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Paul shipping toward Rome, foretelleth the danger of the voyage, but is not believed: they are tossed to and fro with a tempest, and suffer shipwreck; yet all come safe to land.
Anno Domini 63.
Acts 27:1. That we should fail— Prisoners of importance used frequently to be sent, as from other provinces, so from Judea, to Rome. Julius was very probably a freed-man of the Julian or Caesarean family, for freed-men bore commonly the names of their masters who gave them their freedom. He was centurion of a cohort belonging to the legion called Augustus's legion. Lipsius mentions the inscription of a stone which notices that legion. See Lipsius in Tacit.
Acts 27:2. Adramyttium,— Was a city of Mysia, not far from Pergamos. Along with the apostle there went St. Luke, the writer of this book, and Aristarchus the Macedonian from the city of Thessalonica. Aristarchus had been with St. Paul in Ephesus at the time of the tumult there, ch. Act 19:29 where he had been seized by the mob, and exposed to great hazard. He afterwards attended him to Macedonia, and returned with him to Asia, ch. Acts 20:4. Now accompanying him to Rome, he was there a fellow-prisoner with him, Col 4:10 and is mentioned in St. Paul's epistle to Philemon, Phm 1:24 who was probably their common friend, as a valuable assistant in his ministerial work. It was, no doubt, a great comfort to the apostle to have the company of two such friends as St. Luke and Aristarchus; as it was also a great instance of their affection to him, that they would follow him when he was going as a prisoner to Rome, not being ashamed of his bonds; and especially that they would attend him at a time when they knew sailing to be dangerous. See Acts 27:9.
Acts 27:3. To refresh himself.— To enjoy the benefit of their care.
Acts 27:5. When we had sailed, &c.— When we had traversed the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we arrived at Myra, &c.
Acts 27:6. A ship of Alexandria sailing, &c.— Or, Bound for Italy, and put us on board. There was a great trade carried on between Alexandria and the coasts of Italy, consisting chieflyof the produce of Egypt, and of Persian and Indian goods. The usual ports for this traffic were in Italy; and the Alexandrians were indulged with a particular privilege to engage their commerce.
Acts 27:7. And when we had sailed slowly— The Syriac assigns a reason for this, telling us that it was owing to the ship's being deeply laden; but there seems to be another, and a very sufficient reason assigned in the verse itself, the wind not suffering. Cnidus was a city and promontory of Doris, in the peninsula of Caria. Crete is an island of the Mediterranean sea, now called Candia; and Salmone is a promontory on the eastern coast of that island.
Acts 27:8. And, hardly passing it,— And passing it with difficulty. The fair havens, so called to this day, was a considerable port in that part of Crete; not far from which was the city of Lasea, or Alassa.
Acts 27:9. Because the fast was now already past,— That is, the yearly fast of atonement for the sins of the people of Israel, mentioned in many places of the Old Testament; in two or three of which places it is ordered to be kept on the tenth day of the seventh month, five days before the feast of tabernacles. Now the feast of tabernacles began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, which answers to part of our September and October; this Jewish fast therefore fell about the twenty-fifth of September, and as it was now past for some time, the nights were growing long and dark, and the heavens cloudy: the Michaelmas floods were coming down upon the Mediterranean sea, and the stormy months of autumn and winter advancing. Philo in several passages speaks of this as an ill time to sail; as does also Aratus.
Acts 27:10. Of the lading and ship,— Or, of the cargo and ship.
Acts 27:12. And because the haven, &c.— And that port not being commodious to winter in, most were of opinion to depart thence, and endeavour to reach Phenice, (a haven of Crete, which lies on the south side toward the western part of that island,) and pass the winter there. Heylin.
Acts 27:13. Loosing thence,— That is, from the fair havens. Some have thought that the word ασσον rendered by, in the next clause, is a proper name; but it is used adverbially both by Homer and Herodotus.
