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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 36: Acts, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Acts 12:12-19

12. And, considering, he came into the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered and praying. 13. And when Peter had knocked at the entry-door, a maid came out to hearken, named Rhoda. 14. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the door for joy, but running in, she told that Peter stood without. 15. But they said to her, Thou art mad. But she affirmed more vehemently that it was so. But they said, It is his angel. 16. But. Peter continued knocking: when they had opened, they saw him, and they were astonished. 17. But after that he had beckoned to them with the hand, that they should hold their peace, he told them how God had brought him out of prison. And he said, Tell James and the brethren these things. And he departed thence, and went into another place. 18. After that it was day, there was no small ado amongst the soldiers, what was become of Peter. 19. And when Herod had sought him, and could not find him, so soon as he knew the matter, he commanded the keepers to be carried away, [executed.]


12. Into the house of Mary It appeareth that she was a matron of rare godliness, whose house was, as it were, a certain temple of God, where the brethren did use to meet together. And Luke saith that there were many assembled there, because, seeing they could not all meet together in one place without fear of some tumult, they came together in diverse places of the city in companies, as they could conveniently. For, doubtless, there were other companies gathered together elsewhere, because it is not to be thought that (at such times as many of the faithful did give themselves to prayer) the apostles were not in like sort occupied, and one house could not hold so many. And we must always mark the circumstance of time, because, even in the heat of the enemy’s cruelty, the godly were, notwithstanding, assembled together. For if, at any time, this exercise be profitable, then is it most necessary when hard conflicts approach.

15. When he did knock at the gate. Whereas they think that the maid is mad, which telleth them that Peter was come; we gather by this, that they did not hope or look for Peter’s deliverance, and yet we will not say that they prayed without faith; because they looked for some other success, to with that Peter being armed with power from heaven, should be ready, whether it were by life or death, to glorify God,  759 that the flock being terrified with the violent invasion of wolves might not be scattered abroad, that those that were weak might not faint, that the Lord would put away that whirlwind of persecution. But in that the Lord granteth them more than they hoped for, he surpasseth their desires with his infinite goodness. And now that which was done seemeth to them incredible, that they may be the more provoked to praise his power.

It is his angel. They call him his angel, who was by God appointed to be his keeper and the minister of his safety. In which sense Christ saith that the angels of little ones do always see the face of his Father, (Mt 18:10.) And what do they gather hence commonly? that every particular man hath a particular angel, which taketh charge of him; but it is too weak. For the Scripture doth sometimes testify (Ex 14:10) that there is one angel given to a great people, and to one man only a great host. For Elizeus [Elisha] his servant had his eyes opened, so that he saw in the air chariots of fire, which were appointed to defend the prophet, (2Ki 6:17.) And in Daniel there is but one angel of the Persians, and one of the Grecians named, (Dan. 10:5, 12.) Neither doth the Scripture promise to every man a certain and peculiar angel, but rather that the Lord hath charged his angels to keep all the faithful, (Ps 91:11;) also that they pitch their tents about the godly, (Ps 34:8.) Therefore, that vain surmise which is common touching the two angels of every man is profane. Let this be sufficient for us, that the whole host of heaven doth watch for the safety of the Church; and that as necessity of time requireth sometimes one angel, sometimes more do defend us with their aid. Assuredly, this is inestimable goodness of God, in that he saith that the angels, who are the beams of his brightness, are our ministers.

17. Tell James and the brethren: By brethren I understand not every one that was of the Church but the apostles and elders. For though it were requisite that the miracle should be made known to all, yet will Peter worthily for honor’s sake, have his fellows in office to be certified thereof. Ecclesiastical writers after Eusebius report that this James was one of the disciples; but forasmuch as Paul reckoneth him in the number of the three pillars of the Church, (Ga 2:9,) I do not think that a disciple was advanced to that dignity, and the apostles set aside. Wherefore, I do rather conjecture, that this was James the son of Alpheus, whose holiness was such, that it caused the Jews to wonder at it. And there be two reasons for which Peter would have this joyful message brought unto the brethren; to wit, that he might rid them of that care which did vex them; secondly, that they might be encouraged with such an example of God’s goodness to be the more bold. Whereas he passeth into another place, I think it was done for this cause, because, forasmuch as the house was well known and famous, because many of the brethren resorted thither, he might lie hid elsewhere with less danger. Therefore, he sought a place which was not so much suspected of the enemy, and that he might not only save himself, but also his hostess and others.

18. When it was day. Luke returneth now unto Herod and the soldiers; and he saith that there was no small ado amongst them. For they could not suspect that Peter was taken from them by violence, or that he was escaped by some subtle shift. Herod examineth the matter afterward as a judge; but when as he perceived that the soldiers were in no fault, he himself is also enforced to be a witness of the deliverance wrought by God. Whereas he commandeth them to be carried out of his sight, or to be carried to prison, we may thereby gather, that their faithfulness and diligence were approved and seen; for if there had been any suspicion of negligence, there was punishment prepared for them; but the cause why he doth not let them go free was partly rage, mixed with tyrannous cruelty, and partly shamefacedness. Though some expound it otherwise, that he commanded that they should be punished forthwith.  760 And whether, being angry, he delivered them to the hangman, or he was content to punish them with perpetual imprisonment, it is assuredly an excellent example of blindness, that whereas he ought to perceive the power of God, yea, though his eyes were shut, yet doth he not bend, neither doth he wax more meek, but proceedeth to resist God of obstinate malice. Thus doth Satan deprive the wicked of understanding, that in seeing they see not; and the Lord, by smiting them with this horrible amazedness, doth justly revenge himself and his Church.



Christi nomen,” the name of Christ.


Extemplo ad Supplicium rapi,” that they should he immediately dragged off to execution.

Next: Acts 12:19-25