When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Augustan Regiment.
I. THE VARIETY IS OUR COMPANIONSHIPS. As each passenger on board found himself inseparably associated with a strange admixture of fellow-travelers, so we find ourselves compelled to mingle, more or less closely, with various companions as we and they journey together over the waters of life. There are
(1) those who have a right to command us (the captain);
(2) those in whose power we stand (the soldiers, ver. 42);
(3) those who are bound to care for our safety (the sailors), many of whom will selfishly neglect their duty (ver. 30);
(4) those who can enlighten, heal, refresh us in spirit or in body (Paul, Luke, Aristarchus);
(5) fellow-sufferers (the prisoners).
II. THE NEED FOR LABOR AND FOR PATIENCE. Not only did the sailors strive strenuously to discharge their nautical duties (vers. 7, 8, 17), but all the passengers worked with all their strength in co-operation with them (vers. 16, 19). And with what long patience had they to wait, not merely at Fair Haven, "where much time was spent," but also and chiefly when the vessel was drifting before the wind, "when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared" (ver. 20), and when riding at anchor, and fearing greatly that they would be forced on the neighboring rocks, they "wished for the day." Labor and patience are the two oars which will bring the boat to shore in the everyday passage of our life.
III. THE CERTAINTY OF HARDSHIP AND PERIL, MORE OR LESS SEVERE. The winds are sure to be contrary, as in the earlier part of this celebrated voyage (vers. 4, 7, 8), and they may be tempestuous, as they were at the latter part (vers. 14, 18, 27). We must reckon upon some adversity, some checks and disappointments, as certain to befall us; we ought to be prepared for calamity and disaster. No human voyager across the sea of life can tell that there is not a very cyclone of misfortune through which he is about to pass.
IV. THE EXCELLENCY OF A REFUGE IS GOD. What an admirable figure does Paul present in this interesting picture! What calmness he shows (vers. 21-25)! What comfort he conveys! What strength he affords (vers. 33-36)! What ascendency he acquires (ver. 43)! It is the prisoner, Paul, who is the central figure there, not the centurion, nor even the captain. If in the emergencies that will arise, in the crises that must occur, on those occasions when the higher virtues and heavenlier graces are demanded, we would show ourselves brave, noble, helpful, truly admirable, let us see to it that we have then - because we seek now - a Friend, a Refuge, a Stay in Almighty God.
V. THE OCCASIONAL DEMAND FOR SACRIFICE. To save life they "lightened the ship" (ver. 18); they "cast out the tackling" (ver. 19); they "cast out the wheat into the sea" (ver. 38). To save moral or spiritual integrity it is well worth while, and sometimes positively necessary, to abandon that which is precious to us as citizens of this present life (Matthew 18:8, 9).
VI. THE POSSIBILITY OF REACHING THE SHORE. (Ver. 44.) In one way or another they all came "safe to land." We may arrive at the end like the captain who steers into port, his vessel whole, every sail spread to the wind, rich and glad with a prosperous voyage; or we may reach the strand like Paul and his fellow-passengers, on planks and broken pieces of the ship. We may die honored, strong, influential, triumphant; or we may reach our end poor, unregarded, shattered. It is of small account, so that we do reach that blessed shore - so that we are "found in him," the Divine Savior, and pass to his presence and his glory. - C.
I. THE NARRATIVE. "Thrice I suffered shipwreck: a night and a day I have been in the deep." Thus St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians more than two years before. Of those earlier shipwrecks we have no record. But here we have a detailed account of a fourth shipwreck.
And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy!
I. A STORM IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. How powerless, or at least how feeble, man appears, and is, when contending with the mighty agencies of nature! The stoutest heart then quails. The most reckless are then often seen on their knees. Men almost instinctively call at such times on Him who "holds the winds in His fist and the waves in the hollow of His hand." It is difficult to realise such a scene of terror in calmer days. But there is a great emblematic lesson in this. The fact that such changes do arise in nature — that the blue sky may become beclouded, that the bright sun may be hidden, that the sea, now so glassy and so clear, may be lashed into tempest, and that the mariner who now seems to be lord of the deep, subduing winds and waves into subserviency to his ends, may another day be contending with that same element roused into fierceness and storm, and made to feel how weak he is in that terrible conflict — is emblematic of other changes, which may, and must, one day arise. Life is not ever the calm, even flow of days and months and years. The brightest scene may be overcast, and to some extent is almost sure to be. Life's autumn and life's winter must be thought of as well as its summer days. All may know times of stormy wind and tempest, and all will one day be in the grasp of death, and have to face the near prospect of those things which abide when the shadows shall have passed away!
II. ST. PAUL AMIDST THE STORM.
1. We see the apostle's repose of soul in this hour of peril, and the grounds of it. It was in his relation with God that he found restfulness. Our "times" are in His hand. St. Paul knew, too, that he was now here in God's service.
2. We have here a striking example of Christian life and influence. Paul had resources of strength and comfort that those around him had not, and he becomes their comforter and adviser.
III. THE BENEFICENT WORKING OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE FOR THE PRESERVATION OF PAUL AND ALL WHO WERE WITH HIM. The promise of God was fulfilled, the perils of the deep having only made Divine protection the more evident and the more deeply felt.
(E. T. Prust.)
1. St. Paul's long detention is now ended. One of those merchant vessels, on which even generals and princes had to depend for transit, was now in the harbour of Caesarea, bound for Adramyttium, where it was expected that an opportunity would be found of exchanging for a vessel directly bound for Italy. One day brought them to Sidon, and the courtesy of the centurion, interested thus early in his prisoner, allowed Paul the opportunity of visiting the place and the Church. What these glimpses of Christian friends were to him we might guess from his character, and we know from his letters.
2. Contrary winds began early to retard progress. It was necessary to change the usual direction, sailing along the east and north of Cyprus, and coasting along the shores of Cilicia and Pamphylia, until they reached the Myra. There they lighted upon an Alexandrian corn ship — driven, perhaps, by the same stress of weather out of its straighter course to Italy — and to this the passengers were transferred.
3. It was increasingly a tedious passage. The wind, west or northwest, compelled them, after leaving Cnidus, to take the less desirable eastern side of Crete and then along its southern shore as far as an anchorage which is still called Fair Havens. For the moment they were in safety; and now that season had set in which sailors knew to involve, in those seas, especial danger. "The fast was now already past," i.e., the Day of Atonement, occurring (like our Michaelmas) at the end of September, and used, like it, as a common date of time. To advance further was an act of imprudence against which Paul ventured earnestly to remonstrate. The warning was unheeded. "The harbour was not so commodious to winter in," and there was a better within forty miles, sheltered from those dreaded winds.
