Sketches From The Life of Paul
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 7: Imprisonment of Paul and Silas.
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The apostles were left in a very painful condition.
Their lacerated and bleeding backs were in contact
with the rough stone floor, while their
feet were elevated and bound fast in the stocks.
In this unnatural position they suffered extreme
torture; yet they did not groan nor complain,
but conversed with and encouraged each other,
and praised God with grateful hearts that they
were found worthy to suffer shame for his dear
name. Paul was reminded of the persecution he
had been instrumental in heaping upon the
disciples of Christ, and he was devoutly thankful
that his eyes had been opened to see, and his
heart to feel, the glorious truths of the gospel of
the Son of God, and that he had been privileged
to preach the doctrine which he had once despised. [p. 76]
There in the pitchy darkness and desolation
of the dungeon, Paul and Silas prayed, and sung
songs of praise to God. The other prisoners
heard with astonishment the voice of prayer and
praise issuing from the inner prison. They had
been accustomed to hear shrieks and moans,
cursing and swearing, breaking at night upon
the silence of the prison; but they had never
before heard the words of prayer and praise
ascending from that gloomy cell. The guards and
prisoners marveled who were these men who,
cold, hungry, and tortured, could still rejoice and
converse cheerfully with each other.
Meanwhile the magistrates had returned to
their homes congratulating themselves upon having
quelled a tumult by their prompt and
decisive measures. But upon their way home they
heard more fully concerning the character and
work of the men whom they had sentenced to
scourging and imprisonment. They also saw
the woman who had been freed from Satanic
influence, and who had been a very troublesome
subject to them. They were sensibly struck by
the change in her countenance and demeanor.
She had become quiet, peaceful, and possessed of
her right mind. They were indignant with themselves
when they discovered that in all probability
they had visited upon two innocent men
the rigorous penalty of the Roman law against
the worst criminals. They decided that in the
morning they would command them to be privately
released, and escorted in safety from the
city, beyond the danger of violence from the mob.
But while men were cruel and vindictive, or
criminally negligent of the solemn responsibilities
devolving upon them, God had not forgotten [p. 77] to be gracious to his suffering servants. An
angel was sent from Heaven to release the apostles.
As he neared the Roman prison, the earth
trembled beneath his feet, the whole city was
shaken by the earthquake, and the prison walls
reeled like a reed in the wind. The heavily
bolted doors flew open; the chains and fetters fell
from the hands and feet of every prisoner.
The keeper of the jail had heard with amazement
the prayers and singing of the imprisoned
apostles. When they were led in, he had seen
their swollen and bleeding wounds, and he had
himself caused their feet to be fastened in the
instruments of torture. He had expected to
hear bitter wailing, groans, and imprecations;
but lo! his ears were greeted with joyful praise.
He fell asleep with these sounds in his ears; but
was awakened by the earthquake, and the shaking
of the prison walls.
Upon awakening he saw all the prison doors
open, and his first thought was that the prisoners
had escaped. He remembered with what an
explicit charge the prisoners had been intrusted
to his care the night before, and he felt sure
that death would be the penalty of his apparent
unfaithfulness. He cried out in the bitterness of
his spirit that it was better for him to die by his
own hand than to submit to a disgraceful execution.
He was about to kill himself, when Paul
cried out with a loud voice, "Do thyself no harm;
for we are all here."
The severity with which the jailer had treated
the apostles had not roused their resentment, or
they would have allowed him to commit suicide.
But their hearts were filled with the love of
Christ, and they held no malice against their [p. 78] persecutors. The jailer dropped his sword, and
called for a light. He hastened into the inner
dungeon, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
begging their forgiveness. He then brought
them into the open court, and inquired of them,
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
He had trembled because of the wrath of God
expressed in the earthquake; he had been ready
to die by his own hand for fear of the penalty of
the Roman law, when he thought the prisoners
had escaped; but now all these things were of
little consequence to him compared with the new
and strange dread that agitated his mind, and
his desire to possess that tranquility and
cheerfulness manifested by the apostles under their
extreme suffering and abuse. He saw the light
of Heaven mirrored in their countenances; he
knew that God had interposed in a miraculous
manner to save their lives; and the words of the
woman possessed by the power of divination
came to his mind with peculiar force: "These
men are the servants of the most high God,
which show unto us the way of salvation."
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