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Paul Sails for Rome


When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. 2Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. 3The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and allowed him to go to his friends to be cared for. 4Putting out to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. 5After we had sailed across the sea that is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. 6There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us on board. 7We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind was against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. 8Sailing past it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.

9 Since much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, 10saying, “Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12Since the harbor was not suitable for spending the winter, the majority was in favor of putting to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, where they could spend the winter. It was a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest.

The Storm at Sea

13 When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. 14But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete. 15Since the ship was caught and could not be turned head-on into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. 16By running under the lee of a small island called Cauda we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. 17After hoisting it up they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they would run on the Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and so were driven. 18We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, 19and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. 20When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. 22I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ 25So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26But we will have to run aground on some island.”

27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28So they took soundings and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they took soundings again and found fifteen fathoms. 29Fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30But when the sailors tried to escape from the ship and had lowered the boat into the sea, on the pretext of putting out anchors from the bow, 31Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat and set it adrift.

33 Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. 34Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” 35After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. 36Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves. 37(We were in all two hundred seventy-six persons in the ship.) 38After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.

The Shipwreck

39 In the morning they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned to run the ship ashore, if they could. 40So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea. At the same time they loosened the ropes that tied the steering-oars; then hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. 41But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves. 42The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none might swim away and escape; 43but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.

11. But the centurion. The centurion is not reproved because he hearkened rather to the master and governor of the ship than to Paul. For what should he have done? For though he did well like 641641     “Plurimum deferret,” he had very great deference for. Paul’s counsel in other matters, yet he knew that he was unskillful in sailing. Therefore he suffered himself to be governed by those which were expert, which was a point of a wise and modest man. Yea, very necessity did almost compel him to do this; for the haven was not commodious to winter in. Neither did the governor give counsel to commit the ship to the main sea, but to thrust into the next haven, which was almost in view. So that, with taking a little pains, they might commodiously pass the winter. Luke reciteth this not in vain; but that we may know that Paul was from the beginning furnished with the sense of the Spirit, so that he did better see what things were profitable than did the masters. We know not whether he were taught by oracles, or whether he gave this counsel through secret inspiration. This is certain, that it served afterward to his commendation. Furthermore, in that he saith that they sailed beyond the coast of Candia, until they were caught and carried away; our friend Beza doth justly reprove the error of interpreters in this word ασσον, who make of an adverb the name of a city.

15. When the ship was caught. Luke saith that that fell out here, which useth to fall out in extreme danger; namely, they suffered themselves to be carried of the winds. Seeing they were first gone some space, and the mariners thought that all things fell out as they would have it, undoubtedly they did deride Paul’s admonition; as rash men use commonly to wax proud if fortune favor them. Being now caught, they are grievously punished for their boldness; yea, when they drew near to an haven, 642642     “Insulam,” island. they were no less afraid lest they should break the ship, than they were before of overturning the same. Luke doth diligently note all these things, out of which we may gather, that the storm was so vehement and fierce, and that it continued still at one stay, that they were still in danger of death. Also he declareth, that they did courageously use all remedies which might save them from suffering shipwreck, and that they spared not the merchandise and tackling; whence we gather that they were enforced, with a lively feeling of danger, to do what they were able. And Luke addeth, that when they had essayed all things, they despaired of their safety. And surely the very darkness of heaven was as it were a grave. Neither need we doubt but that the Lord meant by this means to commend and make more notable the grace of their deliverance which ensued shortly after. Nevertheless, he suffered his servant to labor with the rest, until he thought he should die. For he did not appear unto him by his angel, before it might seem that he was past hope of recovery. Wherefore his body was not only tossed amidst many storms, but his soul was also shaken with violent tentations. Notwithstanding the end doth show, that he stood upright by faith, so that he did not faint. Luke speaketh nothing of his prayers; but because he himself saith afterward that the angel of God, whom he served, appeared to him, it is likely that when others did curse both heaven and earth, he made his prayers to God, and so was quiet, and did patiently tarry the Lord’s leisure. And whereas he saith that all hope of safety was taken away, it must not be referred unto his sense, but only unto the means which men could use; 643643     “Ad humana media,” to human means. as if he should say, that things were so far out of order, that there was no safety to be looked for at men’s hands.

