Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
1.And when. To be fulfilled is taken in this place for to come. For Luke beareth record again of their perseverance, when he saith that they stood all in one place until the time which was set them. Hereunto serveth the adverb, with one accord Furthermore, we have before declared why the Lord did defer the sending of his Spirit a whole month and a half. But the question is, why he sent him upon that day chiefly. I will not refute that high and subtle interpretation of Augustine, that like as the law was given to the old people fifty days after Easter, being written in tables of stone by the hand of God, so the Spirit, whose office it is to write the same in our hearts, did fulfill that which was figured in the giving of the law as many days after the resurrection of Christ, who is the true Passover. Notwithstanding, whereas he urgeth this his subtle interpretation as necessary, in his book of Questions upon Exodus, and in his Second Epistle unto Januarius, I would wish him to be more sober and modest therein. Notwithstanding, let him keep his own interpretation to himself. In the mean season, I will embrace that which is more sound.
Upon the feast day, wherein a great multitude was wont to resort to Jerusalem, was this miracle wrought, that it might be more famous. And truly by means hereof was it spread abroad, even unto the uttermost parts and borders of the earth. (77) For the same purpose did Christ oftentimes go up to Jerusalem upon the holy days, (78) (John 2:0,) to the end those miracles which he wrought might be known to many, and that in the greater assembly of people there might be the greater fruit of his doctrine. For so will Luke afterward declare, that Paul made haste that he might come to Jerusalem before the day of Pentecost, not for any religion’s sake, but because of the greater assembly, that he might profit the more, (Acts 20:16.) Therefore, in making choice of the day, the profit of the miracle was respected: First, that it might be the more extolled at Jerusalem, because the Jews were then more bent to consider the works of God; and, secondly, that it might be bruited abroad, even in far countries. They called it the fiftieth day, beginning to reckon at the first-fruits.
2.And there was made It was requisite that the gift should be visible, that the bodily sense might the more stir up the disciples. For such is our slothfulness to consider the gifts of God, that unless he awake all our senses, his power shall pass away unknown. This was, therefore, a preparation that they might the better know that the Spirit was now come which Christ had promised. Although it was not so much for their sake as for ours, even as in that the cloven and fiery tongues appeared, there was rather respect had of us, and of all the whole Church in that, than of them. For God was able to have furnished them with necessary ability to preach the gospel, although he should use no sign. They themselves might have known that it came to pass neither by chance, neither yet through their own industry, that they were so suddenly changed; but those signs which are here set down were about to be profitable for all ages; as we perceive at this day that they profit us. And we must briefly note the proportion of the signs. The violence of the wind did serve to make them afraid; for we are never rightly prepared to receive the grace of God, unless the confidence (and boldness) of the flesh be tamed. For as we have access unto him by faith, so humility and fear setteth open the gate, that he may come in unto us. He hath nothing to do with proud and careless men. It is a common thing for the Spirit to be signified by wind, (or a blast,) (John 20:22.) For both Christ himself, when he was about to give the Spirit to his apostles, did breathe upon them; and in Ezekiel’s vision there was a whirlwind and wind, (Ezekiel 1:4.) Yea, the word Spirit itself is a translated word; for, because that hypostasis, or person of the Divine essence, which is called the Spirit, is of itself incomprehensible, the Scripture doth borrow the word of the wind or blast, because it is the power of God which God doth pour into all creatures as it were by breathing. The shape of tongues is restrained unto the present circumstance. For as the figure and shape of a dove which came down upon Christ, (John 1:32,) had a signification agreeable to the office and nature of Christ, so God did now make choice of a sign which might be agreeable to the thing signified, namely, that it might show such effect and working of the Holy Ghost in the apostles as followed afterward.
The diversity of tongues did hinder the gospel from being spread abroad any farther; so that, if the preachers of the gospel had spoken one language only, all men would have thought that Christ had been shut up in the small corner of Jewry. But God invented a way whereby it might break out, when he divided and clove the tongues of the apostles, that they might spread that abroad amongst all people which was delivered to them. Wherein appeareth the manifold goodness of God, because a plague and punishment of man’s pride was turned into matter of blessing. For whence came the diversity of tongues, save only that the wicked and ungodly counsels of men might be brought to naught? (Genesis 11:7.) But God doth furnish the apostles with the diversity of tongues now, that he may bring and call home, into a blessed unity, men which wander here and there. These cloven tongues made all men to speak the language of Canaan, as Isaiah foretold, (Isaiah 19:18.) For what language soever they speak, yet do they call upon one Father, which is in heaven, with one mouth and one spirit, (Romans 15:6.) I said that that was done for our sake, not only because the fruit came unto us, but because we know that the gospel came unto us not by chance, but by the appointment of God, who to this end gave the apostles cloven tongues, lest any nation should want that doctrine which was committed unto them; whereby is proved the calling of the Gentiles; and, secondly, hereby their doctrine doth purchase credit, which we know was not forged by man, seeing that we hear that the Spirit did dwell in their tongues.
Now, it remaineth that we declare what the fire meaneth. Without all doubt, it was a token of the (force and) efficacy which should be exercised in the voice of the apostles. Otherwise, although their sound had gone out into the uttermost parts of the world, they should only have beat the air, without doing any good at all. Therefore, the Lord doth show that their voice shall be fiery, that it may inflame the hearts of men; that the vanity of the world being burnt and consumed, it may purge and renew all things. Otherwise they durst never have taken upon them so hard a function, unless the Lord had assured them of the power of their preaching. Hereby it came to pass that the doctrine of the gospel did not only sound in the air, but pierce into the minds of men, and did fill them with an heavenly heat (and burning.) Neither was this force showed only in the mouth of the apostles, but it appeareth daily. And, therefore, we must beware lest, when the fire burneth, we be as stubble. Furthermore, the Lord did once give the Holy Ghost under a visible shape, that we may assure ourselves that his invisible and hidden grace shall never be wanting to the Church.