Acts 27:14. Euroclydon— Among many other particulars respecting the air and weather of Syria, &c. we are told that the westerly winds there are generally attended with rain. (See Luke 12:54. 1Ki 18:41; 1 Kings 18:46.) But the easterly winds are usually dry, notwithstanding they are sometimes exceedingly hazyand tempestuous; at which times they are called by the sea-faring people, levanters, being not confined to any single point, but blowing in all directions, from the north-east, round by the north to the south-east. The great wind, or mighty tempest, or vehement east wind, described by the prophet Jonah (i. 4 Acts 4:8.), appears to have been one of these levanters; as was also, in all probability, the Euroclydon here mentioned: for St. Luke describes it to be ανεμος τυφωνικος, a violent or tempestuous wind, bearing away all before it; and, from the circumstances which attended it, appears to have varied very little throughout the whole period of it from the true east point. For after the ship could not αντοφθαλμειν, bear, or, in the mariner's term, luff up against it, (Acts 27:15.) but they were obliged to let her drive, we cannot conceive, as there are no remarkable currents in that part of the sea, and as the rudder could be of little use, that it could take any other course than as the winds alone directed it. Accordingly, in the description of the storm, we find the vessel was first of all under the island Clauda, (Acts 27:16.) which is a little to the southward of the parallel of that part of the coast of Crete, from whence it may be supposed to have been driven; then it was tossed along the bottom of the gulph of Adria, (Acts 27:27.) and afterwards broken in pieces (Acts 27:41.) at Melita, which is a little to the northward of the parallel above mentioned; sothat the direction and course of this particular euroclydon seems to have been first at east by north, and afterwards pretty nearly east by south. Virgil elegantly describes one of these Levanters thus:
——ubi navigiis violentior incidit Eurus, Nosse, quot Ionii veniant ad litora fluctus. Georg. 2. 5. 107, 108.
——Number, when the blustering Eurus roars, The billows beating on Ionian shores. DRYDEN.
Acts 27:15. And when the ship was caught, &c.— And as the ship was violently hurried away, and was not able to bear up against the wind, &c.
Acts 27:16. Clauda,— This island, otherwise called Gaudos, or Cauda, lay a little to the south of the western coast of Crete.
Acts 27:17. The quicksands,— The greater and lesser Syrtis on the African shore, infamous for their destruction of mariners. Many approved writers of antiquity have described them. Undergirding the ship, was binding it round with ropes and cables, in order to prevent it from bulging.
Acts 27:21. And have gained this harm and loss.— The words 'Υβριν και ζημιαν, rendered harm and loss, are used Act 27:10 and no doubt they have a reference here to what the apostle had before declared. The word 'Υβρις generally signifies some kind of wrong, and accordingly it is almost always used with its compounds and derivatives in this sense; (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:10. Matthew 22:6. Luke 11:45; Luke 18:32.) but it extends to any violent assault, ch. Acts 14:5. 1Th 2:2 and is here used for that of waves and winds. Our word injury exactly corresponds with it, and is used in the same latitude. Thus none would scruple to say that a ship had been much injured by a storm. The word Ζημια signifies a loss, especially a fine; (see Mark 8:36.) and perhaps it may be used here to insinuate that this loss was a kind of fine paid for their own imprudence. To gain a loss seems to have been a proverbial expression.
Acts 27:23. The angel of God,— An angel of the God. &c. There was great propriety in this, as St. Paul was speaking to heathens.
Acts 27:27. In Adria,— In the Adriatic sea. All that part of the Mediterranean which lay south of Italy, was called by the ancients the Adriatic sea; and that which is now the gulph of Venice, was the Sinus Adriaticus or Adriatic Bay.
Acts 27:31. Except these abide in the ship, &c.— "Unless these mariners continue in the ship, without whose help we know not how to manage her, ye cannot be saved; for the promise made you of your lives was to be understood as given on condition of your taking the most prudential measures to secure them, that present circumstances will admit." God foretold the deliverance of the ship's company as certain, though suspended on this condition, because he knew it would be complied with; and directed St. Paul to urge the necessity of that compliance, as what he knew would be the successful means of securing it; though none can deny but these sailors had a natural power of going out of the ship, or the soldiers a natural power of permitting them to do it. The application of this remark to other affairs of great moment, appears both easy and important. See the Inferences.
