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of thy Lord which, may he grant, for the sake of Jesus Christ, who was manifested to us Gentiles, that we should no longer sit in darkness, but have the light of life.
AND WHEN IT WAS DETERMINED THAT WE SHOULD SAIL INTO ITALY, THEY DELIVERED PAUL AND CERTAIN OTHER PRISONERS UNTO ONE NAMED JULIUS, A CENTURION OF AUGUSTUS' BAND. ACTS XXVII. 1.
ALL the adventures of St. Paul are worth the consideration of a devout reader of the scripture; but few parts of his history are more remarkable than this of his voyage and shipwreck in his passage to Rome. Several articles of that narrative, which is given us in the chapter from whence the text is taken, are so interesting, that I shall select them in the following discourse, and add as I go along such remarks as shall naturally arise from them. As to any critical
cal consideration of the geographical part of this narrative, I have no concern with it, my design being rather of a moral nature. I shall not dispute about the true direction of the wind called Euroclydon; neither shall I enquire whether the island called Melita was that which is now called Malta, near to Sicily, or another of the like name among the islands of the Archipelago. I shall neglect all such critical disquisitions for the present, and confine myself to such observations, as may teach us to understand in a better manner the goodness of God and the perverseness of man; both of which were signally displayed on this occasion.
The particulars I mean to extract and your meditation are these following: 1. I shall consider the situation and circumstances of the Apostle sailing a prisoner to Rome.
2. The error of Julius the centurion in not taking the Apostle's judgment concerning the voyage.
3. The attempt of the shipmen to flee out of the ship, and leave her in a helpless condition.
4. The comfort, encouragement and safety derived to the whole company from the presence of St. Paul.
5. The necessity they were under of throwing their provisions into the sea, to lighten the ship.
6. And lastly, the insensibility and ingratitude of the soldiers, who gave counsel to kill the prisoners, amongst whom the blessed Apostle himself, who under God was the Saviour of them all, must have fallen a sacrifice.
Of these things, all of which are of important consideration, the first that offers itself is the situation of St. Paul himself, sailing as a pri soner to Rome.
He is brought into this, as into all his other perils, by his fidelity to God and his services to the world as a minister of the Gospel. The malicious Jews raised a clamour against him, and falsely accused him to the Roman Governor, as a mover of sedition; with full purpose to take away his life; so that he was constrained to appeal to the authority of Cæsar for his own preservation; in consequence of which, he embarked on shipboard with other prisoners to take his trial at Rome.
When the servants of God are persecuted, and obliged to fly from reproach and treachery and cruelty, for their own security; we may be tempted to imagine, that God has forgotten them, and left them to the malice of their adversaries;
versaries: whereas he is then most mindful of them. They are, as the Apostle himself speaks, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed: and he warns the Christians of Thessalonica, not to be moved or disturbed in their profession by these afflictions; for yourselves know, saith he, that we are appointed thereunto. God is often nearest to his saints when he seems farthest off. To us indeed, short-sighted as we are, it is more easy to discover and acknowledge his attention, when we are sensible of his bounty. We see and adore the hand of the Creator, in the clearness of the fountain, the brightness of the sunshine, and the calmness of the ocean; but his power, as a Saviour, is manifested in the storms and troubles of life. Therefore he brings his servants into distress, that he may make his power known by bringing them out of it; with this farther advantage to themselves, that they are exercised and improved by the trial of their faith.
It is for this end that we see the life of the great Apostle diversified with such contrary visitations. We see him honoured beyond all other men by a miraculous call to the ministry, yet under continual troubles and perils, for acting in his proper character: while he is fayoured