Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 37: Acts, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And when they were escaped, they knew that the isle was called Melita. 2. And the barbarians showed us no little kindness; for they kindled a fire and received us all, because of the present shower, and because of the cold. 3. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and had laid them on the fire, a viper came out of the heat, and leaped on his hand. 4. Now, when the barbarians saw the beast hang upon his hand, they said among themselves, This man surely is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, vengeance doth not suffer to live. 5. But he shook off the viper into the fire, and suffered no harm. 6. But they thought that it would come to pass, that he would swell and fall down dead suddenly. And as they waited long, and saw no harm come to him, changing their mind, they said he was a god.
1. That doleful spectacle is described in the beginning of the chapter, when so many men being wet, and also all berayed with the foam and filth of the sea, and stiff with cold, did with much ado crawl to the shore; for that was all one as if they had been cast up by the sea to die some other death. After that, Luke declareth that they were courteously entertained of the barbarians, that they kindled a fire that they might dry their clothes, and refresh their joints, which were stiff with cold, and at length that they were saved 654 from the shower. Therefore, in that Paul commendeth these duties, he showeth his thankfulness; and so great liberality toward strangers is for good causes advanced, whereof there be rare examples in the world. And though common nature doth wring out of the barbarous Gentiles some affection of mercy in so great necessity; yet undoubtedly it was God which caused the men of Melita to handle these men so courteously, that his promise might be sure and certain, which might seem imperfect if the shipwreck had caused the loss of any man’s life.
A viper coming out of the heat. The very event did prove that Paul was a true and undoubted prophet of God. Now, that God may make him famous as well by land as by sea, he sealeth the former miracles 655 with a new miracle; and so he ratifieth his apostleship among the men of Melita. And though there were not many which did profit thereby, yet the majesty of the gospel did shine even among the unbelievers; also this did greatly confirm the oracles to the mariners, which they had not sufficiently reverenced. Neither did the viper come out of the sticks by chance; but the Lord did direct her by his secret counsel to bite Paul, because he saw it would turn to the glory of his gospel.
4. So soon as the barbarians saw. This judgment was common in all ages, that those who were grievously punished had grievously offended. Neither was this persuasion conceived of nothing; but it came rather from a true feeling of godliness. For God, to the end he might make the world without excuse, would have this deeply rooted in the minds of all men, that calamity and adversity, and chiefly notable destruction, were testimonies and signs of his wrath and just vengeance against sins. Therefore, so often as we call to mind any notable calamity, we do also remember that God is sore offended, seeing he punisheth so sharply. Neither did ungodliness ever get the upper hand so far, but that all men did still retain this principle, that God, to the end he may show himself to be the Judge of the world, doth notably punish the wicked. But here crept in an error almost always, because they condemned all those of wickedness 656 whom they saw roughly handled. Though God doth always punish men’s sins with adversity, yet doth he not punish every man according to his deserts in this life; and sometimes the punishments of the godly are not so much punishments as trials of their faith and exercises of godliness.
Therefore, those men are deceived, who make this a general rule to judge every man according to his prosperity or adversity. This was the state of the controversy between Job and his friends, (Job 4:7) they did affirm that that man was a reprobate, and hated of God, whom God did punish; and he did allege, on the other side, that the godly are sometimes humbled with the cross. Wherefore, lest we be deceived in this point, we must beware of two things. The former is, that we give not rash and blind judgment of things unknown, 657 according to the event alone, for because God doth punish the good as well as the bad; yea, it falleth out oftentimes that he spareth the reprobate, and doth sharply punish those who are his; if we will judge aright, we must begin at another thing than at punishments, to wit, that we inquire after the life and deeds. If any adulterer, if any blasphemous person, if any perjured man or murderer, if any filthy person, if any cozener, if any bloody beast be punished, God doth point out his judgment as it were with his finger. If we see no wickedness, nothing is better than to suspend our judgment concerning punishment.
The other caution is, that we wait for the end. For so soon as God beginneth to strike, we do not by and by see his drift and purpose; but the unlike end doth at length declare, that those differ far before God who seem in men’s eyes both alike in the likelihood of punishment. If any man object that it is not in vain so often repeated in the law, that all private and public miseries are the scourges of God, I grant indeed that that is true; but yet I deny that it doth keep God from sparing whom he will for a time, though they be of all men the worst, and from punishing those more sharply whose fault is mean. 658 Nevertheless, it is not our duty to make that perpetual which falleth out oftentimes. We see now wherein the men of Melita were deceived, to wit, because having not scanned Paul’s life, they judge him to be a wicked man, only because the viper doth bite him; secondly, because they stay not the end, but give judgment rashly. Nevertheless, we must note that these are detestable monsters, who go about to pluck out of their hearts all feelings of God’s judgment, which is ingrafted in us all naturally, and which is also found in the barbarians and savage men. Whereas they think that Paul is rather guilty of murder than of any other offense, they follow this reason, because murder hath always been most detestable.