4. The decision to proceed was taken, and for the moment all seemed to favour it. Instead of the troublesome westerly and northwesterly winds, there blew from the south a gentle breeze, which enabled them to start with every advantage for the desired haven of Phoenix. Triumphant, no doubt, over the cowardly prudence of the apostle, they advanced a few miles, in good hope and high spirits, along the sheltering shore of Crete. But a sudden change came. A tempestuous wind (Euroclydon) from the northeast came down upon the ship, and there was nothing for it but to let her drive. It was with difficulty that they took up the boat which might become necessary for the safety of the crew. Then they passed cordage round, and other precautions were taken to avoid their being carried upon the quicksands of Syrtis. The next day they lightened the ship of a portion of its cargo; the day following of all its spare tackling.
5. And now it is impossible to imagine a more dreary and dispiriting scene than that which Luke presents. "No one," writes Dr. Howson, "who has never been in a leaking ship in a long-continued gale can know what is suffered under such circumstances. The strain both of mind and body, the incessant demand for the labour of all the crew, the terror of the passengers, the hopeless working at the pumps, the labouring of the ship's frame and cordage, the driving of the storm, the benumbing effect of the cold and wet, make up a scene of no ordinary confusion, anxiety, and fatigue. But in the present case these evils were much aggravated by the continued over clouding of the sky, which prevented the navigators from taking the necessary observations of the heavenly bodies." To the gloom and despair was added the exhaustion of long abstinence. There was among them but one person now capable of command — the Christian prisoner, unheeded till danger pressed, but now the one leading and animating spirit. He reminds them of their disregard of his warning. The remembrance might make them listen now. And then be gives the solemn assurance, in the name of his God, that there shall be no loss of life.
6. For the time there was no respite. The fourteenth night of that tossing was now come, when some sounds, indicative of approaching land, struck upon the practised ear of the sailors. The first notice was soon confirmed; and now an imminent danger arose of being wrecked upon the rocks of some unknown shore. Nothing could be done save to throw a number of anchors from the stern of the vessel and then to wish for the day. Oh, how many a weary watcher through a long night of sickness of body or anguish of soul has had to do that, and could do nothing more — just to wish for the day!
7. Before dawn a new peril had shown itself. The selfish sailors had formed the project of seizing the boat and leaving the passengers to their fate. It was again the Christian apostle whose ready discernment and calm promptitude averted the danger (ver. 31). As if he had said, "There is work before us which will need a mariner's skill as well as a soldier's courage." The hint was enough. The soldiers cut the ropes of the boat before the sailors could enter it. Yet once more is St. Paul's voice heard; and it is in the same calm and constant tone which has made him the commander of all who sail with him. He foresees that the last struggle will be trying, and that exhausted frames can ill meet it. He therefore prays them to take some food, in the assurance that, however imminent the peril, life is secure. By precept first, and then by example, he summons them to this humble duty. After this, in the prospect of a speedy end of their suffering, they threw overboard the remaining wheat, that the vessel might be lightened for its last grounding. Morning dawned upon an unknown shore, upon which the vessel was so driven that, while "the forepart stuck fast and remained immovable, the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves."
8. At this last moment a formidable danger threatened the life of St. Paul. It was the counsel of the soldiers to kill the prisoners, lest in the confusion any of them should escape from custody; and the suggestion was only frustrated by the care of Julius for that one Christian prisoner who from the first appears to have awakened his interest, and who by his conduct during these trying scenes must have gained a firm hold upon his confidence and esteem. As it was, a more humane order prevailed.
II. THE LESSONS. We have seen St. Paul in many positions, and noticed his activity, boldness, wisdom, faith, charity, devotion, skill, patience. But the point before us is a combination of them all.
1. Danger is always a test of character. One man is daunted, another bewildered, another irritated, another rendered selfish by it. Read the history of a sudden alarm of fire in a crowded building. The impulse of self-preservation is so strong as to defeat itself; and a heap of crushed or burnt corpses will attest both the predominance and the infatuation of a spirit of selfishness in the heart of man in a time of great and sudden jeopardy. There are three influences which may under given circumstances counteract it.(1) A sense of honour. The captain of a burning or sinking ship will count it his duty to be the last to quit her. A regiment of soldiers will keep guard on deck over order and life, and count death itself but the just forfeit of a profession which is the soul of honour.(2) And humanity alone has sufficed to make martyrs. A man worthy of the name will fling himself into deep water, in cold winter, to rescue a drowning woman.(3) How much more will love counteract the force of selfishness, and make timidity for the moment brave!
2. But how different are these things, at their highest point, from the sustained calmness and commanding wisdom of Paul! None but a Christian could have thus done and thus spoken! Notice —(1) The tranquillity. This man belongs to God: "Whose I am, and whom I serve." Nothing can come amiss to him. He is the property of one to whom to belong is to be immortal.(2) The elevation. This man is in communication with God: "This night the angel of God stood by me." A man like this is just the converse of Jonah. To have him in the ship is a safeguard. See how a child in a thunderstorm will feel himself safe with a pious parent! Nay, more than children have known the comfort of having a righteous man under their roof in days of popular excitement or raging pestilence.(3) The faith. This man "believes God that it shall be even as it was told him." What? "As thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome," and the one faithful shall guarantee the faithless (ver. 24).(4) The judgment. This despised Christian is at once pilot, shipmaster, and centurion. Yes, there are times when men who have scoffed at the Christian as a visionary come to recognise his value. It is something in this selfish world to be convinced of a man's disinterestedness. And at least in the hour of death — then, if never before — we send for him, assured that he will speak to us the words of God and guide us into the haven where we would be.(5) The authority. Who is this man? He is a prisoner, of a despised race, of an outlawed sect. What is he that he should speak with authority? Yet no sooner does danger threaten than he is a man of authority. And strange to say, they listen. There is now no high priest to say to them that stand by, "Smite him on the mouth." Euroclydon and Boreas have stopped that. He stands forth now, before sailors and soldiers, face to face with Nature and with Nature's God. The day of God's judgment is the day also (even in this life) of the manifestation and the recognition of the sons of God.(6) The love. This man, if he were a natural man only, would have been simply depressed and self-contained. Yet Paul makes common cause in everything with the heathen soldiers. He cares for their cheerfulness as well as for their safety. He prescribes for their health, and he counsels for their hopefulness. Surely the love of Christ constrains him!
The Evangelist.It is impossible for a thoughtful and serious mind to contemplate the mighty ocean without being deeply impressed with its grandeur and sublimity. But if we are ourselves exposed to the fury of the conflicting elements, we become doubly sensible to their terror and our own insignificance. We feel an awe that cannot be described.
1. We may have to compassionate those who "do business in great waters." Theirs is a life of great dangers, and familiarity with danger generally produces hardihood and presumption.