Acts 27:33. This day is the fourteenth, &c.— This is the fourteenth day that, waiting for some favourable change, ye have continued fasting, and not taken one meal. Heylin. Comp. Matthew 11:18. Appian speaks of an army, which for twenty days together took neither food nor sleep; by which he must mean, they never made full meals, nor slept whole nights together. The sameinterpretation, I think, should be given to the phrase before us; which some also suppose may intimate, that they were now at short allowance, as they were likely to have a much longer voyage than was at first intended, and had 276 souls on board.
Acts 27:34. There shall not an hair fall from the head, &c.— This expression appears to have been a proverbial and general expression of entire safety. Comp. 1 Kings 1:52.Matthew 10:30; Matthew 10:30. Luke 12:7; Luke 21:18.
Acts 27:40. When they had taken up the anchors,— When they had weighed their anchors, they committed [the ship] to the sea. Some rather choose to render this, Having cut the anchors, they left them in the sea. The original is certainly dubious, and will admit of either sense. It is said, they loosed the rudder bands. Ships in those days had commonly two rudders, one on each side; which were fastened to the ship by bands or chains; and on loosing these bands it is supposed that the rudders sunk deeper into the sea, and by their weight rendered the ship less subject to be overset by the winds. But more probably the rudders had been fastened when they let the vessel drive; and were now loosened when they had need of them to steer her into the creek. For after they had just been throwing out their corn to lighten the ship, it is not easy to suppose they should immediately contrive a method to increase the weight of it. The word 'Αρτεμονα, seems properly to be translated main-sail. Grotius contends that it was a sail near the fore-part of the ship, answering either to what we call the foremast, or to the bowsprit; which last seems to agree best with the account which Stephens hascollected from the most considerable authorities. See his Latin Thesaurus on the word artemon. The last clause should be rendered, Hoisted up the mainsail, and were carried by the wind to the shore.
Acts 27:43. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, &c.— Thus God, for St. Paul's sake, not only saved all the rest of the ship's company from being lost in the sea, but kept the prisoners from being murdered according to the unjust and barbarous proposal of the soldiers; who could have thought of no worse scheme, had they been all condemned malefactors; and had these guards, instead of conveying them to their trial, been carrying them to the place of execution. As we purpose at the end of this book to make some general observations upon it, with respect to the proofs which it affords of the truth of Christianity, we will anticipate a little, and subjoin he
Inferences on ch. 27: and 28:—How great is the force of a virtuous character and a worthy and honourable behaviour, towards engaging the esteem of all around us! Julius the centurion conceives a reverence and affection for St. Paul, which, as in the beginning of this dangerous voyage it procured him the satisfaction of conversing with his friends at Sidon, and receiving the fruit of their affection, so was it, in the progress of the voyage, the occasion of saving this great apostle's life, and with it that of the rest of the prisoners. Let us learn thus to soften the fierce, and to convince the prejudiced; humbly trusting in that God, who, if our ways please him, can turn our enemies into friends, and preserve and bless us by means of those who were intended to be only the instruments of affliction.
From the account which is here given us of the danger and distress suffered by St. Paul and his companions, let us learn to pity those, who, being providentially engaged in a sea-faring life, are often in such deaths as these. When we hear the stormy winds raging around us, let us send up, as it were upon their rapid wings, our compassionate cries to the Almighty who holdeth them all in his grasp, (Proverbs 30:4.) that he would help and save those, who are ready to be swallowed up alive in a watery grave; and perhaps many of them, while just on the brink of eternity, in the number of those who are of all others most unprepared for it!
Alas! to what perils will persons expose themselves, either to raise a fortune, or to gain a livelihood, or in obedience to the commands of men! yet how few are there who would expose themselves to the same for the sake of God! They commit their all to the mercy of the waves; they trust their life to a plank,—to a pilot; and yet it is often with great difficulty that they can trust themselves to the providence of that God, whose knowledge, goodness and power, are infinite, and the visible effects of which they have so many times experienced.