And it sat. Because the number is suddenly changed, it is to be doubted whether he speaketh of the fire. He said that there appeared tongues as it had been of fire. It followeth by and by, and it sat upon them. Notwithstanding, I refer it unto the Spirit. For the Hebrews use commonly to express the substantive of the verb in the second member, which they did omit in the former. Wherefore we have an example in this place: It sat upon them, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. And we know that although Luke did write in Greek, yet is he full of those phrases which the Hebrews use. (79) Now, whereas he calleth the tongues the Holy Ghost, it is according to the custom of the Scripture. For John calleth the dove by the same name, (John 1:32,) because the Lord would testify and declare the presence of his Spirit by some such sign. If it were a vain sign, it should be an absurd naming (to call the sign by the name of the thing signified;) but where the thing is annexed, the name of the thing is fitly given to the sign which offereth the same unto our senses to be perceived. The fullness of the Spirit, wherewith he saith every one was replenished, doth not express the [an] equal measure of gifts in every one, but that excellence which should be meet for such a calling. (80)
4.They began to speak He showeth that the effect did appear presently, and also to what use their tongues were to be framed and applied, But because Luke setteth down shortly after, that strangers out of divers countries did marvel, because that every one of them did hear the apostles speaking in their own tongue, some think that they spoke not in divers tongues, but that they did all understand that which was spoken in one tongue, as well as if they should hear their natural tongue. (81) Therefore, they think that one and the same sound of the voice was diversely distributed amongst the hearers. Another conjecture they have, because Peter made one sermon in the audience of many gathered together out of divers countries, who could not understand his speech (and language,) unless another voice should come unto their ears than that which proceeded out of his mouth. But we must first note that the disciples spoke indeed with strange tongues; otherwise the miracle had not been wrought in them, but in the hearers. So that the similitude should have been false whereof he made mention before; neither should the Spirit have been given so much to them as to others. Again, we hear how Paul giveth thanks to God, that he speaketh with divers tongues, (1 Corinthians 14:18.) Truly he challengeth to himself both the understanding, and also the use thereof. Neither did he attain to this skill by his own study and industry, but he had it by the gift of the Spirit. In the same place he affirmeth that it is an especial gift, wherewith all men are not endued. I suppose that it doth manifestly appear hereby that the apostles had the variety and understanding of tongues given them, that they might speak unto the Greeks in Greek, unto the Italians in the Italian tongue, (82) and that they might have true communication (and conference) with their hearers. Notwithstanding, I leave it indifference whether there was any second miracle wrought or no, so that the Egyptians and Elamites did understand Peter speaking in the Chaldean tongue, as if he did utter divers voices. For there be some conjectures which persuade me thus to think, and yet not so firm but that they may be refuted. For it may be that they spoke with divers tongues, as they light upon this man or that, and as occasion was offered, and as their languages were diverse. Therefore, it was a manifest miracle, when they saw them ready to speak divers languages. As touching Peter’s sermon, it might be understood of the greater part of men wheresoever they were born; for it is to be thought that many of those which came to Jerusalem were skillful in the Chaldean tongue. Again, it shall be nothing inconvenient if we say that he spoke also in other tongues. Although I will not much stand about this matter; so that this be out of doubt, that the apostles changed their speech. (83)
5.And there were at Jerusalem. When he calleth them godly or religious men, he seemeth to give us to understand that they came to Jerusalem that they might worship God; like as God, in all ages, after the scattering abroad, did gather together into that city some seed which remained, having, as it were, set up his banner, because as yet the temple did serve to some use. Yet, nevertheless, he showeth, by the way, who those be which profit by those miracles, whereby God doth declare his power. For wicked and profane men do either laugh at them, or else pass [care] not for them, as we shall see by and by. Furthermore, he meant to cite those as witnesses, which may the better be believed for their religion and godliness. When he said, out of every nation, he meaneth out of divers countries, whereof one is far from another. For he doth also afterwards reckon up those lands whereof one was far distant from another, of which sort are Libya and Pontus, Rome and Parthia, and Arabia, and such like. This serveth to increase the greatness of the thing. For the Cretians and men of Asia, dwelling so near together, might have some likelihood and agreement in speech; (85) but the same could not be betwixt the Italians and the men of Cappadocia, betwixt the Arabians and those of Pontus. Yea, this was also a work of God worthy to be remembered and wondered at, that in so huge and horrible a scattering abroad of the people, he did always reserve some relics, yea, he caused certain strangers to adjoin themselves unto a people which was in such misery, and, as it were, quite destroyed. For although they lived here and there in exile in far countries, and being one far from another, did, as it were, inhabit divers worlds, yet did they hold among themselves the unity of faith. Neither doth he call them unadvisedly, and without good consideration, godly men, and men gearing God.
6.When this was noised abroad. Luke saith thus in Greek, This voice being made; but his meaning is, that the fame was spread abroad, whereby it came to pass that a great multitude came together. For if one after another in divers places, and at divers times, had heard the apostles speaking in divers tongues, the miracle had not been so famous; therefore they come altogether into one place, that the diversity of tongues may the better appear by the present comparison. There is a further circumstance also here to be noted, that the country (and native soil) of the apostles was commonly known, and this was also commonly known, that they never went out of their country to learn (86) strange tongues. Therefore, forasmuch as one speaketh Latin, another Greek, another the Arabian tongue, as occasion was offered, and that indifferently, and every one doth also change his tongue, the work of God appeareth more plainly hereby.
11.The wonderful works of God. Luke noteth two things which caused the hearers to wonder; first, because the apostles being before ignorant and private persons, (87) born in a base corner, (88) did, notwithstanding, intreat profoundly of divine matters, and of heavenly wisdom. The other is, because they have new tongues given them suddenly. Both things are worth the noting, because to huddle out [utter] words unadvisedly and foolishly, should not so much have served to move their minds; and the majesty of the things ought the more to have moved them to consider the miracle. Although they give due honor to God, in that they are astonished and amazed, yet the principal and of the miracle is expressed in this, that they inquire, and thereby declare that they are prepared to learn; for otherwise their amazedness and wondering should not have done them any great good. And certainly we must so wonder at the works of God, that there must be also a consideration, and a desire to understand.
12.Others mocking Hereby it appeareth how monstrous as well the sluggishness, as also the ungodliness of men is, when Satan hath taken away their mind. If God should openly (and visibly) descend from heaven, his majesty could scarce more manifestly appear than in this miracle. Whosoever hath any drop of sound understanding in him must needs be stricken with the only hearing of it. How beastly, then, are those men who see it with their eyes, and yet scoff, and go about with their jests to mock the power of God? But the matter is so. There is nothing so wonderful which those men do not turn to a jest who are touched with no care of God; because they do, even upon set purposes, harden themselves in their ignorance in things most plain. And it is a just punishment of God, which he bringeth upon such pride, to deliver them to Satan, to be driven headlong into blind fury. Wherefore, there is no cause why we should marvel that there be so many at this day so blind in so great light, if they be so deaf when such manifest doctrine is delivered, yea, if they wantonly refuse salvation when it is offered unto them. For if the wonderful and strange works of God, wherein he doth wonderfully set forth his power, be subject to the mockery of men, what shall become of doctrine, which they think tasteth of nothing but of that which is common? Although Luke doth signify unto us that they were not of the worst sort, or altogether past hope, which did laugh (and mock;) but he meant rather to declare how the common sort was affected when they saw this miracle. And truly it hath been always so in the world, for very few have been touched with the true feeling of God as often as he hath revealed himself. Neither is it any marvel; for religion is a rare virtue, and a virtue which few men have; which is, indeed, the beginning of understanding. Nevertheless, howsoever the more part of men, through a certain hard stiff-neckedness, doth reject the consideration of the works of God, yet are they never without fruit, as we may see in this history.
