Acts 16:18
She continued this for many days. Eventually Paul grew so aggravated that he turned and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" And the spirit left her at that very moment.
The Day that Looked Like the Day of Small ThingsP.C. Barker Acts 16:14, 15, 40
The Kingdom of Light Revealing ItselfR.A. Redford Acts 16:16-18
The Witness of Evil to the GoodE. Johnson Acts 16:16-18
Five Truths from PhilippiW. Clarkson Acts 16:16-25
Paul and the Damsel of PhilippiJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 16:16-25
The Devil of AvariceD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 16:16-25
The PythonessDean Plumptre.Acts 16:16-25
The Rescue of a SlaveH. J. Martyn.Acts 16:16-25
The Soothsaying Damsel At PhilippiJohn Elstob.Acts 16:16-25
An Illustrious Triple Triumph of ChristianityP.C. Barker Acts 16:16-39
This poor slave-girl was subject to some kind of convulsive or epileptic fits. Brain-disease, and the various forms of hysteria, were very imperfectly understood in the olden times. "Nothing was less understood in antiquity than these obscure phases of mental excitation, and the strange flashes of sense, and even sometimes of genius, out of the gloom of a perturbed intellect, were regarded as inspired and prophetic utterances." General opinion associated such forms of disease with possession of some spirit, good or bad; and it is curious to note that the great physician Hippocrates attributed epileptic diseases to possession by Apollo, Cybele, Poseidon, etc. "At this period, and long before, people of this class - usually women - were regarded as prophetesses, inspired by the Pythian Apollo." "As a fortune-teller and diviner, this poor girl was held in high esteem by the credulous vulgar of the town." "The fact that St. Luke, who in his Gospel describes like phenomena as coming from doemonia, evil spirits, unclean spirits, should here use this exceptional description, seems to imply that either this was the way in which the people of Philippi spoke of the maiden, or else that he recognized in her -phenomena identical with those of the priestesses of Delphi, the wild distortions, the shrill cries, the madness of an evil inspiration. After the manner of sibyls, sorceresses, and clairvoyants of other times, the girl was looked on as having power to divine and predict, and her wild cries were caught up and received as oracles." Remembering the well-established doctrine that the Bible is not given as a revelation of science, medical or other, we are able to recognize in this narrative simply the general opinion of the age concerning spirit-possessions, and we need not affirm that either our Lord, or the apostles, in dealing with such cases, seal for us the truth of this explanation of them. In view of the common sentiment, it was not well that such persons should be allowed to witness to the Christian teachers. Their witness may have been true enough, but it was certainly liable to be misunderstood. no wholly satisfactory explanation has yet been given of the devil-possessions recorded in the New Testament, but this much we may fully admit - there was a remarkable accession of spiritual-evil force in the early Christian age.

I. OUR LORD'S TREATMENT OF THESE PHENOMENA. For the apostles followed the example of their Lord. One striking instance may be referred to (Matthew 8:28-34). Our Lord

(1) delivered the victims from the evil power; making this an illustration of his moral and spiritual mission; and

(2) he resisted the association of his work with the witness of disease, mania, hysteria, or evil possession. It was necessary that every association of the conjurer should be dissociated from Christianity. Its appeal is to the sober reasonings of the mind and the normal and natural demands of the heart. The gospel is for men in their senses; and it properly refused then, and refuses still, all testimony from ecstasy, spiritualism, jugglery, oracle, or any unnatural forms of excitation. A truth may be sadly disgraced and misrepresented and prejudiced by its champions, though it does not therefore cease to be the truth. The witness of evil spirits too certainly bears for men an evil tone, so Christ refused to permit it.

II. THE APOSTLES' TREATMENT OF THESE PHENOMENA. Something may be due to St. Paul's personal annoyance at the constant repetition of these clamorous cries, which hindered his work, and very possibly disturbed him when talking in the proseucha. He may also have felt great pity for the poor suffering girl; but no doubt his chief reason for putting forth the miraculous power entrusted to him was the misapprehension of his character and his work which her witness was likely to produce. Men might be led by her to think that he was possessed by some of the gods, or was a messenger of some of the idols, and so his work would be hindered, as it had been at Lystra. We must remember that the apostles' message was directly antagonistic to paganism and idolatry, and they were right in jealously guarding it from so perilous an association with it. Impress, in conclusion, that Christianity makes its appeal to the intelligence, conscience, and affections; and, then and now, it needs, and it will bear with, no adventitious or questionable aids. - E.T.

These men are servants of the Most High God and show to us the way of salvation.
What a strange thing have we here! the devil preaching the gospel; at least confirming the word of those who preached it. How was it that the prince of darkness could thus support the men who were labouring to destroy his kingdom? How could he give his testimony to the truth of that gospel by which his throne was to be subverted? Was not Satan here casting out Satan, and contributing to the overthrow of his own dominion? No: his speaking truth was a master stroke of devilish policy. He spoke the truth to counteract it; to put Paul and Silas and the possessed woman on the same ground, as if they all agreed: and if Paul and Silas had been pleased with this testimony, and appealed to it, and observed to the people that she who had told them so correctly many things which they could not have found out, confessed them as the servants of God and the preachers of salvation, he would have gained a great point. Let the Pythoness once be identified with the Christian teachers and she might teach, under the name of Christianity, such things as the devil has since often taught, and called them the way of salvation. The devil confessing Christ is in fact more dangerous than the devil denying Christ: for he only confesses to oppose. He confesses, and misrepresents, so that he makes the doctrine of Christ sometimes one thing and sometimes another; and anything but what it really is. Sometimes it is salvation by man's merit, heaven purchased by the performance of outward works. Thus he builds up a fatal system of self-righteousness. Yet there is truth in what he teaches. The works are necessary; but he assigns to them a wrong office, puts them in the place of Christ, and thus leads men to reject that way of salvation, to which, by the mouth of the Pythoness, he bore witness. At other times he takes the direct contrary course; and with the show of honouring Christ teaches men to look for salvation by a faith which produces no works. Thus his doctrine is — what it were to be wished his kingdom was — divided against itself: sometimes it is Christ requiring what God has not commanded; sometimes it is Christ allowing what God has forbidden, or forbidden what God has allowed. Alas! this confession of the Pythoness, as it was not altogether the first instance of Satan's acknowledging Christ, so neither was it the last by many, many examples. And Christian teachers have too often been ignorant of his devices, not having received the wisdom to detect him, when transformed into an angel of light. Paul had this wisdom.