Vengeance doth not suffer. They gather that he is a wicked man, because vengeance doth persecute him though he have escaped the sea. And they feigned that the revenging goddess did sit by the seat of Jupiter, which they commonly called Δικη; grossly, I grant, as men ignorant of pure religion, and yet not without some tolerable signification, as if they had painted out God to be Judge of the world. But by these words the wrath of God is distinguished from fortune, and so the judgment of God is avouched against all blind chances. For the men of Melita take it to be a sign of the heavenly vengeance, in that though Paul be saved, yet can he not be safe.
5. Shaking off the viper. The shaking off of the viper is a token of a quiet mind. For we see how greatly fear doth trouble and weaken men; and yet you must not think that Paul was altogether void of fear. For faith doth not make us blockish, as brain-sick men do imagine, when they be out of danger. 659 But though faith doth not quite take away the feeling of evils, yet it doth temperate the same, lest the godly be more afraid than is meet; that they may always be bold and have a good hope. So though Paul understand that the viper was a noisome beast, yet did he trust to the promise which was made to him, and did not so fear her plaguy 660 biting, that it did trouble him; because he was even ready to die if need had been.
6. Changing their minds, they said. This so wonderful and sudden a change ought to have inwardly touched the men of Melita, and to have moved them to give the glory to the mercy of God, as they did before to vengeance. But as man’s reason is always carried amiss unto extremities, they make Paul at a sudden a god, whom they took before to be a wicked murderer. But if he could not choose but be the one, it had been better for him to be counted a murderer than a god. And surely Paul would rather have wished to be condemned, not only of one crime, but also to have sustained all shame, 661 and to have been thrust down into the deep pit of hell, 662 than to take to himself the glory of God, which thing those knew full well who had heard him preach amidst the storms. Notwithstanding, it may be, that, being taught afterward, they did confess that God was the author of the miracle.
Furthermore, let us learn by this history, with patient and quiet minds, to wait for the prosperous event of things, 663 which seem at the first to tend toward the robbing of God of his honor. Which of us would not have been terrified with this spectacle which did arm the wicked to slander with all manner of slanderous speeches the glory of the gospel? Yet we see how God did in good time prevent this inconvenience; therefore, let us not doubt but that after he hath suffered his to be darkened with clouds of slanders, he will send remedy in his good time, and will turn their darkness into light. In the mean season, let us remember that we must beware of the judgment of the flesh. And because men do always forget themselves, let us beg of God the Spirit of moderation, that he may keep us always in the right mean. Furthermore, let us learn by this how ready the world is to fall to superstition. Yea, this wickedness is in a manner born with us, to be desirous to adorn creatures with that which we take from God.
Wherefore, no marvel if new errors have come abroad 664 in all ages, seeing every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols. But lest men excuse themselves therewithal, this history doth witness that this is the fountain of superstitions, because men are unthankful to God, and do give his glory to some other.
7. And in those places were the possessions of the chief man of the isle, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us courteously. 8. And so it was, that the father of Publius lay sick of the fever and bloody flux; to whom Paul entered in, and when he had prayed, and had laid his hands upon him, he healed him. 9. Therefore, when he had done thus, the rest also, which had infirmities in the isle, came, and were healed: 10. Who did also give us great honor; and when we departed, they laded us with things necessary. 11. And after three months we sailed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose badge was Castor and Pollux. 12. And when we came to Syracuse, we stayed there three days. 13. And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day when the south wind blew, we came the next day to Puteoli: 14. Where we found brethren, and were desired to stay with them seven days: and so we came to Rome.
7. And in those places. Because this name, Publius, is a Roman name, I suspect that this man, of whom mention is made, was rather a citizen of Rome than born in the isle. For the Grecians and other strangers were not wont to borrow their names of the Latins unless they were men of small reputation. And it may be that some of the noble men of Rome came then to see his possessions, and is called the chief man of the isle, not because he dwelt there, but because no man could compare with him in wealth and possessions. And it is scarce probable that all the whole multitude of Grecians was lodged there three days. I do rather think, that, when he entertained the centurion, he did also honor Paul and his companions, because, being admonished by the miracle, he did believe that he was a man beloved of God. Notwithstanding, howsoever it be, his hospitality was not unrewarded. For shortly after the Lord restored his father to health by the hand of Paul, who was indeed sick of a dangerous disease. And by this means he meant to testify how greatly that courtesy, which is showed to men in misery and to strangers, doth please him. Although those who are holpen be unmindful and unthankful for that benefit which they have received, or they be not able to recompense those who have done good to them, yet God himself will abundantly restore to men whatsoever they have bestowed at his commandment; and he hath sometimes appointed, to those which be merciful and given to hospitality, some of his servants, which bring with them a blessing. This was now great honor, in that Publius did lodge Christ in the person of Paul. Notwithstanding, this was added as an overplus, in that Paul came furnished with the gift of healing, that he might not only recompense his courtesy, but also give more than he had received.
