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And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one s Sana s were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awak ing out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm; for we are all here," etc. ACTS XVI. 26-31. THE jailer s first thought was suicide. This was the highest point to which heathen culture could soar. It was held in high repute among the Romans. In par ticular, at this same town, Philippi, many illustrious examples of self-destruction had occurred. In a battle near this place, the republicans were finally defeated by the imperial army. The vanquished patriots, know ing no way of escape, died in great numbers by their own hands. It is quite possible that the proximity of these events may have raised suicide to an exceptional measure of honor in Philippi. The keeper supposed that his prisoners must have escaped. Remembering the special charge connected with the two strangers recently committed, he believed that his life was forfeited, and determined not to await the humiliation of condemnation and punishment. Paul rushes to the rescue, eager to save life. Quickly he adopts the most direct and efficacious means. " We are all here ! " he exclaimed: he has hit the nail on the head. He has removed in a moment the cause, and the intended effect falls to the ground. The safety of all the prisoners removed the jailer s fears: his hand
TJie Jailer. 299 dropped from the sword s hilt, and the horrid deed was left undone. Relieved now, and relieved completely from his first fear, a second instantly seizes him. " He called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling." Trem bling ? what makes the man tremble now, when his dan ger is all removed ? Not a prisoner has escaped; the magistrates have not a case against him. Why is he still in terror ? This is another fear. In a moment, one great fear left him, and another, a greater, took possession of his heart. It has been suggested by some critics, that this is the first terror not yet removed, that the displeas ure of his superiors is still the cause of his apprehen sion, and that his cry, " What must I do to be saved ? " pointed to the punishment due to the officer who slum bered at his post. Those who take this view of the history must be under a strong doctrinal bias; for it is a view that is forced and unnatural. It is interesting, even as a critical study, to mark how manifold and complete is the evidence that his fear and his question now point to pardon and peace with God. (i.) Had the object of his fear been punishment by his superiors, he would not have fallen on his knees before Paul and Si las. They had no power to shield him. But he had now the presentiment that these men were servants of the Most High God, who could show him the way of sal vation. On this supposition, his act becomes rational and consistent. (2.) The answer which they gave him shows what they understood by his question. They enjoyed the best opportunity of knowing what he meant. They saw in his terror his conviction of sin: they so understood his question, as to answer it by offering him Christ. (3.) And the man was satisfied with the answer he obtained. Assuredly, if he had feared for his head on account of the prison being open,
to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ would not have pro tected him from the sentence of his heathen masters on the morrow. For his first fear, the appropriate and sufficient cure was the assurance, " We are all here; x> for his second, the appropriate and sufficient cure was, " Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," These two distinct and sue-
300 The Church in the House. cessive consolations show what were the two fears which in rapid succession had occupied and oppressed his heart. The first fear was, lest he should lose his life for allowing the prisoners to escape; the second fear was, lest he should be cast out of God s presence because of his sin. Although it is not necessary that we should be able to trace the way of the Spirit in the rapid succession of this man s experiences, the diffi culty would be much diminished if we should suppose that the jailer \vas an attentive observer of events, and was acquainted with all the circumstances that led to the commitment of the apostles. The things had not happened in a corner. The strange persistent cry of the Pythoness, articulately acknowledging these men as servants of the Most High God, and the subse quent change in her attitude and conduct, were matters of notoriety in the city. Now, although the jailer did not, when he received his prisoners in the evening, be lieve them to be the divinely inspired teachers of a new salvation; yet, if he was aware that this character had been ascribed to them in the raving responses of the prophetess, the shock of the earthquake at mid night would in a moment throw a new light over the whole scene. The startling announcement which he had heard with incredulity, and, perhaps, with sarcas tic hilarity, in the sunshine of the preceding day, might suddenly flash upon his conscience as a truth, when
the earthquake had thrown open the doors, and yet the prisoners had not made their escape in the darkness. These things are written for our admonition. The word that records them is a die deeply cut, that will receive broken hearts in succession till the end of the world come, and mould them anew, and turn them out new creatures in Christ. The cutting of that die at first was a great work: it was engraven when the Son of God was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. The drops were eating deeply in when he cried, " If it be possible, let this cup pass." It could not pass; it was poured out to the dregs. That fiery out-pouring cut its way in, and formed the matrix into which melted men might afterwards be cast. Only one such type was ever formed. None other than " God with us" could endure the bap tism. Onjy one such type was made in the dying of
The Jailer. 301 the Lord Jesus; but it serves for all the world, and for all time. Whosoever will, let him come. Let melted hearts flow in; and forthwith they become new. This precious answer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," it is not easy to de scribe and define. If you were asked to explain what sunlight is, you would not know how to answer. There is nothing better known to those who see; but there is nothing more difficult to make known to those who are born blind. Manifestly it behoved Paul on this occasion to put into his answer the whole marrow of the gospel. If it is possible to give in one mouthful the essence of all that he ever preached, he is bound to give it here and now. We are warranted in assuming that this answer contained all that is necessary to salvation, and noth ing more. There is not too little: there is not too
much. It is manifestly a matter of life and death; and it is at his peril if the apostle treat it otherwise. The penitent sprang in, and fell down, and cried. His cry was, " What must I do to be saved ? " The missionaries are bound, as they shall answer to God, to tell the man this, and at the moment nothing else. It would have been to trifle both with the sinner and the Saviour, either to have kept back anything essential, or to have dallied with redundant prescriptions. The missionaries are equal to the crisis. They spring out as eagerly and sharply as the jailer springs in. He hungers: they give him the bread of life. He is lost: they offer him the Saviour. They give him enough; and nothing more. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
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