2. It is an unspeakable happiness, in times of peril, to possess a refuge and a hope when all human power fails and all hope of mortal succour is gone.
3. How precious are the promises of God in all storms, whether of the ocean or of the mind!
4. Let us adore that gracious Providence which sustained and guided this eminent apostle through so many scenes of peril and times of trial, which kept his heart steadfast in the faith of Christ and fervent in the love of souls, undismayed alike by the fury of the ocean and the ragings of the people.
5. We see what sacrifices men will make to save their natural lives. They cast into the sea the goods and tackling; but yet sinners will not give up their sins nor renounce the world.
6. The whole narrative announces to us the consolation which the gospel of Christ brings to all true believers. He is the Christian's pilot; He guides us through every storm, and can protect amidst all dangers and distresses.
S. S. Times.I. SETTING OUT.
1. The promises of God never fail. Having been told that he shall bear witness at Rome, Paul is in good time — in God's time — transported thither.
2. The faithful spirit shown by Aristarchus is rewarded by a special designation of him by name.
II. STORMY WITHOUT. The storm —
1. Frequently comes when it is least expected. This voyage of Paul's began with a soft breeze and ended with a tempest.
2. Usually finds the world's people unready and God's people prepared. The sailors are surprised by the tempest; Paul knows and has spoken of this very tempest before.
3. Tests the comparative value of our possessions. Shall we cling to our gold and our other treasures and be lost, or throw them overboard and be saved?
4. May wreck us unless we are ready "with our own hands" to throw overboard the unnecessary burdens. Even God cannot save the soul that will not voluntarily part with its sins. We must cast away or be cast away.
5. May drive us before it for a time. God does not promise us uninterruptedly smooth sailing. He does not promise a voyage continually in the direction we should choose. All He does promise is that if we do our best we shall reach the right haven at last.
6. Causes discomfort to the believing Paul as well as to the unbelieving among the ship's crew. Spiritual safety does not secure us from present bodily pain, but it makes us despise it for its practical harmlessness.
7. May blot out the light of material sun and stars, but there is one star which is never dimmed. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."
III. CALM WITHIN.
1. If the world would listen to the words of God's children warning of the nearness of danger, many an "injury and loss" even worse than this would be avoided.
2. If there is any loss, it will only be a financial and temporal and comparatively insignificant one to those who commit themselves fully to God's keeping.
3. If we as Christians lose anything in the storms of this world, it can at worst be nothing more than the loss of the ship in which we sail, the body in which we dwell. Our souls will be saved into God's presence.
4. If we are ever so much adrift, God can still find us. Says Matthew Henry: "Paul knows not where he is himself, yet God's angel knows where to find him out."
5. If God has promised that we shall in the body stand before Caesar, we need not fear the blows of the tempest. We are immortal until that promise of God is fulfilled.
6. If there is a praying Paul on board, the fact may be worth more to the ship's crew than all their labour at the pumps. Jonah, running away from duty, endangers the ship and its crew; Paul, pursuing the course of duty, is a saving companion to the ship's crew.
7. If we believe God, we shall have little to dread even in such storms as this which shipwrecked Paul. We shall believe that God will bring us through just as He has promised. "Is not God upon the ocean, just the same as on the land?"
(S. S. Times.)
I. THE EXPOSURE OF GOOD AND BAD ALIKE TO STORMS AND PERILS.
1. In this ship's company there were, besides Paul and Luke and Aristarchus, criminals and the centurion, with his morally mixed band of soldiers. Paul was not permitted to choose his companions, nor are we. The wheat and the tares grow together.
2. In this instance the first day's sailing was unhindered. But then the winds began to be "contrary," and their course grew "dangerous." Then came a little season of "soft south wind." But close upon this they were struck by a hurricane which rendered the ship uncontrollable.
3. Here was rough experience. But it was not peculiar. Lands, too, have their cyclones. Ships are wrecked and towns are laid waste notwithstanding the wisdom of the wise; and these are but examples of ills in numerous forms — ills which oftentimes are nearest when we fancy we are safest (vers. 13, 14). How stealthy the tread of the pestilence! How swift the stroke of the lightning!
4. Nor yet are outward assaults the worst to which we are exposed. There are foes and perils which assail the soul.
5. Is God, then, careless of our well-being? This we cannot believe. Certain it is that all these dark things have their side of light; and doubtless in due time this will appear.
II. THE EFFORTS AND SACRIFICES MEN WILLINGLY MAKE TO ESCAPE OUTWARD ILLS.
1. Struck by the "tempestuous wind," the first thing the seamen did was to secure the boat, by means of which some might be saved if worse came to worst. Then they "used helps, ungirding the ship"; next they "lightened the ship"; and, last of all, they cast out such gear and furniture as could be moved. All their wealth and means of comfort they willingly "counted but loss." So much will men do to save the bodily life. Nor are they unwise; for what material good is there for which one could afford to exchange his life?
2. But these same men have an eternal life exposed to ruin. Sin, unresisted, works its destruction. What shall we say, then, of the unwillingness of so many to make efforts by which it may be saved?
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S ADVANTAGE IN TIMES OF PERIL AND ILL.
1. The seeker after spiritual salvation surely finds. Not so always with lower good. This is given or withholden as seems best. Despite their efforts the seamen had not ensured their safety. "Hope was taken away."
2. And yet in this company of "famishing wretches in a fast-sinking ship" there was at least one who appeared calm and trustful. Not that Paul was without natural timidity. The assuring words, "Fear not!" indicate the contrary. The bravest soldier has his first moments of tremor. The Christian is still human. And yet how calmly the apostle now stands forth! What was the secret of this courage? Wherein, at such times, is the Christian's advantage? In that he is in friendly relations with God, knows how to find Him, and can trustfully commit his whole case and being to Him.
3. There are two sentences to be noted — "Whose I am, and whom I serve," and "I believe God." Paul belonged to God by a personal consecration; and he had come to put implicit confidence in God's word. He was not his own, and he trusted Him whom he served. If you try to be a Christian, and still to own yourself, or believe only what your reason can find out for itself, God will seem to be afar off. But try the other way, and then you shall say, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee!"
4. Moreover, God often bestows on such the very things they ask (ver. 24; cf. Romans 1:15).
IV. THE GOOD WHICH, AT SUCH TIMES, MAY COME FROM ASSOCIATION WITH CHRISTIANS.
1. The message the angel bore to Paul related not only to himself, but to his companions, for whom doubtless he had prayed. And so every man was to be saved just because of Paul's presence. This is no solitary instance. Ten righteous men saved Sodom. Moses and Samuel often came between Israel and judgment. It was out of regard for a faithful remnant that God bore with His people. So now, the good of a land are its best defence. Two or three godly families will make a community better to live in. Cheerfully, then, support Christian institutions. And yet association with Christians will never spiritually save; for this one must have pardon, and this Jesus only can give. Make Him, then, your companion. That will not secure exemption from storms, but it will secure a safe arrival in port.