Also, we know not whether he learned the first principles of faith, as miracles do for the most part win the rude and unbelievers unto faith, 665 Luke mentioneth the kind of disease that he may the better set forth the grace of God. For seeing it is an hard matter to cure a bloody flux, 666 especially when the ague is joined therewith, the old man was cured thus suddenly only by the laying on of hands and prayer, not without the manifest power of God.
8. And had laid his hands upon him Paul declareth by prayer that he himself is not the author of the miracle, but only the minister, lest God be defrauded of his glory. He confirmeth this self-same thing by the external sign. For, as we saw before, in other places, the laying on of hands was nothing else but a solemn rite of offering and presenting. Wherefore, in that Paul doth offer the man to God with his own hands, he professed that he did humbly crave his life of him. By which example, not only those who have excellent gifts of the Spirit given them are admonished to beware, lest by extolling themselves they darken the glory of God, but also we are all taught in general that we must so thank the ministers of the grace of God that the glory remain to him alone. It is said, indeed, that Paul healed the man which had the bloody flux; but it is plainly expressed by the circumstances which are added, that it was God which bestowed this benefit, making him the minister thereof. Whereas Luke saith afterwards, that others which were sick in the isle were cured, he doth not extend it unto all; but his meaning is, that the power of God, which appeared evidently enough, was proved by many testimonies, that the apostleship of Paul might be thereby ratified. Neither need we doubt but that Paul sought as well to cure their souls as their bodies. Yet Luke doth not declare what good he did, save only that the barbarians gave him and his fellows victual and necessary things when they loosed from the haven. In the mean season, we must note, that though Paul might have withdrawn himself, and have escaped many ways, yet was the will of God to him instead of voluntary fetters, because he was often cited by the heavenly oracle to appear before the judgment-seat of Nero to bear witness of Christ. Again, he knew that if he should run away, he could no longer have preached the gospel, but should have lurked in some corner during his whole life.
11. In a ship of Alexandria. By these words, Luke giveth us to understand, that the former ship was either drowned, or else so rent and beaten, that it served for no use afterward; whereby the greatness of the shipwreck doth the better appear. And he setteth down expressly that the badge of the ship of Alexandria, wherein they were carried to Rome, was Castor and Pollux, that we may know that Paul had not liberty granted to sail with such as were like to himself; but was enforced to enter into a ship which was dedicated to two idols. The old poets did feign that Castor and Pollux came of Jupiter and Leda; for which cause they are called in Greek διοσκουροι; which word Luke useth in this place, as if you should say, Jupiter’s sons. Again, they said 667 that they are the sign in the zodiac called Gemini. There was also another superstition among the mariners, that those fine exhalations which appear in tempests are the very same. Therefore, in times past, they were thought to be gods of the seas, and were therefore called upon as at this day, Nicholas and Clement, and such like. Yea, as in Popery, they retain the old errors, changing the names only; so at this day they worship these exhalations under the name of Saint Hermes, or Saint Ermus. And because if one exhalation appear alone, it is a doleful token; but if two together, (as Pliny writeth) then they foreshow a prosperous course. To the end the mariners of Alexandria might have both Castor and Pollux to favor them, they had both for the badge of their ship. Therefore, as touching them, the ship was polluted with wicked sacrilege; but because Paul did not make choice thereof, of his own accord, he is not polluted thereby.
And surely seeing an idol is nothing, it cannot infect the creatures of God, but that the faithful may use them purely and lawfully. And we must needs think thus, that all those blots wherewith Satan doth go about to stain the creatures of God through his juggling, are washed away by no other means but by a good and pure conscience, whereas the wicked and ungodly do defile those things which are of themselves pure, though they do but touch them. Finally, Paul was no more defiled by entering into this ship, than when he did behold the altars at Athens; because, being void of all superstition, he knew that all the rites of the Gentiles were mere illusions. Again, the men could not think that he did agree to that profane error; for if he had been to do any worship to Castor and Pollux, though it had been only for fashion’s sake, he would rather have died a thousand deaths than once have yielded.