Happy the man, in whatever extremities of danger he may be circumstanced, who is conscious of a relation to the God of heaven, as his God and his Father—who can say, like St. Paul, in this blessed parenthesis, whose I am, and whom I serve! May we be enabled to use the same language, to take the comfort of it, and commit ourselves to the guardian care of our God with cheerfulness. Let our faith put a reality into all his promises. Thus may we continually encourage ourselves in our God; nor will the event in that case shame our hopes; but we shall find, by happy experience, that perseveringly cleaving to this faithful God, he will not only save us from ruin, but conduct us to joy, as well as to safety everlasting.
The conduct of St. Paul offers a remarkable illustration of the obligations we are under, to use the most proper means for security and success, even while we are committing ourselves to the care of divine Providence, and waiting the accomplishment of God's own promises: for it would be most unreasonable to imagine that he ever intended any promise to encourage rational creatures to act in a wild and irrational manner, or to remain inactive, when he has given them natural capacities of doing something, at least, for their own benefit. It is in exerting these capacities, that we are to expect his powerful aid; and all the grace, beauty, and wisdom of the promise, would be lost if we were to take it in any other view. To abuse it in a contrary view, is at best vain and dangerous presumption, if all pretence to relying upon it be not profane hypocrisy.
How solicitous are men in danger, for the preservation of this perishing life. They cast out their goods in a storm; they throw away the tackling of the ship to lighten it, and for many succeeding days can abstain even from eating their accustomed bread. O when shall we see a solicitude any thing like this, about the concerns of their never-dying souls! Alas! amid the extremest danger, they are rather like those, who in such a storm as is here described, sleep on the top of the mast: (Proverbs 23:34.) Let us not wonder therefore, if when awakened on a sudden, and made to see and feel the extremity of their case, they are for a while taken off from attending to their secular affairs; nor rashly censure that as madness, which may be the first entrance of true wisdom into their minds.
We see how cheerful St. Paul was, amid the rage of winds and waves, under a sense of the faithful care of his God; and how the assurance which he gave the rest, that their lives should be preserved, animated them to eat their bread with cheerfulness. It was to St. Paul that the lives of those who sailed with him were given. And his fellow-prisoners owed to him a double preservation—both from the sword, and from the sea. To be a prisoner in the company of a Paul, is a privilege preferable to liberty. Thus may a relation to God's faithful servants, and a community of interests with them, prove the means of great temporal advantages, even to those who know not God themselves. Happy these men, had they known that he was also still more truly the minister of an eternal salvation! Surely after so many remarkable circumstances pointing out the apostle to the company of this ship as a teacher commissioned by God, and favoured with extraordinary intercourses with him, they must have been very inexcusable, if they did not henceforward commence his attentive hearers and disciples; and yet, though they all escape safe to land on St. Paul's account, according to his prediction in the name of God, we hear not one word of gratitude and acknowledgment either to the Almighty preserver, or to him.
The customs of Greece and Rome taught them to call every nation but their own barbarous; but surely the generosity which the uncultivated inhabitants of Malta shewed, was far more valuable than all the varnish which the politest education could give, where it taught not humanity and compassion. It is with pleasure we trace among them the force of conscience and the belief of Providence, which some more learned people have stupidly thought it philosophy to despise;—yet they erred, as every one must err, in concluding that calamities are always to be interpreted as divine judgements. Let us guard against the same mistake, lest, like them, we unwarily censure not only the innocent but the excellent of the earth; candidly willing to correct and confess our erroneous sentiments when means of better information offer, and studious to adjust our notions of men's characters according to truth, that so we may neither falsely calumniate nor fondly deify them, but judge righteous judgment.
Happy wreck, on the ruins of which the temple of the Lord was built, and by occasion whereof barbarians were transformed into Christians! Who can say how many distempered minds were healed, how many sons and daughters born to God and to glory, in these three months spent in Malta by St. Paul and St. Luke? For modest as that beloved physician of souls as well as of bodies is in every thing relating to himself, we cannot imagine that he was inactive or unsuccessful in his pious labours of love.
