Verse 44. "And the rest" - That could not swim: some on boards, planks, spars, &c., got safe to land; manifestly by an especial providence of God; for how otherwise could the sick, the aged, the terrified, besides women and children, (of which, we may naturally suppose, there were some,) though on planks, get safe to shore?-where still the waves were violent, ver. 41, and they without either skill or power to steer their unsafe flotillas to the land? It was (in this case, most evidently) God who brought them to the haven were they would be.
1. PAUL had appealed to Caesar; and he must go to Rome to have his cause heard. God admitted of this appeal, and told his servant that he should testify of him at Rome; and yet every thing seemed to conspire together to prevent this appeal, and the testimony which the apostle was to bear to the truth of the Christian religion. The Jews laid wait for his life; and when he had escaped out of their hands, and from their territories, then the winds and the sea seemed to combine to effect his destruction. And God suffered all this malice of men, and war of elements, to fight against his servant, and yet overruled and counterworked the whole, so as to promote his own glory, and bring honour to his apostle. Had it not been for this malice of the Jews, Festus, Felix, Agrippa, Berenice, and many Roman nobles and officers, had probably never heard the Gospel of Christ. And, had it not been for Paul's tempestuous voyage, the 276 souls that sailed with him could not have had such displays of the power and wisdom of the Christians' God as must have struck them with reverence, and probably was the cause of the conversion of many. Had the voyage been smooth and prosperous, there would have been no occasion for such striking interferences of God; and, had it not been for the shipwreck, probably the inhabitants of Malta would not so soon have heard of the Christian religion. God serves his will by every occurrence, and presses every thing into the service of his own cause. This is a remark which we have often occasion to make, and which is ever in place. We may leave the government of the world, and the government of the Church, most confidently to God; hitherto he has done all things well; and his wisdom, power, goodness, and truth, are still the same.
2. In considering the dangers of a sea voyage, we may well say, with pious Quesnel, To what perils do persons expose themselves, either to raise a fortune, or to gain a livelihood! How few are there who would expose themselves to the same for the sake of God! They commit themselves to the mercy of the waves; they trust their lives to a plank and to a pilot; and yet it is often with great difficulty that they can trust themselves to the providence of God, whose knowledge, power, and goodness, are infinite; and the visible effects of which they have so many times experienced.
3. What assurance soever we may have of the will of God, yet we must not forget human means. The life of all the persons in this ship was given to St. Paul; yet he does not, on that account, expect a visible miracle, but depends upon the blessing which God will give to the care and endeavours of men.
4. God fulfils his promises, and conceals his almighty power, under such means and endeavours as seem altogether human and natural. Had the crew of this vessel neglected any means in their own power, their death would have been the consequence of their inaction and infidelity.