Therefore, because he needed not to fear any offense, he entereth the ship without any more ado; and undoubtedly he did this heavily, and with inward sorrow; because he saw the honor which is due to God alone given to vain inventions. Therefore, this ought to be numbered among his exercises, in that he had those to be his guides, who thought that they were governed of idols, and had committed their ship to their tuition.
12. When we were come to Syracuse. Luke prosecuteth the residue of the course of their sailing, that they arrived first in Sicilia. And after that they set a compass 668 by reason of the tempest and raging of the sea, and sailed over into Italy. And as that haven whereof Luke speaketh in this place is the most famous haven of all Sicilia, so is it farther from the coast of Italy than is that of Messina, over against which is Rhegium, whereof he maketh mention. And it is in the country of the Brutians, as is Puteoli, a city of Campania. But forasmuch as the brethren kept Paul at Puteoli seven days, by this we gather how favorably and gently the centurion handled Paul. Neither do I doubt but that the holy man would have made him a faithful promise that he would always return in due time. But he was persuaded of his uprightness, so that he was not afraid that he would deceive him. And now we gather out of this place, that the seed of the gospel was then sown abroad, seeing there was some body of the Church even at Puteoli.
15. And when the brethren had heard of us from thence, they came out to meet us at Appii Forum, and at The three Taverns; whom when Paul saw, he gave thanks to God, and waxed bold. 16. And when we were come to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the chief captain of the host; but Paul was suffered to dwell alone with a soldier which kept him. 17. And after three days Paul called together the chief of the Jews; and when they were come, he said to them, Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against the people, or ordinances of the elders, yet was I delivered a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18. Which, when they had examined me, they would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. 19. But when the Jews spake contrary, I was enforced to appeal to Caesar: not as if I have anything to accuse my nation of. 20. For this cause, therefore, have I sent for you, that I might see you, and speak to you; for the hope of Israel am I bound with this chain.
15. When the brethren heard. God did comfort Paul by the coming of the brethren who came forth to meet him, that he might the more joyfully make haste to defend the gospel. And the zeal and godly care of the brethren appeareth therein, in that they inquire for Paul’s coming, and go out to meet him. For it was at that time not only an odious thing to profess the Christian faith, but it might also bring them in hazard of their life. Neither did a few men only put themselves in private danger, because the envy redounded to the whole Church. But nothing is more dear to them than their duty wherein they could not be negligent, unless they would be counted sluggish and unthankful. It had been a cruel fact to neglect so great an apostle of Jesus Christ, especially seeing he labored for the common salvation.
And now forasmuch as he had written to them before, and had of his own accord offered his service to them, it had been an unseemly thing not to repay to him brotherly goodwill and courtesy. Therefore, the brethren did, by this their dutifulness, testify their godliness toward Christ; and Paul’s desire was more inflamed, because he saw fruit prepared for his constancy. For though he were endued with invincible strength, 669 so that he did not depend upon man’s help; yet God, who useth to strengthen his by means of men, did minister to him new strength by this means. Though he were afterward forsaken when he was in prison, as he complaineth in a certain place, (2Ti 4:16) yet he did not despair; but did fight no less valiantly and manfully under Christ’s banner, than if he had been guarded with a great army. But the remembrance of this meeting did serve even then to encourage him, seeing he did consider with himself that there were many godly brethren at Rome, but they were weak, and that he was sent to strengthen them. And there is no cause why we should marvel that Paul was emboldened at this present when he saw the brethren, because he did hope that the confession his faith would yield no small fruit. For so often as God showeth to his servants any fruit of their labor, he doth, as it were, prick them forward with a goad, that they may proceed more courageously in their work.
