J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on ActsActs 16
Verses 1, 2
On the occasion of Paul's former visit to Lystra, we learned that
while he lay dead, as was supposed, after the stoning, "the disciples
stood around him."
Timothy was doubtless in the group; for he was
Paul's own son in the
and must have been immersed previous
to the stoning, as Paul left the city immediately after. The scene
occurred just at the period in Timothy's religious life, the period immediately
subsequent to immersion, when the soul is peculiarly susceptible
to the impress of noble example. The recesses of the heart are
then open to their deepest depths, and a word fitly spoken, a look full
of religious sympathy, or a noble deed, makes an impression which can
never be effaced. In such a frame of mind Timothy witnessed the
stoning of Paul; [Comp.3:10,11.]
wept over his prostrate form; followed him, as if
raised from the dead, back into the city; and saw him depart with
heroic determination to another field of conflict in defense of the glorious
gospel. It is not wonderful that a nature so full of sympathy
with that of the heroic apostle to extort from the latter the declaration,
"I have no one like-minded with
me," [Philippians 2:20.]
should be inspired by his
example, and made ready to share with him the toils and sufferings
of his future career.
Without giving the least detail of Paul's labors in Syria
and Cilicia, Luke hurries us forward to his arrival in Derbe and Lystra,
the scenes respectively of the most painful and the most consoling
incidents which occurred on his former tour. His chief object in this
seems to be to introduce us to a new character, destined to play
an important part in the future history.
(1) "Then he came down into
Derbe and Lystra, and behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy,
son of a believing Jewess, but of a Greek father;
(2) who was
well attested by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium."
Not only the
mother, but also the grandmother of the disciple was a believer; for
Paul afterward writes to him: "I call to remembrance the unfeigned
faith that is in thee, that first dwelt in thy grandmother Lois, and in
thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded also in
thee." [2 Timothy 1:5.]
it seems that both the mother and grandmother had preceded him
into the kingdom; for it is clearly of their faith in Christ, and not of
their Jewish faith, that Paul here speaks. With such an example
before him, it is not surprising that the young disciple should be found
well attested by all the brethren who knew him. The fact that he
was thus attested not only at Derbe and Lystra, within the vicinity of
his residence, but also in the more distant city of Iconium, renders it
probable that he was already known as a public speaker.
The discriminating and watchful eye of Paul soon discovered
qualities which would render this youth a fitting companion and fellow-laborer,
and it was by his request that Timothy was placed in the
position which he afterward so honorably filled.
(3) "Paul wished
him to go forth with him, and took him, and circumcised him on account
of the Jews who were in those quarters; for they all knew that his father
was a Greek."
The circumcision of Timothy is quite a remarkable event in the
history of Paul, and presents a serious injury as to the consistency
of his teaching and of his practice, in reference to this Abrahamic
rite. It demands of us, at this place, as full consideration as our limits
The real difficulty of the case is made apparent by putting into juxtaposition
two of Paul's statements, and two of his deeds. He says to
the Corinthians, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is
nothing;" [1 Corinthians 7:19.]
yet to the Galatians he writes: "Behold, I, Paul, say to
you, that if you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you
nothing." [Galatians 5:2.]
When he was in Jerusalem upon the appeal of the Antioch Church,
brethren urgently insisted that he should circumcise Titus, who was
with him, but he sternly refused, and says, "I gave place to them by
subjection, no, not for an
Yet we see him in the case before
us, circumcising Timothy with his own hand, and this "on account of
certain Jews who were in those quarters." In order to reconcile these
apparently conflicting facts and statements, we must have all the leading
facts concerning this rite before us.
We observe, first, that in the language of Jesus, circumcision "is not
of Moses, but of the
fathers." [John 7:22.]
The obligation which the Jews were
under to observe it was not originated by the law of Moses, or the covenant
of Mount Sinai; but existed independent of that covenant and
the law, having originated four hundred and thirty years before the
law. [Galatians 3:17.]
The connection between the law and circumcision originated
in the fact that the law was given to a part of the circumcised descendants
of Abraham. We say a part of his descendants, because circumcision
was enjoined upon his descendants through Ishmael, through
the sons of Keturah, and through Esau, as well as upon the Jews.
Since, then, the law did not originate the obligation to be circumcised,
the abrogation of the law could not possibly annul that obligation.
He shall be forced, therefore, to the conclusion, that it still continues
since the law, unless we find it annulled by the apostles.
Again: its perpetuity is enjoined in the law of its institution. God
said to Abraham: "He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought
with thy money, must needs be circumcised, and my covenant shall be
in your flesh for an everlasting
covenant." [Genesis 17:9-14.]
An everlasting covenant
is one which continues as long as both parties to it continue to exist.
The covenant concerning Canaan was everlasting, because it continued
as long as the twelve tribes continued an organized people to live in it.
The covenant of Aaron's priestly dignity was everlasting, because it
continued in Aaron's family as long as such a priesthood had an existence.
So the covenant of circumcision must be everlasting, because it
is to continue as long as the flesh of Abraham is perpetuated. This
will be till the end of time; hence circumcision has not ceased, and
can not cease, till the end of the world. This conclusion can not be
set aside, unless we find something in the nature of gospel institutions
inconsistent with it, or some express release of circumcised Christians
from its continued observance.
It is, then, inconsistent with any gospel institution? Pedobaptists
assume that it was a seal of righteousness, and a rite of initiation into
the Church; and as baptism now occupies that position, it necessarily
supplants circumcision. It is true, that Paul says: "Abraham received
the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which
he had while yet uncircumcised;"
but what it was to Abraham, it
never was not any of his offspring, seeing that the child eight days old
could not possibly have any righteousness of faith while yet uncircumcised,
of which circumcision could be the seal. Again: it was not to
the Jew an initiatory rite. For, first, the law of God prescribing to
Abraham the terms of the covenant says: "The uncircumcised man-child
whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, shall be cut off
from his people; he has broken my
Now, no man can
be cut off from a people who is not previously of them. Regarding
the Jewish commonwealth, therefore, as a Church, the infant of eight
days was already in the Church by natural birth, and circumcision,
instead of bringing him into it, was a condition of his
remaining in it.
In the second place, this conclusion from the terms of the covenant is
made indisputable by a prominent fact in Jewish history. While the
twelve tribes were in the wilderness forty years, none of the children
born were circumcised. The six hundred thousand men over twenty
years of age who left Egypt all died in the wilderness, and an equal
number were born in the same period; for the whole number of men
at the end of the journey was the same as at the
beginning. [Numbers 1:45,46; 26:51,63-65.]
they crossed the Jordan, therefore, there were six hundred thousand
male Jews, some of them forty years of age, who had not been circumcised,
yet they had been entering the Jewish Church during a
period of forty years. After crossing the Jordan Joshua commanded
them to be circumcised, and it was
done. [Joshua 5:2-7.]