14.And Peter, standing By this word standing he did signify, that there was a grave sermon made in the assembly; for they did rise when they spoke unto the people, to the end they might be the better heard. The sum of this sermon is this, he gathereth that Christ is already revealed and given by the gift of the Holy Ghost, which they saw. Yet, first, he refuteth that false opinion, in that they thought that the disciples were drunk. This refutation consisteth upon a probable argument; because men use not to be drunk betimes in the morning. For, as Paul saith,
“Those which are drunk are drunk in the night,”
For they flee the light for shame. And surely so great is the filthiness of this vice, that for good causes it hateth the light. And yet this argument were not always good; for Esaias doth inveigh in his time against those which did rise early to follow drunkenness. And at this day there be many who, like hogs, so soon as they awake, run to quaffing. But because this is (89) a common custom amongst men, Peter saith, that it is no likely thing. Those which have but even small skill in antiquity do know that the civil day, from the rising of the sun until the going down thereof, was divided into twelve hours; so that the hours were longer in summer, and shorter in winter. Therefore, that which should now be the ninth before noon in winter, and in summer the eighth, was the third hour amongst the old people. (90) Therefore, whereas Peter doth only lightly remove the opinion of drunkenness, he doth it for this cause, because it had been superfluous to have stood about any long excuse. (91) Therefore, as in a matter which was certain and out of doubt, he doth rather pacify those which mocked, than labor to teach them. And he doth not so much refute them by the circumstance of time, as by the testimony of Joel. For when he saith that that is now come to pass which was foretold, he toucheth briefly their unthankfulness, because they do not acknowledge such an excellent benefit promised unto them in times past which they now see with their eyes. And whereas he upbraideth the fault of a few unto all, (92) he doth it not to this end, that he may make them all guilty of the same fault; but because a fit occasion was offered by their mocking to teach them altogether, he doth not foreslow the same. (93)
17.It shall be in the last days By this effect he proveth that the Messiah is already revealed. Joel, indeed, doth not express the last days, (Joel 2:29;) but for as much as he intreateth of the perfect restoring of the Church, it is not to be doubted but that that prophecy belongeth unto the last age alone. Wherefore, that which Peter bringeth doth no whit dissent from Joel’s meaning; but he doth only add this word for exposition sake, that the Jews might know that the Church could by no other means be restored, which was then decayed, but by being renewed by the Spirit of God. Again, because the repairing of the Church should be like unto a new world, therefore Peter saith that it shall be in the last days. And surely this was a common and familiar thing among the Jews, that all those great promises concerning the blessed and well-ordered state of the Church should not be fulfilled until Christ, by his coming, should restore all things. Wherefore, it was out of all doubt amongst them, that that which is cited out of Joel doth appertain unto the last time. Now, by the last days, or fullness of time, is meant the stable and firm condition of the Church, in the manifestation or revealing of Christ.
I will pour out my Spirit He intendeth to prove, (as we have already said,) that the Church can be repaired by no other means, saving only by the giving of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, forasmuch as they did all hope that the restoring drew near, he accuseth them of sluggishness, because they do not once think upon the way and means thereof. And when the prophet saith, “I will pour out,” it is, without all question, that he meant by this word to note the great abundance of the Spirit. And we must take I will pour out of my Spirit in the same sense, as if he had said simply, I will pour out my Spirit. For these latter words are the words of the prophet. But Peter followed the Grecians, who translate the Hebrew word ח, (cheth,) απο Therefore, some men do in vain more subtlely play the philosophers; because, howsoever the words be changed, yet must we still retain and keep the prophet’s meaning. Nevertheless, when God is said to pour out his Spirit, I confess it must be thus understood, that he maketh manifold variety and change of gifts to flow unto men from his Spirit, as it were out of the only fountain, the fountain which can never be drawn dry. For, as Paul doth testify, there be divers gifts, and yet but one Spirit, (1 Corinthians 12:4.) And hence do we gather a profitable doctrine, that we can have no more excellent thing given us of God than the grace of the Spirit; yea, that all other things are nothing worth if this be wanting. For, when God will briefly promise salvation to his people, he affirmeth that he will give them his Spirit. Hereupon it followeth that we can obtain no good things until we have the Spirit given us. And truly it is, as it were, the key which openeth unto us the door, that we may enter into all the treasures of spiritual good things; and that we may also have entrance into the kingdom of God.
Upon all flesh It appeareth, by that which followeth, of what force this generality is; for, first, it is set down generally, all flesh; after that the partition is added, whereby the prophet doth signify that there shall be no difference of age or kind, but that God admitteth all, one with another, unto the partaking of his grace. It is said, therefore, all flesh, because both young and old, men and women, are thereby signified; yet here may a question be moved, why Clod doth promise that unto his people, as some new and unwonted good thing, which he was wont to do for them from the beginning throughout all ages; for there was no age void of the grace of the Spirit. The answer of this question is set down in these two sentences: “I will pour out,” and, “Upon all flesh;” for we must here note a double contrariety, (94) between the time of the Old and New Testament; for the pouring out (as I have said) doth signify great plenty, when as there was under the law a more scarce distribution; for which cause John also doth say that the Holy Ghost was not given until Christ ascended into heaven. All flesh cloth signify an infinite multitude, whereas God in times past did vouchsafe to bestow such plenty of his Spirit only upon a few.
Furthermore, in both comparisons we do not deny but that the fathers under the law were partakers of the self, same grace whereof we are partakers; but the Lord doth show that we are above them, as we are indeed. I say, that all godly men since the beginning of the world were endued with the same spirit of understanding, of righteousness, and sanctification, wherewith the Lord doth at this day illuminate and regenerate us; but there were but a few which had the light of knowledge given them then, if they be compared with the great multitude of the faithful, which Christ did suddenly gather together by his coming. Again, their knowledge was but obscure and slender, and, as it were, covered with a veil, if it be compared with that which we have at this day out of the gospel, where Christ, the Sun of righteousness, doth shine with perfect brightness, as it were at noon day. Neither doth that any whit hurt or hinder that a few had such an excellent faith, that peradventure they have no equal at this day. For their understanding did nevertheless smell or savor of the instruction and schoolmastership (95) of the law. For that is always true, that godly kings and prophets have not seen nor heard those things which Christ hath revealed by his coming. Therefore, to the end the prophet Joel may commend the excellency of the New Testament, he affirmeth and foretelleth that the grace of the Spirit shall be more plentiful in time thereof; and, again, that it shall come unto more men, (Matthew 13:17; Luke 10:24.)
And your sons shall prophesy By the word prophesy he meant to note the rare and singular gift of understanding. And to the same purpose tendeth that partition which followeth afterwards, “your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;” for we gather out of the twelfth chapter of Numbers, that these were the two ordinary ways whereby God did reveal himself to the prophets. For in that place, when the Lord exempteth Moses from the common sort of prophets, he saith,
“I appear unto my servants by a vision, or by a dream; but I speak unto Moses face to face,”
Therefore, we see that two kinds are put after the general word for a confirmation; yet this is the sum, that they shall all be prophets so soon as the Holy Ghost shall be poured out from heaven. But here it is objected, that there was no such thing, even in the apostles themselves, neither yet in the whole multitude of the faithful. I answer, that the prophets did commonly use to shadow under tropes most fit for their time, (96) the kingdom of Christ. When they speak of the worship of God, they name the altar, the sacrifices, the offering of gold, silver, and frankincense. Notwithstanding, we know that the altars do cease, the sacrifices are abolished, whereof there was some use in time of the law; and that the Lord requireth some higher thing at our hands than earthly riches. That is true, indeed; but the prophets, whilst they apply their style unto the capacity of their time, comprehend under figures (wherewith the people were then well acquainted) those things which we see otherwise revealed and showed now, like as when he promiseth elsewhere that he will make priests of Levites, and Levites of the common sort of men, (Isaiah 66:21,) this is his meaning, that under the kingdom of Christ every base person shall be extolled unto an honorable estate; therefore, if we desire to ]lave the true and natural meaning of this place, we must not urge the words which are taken out of the old order (97) of the law; but we must only seek the truth without figures, and this is it, that the apostles, through the sudden inspiration of the Spirit, did intreat of the heavenly mysteries prophetically, that is to say, divinely, and above the common order.