It is most extremely probable, that the indulgence shewn to St. Paul at Rome, the remains of liberty which he enjoyed while in bonds there, and the much more valued opportunities of usefulness which that liberty gave him, were in some degree at least owing to the experience and report of these extraordinary events. Thus, O Lord! shalt thou lead us into whatever difficulties and dangers thou pleasest, and we will cheerfully wait the happy event which shall at length prove the wisdom and kindness of thy most mysterious conduct. In the mean time, even while travelling in the bonds of affliction, may we see thine hand in all the countenance which we meet with from our Christian brethren. Cheered with their converse and friendly offices, may we, like the blessed apostle, thank thee and take courage in an humble assurance that thou wilt stand by us in every future unknown extremity; and either manifest thy power and goodness in raising up human supports, or display thy all-sufficient grace in a yet more glorious manner by bearing us up when they fail us!
Who can avoid observing with pleasure that uniform tenor of Christian zeal, and compassionate regard to the salvation of men, which, reigned in the mind of St. Paul, even to the very period, not of this history only, but to that of his life? No sooner is he arrived at Rome—a prisoner,—destitute,—afflicted,—despised, —but an earnest desire to communicate the blessings of the gospel, to his kinsmen according to the flesh, engages him to send for them, and to confer with them concerning the kingdom of God, generously forgetting his own wrongs, and waving those complaints which he might so justly have urged against his accusers and persecutors.—Yet he found them here, as well as in Judea, under prejudices which he could not conquer with all his strength of reason and eloquence. They call Christianity a sect, and maintain that it is every where spoken against. But if this were indeed the case, how far was it from being a reason against embracing and obeying the gospel! since calumny is no discrimination of truth, and men might as well pluck the sun from its sphere, as by all their malice and rage dethrone that blessed Redeemer, whom God hath established by a decree firmer than the ordinances of heaven. That a religion every where opposed and spoken against, should be every where received, in so short a time, is surely no small or inconsiderable miracle;—especially when this religion is so far from promising any thing here below, to allure sensual men to embrace it, that it directly contradicts all their inclinations. All false religions have been readily received. The Christian system is that alone which, from its infancy, stood exposed to all the powers of the earth, and which, notwithstanding, in a little time spread its influences over the whole world. What stronger evidence can be offered, that it is indeed what it assumes to be,—the power of God unto salvation?
No scripture of the Old Testament is more frequently referred to in the New, than those words of Isaiah, which contain so just a description of the state of the Jewish nation both in the days of that prophet, and in those of Christ and his apostles. How deplorable a case!—to be spiritually blind and deaf under the mid-day splendours of the gospel and its loudest proclamations!—to harden the heart against the most gracious offers of healing and life, and arm themselves against their own salvation with weapons of eternal death! May divine pity and help be extended to those, who are marching on by large steps toward the same character, and, as it is justly to be feared, to the same end! Mean time, let us bless the Lord that there are many who yield to be saved by grace. To them the ministers of Christ may turn with pleasure, and find in their faithful attention to the gospel a sufficient recompence for all the labours and hazards they encounter in a zealous concern for its propagation.
To conclude. Let us humbly and thankfully contemplate that gracious Providence, which secretly interposed to moderate the apostle's confinement, and thereby gave him an opportunity of performing various and extensive services to the church, of which he must otherwise have been incapable. Thus it is that the wrath of man praises God, and the remainder of it he restrains (Psalms 76:10.). The sacred history now closing upon us, affords many illustrations of this remark of the Psalmist. May we be duly thankful for this history; and while we peruse its important contents, let us indulge those reflections which so obviously arise from them, to establish our faith in the gospel, and to quicken our obedience to its laws. Amen.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, How long St. Paul continued at Caesarea, is not said; probably on the first opportunity he was shipped for Rome. We have,
1. His embarkation. St. Paul and some other prisoners were put on board a ship of Adramyttium, under the care of one Julius, a centurion of the legion which bore the name of Augustus. St. Luke the evangelist, and Aristarchus a Macedonian, accompanied the apostle, whose presence and society could not but be a singular blessing to him in this tedious voyage.