(H. M. Grant, D. D.)I. PAUL A PRISONER, YET THE CHIEF FIGURE. The ship is a prison. "Paul and certain other prisoners." When was Paul ever hidden in the crowd? He is still the chief figure. Here is sovereignty strangely shaded by humiliation. He was one of the herd; he was head of the mob; he was the accent of the anonymous. A singular thing is this admixture of the great and the small. We belong to one another, and are advanced by one another, and are kept back by one another; and a most singular and educative process of restraint and modification is continually proceeding amongst us.
II. PAUL "COURTEOUSLY ENTREATED" (ver. 3). How is it that Paul always stood well with men of the world? There is a kind of natural kinship amongst gentlemen. How do we pick out one man from another and say, as if ringing him on the world's counter, "That is good gold," or "That is counterfeit silver"? Why run down what are called "men of the world"? They are so often the kings of men. Do not attempt to shake them off as an inferior race. What would they be if they were in the spirit of Christ! They would make the Church warm; they would turn it into a hospitable home; they would breathe a southwest wind through our ill-ventilated souls. Oh! pray for them!
III. PAUL STILL INSPIRING CONFIDENCE. His look and tone were his letter of recommendation. There are some men who might have a whole library of testimonials, and you would not believe a word they said; there are other men who need no endorsement. Paul inspiring confidence is Paul preaching in silence.
IV. PAUL AMONG HIS FRIENDS, STILL AN OBJECT OF AFFECTIONATE INTEREST (ver. 3). Literally they rigged him out again, clothed him. Paul had been having a rough time of it, and now his friends saw, as only friends can, that Paul would be none the worse for a new coat. There are many persons who live so very high above the cloud line that they can take no notice of matters of such petty detail. But without saying a word to him they got all things ready, and the clothes were laid there as if they had been laid there by Paul himself and he had forgotten to put them on before. There is a way of doing things — a delicacy infinite as love.
V. PAUL PROFITED BY DELAY. Thank God for delays. We should think much of the providence of postponement. Why not let God keep the time bill? This was exactly what Paul needed, and Paul was permitted to enjoy it by the providence of God — a good tossing on the water, a new kind of exercise, an abundance of fresh air. God giveth His beloved sleep; God giveth His beloved rest by keeping the ship at sea a long, long time. We do not like delay; that is because we are little and weak and unwise. You cannot get some men to sit down; they do not know how they are exciting and annoying other people. They call it energy, activity. It is the Lord's delight to teach us that the universe can get along without the aid of the very biggest man that is in it.
VI. PAUL PROVING HIS VALUE IN SECULAR AFFAIRS (ver. 10). What right had Paul to speak? The eternal right. Under ordinary circumstances the landsman has no right to speak on board ship. That is momentary etiquette or discipline; but there are eternal rights, and there come times when all human discipline is suspended and man must speak as man. There are occasions upon which a landsman speaking on board ship would be snubbed by the sailors; there are other times when the sailors would be thankful for any landsman to speak if he could utter one word of rational hope. These are the times the Christian is waiting for. For the Christian to speak when the ship is going merrily over the blue waves, would be impertinence; but the Christian waits. The ship comes into difficulty, the sailors begin to look despairingly at the whole situation. Now if any of you can say a word of comfort, do say it. Be wise, and do not speak before the time, or your words will be like good seed sown upon the fickle and noisy wind. The clock will strike for you; be ready when the hour beats. The word will keep, and when it is spoken after long delay it will come with the more penetrating emphasis. But Paul was disbelieved. Certainly; because the circumstances were not quite mature. But the religious man turned out to be right, as he must always turn out to be. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." All inspired history shows that the first communications were made to the piety of the day, to the prayer of the time.
(J. Parker, D. D.)I. THE GOOD AS WELL AS THE EVIL CANNOT PASS THROUGH THIS WORLD WITHOUT ENDURING MUCH TRIBULATION. We see on board a world in miniature. Stern law is represented by Julius the centurion, navigation by the captain, commerce by the merchants, labour by the sailors, the army by the stern-faced soldiers, science by Luke, literature by Paul, and law breaking by the prisoners. On board were all sorts and conditions of men. But there arose against them all the wave-stirring east wind, now called the "Levanter."
1. Mark the impartiality of that tempest. They were all caught in it. Fire will burn the saint as well as the sinner; water will drown the missionary as well as the pirate; poison will kill an apostle as well as an apostate. The elements know no partisanship, unless these be a Divine interposition. We have found out long ere this that affliction is no respecter of persons. Even the best of men lose the stars for many days; and in their tribulation they strike the sail, cast out the wheat, and send for the doctor to "undergird" the ship. Sorrow will enter every home at some time or other; and this is a wise provision, for there is nothing like it to keep the heart tender and sympathetic. Mercies that are pain born are frequently the most precious.
2. Paul in an Euroclydon! — all this is mysterious; but we have full confidence that it is wisely ordained, for to the godly storms are soul strengtheners.
3. The storm may last "many days"; but the saint will always meet with an angel when the waves are highest. He may lose sight of the natural sun and stars for many days; but he never loses sight of the Divine Sun, and, through the blackest night, the Star of Bethlehem.
4. The good and evil in the same storm; but what a difference between them! Paul had the angel of good cheer at his side, but the godless voyagers had no helper.
5. Paul publicly gave thanks to God "for the bread." How keen was his spiritual insight! He felt that the bread and the storm came from the same hand. Let us learn this profound lesson. The bread and the storm, the joy and the sorrow, the day and the night, come from the same Divine source. Think not so much of the storm as to forget the bread.
II. THE FOOLISH WORLD IS ALWAYS PRONE TO REJECT THE SAGE ADVICE OF THE MAN OF GOD.
1. Paul advised them to steer the ship into the Fair Havens and winter there; but the centurion believed the master and owner, and the majority went with them. Paul saw the perils ahead, perhaps by prophetic foresight or by the prognosticating instinct. Anyhow, Paul's words proved true to the letter. Yes, the majority were against the man of God in that first century. "What does a dry landsman like him know about the navigation of the Adriatic? Let him stick to that new gospel of his, and abstain from all things nautical!"
