise up in judgment against you, and condemn you. Alcibiades asking Socrates how he ought to express his purposes, answereth: "Before every undertaking, thou must say, If God will." The Turks will condemn such as you are, for they fail not to pray five times a day, how urgent soever their business be. The blind and superstitious Papists will condemn you, with whom it is a proverb, Mass and meat hinder no man.(3) How much sadder and more deplorable is the case of those who, instead of going on board praying, as Paul here did, go cursing and blaspheming; not going from their bended knees, but drunken ale benches, to the ship.
2. This may serve to persuade all men, and particularly seamen, to be men of prayer; to imitate that noble pattern in the text.(1) God hath styled Himself a God hearing prayer (Psalm 65:2; Psalm 107:23-28; Psalm 65:5).(2) Prayer is certainly the best relief to the distressed. We may say of it, as David said of the sword of Goliath, "Give me that, for there is none like it." You that are seamen know what the use of the pump is, and of what use the scupper holes are to you, when waves break and dash over your decks. Why, of the same use is prayer, when sorrow leaks into your hearts. Prayer will buoy up your fainting spirits; it will sensibly ease an oppressed heart. Luther was wont to call prayers the leeches of his cares and troubles.(3) All secondary means of deliverance and comfort necessarily depend upon the will and pleasure of God, and signify nothing without Him. What the psalmist saith of a horse, I may say of a ship (Psalm 33:17): it is a vain thing for safety.(4) Whatever deliverances from dangers, or success in business you receive out of the way of prayer, can yield but little comfort, for they are not sanctified to you. You may be delivered, though you pray not, and success may follow those that seek not God for it; but that which you call deliverance is rather a reservation to future misery, and that you call success is but a snare to your souls. You have the things, but not the comfort and blessing of them.(5) Consider all you that go out without prayer, how soon you maybe out of a capacity of prayer.
I. THE CHURCH IS THE DRY DOCK WHERE SOULS ARE TO BE FITTED OUT FOR HEAVEN.
1. In making a vessel for this voyage, the first need is sound timber. For the want of it, vessels when caught in a storm have been crushed like a wafer. The truths of God's Word are sound timbers. Away with your lighter materials.
2. You must have Love for a helm, to guide and turn the craft. Neither Pride, nor Ambition, nor Avarice will do for a rudder.
3. There must also be a prow, arranged to cut and override the billow. That is Christian perseverance. For lack of this, many have put back and never started again. It is the broadside wave that so often sweeps the deck and fills the hatches; but that which strikes in front is harmless. Meet troubles courageously and you surmount them. Let all your fears stay aft. The right must conquer.
4. Have a good, strong anchor — hope; but do not use it wrongfully. Do not always stay in the same latitude.
5. You must have sails — faith. Hoist that, and the winds of heaven will drive you ahead. Sails made out of any other canvas will be slit to tatters by the first northeaster.
6. You must have the running rigging — prayer. Unless you understand this tackling you are not spiritual seamen. By pulling on this, you hoist the sails of faith and turn them every whither.
7. One more arrangement, and you will be ready for the sea. You must have a compass — which is the Bible. Look at it every day, and always sail by it, as its needle points towards the Star of Bethlehem.
II. RULES FOR THE VOYAGE.
1. Do not allow your appetites and passions to come up on the promenade deck. Never allow them anything better than a steerage passage. Let watchfulness walk the deck as an armed sentinel, and shoot down with great promptness anything like a mutiny of riotous appetites.
2. Be sure to look out of the forecastle for icebergs. There are cold Christians floating about in the Church. The frigid zone professors will sink you.
3. Keep a log book during all the voyage — an account of how many furlongs you make a day. Bound, as we are, toward eternity, ought we not often to try the work of self-examination?
4. Keep your colours up! You know the ships of England, Russia, France, etc., by the ensigns they carry. Let it ever be known who you are, and for what port you are bound. Let "Christian" be written on the very front, with the figure of a cross, a crown, and a dove; and from the masthead let float the streamers of Emmanuel. Then the pirate vessels of temptation will pass you unharmed as they say, "There goes a Christian bound for the port of heaven. We will not disturb her, for she has too many guns aboard." Conclusion: Before you gain port you will smell the land breezes of heaven; and Christ, the Pilot, will meet you as you come into the Narrows of Death, and hasten to you and say, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee."
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
1. Take up a handful of sand and try to count the grains as they trickle through your fingers; you will give it up in despair before you have counted the hundredth part. Then cast your eye over the great sweep of sand, and your imagination will be overcome in your endeavour to estimate the possible number of grains of which that immense stretch of sand is composed. And yet God gave this promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:17).
2. But the sand speaks to me not only of number, but of variety. Take your stand upon the shore of Palestine, and picture to yourself the origin of all those grains of sand which are lying round about you. Some have come from the great granite gates of the Nile, and have been swept down to the Mediterranean; others have been washed up on to the strand from the gates of the Atlantic; some have been torn from rocks by avalanche or storm, and ground down to the minute particles we behold by the ceaseless action of the waves. The sand, therefore, reminds us of that great multitude (Revelation 7:9). They have come from very diverse experiences on earth; but now they are united in their worship before the throne.
3. One more lesson we may learn as we stand by the seaside — the power of little things. You see the storm and the tempest; you see how it foams against the rock so ceaselessly, until the rock is undermined and falls with a crash into the water; or else you see some triumph of man's endeavour and skill utterly unable to stand against those raging waves. But yonder waves, though tempestuous in the distance, as they approach the sandy beach come in very quietly, though curling and lashing the rocks as it were with disappointment. Still it is of no avail — they have to come up quietly; and they come in, as you might say, almost whispering their allegiance to their recognised queen; and then they have to retire backwards, subdued and overcome. "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further." Ah, brethren, not all the triumph of human power and skill can keep those waves within bounds; but when the waves of sin are tossing around the true child of God — around him whose soul has been trained by sorrow and trial, and who is content to fill a humble place and do the duty God has assigned to him — when the waves of sin are tossing around him he will be enabled to say with confidence, "Hitherto shalt thou come," etc.
(E. A. Stuart, M. A.)
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