Page images

to the emperor, I have brought him forth before this assembly, and especially before your Majesty, that after due examination I might have something to write: for it would appear preposterous to send a man a prisoner without a specific charge against him.” When Festus had ended, Agrippa told Paul he had liberty to speak for himself; who desiring silence of the audience, began his speech thus :

“ I cannot but think myself happy, O king Agrippa, in that I am permitted to make my defence against the accu. sation laid by the Jews before your majesty, whom I know to be a perfect master of the Jewish laws and customs; and for which reason I beg your candid attention.”

“My manner of life from my youth, which was among the Jews at Jerusalem, they all know ; and that I was a Pharisee, a sect the strictest of all others in the Jewish religion. And accordingly now I am accused for asserting the resurrection of the dead, which, as it is a doctrine acknowledged by the Pharisees, so is it a fundamental promise made by God of old, generally depended on by the Jews, and in hopes of which they spend their time in piety and obedience to God: and yet for believing and expecting this I am accused by these Jews. Why should it be an incredible thing with you, that God, who is omnipotent, should raise the dead? I confess I was once of opinion that I was obliged to persecute this profession and doctrine of Christ, which I did in Jerusalem; and many holy men and women I hurried to prison, the chief priests authorizing me; and when any of them were put to death, I was consenting and active in it. And in other cities besides Jerusalem, I brought them into the courts of judicature, and used most severe means to make them deny Christ, and was so fierce against them, that I forced them to flee to heathen cities, and then pursued them thither. And this I was going to repeat when from the Sanhedrim I received authority to go to Damascus; but at noon-day, 0 king! I saw a light from heaven, far exceeding the splendor of the sun, which, unable to support, struck me and those that accompanied me to the ground ; and instantly, I very distinctly heard a voice, saying to me, in the Hebrew tongue, “ Saul, Saul, why

persecutest thou me?” And when I found, to my great astonishment that it was Jesus of Nazareth who spoke to me from heaven, I was directed by him to become a minister of that doctrine which I had before persecuted, and endeavoured to stifle, and received a commission to publish the gospel to the Gentiles, to instruct them in their duty, to turn them from their idolatrous worship to the service of the true God, that by repentance they might receive forgiveness of their sins, and believing in Christ enjoy an eternal portion of bliss among the saints of God. And for this I was assaulted, and in danger of being killed in the temple. But God rescued me, and by his blessed assistance I continue my duty, preaching nothing in effect but what is perfectly agreeable to the writings of Moses and the prophets, who foretold that Christ should be put to death, and that by his rising again, both Jews and Gentiles should be brought to believe in him.”

Here, Festus interrupting Paul, cried out, with a loud voice, “ Paul, thou art distracted, much study of these ancient records, drives thee to madness, or thou wouldest never relate such incredible things !”

But Paul, with the most perfect command of himself, calmly and gravely replied, “ I am in my perfect senses, most noble Festus, and what I say is true, without excess or extravagance. I appeal to king Agrippa, before whom I use this freedom of speech, and am confident he knows all this to be true. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ, were things of public notoriety, and cannot be a secret to him that was a Jew born. Believest thou the prophets, O king? I am satisfied thou dost; and knowest their predictions to be fulfilled.” Then Agrippa candidly said to Paul, “ Thou hast given such an account of these matters, and in so natural and earnest a manner, that instead of condemning thee for being a christian, I am almost persuaded to become one myself !” And Paul, powerfully struck with so remarkable an acknowldgment, said, with great fervency of spirit, and yet with perfect decorum,“ O king, I would to God, that not only Thou, but also all who hear me today, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” Upon this the assembly broke up;


and when Agrippa and Festus had consulted together about Paul's case, they freely owned that the accusation laid against him was not punishable by death or imprisonment, the emperors having not as yet made any edict against christians; and that, if he had not appealed to Rome, he ought to have been discharged.

And now an opportunity offering, Festus sent Paul to Rome, under a guard commanded by one Julius, in a ship belonging to Adramytium, a sea-port of Mysia ; and taking Aristarchus of Thessalonica with them, they coasted along Asia till they arrived at Sidon, where Julius, who treated Paul very respectfully, gave him leave to go ashore and refresh himself. Sailing from thence, they came in sight of Cyprus, where they were to lie by a while ; but the winds preventing, they passed the seas of Cilicia and Pamphylia, and came to Myra, a maritime city of Lycia.' Here, Julius finding a ship belonging to Alexandria bound for Italy, took his charge on board her, and with much ado made Salome, a city of Crete, from whence, after many days slow sailing, they arrived at the Fair-Havens near Lasea ; where Paul persuaded the Captain to wait for more seasonable weather, for they had been long beating at sea with contrary winds and very stormy weather : but notwithstanding Paul's advice was prophetical, telling them that if they thus obstinately pursued the voyage, they would not only hazard the ship and goods, but also their lives; yet Julius, preferring the judgment of the master of the ship, they put to sea, intending to reach Phænice, a harbour of Crete, where there was safe riding, and there to winter ; and the wind blowing gently at South, they questioned not in the least gaining their point. But they were soon mistaken; for the wind suddenly veering about, blew so very hard at north-east, that they were forced to drive before it. And coming under a little island called Clauda, they had like to have lost their boat, but with much difficulty recovering it, they hoisted it into the ship; and being unable to carry any sail, they lowered them upon deck, and so drove at the mercy of the winds. But the storm continuing, the next day they lightened the ship, and the day following they were forced to cut their masts by

