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We for they, A.V. and T.R. (twice). Was called. It reads as if it was the answer to their question to the natives, "What is this island called?" Melita. That Melita is the island of Malta, and not Meleda off the coast of Dalmatia, is demonstrated in Smith's ' Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul,' and it is not worth while here to consider the arguments in favor of Meleda. Melita appears to be a Phoenician name, from the root in Hebrew טלַםָ, to escape (Bochart, 'Canaan,' Acts 1:26), meaning, therefore, a "refuge," a harbor of refuge £ so called from sailors often running into Valetta during a gale; or possibly from לֶםֶ, clay, in Italian malta, from the clay which forms the bottom of the sea as you approach Malta, and which makes the anchorage so safe. It was originally colonized by Phoenicians, whether from Tyre or Carthage cannot be pronounced with certainty, though we know it was a Carthaginian possession at the time of the first Punic War. It fell into the hands of the Romans B.C. 218, and at the time of St. Paul's shipwreck was annexed to the province of Sicily. The population, however, was Phoenician or Punic, and probably knew little Greek or Latin. The name of a fountain in St. Paul's Bay, Ayn tal Razzul, "The Apostle's Fountain," is said to be Phoenician. But this is extremely doubtful. It is far more probably, not to say certainly, the corrupt Africano-Arabic dialect of the island, as I venture to affirm on the high authority of Professor Wright. Gesenius is also distinctly of opinion that there are no remains of Phoenician in the Maltese, and that all the words in the Maltese language which have been thought to be Phoenician are really Arabic. Four genuine Phoenician inscriptions have, however, been found in the island.
Barbarians for barbarous people, A.V.; common for little, A.V.; all for every one, A.V. Barbarians; i.e. not Greeks or Romans, or (in the mouth of a Jew) not Jews. The phrase had especial reference to the strange language of the "barbarian." See St. Paul's use of it (Romans 1:14; 1 Corinthians 14:11; Colossians 3:11); and compare Ovid's saying ('Trist.,' 3.10, 37), "Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli;" and that of Herodotus, that the Egyptians call all barbarians who do not speak the Egyptian language(Kuinoel). The word is thought to be formed onomate-poetically, to express the confused sound which a strange language has in a man's ears. Kindness; φιλανθρωπία, here and Titus 3:4 (comp. Acts 27:3). Received us all. The whole party, numbering two hundred and seventy-six. The present rain, and … cold; showing that the gale still continued, and the wind was still north-east. The plight of the shipwrecked party must have been lamentable, drenched to the skin, with no change of clothes, a cold wind blowing. Probably the hearty meal they had taken on beard ship was the means of saving their lives.
But for and, A.V.; a viper came for there came a viper, A.V.; by reason of for out of, A.V. Had gathered; συστρέψαντος, only here and in the LXX. of Judges 11:3 and Judges 12:4, for "to collect," "gather together." But συστροφή (Acts 19:40; Acts 23:12) means "a concourse," "a conspiracy." In classical Greek συστρέφειν is "to twist up together," to "form into a compact body," and the like. A bundle of sticks; φρυγάνων πλῆθος. The word only occurs in the New Testament here; it means "dry sticks," "kindlers," any combustible material. In the LXX. it is used as the equi- valent of שׁקַ, straw or stubble (Isaiah 40:24; Isaiah 41:2, etc.), and for "nettles" (Job 30:7). Theophrastus seems to use it for plants smaller than a shrub ('Hist.,' Plant., 1.3, 1, quoted by Hobart). Lewin writes as follows:—"When in Malta in 1853, I went to St. Paul's Bay at the same season of the year as when the wreck occurred …. We noticed eight or nine stacks of small faggots, they consisted of a kind of thorny heather, and had evidently been cut for firewood." This is a conclusive answer, if any were needed, to the objection to Melita being Malta, drawn from the absence of wood in the island. But besides this, it is not a fact that even now there is no wood at all (see Lewin). A viper came out. It is objected that there are no vipers in Malta. But it is obvious that the condition of Malta now, a very thickly inhabited island, is very different from what it was with a sparse population in the days of St. Paul. Vipers may well have been destroyed during one thousand eight hundred and sixty years. Lewin mentions that his traveling companions in 1853 started what they thought was a viper, which escaped into one of the bundles of heather. Came out. Διεξελθοῦσα is the reading of Tischendorf, Alford, Meyer, eta., "came out through the sticks." It is a frequent medical term. The heat; τῆς θέρμης. This form of the word is only used here in the New Testament, instead of the more common θερμότης. It occurs, however, repeatedly in the LXX. (Job 6:17; Psalms 19:7; Ecclesiasticus 38:34, etc.), and was the usual medical word for feverish heat. Fastened; κάθηψε, here only in the Bible; but not uncommon in classical Greek, and of general use among medical writers.
Beast for venomous beast, A.V.; hanging from for hang on, A.V.; one to another for among themselves, A.V.; escaped from for escaped, A.V.; justice for vengeance, A.V.; hath not suffered for suffereth not, A.V. The beast (τὸ θηρίον). It is peculiar to medical writers to use θηρίον as synonymous with ἔχιδνα, a viper. So also θηριόδηκτος, bit by a viper, θηριακή, an antidote to the bite of a viper (Dioscorides, Galen, etc.). Justice (ἥ Δίκη). In Greek mythology Dice (Justitia) was the daughter and assessor of Zeus, and the avenger of crime. In her train was Poena, of whom Horace says," Rare antecedeutem scelcstum Deseruit pede Poena claude" ('Od.,' 3.2, 32). "The idea of Dice as justice personified is most perfectly developed in the dramas of Sophocles and Euripides" (article "Dice," in 'Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. and Mythol.'). It does not appear whether the islanders had learned the name and office of Dice from the Greeks in Sicily, or whether they had any native divinity whose name St. Luke translates into that of Dice. The gods whose names are found in ancient Maltese inscriptions are Melkarth, another name of Hercules, the tutelar god of Tyre; Osiris, and Baal. Other Phoenician divinities are named in the Carthaginian inscriptions (see Gesenius, 'Monument. Phoenic.'). Had not suffered. They assume that death will certainly follow from the bite.
Howbeit for and, A.V.; look for felt, A.V.
But they expected that he would for howbeit, they looked when he should, A.V.; when they were long in expectation for after they had looked a great while, A.V.; beheld nothing amiss for stay no harm, A.V. They expected; προσεδόκων. This word is used eleven times by St. Luke, twice by St. Matthew, and three times in the Second Epistle of Peter (see Acts 3:5; Luke 1:21, etc.). It is also common in the LXX. But it is a word much employed by medical writers in speaking of the course they expect a disease to take, and the results they look for. And this is the more remarkable here because there are no fewer than three other medical phrases in this verse, τίμπρασθαι καταπίπτειν, and μηδὲν ἄτοπον, besides those immediately preceding διεξέρχεσθαι (according to several good manuscripts anti editions) θέρμη καθάπτειν, and θηρίον. So that it looks as if, having once got into a medical train of thought from the subject he was writing about, medical language naturally came uppermost in his mind. Have swollen; πίμπρασθαι, only here in the Bible, and not found in this sense in older classical writers. But it is the usual medical word for "inflammation" in any part of the body. Fallen down; καταπίπτειν, only here and in Acts 26:14, and twice in the LXX.; but common in Homer and elsewhere, and especially frequent in medical writers of persons falling down in fits, or weakness, or wounded, or the like. Nothing amiss (μηδὲν ἄτοπον). Mr. Hobart quotes a remarkable parallel to this phrase from Damocrites, quoted by Galen. He says that whosoever, having been bitten by a mad dog, drinks a certain antidote (εἰς οὐδὲν ἄτοπον ἐμπεσοῦται ῥᾳδίως), "shall suffer no harm." It is used in medical writers in two senses—of" unusual symptoms," and of fatal consequences. In the New Testament it only occurs elsewhere in Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:41, "Nothing amiss;" and 2 Thessalonians 3:2, Ἀτόπων καὶ πονηρῶν ἀνθρώπων. It is also used in the LXX. for wickedness, doing wickedly, etc. They changed their minds; as in an opposite direction the Lycaonians did (Acts 14:11, Acts 14:19). It is a graphic picture of the fickleness of an untutored mind yielding to every impulse. The impunity with which St. Paul endured the bite of the viper was a direct fulfillment of our Lord's promise in Mark 16:18.
Now in the neighborhood of that place for in the same quarters, A.V.; lands belonging to for possessions of, A.V.; named for whose name was, A.V.; entertained for lodged, A.V. Lands (χωρία); so John 4:5; Actsi. 18,19; John 4:34; John 5:3,John 5:8. The chief man of the island (τῷ πρώτῃ τῆς νήσου). It appears that, with his usual accurate knowledge gained on the spot (see Acts 16:22. note), St. Luke here gives to Publius his peculiar official title of primus. For Ciantar, quoted by Smith, gives a Greek inscription on a marble, which in his day was standing near the gates of Citta Vecehia, in Malta, in which are the words, Προύδενς ἵππευς Ρωμ πρῶτος Μελιταίων κ.τ.λ., "Prudens, a Roman knight, chief of the Maltese." The Latin inscription, which was discovered in 1747, has the same title, MEL PRIMUS. "chief of the Maltese." It may not improbably be the Greek and Latin translation of the old Phoenician title of the "headman," in Hebrew שׁאֹרהָ, in Chaldee שׁאֵר, as in the title התָוּלגְהַ שׂאֵר, the chief of the Captivity. When the Romans succeeded the Carthaginians in the possession of the island, they would be likely to perpetuate the title of the chief magistrate. In this ease the chief was also a Roman, as his name of Publius indicates. Alford says that he was legatus to the Praetor of Sicily, and so 'Speaker's Commentary,' Kuinoel, Meyer, ere.' Received us; ἀναδεξάμενος, only here (and Hebrews 11:17 in a different sense) for the more common ὑποδέχομαι. Kuinoel quotes from AElian, 'Var. Hist.,' 4, 19, the similar phrase, Υπέδεξατο αὐτοὺς … φιλοφρόνως: and from 2 Macc. 3:9, Φιλοφρόνως ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ὑποδεχθείς. Entertained us (ἐξένισεν); see Acts 10:6, Acts 10:18, Acts 10:23, Acts 10:32; Acts 21:16; and in the active voice in Hebrews 13:2. Courteously; φιλοφρόνως, only here in the New Testament, but we find φιλόφρων, courteous, in 1 Peter 3:8. We must understand the "us" probably to include the centurion, St. Paul, St. Luke, Aristarchus, and possibly one or two others, but not the whole two hundred and seventy-six. Hebrews 13:2 had a striking fulfillment here. During the three days they would have opportunity to procure suitable winter quarters.
It was so for it came to pass, A.V.; fever for a fever, A.V.; dysentery for of a bloody flux, A.V.; unto for to, A.V.; and laying, etc., healed for and laid, etc., and healed, A.V. The father of Publius. The fact of the father of Publius being alive and living in Malta is a further indication that the term ὁ πρῶτος τῆς νήσου is an official title. Lay sick. Συνέχεσθαι is also the usual medical expression for being taken sick of any disease. It is used by St. Luke, with πυρετῴ (Luke 4:38), and in the same sense in Matthew 4:24. Lay. Κατακεῖσθαι is used especially of lying in bed from sickness. It answers to decumbo in Latin. Sick of fever and dysentery (πυρετοῖς καὶ δυσεντερία συνεχόμενον). The terms here used are all professional ones. Πυρετός, in the plural, is of frequent occurrence in Hippocrates, Aretaeus, and Galen, but elsewhere in the New Testament always in the singular; δυσεντερία, only found here in the New Testament, is the regular technical word for a "dysentery," and is frequently in medical writers coupled with πυρετοί or πυρετός, as indicating different stages of the same illness. Laying his hands on him. So Mark 16:18, "They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover". It is also spoken of as an accompaniment of prayer in confirmation, ordination, etc. It has been remarked as curious that the two actions of taking up serpents and healing the sick by the laying on of hands should be in such close juxtaposition both hero and in Mark 16:18. It suggests the thought whether Luke had seen the passage in St. Mark; or whether the writer of Mark 16:18 had seen Acts 28:8. Or is the coincidence accidental, arising out of the facts?
And for so, A.V. and T.R.; the rest for others, A.V.; cured for healed, A.V.
Sailed for departed, A.V.; put on board for laded us with, A.V.; we needed for were necessary, A.V. Honored us with many honors. Kuinoel understands this in the sense of "gifts, presents," which of course their destitute condition, after losing all they had in the ship-wreck, would make very acceptable. But there is nothing in the words to suggest this meaning, and, had it been so, Luke would have simply stated it, as he does immediately afterwards, when he says that they put on board such things as we needed. When we sailed (ἀναγομένοις); see Acts 13:13; Acts 16:11; Acts 18:21; Acts 20:3, Acts 20:13; Acts 21:1, Acts 21:2, Acts 21:4, Acts 21:12, Acts 21:21, and notes. It is touching to see the kindness of the Maltese, and we may hope that they had to thank God for light and grace and life through the ministry of St. Paul and his companions.