(J. Fawcett, M. A.)

At the very end of the nave of Westminster Abbey there is a monument erected to a young philosopher and clergyman who ill his short space of life, which lasted only twenty-one years, made discoveries in science of a most surprising kind. His name was Jeremiah Horrox. There was one thing which he felt ever had a higher claim upon him even than science. It was to do his duty in the humble sphere in which he found himself; and when he was on the eve of watching the transit of the planet Venus across the sun, and was waiting with the utmost keenness of observation for this phenomenon, he put even all these thoughts aside, and went, on the Sunday on which this sight was to be observed, to perform his humble parish duty in the church where he was pastor. He mentions it in his journal, in words which are now written over his monument: "Called aside to greater things, which ought not to be neglected for the sake of subordinate pursuits." Subordinate, secondary, in one sense, the pursuits could not be, for they were the discovery of the glory of God in the greatest of His works; but subordinate in another sense they were, for they came across, in that instance, the single-minded discharge of the task which he owed to his Divine Master.

(Dean Stanley.)

Sir Thomas Smith, the eminent secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth, when on his death bed, sent to his friends, the Bishops of Winchester and Worcester, and solemnly entreated them to draw from the Word of God the plainest and exactest way of salvation; adding, "It is a matter of lamentation that men know not to what end they are born into the world till they are ready to get out of it."

Truth is truth, by whomsoever confessed, for whatever motive, and in whatever way. Here it was confessed by a devil-possessed girl. Perhaps her better nature was in the ascendant at the time. As we know from the Gospels demoniacal possession was intermittent, and the poor creatures had their lucid intervals. So this damsel, conscious for the moment of her misery and degradation, may have meant this as a sort of appeal for help. Perhaps, however, it may have been in mockery. No doubt the apostles had asserted their authority as servants of the most high God, and certainly "the way of salvation" was their constant theme. And the girl gifted with powers of mimicry may have reproduced their peculiar accent for the purpose of creating amusement. On the former hypothesis Paul's pity was excited: on the latter his indignation and alarm lest the gospel should be brought into contempt. Anyhow the testimony is true as a description of: —


1. They are men(1) Not angels; do not therefore expect angelic attributes of them. One of the greatest hindrances to the work of the Church is the extravagant demands which are made of the ministry. It discourages the men, and induces indolence in the people.(2) They are men having knowledge of human needs, invested with human sympathies, gifted with the faculty of communicating Divine thought in human language.

2. They are servants.(1) A humbling thought. All magisterial airs, all pomp and show, are utterly inconsistent with this character. A servant is a subordinate and has simply to do what he is told.(2) A suggestion of responsibility and labour. What is a servant for but for work? And for the efficient discharge of that work he is held responsible.

3. They are servants of the Most High God.(1) Their office therefore is invested with the loftiest dignity. What greater honour than to be the servant of a sovereign. Our Lord Himself gloried in this title.(2) Their persons are secure. God will protect His servants till they can say, "I have finished my course."(3) Their reward is great; as is to be expected from such a Master. "Be thou faithful," etc.

II. THEIR WORK. "To show the way of salvation."

1. There is a way of salvation.(1) A way to it — i.e., means whereby it may be secured.(a) Repentance — consciousness of being in the wrong way, regret for it, confession of it, and desire to get out of it.(b) Faith. Acceptance of the right way; of Him who is the Way; walking in that Way — i.e., humble dependence on Christ.(2) Salvation itself is a way — a progress from darkness to light, from misery to blessedness, from sin to holiness, from uselessness or injuriousness to usefulness, from earth to heaven, from grace to glory. Salvation is a state, but it is an endlessly progressive state. No matter however high the attainment the saved one is to "forget the things that are behind," etc. So viewed salvation is the right way, the happy way.

2. This way has to be shown.(1) Hence the guide must know it, and not theoretically, from books or from what others have told him; but from being in it. Personal salvation is the essential qualification for a minister, and a guarantee of his competency for his work.(2) Knowing it the guide must show it; by precept and example: simply, clearly, powerfully.

(J. W. Burn.)

The Evangelist.

1. They are to show the way of salvation. This is the great object they should ever have in view.

2. The way of salvation they are to show is, by faith in Christ.

3. They are to show the way, not the ways of salvation. There never was, and never will be, but one way. This their work implies — They ought to know it themselves.


1. It denotes that they are sent by Him to this work.

2. The dignity of their office — servants, not of men — of the highest men, but of God — of the most high God. They are employed as mortals; because this method is adapted to our receiving information on the subject with composure.Learn:

1. The guilt of those who neglect a gospel ministry.

2. Be helpers of ministers.

(The Evangelist.)

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