2. Is it not in the nineteenth century as it was in the first? The courageous truth speaker is still the despised and rejected of men. Souls steeped in carnality will not abide in the Fair Havens of piety and purity and love; they will make for some Phenice of their own choosing. We who stand in these pulpits are continually thundering out the warnings, "The wages of sin is death," "The way of transgressors is hard," "Be wise, and winter in the Fair Haven of the gospel of Christ"! But thousands despise the warnings. There are some who say, "Preachers should strictly confine themselves to theology. Parsons, who know nothing of the ins-and-outs of London business life, should not dictate to business men what they must do and how they must do it." Yet Paul, the landsman, may give advice that even practised seamen would do well to follow.
III. THE MOCKING WORLD ALWAYS DISCOVERS TO ITS COST THAT IT IS DANGEROUS TO IGNORE THE WARNINGS OF GOD-FEARING MEN. Their ship left the Fair Havens, and it is quite probable that they said, "How this south wind gives the lie to Paul's prognostications!" But in due time the Euroclydon rushed forth to prove that Paul was right. Better be in the humblest minority with the right than in the most aristocratic majority with the wrong. Do not allow the south wind to lead you to rash conclusions. Tell the young man that there is danger in dallying with his first temptations, and he will point you to the gentle south wind; but he may yet live to find that Paul is right, and to gladly place the helm in his hand. On a death bed you may send for the minister whose sermons you have laughed at.
IV. GOD HONOURS HIS FAITHFUL SERVANTS BY COMMUNICATING WITH THE WORLD THROUGH THEIR INSTRUMENTALITY.
1. If Caesar had a message to the crew, he would have spoken through the centurion; if the Board of Trade of that day, through the captain; if the Chamber of Commerce of that time, through the merchants; but when the Royal Court of Heaven had a message to the trembling souls on board, it spoke through Paul. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." "Them that honour Me I will honour." If you wish to be God's ambassador you must be God's child, for His rule is not to employ aliens. "Whose I am, and whom I serve." What noble self-obliviousness in these words! He was not his own; and if we felt this Divine ownership more, there would be infinitely greater sacrifice infused into our service.
2. Paul became, in a secondary sense, the saviour of the two hundred and seventy-five souls on board. Who can estimate the national and civic value of a good man? He is the salt that preserves society from total corruption. Turn all the good men out of the world, and Dante's "Inferno" will not be a thing of fancy, but of fact. Take all the saints out of London, and it will become a Sodom, fit only for the flames. The religious element in English society is its best safeguard. A God-fearing democracy no power on earth can overthrow.
V. THE SUBLIME CALMNESS OF THE GOOD MAN IN THE FACE OF DANGER. There is no revealer of character like a tempest. The storm revealed the cowardice and hypocrisy and selfishness of these seamen; but the same storm revealed the moral grandeur of Paul. A landsman calm in a sea-storm, and all the crew trembling like the aspen! His robust faith was the secret of his courage (ver. 25). His calm assurance pacified the panic-stricken crew (ver. 36). The good man is not the slave but the master of circumstances.
VI. NO STORMS CAN PREVENT THE SUCCESSFUL ISSUE OF THE PURPOSES OF HEAVEN. God's "must" is mightier than all the storms of the centuries, even if gathered into one. In a very short time his magic words penetrated the royal palace, and several members of Caesar's household were converted. The universal dissemination of the, gospel is somewhat unlikely, and yet we believe in its possibility, for God's "must" will vanquish the Euroclydons. Rome must be reached! Our voyage to heaven has its innumerable perils. The reefs are deceptive, the currents are dangerous, and the haven is easily missed; but be of good cheer, for "there shall be no loss of any man's life."
(J. Ossian Davies.)I. "MAN PROPOSES, BUT GOD DISPOSES." The determination that Paul should sail to Italy was, on the human side, the result of Paul's purpose to disappoint the murderous treachery of the Jews, but above this was God's purpose — that the gospel should be more fully preached, not only in Rome, but in all the empire.
II. The fair weather and the softly blowing south wind allured the navigators from their safe but not sufficiently commodious harbour in the hope of finding a better one; and SO MEN, DISSATISFIED WITH THEIR MODERATE COMPETENCE, STRIKE OUT FOR WEALTH OR HONOURS, SO RISKING AND OFTEN LOSING THE SUFFICIENCY ALREADY POSSESSED. In times of prosperity they assure themselves that "tomorrow will be as this day, and more abundant," presumptuously boasting of what they know not. In the heyday of hopefulness youth is deaf to the voice of wisdom, madly trusting that for them the skies will always be bright and the winds continue to blow gently. But man's experience of the uncertainty of the most hopeful prospects has made the gentle winds and the smiling sea proverbs of treachery.
III. Very reluctantly, and only after three days of buffeting, the men consented to "lighten the ship." Thus, IN TIMES OF SEVERE TRIALS, OUR TREASURES OFTEN BECOME OUR BURDENS; and he only is wise who, to save his soul, consents to give up all else. But how carefully is this done, lest the sacrifice should be greater than is necessary! At first the less valuable parts of the cargo are cast out; but another day's perils made them willing even to dismantle the ship and cast out the furniture. So will men do in order to save their lives; but who will make such sacrifices for the saving of their souls? A striking illustration is given in the flight of Cortez from Mexico, when the Aztecs compelled the invaders to flee. Each man was allowed to take what he would, but their commander warned them, saying, "He travels safest in the dark night who travels lightest." The experience of the conflict that ensued demonstrated the wisdom of the advice and the folly of those who failed to heed it, for all such became an easy prey to the lances of the Aztecs. Because men will trust in outward things so long as they have them, it is often a great mercy when God takes them away.
IV. BECAUSE THE LESSONS OF PROVIDENCE ARE NOT LEARNED AT ONCE, THE TIMES OF DARKNESS AND DISMAY ARE CONTINUED. "Neither sun nor stars in many days appeared." And in such extremities men learn the folly of their self-confidence, and are the more ready to listen to instruction. "Before I was afflicted I went astray," says the Psalmist, "but now [since I have been afflicted] have I kept Thy word."
V. Until that dark night of the utter failure of hope except from God the apostle spoke only as a man — a wise and judicious counsellor; but now he spoke to them as from the mouth of God, and they could not gainsay his words. And SO GOD IS ACCUSTOMED TO REVEAL HIMSELF WITH GREATEST CLEARNESS AND IN THE RICHEST CONSOLATIONS AMONG THE DARKEST AND SEVEREST TEMPTATIONS. And even then the assurance of deliverance often reveals also the taking away of all earthly dependences. Though Paul was assured that he and his fellow voyagers would be saved alive, yet he was also shown that they must suffer shipwreck.
VI. Paul and the mariners and soldiers were exposed to the same perils; and by virtue of this forced association deliverance came to the latter. And AS IN THEIR DOMESTIC AND SOCIAL RELATIONS UNBELIEVERS ARE SOMETIMES CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH GOD'S PEOPLE, SO THEY ARE OFTEN DELIVERED IN TIMES OF CALAMITY. And as we are all fellow voyagers through life, and God has made every man his brother's keeper, so has He made it the duty of each by prayer and exhortation, and by all other available means, to seek the salvation of all men. The saved and rescued ship's company were given to Paul.
