Christian Friend vol. 17, 1890, p. 248.
In this day of difficulty and declension, it is of vast importance for the believer to be in dependence upon God, and in obedience to His word. We know that the blessed Lord is the only One who ever trod this path in perfection. The apostle Paul knew what it was to walk on the safe ground of dependence upon God, having no confidence in the flesh, "always bearing about in his body the dying of Jesus;" and just in proportion as the same thing characterizes us, we have power against evil and for testimony. Acts 16 gives us a very striking instance of it in Paul at Philippi.
When Paul and his companion entered that city, to which the Lord had called them, they were soon found in the place "where prayer was wont to be made," where Lydia's heart was opened to receive the things of the Lord. There is no doubt the enemy knows the power of prayer in the saints, and does all he possibly can to hinder it. As they went to prayer from Lydia's house, the damsel with a spirit of divination cried many days, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation." Paul perceived that what was said, though true enough in itself, was not of God, but of Satan. Yet Paul patiently waited the many days before availing himself of God's power to expose and suppress the enemy's opposition. "Paul . . . turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour."
Evidently Paul was in communion, and, therefore, in a condition of soul for God to manifest His power through him. This victorious act of divine power over Satan set in arms against Paul the masters, the magistrates, and the multitude, resulting in Paul and Silas receiving many stripes, and being cast into the worst place in prison, with their feet made fast in the stocks. This was as far as God allowed man, under Satanic influence, to go. But marl: what wonderful things followed in that prison.
At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God, which the prisoners heard. Suddenly there was a great earthquake; the foundations of the prison were shaken; all the prison doors were thrown open; every man's bands were loosed; the jailor was converted under a sermon of eleven words, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house - the reality of his conversion being shown in the good works upon God's servants.
Here, observe, praise followed prayer before this marvellous intervention of God in favour of His servants. Now, did all this divine display exalt them with pride, and throw them off their guard, and from the ground of dependence? Oh, no! For, note, when the magistrates had become conscious of their error, and had come to the prison to entreat these men of God to come out and leave the city, it is written that Paul and Silas went out of prison, and entered into the house of Lydia. They returned to the house of prayer, as Peter also did from prison; they went back to Gilgal, as we have it in another scripture in a former dispensation. When they had comforted their brethren they left the city in the power of prayer, and to continue their labours in obedience to the word of the Lord.
Beloved child of God, the same enemy is at work with equally adapted opposition now as then; but we have the same resource, and it is Paul who said, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." Are not these things written for our learning? And are they not our examples? Then may we have grace to learn and follow them for Christ's sake. J. N.