And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas…
The Christian looks beyond this world for complete happiness. Yet while here on earth he has something which the world can neither give nor take away. Deprive him of all that which ministers to the happiness of worldly men, and still he is happy. We have a striking example of this in the text. What then can make us happy in any condition, or under any circumstances? We answer — that which made Paul and Silas so happy in the prison at Philippi. The same sources of support and joy are open to every real Christian. Let us, then, examine them.
I. THEIR COMPARATIVE ESTIMATE OF WHAT THEY GAINED, WITH WHAT THEY LOST. It is by such comparisons that we form our estimate of almost every condition in human life. In this world, that is reasonably esteemed an eligible condition in which the good to be enjoyed far outweighs the evil to be endured. What then was the case of these prisoners? Were they in prison — it was not the prison of death. Were they in chains — they still possessed the liberty of the sons of God. Did they endure the pains of the lash — they had peace which passeth all understanding. Had they no hopes from the world — they had the hope of eternal glory. Who that possessed millions would grieve at the loss of a penny? When, therefore, we hear them say, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as having nothing, yet possessing all things," their language is intelligible.
II. THE ASSURANCE THAT THEIR SUFFERINGS WERE THE MEANS OF GREAT GOOD. They regarded suffering not only as inseparably connected with the crown of glory, but as the appointed means of the preparation to wear it. They, therefore, "gloried in tribulation because tribulation worketh patience," etc. They rejoiced in the darkness of the dungeon, because there every Christian grace shone purer and brighter.
III. LOVE TO HIM FOR WHOM THEY SUFFERED. Love is the strongest passion of the human heart. It is delight in the object loved. With what cheerfulness and pleasure does it lead us to act or suffer! As intimately connected with their love to Christ, I ought to mention the great object of these men — the honour of Christ. Ease, pleasure, honour, interest, life were nothing in their view, and Christ was all in all. Conclusion:
1. Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is. Real religion in its nature is a rich source of support and joy in every condition.
2. Religion is as good a thing now as in the days of the apostles. The same sources of enjoyment are open to us as to them. Why then should not religion bless the Christian under the little crosses of this tranquil age, as well as under the terrors which the annals of persecution record? Alas t here is the defect. They have not as much religion as they ought to have and might have.
(N. W. Taylor, 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,