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for carrying his bed, he would not fail to relate the mercy which he had experienced, and thus make it known to many besides the immediate spectators.
Christ's miracles in healing the sick, were designed to convince men of his heavenly mission, divine authority and saving power. And works of goodness, in particular instances, were acts of general benevolence. By these, as well as by the invitations and promises of his gospel, let all be encouraged to repair to him for relief in every distress, for succour in every temptation, and for deliverance from the wrath to come. To him let them commit their eternal interest, for he is able to save to the uttermost, and to keep that which is committed to him against the great day.
The awakened Jailor instructed in the way to
ACTS xvi. 29, 30, 31.
Then he called for a light dnd sprang in, and came trembling and fell down before Paul and Silas, und brought them out, und said, Sirs, What must I do to be saved ? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
THESE two apostles were sent to preach the gospel in Philippi, a considerable city in Mace. donia, which was inhabited chiefly by Romans, and is therefore called a colony.
Their doctrine soon gained such credit, that the superstitions of paganism yielded before it. Some principal men, who had long made gain from the ignorance and credulity of the common people, by employing servants to tell them strange things for money, alarmed at the mighty change effected by the preaching of the Apostles, seized them, brought them before the magistrates, accused them of mak. ing dangerous innovations, and procured them to be imprisoned. The jailor, having received a spe
cial command to keep them safely, thrust them ins to the inmost apartment of the prison, and locked their feet fast in the stocks.
At midnight, while these holy prisoners sang praises to God, there was a violent earthquake, which rocked the foundations of the prison, burst open the doors, and loosed every prisoner from his bands.
The jailor, suddenly awakened, saw the doors standing open; and, concluding that the prisoners had fled, he drew his sword, and would have killed himself, to prevent the infamous punishment, which he apprehended. Paul, though it was now midnight, and he was in the inner prison, and the jailor without, yet perceiving his horrid design, called to him, and said, “Do thyself no harm, for we are all here.” The Jailor now fully convinced, that these men were the servants of God, who taught the way of Salvation for guilty mortals, “ called for a light, sprang in, came trembling, and fell down before the Apostles, and said, Sirs, What must I do to be saved ?" To this important enquiry they gave a summary but pertinent answer, “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
The manner in which the jailor made his enquiry -the enquiry itself--and the answer returned to it, shall be the subjects of our present meditations.
I. The manner in which the jailor made his enquiry deserves our attention.
He must be supposed, previous to this, to have had a general acquaintance with the leading truths of natural religion, such as the existence and gov. ernment of a Deity, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of retribution ; for, without a belief of these truths, there would have been no room for his enquiry. Nor can we think, that he was altogether a stranger to the gospel. The apostles, before their imprisonment, had preached, for some
time, and with much success, in this city ; and he had doubtless heard and learnt their doctrine, in its general design, though he had not yet embraced it. But what had just now taken place, roused him from his inattention, and impressed his mind with a strong conviction, that these men were teachers sent from God. And to them, in this important character, he applied for instruction in the things, which concerned his salvation.
And he applied to them in haste. He called for a light and sprang into the prison where they were.
With the careless part of mankind the great enquiry is, “Who will shew us any worldly good ?” To them religious instructions and counsels are administered with little success. But the sinner, impressed with a conviction of his guilt, and awakened to a sense of his danger, views the salvation of his soul, as the one thing needful. Condemning his past stupidity, he resolves to seek first the kingdom of God. This is his great enquiry,
" What must I do to be saved ?”-His ears are open to the answer-he receives it with meekness, and applies it to practice.
The jailor came to the apostles trembling.
A conviction of sin, a sense of danger, and a pursuasion that these men were the servants of God, rushed with such power into his mind, that his whole frame was thrown into an unusual perturbation. Paul's conversion was preceded with a similar circumstance. When a light from the sky blazed around him, and a voice from heaven de manded the reason, and warned him of the danger of his conduct in persecuting the church, he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, What wilt thou have me to do ?”
Conviction, in different sinners, is attended with different degrees of terror. It does not producc, in every one, such bodily agitation, as it produced VOL. II.
in Paul and the jailor. This was, in their case, principally owing to the extraordinary and surpris. ing nature of the means by which they were brought to their new views and sentiments. But, in all sinners, conviction is attended with the same state of mind, as it was in them; a state of serious solicitude and fear.
The awakened sinner trembles within himself, to think what he has been doing-how he has rebelled against God, and insulted his supreme authorityhow he has involved his soul in guilt, which the blood of sacrifices cannot expiate ; and in pollu. tions, which soap and nitre cannot wash away. He is amazed at his past stupidity. There is nothing, except it be the mercy and patience of God, which more astonishes him, than that unaccountable secu. rity and indifference, with which, from year to year, he has proceeded in a course of sin, contrary to the light of reason, the rebukes of Providence, and the warnings of scripture. He wonders how it could be, that he should behold death destroying around him, and even within his walls—should see, on the one hand, a humble christian expire with calm and cheerful hopes; and, on the other, an im. penitent sinner driven away in the terrors of con. scious guilt; and yet never bring home the admo. nition, nor realize the different ends of the righteous and the wicked.
He trembles at his present danger; a danger, which till now, he never felt. He views himself as one standing on a precipice, while the ocean of di. vine wrath rolls beneath. He shudders, when he thinks, how long he has slept in this awful situation, and dreamed of safety.
He is astonished at the mercy which has made provision for guilty men—at the patience which has waited on him so long—and at the grace which has interposed to awaken him, and still indulges to him an opportunity of repentance,