This fact not only demonstrates
that circumcision was not to the Jews an initiatory rite, but
throws light upon its real design. The covenant of circumcision was
ingrafted upon the promise to Abraham of an innumerable fleshly
offspring, to keep them a distinct people, and to enable the world to
identify them, thereby recognizing the fulfillment of the promise, and
also the fulfillment of various prophesies concerning them. In accordance
with this design, while they were in the wilderness, in no danger
of intermingling with other nations, the institution was neglected. But,
as soon as they enter the populous land of Canaan, where there is danger
of such intermingling, the separating mark is put upon them.
From these two considerations, we see that there is no inconsistency
between circumcision and baptism, even if the latter is admitted to be
a seal of righteousness of faith, which language is nowhere applied
to it in the Scriptures. Neither is there inconsistency between it and
any thing in the gospel scheme; for Paul declares: "In Jesus Christ,
neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor
uncircumcision; but faith
which works by
love." [Galatians 5:6.]
Thence, he enjoins: "Is any man called,
being circumcised, let him not be uncircumcised; is any called in
let him not be
circumcised." [1 Corinthians 7:18.]
So far as faith in Christ,
and acceptability with him are concerned, circumcision makes a man
neither better nor worse, and is, of course, not inconsistent with the
obedience of faith in any respect whatever.
We next inquire, Are there any apostolic precepts which release converted
Jews from the original obligation to perpetuate this rite? Paul
does say, "If you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing;"
and this, certainly, is a prohibition to the parties to whom it is addressed.
If it was addressed to Jewish Christians, then it is certainly
wrong for the institution to be perpetuated among them. But neither
Paul nor any of the apostles so understood it. That Paul did not is
proved by the fact that he circumcised Timothy; and that the other
apostles did not, is proved conclusively by the conference which took
place in Jerusalem upon Paul's last visit to that place. James says
to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there
are who believe, and they are all zealous of the law. And they are
informed of you, that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles
to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their
children, neither to walk after the customs. Do this, therefore, that
we say to you. We have four men which have a vow on them. Take
them, and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses, in order
that they may shave their heads, and all may know that the things
of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you
yourself walk orderly, and keep the
law." [Acts 21:20-24.]
This speech shows that
James considered it slanderous to say that Paul taught the Jews not
to circumcise their children; and Paul's ready consent to the proposition
made to him shows that he agreed with James. Yet this occurred
after he had written the epistle to the Galatians, in which he says, "If
you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing."
not be clearer proof that this remark was not intended for Jewish
Even James, in the speech from which we have just quoted, makes
a distinction, in reference to this rite, between the Jewish and the Gentile
Christians. He says: "Concerning the Gentiles who believe, we
have written, having decided that they observe no such thing; save,
only, that they keep themselves from idols, and from blood, and from
things strangled, and from
This remark refers to the
decree issued by the apostles from Jerusalem, which Paul was carrying
with him at the time that he circumcised
be observed, that there never did arise among the disciples any difference
of opinion as to the propriety of circumcising Jews. This was
granted by all. But the controversy had exclusive reference to the
Gentiles; and the fact that the Judaizers based their plea for circumcising
Gentiles upon the continued validity of the rite among the Jews,
is one of the strongest proof that all the disciples considered it perpetual.
If Paul, in disputing with them, could have said, that, by the
introduction of the gospel, circumcision was abolished even among
the Jews, he would have subverted, at once, the very foundation of
their argument. But this fundamental assumption was admitted and
acted upon by Paul himself, and no inspired man ever called it in
That it was the Gentiles alone who were forbidden to be circumcised,
is further evident from the context of this prohibition in Galatians.
This epistle was addressed to Gentiles, as is evident from the remark
in the fourth chapter, "Howbeit, then, when you knew not God, you
did service to them who by nature are no gods?"
of the Gentiles is not, however, considered apart from the purpose for
which it was done. It is often the purpose alone which gives moral
character to an action; and in this case it gave to this action its chief
moral turpitude. The purpose for which the Judaizers desired the Gentiles
to be circumcised was that they might be brought under the law
as a means of justification. Hence Paul adds to the declaration we
are considering: "I testify again to every man who submits to circumcision,
that he is a debtor to do the whole law. You have ceased from
Christ, whoever of you are being justified by the law, you have fallen
away from favor." [Galatians 5:3,4.]
This can not refer to Jews, for it would make
Paul himself and all the Jewish Christians "debtors to do the whole
law;" a conclusion in direct conflict with one of the main arguments
of this epistle. [3:23-25.]
It must, then, refer to Gentiles who were considering
the propriety of circumcision as a condition of justification by the law.
We can now account for Paul's stern refusal to circumcise Titus.
He was a Gentile, and could not with propriety be circumcised unless
he desired to unite himself nationally with the Jewish people. But if,
with Paul's consent, he should do this, his example would be used as
a precedent to justify all other Gentile disciples in doing the same; and
thus, in a short time, circumcision would cease to be a distinguishing
mark of the offspring of Abraham, and the original design of the rite
would be subverted. Moreover, to have circumcised him under the
demand that was made by the Pharisees, would have been a virtual
admission that it was necessary to justification, which could not be
admitted without abandoning the liberty of Christ for the bondage of
The case of Timothy was quite different. He was a half-blood Jew,
and therefore belonged, in part, to the family of Abraham. He could
be circumcised, not on the ground of its being necessary as a part of a
system of justification by law, but because he was an heir of the everlasting
covenant with Abraham. This, however, was not the chief
reason for which Paul circumcised him, for Luke says it was "on account
of the Jews who dwelt in those quarters; for they all knew that
his father was a Greek." In this reason there are two considerations
combined, the latter qualifying the former. The fact that his father
was known to be a Greek is given to account for the fact that Paul
yielded to the prejudices of the Jews. If his father and mother both
had been Jews, Paul might have acted from the binding nature of the
Abrahamic covenant. Or if both had been Greeks, he would have disregarded
the clamor of the Jews, as he had done in the case of Titus.
But the mixed parentage of Timothy made his case a peculiar one.
The marriage of his mother to a Greek was contrary to the law of
Moses. [Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3.]
Whether the offspring from such a marriage should be circumcised,
or not, the law did not determine. The Jewish rabbis
taught that the mother should not circumcise the child without the
consent of the
father, [See Bloomfield, in loco.]
which was to admit that his circumcision was
not obligatory. Paul did not, then, feel bound by the Abrahamic covenant
to circumcise him, but did so to conciliate the "Jews who dwelt
in those quarters," who had, doubtless, already objected to the prominent
position assigned to one in Timothy's anomalous condition. It
was, as all the commentators agree, a matter of expediency; but not,
as they also contend, because it was indifferent whether any one were
circumcised or not, but because it was indifferent whether one like
Timothy were circumcised or not. It was an expediency that applied
only to the case of a half-blood Jew with a Greek father; and it would,
therefore, be most unwarrantable to extend it to the case of full-blooded
The remark of Paul that "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision
is nothing, but keeping the commandments of
God," [1 Corinthians 7:18-20.]
is readily explained in the light of the above remarks, and of its own context.
