An angel of the God whose I am, whom also for the angel of God, whose I am, and whom, A.V. and T.R. Observe Paul's open confession of God before tile heathen crew.
The escape from shipwreck.
The particular feature in this part of the narrative of the shipwreck to which attention is now invited is the sacrifices by which the final escape was effected. The eighteenth verse finds the whole party on board the ship in an encounter with a furious tempest. We can easily picture to ourselves the sea running high, the vessel crouching as it were before the wind, the waves breaking over the side of the ship, and the water beginning to fill her. At this moment the relative value of things in the mind of the master and crew undergoes a great change. The freight of the ship—so precious in the owner's eyes, acquired at great cost, put on board with much labor, and on which was set the hope of great gains when the vessel should reach the Italian shore—now loses all its value in his eyes. Something more precious is at stake—the ship itself, and the lives of those on board; and so the sacrifice must be made. They throw the freight overboard in order to lighten the ship, that it and all that are in it may not go down to the bottom of the deep. Some relief from the pressing danger seems to have followed this step. For a time the vessel was relieved, and rode more buoyantly upon the troubled waves. But the relief was only temporary. The ship began again to fill with water, and the danger was greater than ever. Some fresh sacrifice must be made if she was to be kept afloat. And so with their own bands they cast all the tackling into the sea (note on Acts 27:19 ). Things which once seemed necessary to their comfort, things without which the ship could never have started on her way, are now ruthlessly destroyed. They stand in the way of saving something more precious than themselves—the ship and its freight of human life—and so they are cast into the sea. But the needful sacrifices are not yet complete. For eleven more days the ship keeps afloat, though every hour might seem to be her last. But on the fourteenth night a new element of danger appeared. They were close upon a lee shore, and so their only chance of safety was to run her upon the soft beach. But how could this be done? There still remained in her the precious cargo of wheat which she was carrying from Alexandria to Italy. Lightened of this heavy load, there was a hope that she might run upon the beach, so that they might jump out and be saved. And so this sacrifice was made too. They threw out the wheat into the sea, for their lives were more precious than even the golden grain; and they escaped all safe to the land. This account exactly illustrates the Christian's career. There is a time when the things of this world—wealth, or reputation, or the world's friendship, or certain habits and opinions—are of supreme importance in his eyes. By-and-by some conjuncture arises in which he has to choose between them and the salvation of his soul. There is a struggle at first, and an unwillingness to part with them. But as the things of God rise in their immensity before his eyes, and it becomes clear that the sacrifice must be made if he would enter into life, his mind is made up. What things were gain to him, those he counts but loss for Christ, for whom he suffers loss of all things, and counts them but dung that he may win Christ. He makes the calculation, "What shall it profit me, if I gain the whole world and lose my own soul?" and the decision is not uncertain. Thus the Hebrew Christians took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had in heaven a better and enduring substance. Thus Levi at the receipt of custom, at the call of Jesus, left all, and rose up and followed him. But it often happens that the whole sacrifice is not made at once, nor does the necessity for it become apparent at once. Some lighter loss is sustained at first, and the lightened soul moves easier on her spiritual way for a while. But then some new danger arises. This time it is the sacrifice of the man's self, some part as it were of his very being, that has to be made. The right hand has to be cut off, or the right eye plucked out, if he would enter into life. But still the decision is the same. There is nothing that he can give or take in exchange for his soul. The sufferings and losses of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed; and even in those extreme eases where the choice has to be made between life itself on the one hand, and faithfulness to Christ on the other, the true believer falters not. He well knows that the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal; and so he cheerfully lays down his life on earth that he may not make shipwreck of eternity. So the blessed Paul himself was led on from loss to loss, but through loss to eternal gain His legal privileges, his blameless righteousness, his high standing as a Pharisee among Pharisees, his consideration among his equals, his rabbinical learning, his boasted superiority, all fell one by one before the excellency of Christ. Desiring to be the honored benefactor of his race, he found himself the off-scouring of all things, hunted down and persecuted as one not worthy to live. But still his views of Christ's gospel kept enlarging; his conceptions of the blessedness of being in Christ kept brightening; the righteousness of Christ, and the glory of Christ, kept growing in the intensity of their all-absorbing interest, and so he was led on to suffer loss upon loss, and to heap labor upon labor, and to endure affliction upon affliction; till from being the prisoner of the Lord he became the faithful martyr of Jesus Christ, and laid down his very life in sure anticipation of receiving the crown of righteousness at the hand of the righteous Judge, when he should plant his foot in triumph upon the shore of eternal life.
The voyage of life.
The journey which is described in this twenty-seventh chapter may suggest to us some of the main features of the long voyage of our life.