2. His progress. The next day after they sailed, they touched at Sidon; where Julius reposed such confidence in his prisoner, that, on his parole, he permitted him to visit his friends, that he might have the comfort of refreshing himself with their company and conversation, and be supplied with proper provisions for the voyage. Loosing thence, they beat up under the island of Cyprus, the wind being against them, and, coasting the Cilician and Pamphylian shores, they arrived at Myra a city of Lycia. There the centurion finding a ship of Alexandria sailing to Italy with a lading of wheat and other articles, he contracted for a passage, and carried the prisoners, and the companions of the apostle, aboard, and putting to sea, they made but little way, through contrary winds, scarce reaching Cnidus in many days: and, instead of leaving Crete on the left, they were forced upon the other side, over against the eastern cape called Salmone, and, with great difficulty weathering the point, cast anchor in a bay called, The Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. Note; (1.) In our voyage through this tempestuous world, we may expect to meet many an unfavourable gale. (2.) Though the wind of afflictions and temptations blow hard against us, and we can scarcely bear up against it, if we steadily hold on our course, we shall at last reach the fair Havens where we would be.
3. His advice. As the autumn was far advanced, and the fast on the day of Atonement was now passed, the season of the year began to grow tempestuous, and sailing to be dangerous. St. Paul therefore admonished them not to proceed farther till the spring, foretelling by a prophetic impulse, that if they did they would repent their rashness, and not only sustain great damage in the loss of their ship, but also greatly endanger their lives. But the master and owner of the ship being of a different opinion, the centurion, who chose rather to be guided by their judgment in this matter, disregarded St. Paul's admonition; and the Fair Havens being an inconvenient port to winter in, the majority of the ship's company advised to sail for Phenice, a haven in Crete at no great distance, which was made by two points of land that ran south-west and north-west, and was more sheltered from the winds, and more commodious for a winter station.
2nd, In consequence of the advice of the majority, we have,
1. The ship pursuing her voyage with a prosperous gale. The south wind blowing gently, encouraged them to put to sea; and now, concluding that they could not fail to reach their desired port, they coasted along the island of Crete: but the gale of prosperity is often but a short-lived delusion. For,
2. The wind suddenly shifted to an opposite quarter, and a hurricane, called Euroclydon, arose, and blew so vehemently, that the ship was ready to be swallowed up in the waves; so that, unable to bear up against the storm, or keep their course, they let her drive at random; and running under an island called Clauda, with great difficulty they hoisted the boat on board; then, undergirding the ship with ropes to prevent her going to pieces, and fearing lest she should be driven on some shore, they reefed their sails, and drove before the wind under the bare poles. Thus they continued to be tossed about violently, while lowering clouds obscured the skies, and neither sun nor stars for many days appeared; so that they knew not where they were. Note; We should never be too much elated: the transition from the height of prosperity to the depth of adversity, is often very sudden.
3. All attempts which human prudence dictated, they now made use of. The next day after the storm began, in order to lighten the ship, they cast out part of the merchandise into the sea; and, when still the danger increased, the passengers as well as seamen were called upon deck; and the third day they threw overboard the utensils and unnecessary tackling of the ship; when their lives were each moment in jeopardy, they cared not for any loss besides: but when, after all their efforts, for many days the storm raged with unabating severity, despair sat in general upon the countenances of the seamen, and they expected nothing but to be swallowed up of the merciless waves. Note; If men are so prodigal of their goods to save their bodies, when in danger, how much readier should we be to part with them at the peril of our souls?
3rdly, Man's extremity is God's opportunity: when we are in the utmost danger he can still open a door for us to escape.
1. St. Paul cheers their hearts with the assurance, that though they gave themselves over for lost, and abandoned themselves to despair, not a man of the company should perish.
[1.] He gently reminds them of his advice which they had disregarded. They should have followed his prophetic warning, and then they would have prevented the danger, loss, and injury, which they had now sustained. Note; Many of the miseries in which we involve ourselves, are owing to our own obstinacy and disregard of the admonitions of our wiser friends.
[2.] He confidently assures them of the safety of their persons, though their ship would be wrecked; and therefore exhorts them to be of good cheer. Notwithstanding their contempt of his advice, he desired to revive their desponding hearts, and to quicken them to rouse themselves in the confidence of being preserved through the divine mercy. Note; Though others involve themselves in trouble by neglecting our counsel, we must nevertheless be ready to lend them our assistance, to comfort them under their trials, or to extricate them from their difficulties.