It is immediately preceded by these words: "Is any man called being
circumcised, let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision,
let him not be circumcised." And it is immediately followed by
these words: "Let every man abide in the calling wherein he
is called." So far, then, is this text from making it indifferent whether
a Christian become circumcised or not, that it positively forbids those
who had been in uncircumcision before they were called, to be circumcised;
while it equally forbids the other party to render themselves
uncircumcised; which expression means to act as if they were uncircumcised
by neglecting it in reference to their children. For to become
uncircumcised literally is impossible. That circumcision is
nothing, and uncircumcision nothing, means, therefore, simply that it
is indifferent whether a man had been, before he was called, a Jew or
a Gentile; but it is far from indicating that it is innocent in a Jew to
neglect this rite, or in a Gentile to observe it.
If we have properly collated the apostolic teaching on this subject,
the conclusion of the whole matter is this: that Christian Jews,
Ishmaelites, or Edomites, are under the same obligation to circumcise
their children that the twelve tribes were in Egypt, and that the
descendants of Ishmael and Esau were during the period of the law of
Moses. This being so, the pedobaptist conceit that baptism has taken
the place of circumcision is shown to be absurd, by the fact that circumcision
still occupies its own place. It is undeniable that during
the whole apostolic period Jewish disciples observed both baptism and
circumcision, and as both these could not occupy the same place at
the same time, their proper places must be different. According to
apostolic precedent, both should still continue among the Jews; neither
one taking the place of the other, but one serving as a token of
the fleshly covenant with Abraham, the other as an institution of the
new covenant, and a condition, both to Jew and Gentile, of the remission
Verses 4, 5
After so long delay upon the circumcision of Timothy, we are
prepared to start forward again with the apostles, cheered as they were
by this valuable addition to their company.
(4) "And as they passed
through the cities they delivered to them to observe the decrees which had
been adjudged by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.
(5) And the
Churches were confirmed in the faith, and were daily increasing in
These decrees were everywhere needed, in order to unite
in harmonious fellowship the Jewish and Gentile converts. Presented
by Paul, who had been sent to Jerusalem for them, and by
Silas, who had been sent out with high commendation by the apostles,
to bear them to the Gentiles, that came with their full force to
the ears of the brethren, and produced the happiest effects.
The peace and harmony which they helped to confirm the
brethren in the faith, and the daily increase in number was the result
of this happy condition of the Churches.
The neighboring cities of Derbe and Lystra, where Paul was
joined by Timothy, constituted the limit of his former tour with Barnabas
into this region of country. He makes them now the starting
point for an advance still further into the interior, and to the
western extremity of Asia Minor.
(6) "Now when they had gone through
Phrygia and the district of Galatia, being forbidden by the Holy Spirit
to speak the word in Asia,
(7) they went to Mysia, and attempted to go
on through Bythinia, and the Spirit did not permit them.
passing by Mysia they went down to Troas."
From this hurried sketch of the tour through Phrygia and Galatia,
it might be inferred that nothing of special interest occurred during its
progress. But we learn from Paul himself that it was far otherwise in
Galatia. In his epistle to the Churches there, he lifts the vail of obscurity
thrown over this part of his life, and brings to light one of the
most touching incidents in his eventful career. More than one congregation
sprang up under his personal labors
there, [Galatians 1:6; 4:19.]
who owed their
knowledge of salvation to an afflicting providence affecting himself.
He writes to them: "You know that on account of infirmity of the
flesh I preached the gospel to you at the
does not mean merely that he was suffering in the flesh at the time;
but the expression di asthenian
indicates that the infirmity was the cause
which led him to his preaching to them. The infirmity was evidently that
"thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him," which he
had prayed in vain to the Lord to take from
him. [2 Corinthians 12:7.]
For he says to
them: "My temptation which was in my flesh you despised not, nor
rejected, but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ
Jesus." [Galatians 4:14.]
It is probable that he had intended to pass through this region
without stopping, but some unusual violence of the humiliating and irritating
malady compelled him to forego the more distant journey, and
make some stay where the Word was so gladly received by these brethren.
Though Paul felt that strangers like these would be likely to
despise him and reject him, on perceiving the malady with which he
was afflicted, yet this people listened to his annunciation of eternal
truth as if they heard an angel of God, or Jesus Christ Christ himself. His
distress of mind and weakness of body were calculated to give a mellower
tone to his preaching, and to awaken a livelier sympathy in
truly generous hearts, and such was the effect on them. He says: "I
bear you witness, that if it had been possible, you would have plucked
out your own eyes and have given them to
Thus, out of the
most unpropitious hour in which this faithful apostle every introduced
the gospel to a strange community, the kind providence of God brought
forth the sweetest fruits of all his labors; for there are no other
Churches of whose fondness for him he speaks in terms so touching.
This serves to illustrate the meaning of the Lord's answer, when Paul
prayed that the thorn might depart from his flesh: "My favor is sufficient
for you; for my strength is made perfect in
weakness." [2 Corinthians 12:9.]
weakest hour, wherein he expected to be despised and rejected, he
found the strongest for the cause he was pleading, and the most soothing
to his own troubled spirit. It was experience like this which enabled
him, in later years, to exclaim, "Most gladly, therefore, will I
rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon
me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in
in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake; for when I am
weak, then am I
Paul's own judgment seems to have been much at fault, during this
period, in reference to the choice of a field of labor. Contrary to his
purpose, he had been delayed in Galatia, "on account of infirmity
and then, intending to enter the province of Asia, of which
Ephesus was the capital, he was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to
speak the Word there." Finally they attempted to go into Bythinia,
"and the Holy Spirit did not permit them." Feeling his way around
the forbidden territory, he finally went down to Troas, on the shore of
the Ægean Sea.
Verses 9, 10
Here he learns the object which the Spirit had in view, while
turning him aside from one after another of the fields which he himself
(9) "Then a vision appeared to Paul in the night.
There stood a man of Macedonia, entreating him, and saying, Come over
into Macedonia and help us.
(10) And when he saw the vision, we immediately
sought to go forth into Macedonia, inferring that the Lord had
called us to preach the gospel them."
This overruling of Paul's purpose, coupled with the absence of it at
other times, indicates something of the method by which the journeyings
of inspired men were directed. While their own judgment led to
a judicious choice, it was permitted to guide them; but when it failed,
as was likely to be the case, through their ignorance of the comparative
accessibility of different communities, or the circumstances of individuals,
they were overruled by some controlling providence, like
Paul in Galatia; directed by angels, like Philip in Samaria;
or by the
Spirit, like Peter in Joppa;
restrained from some purpose, like Paul
and Silas when attempting to enter Asia and Bythinia; or called away
across the sea, as he was now, by a vision at night. We will yet see
that, as in the cases of Philip and of Peter, the prayers of individuals
ready to hear the gospel were connected with the divine interference
by which Paul and Silas were now being
directed. [See Com., below,verses 13, 14.]