Therefore, this word prophesy doth signify nothing else save only the rare and excellent gift of understanding, as if Joel should say, Under the kingdom of Christ there shall not be a few prophets only, unto whom God may reveal his secrets; but all men shall be endued with spiritual wisdom, even to the prophetical excellency. As it is also in Jeremiah,
“Every man shall no longer teach his neighbor; because they shall all know me, from the least unto the greatest,”
And in these words Peter inviteth the Jews, unto whom he speaketh, to be partakers of the same grace. As if he should say, the Lord is ready to pour out that Spirit far and wide which he hath poured upon us. Therefore, unless you yourselves be the cause of let, ye shall receive with us of this fullness. And as for us, let us know that the same is spoken to us at this day which was then spoken to the Jews. For although those visible graces of the Spirit be ceased, yet God hath not withdrawn his Spirit from his Church. Wherefore he offereth him daily unto us all, by this same promise, without putting any difference. Wherefore we are poor and needy only through our own sluggishness; and also it appeareth manifestly, that those are wicked and sacrilegious enemies of the Spirit which keep back the Christian common people from the knowledge of God; and forasmuch as he himself doth not only admit, but also call by name unto himself, women and men, young and old.
18.Upon my servants. In these words the promise is restrained unto the worshippers of God. For God doth not profane his Spirit; which he should do, if he should make the stone common to the unbelieving and despisers. It is certain that we are made the servants of God by the Spirit; and that, therefore, we are not, until such time as we have received the same; but, first, whom God hath adopted to be of his family, and whom he hath framed by his Spirit to obey him, those doth he furnish with new gifts afterward. Again, the prophet did not respect that order of thee, but his meaning was to make this grace proper to the Church alone. And forasmuch as the Church was only among the Jews, he calleth them honorably the servants and handmaids of God. But after that God did gather unto himself on every side a Church, the wall of separation being pulled down, so many as are received into the society of the covenant are called by the same name. Only let us remember, that the Spirit is appointed for the Church properly.
19.And I will show wonders We must first see what is meant by this great day of the Lord. Some do expound it of the former coming of Christ in the flesh; and others refer it unto the last day of the resurrection, I do allow neither opinion. For, in my judgment, the prophet comprehendeth the whole kingdom of Christ. And so he calleth it the great day, after that the Son of God began to be revealed in the flesh, that he may lead us into the fulfilling of his kingdom. Therefore, he appointeth no certain day, but he beginneth this day at the first preaching of the gospel, and he extendeth the same unto the last resurrection. Those which restrain it unto the time of the apostles are moved with this reason, because the prophet joineth this member and that which goeth next before together. But in that there is no absurdity at all, because the prophet doth assign the time when these things began to come to pass, howsoever they have a continual going forward even until the end of the world. Furthermore, whereas he saith that the sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, they are figurative speeches, whereby he doth give us to understand thus much, that the Lord will show tokens of his wrath through the whole frame of the world, which shall bring men even to their wit’s end, as if there should be some horrible and fearful change of nature wrought. For as the sun and moon are unto us witnesses of God’s fatherly favor towards us, whilst that by course they give light to the earth; so, on the other side, the prophet saith, that they shall be messengers to foreshow God’s wrath and displeasure. And this is the second member of the prophecy. For after that he had intreated of the spiritual grace which should be abundantly poured out upon all flesh, lest any man should imagine that all things should be quiet and prosperous together, therewithal he addeth that the estate of the world shall be troublesome, and full of great fear under Christ; as Christ himself doth more fully declare, Matthew 24:0 and Luke 21:0.
But this serveth greatly to the setting forth of grace, that whereas all things do threaten destruction, yet whosoever doth call upon the name of the Lord is sure to be saved. By the darkness of the sun, by the bloody streaming of the moon, by the black vapor of smoke, the prophet meant to declare, that whithersoever men turn their eyes, there shall many things appear, both upward and downward, which may make them amazed and afraid, as he hath already said. Therefore, this is as much as if he should have said, that the world was never in a more miserable case, that there were never so many and such cruel tokens of God’s wrath. Hence may we gather how inestimable the goodness of God is, who offereth a present remedy for so great evils; and again, how unthankful they are towards God, and how froward, which do not flee unto the sanctuary of salvation, which is nigh unto them, and doth meet them. Again, it is out of all doubt, that God meaneth by this so doleful a description, to stir up all godly men, that they may with a more fervent desire seek for salvation. And Peter citeth it to the same end, that the Jews may know that they shall be more miserable unless they receive that grace of the Spirit which is offered unto them. Yet here may a question be asked, how this can hang together, that when Christ is revealed, there should such a sea of miseries overflow and break out therewithal? For it may seem to be a thing very inconvenient, (98) that he should be the only pledge of God’s love toward mankind, in whom the heavenly Father doth lay open all the treasure of his goodness, yea, he poureth out the bowels of his mercy upon us, and that yet, by the coming of the same, his Son, his wrath should be more hot than it was wont, so that it should, as it were, quite consume both heaven and earth at once.
But we must first mark, that because men are too slow to receive Christ, they must be constrained by divers afflictions, as it were with whips. Secondly, forasmuch as Christ doth call unto himself all those which are heavy laden and labor, (Matthew 11:28,) we must first be tamed by many miseries, that we may learn humility. For through great prosperity men do set up the horns of pride. And he cannot but despise Christ fiercely, whosoever he be, that seemeth to himself to be happy. Thirdly, because we are, more than we ought, set upon the seeking of the peace of the flesh, whereby it cometh to pass that many tie the grace of Christ unto the present life, it is expedient for us to be accustomed to think otherwise, that we may know that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual. Therefore, to the end God may teach us that the good things of Christ are heavenly, he doth exercise us, according to the flesh, with many miseries; whereby it cometh to pass that we do seek our felicity without the world. Moreover, men do bring miseries upon themselves through their unthankfulness; for the servant which knoweth his master’s will, and doth not obey, is worthy of greater and more stripes, (Luke 12:47.) The more familiarly that God doth communicate with us in Christ, the more doth our ungodliness grow and break out into open contumacy, so that it is no marvel if, when Christ is revealed, there appear many tokens of God’s vengeance on the other side, forasmuch as men do hereby more grievously provoke God against them, and kindle his wrath through wicked contempt. Surely, in that the day of Christ is fearful, it is an accidental thing; whether God will correct our slothfulness, to bring us under, which [who] are yet inapt to be taught, or whether he will punish our unthankfulness. For it bringeth with it of itself nothing but that which is pleasant; but the contempt of God’s grace doth provoke him to horrible anger not without cause.
