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Peter and John before the Council


While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, 2much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. 3So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.

5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11This Jesus is

‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;

it has become the cornerstone.’

12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. 14When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. 16They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. 17But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. 22For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.

The Believers Pray for Boldness

23 After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:

‘Why did the Gentiles rage,

and the peoples imagine vain things?


The kings of the earth took their stand,

and the rulers have gathered together

against the Lord and against his Messiah.’

27 For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). 37He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

1. And as they spoke Hereby it appeareth how watchful the wicked be, because they are always ready at an inch to stop the mouth of the servants of Christ. And, undoubt edly, they came together, as it were, to quench some great fire; which thing Luke signifieth, when as he saith that the ruler or captain of the temple came also; and he addeth, moreover, that they took it grievously that the apostles did teach. Therefore, they came not upon them by chance, but of set purpose, that, according to their authority, they might restrain the apostles, and put them to silence. And yet they have some show of law and equity; for if any man did rashly intrude himself, it was the office of the high priest to repress him; and also in like sort, to keep the people in the obedience of the law and the prophets, and to prevent all new doctrines. Therefore, when they hear unknown men, and such as had no public authority, preaching unto the people in the temple, they seem, according as their office did require, and they were commanded by God, to address themselves to remedy this. And surely, at the first blush, it seemeth that there was nothing in this action worthy of reprehension, but the end doth at length declare that their counsel was wicked, and their affection ungodly.

Again, it was a hard matter for the apostles to escape infamy and reproach, because they, being private and despised persons, did take upon them public authority; to wit, because, when things are out of order, many things must be essayed to [against] the common custom, and especially, when we are to avouch and defend religion and the worship of God, and the ringleaders themselves do stop all ways, and do abuse that office against God, which was committed unto them by God. The faithful champions of Christ must swallow up and pass through this ignominy in [under] Popery. For a thousand summers will go over their heads before any reformation or amendment will wax ripe amongst them for the better. Therefore, Luke standeth upon this point, when as he saith that they were grieved because the resurrection was preached in the name of Christ. For hereupon it followeth that they did hate the doctrine before they knew the same. He expresseth the Sadducees by name, as those which were more courageous 202202     “Animosiores,” more zealous. in this cause. For they were almost [usually] a part of the priests; but because the question is about the resurrection, they set themselves against the apostles more than the rest. Furthermore, this was most monstrous confusion amongst the Jews, in that this sect, which was profane, was of such authority. For what godliness could remain, when as the immortality of the soul was counted as a fable, and that freely? But men must needs run headlong after this sort, when they have once suffered pure doctrine to fall to the ground amongst them. Wherefore, we must so much the more diligently beware of every wicked turning aside, lest such a step do follow immediately.

Some men think that the ruler of the temple was chosen from among the priests, but I do rather think that he was some chief captain of the Roman army; for it was a place which was fortified both naturally and artificially. Again, Herod had built a tower there, which was called Antonia; so that it is to be thought that he had placed there a band of soldiers, and that the Roman captain had the government of the temple, lest it should be a place of refuge for the Jews, if they had stirred up any tumult, which we may likewise gather out of Josephus. And this agreeth very well, that the enemies of Christ did crave the help of the secular power, under color of appeasing some tumult. In the mean season, they seek favor at the hands of the Romans, as if they were careful to maintain the right of their empire.

4. And many of them which heard The apostles are put in prison, but the force of their preaching is spread far and wide, and the course thereof is at liberty. Of which thing Paul boasteth very much, that the Word of God is not bound with him, (2 Timothy 2:9.) And here we see that Satan and the wicked have liberty granted them to rage against the children of God; yet can they not (maugre their heads 203203     “Omnia machinando,” by all their machinations. ) prevail, but that God doth further and promote the kingdom of his Son; Christ doth gather together his sheep; and that a few men unarmed, furnished with no garrisons, do show forth more power in their voice alone, than all the world, by raging against them. This is, indeed, no common work of God, that one sermon brought forth such plentiful fruit; but this is the more to be wondered at, that the faithful are not terrified with the present danger, and discouraged from taking up the cross of Christ together with the faith. For this was a hard beginning for novices. Christ did more evidently declare by this efficacy and force of doctrine that he was alive, than if he should have offered his body to be handled with hand, and to be seen with the eyes. And whereas it is said that the number of those which believed did grow to be about five thousand, I do not understand it of those which were newly added, but of the whole church.

5. It is a thing worthy to be noted in this place, that the wicked do omit no subtilty that they may blot out the gospel and the name of Christ, and yet do they not obtain that which they hoped for; because God doth make their counsels frustrate. For they make an assembly, wherein they do all things so tyrannously, that yet, notwithstanding, lust beareth a show of right, and liberty is driven far away, and at length the truth may seem to be condemned by good right. But the Lord bringeth upon them a sudden fear, so that they dare not do that which they can, and which they do most of all desire. Whatsoever the apostles shall bring in defense of their cause, that shall remain buried and shut up with the walls, where there is none which doth bear them any favor. And therefore there is no place left for the truth. Yet we see how the Lord bringeth their counsel to nought, whilst that being kept back with fear of the people, they stay themselves and bridle their fury, to the end they may avoid envy. But I marvel much why Luke doth make Annas the highest priest in this place, seeing that it appeareth by Josephus, that this honor was not taken from Caiaphas until Vitellius had entered Jerusalem to bear rule, after that Pilate was commanded to depart unto Rome. All men grant that the Lord was crucified in the eighteenth year of Tiberius. And that empire [the reign of Tiberius] did continue four years longer. And it must needs be, that there were three years complete, after the death of Christ, before Pilate was put from the office of the pro-consul. For when Tiberius was dead he came to Rome; so that Caiaphas was high priest yet three years after the death of Christ. Wherefore it is to be thought, that that whereof Luke speaketh in this place did not happen immediately after the resurrection of Christ; although the doubt cannot thus be answered. 204204     “Quanquam nec sic quidem soluta erit tota difficultas,” although not even in this way will the whole difficulty be solved. For Josephus reporteth, that Jonathas was chosen into the place of Caiaphas; but because this Jonathas was the son of Annas, it is a thing not unlike to be true, that the son was called by the name of the father; as Caiaphas also had two names; for they did also call him Joseph.

