And they spoke to him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.…
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.