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seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed." Improbable as this seemed, Abraham believed God, that it should be even as he had told him.
This belief in God's word, belief like that of Noah, of Abraham, and of Paul, is the very state of mind which characterises the people of God. These believed God—believed that the thing would come to pass which God had declared, notwithstanding present appearances: notwithstanding the objections which might exist against believing this: notwithstanding the inducements which might exist to believe the contrary. The world is full of such objections and such inducements. But the Christian says, I believe God, and neither yield to my own heart, nor listen to the world. This is the faith which makes its way through all hindrances: through rugged paths and smooth: "through evil report and good report:" looking up singly to him, whose favour alone it is worth while to secure, and whom alone it is always possible to please; for of him only can we say, that his will changes not. The Christian's language, therefore, is, / believe God, when he tells me, that by the deeds of the law no man shall be justified in his sight. And I believe him, when he declares, that "the righteous shall go into life eternal." I believe God, when he declares, that " there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;" and I believe him, when he says, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." I believe God, when he says, that " faith is his gift:" and I believe him, when he says, that he "giveth to all men liberally:" that "whoever asks shall receive, and he that seeks shall find." I believe God, when he says, that "in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing;" and I believe him, when he says, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
Whoever studies Paul's life and character, as developed in his letters, will see these to be the principles on which he rested: and that whether preaching or journeying, whether at ease or under trial, whether in his government of himself, or in his intercourse with others, all he did proceeded on the same simple ground of action, / believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
THE VESSEL IN WHICH PAUL SAILED IS WRECKED, AND THE CREW CAST SAFE ON THE SHORE. —A.d. 62.
Acts xxvii. 27—44.
27. But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;
28. And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fif teen fathoms.
29. Then fearing lest they should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.
30. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship,' when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,
31. Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
32. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.
Here the character of man appears in all its natural selfishness. The sailors, perceiving that the ship had been driven so near towards the land, that a boat might reach the shore, formed a design of escaping from the ship themselves, and leaving the rest on board, unskilled in navigation, to the mercy of the winds and waves. Paul, by the wisdom given to him, discovered their intention, and prevented it by timely warning. Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
God, indeed, had promised that he should visit Rome, and had also given him the lives of those who sailed with him. But this counsel was to be effected through the means by which, in the usual course, a ship is navigated and preserved. The decree of God was, that these means should be successful in directing the vessel to the shore.
It is an example of his will in all cases. He says of Israel: (Ezek. xxxvi. 36.) "I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it. I will cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded." "Thus saith the Lord God; / will yet for I his be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them." It shall be done. But their prayer shall precede. I will be inquired of for this: that which usually calls down a blessing from heaven shall not be superseded by my decree. And so when the Lord has engaged for his people: "They shall never perish; neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand :" let it be ever remembered that "his promise concerning our stability does not make it a matter indifferent for us, to use or not to use the means whereby we may remain stedfast. This assurance must not exclude our labour. To our own safety, our own sedulity is required." 1
On the same principle as that which retained the sailors on board the vessel, Paul also urges the whole company to strengthen themselves with food. Their labour, and distress, and despondency, had caused them for fourteen days to neglect any regular sustenance. Exertion would be required, and they were in no state for exertion. He exhorts them to a wiser course, and sets them an example of confidence and resolution.
33. And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.
34. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat; for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.
1 Sec Hooker on Hab. i. 4.
35. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave ihanks to God in presence of them all; and when he had broken it, he began to eat.
36. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.
37. And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.
38. And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
39. And when it was day, they kneiv not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.
40. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudderbands, and hoised up the main-sail to the wind, and made toward shore.
41. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground: and the fore part stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
42. And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
43. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim, should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land J
44. And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
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Before, we saw the selfish character of the seamen. Now, the soldiers appear to no better advantage. Lest in the confusion any of the prisoners should escape, and so they be called to account, their counsel was to kill the prisoners.