Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
36. And as they went on the way, they came to a water. And the eunuch said, Lo, here is water, what letteth me to be baptized? 37. And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. He answering, said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38. Then he commanded the chariot to be stayed, and they went both down into the water; to wit, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39. And when they were come out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more. Therefore, he went on in his way rejoicing. 40. But Philip was found at Azotus; and, going on his journey, he preached the gospel to all cities, until he came to Cesarea.
36. What letteth me? The eunuch’s baptism ensueth now, whence we gather how greatly he profited in a small time, seeing he offereth himself willingly to give Christ his name. For it must needs be that faith was after a sort ripe in his heart, seeing that he brake out into external profession with such desire. I like not that which Chrysostom noteth, that he was kept back with modesty from requiring baptism plainly; for that interrogation hath greater vehemency than if he should simply have said to Philip, I will have thee to baptize me. But we see that Christ was preached to him in such sort, that he knew that baptism was a sign of new life in him, and that therefore he would not neglect the same, because it was added to the word, and such an addition as was inseparable. Therefore, as he embraced that willingly which he heard concerning Christ, so now he breaketh out with a godly zeal into the external confession of faith; neither doth he think it sufficient for him to believe inwardly before God, unless he testifieth before men that he is a Christian. There might many things have come into his mind, which might have kept him back from being baptized, lest that he should lay himself open to the hatred and rebukes both of the queen, and also of the whole nation. But he denieth that any of these things doth hinder him from desiring to be numbered amongst the disciples of Christ. If being instructed but a few hours he came to this point, how filthy is the sluggishness of those men who suppress the faith which they have conceived, having been taught five, ten, or twenty years?
If thou believest with all thy heart. Whereas the eunuch is not admitted to baptism, until he have made confession of his faith, we must fetch a general rule hence, That those ought [not] to be received into the Church, who were estranged from the same before, until they have testified that they believe in Christ. For baptism is, as it were, an appurtenance of faith, and therefore it is later in order. Secondly, if it be given without faith whose seal it is, it is both a wicked and also too gross a profaning. But frantic fellows do both unskillfully and also wickedly impugn baptizing of infants under color hereof. Why was it meet that faith should go before baptism in the eunuch? To wit, because seeing that Christ marketh those alone which are of the household of the Church with this note and mark, they must be ingrafted unto the Church who are to be baptized. And as it is certain that those who are grown up are ingrafted by faith, so I say that the children of the godly are born the children of the Church, and that they are accounted members of Christ from the womb, because God adopteth us upon this condition, that he may be also the Father of our seed. Therefore, though faith be requisite in those which are grown up, yet this is untruly translated unto infants whose estate is far unlike. But certain great men have abused this place, when as they would prove that faith hath no confirmation by baptism. For they reasoned thus, The eunuch is commanded to bring perfect faith unto baptism, therefore there could nothing be added. But the Scripture taketh the whole heart oftentimes for a sincere and unfeigned heart, whose opposite is a double heart. So that there is no cause why we should imagine that they believe perfectly who believe with the whole heart, seeing that there may be a weak and faint faith in him who shall, notwithstanding, have a sound mind, and a mind free from all hypocrisy. Thus must we take that which David saith, That he loveth the Lord with all his heart. Philip had, indeed, baptized the Samaritans before, and yet he knew that they were yet far from the mark. Therefore, the faith of the whole heart is that which, having living roots in the heart, doth yet notwithstanding desire to increase daily.
I believe that Jesus Christ. As baptism is grounded in Christ, and as the truth and force thereof is contained there, so the eunuch setteth Christ alone before his eyes. The eunuch knew before that there was one God, who had made the covenant with Abraham, who gave the law by the hand of Moses, which separated one people from the other nations, who promised Christ, through whom he would be merciful to the world. Now he confesseth that Jesus Christ is that Redeemer of the world, and the Son of God; under which title he comprehendeth briefly all those things which the Scripture attributeth to Christ. This is the perfect faith whereof Philip spake of late, which receiveth Christ, both as he was promised in times past, and also showed at length, and that with the earnest affection of the heart, as Paul will not have this faith to be feigned. Whosoever hath not this when he is grown up, in vain doth he boast of the baptism of his infancy. For to this end doth Christ admit infants by baptism, that so soon as the capacity of their age shall suffer, they may addict themselves to be his disciples, and that being baptized with the Holy Ghost, they may comprehend, with the understanding of faith, his power which baptism doth prefigure.