21.Whosoever shall call upon An excellent place. For as God doth prick us forward like sluggish asses, with threatenings and terrors to seek salvation, se, after that he hath brought darkness upon the face of heaven and earth, yet doth he show a means whereby salvation may shine before our eyes, to wit, if we shall call upon him. For we must diligently note this circumstance. If God should promise salvation simply, it were a great matter; but it is a far greater when as he promiseth the same amidst manifold dungeons of death. Whilst that (saith he) all things shall be out of order, and the fear of destruction shall possess all things, only call upon me, and ye shall be saved. Therefore, howsoever man be swallowed up ill the gulf of miseries, yet is there set before him a way to escape. We must also note the universal word, whosoever For God admitteth all men unto himself without exception, and by this means doth he invite them to salvation, as Paul gathereth in the tenth chapter to the Romans, and as the prophet had set it down before,
“Thou, Lord, which hearest the prayer,
Therefore, forasmuch as no man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men; neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief. I speak of all unto whom God doth make himself manifest by the gospel. But like as those which call upon the name of the Lord are sure of salvation, so we must think that, without the same, we are thrice miserable and undone. And when as our salvation is placed in calling upon God, there is nothing in the mean season taken from faith, forasmuch as this invocation is grounded on faith alone. There is also another circumstance no less worthy the noting; in that the prophet doth signify, that the calling upon God doth properly appertain and agree unto the last days. For although he would be called upon in all ages, notwithstanding, since that he showed himself to be a Father in Christ, we have the more easy access unto him. Which thing ought both the more to embolden us, and to take from us all sluggishness. As he himself doth also reason, that by this privilege our forwardness to pray is doubled to us: “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in nay name; ask, and ye shall receive;” as if he should say, theretofore, although I did not yet appear to be a mediator and advocate in the faith, yet did ye pray; but now, when you shall have me to be your patron, with how much more courage ought ye to do that?
22.Jesus of Nazareth Now doth Peter apply unto his purpose the prophecy of Joel; namely, that the Jews may thereby know that the time of restoring was present; and that Christ was given them for this purpose. For this promise was no otherwise to be fulfilled, save only by the coming of the Mediator. And this is the right use of all those gifts which we have by Christ, whilst that they bring us unto Christ, as unto a fountain. But he cometh hither by little and little. For he doth not by and by in the beginning affirm that Jesus was Christ; but he saith only that he was a man sent of God; and that doth he prove by his miracles. Afterward he addeth, that he rose from death when he was slain. Whereby it appeareth more certainly and more fully that he was not one of the prophets, but the very Son of God, who was promised to be the repairer of all things. Let this, therefore, be the first member, that Jesus of Nazareth was a man approved of God by manifest testimonies, so that he could not be despised as some base and obscure person. The old interpreter did not evil (99) translate ὑποδεδειγμενον approved. And Erasmus is deceived, who thinketh that he did read it otherwise; and he himself did not express Luke’s mind, when as he translated it given. (100) For, seeing that word doth signify among the Grecians to show, whereupon the mathematicians also call those arguments whereby they set a thing, as it were, before a man’s eyes, αποδειξεις, or demonstrations, Luke meant to say, that Jesus came not unknown, and without any testimony or approbation, but that those miracles which God showed by him served to this end, that he might be famous and excellent. Therefore he saith that he was showed toward the Jews; because God would have his Son to be accounted excellent and great among them; as if he should say, that miracles were not appointed for other nations, but for the Jews, that they might know that Jesus was sent unto them of God.
By great works. He calleth miracles by these three names. And because God doth show forth his power in them after a new and unwonted sort, or doth, at least, procure greater admiration, they are, for good causes, called great works. (101) For we are commonly more moved when any extraordinary thing doth happen. In which respect they are also called wonders, (102) because they make us astonished. And for this cause are they called signs, because the Lord will not have men’s minds to stay there, but to be lifted up higher; as they are referred unto another end. He put in three words, to the end he might the more extol Christ’s miracles, and enforce the people, by his heaping and laying of words together, to consider the same. Furthermore, he maketh not Christ the chief author, but only the minister; because, as we have already said, he determined to go forward by degrees. Notwithstanding, here may a question be asked, whether miracles do suffice to be a sufficient and just approbation [proof] or no? Because by this means inchanters might cause their legerdemain (103) to be believed. I answer, that the juggling casts of Satan do much differ from the power of God. Christ saith elsewhere, that the kingdom of Antichrist shall be in wonders, but he addeth by and by, in lying wonders, (2 Thessalonians 2:9.) if any man object, that we cannot easily discern, because he saith that they shall have so great color that they shall deceive (if it could be) the very elect; I answer again, that this error proceedeth only from our own want of wit, because we are so dull; for God doth show his power manifestly enough. Therefore, there is sufficient approbation of the doctrine and of the ministry in the miracles which God doth work, so that we be not blind. And whereas it is not of sufficient force among the wicked, because they may now and then be deceived with the false miracles of Satan, this must be imputed unto their own blindness; but whosoever hath a pure heart, he doth also know God with the pure eyes of his mind, so often as he doth show himself. Neither can Satan otherwise delude us, save only when, through the wickedness of our heart, our judgment is corrupt and our eyes blinded, or at least bleared through our own slothfulness.
23.Him have ye slain. He maketh mention of the death of Christ for this cause chiefly, that the resurrection might the more assuredly be believed. It was a thing full well known among the Jews that Christ was crucified. Therefore, in that he rose again, it is a great and wonderful token of his Divine power. In the mean season, to the end he may prick their consciences with the feeling of sin, he saith that they slew him; not that they crucified him with their own hands, but because the people, with one voice, desired to have him put to death. And although many of the hearers unto whom he speaketh did not consent unto that wicked and ungodly cruelty, yet doth he justly impute the same to the nation; because all of them had defiled themselves either with their silence, or else through their carelessness. Neither hath the cloak and color (104) of ignorance any place, forasmuch as he was showed before of God. This guiltiness, therefore, under which he bringeth them, is a preparation unto repentance.
By the determinate counsel He removeth a stumbling-block; because it seemeth, at the first blush, to be a thing very inconvenient, [unaccountable,] that that man whom God had so greatly adorned, being afterward laid open to all manner of mocking, doth suffer so reproachful a death. Therefore, because the cross of Christ doth commonly use to trouble us at the first sight, for this cause Peter declareth that he suffered nothing by chance, or because he wanted power to deliver himself, but because it was so determined (and appointed) by God. For this knowledge alone, that the death of Christ was ordained by the eternal counsel of God, did cut off all occasion of foolish and wicked cogitation’s, and did prevent all offenses which might otherwise be conceived. For we must know this, that God doth decree nothing in vain or rashly; whereupon it followeth that there was just cause for which he would have Christ to suffer. The same knowledge of God’s providence is a step to consider the end and fruit of Christ’s death. For this meeteth us by and by in the counsel of God, that the just was delivered (105) for our sins, and that his blood was the price of our death.
And here is a notable place touching the providence of God, that we may know that as well our life as our death is governed by it. Luke intreateth, indeed, of Christ; but in his person we have a mirror, which doth represent unto us the universal providence of God, which doth stretch itself throughout the whole world; yet doth it specially shine unto us who are the members of Christ. Luke setteth down two things in this place, the foreknowledge and the decree of God. And although the foreknowledge of God is former in order, (because God doth first see what he will determine, before he doth indeed determine the same,) yet doth he put the same after the counsel and decree of God, to the end we may know that God would nothing, neither appointed anything, save that which he had long before directed to his [its] end. For men do oftentimes rashly decree many things, because they decree them suddenly. Therefore, to the end Peter may teach that the counsel of God is not without reason, he coupleth also therewithal his foreknowledge. Now, we must distinguish these two, and so much the more diligently, because many are deceived in this point. For passing over the counsel of God, wherewith he doth (guide and) govern the whole world, they catch at his bare foreknowledge. Thence cometh that common distinction, that although God doth foresee all things, yet doth he lay no necessity upon his creatures. And, indeed, it is true that God doth know this thing or that thing before, for this cause, because it shall come to pass; but as we see that Peter doth teach that God did not only foresee that which befell Christ, but it was decreed by him. And hence must be gathered a general doctrine; because God doth no less show his providence in governing the whole world, than in ordaining and appointing the death of Christ. Therefore, it belongeth to God not only to know before things to come, but of his own will to determine what he will have done. This second thing did Peter declare when he said, that he was delivered by the certain and determinate counsel of God. Therefore, the foreknowledge of God is another thing than the will of God, whereby he governeth and ordereth all things.