Preachers of the present day have no authoritative visions by night
to guide them, and the supposition indulged by some, that they are at
times prompted by the Spirit as Paul was, is nothing more than the
conceit of an enthusiast, while it is nothing less than a claim to inspiration.
But Paul was often guided merely by the indications of
Providence, and so may it be with us. If we are attentive to these indications,
we shall be under the guidance of that same All-seeing Eye
which chose the steps of Paul. If the way of our choosing is entirely
blocked up, at times, or some stern necessity turns us aside from a settled
purpose, we may regard it as but the firmer pressure of that hand
which leads us, for the most part, unseen and unfelt.
Verses 11, 12
An opportunity was offered without delay, for the
apostolic company to make the contemplated voyage to Macedonia.
(11) "Therefore, setting sail from Troas, we ran by a straight
course to Samothrace, and the next day to Neapolis;
(12) and thence to Philippi, which is the first city of that
part of Macedonia, and a colony. And we abode in that city some
Samothrace is an island in the Archipelago, about midway between
Troas and Neapolis. Neapolis was a seaport of Macedonia, and the
landing place for Philippi. The remark that they sailed to Samothrace,
and the next day to Neapolis, shows that they spent the night
at Samothrace, which accords with the custom of ancient navigators,
who generally cast anchor at night, during coasting voyages, unless
the stars were out. This voyage occupied a part of two days.
Philippi was not the chief city of that part of Macedonia, as rendered
in the common version, but the first city; by which is meant,
either that it was the first which Paul visited, or the first in point of
celebrity. I think the latter is the real idea; for it is obvious from the
history that this was the first city Paul
visited, and of this the reader
need not be informed. But it was the first city of that region in point
of celebrity, because it was the scene of the great battle in which
Brutus and Cassius were defeated by Marc Antony. Thessalonica
was then, and is yet, the chief city of Macedonia.
The observant reader will here notice a change in the style of the
narrative, which indicates the presence of the writer among the companions
of Paul. Hitherto he had spoken of them only in the third
person; but when about to leave Troas, he uses the first person plural,
saying, "we sought to go forth into Macedonia," and
"we ran to Samothrace," etc.
It is only by such a change in the pronoun employed,
from the third to the first person, and from the first to the third that
we can detect the presence or absence of Luke. From this indication
we conclude that he first joined the company in the interior of Asia
Minor, just previous to entering the city of Troas. The company with
whom we are now traveling is composed of Paul and Silas, Timothy
Upon entering this strange city, the first on the continent of
Europe visited by an apostle, Paul and his companions must have
looked around them with great anxiety for some opportunity to open
their message to the people. The prospects were sufficiently forbidding.
They knew not the face of a human being; and there was not
even a Jewish synagogue into which they might enter with the hope
of being invited to speak "a word of exhortation to the
people." [Acts 13:15.]
some means, however, they learned that on the bank of the river
Gangas, which flowed by the city, some Jewish women were in the
habit of congregating on the Sabbath-day, for prayer. Thither the
apostles directed their steps, determined that here should be the beginning
of their labors in Philippi.
(13) "And on the Sabbath-day we
went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made,
and sat down, and spoke to the women who had collected there.
(14) And a
certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira,
who worshiped God, was listening; whose heart the Lord opened, so that
she attended to the things spoken by Paul.
(15) And when she was immersed,
and her house, she entreated us, saying, If you have judged me to
be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and remain there. And she
With Bloomfield, I reject the criticism of the most recent commentators,
who render the second clause of
"where was wont to be a place
of prayer." [Hackett, and authors referred to by him.]
Besides the reasons suggested by this learned author, I
would observe, first, that the term
proseuche is nowhere else in the New
Testament used in the sense of a place of prayer, but always means
prayer. Nothing but a contextual necessity, therefore, would justify
a different rendering here. Again, the expression
enomizeto einai means
was accustomed to be, and it is never said of a place, or building,
is accustomed to be where it is.
We now see one reason for that singular prohibition which had been
steadily turning Paul aside from the fields which he had preferred,
until he reached the sea-shore; and of that vision which had called
him into Europe. These women had been wont to repair to this river-bank
for prayer. God had heard their prayers, as in the case of Cornelius,
and he was bringing to them the preacher through whose words
they might obtain faith in Christ, and learn the way of salvation.
Long before either they or Paul knew anything of it, God was directing
the steps of the latter, and timing the motion of the winds at sea,
with reference to that weekly meeting on the river's bank, as he had
once done the flight of an angel and the steps of Philip with reference
to the eunuch's chariot.
Now, as in those two cases, he has brought
the parties face to face. He answers the prayers of the unconverted,
not by an enlightening influence of the Spirit in their hearts, but by
providentially bringing to them a preacher of the gospel who knows
the way of salvation.
The statement that the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she
attended to the things spoken by Paul, is generally assumed by the
commentators as a certain proof that an immediate influence of the
Spirit was exerted on her heart, in order that she should listen favorably
to the truth. Their interpretation of the words is expressed in the
most orthodox style by Bloomfield, thus: "The opening in question
was effected by the grace of God, working by his Spirit with the concurrent
good dispositions of Lydia." Dr. Hackett says her heart was
"enlightened, impressed by his Spirit, and so prepared to receive the
truth." Whether this is the true interpretation or not, may be determined
by a careful examination of all the facts in this case.
First: The term
open is evidently used metaphorically, but in a sense
not at all obscure. To open the
mind is to expand it to broader or
more just conceptions of a subject. To open the
heart is to awaken
within it more generous impulses. What exact impulse is awakened,
in a given case, is to be determined by the context.
Second: The impulse awakened in Lydia's heart was not such a
disposition that she listened favorably to what Paul said, but, "that
to things" which he spoke. The facts, in the order in
which they are stated, are as follows: 1st. "We spoke to the women."
2d. Lydia "was listening." 3d. God opened her heart. 4th. She
attended to the things spoken. The fourth fact is declared to be the
of the third. It was after she "was listening" that God opened her
heart, and after her heart was opened, and
because of this opening, that
she attended to what she had heard. What the exact result was, then,
is to be determined by the meaning of the word "attended." The term
attend sometimes means to
concentrate the mind upon a subject, and
sometimes to practically observe what we are taught. The Greek term
prosecho, here employed, has a similar usage. It is used in
the former sense, in
where it is said the people, "attended
to the things
spoken by Philip, in hearing and
seeing the miracles which he wrought."
It is used in the latter sense in
1 Timothy 4:13,
where Paul says, "Till I
come, attend to reading, to exhortation, to teaching;" and in
Heb. vii: 13,
where to attend to the altar means to do the service at the altar.
