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SEA SERMONS,

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SERMON I.

THE CONVERSION OF THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER.

ACTS XVI. 25—31.

“ And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises

unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And 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 bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

This was a day to be remembered by the jailer through all eternity. In the morning he went forth a bold, hardened, ignorant, Roman soldier ;, without any

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knowledge of the only true God, or of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. He had been employed in the forbidding work of his station, as keeper of the prison at Philippi, and had that day inflicted many stripes on Paul and Silas; and at the command of the magistrates he had thrust them into the inner prison, or dungeon, and made their feet fast in the stocks. With a heart as unfeeling as his prison walls, and with a soul as callous as the iron fetters he fastened about the apostles' feet, he laid him down and slept as the beast sleepeth, neither fearing God, nor regarding man. Meanwhile, these two servants of the Most High God were left without a couch on which to lay them down, and without bandage or dressing for their wounds, without food or refreshment, except just enough to sustain life; without one feeling companion to whisper a single word of encouragement or comfort to them in that dreary dungeon. But were they, indeed, without hope, without peace, without joy? No. Their everblessed Lord and Saviour, whom they had been preaching to the people, was present, and although he was invisible to their bodily sight he “ filled them with all joy and peace in believing ; so that their souls abounded in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” In short, they were so happy in their sense of his love; so rejoiced in the assurance, that come what might to their bodies, they should, by and bye, be for ever with their Lord, that they could neither sleep nor keep silence. First they prayed, and then they sang praises unto God; and the other prisoners heard them; and, no doubt, wondered at such sounds of joy in such a doleful place. They, poor heathens, never sang in times of trouble, never heard sounds of joy and gladness within a prison's walls before; and while they listen and wonder, lo, suddenly the foundations of the whole building shake, the very earth itself quakes and trembles ; and every door falls from its hinges, and every bolt and fetter drops from every

limb on which it had been secured! And now the jailer himself awakes and trembles at all the signs of the Lord's presence that surrounded him; and he found and felt what he never felt or found before. He found and felt, in a way he could not describe, that there was an Almighty God, a Ruler and a Judge of all men : he felt, amidst all his ignorance and hardness of heart, that he was a guilty, condemned, and lost creature; he felt that the great God of heaven and of earth was angry with him ; while the same great and terrible Being was at peace with Paul and Silas. When he looked on these men, he felt assured that they were safe, while he himself was exposed to every danger ; that they were composed and happy, while his very soul and body trembled, and were ready to expire with consternation and dread. In this state he called for a light and sprang in, not to seize, and lash, and pinion the apostles as before, but he sprang forward and fell at their feet, but could utter only a few words-“ Sirs, what must I do to

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be saved ?” Had he been sufficiently collected, he would probably have gone on to say, “I feel my sins and guilt lie like a mountain on my heart. ignorant, very ignorant of every thing connected with a future state. I am a poor, blood-stained, Roman soldier. I feel that I must perish for ever, unless my sins are pardoned; but, oh, where can I look? Whither can I flee? Who is there among all the many pretended gods of Rome or of Greece that can or will save me? Oh, Sirs, who is your God? Who was it that shook the prison! Who is it that makes

fetters fall off? Who and what is it that makes you so calm and so happy, while I am all dread, and fear, and trembling? Oh, what must I do to be saved?”—My friends, there never was a more important or a more necessary question than this ever asked under the sun. We, each and all, stand in as much need of being saved, as this jailer did. And we must feel this, and seek for it; and obtain it now, even in this life, or we are

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