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small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. 21 But after long abstinence, Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. 22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, 24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. 25 Wherefore, Sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told 26 Howheit, we must be cast upon a certain island.
Observe here, 1. The hopeless, helpless, comfortless state, which St. Paul, and those
in the ship with him, were now reduced to: neither sun nor stars appeared, and the weather proved very tempestuous, and when they utterly despaired of life, then God gives Paul, and he the rest, a comfortable assurance that nothing should be lost, but the vessel only. O'how does God delight to deliver those that are forsaken of their hopes; what a present help is he to the helpless! He reserves his holy hand for a dead lift! our extremities are the seasons of his succour. Observe, 2. The great and special favour which God indulged the holy apostle, even to send an angel to him to comfort him: The angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, said, Fear not.
what an encouragement is it to us to enter upon, and be faithful in, the service of God, when he causes his holy angels, upon all occasions, to serve us! When visible dangers are before us, God has invisible servants round about us, both to succour and secure us. Lord, help me in sincerity to say, Thine I am, and thee I serve! Let me be found faithful in all the instances of my duty to thee, and then shall I find (as the apostle here) that safety evermore accompanies duty. Observe, 3. How God was pleased for St. Paul's sake to save all that were with him in the ship; sinners are spared and saved for the saints' sake, whom
yet they hate and seek to destroy. The wicked are oft-times delivered from temporal destruction for the sake of the godly God for them; there was two hundred who live among them, and intercede with threescore and sixteen persons, all heathens, except three or four, saved for St. Paul's sake, who no doubt begged their lives of God. Lord, what fools and madmen are the wicked, who seek the destruc tion of those for whose sake it is that they which wicked men make by sinning, they are not themselves destroyed! The breaches make up by praying. Observe, 4. How steady and stedfast the apostle was in the faith and belief of God's promise and providence for his own and the company's preservation: I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. We honour his promise, rely upon his power, believe God exceedingly, when we depend upon his word, though what he says be very improbable, and unlikely to come to pass.
27 But when the fourteenth night and down in Adria, about midnight was come, as we were driven up the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country: 28 And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. 30 And as the shipmen were about to fee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. 32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.
A farther account is here given both of the apostle's imminent danger and extraordinary deliverance; for fourteen days together the ship was continually tossed in the sea; at last the mariners cast four anchors out of the ship, and, by the help of a boat, intended to make their escape, leaving the passengers to shift for them
selves: St. Paul, perceiving this, told the centurion and the soldiers, that, though Almighty God had promised to preserve them, yet they must not expect it without using due means for their own preservation, which was to stay the mariners in the ship; whose help and diligence, direction and care, would be especially needful to them on such an occasion. Hereupon the soldiers, to prevent the mariners' design, cut the ropes of the boat, and let it fall into the sea. Learn hence, That the end and the means are always joined together in the purpose and decree of God. The same God that ordained the end, ordained the means in order to that end; therefore, as to trust to means is to neglect God, so to neglect the means is to tempt God. As here, That God who decreed that they should not perish with the ship, decreed that the skilful seamen should abide in the ship. Almighty God likes not to be tied to means himself; but it is his pleasure to Sometimes, to show his sovereignty, he is pleased to work without means. Sometimes to show his omnipotency, he works against means; the fire shall not burn, the water shall not drown, the iron shall swim, the sun shall stand still, nay, go several degrees backward. The first cause can suspend the power and operation of second causes, when he pleases. But as the care of the end belongs to God, so the care of the means belongs to us, and must be used when they may, and where they can be used. Accordingly here, the mariners, in order to their own and others' preservation, stay in the ship, lighten the ship, undergird her, cast out their anchors, hoist up the main-sail, loose the rudderbands, and do every thing in order to their preservation which was needful. The purpose of God to prolong our lives, must not lessen our care for the preservation of our lives; when God has ordained and appointed means, we cannot expect to find safety in the neglect or contempt of those
33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried, and continued fasting, having taken nothing. 34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health; for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of
you. 35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, 36 Then were he began to eat. they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. 37 And we were all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.
Observe here, 1. What honour God put upon the holy apostle: although he was a poor prisoner in chains, yet God made him the only counsellor and comforter unto all that were in the ship. First, he adviseth them to eat, because that through consternation of mind, and horror of death, they had made no set meal for fourteen days; not that they subsisted miraculously without any nourishment at all, but eat so little that it was in a manner continual fasting. Next he becomes the chaplain of the ship, He gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; that is, he desired God's blessing upon what they eat, and praised him for it. Thanks should be returned when benefits are received from the hand of man, much more from the hand of God. What shall we think of those that sit down to a full table as a beast to his forage, without taking any notice of the bountiful hand that feeds them? St. Paul having thus refreshed himself, and by his example and words encouraged all the rest to do the like, an account is taken of the exact number of persons which were in the ship, and it was found to be two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. Probably this was done at the motion of St. Paul, that so, after their deliverance, it might appear how exactly his prediction, mentioned, ver. 22. That there shall be no loss of any man's life, nor an hair fall from the head of any, was verified and fulfilled. Whatever God speaks by the mouth of his holy servants, be it by way of prediction or denunciation, shall certainly be accomplished and come to pass: God is honoured in his truth, when his promises are fulfilled towards his people, and threatenings inflicted on his enemies.