16. The centurion delivered the prisoners. Luke doth signify that Paul had more liberty granted him than the rest; for his condition and estate was peculiar. For he was suffered to dwell in an house by himself, having one keeper with him, whereas the rest were shut up in the common prison. For the general captain 670 knew by Festus’ report that Paul was guiltless; and the centurion, as it is likely, did faithfully rehearse such things as might serve to bring him into favor. Notwithstanding, let us know that God did govern 671 from heaven the bonds of his servant; not only that he might ease him of his trouble, but that the faithful might have freer access unto him. For he would not have the treasure of his faith shut up in prison, but he would have it laid open, that it might enrich many far and wide. And yet Paul was not so at liberty, but that he did always carry a chain. Luke calleth the general captain στρατοπεδαρχης, who was appointed over the army which kept the city, as histories make mention. 672
17. And after three days. Paul’s humanity 673 was wonderful, in that, though he had suffered such cruel injuries of his nation, he studied, notwithstanding, to appease the Jews which are at Rome, and he excuseth himself to them, lest they hate his cause, because they hear that the priests do hate him. He might well have excused himself before men, if he passed over these Jews and turned himself to the Gentiles. For though he had continually, in divers places, essayed to bring them to Christ, yet they were more and more nettled and moved; 674 and yet he had omitted nothing, neither in Asia, nor in Greece, neither at Jerusalem, which might mitigate their fury. Therefore, all men would have justly pardoned him, if he had let those alone whom he had so often tried [experienced] to be of desperate pride. 675 But because he knew that his Master was given of his Father to be the minister of the Jews, to fulfill the promises whereby God had adopted to himself the seed of Abraham to be his people; he looketh unto the calling of God, and is never weary. He saw that he must remain at Rome, seeing he had liberty granted to teach, he would not that they should be deprived of the fruit of his labor. Secondly, he would not have them moved through hatred of his cause to trouble the Church; because a small occasion might have caused great destruction. Therefore, Paul meant to beware, lest, according to their wonted madness, they should set all on fire. 676
I have done nothing against the people. These two things might have made the Jews hate him; either because he should have done hurt to the commonwealth of his nation, as some runagates did increase their bondage, which was too cruel, through their treachery; or because he should have done somewhat against the worship of God; for though the Jews were grown out of kind, 677 and religion was depraved and corrupted among them with many errors, yet the very name of the law and the worship of the temple were greatly reverenced. Furthermore, Paul denieth not but that he did freely omit those ceremonies whereto the Jews were superstitiously tied; yet he cleareth himself of the crime of revolting whereof he might be suspected. Therefore, understand those ordinances of the fathers, whereby the children of Abraham, and the disciples of Moses ought, according to their faith, to have been distinguished from the rest of the Gentiles. And surely in that he did cleave so holily to Christ, who is the soul and perfection of the law, he is so far from impairing the ordinances of the fathers, that none did better observe the same.
19. I was enforced to appeal. This appeal was full of hatred and envy for this cause, because the authority and liberty of the Jewish nation did seem to be sore opprest, who could have been content to have lived with their own laws. Secondly, because his defense was joined with infamy and loss of all the people. Therefore he answereth this objection also, because he was enforced with the stubbornness of his enemies to fly to this fortress [asylum]. For he is excused by necessity, because he had no other way to escape death. And after that he had excused that which was done already, he promiseth that he will so handle his matter hereafter, 678 that he will not labor against the Jews.
20. For the hope of Israel. We must understand much more under these words than Luke expresseth; as we gather out of the answer, where the Jews speak of the sect; to wit, repeating his speech, which Luke omitteth. Therefore Paul intreated of Christ, that it might plainly appear that neither the law nor the temple did profit the Jews anything without him; because the covenant of adoption is grounded in him, and the promise of salvation is in him confirmed. Neither did they doubt but that the restoring of the kingdom did depend upon the coming of the Messias; and even at that time their misery and decay did increase the hope and desire of him. Wherefore Paul saith, for good causes, that he is bound for the hope of Israel. Whereby we be also taught, that no man doth hope aright, but he which looketh unto Christ and his spiritual kingdom; for when he placeth the hope of the godly in Christ, he excludeth all other hopes.
21. But they said unto him, We neither received letters from Judea touching thee, neither did any of the brethren come and show us or speak any evil of thee. 22. But we will hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning that sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere. 23. And when they had appointed him a day, many came to him to his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, and persuaded them of Jesus out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till night. 24. And certain believed those things which were spoken, but certain believed not.
21. Neither by letters. The priests and scribes did not hold their peace, because they were become more gentle towards Paul, or to the end they might spare him; that proceeded rather of contempt, or else of despair, because they neither knew how to oppress him when he was so far from them, and his carrying into Italy was 679 to them instead of a grave. For they did lord it no less carelessly than proudly, so that nobody did trouble them at home. Furthermore, though the Jews come not altogether rightly prepared to hear, yet they show some desire to learn, when as they do not refuse to hear the defense of his doctrine, which is spoken against everywhere. For many do stop the way before themselves with this prejudice, because they cannot abide to hear that which is refused by common judgment, but subscribe to the opinion of other men to the condemning of doctrine which they know not. Nevertheless, this is not without fault (as I said) that they object gainsaying to cause hatred, or to procure evil suspicion; as if it had not been said before by Isaiah, that God should be a stone of offense to all the people. It is uncertain, whether upon the day appointed Paul disputed all the day, or they reasoned one with another; save only, because we may guess, by the circumstance of time, that Paul did not continue speaking still. 680 For he could scarce have framed a speech which could have continued from morning to night. Wherefore I do not doubt, but that after the apostle had briefly expounded the sum of the gospel, he granted liberty to the hearers to propound questions, 681 and did make answer to the questions which were objected to him.