I. THE VARIETY IS OUR COMPANIONSHIPS . As each passenger on board found himself inseparably associated with a strange admixture of fellow-travelers, so we find ourselves compelled to mingle, more or less closely, with various companions as we and they journey together over the waters of life. There are
II. THE NEED FOR LABOR AND FOR PATIENCE . Not only did the sailors strive strenuously to discharge their nautical duties ( Acts 27:7 , Acts 27:8 , Acts 27:17 ), but all the passengers worked with all their strength in co-operation with them ( Acts 27:16 , Acts 27:19 ). And with what long patience had they to wait, not merely at Fair Haven, "where much time was spent," but also and chiefly when the vessel was drifting before the wind, "when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared" ( Acts 27:20 ), and when riding at anchor, and fearing greatly that they would be forced on the neighboring rocks, they "wished for the day." Labor and patience are the two oars which will bring the boat to shore in the everyday passage of our life.
III. THE CERTAINTY OF HARDSHIP AND PERIL , MORE OR LESS SEVERE . The winds are sure to be contrary, as in the earlier part of this celebrated voyage ( Acts 27:4 , Acts 27:7 , Acts 27:8 ), and they may be tempestuous, as they were at the latter part ( Acts 27:14 , Acts 27:18 , Acts 27:27 ). We must reckon upon some adversity, some checks and disappointments, as certain to befall us; we ought to be prepared for calamity and disaster. No human voyager across the sea of life can tell that there is not a very cyclone of misfortune through which he is about to pass.
IV. THE EXCELLENCY OF A REFUGE IS GOD . What an admirable figure does Paul present in this interesting picture! What calmness he shows ( Acts 27:21-25 )! What comfort he conveys! What strength he affords ( Acts 27:33-36 )! What ascendency he acquires ( Acts 27:43 )! It is the prisoner, Paul, who is the central figure there, not the centurion, nor even the captain. If in the emergencies that will arise, in the crises that must occur, on those occasions when the higher virtues and heavenlier graces are demanded, we would show ourselves brave, noble, helpful, truly admirable, let us see to it that we have then—because we seek now—a Friend, a Refuge, a Stay in Almighty God.
V. THE OCCASIONAL DEMAND FOR SACRIFICE . To save life they "lightened the ship" ( Acts 27:18 ); they " cast out the tackling" ( Acts 27:19 ); they " cast out the wheat into the sea" ( Acts 27:38 ). To save moral or spiritual integrity it is well worth while, and sometimes positively necessary, to abandon that which is precious to us as citizens of this present life ( Matthew 18:8 , Matthew 18:9 ).
VI. THE POSSIBILITY OF REACHING THE SHORE . ( Acts 27:44 .) In one way or another they all came " safe to land." We may arrive at the end like the captain who steers into port, his vessel whole, every sail spread to the wind, rich and glad with a prosperous voyage; or we may reach the strand like Paul and his fellow-passengers, on planks and broken pieces of the ship. We may die honored, strong, influential, triumphant; or we may reach our end poor, unregarded, shattered. It is of small account, so that we do reach that blessed shore—so that we are " found in him," the Divine Savior, and pass to his presence and his glory.—C.
Divine ownership and human service.
I. THE EXTENT OF Tile DIVINE CLAIM . " Whose I am." God's claim upon our service is simply complete; it is impossible to conceive of a tie stronger or more perfect. It rests on:
1. His absolute sovereignty over the universe.
2. His creation of our spirit; the fact that he called us out of nothingness into being, that he conferred on us our spiritual nature and our bodily life.
3. His preservation of us in being.
4. His provision for all oar wants, constant and generous.
5. His fatherly love prompting him to the bestowment of all His gifts, and greatly enhancing their value.
6. His redemption of us by Jesus Christ his Son; in this the last manifestation of Divine goodness, ratifying, multiplying his claim on us beyond all measure. "We are not our own: we are bought with a price;" "Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ." ( 1 Corinthians 6:19 , 1 Corinthians 6:20 ; 1 Peter 1:18 , 1 Peter 1:19 ). Resting on such solid ground, God's claim on us is very great. He asks of us that we "yield ourselves unto him;" that we offer ourselves, all that we are and have, to himself and his service, that he may enlarge and employ and bless us. This giving of ourselves unto God, this act of self-surrender by which" living or dying we are the Lord's" ( Romans 14:8 ), involves
II. THE DIVINE COMMUNICATION . God has been pleased to make some special communications to certain favored individuals of our race. The Apostle Paul was one of these, and this shipwreck through which he passed was one of the occasions on which he sent his angel with a message from his own mind (text). But though the great majority of our race pass through life without such direct and special manifestation, we are all addressed by the Father and Savior of our spirits. God speaks to us:
1. In his Word.
2. By his Son, who is ever saying to each human heart that hears his gospel, "Believe in me;" "Abide in me;" "Follow me;" "Work in my vineyard."