That the latter is the meaning in the case before us is clearly proved
by the fact that she had already listened to what Paul spoke, or given
mental attention to it, before God opened her heart so that she attended
to the things she had heard. Now, in hearing the gospel, she learned
that there were certain things which she was required to attend to,
which were, to believe, to repent, and to be immersed. To attend to
the things she heard, then, was to do these things. That immersion
was included in the things which Luke refers to by this term is evident
from the manner in which he introduces that circumstance. He
says, "And when she was immersed," etc., as if her immersion was
already implied in the preceding remark. If such was not his meaning,
he would not have used the adverb when, but would simply have
stated, as an additional fact, that she was immersed.
Having the facts of the case now before us, we inquire whether it is
necessary to admit an immediate influence of the Spirit, in order to
account for the opening of her heart. We must bear in mind, while
prosecuting this inquiry, that the opening in question was such a
change in her heart as to induce her to believe the gospel, to repent
of her sins, and to be immersed, thereby devoting her life to the service
of Christ. Her heart had been contracted by the narrowness of Jewish
prejudices, which were obstacles, in some degree, to the reception of
the gospel; but she was a "worshiper of God," which inclined her to
do whatever she might learn to be the will of God. In seeking to account
for the change effected, we must also bear in mind the well-settled
philosophical principle, that when an effect can be accounted
for by causes which are known to be present, it is illogical to assume
a cause which is not known to be present. Now, in Lydia's case, it is
not asserted that an immediate action of the Spirit took place in her
heart; neither can it be known that such a cause was present, unless
this is the only cause which could produce the effect. But it is known
that all the power which can be exerted through the words of an inspired
apostle preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, was present. And
it can not be denied, that when the gospel, thus presented, is listened
to by one who is already a sincere worshiper of God, as Lydia was, the
heart may be so expanded by it from the narrowness of Jewish prejudice
as to admit of faith, repentance, and obedience. The assumption,
therefore, that her heart was opened by an abstract influence of the
Spirit, is entirely gratuitous and illogical, while the real cause is patent
upon the face of the narrative in the preaching done by Paul.
If it be objected to this conclusion, that it is said God opened her
heart, and not Paul, we answer, that God by his Spirit was the real
agent of all that was effected through the words of Paul. For it was
the Spirit in Paul who spoke to Lydia, and it was the fact that the
Holy Spirit was in him which compelled her to believe what he might
say, and gave his words all their power. Hence, so far is the statement
of the text from being inconsistent with our conclusion, that the
opening of her heart through Paul's words is the clearest proof that
it was effected by the Holy Spirit as the prime agent.
If, in conclusion of this inquiry, we compare Lydia's case with that
of the eunuch, or of Cornelius, who were in similar states of mind previous
to conversion, and needed a similar opening of the heart, we find
that it was effected in the same way, through the power of miraculously
attested truth, and that the only difference is in the phraseology
in which Luke chooses to describe it. If, from these facts, we attempt
a general conclusion, it is, that when any narrowness of heart, produced
by improper education, or otherwise, stands in the way of salvation,
the Lord removes it, and opens the heart, by the expanding and
ennobling influence of his truth. This is true of the saint as well as
the sinner, as is well illustrated by the case of Peter and the other
apostles in connection with the family of
Cornelius. [See Com.x: 9-16,et seq., andxi: 18.]
The statement that Lydia's household were immersed with her has been
taken by nearly all pedobaptist writers as presumptive evidence
in favor of infant baptism. Olshausen, however, while affirming that
"the propriety of infant baptism is undoubted," has the candor to
admit that "It is highly improbable that the phrase her household
should be understood as including infant children." He also affirms
that "There is altogether wanting any conclusive proof-passage for
the baptism of children in the age of the apostles, nor can the necessity
of it be deduced from the nature of
baptism." [Com. in loco.]
also remarks that "The real strength of the argument lies not in any
one case, but in the repeated mention of whole households as
baptized." But Dr. Barnes states the argument in the more popular
style, thus: "The case is one that affords a strong presumptive proof
that this was an instance of household or infant baptism. For, (1)
Her believing is particularly mentioned. (2) It is not intimated that
they believed. On the contrary, it is strongly implied that they did
not. (3) It is manifestly implied that they were baptized because
Dr. Alexander's statement of the argument is that generally employed
that of Dr. Barnes the one most common among
preachers and teachers who have no opponent before them.
to the former it is sufficient to say, that "the repeated mention of
whole households as baptized" affords not the slightest evidence in
favor of infant baptism, unless it can be proved that in at least one of these
households there were infants. It there were infants in one,
this would establish the presumption that there might be in some
others. But until there is proof that there were infants in some of
them, it may be inferred that the absence of infants was the very circumstance
which led to the immersion of the whole family. Indeed,
a fair induction of such cases fully justifies this inference in reference
to Lydia's case. There is positive proof that there were no infants
in any other family whose immersion is mentioned in the New Testament.
There were none in the household of Cornelius; for they all
spoke in tongues, and believed.
There were none in that of the jailer;
for they all believed and rejoiced in the Lord.
None in the household
of Stephanas; for they "addicted themselves to the ministry of the
saints." [Compare1 Corinthians 1:16; 16:15.]
Now, inasmuch as one of the peculiarities of all households
who were immersed, of whom we know the facts, was the absence of
infants, we are justified in the conclusion, no evidence to the contrary
appearing, that this was also a peculiarity of Lydia's household. The
argument, therefore, as stated by Dr. Alexander, is not only inconclusive,
but, when properly viewed, establishes a presumption quite the
The argument, as stated by Dr. Barnes, is based entirely upon the
silence of the Scriptures. He says:
"Her believing is particularly
mentioned;" but "it is not intimated that they believed. On the
contrary, it is strongly implied that they did not." Now, if the mere
silence of Luke in reference to their faith implies strongly that they
did not believe, his silence in reference to Lydia's repentance implies
as strongly that she did not repent. In some cases of conversion, the
repentance of the parties is "particularly mentioned." "It is not intimated"
that Lydia repented; therefore, says the logic of Dr. Barnes,
"there is a strong presumptive proof that this was an instance of"
baptism without repentance. If men are allowed thus to prove what
is Scripture doctrine, by what the Scriptures do not mention, there is no
end to the doctrines and practices which the Bible may be made to
defend. If Dr. Barnes were compelled to meet the argument in reference
to Lydia's repentance, he would do it very easily, and, in so
doing, would refute his own in reference to the baptism of her children.
He would show that we know that Lydia repented, because
none but those who repented were admitted to baptism on other occasions.
Just so, we know that all baptized on this occasion believed,
because none but believers were baptized on other occasions. Not
till he can prove, from other statements of the Scriptures, that persons
were baptized by the apostles without faith, can he establish the presumption
that these parties were not believers, simply because their
faith is not mentioned.
Dr. Barnes concludes his note on this case, by saying, "It is just
such an account as would now be given of a household or family
that were baptized on the faith of the parent." This is true. But it
is equally true, that it is just such an account as would now be given
of a household or family that were baptized without an infant among
them. The presence, therefore, of one or more infants, which is essential
to the argument, remains absolutely without proof.