7. In what power They do yet seem to have some zeal of God. For they feign that they are careful that the honor due unto God may not be given to any other. Name is taken in this place for authority. In sum, they deal as if they were most earnest defenders and maintainers of God’s glory. In the mean season, their importunateness is wonderful, in that they go about to drive the apostles to make denial, by asking many questions concerning a manifest matter, and to wring out by fear some other thing than they had confessed. But God doth bring their crafty wiliness to nought, and maketh them hear that which they would not.

8. Peter, being filled with the Holy Ghost It is not without great cause that Luke addeth this, to the end we may know that Peter spake not with such a majesty of himself. And surely, seeing he had denied his Master, Christ, being afraid at the voice of a silly woman, (Matthew 26:70,) he should have utterly fainted in such an assembly, when he did only behold their pomp, unless he had been upholden by the power of the Spirit. He had great need of wisdom and strength. 205205     “Fortitudine et prudentia,” prudence and fortitude. He excelleth in both these so much, that his answer is indeed divine. He is another manner of man here than he was before. Furthermore, this profiteth us two manner of ways. For this title, or commendation, is of no small force to set forth the doctrine which shall follow immediately, when it is said that it came from the Holy God, [Spirit.] And we are taught to crave at the hands of the Lord the Spirit of wisdom and strength, when we make profession of our faith, to direct our hearts and minds. The fullness of the Spirit is taken for a large and no common measure.

9. If we be judged. Undoubtedly Peter layeth tyranny to the charge of the priests and the scribes, because they examine them unjustly concerning a benefit which deserveth praise, as if he and his fellow had committed some heinous offense. If, saith he, we be accused for this cause, because we have made a sick man whole. Peter hath in this place more respect unto the wicked affection of the mind than unto the very order of the question. For if, under color of a miracle, the apostles would have drawn away the people from the true and sincere worship of God, they should have been worthily called to answer for themselves; because religion doth far excel all the good things of this present life. But seeing they (having no cause at all) did wickedly make an offense of that which they ought to have honored, Peter, being supported with this confidence, doth at the first gird them wittily with a taunting preface, because they sit as judges to condemn good deeds. Yet he toucheth this point but lightly, that he may pass over unto the matter.

10. Be it known unto you. Peter might (as I have already said) have turned aside unto many starting-holes, 206206     “Subterfugia,” subterfuges. if he would not have entered the cause; 207207     “Si noluisset causam ingredi,” if he had been unwilling to enter upon the cause. but because the miracle was wrought, to this end, that the name of Christ might be glorified, he descendeth by and by unto this. For he knew that he was the minister of such excellent power of God, that he might have a seal to confirm his doctrine. In the meanwhile, the wicked, will they, nil they, are enforced to hear that which they would have had buried full deep. When they have done what they can, this is all; they cause Peter to avouch and object to their faces, that wherewith they were so grieved, when it was spoken to others. And, first he maketh Christ the author of the miracle. Secondly, because it seemed to be an absurd and incredible thing, that a dead man should be endued with divine power, he testifieth that Christ is alive, because God hath raised him up from the dead, howsoever they had crucified him. So that the miracle giveth him occasion to preach the resurrection of Christ. And by this testimony Peter meant to prove that he was the true Messias. He saith that they had crucified him, not only to the end he may upbraid this unto them, that they may acknowledge their fault; but also that they may understand that they have in vain striven against God; and so, consequently, cease to rage so unluckily and with such deadly success.

11. This is the stone. He confirmeth by testimony of Scripture that it is no new thing that the ringleaders 208208     “Praesules,” prelates. of the Church, which have glorious titles given them, and have the chief room in the temple of God, have, notwithstanding, wickedly rejected Christ. Therefore he citeth a place out of the 118th Psalm, (Psalm 118:22,) where David complaineth that he is rejected of the captains [leaders] of the people, and yet, notwithstanding, he boasteth that he was chosen of God to have the chief room. Moreover, he compareth the Church, or the state of the kingdom, by an usual metaphor to a building, he calleth those which have the government the masters of the work, 209209     “Architectos,” the architects. and he maketh himself the principal stone, whereon the whole building is stayed and grounded. For that is meant by the head of the corner. Therefore, this is David’s comfort, that howsoever the captains have rejected him, so that they would not grant him even the basest place, yet did not their wicked and ungodly endeavors hinder him from being extolled by God unto the highest degree of honor. But that was shadowed in David which God would have perfectly expressed in the Messias. Therefore Peter dealeth very aptly when as he citeth this testimony, as being spoken before of Christ, as they knew full well that it did agree properly to him. Now we know to what end Peter did cite the Psalm; to wit, lest the elders and priests being unadvisedly puffed up with their honor, should take to themselves authority and liberty to allow or disallow whatsoever they would. For it is evident that the stone refused by the chief builders is placed by God’s own hand in the chief place, that it may support the whole house.

