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for preaching the gospel ; finding that there was no other possibility for him, however innocent, to be delivered out of their hands. Herein, however, he was overruled, and secretly directed by that Providence which ordereth all things, that he might bear testimony to the truth with more freedom, and have the opportunity of delivering it in such a manner, so as to have the greater attention paid to him in that imperial city, the metropolis of the world at that time.
As they were on their voyage, the vessel, in which he sailed with many other prisoners and
passengers, was overtaken by so violent a storm that they were in imminent danger of perishing; when the apostle made this very extraordinary speech of encouragement to them; (ver. 21—26.) - Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer : for there shall be no loss of
man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I
and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar : and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee."
It appears hence, that Paul had been favoured with a divine extraordinary foresight, so as to foretell and warn them of their prebent danger, and that it was in answer to his prayer to God that the crew was saved.
“ Wherefore,” continues he, “take courage; for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit, we must be cast upon a certain island."
Shortly after it follows; “And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying ; This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried, and continued fasting, having taken nothing :” that is, not that they had really tasted nothing for fourteen days, an abstinence which the human frame could not have supported; but during the fourteen days since they had been at sea, and the continuance of the storm, they had never had any set meal, snatching a morsel as they could get it, and as their incessant toiling would suffer them.
This is the meaning of the like strong language in other writings ; and so it is said of John the Baptist," that he came neither eating nor drinking.” (Matth. xi. 18.) Though
all intended by it, was, he was a prophet who led an abstemious retired life.
“ Wherefore I pray you,” concludes he,“ to take some meat; for this is for
your health : for there shall not a hair fall from the head
And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all; and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat."
Such narratives as these of the divine interposition in favour of his servants chosen to execute his great designs, give a solemnity to the sacred history, by which it affects us beyond any other, and attracts our notice; and the more when delivered in so natural a way, and so intermixed with the other common events of life, as leaves no doubt of the truth of the relation.
And the exhibiting in the same way, without design, the zeal and piety of characters like that of Paul, thus drawn out by the occasion, is more instructive and exciting to us than the finest moral precept; whilst, at the same time, we are edified with observing the
dignity and importance which the apostle's dauntless courage and innocence, joined to the extraordinary protection of the divine Being, gave him in the sight of those that were with him, though in the condition of a prisoner, advantages which he would not fail to make use of for the great end for which they were given him, to be serviceable to the utmost of his power to all around him, in bringing them to be acquainted with the one true God, and his purposes of goodness for all his creatures.
The words prefixed to my discourse lead us to make some reflections on that public act of devotion, which he here performed before the whole ship's company, in the name of himself and them all. " And when Paul had spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all; and when he had broken it, he began to eat. they all of good cheer, and they also took
And we were in all, in the ship, two hundred three score and sixteen souls."
And herein I would observe, in the first place, we are reminded of the duty of giving
solemn thanks to Almighty God daily at our meals.
In this the disciple copied after the example of his divine Master.
Of whom we read, that when he fed many thousands in a desert place two several times by a miracle, (Matth. xiv. 19. xv. 36.) he blessed, or gave thanks to God beforehand ; entreating him, probably, for we are not told the words of his prayer, -entreating the Almighty Father to multiply the small provision before them, so as to be a sufficient sustenance for that vast multitude, and beseeching him to inspire them all with thankfulness for that and for all his benefits ; and especially to inake them mindful of that better food from heaven, which he came to deliver to men: his holy doctrines, which would recommend them to the divine favour, and qualify them to live for ever!
We have a similar instance of our Lord's manner at a more private family-meeting, as it were, which shows his constant custom; in what passed between him and the two disciples going to Emmaus, when, as St. Luke tells us ; (xxiv. 30.) “ It came to pass, as he sat at meat