The mere absence of proof is not the worst feature of the pedobaptist
assumptions in this case. For the assumption that infants were
here baptized depends upon five other assumptions, the falsity of either
of which would vitiate the whole argument. It is assumed, First, That
some of the household were baptized without faith. Second, That
Lydia was, or had been, a married woman. Third, That she had
children. Fourth, That one or more of her children were infants.
Fifth, That her infant children were so young as to necessarily be
brought with her from Thyatira to Philippi. Now, so long as it remains
possible that all the parties baptized were believers; or that
Lydia was a maiden; or that she was a married woman or widow
without children; or that her children were of a responsible age; or
that her younger children were left at home in Thyatira when she came
to Philippi to sell her purple cloths; so long as any one of these
hypotheses can possibly be true, so long will it be
impossible to prove
an instance of infant baptism in her household.
One more suggestion is necessary to a full statement of the argument
in this case. When Lydia invited Paul's company to lodge in
her house, they were backward about complying, as is evident from
the remark that "she constrained us." Now there can be no probable
reason assigned for this reluctance, but the fact that it was her house,
and the brethren felt it a matter of delicacy to be the guests of a
woman. To the full extent of the probability of this supposition,
which is heightened by the fact that she calls the house her own, is it
probable that she was an unmarried woman, and, therefore, improbable
that she had infant children. Thus we find that all the known facts
in the case are adverse to the argument in favor of infant baptism.
We are next introduced to an incident which led to a decided
change in the fortunes of Paul and Silas.
(16) "And it came to pass,
as we were going to prayer, there met us a certain female servant, having
a spirit of divination, who brought her masters much gain by soothsaying.
(17) The same followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, These men
are servants of the most high God, who show us the way of salvation.
(18) She did this for many days. But Paul, being much grieved, turned
and said to the spirit, I command you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to
come out of her. And he came out the same hour."
a knowledge of the person of Jesus, and the mission of himself and
the apostles, which seems not to have been derived from preaching.
This was a superhuman knowledge. But there is no evidence known
to me that they could foretell future events, though it was believed by
the heathen generally that they could. It was the prevalent confidence
in the vaticinations of persons possessed by them that enables
this girl to bring her owners much gain.
If Paul had reasoned as many do at the present day, he would have
been glad that this girl followed him with such a proclamation. It
was the very thing of which he was trying to convince the people of
Philippi, who already had confidence in the demoniac. Why, then,
was he not rejoiced at so powerful co-operation, instead of being
grieved, and shutting the mouth of an apparent friend? It must be
because he saw the matter in a far different light from that in which
it appears to those advocates of "spirit rappings," who exult in them
as affording strong confirmation of the gospel.
The course pursued by Paul was the same with that of Jesus, who
invariably stopped the mouths of demons when they attempted to testify
to his claims. The propriety of this course will be apparent upon
observing: First, That to have permitted demons to testify for the truth
would have convinced the people that there was an alliance between
them and the preachers. Second, This supposed alliance would have
caused all the good repute of Jesus and the apostles to reflect upon
the demons, and all the evil repute of demons to reflect upon them.
It was an ingenious effort of the devil to ally himself with Jesus Christ,
in order the more effectually to defeat his purposes. If Christ and the
apostles had given countenance to demons while telling the truth, they
could have used their indorsement to gain credence when telling
a lie; and thus, believers would have been left to the mercy of seducing
spirits, fulfilling, with the apparent sanction of Christ, the prophesy
of Paul that, "In the latter times men shall depart from the faith, giving
heed to seducing spirits and teachings of demons, speaking lies in
disguise, having the conscience seared with a hot
iron." [1 Timothy 4:1,2.]
against this result, it was necessary to exorcise all demons who ventured
to speak in favor of the truth.
In the present instance, Paul could not pursue the settled course of
the apostles, without greatly depreciating the value of the slave; and
doubtless it was an extreme reluctance to interference with the rights
of property which had induced him to submit to the annoyance of so
many days. At length, seeing no other means of relief, he cast the
demon out, and, in doing so, framed the exorcising sentence in such a
way as to indicate an antagonism between the demon and Jesus Christ;
saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of
her." The immediate obedience of the spirit demonstrated the authority
of the name by which Paul spoke, and thus the very attempt
of the devil to gain an apparent alliance with Jesus through this
demon was made the occasion of demonstrating the divine power of
(19) "Then her masters, seeing that the hope of their gain was
gone, seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place to
(20) and leading him forward to the magistrates, they said,
These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
(21) and are announcing
customs which it is unlawful for us, being Romans, to receive or
In this accusation, the real cause of complaint was concealed,
for several reasons: First, The disinterested multitude would
naturally sympathize with the girl who had been restored to her mind,
rather than with the masters who had made her misfortune a source
of profit. Second, To have made prominent the fact that Paul, by a
word, had expelled the demon, would have made an impression favorable
to him and his cause. But the Jews and their religion were particularly
obnoxious to the Romans, and hence, when the accusation
was made by men of wealth and influence, that these men, "being
Jews," were introducing customs contrary to the religion and laws of
Rome, it was easy to excite the populace against them.
(22) "And the multitude rose up against them, and the magistrates,
having torn off their garments, commanded to beat them with rods.
(23) And having laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison,
charging the jailer to keep them safely;
(24) who, having received such
a commandment, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet
fast in the stocks."
It appears that the magistrates gave them no opportunity
to defend themselves, but simply yielded to the clamor of the
multitude, in utter disregard of all the forms of justice. It was that
same miserable truckling to the passions of a mob, whom they ought
to have ruled into sobriety and reason, which has stamped with infamy
the name of Pontius Pilate.
The condition of the two brethren, as night drew on, was miserable
to a degree scarcely conceivable. Besides the physical pain of
sitting in a dark dungeon, with their backs bleeding from the scourge,
and feet fastened in the stocks to prevent even the relief which a
change of position might afford, their minds were racked with a sense
of the deep injustice done them; with the reflection that such was the
return they met at the hands of men for whom they had sacrificed
their all on earth, and their present reward for faithful service of the
Lord; and with the most mournful anticipations of their future fate.
Most men, under such circumstances, would have been wild with rage
against their persecutors, unconcerned for the fate of an unfriendly
world, and full of doubts as to the protecting favor of God. But in
the darkest and bitterest hour of their sufferings, these faithful disciples
brought forth the richest fruits of their faith and piety.
at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God, and the prisoners
Men do not pray when they are enraged, nor when
they are hopeless. The soul must recover from the turmoil of violent
passion, before it can offer thoughtful prayer. But still greater composure
is necessary to induce a disposition to engage in singing. One
in deep distress may be soothed by the music of other voices, but is
not inclined to join in the song itself. That Paul and Silas prayed
at midnight is the clearest evidence that the tempest of their feelings,
which must, at the whipping-post, and when first thrust within the
dungeon and fastened in the stocks, have driven away all sober thought,
and smothered all utterance, had by this time subsided. And that,
after praying, they "sang praises to God," shows how quickly the
soothing effects of prayer had still further calmed and cheered their
spirits. The song they sang was not a plaintive strain, suited to the sorrows
of the lonely prisoner; but it swelled up in those firm and animated
tones which are suited to the praises of God. How rich the treasures
of faith and hope which can thus cheer the gloom of a midnight
dungeon, and calm the spirit of the bleeding prisoner of Jesus Christ!