3. By his Holy Spirit, who comes with enlightening, quickening, renewing energy to the individual soul.
III. THE RESPONSE WE SHOULD RENDER .
1. Faith. " I believe God." God
2. Service. "Whom I serve." This service
The voyage to Italy: an allegory of the Christian's course.
Bunyan wrote an immortal allegory of the Christian course as a journey by land. It may be rewritten as a sea-voyage.
I. THE CHRISTIAN SETS OUT IN STRANGE COMPANY ', AND WITH OFTEN UNCONGENIAL SURROUNDINGS . Romans, Macedonians, prisoners, Alexandrians, are Paul's fellow-voyagers (verses 1, 2, 4-8). No seclusion, no picked society nor refined retirement, can be or ought to be the usual lot of the Christian. We cannot go out of the world. In society, among all the diversities of human character, our education and trial must go on, our experience be gained. The greater the variety of men, the more eliciting of our capabilities, the larger scope for doing good.
II. THE CHRISTIAN IS SURE TO MEET WITH FRIENDS . A friend and hospitality is to be found at most ports (verse 3). And love begets love. Captain Julius, another of those fine Roman soldiers who cross the stage of the Christian story, is glad of an excuse to show the kindness of his heart to his prisoner. Oh, let us believe in the human heart; if we speak to it in the tones of love, it will give hack its sweet echo everywhere. Unexpected acts of friendship are revelations of God to us in lonely places and sad hours.
"I fancied he was fled,
And after many a year,
Glowed unexhausted kindliness
Like daily sunrise there."
III. CLOUDY SKIES . (Verses 9-15.) Forebodings of danger are felt as the Christian goes on. Sunny life-seasons, the joys of calm friendship, must give place to dark skies and danger. The changing drama of nature mirrors the story of the human soul. The Christian, taught by experience, becomes prophetic, like Paul. The centurion and the master of the ship may typify that blind obstinacy which will persevere with its designs in the teeth of nature's laws. Nothing fatal occurs without previous warnings. In the natural and in the moral world we constantly come upon effects without visible causes, But the causes exist and are in action. Hence the constant duty of sobriety and watchfulness. The deep lesson of the gospel here illustrated is that we ought not to be taken at unawares.
IV. UNBELIEVING FEAR AND BELIEVING CONFIDENCE . The former in verses 16-20. To save dear life men will cast their treasures as worthless dross into the sea. And when, in spite of all, death seems near and inevitable, nothing is left but despair. But if earthly life itself is well lost for the sake of the immortal soul, hope need not set, but rather rise, like the morning star, above these troubled waves. This contrast is brought out by the behavior of the apostle (verses 21-26). Through the many sunless and starless days and nights, hope shines unquenched within his breast. There are reflections of such times within the horizon of the soul ( Isaiah 11:10 ; Isaiah 63:17 ). Reason contends with faith; and in struggle with itself the spirit becomes conscious of its power and victory through God. Paul supports himself on a Divine intimation, confirming the promise of the past ( Acts 23:1-35 . 11). The great thing is to be intent upon our work and witness; then comes the sense of security, the faith that no harm can come nigh us until our work be done.
"Too busied with the crowded hour
To fear to live or die."
It will be felt deeply true that—
"On two days it steads not to run from thy grave—
The appointed and the unappointed day;
On the first neither balm nor physician can save,
Nor thee on the second the universe slay."
V. SHIPWRECK AND LANDING . (Verses 39-44.) The day breaks. The face of God appears after the night of weeping and watching. When need is sorest, he is nearest. Yet his light leads to strange and unfamiliar scenes: "They knew not the land." The scenery that unfolds before the soul in the great crises of life or in the hour of death is that of a foreign shore. Death is a great break-up of all our familiar and trusted associations, and great experiences of change in the soul may resemble it in this. Their use is to teach self-reliance—that true self-reliance which identifies God with the truest impulses of the soul. At the moment when all seems lost, all is gained. The foreign and seeming unfriendly shore proves a haven and a home; the restless sea tosses them from its bosom to terra firma, and to a rest. So to the faithful soul do the fears and fancies of the terrified imagination give way to fixed prospects, and we are wrecked in transitory conditions that we may find a footing in the eternal.—J.
