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truth has been forced to contend and fight its way. And for the same cause. It has threatened the gains, condemned the pleasures, opposed the tastes which men were following. It is grievous to reflect, in every state of society, how many have a sort of vested interest in sin and error. And when the word of God is brought forward which refutes such error, and condemns such sin, then these bestir themselves: the "strong man armed" will not surrender his palace" without a struggle; they instigate their party and inflame their neighbours, saying, These men, being Jews, (or whatever else they see fit to call them,) do exceedingly trouble our city, teaching customs which we have never been used to observe. And too quickly is the flame excited, and finds fuel to feed it in too many hearts. So it proved in the present instance, as soon as the rumour was spread, and the accusation heard.
22. And the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
23. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely:
24. Who having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
This is one of those changes to which all human life is more or less subject; but none so much as the life of the apostles. A few days ago we left them full of satisfaction, and enjoying the comforts of hospitality in the house of Lydia. Now, having
suffered many stripes, they are thrust into the inner prison, and their feet set fast in the stocks. It explains the words of St. Paul to the Philippians, when he says, "I know both how to be abased, and how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." Lately he was abounding in ease and plenty. And he knew how to partake of this comfort without injury to his soul: he had learnt the art of enjoying earthly happiness, so that it may serve to promote the happiness which is above: he could still maintain humility and moderation. Now he is called to a reverse. And the person who is instructed to enjoy prosperity, is also best instructed to endure reverses. Such, the apostle tells us, was his case. He knew how to be abased and to suffer need." He was practised in the lessons of patience and resignation. "I have learnt," he says,
whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
Whosoever would learn the same lesson, must apply to the same divine Master and then he may add what Paul adds, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me."
Phil. iv. 12, 13.
THE COMFORT OF PAUL AND SILAS IN PRISON. A. D. 53.
ACTS xvi. 25.
25. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
This is a remarkable account, and well deserves consideration. One who heard two prisoners thus engaged, would be led to suppose that they had been declared innocent, and were on the morrow to receive a full discharge. Very different was the state in which we left these two prisoners. On the morrow they were to be brought before an angry populace, and tried by magistrates who had already treated them cruelly and unjustly and now, while still suffering from the many stripes which had been laid upon them, they had been thrust into the inner prison, and their feet set fast in the stocks. Still they were tranquil and calm, "committing themselves to him that judgeth righteously:" nay, more than calm-joyful—and with hearts unfettered and spirits unrestrained, they sang praises unto God, so that their fellow prisoners heard them.
It was the fulfilment of their Lord's promise: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you.
In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”1
Let us stop to inquire, how this promise is fulfilled through what medium could men, who had the feelings and nature of men, be in this state of mind at such a time? Cruelly beaten, with the smart of many stripes upon them: placed in an inner prison, and in a painful posture; and with every reason to expect still farther suffering on the morrow. Now we are truly told, by him who had himself undergone this, that " no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous." How then is nature overcome? How was it overcome in this case? How were Paul and Silas enabled, not to pray only ;-that we might expectmany will pray at such a time who pray at no other-but to show signs of cheerfulness and thankfulness to sing praises unto God.
Two things joined to produce this.
First, the Spirit of God, shed abroad upon their hearts. And next, the expectation of a great reward in heaven.
First, the Spirit of God produced that in them, which Paul desired that it might produce in others it "filled them with joy and peace in believing." It testified within them that they were children of God, for whose good all things should work together; and that he "of very faithfulness had caused them to be troubled." This thought was sufficient to outweigh all their present pain
1 John xiv. 27; xvi. 33.
2 Heb. xii. 11.
and trial just as one unhappy thought, one pang of fear, one sting of conscience, one cloud of horror disturbing the mind, is able to overshadow every outward means of comfort, and to cover the richest or gayest scene with the spirit of heaviness.
Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?" Such were the words of a queen to a king of Jezebel to Ahab, when he had "come into his house, and laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and could eat no bread." He had not been struck with illness: no calamity had come upon him; whatever could minister to his pleasure, his luxury, was within his reach. Yet there he lies, and might envy the poorest of his subjects, whose mind was at ease. He was under the influence of an evil passion, and therefore was he sad. He coveted the vineyard of Naboth; and disappointment in this desire made all that he possessed seem worthless in his eyes. He had none of the Spirit of God within him; therefore nothing could give him peace and joy. The apostles had that Spirit; and therefore they could joy, not only when comfort shone around them, as in the house of Lydia, but even now, when all outward comfort was withdrawn. They had a light which nothing could extinguish; a sense of peace which no injury could remove; and therefore they could "joy in tribulation also." They had that comfort with which all God's people are comforted; which he alone can give, and he alone can take away.
3 1 Kings xxi.