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NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
I THINK it more than probable, that the fast here alluded to, was the great day of atonement, observed most strictly by the Jews, wherever they were. But this had no reference to the Roman centurion Julius, and the soldiers on board. But though Paul and his companions, no doubt, scrupulously regarded that solemn season; yet it being now passed, he might, as he did, admonish the ship's company to take food. And his presuming to foreknowledge of what the event of this voyage would be, in shipwreck; though for the time it had no weight with either the centurion, or the master of the vessel; yet, in the after circumstances which occurred, no doubt it operated to give the greater consequence to the apostle's subsequent discourse. Thus the Lord, sometimes, and not un-. frequently, prepares his people for what the Lord is preparing for them; and, by a process of grace, predisposeth his people's minds to be in expectation of his holy will. It is very blessed in even the common circumstances of life, to be watching the leadings of the Lord, who, whether we regard it or not, is always watching us. Very sweet to this point is that Scripture: "Thus saith the Lord thy Redeemer, the Holy one of Israel. I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit; which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go." (Isa. xlviii. 17.)
I pray the reader to observe with ine, how the subject proceeds, and how the relation is worded: "And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete." The apostle had pre-admonished them, that the voyage would be with hurt, and much damage; not only of the ship, and cargo, but also of their lives. But these things, coming from
a poor prisoner, were considered as idle tales, "for they believed them not." And a soft south wind, coming, as they thought, very opportunely, not foreseeing the tempest in the womb of it, they caught at the opening prospect, and launched forth.
# Let the reader pause to remark, how very frequent such events are in life. Who shall calculate the number of those apparently auspicious mornings, which have been followed by destructive nights! How many a voyage in life, hath opened with the gentle gale, like the south-wind of these mariners, blowing softly; which hath been succeeded with tremendous storms, and made a watery grave soon after. What histories, in the Lord's people, furnish out proofs of similar thwarting providences! The patriarch Job began the day of life in a full sun-shine of prosperity, for he was "the greatest of all the men of the east." Look at him a little after, and behold him "scraping himself with a potsherd, as he sat down among the ashes on a dung-hill." (Job i. 3. with ii. 7, 8.)
Look at the prophet David, when quite a youth, singled out from among his brethren to be king over Israel! (1 Sam, xvi. 1, 12, 13.) Hear the man's own confession of the events which followed in his life, when he came to sum them up all together, and present them before the Lord: "Lord," said he, "remember David, and all his afflictions!" (Psalm cxxxii. 1.)
But what are the improvements from such views! They are most sweet and precious. They all speak, yea, and with a loud voice too, that however outward providences may vary, there is no change in the love of God. Every minute circumstance, in relation to the government of the Lord's people, is arranged with an infinite wisdom, that cannot err; and with an eye to their eternal good, that cannot possibly fail. The construction of their lives, like the construction of their bodies, is so beautiful framed, that a synod
of angels, if convened day by day, could not improve; and not a single iota appointed for them can be left out, no more than one of the organs of their system in nature could be omitted without deranging the whole. Paul must give witness for the Lord at Rome. Paul must go thither by water. Paul must suffer shipwreck, and must " be cast upon a certain island." The Lord of heaven and earth had many and weighty concerns for his servant to perform by this voyage. Yea, the very lives of the people that were with him were given to him for their preservation. What a world of mysteries are we in! What a world is every child of God in mystery to himself!
The reader must not overlook the simple but beautiful manner of the relation in which this history of Paul's voyage was carried on. Not long after, this south wind blowing softly, there arose a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon; modern navigators called it a Levanter, because it is unusual in the Mediterranean. It is described as different from any other wind, however violent, which blows in one direction, for this acts in a circular manner like a whirlwind. And hence it is said, that the ship was caught by it, as if taken up in the hand so that in this case, neither sails nor rudder were any longer useful; all was at the mercy. of the waves, and the ship was let to drive.
Let us pause over the account, for it is profitable. What a transition was at once made; from the soft easy breeze of the helpful wind, to the dreadful state of a storm, which carried the very tempest in its womb! And such, not unfrequently, are the changes in life. How often are men called from the house of feasting to the house of mourning! Nay, not merely from house to house, but from one chamber to another, under the same roof! Who among the sons of men is the sure proprietor of to-morrow? Who that in the morning ariseth through mercy in health and safety,
but may be a corpse before night! What a very gracious and affectionate advice is that which the apostlegives in the contemplation of such vicissitudes to which the human life is exposed! "This I say, brethren," said he, "the time is short; it remaineth, that both they that have wives, be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord." (1 Cor. vii. 28-32.)
"And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
"And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
“And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
"But after long abstinence, Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.
"And now I exhort you to be of good cheer for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.
"For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar:
and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
"Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island." (Acts xxvii. 18-26.)
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS.
We have here presented to us, some few of the outlines of the storm, into which Paul and the ship's company were brought, and which at length terminated in shipwreck. To follow the sacred history, through all the particulars, and to give an adequate representation is impossible. All language fails. To stand on the shore of a neck of land, in full view of the sea, and behold the most tremendous storm a landsman ever saw, or his imagination could conceive, would still fall so far short of the reality, and of what they feel that are in it, as the painting of a lion on canvas is, to that of meeting a real lion in the highway. None but they can tell who have been in a storm, and beheld the sea in every direction around them, rising mountains high, and again sinking into the gulph below; driven, as here stated, at the mercy of winds and waves, and "neither sun nor stars appearing for many days together;" the tempest raging all the while with unabating fury, until all hopes of being saved by human means is taken away. The Holy Ghost, in one of the Psalms, hath drawn this subject in so sublime a manner, and connected with it such views of the infinite grace and goodness of the Lord, in watching over those whose occupation is among sea-faring men, as is most interesting. In the service appointed for the daily use of the Navy, this Scripture, which is the cviith Psalm, forms a part and indeed is such as no man engaged in a maritime life should ever neglect. I persuade myself, my reader on the present occasion of meditating on Paul's voyage, whether land's-man or sailor, will not be displeased in my adverting to it. If connected with the history before us, and the several parts. brought forth, and compared with the log-book (if it