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gracious tidings proclaimed by Paul had been to the magistrates who imprisoned him, if the grace of God had not attended the sign of his omnipotence, and moved the heart to ask, Sirs, what must I do to be served f
When the heart was moved to this inquiry, the answer was at hand. No need of hesitation or delay.
31. And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
32. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
Here was no time for a laboured discourse, or a long system of instruction. Neither was it necessary. For a few sentences may convey the whole "mystery of godliness." Mystery though it be, such as never can be exhausted; though there are wonders connected with the gospel such as " angels desire to look into;" yet the whole of saving truth may be spoken in few words. The apostles may be supposed to have replied in terms like these to the anxious inquiry made of them.
You desire to know whether there can be mercy for you, and you may be saved from the wrath to come—delivered from the just vengeance of that God whom you have been offending all your life, and whose power has been now displayed before your eyes. There is mercy for you. That God delighteth in mercy. Judgment is his " strange work." He willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should come to repentance. This is the very truth which we are commissioned to proclaim, and for proclaiming which we are thus treated. We declare, that "God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son, that all that believe in him might not perish,, but have everlasting life." He was appointed, and he consented, " to bear our sins in his own body" on the cross, "that he might bring us to God." Join thyself to the company of those who "receive him." Be baptized, and admitted among his flock, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Thy family, which may follow thy example, all shall become part of the Lord's family. For "this day is salvation come into this house." And " whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved."
In language such as this, we may suppose, the apostles spake the word of the Lord to the keeper of the prison and his household. They were ambassadors for Christ; the word of reconciliation was committed to them that they might declare to the penitent rebel the terms of his forgiveness.
It was not all that was needful for him to know: he would still have much to learn both of doctrine and of precept. But this, and no other, must be the basis of his change of state; he must "arise, and wash away his sins," in the fountain of Christ's blood, and so enter upon a new life, following the commands of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways.
These things are not new to us, as they were to the jailer at Philippi. But they are no less important. And it is often useful to look into the heart, to go down, as it were, to the foundations of our faith, and see that all is safe; that our hope is built on the same sure ground, the rock immoveable and unchangeable, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.''
ALTERED CHARACTER OF THE JAILER. THE APOSTLES ARE DISMISSED FROM PHILIPPI— A. D. 53.
Acts xvi. 33—40.
33. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes: and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
34. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
Such was the effect of that word of the Lord, which the apostles had declared to the keeper of their prison. That word may be sometimes heard for years, and the way of salvation may still not be understood. Sometimes it takes root immediately, and springs up rapidly. It is, as the soil may be prepared or unprepared. It is, as the Lord may give the increase.
In the present case, we cannot wonder if the work was sudden. The jailer had seen that which feelingly convinced him that in a few hours he might be lost for ever. Therefore, as we are told, he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. The same grace which had reached his heart, extended to his household also; and they too received the message of the apostles, and were "baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins."
In what follows, we perceive the manifest signs and proofs of that " new creature," which whoever is in Christ Jesus will become, and must become. For he brought them into his house, and set meat before them: and rejoiced, believing in God, with all his house: So entirely his former thoughts had "passed away," and had been succeeded by others of a new and different complexion. Yesterday, he had no feeling for the apostles: bleeding from the stripes which they had received, unheeded, untended, he "thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks." We need not accuse him of any extraordinary cruelty, but certainly he showed them no kindness, cared nothing for their miserable condition; for he had not yet learned to "put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercy, kindness, meekness."1 "Behold, all things are become new." Now he does care for them; now he has compassion on them; took them the same hour of the night and washed 1 Col. iii. 12.
their stripes; made amends, as far as might be, for former neglect and severity. Yesterday, it was their heinous offence that they were ministers of a God unknown to him; that they taught new customs, which it was not lawful for the people to receive. Now, it is their greatest honour, that they bear the message of the most high God. These men, which show us the way of salvation, must want no comfort or attention. He brought them into his house, and set meat before them. He thought nothing of the risk and danger which might follow such conduct towards the prisoners committed to his charge. Other considerations were now uppermost in his mind, and present inconvenience did not affright him.
We are further told, that he rejoiced, believing in God, with all his house. He did not consider the faith which he had embraced as a thing to be submitted to, but to be rejoiced in. And with good reason. Is it no misfortune to be at enmity with God? to have nothing to hope from his mercy, everything to fear from his anger? Such had been the case with this man. Then, is it no blessing to be at peace with God ?—to have nothing to fear from his anger, everything to hope from his mercy? Such now was the case with this man. "Being justified by faith, he had peace with God through Jesus Christ." He who before was " without God in the world," and who, when taken from the world could look only for "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish," was