[3.] He produces divine authority for what he said, that they might rest satisfied with the truth of his assertion, however improbable it might appear. There stood by me this night the angel of God, a celestial messenger sent from that glorious God, whose I am; his peculiar property by adoption as well as creation, and by his special appointment constituted an apostle; and whom I serve, making it the business and happiness of my life to promote his glory in the gospel of his dear Son, and yielding up my body, soul, and spirit, with unreserved devotedness, to his blessed work and service. And this heavenly minister addressed me, saying, Fear not, Paul: thou art safe in the midst of danger; for thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo! God hath given thee all them that sail with thee, who for thy sake shall be preserved. Such a public blessing is one good man; and they who are hated and persecuted of the world, as not worthy to live, are indeed the very persons for whose sake it is preserved.
[4.] He comforts them, and encourages them to trust in God: Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me, and doubt not but the event will confirm his gracious promise.
[5.] He tells them, they must, however, expect to be shipwrecked on a certain island, which, among other things, when it came to pass, would evidence the divine inspiration by which the apostle spoke.
2. After many days of terror and dismay, on the fourteenth night, as they were tossed to and fro by the tempest in the Adriatic sea, the seamen about midnight apprehended they were near land; and sounding, at first found twenty fathoms of water, and a little farther, fifteen: lest therefore they should be driven ashore in the dark, or strike upon some rock, they cast anchor, and longed impatiently for day-light, that they might see in what situation they were. Note; In the dark and stormy night of temptation or affliction, the anchor of hope, which enters into that within the vail, must take fast hold upon Christ, and then we shall find in him sufficient, yea, almighty strength.
3. The sailors, disregarding St. Paul's assurances of safety, thought to secure themselves, whatever became of the rest; and therefore, hoisting out the boat, under pretence of casting anchor out of the foreship, they intended to make for the shore, and leave the ship and the passengers to shift for themselves. St. Paul, probably by divine intimation, perceived their design, and immediately acquainted the centurion and soldiers, assuring them, that though God had promised to preserve them, it was to be effected in the use of the necessary means; and that if the seamen, who should work the ship, were suffered to escape, they must not expect to be saved. In the way of duty we may only hope for the fulfilment of the promises. The soldiers therefore, apprized of the danger, immediately cut the ropes, and let the boat drive.
4. While they waited for the morning light, St. Paul, the comforter and encourager of his dejected shipmates, besought them all to take meat, and refresh themselves after their toils, saying, this day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried, in suspense between life and death, and continued fasting, without any inclination to food, having taken nothing, at least no regular nor hearty meal: wherefore I pray you to take some meat; for this is for your health, and will conduce to your safety: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. And when he had thus animated them with his cheerful counsel and countenance, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all for their past preservation, the promise of assured safety, and the provision that was now before them: and when he had broken it, he began to eat, setting them an example. Revived by this repeated assurance and exhortation, and seeing him so satisfied, they all took refreshment, their number consisting of two hundred and threescore and sixteen persons: and, being strengthened by a hearty meal, they cleared the ship, casting the wheat of which part of her cargo consisted, into the sea, that he might draw the less water, as they intended to run her ashore.
5. When welcome day-light appeared, they descried the land not very distant, though what country it was they knew not: but observing a creek which ran up within the shore, they resolved, if possible, to steer the ship thither; and weighing the anchors, or slipping the cables, they hoisted the main-sail, and loosed the rudder or rudders which had been fastened, and made for shore: but striking on a shoal where two currents met, the prow stuck fast, and, the waves dashing on the stern, she soon went to pieces.
6. In this extremity, the inhuman soldiers proposed the bloody expedient of murdering all the prisoners, lest any of them should escape, and they become answerable for them: a shocking proposal! But the centurion, who now saw more reason than ever to value St. Paul, would not for his sake permit so cruel a project to be executed; and therefore commanded every one to consult in the best manner possible for his own safety; whereupon, some by swimming, and others on part of the wreck, got safe to shore; and not one person of the whole company was drowned, according to St. Paul's prediction. Note; After long beating on life's tempestuous ocean, though we leave earth and all its things behind us, yet, if faithful unto death, we shall not regret their loss, when we feel ourselves entered into the land of rest which remaineth for the people of God.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Acts 27". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30