The example of Paul in the storm,
I. HIS FIRM FAITH IN HIS GOD , AND THE PEACE OF SOUL THENCE FLOWING , We may compare the picture of the Savior on the lake of Galilee, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?"
II. HIS CONSEQUENT CALMNESS AND PRUDENCE IN COUNSEL . He sets aside, with clear presence of mind, mistaken plans ( Acts 27:27-32 ); he encourages dispirited minds ( Acts 27:33-38 ); he acts with the fidelity of a pastor to the souls he feels committed to his care.
III. HIS PROPHETIC POWER . It is seen in warning of danger ( Acts 27:10 ), and exhortation amidst trial. The spirit of the prophet is at home amidst the storms of the world; flits like the petrel above the troubled waves. He has heard of the still small voice; the noise and crash of elemental war cannot shut out the melody of God. He rides upon the waters, directs the storm, furnishes an ark for the faithful in secret. God is our Refuge and Strength; this song was singing throughout in the heart of Paul.
IV. HIS LOVING , THANKFUL , AND HOPEFUL SPIRIT . ( Acts 27:34-36 .) He breaks bread with the company, gives thanks, and utters the divinest and most successful consolation. A picture again that recalls the scene of the last Supper.—J.
The bad man's extremity, God add the good man's opportunity.
The contents of this chapter are, in some respects, amongst the most striking and instructive for the deeper facts of human life and nature, in all the book.
1. The interplay of human action and of Divine providence, the harmony of human responsibility and Divine purpose, are forcibly illustrated more than once.
2. The moral superiority, the real strength, the solid ground to stand upon, which are the portion of the man with whom the truth of God dwells, in comparison of two hundred and fifty others, though he be the prisoner and they his masters, or at least their own, are most impressively exhibited and vindicated. Supposing that we read rightly, that there were as many as two hundred and seventy-six souls in that tossed boat, we may say that the length of this long chapter shows one man—him the chief prisoner—as the man whose heart fails him not, who revives the hearts of the others, when at all they are revived, and in whom, under God, the hope of all centers. The force of this contrast makes the chapter one of sustained and unique interest, on the one band, and, on the other, strews its path with suggestions of instruction. Though we read nothing positive respecting the state of mind of the personal companions and friends of Paul (the one of whom was the historian of the book, who for that very reason probably modestly abstains from speaking of himself), there is no reason to doubt that they shared the strength and peace and confident faith of Paul himself. In this present passage we may notice these four things in chief.
I. THE FORCIBLE DESCRIPTION OF " MAN 'S EXTREMITY ."
1. It involves outwardly, in one common condition, the bad and the good.
2. It is day without one sight of the sun, night without the radiance of one star; it is tempest of wind and wave without respite; it is the heart "without hope."
3. It is the strain of long continuance of the same. This scriptural description may be taken to cover pretty well the subject, and brings any one sufficiently face to face with the question whether there be any higher, friendly power able, willing to interpose.
II. THE " PROPER MAN " FOR THE HOUR .
1. He is the man "in chains."
2. He is the man to whom the Roman centurion cannot help showing some consideration ( Acts 27:3 , Acts 27:11 , Acts 27:31 , Acts 27:32 , Acts 27:43 ), though he has the care of him for Caesar's judgment-seat.
4. Though he might well have stood off from the rest in the boat, and been excused for doing so easily by them, yet he does not take this course, not play this part. He throws himself and lot in with them and theirs.
5. He is the preacher of comfort and of courage, and the confident prophet of hope and safety, but tells the bad also with the good ( Acts 27:26 ).
6. He is the genuine religious man, not "ashamed of Christ," and plainly tells the source of his own confidence and of the firm language he holds to his congregation of the boat, for all that he may be called or thought fanatical.
III. THE GOD WHO MADE THAT MAN OF THE HOUR . Let alone all which that God had done in the remoter past, and the earlier heretofore of his life, what had he done lately?
1. That God did not forget his child, his servant, his anxious sufferer. He had long so served Paul that nothing was more precious to him than to think he was the acknowledged and sure possession of God—"whose I am;" and no livery conceivable so honorable as his—"whom I serve." And now with gentle witness he makes him know that he does not forget him, has not taken his eye off from him, but is following him with that watchful, careful, loving eye. And "he sends his holy angel" to him.
2. That God strengthened and refreshed the confidence of his child and servant in a very noteworthy manner. For he condescends to repeat himself. Again he sends his angel, again the visit is the visit of the night, when "deep sleep falleth upon men" generally, but when little now visited the eyes of Paul or of others in that boat. Again the angel "stands by" Paul, ready for march, for work, for conflict, for victory. He does not over-hover nor seem in the attitude that would suggest the upward flight for Paid. Firmly on earth that angel of God condescends to plant his feet. Again the former words are repeated ( Acts 23:1-35 . 11). Was it not enough that "God had spoken once, " saying that the eyes of Paul should see Rome, and that he should preach in Rome? Again, however, the assurance is given him, and again the word of direct encouragement is addressed to the heart of Paul, "Be of good cheer" ( Acts 23:1-35 . 11); "Fear not, Paul."
