And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas…
No man has more religion than he can show in time of adversity. The jail was a test of the Christian character of Paul and Silas. The way they stood the test, not only exalts them as Christian heroes, but also shows what power there is in the religion of Jesus.
I. A GREAT EARTHQUAKE.
1. The prisoners rejoicing (ver. 25). They were praying — for they needed comfort. They sang praises — for comfort was given. Their hymns were unto God alone; but "the prisoners were listening unto them." The Christian often exerts an influence of which he is unaware. What must have been the feelings of the listeners? Probably —
(1) Wonder. Songs from that inner prison was an unheard of thing. From there usually came groans, curses, wails of despair.
(2) A conviction that the two men were sustained by the God whom they were praising.
(3) A desire to partake of the same peace and joy. When a disciple has sunshine in trial, then men say, "If religion can do that for us, then we want it." Songs in the night are better than sermons in the daytime.
2. The prisoners loosed. God now endorses the singers. The earthquake was natural in its character; but it happened at a time that shows that God was in it, using it, as He can use any force of nature, to accomplish His will.
II. A GREAT CHANGE.
1. The keeper despairing (ver. 27). His life depended upon the keeping of the prisoners. Awakened by the shock his first thought was of fidelity to his office, and, when he beheld the open doors, his instant conclusion was that the prisoners had escaped.
2. The keeper saved.
(1) From self-destruction (ver. 28). There are two interesting questions in connection with this.
(a) How did Paul know that the keeper was intending suicide? He was in the "inner" prison, where he could have seen nothing.
(b) Why did none of the prisoners attempt to escape? It would seem as if the songs of the two missionaries, and the marvel which followed, had held them spellbound.
(2) From eternal destruction. Why did the keeper tremble? He was in no danger; for not a prisoner had escaped. He had rightly connected the earthquake with God and the presence of the servants of God. His fear was of Him who is the Judge of all. How was he saved? "Believe," etc. Note how much larger the promise was than the question — "thou and thy house." He had asked for himself only, but ha obtained assurance for those whose salvation was of as much consequence as his own.
3. The keeper changed. How was the change shown?
(1) In washing their stripes. His occupation had made him indifferent to the sufferings of others. But now that he had learned to love the Saviour his heart was touched with pity.
(2) "Was baptized, he and all his immediately." Thus he and they expressed at once their faith in Christ.
(3) "Set meat before them." He did not forget any of their physical wants in his own great joy. Those who have been fed with the Bread of Life should not be oblivious to the fact that the minister by whom they are fed has a body that needs to be fed also.
(4) "Rejoiced greatly," etc. Now he was the possessor of the same joy that had caused those songs in the night.
III. A GREAT HUMILIATION.
1. The magistrate's permission to depart.
(1) Given (ver. 35). They realised that they had acted hastily, and without warrant, and desired to get rid of the men as quietly as possible.
(2) Refused. Paul did not stand upon a point of order as a matter of pride. If they departed without vindication, their influence as preachers of the gospel would be gone. For the honour of the Master, they refused to go.
2. The magistrates' humiliation (ver. 37). And the magistrates were made to come. They did not feel safe until they had gone where they would not again hear from them. The missionaries went out of prison with their innocence as publicly declared as their punishment. And thus they strengthened the hold of the gospel in Philippi.
3. The missionaries' departure (ver. 40). Having suffered so much, one would think that they needed comforting by the brethren instead. But God had comforted them with so great a comfort, that they still were the richer, and could afford to give. They went away, but they left brethren behind them. The Church was established at Philippi, and that could not be driven out.
(M. C. Hazard.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,