Set sail for departed, A.V.; island for isle, A.V.; The Twin Brothers for Castor and Pollux, A.V. After three months. At the very earliest period when the sailing season began after the winter. It would be, perhaps, about the middle of February, or, as Alford thinks, about March 10. If the weather was fine, having so short a voyage before them, they would venture to sail without further delay. Set sail (see preceding verso, note). A ship of Alexandria. Some ship, better fated than that one (Acts 27:6) which was wrecked in St. Paul's Bay, which had weathered or avoided the gale, and probably got into the harbor of Valetta in good time. One would have thought that this ship wintering at Malta on its way from Alexandria to Italy, via Sicily, would be of itself a sufficient proof that Melita was Malta. Which had wintered (παρακεχειμακότι); see Acts 27:12, note. Whose sign was The Twin Brothers (Δίοσκουροι, Latin the constellation Gemini). The twin sons of Jupiter and Leda, Castor and Pollux, brothers of Helena ("fratres Helenis, lucida sidera," Horace, 'Od.,' 1.3, 2), were called by the Greeks Dioscuri, the sons of Jove. It was their special office to assist sailors in danger of shipwreck. Hence Horace, in the ode just quoted, prays that Castor and Pollux, in conjunction with other deities, would carry the ship in which Virgil sailed safe to Attica. And in Ode 12.27, etc., he describes the subsidence of the storm, and the calming of the waves, at the appearance of the twin stars, of Leda's sons. It was, therefore, very natural to have the Dioscuri for the παράσημον, the sign of the ship. Every ancient ship had a παράσημον, "a painted or carved representation of the sign which furnished its name on the prow, and at the stern a similar one of their tutelary deity." (Alford), which was called the tutela. These were sometimes the same, and perhaps were so in this instance. Ovid tells us that Minerva was the tutela of the ship in which he sailed, and that her painted helmet gave it its name ('Trist.,' 1 9.1), Galea, or the like. We may notice the continual trial to Jews and Christians of having to face idolatry in all the common actions of life.
Touching for landing, A.V. Touching (καταχθέντες); Acts 21:3; Acts 27:3, note. The way in which Syracuse is hero mentioned is another redundant proof that Melita is Malta. "Syracause is about eighty miles, a days' sail, from Malta" (Afford). Tarried there three days. Perhaps wind- bound, or possibly having to land part of their cargo there.
Made a circuit for fetched a compass, A.V.; arrived at for came to, A.V.; a south for the south, A.V.; sprang up for blew, A.V.; on the second day we came for we came the next day, A.V. We made a circuit; περιελθόντες. St. Luke only uses this word in one other passage, Acts 19:13," The strolling [or, 'vagabond'] Jews;" and it has the same sense of "wandering" in the only other passages where it occurs in the New Testament (1 Timothy 5:13; Hebrews 11:37). If it is the right reading here, the meaning must be "tacking," the wind not allowing them to sail in a direct course. "I am inclined to suppose that the wind was north-west, and that they worked to windward, availing themselves of the sinuosities of the coast. But with this wind they could not proceed through the Straits of Messina …. They were, therefore, obliged to put into Rhegium But after one day the wind became fair (from the south), and on the following day they arrived at Puteoli, having accomplished about one hundred and eighty nautical miles in less than two days". But Meyer explains it, "after we had come round," viz. from Syracuse, round the eastern coast of Sicily. Lewin thinks they had to stand out to sea to catch the wind, and so arrived at Rhegium by a circuitous course. The other reading is περιελόντες, as in Acts 27:40; but this seems to give no proper sense here. A south wind sprang up. The force of the preposition in ἐπιγενομένου shows that there was a change of wind. The south wind would, of course, be a very favorable one for sailing from Reggio to Puzzuoli. Hobart remarks of ἐπιγίνεσθαι (which is also found in Acts 27:27, according to some good manuscripts) that it "was a favorite medical word constantly employed to denote the coming on of an attack of illness." It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but is common in Diodorus Siculus, Xenophon, Herodotus, Thucydides, etc., for the coming on of a storm, wind (adverse or favorable), or any other change. On the second day; δευτεραῖοι. This particular numeral occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but the analogous τεταρταῖος is used in John 11:39. And Herodotus has τριταῖος ἀφίκετο, "he went away on the third day." Τριταῖος is also common in medical writers with πυρετός, a tertian ague, a fever that recurs on the third day; τεταρταῖος, a quartan fever; πεμπταῖος, one recurring on the fifth day; ἑβδομαῖος, on the seventh day; ἐνναταῖος, on the ninth day. The forms δεκαταῖος πεντηκοσταῖος, etc., "doing anything on the tenth, the fiftieth day," also occur. Puteoli; now Puzzuoli. The Italian port to which ships from Alexandria usually came. Smith quotes a passage from Seneca (Epist., 77) describing the arrival of the Alexandrian wheat-ships at Puteoli. The whole population of Puteoli went out to see them sail into harbor with their topsails (supparum), which they alone were allowed to carry, in order to hasten their arrival, so important to Italy was the corn trade with Alexandria.
Intreated for desired, A.V.; came to for went toward, A.V. Brethren. It is very interesting to find the gospel already planted in Italy. The circumstances of Purcell as the great emporium of African wheat made it a likely place for Christianity to reach, whether from Rome or from Alexandria (see Acts 18:24). Luke calls them ἀδελφοί, not Χριστιανοί (Acts 11:26). Perhaps the name of Christian was still rather the name given by those without, and that of "brethren," or "disciples," the name used by the Christians among themselves. What a joy it must have been to Paul and his companions to find themselves among brethren! Seven days. Surely that they might take part in the service and worship of the next Sunday (see Acts 20:6, Acts 20:7). It is implied that the philanthropy of Julius (Acts 27:3) did not now fail. So we came to Rome. The R.V. is undoubtedly right. 'We can trace in the anticipatory form of speech here used by St. Luke, simple as the words are, his deep sense of the transcendent interest of the arrival of the apostle of the Gentiles at the colossal capital of the heathen world. Yes; after all the conspiracies of the Jews who sought to take away his life, after the two years' delay at Caesarea, after the perils of that terrible shipwreck, in spite of the counsel of the soldiers to kill the prisoners, and in spite of the "venomous beast,"—Paul came to Rome. The word of God," Thou must bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23:11), had triumphed over all "the power of the enemy" (Luke 10:19). And doubtless the hearts both of Paul and Luke beat quicker when they first caught sight of the city on the seven hills.
The brethren, when, etc., came for when the brethren, etc., they came, A.V.; The Market of Appius for Appii forum, A.V. The brethren, when they heard of us. During the seven days' stay at Putcoli, the news of the arrival of the illustrious confessors reached the Church at Rome. The writer of that wonderful Epistle which they had received some three years before, and in which he had expressed his earnest desire to visit them, and his hope that he should come to them in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:11, Romans 1:12, Romans 1:15; Romans 15:22, Romans 15:24, Romans 15:28-32), was now almost at their gates as a prisoner of state, and they would soon see him face to face. They naturally determined to go and meet him, to honor him as an apostle, and show their love to him as a brother. The younger and more active would go as far as Appii Forum, "a village on the Via Appia, forty-three miles from Rome" (Meyer). The rest only came as far as The Three Taverns, ten miles nearer to Rome. Alford quotes a passage from Cicero's letters to Atticus (it. 10), in which he mentions both "Appii Forum" and the "Tres Tabernae;" and refers to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 17. 12.1) for a similar account of Jews at Rome, who, on hearing of the arrival of the pretended Alexander at Puteoli, went out in a body to meet him (πᾶν τὸ Ιουδαίων πλῆθος ὑπαντιάζοντες ἐξῄεσαν). He also quotes from Suetonius the passage in which he tells us that, on Caligula's return from Germany, "populi Romans sexum, aetatem, ordinem omnem, usque ad Vicesimum lapidem effadisse se" ('Calig.,' c. 4). Appii Forum was not far from the coast, and was a great place for sailors and innkeepers (Horace, 'Sat.,' 1.5, 3). The Via Appia was made by Appius Claudius, B.C. 442. It led from the Ports Capena in Rome through the Pontino marshes to Capua.
Entered into for came to, A.V. and T.R.; the words which follow in the T.R. and the A.V., the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but, are omitted in the R.T. and R.V., following א, A, B, and many versions; Alford retains them, Meyer speaks doubtfully; abide for dwell, A.V.; the soldier that guarded him for a soldier that kept him, A.V. The captain of the guard (A.V.); τῷ στρατοπεδάρχῃ: in Latin praefectus praetorio (Στρατόπεδον, was the Greek name for the castra praetoriana). There were usually two great officers so called, and it was their special duty to take charge of prisoners sent from the provinces to be tried at Rome. 'Vinctus mitti ad praefectos praetorii met debet" (Pliny, 'Epist.,' 10.65). It has been argued, from the mention of "the captain of the guard," that Paul's imprisonment must have occurred when Burrus was sole prefect, as related by Tacitus ('Annal.,' 12.42, 1), and that hence we get a precise date for it (so Wieseler, 'Chronologic de Apostolisch. Geshichte'). But this can hardly be depended upon. Luke might speak of "the prefect," meaning the one to whom the prisoners were actually committed, just as we might speak of a magistrate writing to "the secretary of state," or an ambassador calling upon "the secretary of state," the matter in hand determining which of the three secretaries we meant. With the soldier that guarded him. It appears from verse 20 that St. Paul was subjected to the custodia militaris, i.e. that he was fastened by a single chain to a praetorian (στρατιώτης), but, as a special favor, granted probably on the good report of the courteous Julius, was allowed to dwell in his own hired house (verse 30); see Acts 24:23.
He for Paul, A.V. and T.R.; called together those that were the chief for called the chief … together, A.V.; I, brethren, though I had done for men and brethren, though I have committed, A.V. and T.R.; the customs for customs, A.V.; was I for was, A.V. After three days. He could but just have got into his hired house, but he would not lose a day in seeking out his brethren to speak to them of the hope of Israel. What marvelous activity! what unquenchable love! The chief (τοὺς ὄντας … πρώτους). The expression οἱ πρῶτοι, for the principal people of the district or neighborhood, occurs repeatedly in Josephus. The Jews. They had returned to Rome, after their banishment by Claudius (Acts 18:2), some time before this (Romans 16:3, Romans 16:7). I had done nothing against the people, or the customs (comp. Acts 23:1, Acts 23:6; Acts 24:14-16, Acts 24:20, Acts 24:21; Acts 25:8; Acts 26:6, Acts 26:7, Acts 26:22, Acts 26:23).
Desired to set me at liberty for would have let me go, A.V. Had examined me (ἀνακρίναντές με); see Acts 4:9; Acts 12:19; Acts 24:8; Acts 25:26. Desired to set me at liberty (see Acts 25:18, Acts 25:19, Acts 25:25; Acts 26:31, Acts 26:32).
When the Jews spake against it. This is a detail not expressly mentioned in the direct narrative in Acts 25:1-27., but which makes that narrative clearer. It shows us that Festus's proposal in Acts 25:9 was made in consequence of the opposition of the Jews to the acquittal which he was disposed to pronounce. I was constrained to appeal. Nothing can be more delicate, more conciliatory, or more truly patriotic than Paul's manner of addressing the Jews. Himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews, devoted to his kinsmen according to the flesh, never even putting forward his own privilege as a Roman citizen till the last necessity, he shows himself the constant friend of his own people in spite of all their ill usage. Undazzled by the splendor of Rome and the power of the Roman people, his heart is with his own despised nation, "that they might be saved." He wishes to he well with them; he wants them to understand his position; he speaks to them as a kinsman and a brother. His appeal to Caesar had been of necessity—to save his life. But he was not going to accuse his brethren before the dominant race. His first desire was that they should be his friends, and share with him the hope of the gospel of Christ.
Did I entreat you to see and to speak with me for have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you, A.V.; for because of for because that for, A.V. To see and to speak with me. Meyer, followed by Alford, rightly prefers the rendering of the A.V. and the margin of the R.V. Παρακαλέω is here in its primary sense of calling any one to come to you, and the two infinitives express the object for which he called them, viz. to see and speak with them. Because of the hope of Israel (see Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:6; Acts 24:14, Acts 24:15, Acts 24:21; Acts 26:6, Acts 26:22, Acts 26:23). I am bound with this chain (περικεῖμαι). In Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2 the millstone 'hangs about' (περικεῖται) the neck. But here and Hebrews 5:2 the construction is different, and the subject and the object are reversed. Instead of the chain encompassing Paul, Paul is said to be bound with the chain. (For the chain, see verse 16, note, and Acts 24:23.) The force of this saying seems to be this, "I have asked you to come to me because this chain which binds me is not a token of a renegade Israelite who has come to Rome to accuse his nation before the heathen master, but of a faithful Israelite, who has endured bondage rather than forsake the hope of his fathers."
From for out of, A.V.; nor for neither, A.V.; did any of the brethren come hither and report or speak for any of the brethren that came showed or spake, A.V. Nor did any of the brethren come hither, etc. This is no improvement on the A.V.; for it implies that they denied that any special messenger had been sent to speak harm of Paul, which nobody could have thought had been done. What they meant to say is exactly what the A.V. makes them say, viz. that, neither by special letters, nor by message nor casual information brought by Jews coming to Rome from Judaea, had they heard any harm of him. This seems odd; but as the Jews had no apparent motive for not speaking the truth, we must accept it as true. The expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius (Acts 18:1) may have slackened the intercourse between Judaea and Rome; the attention of the Jews may have been absorbed by their accusation of Felix; there had been a very short interval between Paul's appeal and his departure for Rome; he had only been at Rome three days, and so it is very possible that no report had yet reached Rome concerning him at this early season of the year.
It is known to us for we know, A.V. We desire (ἀξιοῦμεν); or, we are willing; literally, think it right (so Acts 16:38). Ηξίου, followed by a negative, means "was unwilling." It has this sense frequently in Xenophon, AElian, Josephus, and other Greek writers (see Kuinoel, on Acts 16:30). This sect (τῆς αἱρέσεως ταύτης); see Acts 24:5, Acts 24:14, notes. It is known to us; i.e. though we have heard nothing against you Paul, we have heard of the sect of the Nazarenes and have heard nothing but harm concerning it. Spoken against (ἀντιλέγεται); see Acts 13:45; Acts 13:19; Romans 10:21; Titus 1:9. It is called a "superstitio prava, malefica, exitiabilis" (Pliny, 'Ep.,' 10.96; Suetonius, 'Nero,' 16; Tacitus, 'Annal.,' 15.44; 'Speaker's Commentary').