Furthermore, this happeneth not once only, but it must be fulfilled daily; at least it must seem no new thing if the chief builders do even now reject Christ. Whereby the vain boasting of the Pope is plainly refuted, who maketh his boast of the bare title, that he may usurp whatsoever is Christ’s. Admit we grant to the Pope and his horned beasts that which they desire, to wit, that they are appointed to be ordinary pastors of the Church, they can go no farther at length than to be called chief builders with Annas and Caiaphas. And it is evident what account ought to be made of this title, which they think is sufficient to mix heaven and earth together. Now let us gather out of this place some things which are worth the noting. Forasmuch as they are called master-builders who have government of the Church, the name itself putteth them in mind of their duty. Therefore, let them give themselves wholly to the building of the temple of God. And because all men do not their duty faithfully as they ought, let them see what is the best manner of building aright, to wit, let them retain Christ for the foundation; that done, let them not mix straw and stubble in this building, but let them make the whole building of pure doctrine; as Paul teacheth in 1 Corinthians 3:12. Whereas God is said to have extolled Christ, who was rejected of the builders, this ought to comfort us, when as we see even the pastors of the Church, or, at least, those which are in great honor, wickedly rebel against Christ, that they may banish him. For we may safely set light by those visors which they object against us; so that we need not fear to give Christ that humor which God doth give to him. But if he wink for a time, yet doth he laugh at the boldness of his enemies from on high, whilst they rage and fret upon earth. Furthermore, though their conspiracies be strong and well guarded with all aids, yet must we always assure ourselves of this, that Christ’s honor shall remain safe and sound. And let the fruit of this confidence ensue also, that we be valiant and without fear in maintaining the kingdom of Christ, whereof God will be an invincible defender, as he himself affirmeth.

We have already spoken of Peter’s constancy, in that one simple man, having such envious judges, and yet having but one partner in the present danger, showeth no token at all of fear, but doth freely confess in that raging and furious company, that thing which he knew would be received with most contrary minds. And whereas he sharply upbraideth unto them that wickedness which they had committed, we must let [seek] from hence a rule of speech when we have to deal with the open enemies of the truth. For we must beware of two faults on this behalf, that we seem not to flatter by keeping silence or winking; for that were treacherous silence, whereby the truth should be betrayed. Again, that we be not puffed up with wantonness, or immoderate heat as men’s minds do oftentimes break out more than they ought in contention. Therefore, let us use gravity in this point, yet such as is moderate; let us chide freely, yet without all heat of railing. We see that Peter did observe this order. For at the first he giveth an honorable title; when he is once come to the matter he inveigheth sharply against them; neither could such ungodliness as theirs was be concealed. Those which shall follow this example shall not only have Peter to be their guide, but also the Spirit of God.

12. Neither is there salvation in any other. He passeth from the species [salvation] unto the genus, [or more particular,] and he goeth from the corporal benefit unto perfect health, [or general.] And assuredly Christ had showed this one token of his grace, to the end he might be known to be the only author of life. We must consider this in all the benefits of God, to wit, that he is the fountain of salvation. And he meant to prick and sting the priests with this sentence, when as he saith that there is salvation in none other save only in Christ, whom they went about to put quite out of remembrance. 210210     “Extinguere,” to extinguish or annihilate. As if he should say, that they are twice damned who did not only refuse the salvation offered them by God, but endeavor to bring the same to nought, and did take from all the people the fruit and use thereof. And although he seemeth to speak unto deaf men, yet doth he preach of the grace of Christ, if peradventure some can abide to hear; if not, that they may at least be deprived of all excuse by this testimony.

Neither is there any other name He expoundeth the sentence next going before. Salvation (saith he) is in Christ alone, because God hath decreed that it should be so. For by name he meaneth the cause or mean, as if he should have said, forasmuch as salvation is in God’s power only, he will not have the same to be common to us by any other means than if we ask it of Christ alone. Whereas he saith under heaven, they do commonly refer it unto creatures, as if he should say, that the force and power to save is given to Christ alone. Notwithstanding, I do rather think that this was added, because men cannot ascend into heaven, that they may come unto God. Therefore, seeing we are so far from the kingdom of God, it is needful that God do not only invite us unto himself, but that reaching out his hand he offer salvation unto us, that we may enjoy the same. Peter teacheth in this place, that he hath done that in Christ, because he came down into the earth for this cause, that he might bring salvation with him, Neither is that contrary to this doctrine, that Christ is ascended above all heavens, (Ephesians 4:10.) For he took upon him our flesh once for this cause, that he might be a continual pledge of our adoption. He hath reconciled the Father to us for ever by the sacrifice of his death: by his resurrection he hath purchased for us eternal life. And he is present with us now also, that he may make us partakers of the fruit of eternal redemption; but the revealing of salvation is handled in this place, and we know that the same was so revealed in Christ, that we need not any longer to say, “Who shall ascend into heaven?” (Romans 10:6.) And if so be this doctrine were deeply imprinted in the minds of all men, then should so many controversies concerning the causes of salvation be soon at an end, wherewith the Church is so much troubled. The Papists confess with us, that salvation is in God alone, but by and by they forge to themselves infinite ways to attain unto the same. But Peter calleth us back unto Christ alone. They dare not altogether deny that we have salvation given us by Christ; but whilst they feign so many helps, they leave him scarce the hundredth part of salvation. But they were to seek for salvation at the hands of Christ wholly; for when Peter excludeth plainly all other means, he placeth perfect salvation in Christ alone, and not some part thereof only. So that they are far from understanding this doctrine.