the board, and throw all their tackle overboard. And now the storm increasing, and neither sun nor stars for many days appearing they despaired of escaping, which Paul seeing, spoke thus to the company : “ Sirs, had you taken my advice in staying at Crete, ye had not run this hazard ; but take comfort, for we shall suffer no loss but the ship. This I can assure you from the mouth of God, wbose angel this night appeared to me, saying, • Fear not, Paul, for thou must be brought before Cæsar, and God hath, for thy sake, granted life and safety to all them that are with thee in the ship.' Wherefore be of good cheer, for I am confident that this vision, seeing it comes from God, will certainly be made good. But I know also, that the ship will assuredly be wrecked, and we shall get safe to land on an island."

Driving thus for fourteen days at the mercy of the wind and waves, about midnight, the sailors fancied they were near land, and throwing the lead, they sounded, and found it twenty fathoms; then fifteen ; and it being night, and apprehending they might strike upon some shelves in the dark, they threw four anchors a-stern, and waited for day. And now the seamen, resolving to shift for themselves, had hoisted the boat over-board, pretending to moor the ship forward, as they had done abaft. But Paul said to Julius,“ Though I told you that no one person in the ship should perish, yet it was upon condition that you would believe and trust God for your preservation, and that the seamen tarry in the ship, and do their duty, and not attempt to escape by the boat ; which, if they do, you will all be in danger of your lives.” Upon this the soldiers, to prevent the seamen's design, cut the ropes, and let the boat drop: and in the space between that and day-break, Paul advised them to refresh them. selves with food, telling them they had so solicitously at--tended the fate of this fourteenth day, with such anxious care, that they had no leisure or thought of eating, and so had fasted till that time of night, eating nothing* all the

Nothing. He that is said to fast, is he that eateth nothing all day long; and so it is explained here, Acts xxvii. 33, “ Having taken nothing." The meaning VOL. II.

3 Y

day before. Therefore, saith he, “ I advise you all now to eat, for you will escape the danger, and refreshing yourselves, you will be the better able to bear the difficulties you are to expect.” And he set them an example, taking bread and blessing God, they all eat, and were refreshed ; and the number of all that were in the ship was two hundred and seventy-six, including soldiers and passengers. After this refreshment, they fell cheerfully to work, unloading the vessel not only of goods, but of the provisions, and throwing them into the sea, with a view to lighten her.

When it was day, they discovered a creek and a haven, into which they endeavoured to steer; and when they had weighed the anchors, they made for the shore, and run the ship aground. The soldiers, sceing land near, advised the captain to kill the prisoners, lest they should escape ; but he would not listen to them, having a great desire to save Pal, to whom he continued his former respectful carriage : and therefore commanded them that could swim to throw themselves into the sea first, and the rest on broken planks and pieces got safe to land. Where, when they were all arrived safe, they knew the place to be the island Melita, or Malta. * And here the islanders, seeing

theretore of this place (without any miracle of subsissing without any nourishment fourteen days together) is to be gathered from the former part of the period, “Expecting this day, the fourteenth day,” that is, waiting to see the success of this day; which it seems, in the opinion of the mariners, was the critical day to them, their danger was then at the highest, and they were not likely to out-live it, and so there was no use of eating : and if they escaped this day, they might then possibly hope ; and upon these considerations they eat nothing that day ; they had no leisure to consider hunger when their greater danger, and more urgent fear was of drowning

* Melita, now Malta, a celebrated island of the Mediterranean sea, situated between Sicily and the coast of Africa, in a most advantageous position, is gene. rally believed to be the scene of Paul's shipwreck. In ancient history, it is considered as the Hyperia and Ogygia of Homer, in which Calypso received Ulysses ; and at a subsequent period was possessed by the Carthaginians, from whom it was taken by the Romans. Its principal town and harbour are remarkable for their great strength; and the island, which is 180 miles in circumference, though naturally

« PreviousContinue »