Some, which are of quicker sight, confess that God doth not only foreknow, but also govern with his beck what things soever are done in this world. Nevertheless, they imagine a confused government, as if God did give liberty to his creatures to follow their own nature. They say that the sun is ruled by the will of God, because, in giving light to us, he doth his duty, which was once enjoined him by God. They think that man hath free-will after this sort left him, because his nature is disposed or inclined unto the free choice of good and evil. But they which think so do feign that God sitteth idle in heaven. The Scripture teacheth us far otherwise, which ascribeth unto God a special government in all things, and in man’s actions. Notwithstanding, it is our duty to ponder and consider to what end it teacheth this; for we must beware of doting speculations, wherewith we see many carried away. The Scripture will exercise our faith, that we may know that we are defended by the hand of God, lest we be subject to the injuries of Satan and the wicked. It is good for us to embrace this one thing; neither did Peter mean anything else in this place. Yea, we have an example set before us in Christ, whereby we may learn to be wise with sobriety. For it is out of question, that his flesh was subject to corruption, according to nature. But the providence of God did set the same free. If any man ask, whether the bones of Christ could be broken or no? it is not to be denied, that they were subject to breaking naturally, yet could there no bone be broken, because God had so appointed and determined, (John 19:36.) By this example (I say) we are taught so to give the chiefest room to God’s providence, that we keep ourselves within our bounds, and that we thrust not ourselves rashly and indiscreetly into the secrets of God, whither our eyesight doth not pierce.
By the hands of the wicked Because Peter seemeth to grant that the wicked did obey God, hereupon followeth two absurdities; (106) the one, either that God is the author of evil, or that men do not sin, what wickedness soever they commit. I answer, concerning the second, that the wicked do nothing less than obey God, howsoever they do execute that which God hath determined with himself. For obedience springeth from a voluntary affection; and we know that the wicked have a far other purpose. Again, no man obeyeth God save he which knoweth his will. Therefore, obedience dependeth upon the knowledge of God’s will. Furthermore, God hath revealed unto us his will in the law; wherefore, those men (107) do obey God, who do that alone which is agreeable to the law of God; and, again, which submit themselves willingly to his government. We see no such thing in all the wicked, whom God doth drive hither and thither, they themselves being ignorant. No man, therefore, will say that they are excusable under this color, because they obey God; forasmuch as both the will of God must be sought in his law, and they, so much as in them lieth, do (108) to resist God. As touching the other point, I deny that God is the author of evil; because there is a certain noting of a wicked affection in this word. For the wicked deed is esteemed according to the end whereat a man aimeth. When men commit theft or murder, they offend (109) for this cause, because they are thieves or murderers; and in theft and murder there is a wicked purpose. God, who useth their wickedness, is to be placed in the higher degree. For he hath respect unto a far other thing, because he will chastise the one, and exercise the patience of the other; and so he doth never decline from his nature, that is, from perfect righteousness. So that, whereas Christ was delivered by the hands of wicked men, whereas he was crucified, it came to pass by the appointment and ordinance of God. But treason, which is of itself wicked, and murder, which hath in it so great wickedness, must not be thought to be the works of God.
24.Having loosed the sorrows of death. By the sorrows of death I understand some farther thing than the bodily sense or feeling. For those which duly consider the nature of death, because they hear that it is the curse of God, must needs conceive that God is angry in death. Hence cometh marvelous horror, wherein there is greater misery than in death itself. Furthermore, Christ died upon this occasion that he might take upon him our guiltiness. That inward fear of conscience, which made him so afraid that he sweat blood when he presented himself before the throne and tribunal seat of God, did more vex him, and brought upon him greater horror, than all the torments of the flesh. And whereas Peter saith, that Christ did wrestle with such sorrows, and doth also declare that he had the victory, by this it cometh to pass that the faithful ought not now to be afraid of death; for death hath not the like quality now which was in Adam; because by the victory of Christ the curse is swallowed up, (1 Corinthians 15:54.) We feel, indeed, yet the pricking of sorrows, but such as do not wholly wound us, whilst that we hold up the buckler of faith against them. He added a reason, because it was impossible that Christ should be oppressed by death, who is the author of life.
25.The resurrection, (110) which was both declared and witnessed by certain and evident testimonies, and which might also have been gathered out of the continual doctrine of the prophets, was to be proved to the Jews as some new and strange thing. And no marvel. For we see that although Christ had oftentimes beat (111) the same into his disciples’ heads, yet did they profit but a little. And yet did they retain certain principles of true doctrine, which might have made a way for them unto the knowledge of Christ, as we shall see by and by. Therefore, because the gift of the Spirit was a fruit of the resurrection of Christ, he proveth by the testimony of David that Christ must needs have risen again, that the Jews may thereby know that he was the author of the gift. For he taketh it as a thing which all men grant, that he was raised up from death, that he may live not for himself, but for his. Now we see Peter’s drift; that that ought to seem no strange thing which was foretold so long before; and that Jesus is also Christ, because David did prophecy of him, as of the tied of the Church.
First of all, we must see whether this place ought altogether to be understood of Christ, as Peter affirmeth; that done, if there be any thing in the words worth noting, we will in order discuss it. Peter denieth that that agreeth with David which is said in this place:
“Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption,”
because David’s carcass was corrupt in the grave. It seemeth at the first blush to be but a light argument. For a man might easily object, that the word is not to be urged, forasmuch as David meant nothing else, save only to exempt himself from destruction. Therefore, howsoever corruption did touch him, yet doth that no whit hinder but that he may easily say that he was safe from the danger thereof, because he knew that the Lord would deliver him. Yea, it seemeth to be a repetition of the former sentence, according to the common custom of the Hebrew tongue. Which if it be so, the sense shall be plain, that God will not suffer him to be oppressed with death, or that death should consume him. And this interpretation is confirmed by that where we read hell, it is in Hebrew סל , (seol;) where we read corruption, there it is שחת,(shachat;) both these words do signify the grave. By this means David should say twice, that he shall be delivered from death by the grace of God. Finally, he saith the same thing in this place, which he saith, (Psalms 49:15,) “God shall redeem my soul from the hand of hell.” Like as, on the other side, when he speaketh of the reprobates, he is wont to take “going down into the grave” for destruction. I answer briefly, that there is some greater thing expressed in this place than the common redemption or deliverance of the godly. David, indeed, doth promise that God will be his eternal deliverer, as well in life as in death. Neither had he been much better for this, to have been once delivered from one danger, unless he had hoped that he should be safe even unto the end through God’s protection; but he speaketh of such safety as is not common. (112) And surely the words do sound that he speaketh of some new and singular privilege. Admit I grant that it is a repetition, and that there is all one thing uttered in these two members, “Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell;” and, “Thou shalt not suffer me to see corruption;” yet do I deny that it is simply to be understood that God will deliver his Holy One from eternal destruction; for freedom from corruption is promised by name. Neither do I pass for this, that שחת (shachat) doth signify the grave, as סל,(seol,) which is put in the former member. For although I do not stand nor contend about the words, yet must we respect the etymology. Therefore, forasmuch as the grave is called שחת, (shachat) because it doth corrupt man’s body with rottenness, it is not to be doubted but that David meant to note that quality. Therefore, the place is not so much expressed by this word, as the condition of rotting. So that the sense is, that God will not suffer him of whom the Psalm speaketh “to rot or corrupt in the grave.” And forasmuch as David was not free from this necessity, it followeth that the prophecy was neither truly nor perfectly fulfilled in him.
