So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and set it adrift.
I. BY THE SHIPMEN. That is, by the "master and owner" of the ship (ver. 11), and evidently the officers and crew (ver. 27) of the ship. Every sentiment of honor, every plain demand of duty, called upon them to stand by their ship to the last, and to be the last to leave it. They now try to do all the reverse of this, competent to purpose it, and taken in the attempt to do it by craft, "under color" of doing something else. They reveal:
1. Cowardice. That they should fear was natural and a sign that nature had not gone callous in them. But cowardice began when they did not face to the end what had now some days been a common danger, one for which they were in part themselves answerable, which they could best meet, and which others must meet.
2. Selfishness. They try to save themselves,
(1) regardless of others who belonged to them, as if only so much freight;
(2) and yet worse, doubling the risk of them, by
(a) withdrawing their own professional help, and
(b) withdrawing the boat.
3. The unfaithfulness of the hireling. Seldom could there be found a more typical instance of this (John 10:11-13). They were hired, they "cared nothing" for the lives of those entrusted to their charge, and they did attempt to "flee."
4. The "wisdom in its generation" of human nature. For, baulked of their purpose, and baulked in a most transparent and peremptory manner, they are too "wise" to court lynch law; and they appear to follow the policy at once of saying nothing, and making the best of it. They fall into their places, and do whatever is to be done. So versatile can human nature be when it suits her.
II. BY PAUL. Paul under any showing was the character and the hero of the boat. We should not be content without knowing anything of him that opens to our view. A great deal does open to our view. He steps out not now for the first time since the storm began. It would be very far from the truth to say now that it was only human nature that we have the opportunity of seeing. No; the subordination of human nature was, perhaps, not yet perfect. Yet there was no willing strife (Romans 7:15-25), no great strife, no very distorting strife, between the human and the Divine in him.
1. Paul was the one calm watcher of everything that transpired.
2. His was the eye that read and that was then engaged in reading nature in others. It was in very deed, at any time, part of his office to do this very thing.
3. His was the eye that, so clear itself, detected the fraud, the would-be fraud of others.
4. His was the unfaltering tongue that declared it, though probably with no addition of safety to himself.
5. His was the mind conscious in its own rectitude and confident in God's truth and providence, that does not for a moment hesitate to expose itself to being taxed with certain theological inconsistency. Most positively and publicly had he committed himself to the statement that God had promised him himself and "all them that sailed with him." And yet he brings to the fore a condition, a new sort of proviso, and that one that postulated the help and co-operation of a number of godless and inhuman hirelings. These things all show, not only that the truest Christian need be no less a true man, but rather that it is only the true Christian who touches at all sufficiently the possibilities of the true man. For Paul the prisoner, on the way to trial, of many the despised, is nevertheless the man in every essential respect, in that boat, and succeeds in commanding not only a professed respect, but a practical obedience from all the rest.
III. BY THE ROMAN CENTURION AND SOLDIERS.
1. So soon as Paul has had his say, they see quickly, because their eyesight is keen by reason of the instinct of self-preservation.
2. They are not nice as to the source from which they derive their clue. Extreme peril has done a great deal to strip off from them all unnecessary artificiality, all dignified ceremony, all officialism and mere sense of authority. Nature itself stares them in the face, and puts not lispingly the alternative - Where may all these be very soon?
3. They act, act at once, and act trenchantly too. They cut off escape from the coward and the knave and the supremely guilty. Let what may be said to them, let what may be threateningly looked at them, they act, for so it is given to human nature to do in the last resort. And those who do not act in the presence of the solemn, supreme dangers of life, cutting off escape from the evil-doers, though these be themselves, are the men who will be left yet more "without excuse" for what is written in the book, in this threefold illustration of human nature in the presence of peril. - B.
Then the soldiers cut off the ropes.
S. S. Times.1. By casting off the boat — the apparent means of safety — true safety in this case was secured. Thus many a soul is saved by giving up what it may have once esteemed most precious.