21. After long abstinence. Though Luke doth not plainly express how the mariners and soldiers behaved themselves, yet he doth plainly distinguish Paul from them, declaring that he stood in the midst of them that he might comfort their faint hearts; for no man is fit to exhort but he who is himself an example of constancy and fortitude. Furthermore, Paul deferred this exhortation until they were all even at the last cast. We may easily gather out of the common custom of the infidels, that they raged and made much ado at the first. A moderate and soft voice could never have been heard amongst those cries and tumults. Now, after they be weary with working and howling, they sit still all in a damp, and Paul beginneth to speak to them. Therefore, it was meet that they should languish like men half dead, until they were somewhat quiet, and could hear a man which would give them good counsel.

Notwithstanding, Paul seemeth to deal unseasonably, when as he objecteth to them foolishness, because they would not do after his counsel when all was well, seeing that they knew that he was inexpert in sailing, as he himself also knew how unskillful and ignorant he was.

But if we consider what an hard matter it is to bring men unto soundness of mind, this reprehension was very profitable. Paul’s authority should have been nothing worth, neither should it have moved them any whit, unless they should know this, that it had not gone well with them because they had despised him before. Chiding is indeed cruel, and bringeth no comfort; but if it be tempered with some remedy, it is now a part of the medicine. So, after that Paul had made the mariners attentive, and had taught by the very event that they ought to believe him, he exhorteth them to be of good courage, and promiseth them safety. And this is a token of no small boldness, when he saith that they ought to have obeyed him. Therefore, he testifieth by these words, that he spake nothing unadvisedly; but did command them to do that which God had prescribed. For though we do not read that he had some especial revelation then given him, yet he himself knew that the Spirit did secretly govern him, so that he might without fear take upon him to give counsel, seeing he had the Spirit of God to be his guide. Whereby that doth better appear which I touched of late, that Paul in speaking thus doth awake the mariners, that they may more attentively hear what he will say. Otherwise, it had been a ridiculous thing for a man which was in danger of drowning, to promise safety to those who were partakers with him in like calamity.

23. For there stood by me. Lest he might be accused of rashness, for promising so fully that they should be all safe, he bringeth in God for his author and witness. Neither is it to be doubted but that he was fully persuaded that it was a true vision, so that he did not fear Satan’s jugglings. For because that father of lies doth oftentimes deceive men under a color of revelations, God did never appear to his servants, either by himself or by his angels, but he put them out of doubt by showing them some plain and evident tokens; and, secondly, did furnish them with the spirit of discretion, that they might not be deceived. But Paul doth extol the name of his God in plain words among profane men, not only that they may learn that the true God is worshipped in Judea, but also that Paul himself doth worship him. They all knew why he was put in prison. Now, seeing angels come down unto him from heaven, they may easily gather that his cause is approved of God. Therefore, there is in these words a secret commendation of the gospel. Nevertheless, we see how Paul triumpheth in his bonds, when he is the minister of safety to so many men, and the interpreter of God.

24. Fear not, Paul. He is very desirous to bring to pass that they may give God alone the praise for their deliverance, lest these superstitious men do falsely translate it unto their idols; and by this means he inviteth them unto the true faith. But by this it appeareth how great the men’s wickedness is, in that they shut their ears against sound and wholesome counsel, and do forthwith forget the grace of God, though it were familiarly known to them. Yea, (that which worse is) they do not see nor perceive it when it is present before their eyes. But, howsoever, the more part was unthankful, yet this oracle was not revealed without fruit; yea, this was good, that those might be made without excuse who did flatter themselves too much in their deceit. And, seeing it was said that he must be presented before Caesar, it tended to this end, that his confession might the more strengthen the godly, when as they should know that he came forth from God as a witness to confirm and avouch the doctrine of the gospel, and that he was appointed and saved to that end.

Hath given thee all the souls. Luke seemeth to give us to understand by these words, that Paul prayed not only for himself, but also for the rest, that God would save them all from drowning. 644644     “E naufragio,” from shipwreck. And, surely, it is not likely, that, seeing he saw the danger common to them all, he was so careful for his own life, that he cared not for the rest whom he saw in like danger. Notwithstanding, it may be that the Lord did of his own accord prevent his prayers. Neither is it any new thing, that his blessing should reach even unto the unworthy, who are joined to the faithful with any society. So he would have saved Sodom, if there had been ten good men found there.