They came to him into his lodging in great number for there came many to him into his lodging, A.V.; expounded the matter for expounded, A.V.; testifying for and testified, A.V.; and persuading for persuading, A.V.; from for out of (twice), A.V. His lodging; ξενία, elsewhere only in Philemon 1:22. It may well be the same as the "hired dwelling" in verse 30. Expounded (ἐξετίθετο). The verb governs the accusative τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, as in Acts 18:26, and is not intransitive, as in Acts 11:4. Testifying; διαμαρτυράμενος, a favorite word of St. Luke's, most commonly intransitive, and so to be taken here. It qualifies the verb (see Luke 16:28; Acts 2:40; Acts 8:25; Acts 10:42; Acts 20:23; Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:11). It is transitive in Acts 20:21, Acts 20:24; doubtful in Acts 18:5. The kingdom of God. The great subject-matter of the gospel in all its parts—grace, righteousness, glory, through Jesus Christ. From the Law of Moses and from the prophets (see Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44). From morning till evening. So do the Jews frequent the houses of the missionaries to this day, and listen with great interest and apparent earnestness to their teaching.
Disbelieved for believed not, A.V. The usual division of the hearers of the Word.
Isaiah for Esaias, A.V.; your for our, A.V. and T.R. When they agreed not; ἀσύμφωνοι ὄντες, only here in the New Testament; but συμφωνέω to agree, occurs repeatedly (Luke 5:36; Acts 5:9; Acts 15:15; and Matthew, pass.); also σύμφωνος and συμφώνησις (1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 6:15). Ἀσύμφωνος occurs in Wis. 18:10 and in classical writers. Probably the disagreement led to some altercation, and to the exhibition of the usual bigotry and prejudice and bitter opposition on the part of the unbelieving Jews. They departed; ἀπελύοντο, the proper word for the breaking up of an assembly (Matthew 14:15, Matthew 14:22, Matthew 14:23; Matthew 15:32, Matthew 15:39; Acts 15:30; Acts 19:41, etc.). Well spake the Holy Ghost. Note the distinct assertion of the inspiration of Isaiah. Compare the words of the Creed, "Who spake by the prophets;" and for similar statements, see Mark 12:36; Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 10:15, etc. Note also how resolutely St. Paul maintains his own standpoint as the faithful and consistent Israelite in accord with Moses and the prophets, while his adversaries, with their boasted zeal for the Law, were really its antagonists. The attitude of the true Catholics, in protesting against the corruptions and perversions of the Church of Rome, and showing that they are the faithful followers of Scripture and of apostolic tradition, and the true up holders of the primitive discipline and doctrine of the Church, is very similar.
Go thou for go, A.V.; by hearing for hearing, A.V.; in no wise for not, A.V.; shall in no wise for not, A.V. Go thou, etc. The quotation is all but verbatim from the LXX. of Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10. This particular chapter was evidently deemed one of great importance, since our Lord quotes from it (Matthew 13:14, Matthew 13:15), and St. John (John 12:37-41), as well as St. Paul in the passage before us. By hearing (ἀκοῇ). Why the LXX. translated עַוֹמשָׁ by the substantive (ἀκοῇ) instead of by the participle (ἀκούοντες), as in the precisely similar phrase which follows—βλέποντες βλέψατε—does not appear. The Hebrew reads, as it is rendered in the A.V.," Hear ye,… and see ye," etc., in the imperative mood, not differing much in sense (in prophetical language) from the future. It is impossible to give the force in English exactly of the repetition of the verb in the infinitive mood עַוֹמשָׁ וּעמְשְׁ, and וֹארָ וּארְ by a very common Hebrew idiom. It is done imperfectly by the word "indeed." Rosenmuller quotes from Demosthenes ('Contr. Aristogit.,' 1.) the proverbial saying, Ὁρώντας μὴ ὁρᾳν καὶ ἀκούονσας μὴ ἀκούειν
This people's heart for the heart of this people, A.V.; they have for have they, A.V.; lest haply they should perceive for lest they should see, A.V.; turn again for be converted, A.V. This people's heart, etc. So the LXX. But the Hebrew has the imperative form, "make fat.," "make heavy …. shut," in the prophetical style (comp. Jeremiah 1:10). They have closed (ἐκάμμυσαν). The verb καμμύω, contracted from καταμύω (μύω, to close, from the action of the lips in pronouncing the sound μυ), means "to shut" or "close" the eyes. It is found repeatedly in the LXX., and, in the form καταμύω, in classical writers. The word "mystery" is etymologically connected with it. The word hero expresses the willfulness of their unbelief: "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life."
This salvation for the salvation, A.V. and T.R.; they will also hear for and that they will hear it, A.V. The A.V. gives the sense better than the R.V. This salvation; τὸ σωτήριον. This form, instead of the more common σωτηρία, is found in Luke 2:30; Luke 3:6; and Ephesians 6:17. The Gentiles (see Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 22:26; Acts 26:1-32. Acts 26:17, Acts 26:20, Acts 26:23). But even at Rome the apostle of the Gentiles was faithful to the rule, "To the Jew first."
(A.V.).—This verse is entirely wanting in the R.T. and R.V. It is omitted in many good manuscripts and versions. It is condemned by Grotius, Mill, Tischendorf, Lachmann, and others; but is not absolutely rejected by Meyer, Alford, Plumptre, and others. Great reasoning (πολλὴν συζήτησιν see Acts 15:2, Acts 15:7; and Luke 22:23; Luke 24:15; Acts 6:9; Acts 9:29). The phrase is in St. Luke's style, and the statement seems necessary to complete the narrative.
He abode for Paul dwelt, A.V. and T.R.; dwelling for house, A.V.; went for came. A.V. Two whole years. Διετία occurs also in Acts 24:27, and διετής in Matthew 2:16; τριετία in Acts 20:31. These forms are frequent in the LXX. His own hired dwelling; ἰδίῳ μισθώματι, only here. The word properly means "hire," the price paid for the use of anything, and then by metonymy "the thing which is hired." It occurs frequently in the LXX. in the sense of" hire" or" wages;" e.g. Hosea 2:12; Deuteronomy 23:18, etc. This may be the ξενία spoken of in Deuteronomy 23:23, or he may have removed from thence into stone house more commodious for gathering Jews and Christians around him.
The things for those things, A.V.; concerning for which concern, A.V.; boldness for confidence, A.V.; none for no man, A.V. Boldness (παρρησίας); see above, Acts 2:29; Acts 4:13, Acts 4:29, Acts 4:31. The verb παρρησιάζομαι also occurs frequently (Acts 9:27; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3, etc.). The boldness and freedom with which he spake the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ would naturally increase more and more, as he found himself day by day unchecked by enemies, and encouraged by the number and earnestness of his hearers. None forbidding him; ἀκωλύτως, only here in the New Testament; but the adjective is found in Symmachus's version of Job (Job 34:31), and in the LXX. of Wis. 7:22; and both adjective and adverb are occasionally used in classical Greek. But the most common use of the adverb is by medical writers, who employ it "to denote freedom, unhindered action, in a variety of things, such as respiration, perspiration, the pulse, the muscles, the members of the body" (Hobart). In two passages quoted from Galen ('Meth. Med.,' 14.15; 'Usus Part.,' 2.15) the sentence ends, as here, with the word ἀκωλύτως Some derive the word "acolyte" hence, from their being admitted to holy functions, though not in full orders.
And so ends this lively and beautiful and most faithful sketch of one of the greatest men, and one of the greatest works, the world has ever seen. "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft," is seen, as we read this history, to be no empty boast, but a simple statement of the truth. The springs of that mind and of that zeal were ever ready to rise to fresh work, however crushing a strain had been put upon them. "I count not my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God," is the true description of that life as delineated by the beloved physician. And yet how remarkable it is that in the whole of the Acts there is not one single word of panegyric! The portraiture is a bare photograph, without a single additional touch to enhance its beauty. Nor must we forget the singular brevity with which some episodes are passed over. Had we only Luke's history, we should not know that the apostle was an author—an author whose writings have moved the world of mind and spirit more than all the writings of Plato, and Aristotle, and Cicero, and Bacon combined, through a period of eighteen hundred years. Thus, to glance at the "two whole years" with the record of which the book closes, think of the work clone in that time. What gatherings of holy men and women within the walls of that "hired dwelling" are we sure must have taken place! Prisca and Aquila, and Epaenetus, and Mary, and Urban, and Apelles, and Persis, and Hermas, and Olympas, and all their compeers, we may be sure were often there. What wrestlings in prayer, what expositions of the Scriptures, what descriptions of the kingdom of God, what loving exhortations, what sympathetic communings, must have made that "hired dwelling" a very Bethel in the stronghold of heathenism! We think of the praetorian soldiers to whom he was successively chained; perhaps of the courteous Julius; of the inmates of Nero's palace (Philippians 4:22); perhaps of Eubulus, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia (2 Timothy 4:21); of Epaphras and Epaphroditus, and of Luke, and Mark, and Timothy, and Aristarchus, and we know not how many more besides; and there rises before our minds a crowd of agencies and sober activities directed by that master mind to the advancement of the kingdom of God. We feel, indeed, that, though he was chained, "the word of God was not bound;" but that through the marvelous energy and unfailing wisdom of the great prisoner, his prison turned out rather to the furtherance of the gospel. And then we turn to the Epistles written at this time. What a contribution to the literature of the kingdom of heaven!-the Epistles to the Ephesians, to the Colossions, to Philemon, and to the Philippians, and probably much help given to Luke in the composition of the Acts of the Apostles. Truly they were two years of infinite moment to the Church of God. What followed those two years, what became of Paul, and what of his saintly biographer, we shall never know. It has pleased God to draw a curtain ever the events, which we cannot penetrate. Here our history ends, because nothing more had happened when it was given to the Church. Instead of vain regrets because it reaches no further, let us devoutly thank God for all that this book has taught us, and strive to show ourselves worthy members of that Gentile Church, whose foundation by St. Peter and St. Paul, and whose marvelous increment, through the labors of him who once laid it waste, has been so well set before us in the Book of THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
Genuine kindness is a pleasant thing to see by whomsoever and under whatsoever circumstances it is exercised. God has planted it in the human breast, and it is one of the distinctive attributes of man. Too often, indeed, the indulgence of bad passions is suffered to choke it, and rival interests to interfere with its action. Still, there it is, a faint reflection, it is true, of the love of God, but nevertheless a remnant of God's image in man; pleasant to behold, sweetening the relations of man with man, and capable, if allowed to exercise its rightful sway over human actions, of increasing to an almost infinite extent the happiness of the human race. Kindness shows itself, mainly, in two ways. First, in a general inclination to promote the well-being of others. But secondly and chiefly, in sentiments of sorrow and compassion for the misfortunes of others, and in active endeavors to relieve their sufferings and supply their wants. Such was the kindness of these simple Maltese peasants. They saw before them nearly three hundred persons in the extremest destitution. Houseless, without food, drenched with wet from the sea and from the rain, without any change of raiment, shivering with cold, exhausted with fatigue, their plight was most miserable. When the kind islanders saw them they were touched with their misfortunes, nor did they rest in pitiful feelings only. They set actively to work to alleviate their sufferings. They opened their humble dwellings to receive them. They supplied them with what food they could. They helped them to dry their dripping clothes; they collected fuel to kindle fires by which to warm them; they gave themselves no little trouble and labor to give them every comfort within their reach. And what enhances the kindness is that there could be no hope of reward. The men whom they were helping had lost everything they possessed. Their whole property had gone down to the bottom of the sea. They could give nothing in return for what they received. All the more was the uncommon kindness which they showed them pure and unalloyed with selfishness. They were unconsciously obeying the precept of Paul's Master, "Do good, hoping for nothing again." May we not hope that they found the truth of his promise, "Your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest"? It is a great confirmation of this hope that we read in the following verses how the hand of the Lord was stretched out in signs and wonders. The miracles of Scripture are never useless or gratuitous displays of power. The most obvious purpose of those wrought in Malta was the conversion of the natives; and it is very pleasant to think that those kind men who were privileged to minister to the necessities of Paul and Luke and their companions in the faith, reaped a rich and unexpected reward, when they learned at their mouths the blessed promises of God's grace, and were received into the number of the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
What a weary time had Paul's three last years of life been! Incessant fightings with his hard-hearted, virulent countrymen; a pitiless storm of hatred and persecution and false accusation raging incessantly against him; trial succeeding trial, yet bringing no respite from injustice; weary prison hours, while the active spirit was bound by the chain which kept him prisoner at Caesarea; and then the furious tempest, and the labors and anxieties of that terrific voyage, and the threats of the savage soldiery, and the loss of all he had in the shipwreck, and the hardships to be endured by his frail body in the cold wintry season. Save the kindness of the barbarians, there had been no rest to mind or body since he arrived at Jerusalem. And now his face was set towards Rome. But who could tell what awaited him there? He was going there as a prisoner. He was going to another trial. He was going to stand before Nero, with no protection but his innocence. He had countrymen at Rome. Would they behave towards him as his countrymen in Judaea had done? And what had he to expect from the populace at Rome? He had never seen Rome. But for a poor lone prisoner there was plenty in that city of blood and lust and unbounded power to awaken vague fears and undefined anxieties, and to trouble the firmest spirit. And so he walked on toward the goal, hopes and fears perhaps struggling within him for the mastery. And now they were just arriving at Appii Forum, when, lo! a considerable crowd advanced to meet him. Who could they be? and what was their errand? A moment or two soon explained it. They were brethren, Christian brethren, issuing from the foulness of the great heathen city in all the purity of faith and love, to come and greet and welcome the apostle. There, at a thousand miles from his native land, he was not among strangers; he was surrounded by those who had never indeed seen his face, but who loved him fervently in Christ Jesus. There, in the land of idolatry, amidst heathen temples and every form of wickedness flourishing in that hot-bed of corruption, he was in the midst of saints, by whom the Name of Jesus was loved and adored. In that stronghold of Satan there was a chosen band not ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, not ashamed of Paul his prisoner—a band of men to whom Paul's arrival was a joy and a glory, and who were come upwards of forty miles, in all the warmth of love and admiration, to honor him and welcome him, and to give him proof of their obedience and devotion to him. Their presence was like a bright gleam of sunshine upon the apostle's way. His heart leaped up in response to that welcome greeting. His bruised and wearied spirit revived. Love and joy and hope made music in his soul, and his first thought was to give God thanks for this refreshment. Then with fresh courage he went on his way like a giant refreshed with wine, ready to work or to suffer, to contend, to bear witness, to preach, to travel, to write, to spend and be spent, to live or to die for Christ, as his heavenly Father should appoint, till the set time should come when all his toil would be over, and the cress would be exchanged for the glorious crown of righteousness and of life.