13. Here may we see an evil conscience; for being destitute of right and reason, they break out into open tyranny, the hatred whereof they had essayed to escape. Therefore, he doth first declare that they were convict, that it may appear that they did war against God wittingly and willingly like giants. For they see a manifest work of his in the man which was healed, and yet do they wickedly set themselves against him. In as much as they know that Peter and John were men unlearned and ignorant, they acknowledge that there was somewhat more than belongeth to man in their boldness; therefore they are enforced to wonder whether they will or no. Yet they break out into such impudence, that they fear not to seek some tyrannous means to oppress the truth. When as they confess that it is a manifest sign, they condemn themselves therein of an evil conscience. When they say that it is known to all men, they declare that passing over God they have respect unto men only. For they betray their want of shame thereby, that they would not have doubted to turn their back if there had been any color of denial. And when they ask what they shall do, they make their obstinate wickedness known unto all men. For they would have submitted themselves unto God, unless devilish fury had carried them away to some other purpose. This is the spirit of giddiness and madness, therewith God doth make his enemies drunk. So when they hope shortly after that they can by threatenings bring it about, that the same shall go no farther, what can be more foolish? For after they have put two simple men to silence, shall the arm of God be broken?

17. In threatening let us threaten. Here may we see what a deadly evil power void of the fear of God is. For when that religion and reverence which ought doth not reign, the more holy the place is which a man doth possess, the more boldly 211211     “Audacius,” audaciously. doth he rage. For which cause we [should] always take good heed that the wicked be not preferred unto the government of the Church. And those which are called to this function must behave themselves reverently and modestly, lest they seem to be armed to do hurt. But and if it so happen they abuse their honor, the Spirit declareth there, as in a glass, what small account we ought to make of their decrees and commandments. 212212     “Quam pro nihilo ducendum sit quicquid decernunt et jubent,” that whatever they order and decree ought to be held as null. The authority of the pastors hath certain bounds appointed which they may not pass. And if they dare be so bold, we may lawfully refuse to obey them; for if we should, it were in us great wickedness, as it followeth now.

19. Whether it be right. Let us remember to whom they make this answer. For this council did undoubtedly represent the Church; but because they do abuse their authority, the apostles say flatly that they are not to be obeyed. And (as men use to do in an evident matter) they refer over the judgment unto their adversaries for a reproach unto them. Furthermore it is worth the noting, that they set the authority of God against their decrees; which thing should be done out of season, unless they were the enemies of God, who notwithstanding, were otherwise the ordinary pastors of the Church. Moreover, the apostles express a farther thing also to wit, that the obedience which men use toward evil and unfaithful pastors, howsoever they hold the lawful government of the Church, is contrary to God. This question doth the Pope answer pleasantly, 213213     “Hanc quaestionem lepide diremit Papa,” the Pope wittily disposes of this question. because he saith that all those things are divine oracles whatsoever it hath pleased him to blunder out un-advisedly. 214214     “Effutire,” to babble forth. By this means the danger of contrariety is taken away. But the bishops can challenge no more at this day than God had given then to the order of the priests. Therefore, this is a toy too childish, [viz.] that they can command nothing but that which is agreeable to the commandment of God. 215215     “Non posse eos nisi ex Dei mandato praecipere,” that no command can possibly proceed from them without being agreeable to the will of God. Yea, rather the thing itself declareth evidently that there shall be no conflict then if they suffer their vain and unbridled lust to range freely, having vanquished and renounced the doctrine of Christ.

Therefore, by what title soever men be called, yet must we hear them only upon this condition, if they lead us not away from obeying God. So that we must examine all their traditions by the rule of the Word of God. We must obey princes and others which are in authority, yet so that they rob not God (who is the chief King, Father, and Lord) of his right and authority. If we must observe such modesty in politic [civil] government, it ought to be of far more force in the spiritual government of the Church. And lest, according to their wonted pride, they think that their authority is abated, when God is extolled above them, Peter draweth them away from such pleasant flattering of themselves, telling them that this matter must be determined before the judgment-seat of God; for he saith plainly before [in the sight of] God; because, howsoever men be blinded, yet will God never suffer any man to be preferred before him. And surely the Spirit did put this answer in the mouth of the apostles, not only to the end he might repress the furiousness of the enemies, but that he might also teach us what we ought to do, so often as men become so proud, that having shaken off the yoke of God, they will lay their own yoke upon us. Therefore, let us then remember this holy authority of God, which is able to drive away the vain smoke of all man’s excellency.