But we must note the state of the disputation, which Luke saith is double. For Paul taught first, after what sort the kingdom of God was amongst them, and principally what manner [of] chief felicity and glory that was which was promised to them, which the prophets do so highly extol. For seeing that many of them did dream of a frail estate of the kingdom of God in the world, and did place the same falsely in idleness, pleasure, and in plenty of present good things, it was necessary that it should be rightly defined, that they might know that the kingdom of God is spiritual, whose beginning is newness of life, and the end thereof blessed immortality and the heavenly glory. Secondly, Paul exhorted them to receive Christ, the author of the promised felicity.
And, again, this second point had two members, for it could not be handled profitably and soundly unless he did expound the office of the promised Redeemer; secondly, unless he did show that he is already given, and that the Son of Mary is he in whom the fathers hoped. It was indeed a common maxim among the Jews, that the Messias should come and restore all things into perfect order.
But Paul labored another point, which was not so well known; that the Messias was promised, who should, with the sacrifice of his death, make satisfaction for the sins of the world; who should reconcile God to men; who should purchase eternal righteousness; who should fashion men after the image of God, being regenerate with his Spirit; who should, finally, make his faithful servants heirs with him of eternal life; and that all those things were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ crucified. He could not intreat of those things; but he must needs call back the Jews from gross and earthly inventions into heaven, and also take away the stumbling-block of the cross, seeing he taught that there was no other way or means whereby we are reconciled with God.
And let us note, that (as Luke doth testify) Paul took all that which he spake of Christ out of the law and prophets. For true religion differeth from all feigned religions, because the word of God alone is the rule thereof. Also the Church of God differeth from all profane sects in this, because it heareth him speak alone, and is governed by his commandment. And now by this we see the agreement that is between the Old and the New Testaments to establish the faith of Christ; secondly, that double profit of the Scripture which the same Paul commendeth in another place, to wit, that it is sufficient as well to instruct those which are willing to learn, as to refute the stubbornness of those which set themselves against the truth (2Ti 3:16; Titus 1:9). Therefore, let those who desire to be wise with sobriety, and to teach others well, appoint themselves these bounds, that they utter nothing but out of the pure fountain of the word. The philosophers deal otherwise, who contend only with reasons, because they have no sound authority, whom the Papists imitate too much, who set apart the oracles of God, and lean only to the inventions of man’s brain, that is, to mere folly.
24. Some believed. Luke declareth that this was at length the success of the disputation, that they did not all profit 682 in the same doctrine. We know that the apostle was endued with such grace of the Spirit, that he ought to have moved stones; and yet he could not, after long disputing and testifying, win all men unto Christ. Wherefore, let us not marvel, if the unbelief of many do at this day resist the plain doctrine of the gospel, and if many remain obstinate, to whom the truth of Christ is no less made manifest than the sun at noon-day. Moreover, those return from Paul blind and blockish, who came unto him willingly, as if they had been desirous to learn. If there were such stubbornness in voluntary hearers, what marvel is it if those refuse Christ with a malicious 683 mind, who swell with pride and malice, [bitterness] and do openly fly and hate the light?
25. And when they could not agree, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias to our fathers, 26. Saying, Go to this people, and say, Ye shall hear with your ears, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive; 27. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull with hearing, and with their eyes they have winked, lest at any time they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and they be converted, and I heal them. 28. Be it known therefore unto you, that this salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and they shall hear it. 29. And when he had said these things, the Jews went out from him, and had great reasoning among themselves. 30. And Paul remained two years full in a thing he had hired for himself, 684 and he received all those which came in unto him, 31. Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus, with all boldness, and no man did let [hinder] him.
25. And when they could not The malice and frowardness of the unfaithful is the cause of this, that Christ, who is our peace, and the only bond of holy unity, is an occasion of dissension, and doth cause those to go together by the ears who were friends before. For, behold, when the Jews come together to hear Paul, they think all one thing; and speak all one thing; they do all profess that they embrace the law of Moses. So soon as they hear the doctrine of reconciliation, there ariseth dissension among them, so that they are divided. 685 And yet for all this we must not think that the preaching of the gospel is the cause of discord; but that privy displeasure, which lurked before in their malicious minds, doth then break out; and as the brightness of the sun doth not color things otherwise than they were, but doth plainly show the difference, which was none so long as it was dark. Therefore, seeing God doth illuminate his elect peculiarly, and faith is not common to all men, let us remember that it cannot be but that, so soon as Christ cometh abroad, there will be a division among men. But then let us call to mind that which Simon foretold of him, that he shall be a sign which shall be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts may be disclosed (Luke 2:34, 35) and that unbelief which striveth against God is the mother of dissension.