38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea. 39 And when it was day, they knew not the land but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into
the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. 40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder-bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. 41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the fore part stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. 42 And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. 43 But the centurion, will ing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim, should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land : 44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to Land.
Here observe, 1. How willing men in distress are to part with all things for the preservation of life; these sea-faring men are here found three times lightening their ship of her lading and burden: first the merchandise was cast overboard, ver. 18. next all the ship's furniture was heaved over, ver. 19. and now, ver. 38. goes over the very wheat, which they had provided for their daily bread; future provision is cast away to save life at present: life is the most precious treasure, the most excellent thing in nature; a man will part with all the comforts and supports of life, rather than with life itself. Observe, 2. What a won
extremity was God's opportunity; and this strait was the season of his succour. serve, 4. What horrid and cruel ingratitude
was found with these wretched soldiers toaway his life, who had taken such care wards the apostle: they design to take of them, and for whose sake all their lives were preserved! It is no new thing for an unkind world to return evil for good, and hatred for good-will; but to do good and to suffer evil is the christian's exercise at present. They consulted to kill chief,) lest any of them should swim out the prisoners, (of whom the apostle was and escape. Observe, 5. How God put into the centurion's heart to defeat their barbarity and bloody counsel, and to save the apostle, for whose sake the centurion and all in the ship were saved. Many are the wicked devices in the heart of man, but the
counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. Observe, 6. How God performed his promise saved, not a man drowned, no not any to the apostle to a very tittle: they were all one of the bloody soldiers who gave counsel to kill Paul. O how good is God to the unthankful and unholy! his tender mercies are over all his works; and how well do sinners fare sometimes for the saints' sake.
Thus, after a long and dangerous voyage, the providence of God brought St. Paul with the rest of the passengers at last safe to shore. O how punctual is God to what he promises! What he foretells he will fulfil. He had foretold by Paul, that they should suffer shipwreck, and at last be cast upon a certain island and accordingly here they escaped to an island called Melita; where what signal instances of humanity they received from the hands of barbarous heathens, the following chapter fully informs us.
derful work of God was here upon the AND when they were escaped,
hearts of these poor Pagans, thus to venture their lives by parting with their food which they had to live upon, barely upon St. Paul's word, that they should want wheat no more in the ship. Such an influence has God upon the hearts and minds of men, when he pleases to make use of it. Observe, 3. How God's delivering power is most gloriously manifest in the most deplorable extremities of his people. Now, when the ship was fallen into a place where two seas met, when she ran aground, and was broken with the violence of the waves, this
then they knew that the island was called Melita. 2 And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because the cold. of the present rain, and because of
gathered a bundle of sticks, and 3 And when Paul had laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast
hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 6 Howbeit, they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly; but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said, that he was a god.
