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pents. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."7
7. In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius: who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
8. And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux; to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
9. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
10. Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
We are not distinctly told how Paul took advantage of the influence which he obtained amongst the inhabitants of Melita. We are not told that he led the people, whose diseases he healed, to the God in whose power he healed them. But we cannot doubt the fact. He could not be a few days in Athens without feeling " his spirit stirred within him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." Surely he would not stay three months amongst these simple and friendly islanders, without endeavouring to instruct their ignorance, and "turn them from their vanities to serve the living God." They supplied his temporal wants; he would not be insensible to their far worse spiritual destitution. From the diseases under which they suffered, he would lead them to the origin of all suffering, and show them how "by sin came death,"
1 Mark xvi. 18.
and all the various kinds of misery under which "the whole creation groans." And then he would conduct them on to him who offers the only rerhedy; who "himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses."8 The voyager, who has refreshed himself in some remote island, leaves behind him at his departure useful seeds, or useful animals, which afterwards spring up and multiply, producing benefits which the nation had never known. Not such benefits, however, as Paul would leave at Melita, while he dropped the precious seed of the word of God, which might "take root downward and bear fruit upward," to the praise of him who had directed the wind and storm, and carried his apostle to the island which was called Melita.
Acts xxviii. 11—16.
PAUL'S ARRIVAL AT ROME.—A. D. 68.
11. And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.1
8 Matt. viii. 17.
1 Two pagan demi-gods, supposed to influence the weather. The image painted or carved on the head of the vessel, was its sign.
12. And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.
13. And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the newt day to Puteoli:
14. Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.
15. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii-forum, and the Three Taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
Paul had now those wishes gratified which he had long indulged. To know, that in the imperial city, the seat of so much wealth and glory, and of so much idolatry and wickedness, God had yet a people, and Christ a company of believers ;—this had been no slight cause of joy. He had already written, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." Now, he did not only hear of them and think of them from a distance, but he was able to see them, and to "take sweet counsel together" with them. For this he had earnestly longed and prayed. (Rom. i. 10.) "Making request if by any means now at length, I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established. That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me."
It was no part of his prayer, that he should visit Rome as a prisoner. In this respect God chose for him. And if it was as God willed, Paul would not have it otherwise. He had but one object, " that he might finish his course with joy." This is often brought about in a way contrary to our expectations. We pray for growth in grace; we pray for spiritual advancement. Affliction comes. Comes, perhaps, in answer to such prayer, as the mode in which it is granted, the channel through which the blessing is conveyed.
The brethren were impatient to see the apostle, whose letter addressed to them, and revealing so much of "the counsel of God," they had been used to study, and of whose more abundant labours they had heard for many years. The tidings of his arrival in Italy travelled rapidly to Rome during the seven days which he spent at Puteoli. And when the party reached Appii-forum, they found brethren who had come forward fifty miles to meet them, and others again at the place known by the name of the three Taverns, which was thirty miles distant from the city. The signs of so much zeal and eagerness cheered Paul, as well they might: he thanked God, and took courage.
And we too may be encouraged, when we reflect on the scene and on all that it brings to mind. From those gates through which the brethren passed, that they might meet Paul, and accompany him to the city, many a crowd had often issued to welcome some victorious commander, and conduct him in triumph to the capitol. But here was a party formed and here were hearts disposed to welcome one who came on a very different errand, and with a very different claim to honours. It had not been his office "to destroy men's lives, but to save them." "The weapons of his warfare were not carnal," but divine; not made successful by human strength or prowess, but " mighty through God to the pulling down of the strongholds" of ignorance and sin. He had not warred against his own flesh and blood, against men of his own nature and sprung from the same parentage: he had warred against the great enemy of mankind, against " the rulers of darkness," against "spiritual wickedness." He had not been sent out in his career by men of like passions with himself, under the influence of anger or revenge, under the excitement of covetousness or ambition: he had received his commission from heaven, and had turned his course as God himself directed him. And now he was not entering Rome as a triumphant conqueror,—his chariot preceded by ensigns of power and greatness, followed by a train of captive princes, and greeted by the acclamations of the multitude. He entered the city as a prisoner, under the custody of soldiers, and only attended by the members of a "sect everywhere spoken against." His triumph belongs to a future season: when "this world and the lust thereof" shall pass away, and much that has been held honourable among men will be covered with "everlasting contempt." Then they will bear the crown, who here have borne the cross, and "the good and faithful servant shall enter into the joy of his Lord."