2. By assuming command, Paul on this occasion saved his companions. Let not the Christian shrink from taking the lead, when he can thereby bring others unto safety.
3. By partaking of food at such a time, Paul showed that eating may sometimes become a duty. God takes good care of our souls — He wants us to take good care of our bodies.
4. By giving thanks before he broke bread, on this occasion, Paul showed that there is always time to ask a blessing before even the most hurried meal. If we have time to eat at all, we have time to ask God's blessing on what we eat. At the worst, bodily dyspepsia is better than spiritual dyspepsia.
5. By trusting Paul, the ship's company was saved. By trusting Paul's Saviour, we may be saved. If we sail with Christ, and abide with Christ, we shall not see death. Because He lives, we shall live also.
6. By stopping when they bad "eaten enough," Paul's companions showed their good sense. By not stopping when they have eaten enough, many Christians show their bad sense of how to use God's blessings.
7. By casting overboard what they did not need, Paul's companions set a wise example of self-restriction. If to eat is a duty, to stop eating may become a duty. Even throw away the bodily supplies, if need be, that the soul may not suffer.
(S. S. Times.)
And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat.wholeness); and undoubtedly we should do well if we added to the ideas of purity and freedom from sin which it now conveys to us the idea of the symmetrical development of the whole being. While we remain here, the body is a part of our being, and an exceedingly important part. And now permit me, as I go on, to be a little more definite. If we are called to make our lives valuable to any persons on earth, certainly those nearest us have the first claim. If any one of us has a right (which I deny) to throw himself away physically, he has no right to throw away his child. If he has a right, by imprudence or excess, to bring sickness upon himself, he has no right to prepare beforehand an inheritance of feebleness or disease for his unborn offspring. On a certain day in the past you may have felt most profoundly the truth that neither fame nor position nor wealth can compensate for lack of health. And yet it may be that a moment's reflection would reveal to you that you are now daily, in the general conduct of your life, sacrificing the greater for the less — saying (and that very often), "I know that this will hurt me, but still I am going to eat a little of it"; or, "I know that this is dangerous, but still I'll do it this once and run the risk." The care of health is a duty. Those of us who mean to fulfil our obligations need often to enlarge our ideas of the breadth of the field of duty. We despise what we know about the value of oxygen; and, if compelled for present comfort to live during the summer chiefly in the fresh air, still do not, except on extraordinary occasions, suffer any of it to reach the bottom of the lungs. We treat cleanliness as a matter of decency, and not as a matter vital to health. Those cooks who are deemed among the best seem to pay little regard to the healthfulness of the viands they prepare. Many are utterly unacquainted with the sanitary usefulness of society, good cheer, merry amusements, and a hearty laugh. All these things should be made studies by us, as parts of the great whole of duty which we wish lovingly to perform.
(J. E. Wright.)
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)I. SOCIAL CONSIDERATENESS. The emaciated appearance of all on board, through lack of food, touched Paul's generous heart (ver. 33). The alarm and anxiety of the past fourteen days and nights had, according to a physiological law, deadened their appetite. Paul, with the tact of a practical philosopher, sought to resuscitate their inclination for food by allaying their fears: "For there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you." This social considerateness Paul often displayed in his conduct and teaching, and it is an essential attribute of Christianity. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
II. CALM SELF-CONTROL. He was in the midst of the most agitating scenes — the furious hurricane — the reeling, plunging, shattered ship — the 276 terror-stricken men — yet how sublimely calm this man is (ver. 35)! A finer picture of moral majesty can scarcely be conceived. The philosophy of his tranquillity was faith in that God whose he was and whom he served.
III. PRACTICAL RELIGIOUSNESS. "He gave thanks to God in presence of them all." This was according to the Christian practice (Matthew 15:36; Matthew 26:27; John 6:11-23; Romans 14:6; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Corinthians 11:24; 1 Corinthians 14:17; Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
IV. COMMANDING INFLUENCE. What he said and what he did struck new energy into the heart of all (ver. 36). He animated all with the energy of hope. A soul strong with goodness can energise others.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
(T. Munger, D. D.)
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