20. For we cannot Many things which are found out by hearing and seeing may, yea, ought to be concealed, when as the question is concerning the redeeming of peace. For this is a point of discourtesy and of wicked stubbornness to move and raise a tumult about unnecessary matters; but the apostles do not speak generally, when as they say they cannot but speak. For the gospel of Christ is now in hand, wherein consisteth both the glory of God and the salvation of men. It is an unmeet thing, and sacrilegious wickedness, that the same should be suppressed by prohibitions and menacings 216216     “Interdictis,” the interdicts. of men; for God commandeth that his gospel be preached, especially since they did know that they were chosen to be witnesses and preachers of Christ, and that God had opened their mouth. Therefore, whosoever putteth them to silence, he endeavoreth so much as he is able to abolish the grace of God, and fordo [destroy] the salvation of men. And if so be that a prohibition so wicked do stop our mouths, woe be to our sluggishness. Now, let all men see what confession God requireth at their hands, lest, when they keep silence because of men, they hear a fearful voice proceed out of the mouth of Christ, whereby their unfaithfulness shall be condemned. And as for those which are called unto the office of teaching, let them be terrified with no threatenings of men, with no color of authority, but let them execute 217217     “Libere,” freely, omitted. that office which they know is enjoined them by God. Woe be unto me, saith Paul, if I preach not the gospel, because the function is committed unto me, (1 Corinthians 9:10.) Neither ought we only to set this commandment of God against the tyrannous commandments of men, but also against all lets which Satan doth oftentimes thrust in to break off and hinder the course of the gospel. For we have need of a strong buckler to bear off such sore assaults, which all the ministers of Christ do feel; but howsoever we speed, this is a brazen wall, that the preaching of the gospel doth please God, and therefore that it can for no cause be suppressed.

21. And when they had threatened them. And here is the end of sedition, that the wicked cease not to breathe out their fury, yet are they bridled by the secret power of God, so that they cannot tell how to do any hurt. 218218     “Ut illis nocendi via non pateat,” that they have no means of doing harm. How is it that being content with threatenings, they do not also rage against their bodies, save only because the power of God doth bind them as a chain? Not that the fear of God doth prevail with them, for it is the regard of the people alone which hindereth them; but the Lord doth bind them with his bonds, though they be ignorant thereof. Luke commendeth unto us the providence of God in preserving his children; and though it be hidden from the wicked, yet we may behold the same with the eyes of faith, Furthermore, the wonderful counsel of God doth show itself here, in that the glory of Christ is furthered by those which are his most deadly enemies. For whereas the priests do assemble themselves together, it is not done without great rumor. All men wait for some rare and singular event; the apostles depart, being let loose and acquitted. Therefore, the adversaries are not only vanquished, but they confirm the gospel against their will. Notwithstanding, it is expedient for us to mark again, that the faithful do so get the victory, that they are always humbled under the cross. For they are threatened again, and straitly charged, that they teach not henceforth in the name of Christ. Therefore, they do not so get the upper hand that they do not triumph, save only under the reproach of the cross. Whereas Luke saith that they did all glorified God, he noteth the fruit of the miracle now the second time, although it may be that they were not all brought unto the perfect end. For that man which is touched with the feeling of the power of God, and doth not come unto Christ, neither hath his faith confirmed by the miracle he stayeth, as it were, in the midway. Yet this was some thing, though not all, that the power of God was acknowledged in the healing of the man, so that the adversaries being ashamed, did cease off from their fury, or at least give back a little.

23. Furthermore when they were let go. It shall appear by and by to what end they declared to the other disciples what things had befallen them, to wit, that they might be the more emboldened and encouraged by the grace of God hereafter; secondly, that they might arm themselves with prayer against the furious threatenings of their enemies; and thus must the children of God do, one must prick forward another, and they must join hand in hand, that they may vanquish the common adversary fighting under Christ’s banner. They consider 219219     “Reputent,” let them consider. with themselves what dangers hang over their heads, to the end they may be the more ready to enter 220220     “Obcundis,” to obviate or face them. the same, although they see their enemies press sore upon them; yet lest it should grieve them 221221     “Ne pigeat,” let it not grieve them. to have a new combat ever now and then, they assure 222222     “Confidant,” let them confide. themselves that they shall be invincible 223223     “Semper inexpugnabiles,” always invincible. through the same power of God whereby they got the victory before. And it is to be thought (although Luke makes no mention thereof) that the apostles being contented with their former answer, did not contend with those furies, [furious men;] and yet we must persuade ourselves that they were not so forgetful of their former constancy that they did submit themselves unto their ungodly decree like slaves. 224224     “Ut serviliter excipient,” as servilely to submit.

We are taught by this example what is our duty to do when our adversaries do imperiously threaten us; for we must not carelessly laugh in time of danger, but the fear of danger ought to drive us to crave help at the hands of God, and this is a remedy to comfort and set us up on foot, lest, being terrified with threatenings, we cease off from doing our duty. Here is a double fruit of this history, that the disciples of Christ do not jest when they hear that their enemies do threaten them so sore and press so sore upon them, as careless and sluggish men use to do; but being touched with fear, they fly to seek help at the hands of God; and again, they are not terrified, neither yet do they conceive any immoderate fear; 225225     “Qui eos ab efficio abducat,” which might draw them off from their duty. but crave of God 226226     “Eniti,” struggle after. invincible constancy with right godly petitions.