The main feature in these concluding verses of the Acts of the Apostles, as it is one of the most momentous incidents in the history of God's dealings with mankind, is the fall of Israel from their proper place in the Church of God. For nearly two thousand years, if we date from the call of Abraham, this one family had been separated from the rest of mankind, and eventually received institutions of such wonderful strength and vitality as to keep them separate through centuries of extraordinary vicissitudes, that they might be depositaries of God's great promise, and his witnesses in the world. But when at length the great promise made by God to the fathers had its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ into the world, and the time of rest and glory to Israel would seem to have arrived, another event happened, also foretold by the prophets, viz. the rejection of their Messiah by an unbelieving and stiff-necked generation. He came to his own, and his own received him not. "Who hath believed our report?" was the prophetic announcement of this unbelief. "Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive" was the prophet's description of the gross heart of the people when the glad sound of the gospel should come unto them. And so now it came to pass. We have seen in the preceding narrative how the most gifted of men, with a profusion of love and eloquence and power which has never been surpassed, went about from country to country, and from city to city, proclaiming to his Jewish brethren the unsearchable riches of Christ. We have seen how everywhere to the mass he spoke in vain. The blessed Word of life fell on ears dull of hearing. They resented the message when they should have hailed the messenger with delight. They sought to silence that tongue in death which spoke to them of Jesus and the resurrection. And now once more a chance is given them. The generous prisoner has no sooner set his foot in Rome than he calls to him all his fellow-countrymen. Forgiving all the wrongs and injuries and violence which had embittered his life, he once more lays before them the blessed news of the kingdom of God and exhorts them to enter in. The exhortation is in vain. They judge themselves unworthy of eternal life; they will not have God's Christ to reign over them. And so they seal their own doom. The time of their fall is come—the time when the kingdom of God must be taken from them and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. But now mark the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. See how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out. This fall of Israel, so sad in itself, so sad in relation to the great fathers of the house of Israel, so fatal, one would have thought, to the interests of the kingdom of Christ, becomes the riches of the world. From that fall emerges the great mystery of God, which had lain concealed through ages and generations, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and partakers of the great Messianic promise. Through that fall of Israel salvation came to the breadth and length of the heathen world. "The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles," and they were ready to hear it. The light that had been shut up within the four walls of the commonwealth of Israel, and only shining as it were through the chinks and crannies of those walls, now that those walls were broken down blazed forth to fill the world with its heavenly brightness. The voice of Divine truth, of which only faint echoes had been heard outside those walls, now went out through all lands in all the fullness of its converting power. Now were the heathen given to Christ for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession. The fall of Israel was become the riches of the Gentiles, and their loss the world's gain. But the mystery of God was not yet worked out. That had yet to be unfolded and shown to the world, which St. Paul told the Roman Church, "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Israel has not stumbled to his final fall. The eternal hand still holds him up through centuries of darkness; and the eternal voice will yet say to him, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee!" The time will come, for God has spoken it, when the heart of stone, which denied the Lord of glory, will be exchanged for a heart of flesh, which will love and adore him. The time will come when the long-lost sheep will return to the good and loving Shepherd who is waiting to receive them, "and so all Israel shall be saved." How or when that promised time will come we know not. But we know that it will come. And when it does come it will be to the whole human race as life from the dead. Watch for it, O ye Gentile Christians! Watch for it, O ye sons of Israel! Pray for it, all ye that love Christ! for it will be the day of the fullness of his glory, and the consummation of your bliss.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
A picture of the human.
In these few verses we have a graphic picture of some of the experiences of our life and of the instincts or intuitions of our nature.
I. A PICTURE OF THE HUMAN.
1. Human suffering.
(1) Trouble. Doubtless the first sentiment on escaping death by shipwreck is intense gladness and gratitude, But the next is the consciousness of loss. The man who lands on the island after battling with the waves first congratulates himself and (if he be a devout man) thanks God that his life is preserved; then he realizes what he has left behind him; and he soon becomes conscious of the exposure to which he is subjected—he allows himself to be troubled "because of the present rain, and because of the cold" (Acts 28:2). It is not shipwreck only, but many other kinds of wreck which plunge men "into the cold," into adversity, into bereavement of the good which they had enjoyed.
(2) Sickness (Acts 28:8).
2. Unspoiled human nature. Such is the dire effect of long-continued, sin upon the soul, that it often happens that nearly every vestige of the goodness with which our Creator first endowed us disappears. As God made us, it was natural that we should compassionate our fellows in misery, and that we should be grateful to them for their help. Only too often, however, man is found pitiless and thankless. The shipwrecked mariner is murdered as he strikes the shore; the benefactor reaps no blessing, no honor for his kindness. Not so, however, here. Here was
(1) pity, "the barbarous people showed no little kindness" (Acts 28:2). Here, also, was
(2) gratitude (Acts 28:10).
3. An ineradicable human conviction. Underlying the conclusion to which these natives of Malta came (Acts 28:4), was the conviction, common to our kind, that sin merits punishment and will be overtaken by it. This is a fundamental and ultimate principle; we need not try to account for it or to "get behind it." It is sufficient in itself; it is a conviction that comes from the Author of our spiritual nature, which will not be dislodged, which itself accounts for much that we think, say, and do—that sin deserves penalty, and sooner or later must bear it.
4. A human error, common to the unenlightened. A narrow mind and one unillumined by the teaching of God makes a great mistake in applying the truth just stated; it infers that any particular misfortune is referable to some special sin (Acts 28:4; see John 9:3; John 7:24). It also falls into error of a similar kind, though conducting to an opposite conclusion—it infers that a man who has an extraordinary escape is a special favorite of Heaven (Acts 28:6). Taught of God, we know that, while sin brings penalty, inward and circumstantial, and while righteousness brings Divine regard and honor, God often permits or sends suffering and sorrow in fatherly love for the promotion of the highest well-being (Hebrews 12:5-11). We have also here—
II. THE MANIFEST PRESENCE OF THE DIVINE. Christ was present:
1. In the person of his apostle. That teacher of truth who had been so influential a passenger on board ship (Acts 27:1-44.), and who makes himself so useful now (Acts 28:3, Acts 28:8, Acts 28:9), is there in his Master's Name, and on his Master's work.
2. In the exercise of benignant power:
(1) protection from harm;
(2) exercise of healing power. We may learn three special lessons.
(a) That true dignity is never above usefulness, even of the humblest kind; a Paul may gather sticks in time of emergency without losing honor.
(b) That Christian generosity must not be behind native kindness.
(c) That bodily benefit is an admirable introduction to spiritual help. Who can doubt that Paul used the gratitude and honor which he reaped (Acts 28:10) to find a way for the truth of Christ to the minds and hearts of the Maltese?—C.
A striking and touching instance is this of valuable human kindness. It is a positive relief to our minds to think that the faithful veteran soldier of Jesus Christ, bearing in his body such marks of lifelong conflict, worn with toil and care and suffering, having escaped from one kind of affliction and on his way to another, met with such considerate kindness as greatly comforted and cheered him. The text may remind us—
I. THAT HUMAN KINDNESS IS A DIVINELY IMPLANTED DISPOSITION. As God created us "in his own image," we were made to feel and show kindness one to another; to rejoice in one another's success; to promote one another's prosperity; to sympathize with one another in sorrow; to be willing to deny ourselves, to run risks, to make sacrifices, to help others in their time of need.
II. THAT UNDER THE CURSE OF SIN IT MAY RE ERADICATED FROM THE SOUL; e.g. pirates, wreckers, thugs, etc.
III. THAT IT SHOULD BE DEVELOPED BY CONSTANT CULTURE. Kindness, like all other graces, needs regular cultivation, or it will decline or even perish. It needs:
1. The nurture which comes from the utterance of truth; the reception of right thoughts into the mind.
2. The strengthening which proceeds from daily illustration; that which is derived from the practice of slight and simple acts of considerateness and good will.
3. The confirmation of larger acts of self-sacrificing love; such acts as cause trouble, as involve difficulty, as entail risk, as necessitate expenditure.
IV. THAT IT HAS RENDERED HIGH SERVICE IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
1. To the great King himself; for shall we not say that much of the ministry of those women who waited on him so kindly, and something of the attendance granted by the men who tendered him their aid, was the offering of human kindness rather than of Divine service? Yet it was not on that account unacceptable or unserviceable.
2. To his apostles. Here is one instance in which human kindness greatly comforted and heartened a valued servant of Christ, and helped him on his useful and fruitful course.
3. To his servants in all succeeding centuries. Who shall tell how much the cause of Christ has been furthered by the opportune kindness shown by tender hearts and gentle hands to those who have been its representatives and champions?
V. THAT IT IS AN ADMIRABLE THING IN ITSELF: one that is highly esteemed of God (Heb, Acts 13:16; Eph 3:1-21 :32); one that is beautiful in the sight of man, that adorns the doctrine, that is to the character what the bloom is to the plant; one that has a general and precious reflex influence on those that exercise and exhibit it.
VI. THAT IT IS A BLESSING FOR WHICH WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL TO GOD. Paul "thanked God" as well as "took courage." We have reason to thank God for human kindness as much as for any blessing we receive. For though this does not come as perceptibly from him as the sunshine and the rain, yet ultimately and actually it is as much his gift as they are. Only the loving God can originate love in the human heart and in the human life. "God is our Sun," from whom streams every ray of human kindness that falls on our path and cheers our soul. Let us, too, thank God for it, while we take courage from it.—C.
The Christian and the Jew.
Here we have the Christian and the Jew brought into close contact; and there seems to have been as fair an opportunity for the latter to understand and appreciate the former as could ever have been granted. With calmness, with the wisdom and fullness of long study and mature experience, the most enlightened Christian apologist presented the case of Christianity to these men of the Jewish faith. We may look at—
I. THE INTRODUCTION. Paul felt that his position was one which was open to misunderstanding on the part of his fellow-countrymen, and he resolved on a free and full explanation. In this we recognize
(1) his constant faithfulness; for it was in discharge of his duty to his Divine Master that he sought to conciliate those who were his enemies; also
(2) his habitual courtesy; for the whole strain of his address to the "chief of the Jews" was suave and courteous in a high degree (Acts 28:17-20).
In their reply (Acts 28:21, Acts 28:22) we recognize
(1) a formal impartiality combined with
(2) a real prepossession of mind decidedly against the cause of which he was the advocate.
II. THE CONFERENCE. (Acts 28:23-28.) We have:
1. Christian earnestness confronting Jewish curiosity. Paul "expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them," etc., evidently with characteristic zeal. They listened, curious and wondering what he had to say. "We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest." Christian fervor on the one side, Jewish eagerness on the other.
2. Christian truth striving with Jewish prejudice. Paul marshaled his facts and his arguments, we cannot doubt, to the full height of his fervor and his practiced ability, maintaining his plea at great length (Acts 28:23). But he spoke to men whose minds were occupied with prejudice. The "sect was everywhere spoken against," they said to him. They probably used much stronger language in speaking to one another.
3. Christian truth prevailing over Jewish prejudice. But seldom do we read of men being "convinced against their will;" but we are glad to read here that "some believed," etc. (Acts 28:24).
4. But we have the old sad story of Jewish prejudice prevailing over Christian truth. "Some believed not."
5. Finally we have Christian indignation uttering itself freely (Acts 28:25-27). We turn to—
III. THE LESSORS WE GAIN FROM IT.
1. That it is right for us to invite and address the curious as well as the devout. We should summon to the sanctuary not only those who are wishful to worship God, but those also who are solicitous to learn what we have to say on any subject with which we deal.
2. That we should exert ourselves to present truth in all its phases and with all our force. As Paul made his appeal to the Law and to the prophets, and developed and illustrated his argument at full length, so we should present the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, in all its fullness and in all its force; not being satisfied until we have "declared the whole counsel of God."
3. That we may reasonably hope for some measure of success. We have to contend, not indeed with Jewish prejudice, but with human obduracy. Yet armed with Divine truth and aided by the Divine Spirit, we should look for success.
4. That we need not be surprised at partial failure. Where apostles were baffled we may be beaten.
5. That the hour of rebuke sometimes comes in the ministry of Christ.
6. That one sphere failing, another will open to the earnest worker (Acts 28:28). The salvation of God is sent to all men, and there are those who "will hear it," if there are many who will not.—C.