3. That God sets double and very high honor on his despised child and suffering servant. He "gives" to Paul "all them that sail with him." And it is not a secret covered gift, it is such a one as Paul can quote, and quoted, no doubt, not without Divine warrant, though this is not asserted. Thus the God who made Paul the man of the hour made him such in the strength of his kindly memory of him, in the comforting and assuring language he addressed to him, and in the practical honor, a very boon of honor, he bestowed upon him. It may have required some courage for Paul to have made this last announcement, except for one fact, significant enough, that by far the more part of "them that sailed with Paul" had none at all, had lost heart, and hope, and the tongue to jeer, and lip to mock, arid countenance to laugh unbelievingly, with all which it is highly likely his announcement would at any other time have been received.
IV. THE MEANS BY WHICH THAT MAN GOT HIS HOLD ON GOD . The declaration of these means stands on the page of the book and shines on the life of the man in simplicity, brevity, grandeur, unique. "For I believe God," says Paul. What a word is this! What a thing it is! How few say it firmly I How few who say it and even firmly, do it! How fewer still by far who consistently and persistently do it! Yet is it the secret of peace, of strength, of influence, of the only kind worth having and enduring, and of heavenly wealth. What does the man possess who can say this with simple, full truth," For I believe God '? And what can he want? Of him this may be said, and it is enough. He has all things and abounds." How mournful, pitiful, sinful, the instability of the man who cannot say this from the heart I How strong and safe from "shipwreck" the man who can!—B.
Good cheer from a good man.
This interesting incident of the voyage may be introduced by a description of the perilous condition of the vessel, and the distress and hopelessness of the sailors and passengers. Canon Farrar's careful narrative will be found helpful. A few sentences we may give: "The typhoon, indeed, had become an ordinary gale, but the ship had now been reduced to the condition of a leaky and dismantled hulk, swept from stem to stern by the dashing spray, and drifting, no one knew whither, under leaden and moonless heavens. A gloomy apathy began to settle more and more upon those helpless three hundred souls. There were no means of cooking, no fire could be lighted; the caboose and utensils must long ago have been washed overboard; the provisions had probably been spoiled and sodden by the waves that broke over the ship; indeed, with death staring them in the face, no one cared to eat. They were famishing wretches in a fast-sinking ship, drifting, with hopes that diminished day by day, to what they regarded as a swirl and certain death. But in that desperate crisis, one man retained his calm and courage. It was Paul the prisoner, probably in physical health the weakest, and the greatest sufferer of them all. But it is at such moments that the courage of the noblest souls shines with the purest luster, and the soul of Paul was inwardly enlightened." Notice the apostle's sensitiveness to visions at all the great crises of his life. He was a man of prayer, and when a man has gained the habit of communion with God, special times of nearness and revelation are sure to come. A man may, by prayer and communion, make the veil between himself and God very thin and very shadowy, only a mist through which the shinings of God may, at times, easily pass. If we inquire why, on this most depressing occasion, this one man Paul kept so cheerful and so hopeful, the answer is that in him we see the triumph of the man who is conscious of God's presence with him. St. Paul here gives an illustration of his own words, "I can do all things through him that strengtheneth me," In these verses note—
I. THE GOOD MAN 'S REPROOF . ( Acts 27:21 .) It might seem unfitting and unkind to remind the officers of their past mistake; but St. Paul was a moral teacher, and everywhere he sought to do his moral and religious work. He would not miss the opportunity of producing a sense of sin which might be the beginning of better things. If his reproof had been a mere taunt, in the spirit of our irritating way of saying, "I told you so," it could not be commended. It belongs rather to the reproofs of which it may be said, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
II. THE GOOD MAN 'S ASSURANCE . ( Acts 27:22 .) It was found in the strong brave words St. Paul used, but even more in the tone with which they were uttered. There could be no question about his own assurance. On his own faith he could uplift and cheer others. Compare the calmness of St. Paul with the unnatural calmness of Jonah when the storm raged about him; and give illustration, from modern tales of shipwreck, of the power of the godly man to quiet alarm and prepare men for death.
III. THE GROUND OF THE GOOD MAN 'S CONFIDENCE . (Verses 23-26.) In this case a Divine communication. In other cases more general grounds, such as