Here ariseth a question, how far the integrity of the saints doth profit the wicked? First, we must remove the superstition of the Papists, who, when they hear that God is good to the bad, for the good’s sake, dream that they be mediators, who obtain salvation for the world through their merits. And they be twice fools in that, that they apply these titles of the living unto the dead; and think that God will be favorable to them for no other cause, save only because he beholdeth them, and therefore they make them their patrons. I omit that, that by extolling men’s merits they darken the free goodness of God. Now, that we may answer the question propounded, we must briefly note this, that forasmuch as the good are mixed with the bad, as well prosperity as adversity doth happen as well to the one as to the other; and yet it falleth out sometimes that when the Lord doth spare his, he beareth also with the wicked for a time together with them. Again, that there be many causes for which God doth good to the wicked and reprobate for the faithful’s sake.

“He blessed the house of Potiphar for Joseph’s sake,”
(Genesis 39:5)

that he might move him to handle this holy man gently. He declared his goodwill toward Paul in saving many men, that he might bear witness of his godliness, that the majesty of the gospel might thereby appear more plainly. But we must note this, that whatsoever benefits God bestoweth upon the wicked, they turn at length to their destruction; as, on the other side, punishments are profitable for the godly, which they suffer together with the reprobate.

In the mean season, this is a singular pledge of God’s love toward us, in that he maketh certain drops of his goodness distill from us unto others.

25. For I believe God. Paul telleth them again whence he had such boldness, that he affirmeth that though they be amidst infinite gulfs of the sea, yet shall they all come safe to the haven, namely, because God had promised it should be so; in which words the nature of faith is expressed, when there is a mutual relation made between it and the Word of God, that it may strengthen men’s minds against the assaults of temptations. And he doth not only exhort the mariners, by his own example, to believe, but doth, as it were, take upon him the office of a promiser, 645645     “Sponsoris,” sponsor or cautioner. that he may win credit to the oracle. That which followeth immediately touching the isle is a latter sign, whereby it may more plainly appear after the end of the matter, that this their sailing was not uncertain, otherwise it had been to no end for the mariners to know how they should escape. Therefore, we see how God doth give that safety which he promised, a mark that it may not seem to come by chance. Notwithstanding, we must note, that God kept them still in some doubt, partly that he may exercise the faith of his servant, partly that they may all know that Paul learned that of the Holy Ghost, which he could not as yet comprehend by man’s reason. 646646     “Quod humano sensu nondum comprehendi poterat,” which could not yet be comprehended by human sense. Notwithstanding, Luke teacheth in the text itself, that he was not believed for all this. For, seeing the mariners thought that there began some country 647647     “Aliquam regionem mediterraneam,” some mainland. to appear unto them, it did not agree with the promise made touching their arriving in an isle. Therefore, we see how that they were scarce enforced, even by experience, to think that he spake the truth.

30. And as the mariners sought. The grace of the Holy Spirit appeareth in Paul, even in this point also, in that he did wisely admonish that the mariners should not be suffered to fly. For why doth not rather the centurion, or some other of the company, smell out their fraud, save only that Paul may be the minister of their deliverance, even unto the end? But it is a marvel that he saith, that the rest could not be saved unless the mariners should remain in the ship; as if it were in their power to make the promise of God of none effect. I answer, that Paul doth not dispute, in this place, precisely of the power of God, that he may separate the same from his will and from means; and surely God doth not, therefore, commend his power to the faithful, that they may give themselves to sluggishness and carelessness, contemning means, or rashly cast away themselves when there is some certain way to escape. God did promise Hezekiah that the city should be delivered (Isaiah 37:6, and 35). If he had set open the gates to the enemy, would not Isaiah straightway have cried, Thou destroyest both thyself and the city? And yet for all this it doth not follow that the hand of God is tied to means or helps; but when God appointeth this or that means to bring any thing to pass, he holdeth all men’s senses, that they may not pass the bounds which he hath appointed.

33. And when the day began. Whatsoever the mariners think, Paul’s faith doth not quail; 648648     “Vacillat,” waver. but he leaneth steadfastly to the promise which was made to him. For he doth not only exhort them to take meat, as did he who, in extreme despair, uttered these words, Dine, soldiers, we shall sup in hell; 649649     “Apud inferos,” with the dead. but continuing steadfast in his prophecy, he willeth them to be of good courage. The force of faith doth therein show itself, when as it armeth us unto patience, and doth valiantly bear off and beat back those assaults wherewith Satan goeth about to shake it. But whereas he saith, that they continued fasting for the space of fourteen days, it may seem absurd and false. There may some one man be found which can abide to fast long, but it is scarce credible of so great a multitude. We may easily answer, That their unwonted abstinence from meat is improperly called fasting; because they had never filled their belly during all that time; because those who are in sorrow and heaviness do almost loathe meat. And because despair was the cause of this their loathing of meat, he affirmeth again that they shall live, so they be of good courage. For a faithful minister of the word must not only bring abroad the promises, but also counsel men to follow God whithersoever he calleth them; and that they be not slothful and sluggish. Furthermore, the meaning of the words is this, God hath determined to save you, this confidence ought to animate you, and to make you merry, 650650     “Alacres,” alert, active. that you be not negligent in your own business.