24. Thou art God, which hast created. Although this title and commendation of God’s power be general, yet it ought to be referred unto the present matter, for they do in such sort acknowledge the power of God in the creation of the whole world, that they apply the same therewithal unto the present use. In like sort, the prophets do oftentimes commend the same, to the end they may redress that fear which troubleth us when we behold the power of our enemies; secondly, they add thereunto the promise, and they make these two foundations of their boldness whereby they are emboldened to pray. And surely our prayers are such as they ought to be, and acceptable to God only then, when as staying ourselves upon his promises and power, we pray with certain hope to obtain that for which we pray, for we cannot otherwise have any true confidence unless God do will us to come unto him, and promise that he is ready to help us; and, secondly, unless we acknowledge that he is able enough to help us; wherefore let the faithful exercise themselves in this double meditation so often as they address themselves unto prayer. Furthermore, we gather hereby after what sort we ought to consider the creation of the world; to wit, that we may know that all things are subject to God, and ruled by his will, and when that the world hath done what it can, there shall no other thing come to pass but that which God hath decreed; yea, that the wantonness of the wicked is monstrous, as if the clay should resist the potter; for this is the meaning of the faithful generally, that whatsoever dangers hang over their heads, yet can God prevent the same infinite ways, forasmuch as all things are in his hand, and that he is able to make all the parts of heaven and earth (which he hath created) to obey him.

25. Who by the mouth of David. They descend now into the second member, that they ask nothing but that which God hath promised to perform, so that his will and power are joined together, to the end they may fully assure themselves that they shall obtain their requests; and because the kingdom of Christ is now in hand, they make rehearsal of the promise of God, wherein he promiseth to defend and maintain the same, so that when the whole world hath done what it can to overthrow it, yet all shall be in vain; and herein their godliness and sincere zeal, in that they are not so much careful for their own safety, as for the increasing and advancement of the kingdom of Christ.

Why have the Gentiles raged? We must need confess that David speaketh of himself, who after he was chosen king by the Lord, and anointed by Samuel the prophet, did enjoy the kingdom very hardly, 227227     “Per summas difficultates regno potitus est,” came to the kingdom through the greatest difficulties. because his enemies withstood him on every side. We know how the rulers and people conspired together with Saul and his family; after that the Philistines, and other strange enemies, despising him when he came newly to the crown, made war against him, striving who should begin first, wherefore it is not without cause that he complaineth that the kings rage and take counsel together, and that the people do go about divers things; nevertheless, because he knew that God was the supporter of his kingdom, he derideth their foolish enterprises, and affirmeth that they are vain; but because his kingdom was established, that it might be a figure or image of the kingdom of Christ, David doth not stay still in the shadow itself; but he apprehendeth the body, yea, the Holy Ghost, as the apostles do truly repeat the same, doth sharply reprove the foolish and ridiculous madness of the world, in that they dare invade the kingdom of Christ which God had esta-blished, as well in the person of David as of Christ himself. And this is a singular comfort, in that we hear that God is on our side, so long as we go on warfare under the kingdom of Christ. Hereby we may persuade ourselves, that howsoever all men, both high and low do wickedly conspire together against this kingdom, yet shall they not prevail, for what is all the whole world compared with God? But we must first of all know and assure ourselves of this, that God will continually maintain the kingdom of his Son, whereof he himself is the author, so that we may set his decree (which shall not be broken) against the rashness of men, that trusting to the help of his hand, we may not doubt to despise all the preparation and furniture of men, though they be terrible; and he doth diligently express how great the bands of the adversaries are; he saith, that they attempt all things, he doth also reckon up their counsels, lest any of these do terrify us. Furthermore, when as the Psalm teacheth, that the kingdom of Christ shall endure, maugre the heads of the adversaries, it doth also show that there shall be many adversaries, which shall endeavor to overthrow the same. On the one side, he bringeth in the kings raging, on the other, the people all out of quiet, 228228     “Tumultuantes,” in tumult. whereby he signifieth that all estates shall be offended at it; 229229     “Infensos illi,” hostile to it. and no marvel, because nothing is more contrary to the flesh than the spiritual sword of the gospel wherewith Christ killeth us, that he may make us obey him, (Romans 15:16.) Therefore, we must know this for a surety, that the kingdom of Christ shall never be quiet in the world, lest when we are to fight, we be afraid as at some strange thing.

26. Against the Lord, and his Christ. The Spirit teacheth by this word, that all those do make war against God which refuse to submit themselves to Christ; they do full little think this oftentimes, notwithstanding it is so that because God will reign in the person of his Son alone, we refuse to obey him so often as we rebel against Christ, as the Lord himself saith in John, “He which honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father.” Wherefore let the hypocrites profess a thousand times that they mean nothing less than to make war against God, yet shall they find this true, that God is their open enemy, unless they embrace Christ with his gospel. The use of this doctrine is double, for it armeth us against all the terrors of the flesh, because we must not fear, lest they get the victory of God which withstand the gospel. Again, we must beware, lest, through the contempt of godly doctrine, we advance ourselves against God to our own destruction.

27 Have met together in this city. They declare that this prophecy was proved to be true by the event, to the end they may believe the same more assuredly, for the sense is, Lord, thou hast spoken it and we have in truth tried [experienced] the same to be true; and they call to mind that which was done four years before, or thereabout. In like sort, it is expedient for us to apply the events of things which are foretold to the confirmation of our faith; but because it might seem that the matter fell out far otherwise then than the Psalm pronounceth, forasmuch as they raged not in vain, neither were the assaults of the enemies frustrate when they had put Christ to death; and their violence went further afterwards after a fearful manner. The faithful remove this offense, and say that the enemies could do no more than God had appointed; therefore, howsoever the wicked did suppose that Christ was quite taken away by death, and did now vainly triumph, yet the faithful confess that their rage was all but vain. But here may a question be moved, why he calleth them the Gentiles and people of Israel, seeing there was but one body? I think that the diversity of countries is noted in this place, out of which the Jews came together to the feast, as if they should have said, that the Jews which were born in divers places, having made, as it were, a concourse, did assault the kingdom of Christ, yet was their fury frustrate and of none effect.

