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The Voyage and Shipwreck
At last Paul was on his way to Rome. “When it was determined,” Luke writes, “that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band. And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.'
In the first century of the Christian era, traveling by sea was attended with peculiar hardship and peril. Mariners directed their course largely by the position of the sun and stars; and when these did not appear, and there were indications of storm, the owners of vessels were fearful of venturing into the open sea. During a portion of the year, safe navigation was almost impossible.
The apostle Paul was now called upon to endure the trying experiences that would fall to his lot as a prisoner in chains during the long and tedious This chapter is based on Acis 27 and 28:1-10.
voyage to Italy. One circumstance greatly lightened the hardship of his lot,- he was permitted the companionship of Luke and Aristarchus. In his letter to the Colossians, he afterward referred to the latter as his “fellow-prisoner;"'' but it was from choice that Aristarchus shared Paul's bondage, that he might minister to him in his afflictions.
The voyage began prosperously. The following day they cast anchor in the harbor of Sidon. Here Julius, the centurion, “courteously entreated Paul,” and being informed that there were Christians in the place, “gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.” This permission was greatly appreciated by the apostle, who was in feeble health.
Upon leaving Sidon, the ship encountered contrary winds; and being driven from a direct course, its progress was slow. At Myra, in the province of Lycia, the centurion found a large Alexandrian ship, bound for the coast of Italy, and to this he immediately transferred his prisoners. But the winds were still contrary, and the ship's progress was difficult. Luke writes, “When we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce
over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; and, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called the Fair Havens."
At Fair Havens they were compelled to remain for some time, waiting for favoring winds. Winter was approaching rapidly; “sailing was now dangerous;" and those in charge of the vessel had to give up hope of reaching their destination before the season for travel by sea should be closed for
1 Col. 4:10.
the year. The only question now to be decided was, whether to remain at Fair Havens, or attempt to reach a more favorable place in which to winter.
This question was earnestly discussed, and was finally referred by the centurion to Paul, who had won the respect of both sailors and soldiers. The apostle unhesitatingly advised remaining where they
“I perceive,” he said, “that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.” But “the master and the owner of the ship,” and the majority of passengers and crew, were unwilling to accept this counsel. Because the haven in which they had anchored “was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is a haven of Crete, and lieth toward the southwest and northwest."
The centurion decided to follow the judgment of the majority. Accordingly, “when the south wind blew softly,” they set sail from Fair Havens, in the hope that they would soon reach the desired harbor. “But not long after there arose ... a tempestuous wind;" “the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind.'
Driven by the tempest, the vessel neared the small island of Clauda, and while under its shelter the sailors made ready for the worst. The life-boat, their only means of escape in case the ship should founder, was in tow, and liable to be dashed in pieces any moment. Their first work was to hoist this boat on board. All possible precautions were then taken to strengthen the ship and prepare it to
withstand the tempest. The scant protection afforded by the little island did not avail them long, and soon they were again exposed to the full violence of the storm.
All night the tempest raged, and notwithstanding the precautions that had been taken, the vessel leaked. “The next day they lightened the ship.” Night came again, but the wind did not abate. The storm-beaten ship, with its shattered mast and rent sails, was tossed hither and thither by the fury of the gale. Every moment it seemed that the groaning timbers must give way as the vessel reeled and quivered under the tempest's shock. The leak increased rapidly, and passengers and crew worked continually at the pumps. There was not a moment's rest for any on board. “The third day," writes Luke, “we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away."
For fourteen days they drifted under a sumless and starless heaven. The apostle, though himself suffering physically, had words of hope for the darkest hour, a helping hand in every emergency. He grasped by faith the arm of Infinite Power, and his heart was stayed upon God. He had no fears for himself; he knew that God would preserve him to witness at Rome for the truth of Christ. But his heart yearned with pity for the poor souls around him, sinful, degraded, and unprepared to die. As he earnestly pleaded with God to spare their lives, it was revealed to him that his prayer was granted.
Taking advantage of a lull in the tempest, Paul stood forth on the deck, and lifting up his voice, said: “Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island."
At these words, hope revived. Passengers and crew roused from their apathy. There was much yet to be done, and every effort within their power must be put forth to avert destruction.
It was on the fourteenth night of tossing on the black, heaving billows, that “about midnight” the sailors, hearing the sound of breakers, “deemed that they drew near to some country; and sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. Then fearing,” Luke writes, "lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day."
At break of day the outlines of the stormy coast were dimly visible, but no familiar lan Imarks could be seen. So gloomy was the outlook that the heathen sailors, losing all courage, “were about to flee out of the ship," and feigning to make preparations for casting “anchor's out of the foreship,” they