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party set forth, all the Tyrian christians, men, women, and children, accompanied them out of the city as far as the beach, where they all knelt down while prayer was made upon parting. It was painful to separate, especially under the circumstances of apprehension for Paul's safety which the Tyrians entertained, but at length they took leave of each other, the apostle and his companions going on board the ship, and the mourning disciples returning to their homes in the city.
From Tyre the vessel sailed to the city of Ptolemais, about thirty miles lower down on the coast of Syria, (the Acre of the present day); here they landed and remained one day in friendly intercourse with the christians of the place. The next day Paul's party went on to Cæsarea, where they took up their abode at the house of Philip the Deacon (Acts vi. 5; viii. 40), who is here called the Evangelist. Philip had four unmarried daughters, whom God had pleased to make instances of that fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel, to which St. Peter had referred in his first discourse after the descent of the Holy Ghost; in which it was declared amongst other things, that when the Lord should " pour out of his spirit upon all flesh,” the daughters also of the Jews should prophecy. (Acts ii. 16–18. Joel ii. 28, 29.)
Paul remained some time at Cæsarea with Philip, waiting as it seems for the approach of the feast of Pentecost. While he was there, Agabus the prophet, who had foretold at Antioch the great dearth which happened in the reign of Claudius Cæsar (Acts xi. 28), arrived at Cæsarea from Judea. He joined the party of christians at the house of Philip; and upon one occasion when they were assembled together, he took Paul's girdle (that long piece of linen used to wrap round the body in folds in such a manner as to confine the loose garments at the waist); and wound it round his own hands and his feet. Having, like the prophets of old, performed this significant action (Jer. xii. '1; xxvii. 2. Ezek. iv. 1-13), he proceeded to explain its meaning. He declared that the Holy Ghost said that, like as he was bound with Paul's girdle, so would the Jews at Jerusalem bind the owner of the girdle; and that they would deliver him up into the custody of the Gentiles. This prophecy produced a strong feeling amongst the disciples; and those who were of Paul's own party, as well as those who belonged to Cæsarea, earnestly entreated the apostle not to place himself in so great danger by going to Jerusalem. Paul however was not moved by their
entreaties ;-he expostulated with them; how could they trouble him so with their tears, which were not likely to succeed in altering his long settled plan of attending the coming festival at Jerusalem (Acts xx. 16)? for he was willing not only to suffer all that Agabus had prophesied, by being bound, but also he was ready to lay down his life at Jerusalem, should that be the consequence of his glorifying the name of the Lord Jesus Christ there. When the disciples found that his
purpose was so fixed that no entreaties would move it, they considered it as a sign that it was God's will that he should go to Jerusalem ; and they expressed their readiness to submit to whatever it might please God to appoint in the matter.
As the day of Pentecost was now close at hand, the travellers got their things ready, and set forth to Jerusalem. Some of the christians of Cæsarea joined the party; and amongst the rest a person of the name of Mnason, a christian of long standing; he belonged to the island of Cyprus, but he had a residence in Jerusalem, at which it was arranged that Paul and his companions should take up their abode. There they arrived at length, and were received in the most affectionate manner by the christians in the Holy City.