(D. Curry, D. D.)
1. Prudent foresight in the uncertainty of earthly things (vers. 9, 10).
2. Brotherly union in the time of need (vers. 21, 24, 30).
3. Prompt renunciation of the possessions of this world (vers. 18, 19, 38).
4. Courageous trust in God in the storms of temptation (vers. 22-25).
5. Grateful use of the Divine means of grace (vers. 34-36).
6. Hopeful regard toward the heavenly land of rest (vers. 44).
I. IN THE NAVIES OF THE WORLD THERE ARE YACHTS FOR PLEASURE AND MERCHANTMEN FOR BUSINESS. So there are mere pleasure seekers and those who have serious work on hand. But while sailing to and fro for mere pleasure may be well enough for a yacht, it is a miserable thing for a man. Many a busy man is in reality a pleasure seeker; for he works only because he must, and as soon as the bow of forced labour is unbent he seeks pleasure. Even a coal scow is of more real utility in life than a yacht.
II. EVERY SHIP HAS A CARGO. Paul's ship had, and part of it they had to throw overboard to save the ship. So every man carries a cargo. A cargo of what? Many a young man has a full lading of sceptical opinions. These may seem harmless while all goes serenely in life. But as soon as the stress of weather comes, he may find that his beliefs are sinking him. He had better heave them overboard, then, as fast as he can. No ship would like to carry a cargo of nitroglycerine. But infidel faiths are just as dangerous.
III. EVERY SHIP HAS A CAPTAIN. Some captains are good and some bad. The drunken captain who ran that steamer ashore and lost five hundred souls was a bad one. No one likes to sail with a captain who has wrecked two or three ships. Jesus is the Captain of salvation, Satan of damnation. Either Jesus or Satan is master of every human soul sailing the ocean of life. The one always saves, the other always wrecks. Who is yours?
IV. SOONER OR LATER EVERY SHIP MUST ENCOUNTER STORMS. A ship built only for fine weather is not seaworthy. The Christian as well as the unbeliever must be ready for bad weather. There are December as well as June voyages to be made. Forewarned is forearmed; and he who calculates on and prepares for storms will not be overthrown. For a ship to sail into the teeth of a storm without captain or compass or ballast is folly. So for the human voyager it is no less folly to go forward to meet temptation and ridicule and affliction without due preparation.
V. EVERY SHIP GOES INTO THE DOORS ONCE IN A WHILE TO REPAIR DAMAGES. So, too, it is good for the soul to go into the dock of private examination and prayer. Prayer and meditation and the study of God's Word repair many damages which the storms of life inflict. From such hours the soul goes forth refreshed, and rejoices like a strong man to run a race.
VI. A SHIP IN THE WATER IS GOOD, BUT WATER IN THE SHIP IS BAD. To journey through this world is the Christian's duty. But to have one's heart filled with the world is to founder in mid-ocean. There are thousands of water-logged Christians. They make no headway, for the worldliness they carry weighs them down too heavily.
VII. SOME SHIPS SAIL MORE SLOWLY THAN OTHERS. Often the cause is that their bottoms are covered with barnacles. These are out of sight, but they impede the ship's progress. So some Christians grow in grace more slowly than others. The reason may always be found in the fact that spiritual barnacles are retarding them — lack of private prayer, neglect of the Bible, non-attendance at church, profane language, foul stories. When a ship's bottom is thus fouled, the only remedy is to scrape off the unwelcome intruders. So, if a Christian is to make progress, he must cut off the evil thing, and, laying aside every weight, push forward.
VIII. EVERY SHIP NEEDS A COMPASS. So every human voyager needs the Word of God, given on purpose to direct his pathway across the trackless ocean of life. Guesswork is bad work on the ocean, and worse work on the ocean of life.
IX. EVERY SHIP MAKES A LAST VOYAGE. It may be the last voyage ends in shipwreck; it may be it ends in a safe port, from which the good ship sails forth no more. So every human soul makes his last trip. What will yours end in?
(A. F. Shauffler.)I. WE HAVE A GREAT VARIETY IN OUR CONTEMPORARIES. On board this vessel were souls of a very mixed character. Almost all the social forces of an age are in that vessel. There is labour represented in the sailors, war in the soldiers, commerce in the merchants, law in the men who hold the prisoners in custody, literature and science in Luke, religion in Paul and his companions. In the voyage of life we are thrown like Paul amongst numerous contemporaries, but there are only a few Lukes or Aristarchuses with whom we can have much intercourse. This suggests —
1. A characteristic of human nature distinguished from all other terrestrial life. Natural history shows that there is a perfect correspondence in taste, impulse, and habit, among all the members of any species of non-rational life. Not so with man. Each individual has the power of striking out an orbit for himself different from that in which anyone had ever moved before or will ever move again. All modes of life are possible to man. He can transmigrate into the grub, the seraph, or the fiend, into a beast like Nebuchadnezzar, a devil like Herod, or an apostle like Paul.
2. That mankind are not now in their original condition. To use the power to form different modes and spheres inconsistently with the royal law of benevolence is the essence of sin and the source of ruin. It can never be that God intended our moral energy to create such a variety of tastes, tendencies, and aims as to render social intercourse and harmony impossible. All souls should have a common centre, and in all their social radiations, should harmoniously combine.
3. The probability of a future social classification. Will such men as Paul, Luke, Aristarchus, be doomed forever to live with mercenary merchants, besotted seamen, and bloody soldiers? Are the Herods to continue kings, and the Johns prisoners? Are the Jeffreys to be on the bench and the Baxters at the bar forever? Man's deepest intuitions, the prayers of the good, and the Bible say it shall not be. The tares and the wheat will one day be separated. We are only mixed while on board this earth ship: as soon as we touch the shore we separate on the principles of moral character and spiritual affinities.
II. THE SEVEREST TRIALS ARE COMMON TO ALL. The one trial common to all on board that barque was the danger of losing life (ver. 20). They tried every expedient, but all failed; the lamp of hope for a time went out. Danger of life is universally felt to be the severest of trials. And to this all are exposed in a thousand different ways, and all must one day, like Paul and his companions, feel "all hope" of being saved from death taken away. For a short time, in healthy youth and vigorous manhood, you may flow on propitiously like this vessel in the first stage of its voyage, when "the south wind blew softly"; but farther on the sea will marshal its billows against thee; the sun will set, the moon go down, and every star disappear, and thou shall feel thyself only as a bubble on the breakers. The scene suggests that common trims —
1. Develop different dispositions. How different were the feelings of Paul from the others. Even the brave sailors were at their wits' end; they sought "to flee out of the ship." The soldiers, too, displayed their base and heartless selfishness, for they proposed to "kill the prisoners." But none of these things moved Paul. His every word shows an unfaltering faith in Him to whom he had committed himself. His bearing, too, was calm and hope inspiring. His great nature was taken up with the sufferings of his companions (vers. 33, 34). Trials test our principles as fire tries the minerals.
