And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas…
I. STRANGE PLACES MAY BE CHANGED INTO CHURCHES. If in many cases desecration has taken place, many surprising instances of consecration have also occurred. We might turn every place into a praying ground. The teaching of this immediate lesson is that distressing, harmful, and threatening circumstances may be turned into ladders up to heaven. What are you doing in your unusual circumstances — moaning, groaning, complaining? Paul and Silas "sang praises." Such men, therefore, never could be in prison. Christians ought never to be in any circumstances which they cannot turn into sacramental occasions.
II. CHRISTIAN WORKERS AND WORSHIPPERS MAY HAVE UNEXPECTED OBSERVERS AND LISTENERS. It is always exactly so.
1. You do not speak without being listened to; you do not go to church without being observed. The preacher speaks to his immediate congregation, but he knows not who is listening in the vestibule. "And the prisoners were listening." They never heard such music before! They had been accustomed to profane language; to violent and complaining exclamations; but here is a new spirit in the house. It is so at home. Passing the room door, we pause a moment to hear some sweet voice in prayer or praise, and it follows the life like a pleading angel.
2. What is true on the one side is true on the other. The unjust judgment you passed was listened to by your children, and they will grow up to repeat your cynicism.
III. IT IS POSSIBLE QUIETLY AND EVEN THANKFULLY, TO ACCEPT ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE. Nothing must interfere with the religious sacrifice. Are we in prison? We may have to alter the hour of worship, but not the worship itself. Are we in an uncongenial atmosphere? We may have to wait until the company has broken up before communion with the Father; but it is only waiting. Show me a Christian who does not complain. Where is the ancient joy? May the old days come again! When they come Christians will accept poverty or wealth, life or death, bleak March or warm June, with thankfulness, saying, "This is the best for me; I live not in circumstance, but in faith."
IV. THIS IS A FULL RELIGIOUS SERVICE. "But there was no preaching," you say. Yes, there was; for we may preach by singing. But, even in a more direct and literal sense, preaching was added to prayer and praise. The earthquake took place, and the jailer, with his house, became a congregation to which Paul and Silas did, in the literal sense of the term, preach. So that night they had a full service — prayer, praise, preaching, and conversion.
V. Look at THIS CONVERSION OF THE JAILER.
1. It took place under circumstances which may well be described as "exciting." Have we not been unjust to what is called "religious excitement"? But are the circumstances to blame, or ourselves? We like quietness — deadness; we do not like to be "excited," because the devil has chloroformed us into a state of insensibility. Jesus Christ did not rebuke the excitement which followed His ministry; when others would have had Him rebuke them, He said, "I tell you that if these held their peace, the very stones would cry out."
2. Happily the incident does not end here. To excitement was added the necessary element of instruction (ver. 32). Tears in the eyes that are not followed by activities in the hand harden the very heart which for the moment they softened. We shall be the worse for every revival that ends in itself. Times of revival must be followed by times of study. We might get up such services as these almost every day in the week. If we prayed and praised in every prison into which our life is thrust, we should be heard by strange listeners, we should be interrogated by strange inquirers, and doors of usefulness would be opened in the very granite which apparently shuts us in.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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,