APPLICATION. This portion affords us an occasion of observing the exercise of that spiritual wisdom, which can discern the difference between the trying impediments often placed by God himself in the way of those who are doing his appointed work, and those indications of His will which are intended to prevent his servants from following a course contrary to His
We have more than one instance recorded of a distinct intimation given to Paul by the Holy Ghost, that it was not the will of God that he should proceed in the journeys he had intended, according to his
own plan. In Galatia he was forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia; and when he attempted to proceed from Mysia into Bithynia, the Spirit suffered him not (Acts xvi. 6, 7; see page 206): but now we find Paul persevering in his purpose of proceeding to Jerusalem, in spite of repeated intimations acknowledged to be directly from the Holy Ghost. Upon a closer examination of this apparent inconsistency, we find sufficient reason to understand the principles which influenced the conduct of Paul; and to perceive how they may be applicable, in a different degree, to ordinary cases of a similar character. The spiritual influence that prevailed with Paul at once to forego his own plans with respect to the journeys in Asia and Bithynia was one, which convinced his own mind that it was not the will of God that he should proceed. To this he submitted without a struggle, however difficult he may have found it to understand how the withholding of the gospel from the perishing heathen in those provinces, when it was brought to the very door, could tend to the glory of God. But the spiritual influence in the present case was of a very different kind. Paul had arranged a difficult and delicate matter with the Hebrew christian church at Jerusalem, by which, while Peter and the other apostles were to direct their ministrations exclusively to the Jews, Paul should go forth with the gospel to the Gentiles. Several symptoms had appeared of the Jewish tendency to misinterpret the arrangement or convention thus agreed upon. One point of this arrangement was, that Paul, as the Gentile missionary, should excite his converts to contribute of their substance towards the relief of the poor members of the Hebrew christian church. (Gal. ii. 9, 10; see page 247.) It was evidently his anxiety to confirm and establish the important arrangement which gave liberty to the Gentile christians, that made him plan his journey so, that he might arrive at Jerusalem in time to take advantage of the assembling of the Hebrew christians at the feast of Pentecost, in order to report to them his progress among the Gentiles (of which the next portion will give us the account).
Here was an important occasion for doing great good in the cause, for which the fitting opportunity could only occur at that time; and Paul's judgement and feeling concurred in pointing out, that the path of duty led him to Jerusalem; he had not indeed received any such direct communication from God as that which had led him into Macedonia (Acts xvi. 9, 10): had any thing like this occurred, there would have been no room for the trial of Paul's own spirit in the matter : he only tells us, that he was going bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, but ignorant of what might happen to him there (Acts xx. 22); yet at the same time warned by the Holy Ghost that bonds and afflictions were waiting for him. (Acts xx. 23 marg.) He had received several such warnings before those the particulars of which are recorded in this portion, for he mentioned the fact in his address to the presbyters at Miletus. Every one of these warnings intimated that the course he was pursuing would be attended with great danger to himself personally; but not one of them specified anything which tended to shew that his course, would not result in furthering the christian cause, and so promote God's glory. These spiritual warnings therefore, however alarming their character, or high their authority, could only have the effect of proving whether Paul's personal courage was equal to the estimate which he formed of his personal duty under the particular circumstances. He had judged it to be his duty to accomplish the purpose which necessarily took him to Jerusalem : thither therefore he went bound in the spirit; and no amount of personal danger declared by the Holy Ghost himself moved him to relinquish the object in view; nay, if that danger had been testified even to involve his death, he was ready to die for the name of the Lord Jesus,
An appplication of the utmost importance is to be drawn from this. In making any plans, or in adopting any christian course of action, too much pains cannot be taken in endeavouring to ascertain, whether we are following the will of God, or our own.
But when a distinct course of duty which has been well considered lies before us, it very commonly happens that God permits our purpose to be tried by many indications calculated to alarm. Unless such indications involve sin, which would alter the character of our course, and cast it out of God's purpose, all such alarms should only have the effect of testing our constancy and courage, our self-denial and devotion to God's cause, and ought not to divert us from our well considered objects.
QUESTION. In making my plans and deciding on my conduct, do I take pains to assure myself that I shall not act contrary to God's will? Am I easily induced to alter my purpose by thwarting hindrances? What share has the fear of personal loss or danger in giving such hindrances weight with
Am I of that spirit which would make me ready to be bound, or even to die for the name of the Lord Jesus?
O thou gracious God, who givest to all men liberally and upbraidest not, and hast promised to answer the petitions of those who lack wisdom, when they come to thee in the name of Jesus Christ, give me, I implore thee, that wisdom from above, which shall make me to discern the way thou wouldest have me to go; and so enable me to devote myself, spirit, soul, and body, to thy service, that I may be willing to meet every hindrance, and bear every loss which may befall me in the path of duty. Put into my heart I pray thee good desires, and by thy grace be pleased to bring the same to good effect, that I may live to the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. AMEN.