2. Show the indifference of nature to social distinctions. The centurion, his subordinates, Christians and heathens, were all treated alike. Old ocean cares no more for the boats with which Xerxes bridged the Hellespont than for any worthless log of timber. It heeds no more the voice of Canute than the cries of a babe. "Napoleon," says a modern author, "was once made to feel his littleness in a storm at sea off Boulogne. His mighty fleet lay before him. Wishing to review it, he desired Admiral Bruyes to change the position of the ships. Foreseeing that a storm was gathering the admiral respectfully declined. But Napoleon, in a rage, peremptorily demanded obedience. Vice-Admiral Magon obeyed the order. The threatened storm burst. Several sloops were wrecked, and above two hundred poor soldiers and sailors were plunged in the raging waves. The Emperor instantly ordered the boats out to the rescue. He was told, 'No boat could live in such a sea.' He then ordered a company of his grenadiers to man the boats, and as he sprang in, exclaimed, 'Follow me, my brave fellows!' They had scarcely entered the boat, before a huge wave dashed over the emperor. 'Onward! onward!' he cried; but the daring effort was vain; progress in such a sea was impossible. 'Push on! push on!' cried Napoleon; 'do you not hear those cries? Oh, this sea! this sea! it rebels against our power, but it may be conquered!' At this moment a mighty billow struck the boat with tremendous force, and drove it back, quivering, to the shore. It seemed as though this were the ocean's answer; or rather the answer of the God of the ocean, to the proud monarch's boast! Napoleon was cast ashore by the spurning billows of the stormy sea, like a drifting fragment of dripping seaweed." Nature's indifference, however, to mere secular distinction is not so strange as her want of respect to the moral. Nature treats apostles and apostates alike. Our character and moral position are not to be estimated by nature's aspect towards us. "The tower of Siloam" may fall on the good as well as on the bad; children may be "born blind" of righteous parents as well as of wicked. The ground of wicked men may bring forth plenteously, while the soil of the good man be struck with barrenness. "All things come alike to all," etc. She has her own system of laws; he who attends to them most loyally shall enjoy most of her bounties. In this respect she is an emblem of the moral system. Both are impartial. Both treat their subjects according to their conduct towards them, not according to their conduct towards anything else.
III. SPECIAL COMMUNICATIONS FROM GOD ARE MERCIFULLY VOUCHSAFED (vers. 24, 25). God knew the dire perils to which Paul was exposed, and interposed. He knows our difficulties and dangers on our voyage to eternity, and makes the necessary communications for our relief. Note some points of resemblance. The Divine communication to the men on board this vessel.
1. Came through the best of the men. Not through one of the merchants, or the centurion, but through Paul, the prisoner. But notwithstanding his secular abjectness, he was a good man. God has ever spoken to the world through the best man. It matters not how poor they are if good. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him," and He will show them His covenant. The Bible consists of communications from God through holy men, "who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
2. Were the final and effective means of meeting the emergency. Maritime genius and energy were all in vain, and just when in a hopeless state the communication came (ver. 20). And so it was after human reason had tried every effort to guide the soul into the haven of peace that Christ came.
3. Their efficacy depended upon a practical attention to the directions (vers. 22-31). The lesson is that every promise should be regarded as conditional, unless a most unequivocal assurance is given to the contrary. But what reason had Paul to regard this promise as conditional? There was no if in it. His instincts, experience, observation, and all analogy, satisfied him that Divine ends are always reached by means. God's promises afford no pretext for carelessness. Has God promised knowledge? It implies study. Has He promised salvation? It implies faith in Christ.
IV. ONE MORALLY GREAT MAN HOWEVER POOR, IS OF IMMENSE SERVICE TO HIS CONTEMPORARIES. Note —
1. The characteristics of a truly great man as illustrated in Paul's history on board the vessel.(1) Forecast. At the very outset he had a presentiment of the danger which awaited them (ver. 10). Intense sympathy with a man's principles and aims will enable me to foresee much of his future conduct. Godliness, the soul of all moral greatness, is this sympathy. This sympathy with God is the prophetic eye. Give me this, and, like Isaiah, in some humble measure, I shall foretell the ages. This sympathy is a new eye to the soul. Because of this Paul saw what the captain could not. His heart was in such a contact with that Spirit which controls the winds and the waves that he felt that something terrible was about to transpire. Never let us disregard the warnings of a great and godly man.(2) Magnanimous calmness (ver. 36). Trust in God was the philosophy of his —(3) Self-obliviousness. Whilst all others were struggling for themselves, he seemed only concerned for them.(4) Religiousness. This explains his greatness. He saw God in the tempest and in the bread. He bowed in resignation to the one — he thanked Him for the other.
2. The service which he rendered —(1) Was both direct and indirect. The spirit of confidence which he breathed, the efforts he put forth, the directions he gave, were all direct. Then the indirect service was great. For the sake of Paul the prisoners were not killed (ver. 43). At the great day it will be found that many an obscure saint has conferred far greater service than those generals, statesmen, poets, and sages who have won the acclamations of posterity. The world has yet to learn who are its true benefactors.(2) Was appreciated as trials increased. In the first stage of the voyage, when "the south winds blew softly," Paul was nothing. When he uttered his warning he was treated with indifference, but he became the moral commander during the tempest. How often do the world's great men on, death beds, seek the attendance, sympathies, counsel, and prayers of those godly ones whom they despised in health!
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. THE SETTING OUT.
1. The various changes of surrounding objects (vers. 1, 2, 4-8).
2. The friendships (ver. 3).
3. The first clouds (vers. 9-15).
II. FEAR AND HOPE.
1. The fear of unbelief (vers. 16-20).
2. The confidence of faith (vers. 21-26).
III. THE CONTEST WITH ADVERSITIES.
1. Trouble discloses hearts (vers. 27-32).
2. Trouble leads to God (vers. 33-38).
IV. THE HAVEN OF REST.
1. The shipwreck and billows of death (vers. 39-43).
2. The rescue and landing in an unknown country.
(Lisco.)I. ITS DANGERS.