Acts 28:30, Acts 28:31
Concerning Christ and his kingdom
"The kingdom of God," which Paul preached in his own hired house for two years, was none other than the "kingdom of Christ," or the "kingdom of heaven" which Jesus announced, and conceiving which he said so much when he was on earth (see Matthew 6:33; Luke 22:29; John 18:36; Matthew 13:24-50, etc.). Christ came for the purpose of establishing, or rather re-establishing, the kingdom of God on earth, of reinstating the Divine Father on the throne of the human world. This was the end and aim of his mission; therefore "those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ" are the same things which concern "the kingdom of God" (text and also Acts 28:23). We look, then, at this kingdom—
I. ITS SPIRITUAL SOVEREIGNTY. He has told us with great distinctness that his kingdom is "not of this world." We gather from all that he said and did that it is none other and nothing lower than the spiritual and universal sovereignty which God, the Divine Father, which he himself, the Divine Savior, would exercise over mankind; the domain of righteousness and love over the willing minds, the rejoicing hearts, of a redeemed and regenerated world—a kingdom in which God is to be the one Sovereign, righteousness the only accepted law, love the pervading and prevailing spirit, joy the abounding and abiding issue.
II. THE CONDITIONS OF CITIZENSHIP. From a Divine point of view the condition is that of regeneration (John 3:3). From that point of view which is open to us, and from which our action is possible, the conditions are humility (Matthew 5:3; Luke 18:17), and faith in Jesus Christ himself, "By faith … in me" (Acts 26:18; John 6:29, John 6:35, John 6:40, John 6:53, etc.).
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF ITS SUBJECTS.
1. Docility (Matthew 18:4).
2. Love (John 13:35).
3. Continued obedience to the will of Christ (John 8:31).
4. Faithfulness unto suffering (Luke 17:20).
5. Peacefulness of spirit (Matthew 5:9; Romans 14:17).
6. Sacred joy (Romans 5:11; Romans 14:17).
IV. THE METHOD OF ITS WARFARE. Its warfare is wholly spiritual (John 8:36).
1. It assails spiritual evils. It does battle with sin in all its forms and in all its consequences.
2. It employs spiritual weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4); these are truth, love, faith, consistency, etc.
V. THE MANNER OF ITS COMING. Some earthly powers come with great ostentation, with sound of trumpet, with announcement of herald, with "pomp and circumstance;" but "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation." He "did not strive nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets," when he lived below. And now he comes in gospel privilege, in gracious invitation, in benignant influences, in Divine prompting; not as the storm comes, but as the dew; not in the great and strong wind that rends the mountains, but in the still small voice that touches the heart and makes all things new.
VI. ITS OPENNESS TO EVERY SEEKING SOUL, If there is one thing concerning the "kingdom of God, or one thing which "concerns the Lord Jesus Christ" which is a more true and faithful saying than another, which is more valuable and precious to the human world than another, it is this—that the gates of that blessed kingdom stand open night and day, are wide open to receive the most unworthy if they will pass through in sincere humility and simple faith; that the Lord Jesus Christ stands ever waiting to receive the heart which is looking for a Savior from sin; that he is not only prepared, but eager to welcome to his side and his service every human soul that is hungering after righteousness, that will accept his mercy, that will take his yoke; that unto all of these he will give, not only present and abiding rest, but future and everlasting joy.—C.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Occurrences at Malta.
I. THE HOSPITALITY OF THE HEATHEN. The instinct of kindness is God-implanted in the human heart. Hospitality was not so much a virtue in heathendom as the refusal of it a crime. So much the more must any "shutting up of the bowels of compassion" against the needy brother or the stranger be an offence against the Son of man. The great charge which he, in his depiction of the scene of judgment, brings against the unfaithful is the neglect of the common offices of love.
II. THE CHRISTEN FINDS EVERYWHERE A HOME. For if he carries the love of God in his heart, no coast can be foreign land, no color or custom of men repel. It was a heathen who said, "I am a man, and nothing human is foreign to me." The Christian may translate the saying, "I am a follower of the Son of man, and nothing that is dear to him is strange to me,"
III. YET HE MEETS PERIL, MISCONSTRUCTION, AND ENMITY. HOW quickly do the open brows of hospitable kindness change into scowls and frowns as the viper fastens on Paul's hand! They reason he must be a murderer. Occurrences are full of effects without visible causes. The untrained mind makes out of coincidences chains of cause and effect which do not exist. The afflicted man is supposed to be a wicked man. In propagating Christianity we need to take the sword of the Spirit, which owes its bright temper to Divine intelligence. We must meet unreason with reason, and cast out superstitious darkness by the clear light of all accessible knowledge.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN IS DELIVERED THAT HE MAY DELIVER OTHERS. AS Paul casts off the serpent harmless, he is seen to be under the Divine protection. Here is a man who leads apparently a charmed life. The waves could not swallow him, nor the serpent sting him. The heathen mind revolts from one extreme of superstition to another. Now Paul must be a god! "The common mass know no measure; they raise a man to heaven or thrust him into hell" (Acts 14:12, Acts 14:18). The Christian may rapidly pass from the extreme of depreciation or shame to that of honor, feeling equally that he deserves neither. Yet both in the one and the other the business of the Christian is not to defend himself from misunderstandings, but "through good report and evil report," as Paul said, to go on with his work and witness, leaving Providence to show the kind of work the hour and the place demand. Here Paul is entirely devoted to the healing activity of the body. There are times of silence; and the spectacle of the servant of Christ busy in doing good during his stay in the island may have wrought more on the memory of the people than many sermons would have done.—J.
The passage from Malta to Rome.
I. BLESSINGS BY THE WAY. Christian fellowship is enjoyed. Unity and relationship in Jesus Christ make the unknown as known. The heart dissolves distance and strangeness. God has everywhere hidden children. The discovery of them is the discovery of a dear bond of brotherhood, and this fills the heart with joy (comp. Romans 1:12). The coming forth of the brethren from Rome to meet the party showed that his letter to them had not been without result. So he thanked God and took heart. This slight word seems to allude to a certain failing of heart and dejection, such as the greatest souls are liable to in critical moments. His life was passed in cloud and sunshine, and the record of both has been faithfully left behind. In both there is deep encouragement for us.
II. THE ARRIVAL AT ROME. It was an epoch:
1. For him. His life-goal is at last reached. He comes, a homeless stranger, yet escorted by loving friends; as an evildoer in bonds, yet with the grace of God in his heart; as a victim doomed to sacrifice, yet as a victorious conqueror, to plant the banner of the cross in the citadel of heathendom.
2. For heathendom it was a critical moment. It is the signal for the wane of its glory and pride. For the next three centuries it was to lead a struggling existence, until all that was good in it should be absorbed into the kingdom of God, and the rest be cast away with the refuse of time.
3. For Judaism. Paul turns for the last time to his people. Exclusiveness is decaying; the priest and the doctor and their followers, who refuse to come to terms with Christ, must fold their garments about them and pass into solitude amidst the life of civilization. Rome is to replace Jerusalem.
4. For Christianity. Sanguinary struggles await her in Rome, but in the end a glorious victory.—J.
Paul and the Roman Jews.
I. A FINAL PERSONAL TESTIMONY OF INNOCENCE. It is full of manly courage and simplicity. It was no subversive teaching or conduct that had brought him into his present position. No definite charge had ever been proved against him. Like the Master, it was as a fulfiller, not as a destroyer, that he had wrought. It was for the "hope of Israel "he had suffered. Great teachers are always fulfillers. But because they see that truth is not stagnant, but living, they are accused of innovation. When we accuse others of innovation, let us ask whether it be not that our own garb of thought has grown old. The whole New Testament story is one long protest against imposing fetters on the freedom of the living spirit and the course of truth.
II. A FINAL CONFESSION. Of Jesus as the Messiah. And a final argument with his countrymen. To point back to Moses and the prophets in evidence of this was to show that the doctrine of the cross and the resurrection was the fulfillment and consummation of the ancient faith of Israel. But this was no cold statement, no perfunctory statement. From morning till evening Paul labored with his countrymen's souls. Men are never weary of speaking of that of which their hearts are full. It is not the argumentative side of Christian truth on which every preacher or teacher can dwell. But whatever be the aspect of truth and life he conceives with force and which possesses his soul, let him speak and not be weary. The result will be the same as with Paul, and cannot be expected otherwise. Some will be persuaded, others will disbelieve. The clear expression of any positive truth will be echoed in assent and resisted in negation. Perhaps we can never be sure that we have spoken the truth until we have met opposition.
III. FINAL EFFUSION OF LOVE. He addresses them as brethren, and after telling them of the enmity and persecution he had experienced at the hands of their fathers in Palestine, he still knocks once more at the door of their hearts. The prophetic words of his close are full of a solemn pathos. The audience, disunited, falls to two sections. It is not that division begins with the preaching of the gospel, but the hidden disunion of the heart is brought to light. The sun does not produce difference, but only reveals difference, which could not be recognized in darkness. Hardness of heart is both a natural consequence of contempt of the truth, and a Divine judgment upon it. But the aurora of the future shines brightly against this dark background of Israel's rejection. No sin, no ingratitude of man, can dim the splendor of that eternal heaven of grace. If the Jews will not come to the great supper of God, the Gentiles shall fill his house.—J.
Acts 28:30, Acts 28:31
Paul's preaching at Rome.
I. IT WAS A FULFILLMENT OF A PROMISE. (Acts 9:15.)
II. IT WAS A PROPHECY OF THE FUTURE. Long has the world been ruled from Rome; though often through corrupt forms, the Spirit of Christ has gone forth from her to heal and to civilize. Slowly the dominion of Rome must melt to give place to the idea which she has represented—the world-wide dominion of the kingdom of God.
III. IT WAS THE REALIZATION OF THE PREACHER'S IDEAL.
1. There is a welcome for all. Nothing inaccessible, forbidding, hard to approach, should be in the preacher's manner. No "stand aside, for I am holier than thou!" He must make men feel that he has no reserves, no keeping back of anything they ought to know, no half-truths; that they are welcome fully to all the best of head and heart. He must not deal with people as sinners beneath him, but as his fellows, as man with men.
2. There is boldness of utterance. Parrhesia, the last word but one of the book. Without this, the preacher is nerveless and ineffective. If he fears his audience, fears public opinion, fears himself, he is undone. The pulpit is the post for a brave man, not less than the sentinel's in wartime. "The hour is regal when he mounts on guard." Cowardice may be fatal to himself and others. Self-surrender to God, like that of Paul, is the secret of the freedom of the preacher.
3. Unfettered external liberty. These were, perhaps, the happiest years of his life. "Unhindered" (akolutos)—this is the last word of the book. How shall the preacher excuse himself, if in a free country, with every encouragement to free speech, he fails to utter himself and his message, and declare, so far as he understands it, the whole counsel of God? When shall men feel that the Jesus Christ is the Friend of all men, and that his Church is their home? When, for one thing, his ministers rise to the ideal of their high calling as it is illustrated in this final scene of the book—Paul the teacher and preacher at Rome.—J.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The instability of ignorance, and the stability of the true Christian.
The whole circumstance an apt illustration of the spiritual forces working in the midst of the natural. The shipwrecked company. Paul active in helping. The barbarians better than those who abused Divine blessings like the Jews, who violated Divine order like the Romans; but, though actuated by kindness, easily led away by superstition and ignorant prejudice.
I. THE INSUFFICIENCY OF NATURAL INSTINCTS.
1. Justice easily perverted, because misapplied.
2. The wonders of the material world both misunderstood and misemployed.
3. Reactions, both intellectual and moral, the curse of the world. Irrational depreciation and irrational homage side by side. The world's hero-worship a sad comment on its fickleness and blindness. Ant Deus ant diabolus. We want some true guiding principles which religion alone furnishes.
II. THE STRENGTH WHICH RESTS ON GOD.
1. Calm in danger, because confident of Divine approval and mission. The records of missionary heroism supply many such facts. As much as possible we should cherish the same spirit in common life. True presence of mind the growth of moral strength.
2. He that is full of the Spirit of God will shake off vipers into the fire. The viper of detraction and calumny. The viper of personal animosity. The viper of worldly solicitation. The viper of devouring anxieties and cares. If we are doing God's work, he will preserve us. And the world which at first has misunderstood and injured us will sweep round in its thoughts, and do us honor as God's servants.—R.
"The healing of the nations."
The mission of Christianity to heal both body and soul. The powerful appeal which can be made through gratitude. The necessity of a prayerful spirit in the exercise of the gifts bestowed.
I. LESSONS ON THE WORK OF THE CHRISTIAN MESSENGER.
1. Personal character a great power in the ministration of truth. "They said he was a god." We must make a way for ourselves to men's hearts.
2. Benevolent works an introduction for the gospel. "The rest came."
3. The chief men should be won—not merely the lower classes. The unconverted rulers and rich have sorrows in their homes. We may reach them through their family affections.
II. THE SPIRITUAL HEALING OF THE WORLD IS THE HOPE OF ITS FUTURE.
1. A retrospect of the beneficent influence of Christianity on the life of man.
2. A contrast between the method of the gospel and the pretentious but powerless schemes of socialists and political and scientific enthusiasts.
3. The works of Christ affect the mass through the individual. Multitudinism is delusion. But the mass of the Christian Church must be aggressive on the mass of the world.—R.
The break in the clouds.
"He thanked God, and took courage? Review of the apostolic history. The word of God fulfilled. The varied emotions of the ambassador's heart, personal in view of his work, in anticipation of the results of the future in Rome. The gospel at the gates of the empire. Spiritual power before worldly power.
I. THE STUDY OF PROVIDENCE a help to the development of Christian character and life.
1. It promotes thankfulness.
2. It confirms faith.
3. It draws Christians nearer to one another, as they rejoice together.
4. It prepares for work and suffering. Paul needed all the courage he could take.
II. THE USE WE SHOULD MAKE OF OUR OPPORTUNITIES.
1. Not to "rest and be thankful," but to press on for the prize. The prosperous times of the Church, as of the individual, often precede great trials. Paul is outside Rome, but he is not out of danger.
2. The opportunity of renewed intercourse with brethren and revived life in the Church, for higher testimony. Help each other to be strong.—R.