After that Paul. At the first he went about to allure them meekly and gently; now, so soon as he espieth their obstinacy, he inveigheth sharply, and doth severely denounce the judgment of God. For the rebellious must be handled thus, whose pride cannot be tamed with plain doctrine. The same order must we keep; we must gently govern those who are apt to be taught and gentle, but we must cite the stubborn unto God’s judgment-seat. Whereas he bringeth in rather the Holy Ghost speaking than the prophet, it maketh to the credit of the oracle. For seeing God requireth that he alone be heard, doctrine cannot otherwise be of authority, than if we know that it did proceed from him, and that it did not issue out of man’s brain. Again, he declareth therewithal that the stubbornness of one age only is not there noted, but that the oracle of the Spirit is extended unto the time to come.
26. Go to this people. This is a notable place, because it is cited six times in the New Testament, (Mt 13:14; Joh 12:40; Ro 11:8; Mr 4:12; Lu 8:10) but because it is brought in elsewhere to another end, we must mark for what purpose Paul applieth it unto the present cause; namely, he meant with this, as with a mallet, to beat in pieces the hardness and frowardness of the wicked, and to encourage the faithful, who were as yet weak and tender, lest the unbelief of others should trouble them.
Therefore, the sum is, that that was fulfilled which was foretold by the prophet, and that, therefore, there is no cause why the reprobate should flatter themselves, or that the faithful should be terrified, as it were, with some new unwonted thing. And though it be certain that this blindness whereof the prophet spake began in his time, yet John showeth that it did properly appertain unto the kingdom of Christ. Therefore, Paul doth fitly apply it unto that contempt of the gospel which he saw; as if he should have said, This is the very same thing which the Holy Ghost foretold in times past by the mouth of Isaiah. And though this place be diversely applied not only by the Evangelists, but also by Paul himself, the show of contrariety is easily put away and answered. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, say that this prophecy was fulfilled when Christ spake by parables unto the people, and did not reveal to them the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. For then the unfaithful heard the voice of God with their outward ears, but they did not profit thereby. John saith in a sense not much unlike to this, that the, Jews were not brought to believe, no, not with many miracles, (Joh 12:37) so that this same prophecy of the prophet was fulfilled.
Therefore, these four agree in this, that it came to pass by the just judgment of God, that the reprobate in hearing should not hear, and in seeing should not see. Now, Paul calleth to mind that which the prophet did testify concerning the Jews, lest any man wonder at their blindness. Furthermore, in the Epistle to the Romans, (Rom. 11:5, 7) he mounteth higher, showing that this is the cause of blindness, because God doth give the light of faith only to the remnant whom he hath chosen freely. And surely it is certain that because the reprobate reject the doctrine of salvation, this cometh to pass through their own malice, and that therefore they themselves are to be blamed. But this next cause doth not let but that the secret election of God may distinguish between men; that those may believe who are ordained to life, and that the other may remain blockish. I will not stand long about the words of the prophet, because I have expounded the same elsewhere. Neither did Paul curiously recite the words which are in the prophet; but did rather apply his words unto his purpose. Therefore, he imputeth that making blind, which the prophet attributeth to the secret judgment of God, to their malice. For the prophet is commanded to stop the eyes of his hearers; and Paul in this place accuseth the unbelieving of his time, because they shut their own eyes. Though he setteth down both things distinctly, that God is the author of their blindness, and that yet, notwithstanding, they shut their own eyes, and become blind of their own accord; as these two things do very well agree together, as we said elsewhere.
In the last remember where it is said, Lest they see with their eyes, or hear with their ears, or understand with their heart; God showeth how clear his doctrine is, to wit, that it is sufficient to lighten all the senses, unless men do maliciously darken themselves; as Paul also teacheth in another place, that his gospel is plain, so that none can be blind in the light thereof, save those who are ordained to destruction, whose eyes Satan hath blinded, (2Co 4:3).
Lest they be converted, and I heal them. By this we gather that the Word of God is not set before all men that they may return to soundness of mind; but that the external voice soundeth in the ears of many, without the effectual working of the Spirit, only that they may be made inexcusable. And here the pride of flesh doth rashly murmur against God; as we see many object, that men are called in vain, yea, absurdly, unless it be in their power to obey; though we see no reason why God appeareth to the blind, and speaketh to the deaf; yet his will alone, which is the rule of all righteousness, ought to be to us instead of a thousand reasons.
In the conclusion, we must note the wholesome effect of the Word of God; namely, the conversion of men, which is not only the beginning of health, but also a certain resurrection from death to life.