The song of the apostles was a strange sound to the other prisoners,
but one most welcome to heaven; and God, who appeared almost
to have forsaken his servants, came to their relief in a manner peculiar
to himself, yet most surprising to all within the prison.
suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the
prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and every
one's bonds were loosed."
The prisoners were all awake when this occurred,
having been awakened by the singing, and must instinctively
have connected the phenomenon with those midnight singers.
The jailer seems not to have heard the singing, but was awakened
by the motion of the earthquake, the slamming of the doors, and
the clanking of the fetters which fell from the hands of the prisoners.
(27) "And the jailer, awaking out of sleep, and seeing the prison-doors
open, drew his sword, and was about to kill himself, supposing that the
prisoners had fled."
It was not so dark as to prevent him from seeing,
to some extent, what had taken place. He supposed that the prisoners
had, as a matter of course, all rushed out through the open doors. He
knew what the penalty, under Roman law, for allowing prisoners
to escape, was death; and that peculiar code of honor among the Romans,
which made them prefer to die by their own hands, rather than
by that of an enemy or an executioner, drove him to this attempt at
He had already planted the hilt of his sword upon the floor, and
was about to cast himself upon the point of it, when Paul, who must
now have left his dungeon, saw what he was doing, and arrested his
(28) "But Paul cried, with a loud voice, saying, Do yourself
no harm, for we are all here."
Reassured by this statement, and
by the calmness of the tone in which it was uttered, he drew back from
the leap he was about to make into eternity.
Verses 29, 30
As soon as he could collect his senses, he recollected that
the calm speaker who had called to him had been preaching salvation
in the name of the God of Israel; and he immediately perceived
that the earthquake, the miraculous opening of the doors, and the unlocking
of chains and handcuffs were connected with him and his companion.
In an instant he recognizes the divine authority, and, glancing
into the black eternity from which he had suddenly been rescued, his
own salvation, rather than the safety of his prisoners, at once absorbs
(29) "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and
came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas;
(30) and led them
out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
That he asked this
question proves that he had some conception of the salvation of which
Paul had been preaching; and that he trembled, and fell at their feet,
shows that he was overwhelmed with a sense of danger, and painfully
anxious to escape from it. At sunset, when coldly thrusting the bleeding
apostles into the dungeon, he cared but little for this question. In
the midst of life and health, when all goes well with us, we may thrust
this awful question from us; but when we come within an inch of
death, like the jailer at midnight, hanging over the point of his own
sword, it rushes in upon the soul like a lava torrent, and burns out all
Verses 31, 32
Leading the brethren into his family apartment, he received
a full and satisfactory answer to his question.
(31) "They said, Believe
on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house.
(32) And they spake the word of the Lord to him, and to all who were in his
Those who advocate the doctrine of justification by faith only,
appeal with great confidence to this answer of the apostle, as proof of
that doctrine. We can not enter upon the merits of this doctrine, except
as it is affected by this and other passages in Acts.
To state the argument in its strongest form, it would stand thus: In
answer to the question, What shall I do to be saved? one thing is
to be done:
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ;" and
is promised. "You shall be saved." Now, then, Paul could not have
made this promise on this one condition, unless he knew that all who
believe on the Lord Jesus are saved. No less than the universal proposition
that all who believe shall be saved, would justify the conclusion
that if the jailer believed,
he would be saved. Paul, then, assumes
this universal proposition, and, therefore, it must be true. But there
are some who believe, and are consequently saved, who have never
been immersed; therefore, immersion does not constitute a part of
what we must do to be saved.
The fallacy of this very plausible argument is to be found in the
ambiguous usage of the term believe. This ambiguity does not arise
from the fact that there are different kinds of faith; but from the fact
that the term is sometimes used abstractly, and sometimes to include
the repentance and obedience which properly result from faith. Whatever
is affirmed of faith only must necessarily contemplate it in the
former sense. But in that sense it can not secure justification, as is
proved by the force of those passages which treat of it in this sense.
John, in his gospel, says: "Among the chief rulers many believed on
him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they
should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men
more than the praise of
God." [John 12:42,43.]
James also says: "As the body without
the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead
also." [James 2:26.]
In those passages
faith is considered separately from the works which should follow
it, and is declared to be dead, or inoperative.
Now, the statement of Paul to the jailer is not, that if he would believe
on the Lord Jesus Christ with a dead faith, or a faith so weak
as to be overpowered by worldly motives, he should be saved; but he
evidently contemplates a living faith--a faith which leads to immediate
and hearty obedience. In this usage of the term it is true that not
only the jailer, but every other believer may be promised, "Believe on
the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved." Yet it is equally true that
the salvation does not result from the faith only; and that it is not
enjoyed until the faith brings forth the contemplated obedience. If
faith without works is dead, then it remains dead as long as it remains
without works. It thus remains until the believer is immersed, if he
proceed according to apostolic example; therefore, faith without immersion
is dead. Paul acted upon this principle in the case before us.
For, after telling him, in the comprehensive sense of the term believe,
that if he would believe on the Lord Jesus he should be saved, he immediately
gives him more specific instruction, and immerses him the
same hour of the
night. [SeeActs 16:33,below.]
Those who argue that the jailer obtained pardon
by faith alone, leave the jail too soon. If they would remain one
hour longer, they would see him immersed for the remission of his sins,
and rejoicing in the knowledge of pardon
after his immersion, not before
There is another aspect of this answer to the jailer which must not \
be passed by; for it confirms what we have already said, and at the
same time harmonizes this with other inspired answers to the same
question. To Saul, who was a penitent believer, and sent to Ananias
to learn what he should do, the latter replied: "Arise and be immersed
and wash away your sins."
To the Jews on Pentecost, who
had faith, but faith only, Peter commands: "Repent and be immersed,
every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of
But to the jailer, who was a heathen, Paul commands, "Believe
on the Lord Jesus Christ;" and intending more fully to develop
the manner in which his faith should be manifested, promises, "and
you shall be saved." Thus each answer is adapted to the exact religious
state of the party to whom it is addressed, requiring first that
which is to be done first, and enjoining to be done only that which
had not been done.
The conduct of the jailer in prostrating himself before Paul and
Silas, and crying out, "What shall I do to be saved?"
shows that he
already believed them to be messengers of God, and understood that
their message had reference to the salvation of men. But there is no
evidence that his faith or his information extended beyond this. Having
commanded him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, it was
necessary to put within his reach the means of faith; and this Paul
proceeds to do by preaching "the word of the Lord to him and to all
who were in his house."