The reproach which must be borne.
"As concerning this sect," etc. The disciples of Jesus supported by his example. "Despised and rejected of men." The tendency of human thought and life to stagnate. The strength of vested interests. To be spoken against tries faith, but strengthens principle. Individually, socially, the reproach of Christ must be borne.
I. THE JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD by the manifestation of the truth.
1. The doctrine of Christ unwelcome.
2. The prejudices of party an obstacle to the spread of truth.
3. The victories of the gospel obtained by the grace of God.
II. THE DISCIPLINE OF DISCIPLESHIP.
2. Temporary. Reactions to be reckoned for. Hold on, and the world speaks as much for, as once against.
3. The life which survives the oppositions of pride and the misrepresentations of enmity is trained to a larger sphere. The sect spoken against became the orthodoxy of the future. The first enemies of Christianity were the Jews, but the opposition of unbelief was overruled to the greater victories of truth. So now the time of transition is severe discipline, but it will be followed by a time of splendid triumph when the messengers have been prepared for it.—R.
The Christian advocate putting forth his pleas.
"Persuading them concerning Jesus." Importance of the crisis. Jerusalem. Rome. A few years, and Jerusalem destroyed. Judaism brought Paul in fetters to Rome. The old Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem struggling together. Brief notice of Paul's labors at Rome, and then the book closes. Significant of the fact that the new dispensation was inaugurated. Peculiar population of Rome, representative of the cosmopolitan Roman empire, a fitting ground for the gospel to be sown in.
I. THE MATTER OF THE MESSAGE. "Concerning Jesus." (Compare the Epistles to the Romans and Hebrews.)
1. The righteousness of God set forth, instead of man's righteousness.
2. The priestly office of Christ abolishing ritualism, and opening the gates of the spiritual temple.
3. Jesus the promised King, the Lifter-up of the fallen people, the Desire of all nations, the Renovator of the world. Compare with such a setting forth of Jesus, the state of the Jews and Romans, in faith, worship, and hope, both in the individual and in society, both for time and for eternity.
II. THE METHOD ADOPTED by the messenger. Persuasion.
1. The written Word of God the basis. The Old and the New Testaments harmonized. Faith is an outcome of faith: "Ye believe in God, believe also in me."
2. Personal testimony. "I am a Christian; be such as I am." True persuasion is personal. We must aim at the heart, and not merely at the intellect; and the heart must direct the aim.
3. Those that would persuade must be prepared to use none but spiritual means. Neither sensational excitement, nor ritualistic seductions, nor corrupt appeals to lower natures, are permissible to the Christian advocate. Let truth win its victory.—R.
The Word of God trying the hearts of men.
"And some believed," etc. The end of all preaching is practical faith. Not sentiment. Not mere intellectual change. Illustrate from those who listened to Paul. What faith involved to a Jew, to a heathen. The alternative, not indifference, not neutrality, but "disbelief" (Revised Version), exemplified in the opposition of Jews. Moral responsibility for faith, as seen in the light of the Old Testament view (Acts 28:26, Acts 28:27). Resistance to the Spirit a moral perversion and hardening.
I. GOD'S SPIRIT WORKS BY MEANS OF HUMAN AGENCY.
1. The truth is presented to the heart, notwithstanding infirmities of method and manner.
2. The external ministration corresponds to the internal work of grace.
3. The essential point in all preaching is the presentation of an object of faith. Jesus.
II. THOSE WHO LISTEN TO THE WORD OF GOD ARE TRIED BY IT.
1. The broad distinction between acceptance and rejection of Christ. The heart which moves towards the Savior is changed.
2. No compromise in the final result, though hearts may deceive themselves. By faith we stand.
3. While there is the opportunity of hearing, there is hope of turning the unbelief into faith. God's people must never take it for granted that any are beyond reach. They hear not as they might hear.
4. The opportunity may be itself decisive. "Now is the accepted time."—R.
Acts 28:30, Acts 28:31
The watchman upon the walls of Jerusalem.
"And he abode two whole years," etc. The last look at Paul significant of the future. The kingdom of God traced in Acts from the old Jerusalem to Rome. The apostle of the Gentiles left at his work, soon to seal it with his blood. Pauline Christianity in its relation to the spread of the kingdom. No one taught better "the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ."
I. AN EXAMPLE OF INDIVIDUAL DEVOTEDNESS. The value of such a witness to the early Church.
1. All his strength derived from Christ.
2. All his life given to service.
3. The character of the man opened for him the way of his ministry. He longed to be at Rome, and at Rome he fulfilled his own ideal of the Christian messenger.
II. A WONDERFUL ILLUSTRATION OF OVERRULING PROVIDENCE. The prophecy fulfilled. The restraint of enemies. The provision of opportunities. The sustenance of physical and moral strength. The preparation of the man for his post. The intellectual training and world-wide experience all employed. A post is fitted for each, and each is fitted for his post.
III. A SIGNIFICANT FACT IN THE WORLD'S HISTORY. The most momentous facts not always those which appear most startling. The palace of the Caesars beside the hired house of the apostle. The world then would have despised the day of small things. A germ of new life in the old corruption. The gospel wins its triumphs by simple methods. The Acts of the Apostles are greater in the history of the world than the annals of Rome. The kingdom of God has come, is coming, shall come. May we say in heart and life, "Thy kingdom come"!—R.
HOMILIES BY P.C. BARKER
A strong family likeness.
This short episode is, in its proportion, as refreshing to the reader as to those who played the actual part in it. It is the oasis of narrative. It reads like a brief parable of the human heart. Or we may be impressed by it, as by some portrait, which presents to our view features with which we seem to be very familiar, and half hiding, half revealing a likeness to some one well known. They are the features that "half conceal and half reveal" the likeness of the human heart. And throughout the family of human heart, very strong indeed is the family likeness, above what can be found anywhere else. Notice these features, so characteristic of it.
I. ITS KINDNESS.
1. The heart loves kindness—to receive it.
2. The heart loves kindness—to do it. Both of these are deep facts of the heart, and speak not obscurely him who made it.
3. The kindness that is in the heart is touched towards bodily want, cold, hunger, thirst, shelterless exposure; and this tells the tale of all the rest (Matthew 25:35-45).
4. The kindness of the heart contravenes in human life the bare action of the principle of natural selection; it tempers it with irresistibly modifying and irresistibly elevating moral influences; it determines and regulates in a way all its own "the survival of the fittest," and it is the thing on earth likest what is habitual in heaven!
5. The kindness of the human heart is found everywhere, and in every age of the world.
II. ITS SUPERSTITION.
1. The superstition that is so often betrayed by the human heart is an unerring sign of the sense of God and the instinct of the infinite present in it.
2. It means that sense unguided, that instinct baffled.
3. It evidences deep conviction of moral distinctions inside man, and of presiding moral judgments outside men, and authoritative over them, all unfed as these may be from truth's own springs, and unpointed to their infinitely worthy objects.
4. It is a constant rehearsal of judgment to come.
III. ITS SWIFTNESS TO TURN. Hence come
(1) the worse uses of such versatility and such swiftness, fickleness, and caprice, and waywardness, and love of mere variety; but
(2) the better uses, readiness to forgive, swiftness to run and even meet the returning prodigal;
(3) the thoroughness of contrition and conversion, that need but a moment—like those of Paul himself; and
(4) the power to recover, after sorest stricken griefs, and most fearful storms of sorrow or of passion.
IV. ITS ADDICTEDNESS TO EXTREMES. The people of Melita began with simplest, most unaffected kindness. They saw no instructing providence, but when the occasion came superstition filled their heart, and Paul is "no doubt a murderer, whom vengeance suffereth not to live, though he hath escaped the sea." This is their short and summary theology. But it is not altogether so stiff and unopen to conviction. They are changed to the opposite pole when they find, "after a great while," i.e. what seemed a great while for eyes fixed in one direction, but which was indeed a very little while, that vengeance does not make an end to the life of Paul. And from a pursued murderer, they exalt him to the skies of the gods! Happy if the history of every erring heart had as much of the kindness as was here, and no more of the error and the mischief and the disaster than were here. Kindness began the scene, and, when fear clouded it over awhile, the last "change of mind" was not from better to worse, but from worse to better. Yet still how mournfully plain it is that nature's light alone, leaves the barbarian! For so he must be called justly who exalts the child of God into a god himself.—B.
A type of the beneficent action of Christianity.
Christian truth embodied in Christian men had not long been in an island to which it was quite strange before it found its footing, made its mark, and left behind it memories equally lasting and fragrant. Amid the wide group of suggestions offered by these verses, we may especially note the following as particularly worthy of a place in connection with this history:—
I. THE WATCHFULNESS OF THE MASTER OVER HIS SERVANTS TO BE WELL TRUSTED. God had guided Paul and his companions, after a fierce voyage at all events, to a safe haven at last. But here also they found,
(1) in common with all the company, for very humanity's sake, kindness, and "no common kindness" either; and
(2) they found also for themselves honored and distinguished entertainment. How often since has this been seen true! What kindness, what entertainment, has been heartily given to men as the servants of Christ, which nothing else personal to themselves would have either earned for them or entitled them to!
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO KINDNESS OF HEART AND OF ACT THAT CHRISTIANITY PROMOTES. Publius showed kindness, doubtless not imagining any reward for himself. But most surely he received abundant recompense of reward. The prospect of any such return undoubtedly is not to be waited for or reckoned upon, but the bountiful hand of Jesus, whose generosity will never be outdone, ought to be noted. Generous, indeed, are the acknowledgments of Christianity. It repays kindness of heart and kindness of act with an inner satisfaction and with a practical beneficence "heaped up and flowing over," yea, a thousandfold.
III. HOW SURELY, ESSENTIALLY, IT LIES IN CHRISTIAN WORK TO SPREAD. It might be uttered as a taunt against Christian action, or at all events against this illustration of it, that the benefits were those of miraculous help to the body. But the taunt would be most unjust, for if there be one thing plainly written on the historic pages of Christianity now these eighteen centuries, it is this, that wherever its works are found—not simply its profession—life and inquiry and devotion are found. Whenever souls are being saved, and wherever, there and then are found a life and spirit of inquiry and—the multitude athirst.
IV. HOW DEEPLY IT SEEMS TO LIE IN THE GENIUS OF CHRISTIANITY TO EVOKE GRATITUDE OF THE LARGEST AND STRONGEST AND MOST PRACTICAL. It is quite true that there is "all the world's" difference between the blessings that Christianity gives and the returns that it receives from those most deeply, truly, touched by it. Yet none the less is it true that, when these bring of their best, though that best may be far as earth below heaven, it is to be accepted as a true testimony of their gratitude, "well pleasing to God." For what Paul had done the islanders returned "many honors," and actually "laded him with such things as were necessary."
V. HOW GREAT A PRACTICAL ADVANTAGE IT IS TO ANY GROUP OR COMMUNITY OF PERSONS TO HAVE AMONG THEIR NUMBER ONE OR TWO OF THE REAL CHRISTIAN STAMP. Probably the special reference of Acts 28:10 is to Paul and his immediate collaborators, who had lodged with him at the house of Publius, and had come to be known as particularly belonging to him, as he taught or worked miracles among the people. Yet, at any rate, we are certainly not told of a single thing these said or did, till we are told how they came in for a share of all the bountiful, generous things given by the islanders, "Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, laded us with such things as were necessary." There were none ever in the company of Jesus but had the opportunity of taking infinite advantage from it. And there are none in the company of the thorough, honest uncompromising servant of Christ, but get some share of the advantage.—B.
A week with brethren.
It cannot be that this one verse was written for nothing. Like a waif and stray on the wide waters of Scripture, to the careless eye, it is anything but really such. We may notice touching the events the verse records—
I. THEIR PARTICULAR SIGNIFICANCE ON THIS OCCASION.
1. They included the heightening pleasure of a very agreeable surprise.
2. They speak the affection of a hearty invitation. Invitations are often as superficial and insincere and abased to ill purpose as many other good things. But the genius of them is good. They mean care and regard, respect and love, willinghood and an anticipation of what may be in brethren's hearts.
3. They are tinted with a certain sacred hue. Did not a "seven days'" pressing invitation mean to make sure of one "day of the Lord" together? Those who gave that invitation longed for the opportunity it would bring for themselves and others. They wanted what the memory of it would give them to lay up as though "precious store." Those who received that invitation would read respect to themselves in it, and what was better, the sign of religious life and love.
4. They were a most welcome contrast to the scenes and the dangers, the strife and the talk and the company of all the time since Paul and his companions set sail from Caesarea (Acts 27:1).
II. THEIR STANDING AND LASTING SIGNIFICANCE. They tell of the loving, longing, purposing communion of brethren. They stamp the genuineness and even superior sort of Christian brotherhood. The communion of Christian brethren is:
1. Distinctly honoring to the Master, even him who himself once said, "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren" (Matthew 23:8).
2. It is distinctly adapted to be useful at the time to those brethren themselves, for reminding them of the relation of all of them to One; and of their mutual relations; for comparing experiences, for imparting instruction, for joining in the quickening exercises of united worship, so stirring to deepest feelings of the heart, and so stimulating to faith and love.
3. It is, further, in one particular direction specially inspiring. While by nature it takes out the painfulness of many a strong present impression, it also supersedes these by the materials and the very scenery, which are sure to abide, full of the resources of comfort and encouragement for "the future distress." How much we live on memory! What a force holy memories have proved themselves! Those that have come out of the silence and the solitude of the closet have had their peculiar mission. Certainly not less powerful for good have those holy memories been which have seemed to come borne by "a cloud of witnesses," the former companions of our thoughts, our prayers, and our praises.