1. Contrary winds (vers. 4, 14).
2. Foolish guides (vers. 11, 12).
3. Superfluous possessions (vers. 18, 19).
4. Disunited associates (vers. 30, 42).
5. Concealed rocks (vers. 39, 41).
II. ITS MEANS OF HELP.
1. The testimony of pious teachers (vers. 9, 21).
2. The prophecies of the Divine Word (vers. 23, 24).
3. The comforts of the holy sacraments (ver. 35).
4. The blessing of believing prayer (ver. 35).
5. The rescuing hand of Almighty God (vers. 24, 34, 44).
I. HAVE TRUE AND FALSE COUNSELLORS. Paul here stands for the true (ver. 10). "The master and the owner of the ship" stand for the false (ver. 11). Thus there are ever counsellors; some pointing to the right path, and some to the wrong; some the apostles of God, and some the emissaries of hell. This fact urges on each —
1. The necessity of an independent inquiry into the question of duty. Let each use his own judgment. "Try the spirits," etc.
2. The necessity of Divine guidance in the question of duty. "Guide me by Thy counsel," etc.
II. ARE EVER DISPOSED TO FOLLOW THE FALSE RATHER THAN THE TRUE. The greater portion on board rejected the counsels of Paul, and followed those of the master and the owner. It may be that some of them considered it a piece of impertinence on Paul, a landsman, to give nautical advice. Men follow the false because it is —
1. More congenial.
III. FIND THAT THE FALSE OFTEN APPEARS AT FIRST TO BE THE BETTER COURSE. When the vessel, contrary to the advice of Paul moved off from the Fair Havens, things looked propitious. Perhaps under the bright sky, and before favourable winds, many on board laughed at Paul on the first day. So it is; a false course frequently appears at first desirable. There are periods in our sinful life when the south winds blow softly.
IV. DISCOVER THAT THE FALSE ULTIMATELY CONDUCTS TO THE MOST TERRIBLE DISASTERS. The soft south wind gives way to the Euroclydon, which hurls the bark into the utmost distress. And then comes the period when all hope that they should be saved was taken away. Two circumstances greatly aggravated the ship's distress.
1. The darkness. No sun or stars for many days appeared, not an unusual circumstance during a Levanter.
2. Hunger. The want of food led to the pain of exhaustion and the bitter gnawing of hunger. This is what following the false leads to. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
They delivered Paul, and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band.
4. Paul was brought in contact with five centurions.(1) The officer who, on learning that he was a Roman citizen, countermanded the scourging (Acts 21:32).(2) The centurion whom Paul requested to take his nephew to the commanding officer (Acts 23:17).(3) The two whom Lysias sent in command of the escort (Acts 23:23), about whom we know nothing except that they discharged their duty promptly and methodically.(4) Julius, who now deserves careful attention. The specifying of the corps to which he belongs singles him out at once as an officer of rank. He held a commission in the molt distinguished part of the army; that which was most closely connected with the emperor and his court. There are several places where he is mentioned, and most teach us something concerning his character.
I. (Ver. 3). "He courteously entreated Paul," etc. The fact that he was a heathen enhances the favourable impression produced by his courtesy and kindness. Whether this arose from natural disposition, or from some influence which Paul had gained over him from what he may have observed and heard, we cannot tell. Notice that it was not mere permission that he gave, which would have been something, considering that he had no guarantee that Paul would return, and implies a large and rapid growth of good feeling. But there was a remarkable display of consideration in the manner in which it was done. Then let all that is implied in two expressions be considered. Paul must have needed refreshment for his health and spirits. He was of delicate constitution, and had undergone great trials. And of all refreshment the most acceptable Would be the society of Christian friends.
II. At Myra (ver. 5) Julius and his prisoners changed ships and set out again in a gale which drove them to the Fair Havens of Crete (ver. 8), where they stayed for a time, and were recommended by Paul to stay longer. But the centurion preferred the counsel of the master and the owner of the ship, and naturally. The one had experience of the sea, the other the best possible reasons for consulting the ship's safety, and besides were in the majority. Prom a worldly point of view, therefore, Julius deserves credit for his good sense. But Paul was right, and Julius wrong, as events proved, and this was one of the circumstances which gradually raised Paul to a position of commanding influence. And it is worthy of note that Julius took no offence at Paul's honest opposition.
III. The centurion is next mentioned when the ship was at anchor, but in danger of going on to the rocks (ver. 29). The sailors, consulting their own safety, were for lowering the boat. Paul saw the peril, but acted with consummate judgment. He said nothing to the sailors, but spoke at once to the centurion, who had now implicit confidence in the apostle, and dealt with the matter promptly. Thus the sailors were kept on board to do what they only could do, and thus the lives of nearly three hundred were saved through the good understanding established between the heathen and the Christian.
IV. When daylight came this friendly feeling led in a still more remarkable way to similar results. Lest the prisoners should escape in the break up of the vessel the soldiers suggested their execution inasmuch as they were answerable with their lives for the prisoners. They forgot, however, they owed their own lives to Paul. And now, in this imminent danger, comes out the peculiar feeling of Julius towards him (vers. 42, 43). Had Paul not been of the party, and had Julius been of a different disposition, the prisoners would have been killed. That they were all saved was due to the friendship between the two.
V. The last mention of the centurion is in Rome (Acts 28:16). His duty was done, and he proceeds to obey whatever new orders were laid upon him. Conclusion:
1. It is probable that Paul, Felix, and Julius were for some time in Rome together, but not very likely that they ever met again. A large city is like a large forest, where different paths may be pursued again and again without any chance of meeting. Each man in such a city, however, has his own history and carries with him the results of his past experience and opportunities. Felix was what he became after his procrastination; and Julius what he became after close companionship with Paul. Whether this ripened into Christianity or not we do not know.
2. We have followed the biographical thread with little mention of religion. There is no mention of Christ in all this long chapter. The duty of an expositor, however, is to deal fairly with the sacred volume, feeling assured that there is some Christian lesson even where Christ is not named. And it is instructive to find such variety of teaching as we go through Scripture. In these later chapters we have two of the early points of contact between Christianity and heathenism. In the one case there is reference to the salvation of the soul, in the other the incidents of friendly intercourse as regards affairs of the world. In the one we have advice to the unconverted, in the other advice to the converted about the duty and advantages of courtesy, and the force of the example is increased by the fact that Julius was a heathen. Parallel cases are when our Lord singles out Samaritans as examples of benevolence and gratitude. For the importance that the New Testament attaches to courtesy (see Matthew 5:5, 7, 9, 41; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3-5; Ephesians 4:31, 32; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 3:8). Let it not be said that in the midst of our boasted civilisation the lesson is obsolete. Rudeness is common to and often encouraged in boyhood, and no rank is exempt from it. How it prevails in political and ecclesiastical partisanship!
And Julius courteously entreated Paul
The winds were contrary.
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