Thy holy Son Jesus. The Grecians use the very same word which I translated even now, servant, when mention was made of David, for they call [πᾶιδα] sometimes a servant sometimes a son; and David is so called, because he was the minister of God, as well in ruling the people as in the office of a prophet; but this word, son, agreeth better with the person of Christ, unless some man had liefer take it thus, that Luke meant to allude unto that likelihood [resemblance] which David had with Christ when he setteth down a word of a double signification. It is expressly said, that God hath anointed his Son, that that may truly agree to him which is in the Psalm, for in anointing him God made him a King, and yet we must note therewithal what anointing this was, for we know that he was not anointed with visible oil, but with the Holy Ghost.

28. That they might do. I have already declared to what end this is spoken; that the kingdom of Christ was so far from being overrun by that conspiracy, that in truth it did then flourish. Notwithstanding herein is contained a singular doctrine, that God doth so govern and guide all things by his secret counsel, that, he doth bring to pass those things which he hath determined, even by the wicked. Not that they are ready willingly to do him such service, but because he turneth their counsels and attempts backward; so that on the one side appeareth great equity and most great righteousness; on the other appeareth nought but wickedness and iniquity. Which matter we have handled more at large in the second chapter. Let us learn here, by the way, that we must so consider the providence of God, that we know that it is the chief and only guider of all things which are done in the world, that the devil and all the wicked are kept back with God’s bridle, lest they should do us any harm; that when they rage fastest, yet are they not at liberty to do what they list, but have the bridle given them, yet so far forth as is expedient to exercise us. Those men which do acknowledge the foreknowledge of God alone, and yet confess not that all things are done as it pleaseth him, are easily convict by these words, That God hath appointed before that thing to be done which was done. Yea, Luke being not contented with the word counsel, addeth also hand, improperly, yet to the end he might the more plainly declare that the events of things are not only governed by the counsel of God, but that they are also ordered by his power and hand.

29. And now O Lord. They do very well extend that unto themselves which they cited concerning Christ; because he will not, be separated from the gospel; yea, what trouble so ever befalleth his members, he applieth that to his own person. And they crave at God’s hands that he will beat down the cruelty of the adversaries; yet not so much for their own sake that they may live quietly and without vexation, as that they may have liberty to preach the gospel in all places. Neither was it for them to desire a life which they might spend idly, having forsaken their calling. For they add, “Grant unto thy servants, O Lord, that they may speak boldly.” And by the way we must note this speech, that the Lord would behold their threatenings. For seeing it belongeth properly to him to resist the proud, and to throw down their lofty looks; the more proudly they brag and boast, the more do they undoubtedly provoke God to be displeased with them, and it is not to be doubted but that God, being offended with such indignity and cruelty, will redress the same. So Ezechias, to the end he may obtain help in extremity, declareth before the Lord the arrogancy of Sennacherib and his cruel threatenings, (Isaiah 37:14 and 17.) Wherefore let the cruelty and reproaches of our enemies rather stir up in us a desire to pray, than any whit discourage us from going forward in the course of our office.

30. Grant unto thy servants. Seeing that one miracle had stinged the enemy so sore how is it that these holy men do desire to have new miracles done daily? Therefore we gather that hence which I have already touched, that they make so great account of the glory of God, that in comparison of this, they set light by all other things. They have respect unto this one thing only, that the power of God may be declared by miracles, which the godly ought always to desire, although the adversaries burst, and all the whole hell do rage. The same must we also think of boldness to speak. They knew that the wicked could abide nothing worse than the free course of the gospel; but because they know that that is the doctrine of life which God will have published whatsoever befall; they do undoubtedly prefer the preaching thereof before all other things, because it is acceptable to God. And we are taught that we do then rightly acknowledge the benefits of God as we ought, if by this occasion we be pricked forward to pray, that he will confirm that which he hath began. The apostles had showed a token of heroic fortitude; now again they pray that they may be furnished with boldness. So Paul desireth the faithful to pray unto the Lord that his mouth may be opened, whereas, notwithstanding, his voice did sound everywhere (Ephesians 6:19.) Therefore, the more we perceive ourselves to be holpen by the Lord, let us learn to crave at the hands of God that we may go forward hereafter; and especially seeing the free confession of the gospel is a singular gift of God, we must continually beseech him to keep us in the same.

31. And when they had prayed. Luke declareth now that God did not only hear this prayer, but did also testify the same by a visible sign from heaven. For the shaking of the place should, of itself, have done them small good; but it tendeth to another end, that the faithful may know that God is present with them. Finally, it is nothing else but a token of the presence of God. But the fruit followeth, for they are all filled with the Holy Ghost, and endowed with greater boldness. We ought rather to stand upon this second member. For whereas God did declare his power then by shaking the place it was a rare and extraordinary thing; and whereas it appeared by the effect, that the apostles did obtain that which they desired, this is a perpetual profit of prayer, which is also set before us for an example.

32. And the multitude. In this place there are three things commended; that the faithful were all of one mind; that there was a mutual partaking of goods amongst them; that the apostles behaved themselves stoutly in announcing the resurrection of Christ. He saith that the multitude had one heart; because this is far more excellent than if a few men should have a mutual consent. And heretofore he hath declared, that the Church did grow to be about five thousand. And now he saith that there was wonderful concord in so great a multitude, which is a very hard matter.