4. It is entitled to expect special influences from above, and the special presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4; Acts 2:1). Those who meeting together seek by all means within their reach and by prayer, light, and knowledge, love and grace, will be those most abundantly rewarded. Light will be reflected from face to face, and love will glow from heart to heart. It is not vainly added, "So we went toward Rome." The weeks, the days, the hours, were numbered of Christian converse for Paul—of Christian help and enjoyment, whether given or received. And the surprise the Master had graciously prepared is gratefully received. It assists Paul, body, mind, and soul, in his journey "toward Rome."—B.
Gratitude and courage well linked together.
Paul speaks elsewhere of the severity in some sort, at all events of the stress, laid upon his spiritual sympathies at times (2 Corinthians 11:28-30). We can well understand that any severity, any pain, felt from the claim set up by such sympathies lay not in the act of sympathizing, but in the consideration of the state of things, the sins, the errors, the inconsistencies in "all the Churches," or in the members of them that called for both "care," on the one hand, for the erring, and on the other sympathy with the aggrieved. The sympathy which he so ungrudgingly gave, however, at whatever expenditure, he had a wonderful heart to receive when proffered to himself. And it is among the signs of his large and susceptible heart that it was so, and that he made so much of it. Here we read of another help of this kind given him by the way. How gratefully and with what appreciation he received it! He felt it was a token of the Divine presence and the Divine goodness, and that as such it must be used and improved. Therefore first he "thanked God," and then "took courage" afresh. Let us notice the following implications of this verse:—
I. THE HIGHEST STYLE OF CHRISTIAN PURPOSE AND ENTERPRISE IS AIDED BY HUMAN SYMPATHY.
1. This is great testimony to the inartificial character of Christianity.
2. It is one of its great safeguards against superciliousness and other temptations to affect separateness from or superiority to ordinary humanity.
II. THE SIMPLEST STYLE OF SHOWING SYMPATHY AND KINDNESS STRIKES HOME ALL AS SURELY TO THE HEARTS OF THE GREATEST AS TO THOSE OF THE HUMBLER.
III. GRATITUDE IS ALWAYS DUE TO GOD, WHO, HOLDING ALL HEARTS IN HIS HAND, MOVES NOW THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO SHALL COME TO GIVE US SPECIAL HELP FOR SPECIAL NEED.
1. How often help coming at the exact crisis of need ought to count with all as great moral force as a physical miracle, for our persuasion, that a heavenly Friend is observantly and graciously watching our every step!
2. What an incentive to religious life the network of hope and fear, joy and sorrow, and all the play of light and shade, because such constitution of life finds the prized opportunities of Divine interposition, as no mere equable life, were it all light or all shade, could possibly find.
IV. THE FAITHFUL SERVANT OF CHRIST NEVER MORE FEELS HOW DUE THANKS ARE TO HIS MASTER THAN WHEN THAT MASTER APPEARS TO SHOW HIS OWN COMMANDING INTEREST IN HIS OWN WORK. How many the ways are in which Jesus does this!
1. By the occasional manifest blessing upon it that he gives.
2. By the Spirit he puts into the hearts of many to uphold the hands and arms of those who do the actual work.
3. By such more delicate methods as that now before us, when the help that the many bring to the one is seen, ay, and felt, to lie in the life and the love that the Divine work has wrought in their heart. They can bring nothing except, perhaps, that all to bring, themselves.
V. THAT THE REAL THING, COURAGE, WHICH DOES NOT BURN DOWN, AWAKENED THOUGH IT MAY BE BY HUMAN AID AND SYMPATHY, RESTS EVER STILL ON THE DIVINE. It was not in obedience to any hollow professionalism that Paul "thanked God." Nor did his courage lack the energy that came from sincere acknowledgment of dependence on God. This was surely betokened by his "thanking God."—B.
A unique prisoner.
With the masterliness of inspired history, exceeding brevity itself in the passage before us seems to reveal rather than conceal. A few powerful strokes of the pen portray and very strikingly a hero, and one at the same time as real and unusual as ever lived. Great, indeed, must have been the length and the fullness of detail given, if the method of detail had been the one chosen, in order to attain the result of leaving with us an equally correct and complete apprehension of the position of Paul now, the manner of man he was, and the scope of Divine providence. The intense interest for Paul of reaching Rome is lost, lost indeed without a moment's mention of it on the part of the history, in the intenser interest that gathered round, and which he helped to make gather round, the object of his coming there. Of the one the history says nothing, but it says all of the other. And no sooner are we told the bare fact that Paul had reached Rome, than these following facts find prominent mention. We are told—
I. THAT THE PRISONER IS NOT PUT INTO THE PRISON.
1. No one there wanted to put him in. He had found favor too certainly already.
2. There was no need to put him in. His word could be trusted, and "one soldier" was considered enough to save appearances.
3. Prisons and "jailors" and authorities had already had too much of haying him and others of the same sort in prison (Acts 5:19; Acts 12:8; Acts 16:26), in Judaea; and perhaps, for the present at all events, the Romans and even the Jews in Rome were wiser for their own interest.
II. THAT FOR THE ACCUSED THERE ARE FOUND NO ACCUSERS AT ALL.
III. THAT THE MAN WHO IS TO BE TRIED IS DRIVEN TO ENDEAVOR TO FIND ANOTHER SORT OF JURY, AND ONE OF THE MORE UNMERCIFUL KIND, FOR HIMSELF.
IV. THAT THE SAME MAN IS NOT ONLY SPEEDILY RELIEVED FROM ANY IMPUTATION OF FAULT, BUT IS COURTEOUSLY ASKED FOR HIS GOSPEL, BY THIS LARGE AND INFLUENTIAL JURY. "A great door and effectual" was now at once opened for the apostle. His Lord's promises and his own heart's deepest wishes begin to be fulfilled (Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:11). With abounding zeal Paul uses his opportunity; he draws from all "the Scriptures;" he testifies "from morning till evening;" he interests his hearers, is the means of the conversion of some, and the awakener of much inquiry and "great reasonings" among others. Nor withholds the faithful and searching rebuke. It is again "the whole counsel of God" which he does not shun to declare.—B.
The leading results following upon preaching.
As Jesus went before us all, in our sorrows, difficulties, and holiest joys, so, even if in less degree, his first apostles went before us in very many experiences of the first preaching of the gospel with which we are now perfectly well acquainted. The successes and the bitter disappointments of the Christian preacher are at this very time keenly felt by Paul, and other of the solemn phenomena lie open before him, and observed by him evidently with very pained observation, were treated by him in a way full of instruction for ourselves. The short but speaking comment of this verse, on Paul's first preaching of the gospel of Christ in Rome, though no doubt on this occasion almost exclusively to his own people the Jews, is exceedingly worthy of our notice. We may notice these typical effects of the gospel of Christ faithfully preached.
I. IT EXCITES THE STIR OF LIFE.
II. IT EXCITES A PECULIAR KIND OF STIR OF LIFE. It is not the life of mind alone. It is not like the interest that gathers quickly round the finest discoveries and investigatings of science. It has another unmistakable element, and one that refuses to be at all ignored, a certain moral element. Very quickly does it beg to be informed whether men "believe" or do "not believe." And it states that on this everything turns.
III. IT EXHIBITS INVARIABLY (?) AMID GREAT VARIETIES IN OTHER RESPECTS ONE UNIFORM PHENOMENON—SOME TAKE IT, OTHERS REFUSE IT. It is then that the Christian preacher, and the Christian man whoever he is, stands in the presence of the grandest, deepest, most inscrutable mystery beneath the sun—this, that the gospel of God's love in Christ presumably to be eagerly and intelligently seized by every man, sooner than the bread on which he feeds, is taken by some, is rejected by others. "Some believed … and some believed not!"—B.
Acts 28:30, Acts 28:31
A type and a model of the Christian preacher.
These striking, closing words of a history, than which, take it all in all, there is not a more impressive to be found—always excepting the one history—show the performing in right earnest of the parting injunction of the ascending Lord of the Church. For Rome is the scene, that metropolis and type of the world. "All" the various inhabitants of it, not Jews only, are now both sought and found. To these "the gospel" is preached. And the crucified but now risen Lord is the one central theme. We have, therefore, in Paul, at this most touching, most amazing episode of his career, a living example, and "by the grace of God" a truly worthy example, of "the faithful fulfilling" of the work belonging to the minister of Christ. These are the leading marks of him, as here instanced.
I. HE HAS A VOICE AND HEART FOR ALL WHOM HE CAN REACH ACCORDING TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH HE MAY BE PLACED OF PROVIDENCE. Paul cannot now go out to the highways and byways. But "his own hired house" is one kept, as very few others are kept in any analogous circumstances, with open doors. And doors open impartially to "all" who would come.
II. HE DOES NOT FEEL THAT HE HAS ANY TRUTH TO MAKE, OR EVEN TO DISCOVER, BUT ONLY TO PROCLAIM.
1. His message is to his hand. He has discovered its sum and substance long ago. He keeps to this theme.
2. This is his forte. And he does not profess another. The mind of the Christian preacher is abundantly open to any, or, if possible, to all, "arts and sciences and philosophies;" but these are not his sterling coin. They are not the matters for the pronounced deliverances of his voice. He may be beholden to them in his education, and it is a shame if he is not. He may lay them under any amount of contribution for purposes of illustration. But they are not the subject-matter of his preaching and teaching.
III. HE PROCLAIMS WITH AN UNUSUAL CERTAINTY OF SOUND, EVEN WITH BOLDNESS. This is the more remarkable, because:
(1) What he has to say is not that for which there is at first any very large spread desire.
(2) It is what is sure to be rejected by many contemptuously, by other many indifferently, while it will stir strong opposition in the heart and in the action of not a few.
But, on the other hand, the clear ring of his voice and the unstammering declaration of his thoughts result from:
(1) Strong personal convictions as to what he proclaims.
(2) Determined personal attachment to it.
(3) The spirit of loyal fidelity to it—that be it what it may, in the esteem of a thousand to one, yet he will lay it open before all as its due. It shall not suffer prejudice from suppression or from a timid partial disclosure of it.
(4) Honest and not merely boastful upliftedness above regard to the personal consequences to self. The genuine preacher of the truth of Christ is not, indeed, to hold his life in his own hand, but he is "rather" to hold this—and unmistakably—that God holds, that his Master Christ holds, that life in their hand respectively.
(5) An irresistible impulse to confront the people with his proclamation, and bring them by all means possible into such contact with it that they can no longer be ignorant of it, even if they flee from it and reject it.
IV. HE PUTS THIS HONOR ON HIS OWN WORK, ON HIS MASTER'S WORK, THAT BE CLEAVES TO IT, YEAR AFTER YEAR, WITH PERSEVERING DILIGENCE. The work of Christ does, beyond doubt, stand in this blessed contrast with all other work, even the most necessary and the most innocent: It rewards confidence. It merits devotion. Its manifest and felt value grows with age and experience and power to gaze beyond the limits of sense. And when the use of all other work dwindles to the truer dimensions that belong to it, this justly magnifies itself and shines with brighter luster. Paul must have often addressed himself and his own soul in the words in which he addresses Christians generally, in the most inspiring connection, "Wherefore be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as … your labor is not in vain in the Lord."—B.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
"And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness." How that kindness found expression is further detailed. "Heavy showers had come on, and the shipwrecked men were half benumbed with fatigue and cold. Pitying their condition, the natives lit a huge fire of faggots and brushwood, that they might dry their clothes, and gave them in all respects a friendly welcome." The "milk of human kindness" has ever made men helpful to each other in circumstances of calamity and distress, and perhaps the most painful instances of inhumanity the world has known may be found in the doings of those "wreckers" who used to entice the ships ashore, that they might plunder their cargoes. The term used here, "barbarous people," is somewhat misleading. F.W. Robertson says, "By 'barbarian' was meant any religion but the Roman or Greek—a contemptuous term, the spirit of which is common enough in all ages. Just as now every sect monopolizes God, claims for itself an exclusive Heaven, contemptuously looks on all the rest of mankind as sitting in outer darkness, and complacently consigns myriads whom God has made to his uncovenanted mercies, that is, to probable destruction; so, in ancient times, the Jew scornfully designated all nations but his own as Gentiles; and the Roman and the Greek, each retaliating in his way, treated all nations but his own under the common epithet of ' barbarians.' The people of Malta were really of Carthaginian descent, and they probably spoke their ancient tongue, though mixed, perhaps, with Latin and Greek, since the island was on a great highway of trade.
I. HUMANITY AS A NATURAL SENTIMENT. It is the common bond uniting together mankind in helpfulness, sympathy, and charity. A sentiment which we can see is based:
1. On the fact that God hath "made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the earth." This truth of fact is now scientifically accepted, and called the "solidarity of the human race;" but it is the earliest divinely revealed truth, declared in the parentage of the race.
2. On the ties of brotherhood which follow the division of the race into separate families. The bond which binds together the members of families, binds together also tribes and nations, which are but God's great family.
3. On the common image of God which men share, and which applies chiefly to moral disposition. The most characteristic feature of God is his care for others, and, apart from the mischief done by sin, this image of God man still bears. Charity is God's image on man; selfishness is the devil's image on man.
II. HUMANITY AS A NATIONAL CHARACTERISTIC. More strikingly marked in some nations than in others.
1. Usually found in those whose country is exposed to calamity, by reason of a wide seaboard, or an unhealthy condition, or exposure to enemies. Men are bound together when a common fate hangs over them all.
2. Also found in nations marked by the milder virtues, rather than those energetic, active ones which so often lead to war. Peace-loving nations build hospitals, asylums, etc., and care for the suffering members. War tends to make men indifferent to suffering. England in later times has striven to carry humanity into her war, limiting in every way possible the distress it entails. Humanity strives for the day when war shall be a sound that men may hear no more forever.
