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Acts 20:33-38

33. I have desired no man’s silver, or gold, or raiment. 34. Yea, ye yourselves know how that these hands have ministered to my necessity, and to those which were with me. 35. I have showed you all things, that so laboring you must receive the weak, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus; because he said, It is a blessed thing rather to give than take. 36. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. 37. And there arose great weeping among them all; and, falling upon Paul’s neck, they kissed him, 38. Sorrowing most for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they brought him to the ship.


33. I have not. As he showed of late what an hurtful plague ambition is; so now he showeth that they must beware of covetousness, [avarice] and he maketh himself an example again, even in this point, that he did covet no man’s goods; but did rather get his living with the work of his hands. Not that it was sufficient to find him without some help, but because in applying his handy-work, he spared the churches, that he might not be too chargeable to them, so much as in him lay. We must note, that he doth not only deny that he did take anything violently, as hungry fellows do importunately wring out preys oftentimes, but also he affirmeth that he was clean from all wicked desire. Whence we gather, that no man can be a good minister of the word, but he must also contemn money. And surely we see that nothing is more common, than that those corrupt the word of God, to win the favor of men, who are altogether filthily given to get gain. Which vice Paul doth sharply condemn in bishops elsewhere, (1 Timothy 3:3).

34. Yea, ye know He doth not, in these words, precisely set down a law which all the ministers of the word must needs keep; for he did not behave himself so loftily and lordlike, that he did take that away which the Lord had granted to his servants, but doth rather in many places maintain their right, which is, that they be maintained with that which is common, Matthew 10:10; 1 Corinthians 9:14; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17; Philippians 4:10, 16; 2 Corinthians 11:8. Whereunto belongeth that, that he suffered many churches to minister unto him food and raiment. Neither did he only freely receive wages for the work which he did in any place of those who were there, but when he was in necessity at Corinth, he saith that he robbed other churches to relieve his poverty. Therefore, he doth not simply command pastors to maintain their life with their handy-work, but immediately after he declareth how far forth he exhorteth them to follow his example. Those men of Corinth did not deny him that which was due to him; 448448     “Non negabant illi Corinthii debitam mercedem,” those Corinthians did not deny that hire was due to him. but seeing that the false apostles did boast that they did their work freely, and get thereby praise among the people; Paul would not be behind them in this point, nor give them any occasion to accuse him falsely; as he himself affirmeth (1 Corinthians 9:15, and 2 Corinthians 11:10). Therefore, he warneth that there be no stumbling-block laid in the way of the weak, and that their faith be not overthrown. For to receive the weak, importeth as much as somewhat to bear with their rudeness and simplicity, as it is (Romans 14:1).

And to remember. We read this sentence in no place word for word; but the Evangelists have other not much unlike this, out of which Paul might gather this. Again, we know that all the sayings of Christ were not written; and he repeateth that general doctrine of the contempt of money; whereof this is a true token, when a man is more bent to give than to take. Neither did Christ speak only politicly, 449449     “Politice,” of what was politic. as if those who are liberal are therefore blessed, because they bind other men unto them with their benefits, and it is a kind of bondage to owe anything; but he had respect unto an higher thing, because, he which giveth to the poor lendeth unto the Lord, (Proverbs 19:17) that those be faithful and good stewards of God, who impart to their brethren some of that plenty which they have lent them; that men draw nearer unto God in nothing than in liberality. We do also read these titles of liberality in profane authors; and a good part of the world confess that these things are true, but they consent (as it is in the proverb) with ass’s ears. For the common life doth show how few be persuaded that nothing ought more to be wished, than that we bestow our goods to help our brethren. For which cause the disciples of Christ must more studiously think upon this felicity, that abstaining so much as in them lieth, from that which is another man’s, they accustom themselves to give. And yet they must not do this with an haughty heart, as if it were a miserable thing for them to be in any man’s danger; 450450     “Ipsos cuiquam esse obnoxios,” that they themselves should be subjected (under obligation) to any one. either through ambition, that they may bind other men to them; but only that they may exercise themselves willingly in the duties of love, and by this means make known the grace of their adoption.

36. And kneeling down. The inward affection is indeed the chiefest thing in prayer; yet the external signs, as kneeling, uncovering of the head, lifting up of the hands, have a double use; the first is, that we exercise all our members to the glory and worship of God; secondly, that by this exercise our sluggishness may be awakened, as it were. There is also a third use in solemn and public prayer, because the children of God do by this means make profession of their godliness, and one of them doth provoke another unto the reverence of God. And, as the lifting up of the hands is a token of boldness 451451     “Fiduciae,” confidence. and of an earnest desire, so, to testify our humility, we fall down upon our knees. But he sealeth up and concludeth that sermon which he made before with prayer; because we can hope for no profit of our doctrine, save only from the blessing of God. Wherefore, if we be desirous to do any good by teaching, admonishing, and exhorting, let us always end after this sort; to wit, with prayer.

37. Great weeping. No marvel if all the godly did entirely love this holy man. for it had been a point of too gross unthankfulness to despise him whom the Lord had so beautified with so many excellent gifts. And the chief cause of their weeping was, as Luke noteth, because they should see him no more. For they did bewail their own condition, and the condition of all the whole church of Asia, not in vain, which they saw to be deprived of an inestimable treasure. And when the Spirit commendeth their tears by the mouth of Luke, as witnesses of sincere godliness, he condemneth the rashness of those who require at the hands of the faithful hard and cruel constancy. For that is false whereof they dream that those affections proceed only of corruption, which we have naturally from God. Wherefore, the perfection of the faithful consisteth not in this, that they put off all affections; but that they be moved therewith only for just causes, and that they may moderate the same.

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