28. Therefore be it. Lest the Jews may afterward accuse him of revolting, because he forsaketh the holy stock of Abraham, and goeth to the profane Gentiles; he denounceth that which the prophets did so often testify, that the salvation whereof they were the proper, at least the principal 686 heirs, should be translated unto strangers. Notwithstanding, whereas he saith that salvation was sent to the Gentiles, he meaneth, in the second place, to wit, after that the Jews had rejected it, as we have said before more at large (Ac 13:46) Therefore, the sense is, that there is no cause why the Jews should complain if the Gentiles be admitted into the void possession after that they have forsaken it. Neither doth he make faith common to all the Gentiles in general, when he saith that they shall hear. For he had full well tried, that even many of the Gentiles did wickedly resist God, but he setteth so many of the Gentiles as believed against the unbelieving Jews, that he may provoke them unto jealousy; as it is in the Song of Moses (De 32:21). In the mean season, he signifieth that the doctrine which they refuse shall profit others.
29. Having much reasoning. No doubt, the wicked were more nettled because he cited the prophecy against them; for they are so far from waxing meek when they are reproved, that they are more inflamed with fury. This is the reason why they reasoned 687 when they were gone out from Paul, because the more part would not be quiet. But seeing there was such disputing, it appeareth that some did so embrace those things which Paul had spoken, that they doubted not to defend and stoutly to avouch that which they believed. But it is in vain for any man to object thereupon, that the gospel of Christ is the seed of contention, which cometh undoubtedly from man’s pride and waywardness; and assuredly, if we will have peace with God, we must strive against 688 those which contemn him.
30. He received all. The apostle showed an excellent example of constancy, in that he offered himself so willingly to all those which were desirous to hear him. Surely he was not ignorant what great hatred he did purchase; and that this was his best way, if by holding his peace he might appease the hatred of his adversaries. For a man being desirous to provide for himself alone would not have done thus; but because he remembered that he was no less the servant of Christ, and a preacher of the gospel, when he was in prison, than if he had been at liberty, he thought it was not lawful for him to withdraw himself from any which was ready to learn, lest he should foreslow [neglect] the occasion which was offered him by God, and therefore he did more regard the holy calling of God than his own life. And that we may know that he did incur danger willingly, Luke doth shortly after expressly commend his boldness, as if he should say, that setting all fear aside, he did faithfully obey the commandment of God, neither was he terrified with any danger, 689 but did proceed to take pains with whomsoever he met.
Preaching the kingdom of God. He doth not separate the kingdom of God, and those things which belong to Christ, as diverse things, but doth rather add the second thing by way of exposition, that we may know that the kingdom of God is grounded and contained in the knowledge of the redemption purchased by Christ. Therefore, Paul taught that men are strangers 690 and foreigners from the kingdom of God, until having their sins done away they be reconciled to God, and be renewed into holiness of life by the Spirit; and that the kingdom of God is then erected, and doth then flourish among them, when Christ the Mediator doth join them to the Father, having both their sins freely forgiven them, and being also regenerate unto righteousness, that beginning the heavenly life upon earth, they may always have a longing desire to come to heaven, where they shall fully and perfectly enjoy glory. Also, Luke setteth forth a singular benefit of God, in that Paul had so great liberty granted him. For that came not to pass through the winking and dissimulation of those who could hinder it, seeing they did detest religion, but because the Lord did shut their eyes. Wherefore, it is not without cause that Paul himself doth boast that the Word of God was not bound with his bonds (2Ti 2:9).
“Sine exceptione,” without exception, omitted,
“De hominibus ignotis,” of persons unknown.
“In umbra et extra teli jacturam,” in the shade, and out of bowshot.
“Pestiferum,” pestiferous, deadly.
“Omni infamiae genere,” every kind of infamy.
“Ad inferos,” to the dead.
“Tristium rerum,” of gloomy affairs.
“Subinde,” ever and anon.
“Ad docilitatem,” to docility.
“Nam quam difficilis et lenta sit dysenteriae curatio,” for since the cure of dysentery is slow and difficult.
“Fabulati,” they fabled.
“Oblique... trajecerint,” they made an indirect passage.
“Praefectus,” the praefect.
“Praefectum praetorio cujus illud officium fuisse ex historiis satis notum est,” praefect of the praetorium, to whom it is well known from history that office belonged.
“Pervicaciae,” obstinacy and petulance.
“Pessimi incendii faces essent,” they should be torches to kindle a very bad fire.
“Ita causam suam acturum,” will so plead his cause.
“Videri poterat,” might seem.
“Uno tenore,” without stopping.
“Vicissim,” in their turn.
“In suo conducto,” in his hired room.
“In diversas partes,” into different parties.
“Bellare necesse est,” we must of necessity war with.
“Ullis difficultatibus,” by any difficulties.