III. HUMANITY AS A RELIGIOUS ESSENTIAL. Christian people must be humane. They cannot be Christian and wholly fail of brotherly duties. Those who are bound to God in the dear bonds of redeemed sonship cannot fail to come nearer in sympathy to their brothers of the common humanity. Illustrate fully the Christian teaching on the culture of the spirit of humanity; the New Testament is full of counsels similar to this: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."—R.T.
The superstitions of ignorance.
"The natives of Melita, seeing what they did, and ignorant of this prisoner's crime, and with their rough notions of the Divine government of the world, rushed to the conclusion that they were looking on an example of God's vengeance against murder. It was in vain that such a criminal had escaped the waves; a more terrible death was waiting for him." These men misinterpreted natural law into vengeance; yet there is a proneness in man to judge so. We expect that nature will execute the chastisement of the spiritual world. Hence all nature becomes to the imagination leagued against the transgressor. The stars in their courses fight against Sisera. The wall of Siloam falls on guilty men. The sea will not carry the criminal, nor the plank bear him; the viper stings; everything is a minister of wrath. On this conviction nations construct their trial by ordeal. The guilty man's sword would fail in the duel, and the foot would strike and be burnt by the hot ploughshare. Borne idea of this sort lurks in all our minds. We picture to ourselves the specters of the past haunting the nightly bed of the tyrant. We take for granted there is an avenger making life miserable. In the incident of this text, and the opinions expressed, we find the thoughts of vengeance which are cherished by those who do not know the true God. Superstitions are usually akin to truth, and contain within them some measure of truth; but they are exaggerations, fashioned 50.y men's fears, which too often wholly distort and misrepresent the truth. Estimating the superstitious fears and sentiments of these "barbarous people," we note that they were—
I. RIGHT IS THEIR OPINION THAT WRONGDOING NEVER ESCAPES PUNISHMENT. Their idea was that Paul was a criminal, guilty of some great crime, and justice was pursuing him; if he had escaped the doom of shipwreck, he could not get away from the avenger, who now struck at him in the viper's bite. Explain the early notion of the blood avenger, and the classical ideas associated with the Furies. It is important that men should have a deep and unquestioning conviction that the guilty never escape; but it does not seem to be absolutely and constantly true so far as this life is concerned. Show the moral and social importance of the assurance that punishment must follow sin, and impress that God's revelation wholly confirms the testimony of natural religion.
II. THEY WERE WRONG IN THIS, THAT VENGEANCE IS A MERE THING. They thought of it as a force ever working, blindly indeed, but certainly. If baffled in one way, it set about gaining its end in another. When heathen ignorance is changed to Christian knowledge, we find:
1. That the thing which we had called vengeance is but one of the modes of the Divine working.
2. That mere calamities—the things that we call accidents—are not necessarily Divine vengeance (see our Lord's teaching, Luke 13:1-5).
3. That God's wrath on sin need not find its entire expression in this life, seeing that he has all the ages to work in. This our Lord figuratively expressed when he said, "Fear him who can cast body and soul into hell."
4. That God's avengings, being those of a holy Father, can never rest satisfied in the suffering of the sinful creature, but must go on to secure the creature's redemption from the sin which issues in the suffering. Blind vengeance can rest in the destruction of the criminal. Fatherly love can never rest save in the recovery of the prodigal child. And God alone can be trusted with the avenging work. "Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord."—R.T.
Christ's promise precisely fulfilled.
In sending forth his disciples on their first trial mission, our Lord had given them this distinct assurance (Luke 10:19), "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." And when about to pass away from them in a surprising and glorious manner, our Lord commanded them to "go and preach his gospel to every creature," assuring them that these signs should follow them in their labors, "They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." These may, indeed, be regarded as figurative Eastern promises that were only intended to assure the disciples of a general Divine protection while they were engaged in Christian service; but it cannot be uninteresting to notice that these promises were precisely fulfilled in the experience of the apostles. St. Paul, as narrated in our text, "shook off the beast," the deadly viper, "and felt no harm." From the incident it is suggested to us to consider—
I. THAT CHRISTIAN LIFE IS COVERED AND HALLOWED BY DIVINE PROMISES. We learn to speak of the "exceeding great and precious promises." They are stored for us in all parts of God's Word. It may be shown that they are
(2) sufficient, since no conceivable Christian circumstance or need is unreached;
(3) varied, so as to suit all occasions;
(4) adapted, so as to gain gracious influence on all dispositions.
Nothing is more pleasantly surprising in a Christian life than the freshness with which the promises appear in every new season of anxiety and trouble. They come to us as if they were words just spoken by the all-comforting Father. They are the "everlasting arms," which hold us safe. They are the wings that bear us up and on and home to God. They are all true and faithful, "Yea add amen in Christ Jesus."
II. THAT THESE PROMISES ARE BOTH GENERAL AND SPECIAL. They assure, in large and comprehensive terms, that grace shall be given according to need; but, at least in the case of the apostles, we find them precise and definite. Illustrate from the case of taking up deadly serpents. Christians may err in two ways—either by generalizing the promises too much, or by particularizing them too much, and over-forcing their adaptation to the individual. Still, if we had a fuller faith, we might recognize a more definite character in God's promises. Illustrate by such a promise or assurance as this, "The prayer of faith shall save the sick."
III. THE EXACT FULFILLMENT OF THE PRECISE PROMISES ASSURE THE CERTAIN FULFILLMENT OF ALL. This is the lesson which we have to learn from the fulfillment of Christ's definite promise in the case of his servant Paul. It may be taken as a test case, by the help of which we may know whether we may trust all the promises, even those which do not seem easy to grasp, and those which seem to promise too much for mortals and for sinners such as we are. He who is true to his word in the little thing which we can fully test will be true to the great words which assure to us both grace and glory. And, as we see the viper falling harmlessly off the apostle's arm, we say, "Verily, he is faithful that promised."—R.T.
Christian returns for kindness shown.
"Not far from the scene of the shipwreck lay the town now called Alta Vecchia, the residence of Publius, the governor of the island, who was probably a legate of the Printer of Sicily. Since Julius was a person of distinction, this Roman official, who bore the title of protos (first)—a local designation, the accuracy of which is supported by inscriptions—offered to the centurion a genial hospitality, in which Paul and his friends were allowed to share. It happened that at that time the father of Publius was lying prostrated by feverish attacks complicated with dysentery. St. Luke was a physician, but his skill was less effectual than the agency of St. Paul, who went into the sick man's chamber, prayed by his bedside, laid his hands on him, and healed him. The rumor of the cure spread through the little island, and caused all the sick inhabitants to come for help and tendance. We may be sure that St. Paul, though we do not hear of his founding any Church, yet lost no opportunity of making known the gospel" (Farrar). In this instance the order of St. Paul's words have to be changed. He had received their "carnal things," and he gladly returned to them his "spiritual things." We observe—
I. CHRISTIANS CAN RECEIVE FROM THE WORLD BODILY AND CIRCUMSTANTIAL BLESSINGS. These are all that the world has at its command; but these Christians need. They may be illustrated under the headings:
4. Practical aids.
So the barbarous people could light a fire and show kindness to St. Paul, and Publius could offer to him and his friends generous hospitalities. Especially dwell on the virtue of hospitality, noticing that it was a characteristic excellence of ancient times; it is a virtue carefully cultivated in the East, and more particularly among tribes, in the present day; and that, while it is retained, it is set under very narrow limitations in modern civilized nations, where class prejudices are strong.
II. CHRISTIANS CAN GIVE TO THE WORLD BOTH BODILY AND SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS, They have the common powers of brotherhood and helpfulness which belong to men as set in human relations; but they can also do for their fellows what no other class of men can do. They have a new life; that life finds its own peculiar and characteristic expression. It exerts both
(1) an unconscious and
(2) a conscious influence for good.
Illustrate that Christians can save a city, as ten righteous men would have saved Sodom. They may preserve from temporal calamity by their calmness in the hour of danger, through their faith in God; as may be seen in times of shipwreck. They may have actual power to heal, as the apostles had. They can certainly witness for the living God; commend the service of the Lord Jesus Christ; carry healing balm to sin-sick souls; comfort the weary and heavy-laden; and minister truth and sympathy and love where these are needed. They can be "preserving salt; uplifted light-bearers; and upon them may hang, in full clusters, the rich ripe fruits which the world so greatly needs for its refreshing and its spiritual health. Impress that what the Christian man can be he ought to be and should strive to he. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."—R.T.
"Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ."
Conybeare and Howson give very full details of the journey of the apostle and his company from Malta to Rome; reaching their destination, the following description of the place of imprisonment is given:—"Here was the milliarium aureum, to which the roads of all the provinces converged. All around were the stately buildings, which were raised in the closing years of the republic and by the early emperors. In front was the Capitoline Hill, illustrious long before the invasion of the Cauls. Close on the left, covering that hill whose name is associated in every modern European language with the notion of imperial splendor, were the vast ranges of the palace—'the house of Caesar' (Philippians 4:22). Here were the household troops quartered in a praetorium attached to the palace. And here Julius gave up his prisoner to Burrus, the praetorian prefect, whose official duty it was to keep in custody all accused persons who were to be tried before the emperor." There we see the great apostle still a prisoner, in bonds for Christ's sake. His bondage was of that kind technically known as a castodia libera, but the prisoner was fastened by a chain to a soldier who kept guard over him. For the apostle's references to his imprisonment, see Philippians 1:7, Philippians 1:13, Philippians 1:17; Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 6:20; Colossians 4:18, etc. The constant changing of the guard no doubt brought all the soldiers under his personal influence, and enabled him to witness for Christ in the palace and in other places.
I. ST. PAUL'S LIMITATIONS.
1. A prisoner.
2. A sufferer.
So all Christian workers still find themselves set under limitations of ability, of time, of means, of physical strength. And the question constantly recurs—Will we be mastered by our limitations, or will we master them in the power of a sanctified will? No man works for God on earth with an absolute and perfect freedom. The limitations are sent to give quality and character to our service. A man's credit lies, not so much in what he does, as in what he overcomes in order that he may do.
II. THE LIMIT OF ST. PAUL'S LIMITATIONS. They bore relation:
1. Only to body; to restraint of bodily action, and to pain of body.
2. Not to mind; since no gyves have ever been framed that can bind this.
3. Not to character; which no sort of earthly persecutions or calamities need affect.
4. Not to will; which can maintain its set purposes, even when it is rendered helpless to carry them out.
5. Not to life-work; which the earnest man will surely carry on somehow. The Christian mastery of bodily disabilities, infirmities, and limitations, may be illustrated from the Apostle Paul, from J. Bunyan the prisoner in Bedford jail, or from such sufferers from bodily infirmity as R. Baxter, R. Hall, H. Martyn, F. W. Robertson, etc. There are martyrs who did not die, whose service for Christ has been noble and heroic.
III. ST. PAUL'S TRUE LIBERTY UNDER SEEMING LIMITATIONS. Illustrate and impress that, with all his bonds and sufferings upon him, he could:
1. Still live Christ.
2. Still work for Christ.
3. Still write of Christ.
4. Still speak for Christ.
5. Still personally "meeten for the inheritance of the saints in the light."—R.T.
The kingdom of God, and things of Jesus.
Our historical record of the great apostle closes with a picture of him fully and earnestly engaged in the loved work of his life, even under the limitations of captivity, and there is peculiar significance in the terms which Luke uses. The apostle is said to have been engaged in "preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus, with all confidence." Illustration may be given of St. Paul's restless activity and consuming zeal in preaching Christ. He could say, "Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" He must have held and cherished the holiest convictions; he is the first and noblest instance of absorbing, inspiring enthusiasm for Christ. He was now a prisoner, but he would preach Christ with the guard beside him. He could not preach Christ in temple, church, or large room, so he would preach Christ in his own house. He could not gather the many, so he would preach Christ to the few who came to see him. Compare Adolphe Monod, who lay for months on a sick-bed, and could conduct no public services, so spoke of Christ from his bed every Sunday afternoon to the friends that gathered round him, as long as he was able. Two things are especially noted by Luke in these his closing words.
I. ST. PAUL PREACHED THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Under the figure of a Divine kingdom Messiah's times had been prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14, Daniel 7:27). John the Baptist stood forth as a prophet to proclaim, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Our Lord gave the same words to his apostles when he sent them forth upon their trial mission; it was the message which they were everywhere to deliver. The figure was not a new one. It was not a fresh thing for God to claim the rule of souls. The government of ancient Israel had been a theocracy, or direct rule of Jehovah. The new thing was for God to set up this government on earth in the person of his Son, the Son or man and Son of God. He came to help us more clearly and more fully to see that the kingdom of God is the rule of his loving, holy, and fatherly will; and that will may be made known in two ways.
1. By definite and express commands. In this way it had been made known to Israel.
2. By the immediate and living authority of Jesus Christ, who gives us God's will directly, putting it into close relation with all our circumstance and need. To be in the kingdom of God now is to be directly dependent, day by day, upon the guiding, teaching, leading, of the living Lord Jesus Christ.
II. ST. PAUL PREACHED THE THINGS CONCERNING JESUS CHRIST. Those things include:
1. Trying to make the history and teachings of the Lord Jesus known, so that men might have a solid foundation whereon to rest their eternal hopes.
2. Trying to make Christ himself known, because his will is the reflection and expression of himself.
3. Trying to make the fullness and freeness of Christ's grace known, so that men's confidence might be won to him.
4. Trying to make Christ's offices and relations known; because he is
(1) the Dispenser of pardon;
(2) he has the bestowment of the Spirit;
(3) he stands in the place of our High Priest; and
(4) he is to be our final Judge. The kingdom of God is come for all hearts that are fully consecrated to Christ. It will have come for the world when "every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue confess to him." God will reign when Jesus shall be acknowledged "King of kings, and Lord of lords."—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Acts 28". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29