And that the Psalm ought altogether to be expounded of Christ, the thing itself doth prove. For seeing that David was one of the sons of Adam, he could not escape that universal condition and estate of mankind,
“Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,”
the grave standeth open (I say) for all the children of Adam, that it may swallow them up, and consume them; so that no man can exempt himself from corruption. So that, beholding ourselves apart from Christ, we see the grave prepared for us, which threateneth to us corruption. Wherefore, if David be separated from Christ, that shall not belong to him which is here said, that he shall be preserved from the grave. Therefore, when he boasteth that he shall be free from the grave, as touching corruption, without all doubt he placeth himself in the body of Christ, wherein death was overcome, and the kingdom thereof abolished. But and if David do promise himself exempting from the grave in another respect, save only so far forth as he is a member of Christ, hereby it appeareth that this freedom must begin at Christ as at the head. What man soever shall be of sound judgment shall easily know that this is a good argument. God did put all mankind under corruption; therefore, David, inasmuch as he was of the number of men, could not be free from the same. Neither is it to be doubted, but that the Jews, before whom this sermon was made, forasmuch as without question that maxim was of force amongst them, that they were to hope for the restoring of things at the hands of Christ alone, did the more readily stay themselves upon (113) the words of Peter; because they saw that that could no otherwise be which the words do import, unless they should apply it to the Messias. For they were not come to that point of impudence, at least those of whom mention is made here, that they durst cavil in matters which were evident; for God had then offered unto his disciples those which were godly hearers, and apt to be taught. They sought the Messias in the Old Testament. They knew that David was a figure of him. There was amongst them some religion and reverence of the Scriptures then; but now the impudency of all the whole nation almost is desperate. Howsoever they be urged, they wrench themselves out one way or other. (114) Where there is no way to escape, yet they break through; although they be overcome, yet will they not yield; neither is it to be doubted but that this their shameless forwardness is a punishment for their ungodliness. But let us return unto Peter’s sermon.
Seeing that David doth not only affirm that God also shall be his deliverer, but doth express a singular way and means; namely, that he shall not be subject to the corruption of the grave, Peter doth for good causes gather, that that doth not properly appertain unto him, for that his body was corrupt in the grave. And now, because this had been somewhat hard to be spoken among the Jews, he mollifieth the hardness with a circumlocution. For he doth not flatly deny in one word that that was fulfilled indeed in David, but doth only by the way (115) signify so much unto them, because he lieth consumed in the grave after the common custom of other men. And David did so prophesy of Christ, that he did both apply this consolation unto himself privately, and’ also extend the same unto the whole body of the Church. For that which is sound and perfect in the head is spread abroad, being afterward poured out into all the members. Neither is it to be denied but that David spoke of himself in this place; yet only so far forth as he beheld himself in Christ, as in the mirror of life. First, he hath respect unto Christ; after that he turneth his eyes toward himself, and others the faithful. So that we have a general doctrine prescribed unto us in this plate, concerning the nature of faith, the spiritual joy of conscience: and the hope of eternal deliverance.
I saw We must hold this principle. If we will have God present with us, we must set him before our eyes; and that before he do appear; for the prospect of faith pierceth far further than unto the present experience. Therefore faith hath this property, to set God always before it as a guide in all dangers and confused matters. For there is nothing that doth so much hold us up, as when we know that God is present with us; as the opinion of his absence doth often cast us down, and at length quite discourage us. David addeth, That he took not heed in vain unto the direction of God. “He is (saith he) at my right hand;” whereby he doth signify that we need not to fear lest we be deceived, (116) when as we set him before us at present; for we shall always feel his help most ready. Faith, in hoping for the help of God, ought to prevent and overgo (117) all experience, and whatsoever is perceived by the sense; but so soon as it shall give this glory to God, that it doth behold him in his Word, although he be absent, and so, consequently, invisible, it shall be overcome with the effect of the thing. For the measure of faith is not able to comprehend the infinite greatness of the power and goodness of God. He draweth a similitude from those which, when they will underprop the weak, or strengthen the fearful, do join themselves unto their side. Not to be moved, is not to be thrown down from their degree, but to remain firm in their estate; like as also Psalms 46:5, God is in the midst of it, therefore shall it not be moved. For although it come to pass sometimes that the godly be sore shaken, yet because they come to themselves again, they are said to continue firm. Therefore, there is no cause why they should be afraid of falling, who are upholden by the help of God. Like as, on the other side, those which place their strength anywhere else save only in God, they shall be like to fall at every blast of wind, but at any mean wind of temptation they shall fall to the ground.
26.For this my heart rejoiced Joy of the soul, gladness of the tongue, and quietness of all the whole body, do ensue upon sure hope and confidence; for unless men be quite past feeling, (118) they must needs be careful and sorrowful, and so, consequently, miserably tormented, so long as they feel themselves destitute of the help of God. But that sure trust which we repose in God doth not only deliver us from carefulness, (119) but doth also replenish our hearts with wonderful joy (and gladness.) That is the joy which Christ promised to his disciples should be full in them, and which he testified could not be taken from them, (John 16:22.) He expresseth the greatness of the joy when he saith, That it cannot be kept in, but that it will break forth into the gladness of the tongue. (120) כבוד, doth signify, indeed, glory, but it is taken in that place, as in many others, forthe tongue And so the Grecians have truly translated the same. The rest of theflesh doth signify the quietness of the whole man, which we have through the protection of God. Neither is this any let, because the faithful are continually out of quiet and tremble; for as in the midst of sorrows they do nevertheless rejoice; so there are no troubles so great that can break them of their rest. If any man object, that the peace of the faithful doth consist in the spirit, and that it is not in the flesh: I answer, that the faithful do rest in body; not that they are free from troubles, but because they believe that God careth for them wholly, and that not only their soul shall be safe through his protection, but their body also.
27.Because thou shalt not leave To leave the soul in hell is to suffer the same to be oppressed with destruction. There be two words used in this place, both which do signify the grave amongst the Hebricians. Because שאול, doth signify to require, I suppose it is called סול, because death is insatiable; whence also cometh that translation, Hell hath enlarged her soul. Again, they set open their mouth like hell. And because the latter שחת, is derived and set for corruption, or consumption, that quality is to be considered, as David meant to note the same. Those things which are disputed in this place by divers, concerning the descending of Christ into hell, are in my judgment superfluous; because they are far from the intent and purpose of the prophet. For the word anima, or soul, doth not so much signify the spirit being of an immortal essence as the life itself. For when a man is dead, and lieth in the grave, the grave is said to rule over his life. Whereas the Grecians translate it holy, it is in Hebrew חסת, which doth properly signify meek, or gentle, but Luke did not much regard this, because it doth not much appertain unto the present purpose. Furthermore, gentleness and meekness is so often commended in the faithful, because it behoveth them to imitate and resemble the nature of their Father.