38. They went down into the water. Here we see the rite used among the men of old time in baptism; for they put all the body into the water. Now the use is this, that the minister doth only sprinkle the body or the head. But we ought not to stand so much about such a small difference of a ceremony, that we should therefore divide the Church, or trouble the same with brawls. We ought rather to fight even an hundred times to death for the ceremony itself of baptism, inasmuch as it was delivered us by Christ that that we should suffer the same to be taken from us. But forasmuch as we have as well a testimony of our washing, as of newness of life, in the figure of water; forasmuch as Christ representeth unto us his blood in the water as in a glass, that we may fet 566 our cleanness thence; forasmuch as he teacheth that we are fashioned again by his Spirit, that being dead to sin, we may live to righteousness; it is certain that we want nothing which maketh to the substance of baptism. Wherefore the Church did grant liberty to herself, since the beginning, to change the rites somewhat, excepting this substance. For some dipped them thrice, some but once. Wherefore there is no case why we should be so straitlaced in matters which are of no such weight; 567 so that external pomp do no whit pollute the simple institution of Christ.
39. When they were come up. To the end Luke may at length conclude his speech concerning the eunuch, he saith that Philip was caught away out of his sight. And that was of no small weight to confirm him, forasmuch as he saw that that man was sent unto him by God like to an angel, and that he vanished away before he could offer him any reward for all his pains; whence he might gather that it was no gainful insinuation, seeing that he was vanished away before he had one halfpenny given him. Whereas Philip had no reward at the eunuch’s hand, let the servants of Christ learn hereby to serve him freely, or rather let them so serve men for nothing that they hope for a reward from heaven. The Lord granteth leave, indeed, to the ministers of the gospel to receive a reward at their hands whom they teach, (1Co 9:9,) but he forbiddeth them therewithal to be hirelings which labor for lucre’s sake, (John 10:12, 13.) For this must be the mark whereat they must shoot, to gain the men themselves to God.
Rejoicing. Faith and the knowledge of God bring forth this fruit always of themselves. For what truer matter of joy can be invented than when the Lord doth not only set open unto us the treasures of his mercy, but poureth out his heart into us, (that I may so speak,) and giveth us himself in his Son, that we may want nothing to perfect felicity? The heavens begin to look clear, and the earth beginneth to be quiet then; the conscience being then delivered from the doleful and horrible feelings of God’s wrath, being loosed from the tyranny of Satan, escaping out of the darkness of death, beholdeth the light of life. Therefore it is a solemn thing amongst the prophets to exhort us to be joyful and to triumph, so often as they are about to speak of the kingdom of Christ. But because those men whose minds are possessed with the vain joys of the world, cannot lift up themselves unto this spiritual joy, let us learn to despise the world and all vain delights thereof, that Christ may make us merry indeed.
40. He was found at Azotus. It is well known, out of the book of Jos 11:22, that Azotus was one of the cities out of which the sons of Anak could not be expelled. It is distant from Ascalon almost two hundred furlongs; the Hebrews call it Ashdod. Thither was Philip carried; there began he to take his journey on foot after the manner of men, sowing the seed of the gospel wheresoever he became, [passed.] This is surely rare and wonderful stoutness, 568 that he spreadeth the name of godliness in his journey. And whereas Luke saith expressly that he preached in all cities until he came to Cesarea, and doth not declare that he returned to Samaria, we may thereby conjecture that he staid at Cesarea for a time; and yet I leave this indifferent.
“Non ita necessariius,” not absolutely necessary.
“Strenuitas,” strenuousness, activity.