35. He took bread. That he may the better encourage them, by his own example, he taketh bread and eateth. Luke saith that he gave thanks, not only according to his daily custom, but because that served greatly to testify his boldness and good confidence. It is not to be doubted but that Paul himself did that when he took meat, which he commandeth other men; but now he doth not only testify his thankfulness, neither doth he only desire of God that he will sanctify the meat which he is about to eat; but he calleth upon God without fear, who is the author of his life, that those poor wretches, which were drenched in sorrow, might conceive some good hope. And he prevailed thus far, at least, that they gathered so much courage to them as to take meat, who had, through fear, forgotten to care for their life.

37. All the souls The number of the men is recited, first, that it may more plainly appear that none of the multitude did perish. For Luke doth not show how many men did swim to the shore, but how many men were then in the ship. Secondly, that the miracle may be made more evident and also famous; for, in man’s judgment, it is a thing impossible that two hundred threescore and sixteen men should escape to land, having suffered shipwreck, without loss of any man’s life. For it is likely that few had any skill in swimming except the mariners. And though they were somewhat refreshed with the meat which they had eaten, yet they were brought so low with sorrows and wearisomeness, that it is a marvel that they were so nimble as that they could move their arms. And now we must consider what a stir they kept; whereas it is seldom seen that twenty or thirty men do so swim in danger, but one of them doth hinder or drown another. Therefore, God did plainly stretch forth his hand out of heaven, seeing all those came to shore safe and sound which had cast themselves into the sea.

38. And when they had eaten enough. This circumstance doth show that they were at length moved with Paul’s words. It was not yet light, that they could know whether there were any haven near. And yet they cast out into the sea the wheat which remained, that they might lighten the ship. They would not have done this unless Paul’s authority had prevailed more with them now than before. But as all unbelievers are unstable, that persuasion did quickly vanish out of their minds.

41. They thrust in the ship. And then it might seem that both God had mocked Paul, and that he, with trifling, had brought his partners in a vain hope; 651651     “Socios naufragii vana spe lactasse,” had deluded his companions in shipwreck with a vain hope. but God did forthwith put away that error by giving them prosperous success. It was meet that when the ship was broken, they should be so discouraged, and that their souls should so melt, that despair might increase the glory of the miracle. For God useth to moderate and govern his works so, that he maketh some show of difficulty by reason of many lets [hindrances] which fall out. By this means he sharpeneth our senses unto greater attentiveness, that we may at length learn that, though all the world strive against him, yet will he have the victory. This is the reason why he had lieffer [rather] draw Paul and his companions to the shore after that the ship was lost, 652652     “Fracta,” wrecked, than bring the ship whole to land.

42. The counsel of the soldiers. This was too horrible unthankfulness. Though the soldiers might thank Paul twice or thrice for their lives, yet are they minded to kill him, for whose sake they ought to have spared the rest. He had saved them even as an angel of God; he had given them wholesome counsel; he had refreshed them in the same day when they were past hope; and now they stick not to seek to destroy him, by whom they were so often and so many ways delivered. Wherefore, if it so fall out that we be ill rewarded for our good deeds, there is no cause why the unthankfulness of men should trouble us, which is a disease too common. But they are not only unthankful to Paul, who was the minister of their life, but also their filthy misbelief and forgetfulness of the goodness of God doth betray itself. They had of late received that oracle, that their souls were given to Paul; and now seeing they will be saved after he is dead, what other thing go they about but to resist God, that they may save themselves from death contrary to his will? Therefore, they have now forgotten that grace whereof they tasted against their will in extreme despair, neither doth it taste any longer, 653653     “Nec amplius quicquam sapit,” nor hath it any longer any relish. after that they see the haven nigh at hand. But it behoveth us to consider the wonderful counsel of God, as well in saving Paul as in fulfilling his promise; when as he bringeth those men to land, who did what they could to make his promise of none effect. Thus doth his goodness oftentimes strive with the wickedness of men. Yet he doth so pity the wicked, that, deferring their punishment until so fit opportunity, he doth not quite discharge them; yea, the longer he tarrieth, the more grievously he punisheth, and so by that means he maketh amends for his long tarrying.

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