And surely where faith beareth the chief sway, it doth so knit the hearts of men together, that all of them do both will and nill one thing. For discord springeth hence because we are not all governed with the same Spirit of Christ. It is well known that by these two words, heart and soul, he meaneth the will. And because the wicked do oftentimes conspire together to do evil, this concord was laudable and holy therefore because it was amongst the faithful.

And no man did say. This is the second member; that they coupled this love with external benefits. But we shall see anon, after what sort they had their goods common. This is now worth the noting in the text of Luke that the inward unity of minds goeth before as the root, and then the fruit followeth after. And surely even we ought to observe the same order, we must love one another, 230230     “Sincero cordis affectu,” with sincere affection of heart, omitted. and then this love of ours must show itself by external effects. 231231     “Nam et externa beneficentia nisi oriatur ex corde, nihili est coram Deo,” for even an external beneficence, if it comes not from the heart, is of no value in the sight of God, omitted. And in vain do we boast of a right affection, unless there appear some testimony thereof in external offices. Moreover, Luke declareth therewithal, that they were not of one mind for any respect of their own commodity, forasmuch as the rich men, when they did liberally bestow their goods, sought nothing less than their own gain.

33. And with great power. This third member appertaineth to doctrine. For Luke doth signify that the zeal which the apostles had to preach the gospel was so far from being diminished, that they were rather endowed with new power. Whereas he doth only name the resurrection of Christ, it is synecdoche; for this part is put for the whole gospel. But Luke maketh mention of the resurrection alone, because it is, as it were, the furnishing or fulfilling of the gospel; and, secondly, because they had endured a sore combat for the same, and the Sadducees were sore grieved at it, who aid then bear the chief swinge, [sway.]

And great grace was He signifieth that this served not a little to the spreading abroad of doctrine, in that, by helping the poor so bountifully, they found favor at the hands of strangers. For he saith that they were beloved, because they were beneficial. 232232     “Benefici,” beneficient. Therefore, there is a showing of a reason in these words, No man amongst them did lack. Although we need not doubt of this, but that their honesty, and temperance, and modesty, and patience, and other virtues, did provoke many to bear them good-will. He declareth 233233     “Latius exponit,” expoundeth more at large. afterward, after what sort they had their goods common, which he had touched before, to wit, that the rich men sold their lands and houses, that they might relieve the poverty of the poor,

34. For so many as were. Although this be an universal speech, yet is it all one as if it were indefinite. And assuredly it is to be thought that there were many which did not diminish their possessions, and that may be gathered out of the text, [context.] For when he speaketh of Joses anon, undoubtedly he meant to note a notable example, passing all others. Therefore he saith, that all did that which many did every where; neither doth this disagree with the common use of the Scripture. Again, he meaneth not that the faithful sold all that they had, but only so much as need required. For this is spoken for amplification’s sake, that the rich men did not only relieve the poverty of their brethren of the yearly revenue of their lands, but they were so liberal, that they spared not their lands. And this might be, though they did not rob themselves of all, but only a little diminish their revenues; which we may gather again out of the words of Luke, for he saith that this was the end, that no man might lack. He showeth further, that they used great wisdom, 234234     “Adhibitam fuisse prudentiam,” that prudence was used. because it was distributed as every man had need. Therefore the goods were not equally divided, but there was a discreet distribution made, lest any should be out of measure oppressed with poverty. And, peradventure, Joses hath this commendation given him by name, because he sold his only possession. For by this means he passed all the rest.

Hereby it appeareth what that meaneth, that no man counted anything his own, but they had all things common. For no man had his own privately to himself, that he alone might enjoy the same, neglecting others; but as need required, they were ready to bestow upon all men. And now we must needs have more than iron bowels, seeing that we are no more moved with the reading of this history. The faithful did at that day give abundantly even of that which was their own, but we are not only content at this day wickedly to suppress that which we have in our hands, but do also rob others. They did and faithfully bring forth their own; we invent a thousand subtile shifts to draw all things unto us by hook or by crook. They laid it down at the apostles’ feet, we fear not with sacrilegious boldness to convert that to our own use which was offered to God. They sold in times past their possessions, there reigneth at this day an insatiable desire to buy. Love made that common to the poor and needy which was proper to every man; such is the unnaturalness of some men now, that they cannot abide that the poor should dwell upon the earth, that they should have the use of water, air, and heaven. 235235     “Ut communem terrae habitationem, communem aquae, aeris, et coeli usum pauperibus invideant,” that they envy the poor a common dwelling on the earth, the common use of water, air, and sky.

Wherefore, these things are written for our shame and reproach. Although even the poor themselves are to blame for some part of this evil. For seeing goods cannot be common after this sort, save only where there is a godly agreement, and where there reigneth one heart and one soul; many men are either so proud or unthankful, or slothful, or greedy, or such hypocrites, that they do not only so much as in them lieth quite put out the desire to do well, but also hinder ability. And yet must we remember that admonition of Paul, that we be not weary of well-doing, (Galatians 6:9.) And whereas, under color of this, the Anabaptists and fantastical [fanatical] men have made much ado, as if there ought to be no civil property of goods amongst Christians, I have already refuted this folly 236236     “Delirium,” delirium. of theirs in the second chapter. For neither doth Luke in this place prescribe a law to all men which they must of necessity follow, while that he reckoneth up what they did in whom a certain singular efficacy and power of the Holy Spirit of God did show itself; neither doth he speak generally of all men, that it can be gathered that they were not counted Christians which did not sell all that they had.

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