After a long and dangerous voyage, recorded in the foregoing chapter, the providence of God brought St. Paul and the rest of the prisoners to an island called Melita, where they were all courteously received by the islanders; who finding them wet and cold, made them a fire to warm and refresh them: When, behold, a viper that was in the wood, feeling the heat of the fire, leaped out upon St. Paul, and fastened on his hand: which the islanders seeing, instantly concluded that the apostle was some notorious malefactor, whom divine vengeance followed but the apostle, (according to our Saviour's promise, Mark xvi. 11. If ye touch any deadly thing it shall not hurt you,) shaking off the venomous beast into the fire, without harm, the people presently changed their opinion, and took him for a god, that was come to them in the shape of a man. Here note, 1. How it pleased God by a new miracle to confirm the apostle's authority, and thereby to prepare the hearts of those barbarous people for the receiving of the gospel. God will honour his gospel, and the faithful dispensers of it, wherever they go, by preparing the hearts of the people to receive and entertain it. Note, 2. That great and manifold dangers and distresses may, and ofttimes do, befall gracious persons. No sooner is one affliction passed over and gone from them, but presently another comes on with a fresh assault. Thus here, St. Paul had no sooner escaped the shipwreck, and gets to shore, but a viper fastens upon his hand: Many are the afflictions of the righteous. Observe, 3. That the very light of nature suggests, even to the most barbarous heathens, that wickedness shall not go unpunished: No doubt this man is a murderer, whom vengeance suffereth not to live. Note, 4. That natural agents cannot act or excrt their natural powers,
without the concourse and concurrence of supernatural providence: This viper, according to its nature, did not, and could not, sting the apostle, being restrained by the overruling providence and power of God. Note, 5. That the humanity of these barbarous heathens towards those that suffered shipwreck, may justly condemn the inhumanity of them that are called christians, towards those that are shipwrecked: How do some that live near the sea-coast rejoice themselves with the spoils of others! at a wreck at sea, in hopes of enriching The barbarous were humane here, but the humane are now barbarous. Note, 6. How prone and ready men are to draw sinful inferences from sorrowful premises; to conclude, that such a man, or such a people, are wicked, because they are wretched; great sinners, because great sufferers. This was the barbarous logic of these islanders. It had been well that it had been confined to that island: When the barbarians saw the venomous beast on the apostle's hand, they said, No doubt this man is a murderer. Note, 7. How mutable is the mind of man, and how inconstant are men in their esteem and opinions of men: the apostle had no sooner shook off the viper into the fire, but the barbarians change their opinions into another extreme; he whom they accounted a murderer before, they called a god now: They changed their minds, and said that he was a god. They are light and lavish in their applauding, as before they were rash and severe in censuring. Thus, upon changes of providence, many change their opinions of men, sometimes for the better, but commonly for the worse. Lord! help me to esteem myself only by the esteem which I have with thee. Let me never be lifted up with the applaudings, nor cast down by the despisings, of men; neither praise nor reproach are much to be accounted of, whilst we are innocent, and make thee our friend. Question, But why did not St. Paul, that shook off the viper from his hand, shake off the chain from his arm, and set himself at liberty? Answer. St. Paul was not the author, but a minister or instrument in this miracle; it was not St. Paul himself, but God by him, that wrought this miracle, Acts XIX. 12. God wrought special miracles by the hand of Paul. Now, when the deliverance of the apostle from his bonds made most for the glory of God, he was delivered; but, when his bonds would more advance the gospel, God kept him in bonds.
In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. 8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever, and of a bloody flux to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. 9 So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island came, and were healed; 10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as cessary.
Observe here, How God goes on still to honour the person and ministry of St. Paul, in the eyes and hearts of this barbarous people, by enabling him further to work miracles in this island. First, on Publius the governor's father, and then on others that were diseased in the island. Here note, 1. How great the civility of the governor of the island was towards St. Paul, entertaining him and all the company with him, even more than two hundred persons, at his own charge. And, 2. How well the governor was rewarded for his hospitable charity; his father lying sick of a fever and bloody flux, is miraculously recovered by God. As there is no duty more certainly rewarded in another world than that of charity, so is it frequently rewarded in this world. Publius was well paid by his father's recovery, for what he did for St. Paul and his company. Note, 3. The means which the apostle used for the recovery of this sick person: prayer and imposition of hands, ver. 8. Paul prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. Now, hereby the apostle showed that he could do nothing of himself; accordingly he applies by prayer to that God who killeth and maketh alive, and the Lord heard him. St. Paul had honoured God, and now God honours him. How grieved was the holy apostle when God's honour was sacrilegiously given to him! I doubt not but it grieved the good man more when they called him a god, than when they accounted him a murderer; here therefore he returns the honour to God by prayer, ascribing all to him; and God honours
him by making him the instrument of the miraculous cure. Note, 4. How the infinitely wise God made all things work together for his own glory that the apostie should suffer shipwreck; that he should be cast upon an island: that he should be cast upon a barbarous island, where the name of God was not known; that a viper should fasten upon him, and not hurt him; that the governor of the island's father, and other inhabitants of the island, should at this time be sick, and miraculously cured by St. Paul. All these tender towards the promoting of God's glory, by opening an effectual door for the conversion of many souls; for during the three months that the apostle stayed there, he planted a christian church in the island, which became famous for its stedfastness in the truth. Note, 5. The proof and evidence which the islanders gave of the truth of their conversion by the apostle's ministry among them; namely, that those new converts loaded St. Paul's ship with necessaries for their voyage when he went away from them. This was a real fruit of their effectual faith, as also their honouring him with many honours. The best evidence of sincere faith, is a holy fruitfulness in good works, in works of piety towards God, and works of charity towards man : They honoured us with many honours, and when we departed they laded us with such things as were necessary.
11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. 13 And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli : 14 Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days and so we went toward Rome. 15 And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii-forum, and the Three Taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
Observe here, 1. That St. Paul at the command of God, though shipwrecked