Verses 33, 34
The preaching, as would be expected under circumstances
so favorable, had the desired effect both upon the jailer and his household.
(33) "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed
their stripes, and was immersed, he and all his, immediately.
having led them into his house, he set food before them, and rejoiced,
believing in God with all his house."
Those pedobaptist writers who claim the example of the apostles
in favor of affusion and infant baptism attempt to find support for
these practices in this case of conversion. Their argument for affusion
depends entirely upon the assumption that the baptism was performed
within the prison. If this assumption were admitted, it would
prove nothing in favor of affusion so long as it is possible that there
were conveniences for immersion within the prison. But the assumption
is in direct conflict with the facts in the case. The facts are
briefly as follows: First, When the jailer was about to commit suicide,
Paul saw him, which shows that he was then outside of his
dungeon, in the more part of the prison. Second, Hearing Paul's
voice, the jailer sprang into the prison, and "led them out"--not
dungeon, but out of the
prison. Third, Being now out of the
prison, "they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were
in his house."
While speaking, then, they were in the house, and not
in the prison. Fourth, "He took them and washed their stripes, and
was baptized." The verb took, in this connection, implies the
of the parties to some other spot for the washing and baptizing.
Whether to some other part of the house, or out of the house, it does
not determine. But, fifth, when the baptizing was concluded, "he
led them into his house," which shows that, before it was done, he had
them out of the house. Between the moment at which he took them
out of the house and the moment he brought them into it, the baptizing
was done. But they would not, at this hour of the night, have
gone out, unless there was some necessity for it, which the demands
of affusion could not supply. The circumstances, though not in itself
a proof of immersion, afford strong circumstantial evidence in its
favor, and is suggestive of that river on the banks of which Lydia
first heard the gospel, and in which she was immersed.
It has been suggested that the party could not have passed
through the gates of the city at this hour of the night; but there is
no evidence that Philippi was a walled town. Again, it is sometimes
objected, that the jailer had no right to take his prisoners outside
the jail; and that Paul and Silas showed, by their conduct on the next
morning, that they would not go out without the consent of the
But this is to assume that the
jailer would rather obey men than God, and that Paul and Silas were so
punctilious about their personal dignity that they would refuse to
immerse a penitent sinner through fear of compromising it. Such
assumptions are certainly too absurd to be entertained when once
observed; but, even if we cling to them, they can not set aside the
fact, so clearly established above, that the jailer did lead them out
of the prison.
As for the assumption that infants were baptized here, we have
already observed, in commenting on Lydia's conversion, that it is
precluded by the fact that all the household believed. "He rejoiced,
God with all his house." Moreover, Paul and Silas
spoke the Word to "all who were in the house," yet they certainly did not
preach to infants. As there were no infants in the house while hearing,
and none while subsequently believing and rejoicing, there could
be none at the intermediate baptizing.
Before dismissing this case of conversion, which is the last we
will consider in detail in the course of this work, we propose a brief
review of its leading features, that we may trace its essential uniformity
with those already considered. The influence which first took
effect upon him was that of the earthquake, and the attendant opening
of the prison-doors. This produced a feeling of alarm and heathenish
desperation. It awakened within him no religious thought or emotions
until the voice of Paul had recalled all that he had known of the
apostolic preaching, when he instantly perceived that the miracle had
been wrought by the God whom Paul and Silas preached. The proper
effect of miraculous attestation of a messenger of God is next apparent
in his rushing forward, falling before them, and exclaiming,
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
He is now a believer in the
divine mission of the apostles, but not yet a believer in Jesus Christ.
Whatever he hears from these men, however, he is ready to receive
as God's truth. He hears from them the "word of the Lord," and
the next we see, he is washing from the neglected stripes of the prisoners
the clotted blood, and submitting to immersion. That he was
immersed proves that he was both a believer and a penitent. After
immersion, he rejoices. The case exhibits the same essential features
which we have found in all others; the same word of the Lord spoken
and attested by miraculous evidence; the same faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ, followed by repentance, and the same immersion, followed
by the same rejoicing. Thus we trace a perfect uniformity in the
apostolic procedure, and in the experience of their converts.
Verses 35, 36
When the magistrates gave orders for the imprisonment of
Paul and Silas, it would naturally be supposed that they intended to
make some further inquiry into the charges preferred against them.
But we are told,
(35) "When it was day, the magistrates sent the officers,
saying, Release those men.
(36) The jailer told Paul these words, The
magistrates have sent word that you be released. Now, therefore, depart,
and go in peace."
This order was given without any further developments
known to the magistrates, at least so far as we are informed,
and shows that they had only imprisoned the brethren, as they had
scourged them, to gratify the mob; and now that the clamor of the
mob had ceased, they had no further motive to detain them.
To be thus released from prison, as though they had simply
suffered the penalty due them, would be a suspicious circumstance to
follow the missionaries to other cities; and, fortunately, the means of
escaping it were at hand.
(37) "But Paul said to them, They have
beaten us publicly, uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into
prison; and do they now cast us out privately? No. But let them come
themselves, and lead us out.
(38) The officers told these words to the
magistrates, and when they heard that they were Romans, they were
(39) And they came, and entreated them, and led them out, and
asked them to depart out of the city."
If the fact of their having been
scourged and imprisoned should follow them to other cities, it would
do them no harm, provided it were also known that the magistrates
had acknowledged the injustice done them, by going in person to the
prison, and giving them an honorable discharge.
As it was a capital crime, under the Roman law, to scourge a Roman
citizen, and Paul and Silas both enjoyed the rights of citizenship,
they had the magistrates in their power, and could dictate terms to
them. The terms were promptly complied with; for men who can be
induced to pervert justice by the clamor of an unthinking mob will
nearly always prove cowardly and sycophantic when their crimes are
exposed, and justice is likely to overtake them. By making complaint
to the proper authorities, Paul might have procured their punishment;
but he had been taught not to resent evil, and was himself in the habit
of teaching his brethren. "Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place
unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith
the Lord." [Romans 12:19.]
His conduct, on this occasion, happily illustrates this
precept. If he had appealed to the Roman authorities for the punishment
of his tormenters, he would have been avenging himself in the
most effectual method. But to yield, as he did, this privilege, was to
leave vengeance in the hands of God, to whom it belongs. By this
course Paul gained the approbation of God, and the admiration of
posterity, while justice lost nothing; for the unresenting demeanor of
the apostle "heaped coals of fire on their heads,"
and the Judge of all the
earth held their deeds in remembrance. The incidents justifies
Christians in making use of civil laws to protect themselves, but not
to inflict punishment on their enemies.
When they were discharged, they took their own time to comply
with the polite request of the magistrates.
(40) "Then they went out
of the prison, and went into the house of Lydia; and having seen the
brethren, and exhorted them, they departed."
Who these "brethren"
were, besides Luke and Timothy, we can not tell; but the presumption
is, that they were others who had been immersed during their
stay in the city.