28.Thou hast made known. He meaneth, that he was restored from death to life by the grace of God. For in that he was, as it were, a man raised from death to life, he acknowledgeth that it was a great good gift of God. This was in such sort fulfilled in Christ, that there wanted nothing unto perfection. As for the members they have their measure. Therefore Christ was far from corruption, that he may be the first-fruits of those which rise from death, (1 Corinthians 15:23.) We shall follow him in our order at length, but being first turned into dust, (1 Corinthians 15:42.) That which followeth, thathe was filled with gladness, with the countenance of God, agreeth with that: Show us thy face, and we shall be safe. And, again, The light of thy countenance is showed upon us: thou hast put gladness in my heart. For it is only the pleasantness of God’s countenance, which doth not only make us glad, but also quickens us; again, when the same is turned away, or troubled, we must needs faint.
30.Therefore, seeing he was a prophet He showeth, by two reasons, that it is no marvel if David do speak of things that should come to pass long after his time; the former is, because he was a prophet. And we know that things to come, and such as are removed far from the knowledge of men, are revealed unto the prophets. Therefore, it were wickedness to measure their speeches according to the common manner and order which we use in measuring the speeches of other men, forasmuch as they go beyond the long courses of years, having the Spirit for their director. Whereupon they are also called seers; because being placed, as it were, upon an high tower, (121) they see those things which, by reason of great distance, are hidden from other men. Another reason is, because Christ was promised to him peculiarly. This maxim was so common amongst the Jews, that they had ever now and then the son of David in their mouth, so often as there was any mention made of Christ. They be no such arguments, I confess, as do necessarily prove that this prophecy is to be expounded of Christ; neither was that Peter’s intent and purpose; but first he meant to prevent the contrary objection, whence David had such skill to foretell a thing which was unknown. Therefore he saith, That he knew Christ, both by prophetical revelation, and also by singular promise. Furthermore, this principle was of great (Romans 10:4) force amongst the better-minded sort which Paul setteth down, that Christ is the end of the law. (122) No man, therefore, did doubt of this, but that this was the mark whereat all the prophets did aim, to lead the godly unto Christ as it were by the hand. Therefore, what notable or extraordinary thing soever they did utter, the Jews were commonly persuaded that it did agree with Christ. Furthermore, we must note, that Peter doth reason soundly, when he gathered that David was not ignorant of that which was the chiefest point of all revelations.
He had sworn with an oath God swore not only to the end he might make David believe his promise, but also that the thing promised might be had in greater estimation. And to this end, in my judgment, it is here repeated, that the Jews may think with themselves of what great weight the promise was, which God did make so notable (and so famous.) The same admonition is profitable for us also. For we need not to doubt of this, but that the Lord meant to set forth the excellency of the covenant by putting in a solemn oath. In the mean season, this is also a fit remedy for the infirmity of our faith, that the sacred name of God is set forth unto us, (123) that his words may carry the greater credit. These words, “according to the flesh,” do declare that there was some more noble thing in Christ than the flesh. Therefore Christ did so come of the seed of David as he was man, that he doth nevertheless, retain his divinity; and so the distinction between the two natures is plainly expressed; when as Christ is called the Son of God, according to his eternal essence, in like sort as he is called the seed of David according to the flesh.
32.This Jesus After that he had proved by the testimony of David, that it was most requisite that Christ should rise again, he saith, that he and the rest of his fellows were such witnesses as saw him with their eyes after his resurrection. For this text (124) will not suffer this word raised up to be drawn into any other sense. Whereupon it followeth that that was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth which David did foreshow concerning Christ. After that he intreateth of the fruit or effect. For it was requisite for him to declare that first, that Christ is alive. Otherwise it had been an absurd and incredible thing that he should be the author of so great a miracle. Notwithstanding he doth therewithal teach us, that he did not rise for his own sake alone, but that he might make the whole Church partaker of his life, having poured out the Spirit.
33.He being therefore exalted by the right hand of God The right hand is taken in this place for the hand or power, in like sort as it is taken everywhere in the Scripture. For this is his drift, to declare that it was a wonderful work of God, in that he had exalted his Christ (whom men thought to be quite destroyed by death) unto so great glory.
The promise of the Spirit for the Spirit which was promised. For he had oftentimes before promised the Spirit to his apostles. Therefore Peter doth signify, that Christ had obtained power of God the Father to fulfill the same. And he maketh mention of the promise in plain words, to the end the Jews may know that this came not to pass suddenly, but that the words of the prophet were now verified, which went long time before the thing itself.
Furthermore, whereas it is said that he obtained it of the Father, it is to be applied to the person of the Mediator. For both these are truly said, that Christ sent the Spirit from himself and from the Father. He sent him from himself, because he is eternal God; from the Father, because in as much as he is man, he receiveth that of the Father which he giveth us. And Peter speaketh wisely according to the capacity of the ignorant, lest any man should move a question out of season concerning the power of Christ. And surely forasmuch as it is the office of Christ to direct us unto his Father, this is a most apt form of speaking for the use of godliness, that Christ being placed, as it were, in the midst between God and us, doth deliver unto us with his own hand those gifts which he hath received at the hands of his Father. Furthermore, we must note this order that he saith, that the Spirit was sent by Christ after that he was exalted. This agreeth with those sentences:
“The Spirit was not yet given,
“Unless I go hence, the Spirit will not come,”
Not because the Spirit began then first to be given, wherewith the holy fathers were endued since the beginning of the world; but because God did defer this more plentiful abundance of grace, until such time as he had placed Christ in his princely seat; which is signified by this word poured out, as we saw a little before. For by this means the force and fruit of Christ his death and resurrection is sealed; and we do also thereby know, that we have lost nothing by Christ his departing out of the world; because, though he be absent in body, yet is he present with us after a better sort, to wit, by the grace of his Holy Spirit.
34.For doubtless David Although they might easily gather by the very effect which they saw with their eyes, that the principality was granted and given to Christ, yet to the end his glory may carry the greater credit, he proveth, by David his testimony, that it was so appointed in times past by God, that Christ should be lifted up unto the highest degree of honor. For these words, to “sit at the right hand of God,” import as much as to bear the chief rule, as we shall afterward more at large declare. Yet before he reciteth the prophecy, he saith that it agreeth only to Christ. Therefore, to the end the sense may be more manifest, the sentence must thus run. David pronounceth that it was decreed by God that a king should sit at his right hand. But this doth not appertain unto David, who was never extolled unto so great dignity. Therefore lie speaketh this of Christ. Furthermore, that ought to have seemed no strange thing unto the Jews which was foretold by the oracle of the Holy Ghost. Hereby it appeareth in what sense Peter denieth that David ascended into heaven. He intreateth not in this place of the soul of David, whether it were received into blessed rest, and the heavenly dwelling or no; but the ascending into heaven comprehendeth under it those things which Paul teacheth in the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 4:9), where he placeth Christ above all heavens, that he may fulfill all things. Wherefore the disputation concerning the estate of the dead is altogether superfluous in this place. For Peter goeth about to prove no other thing but this, that the prophecy concerning the sitting at the right hand of God was not fulfilled in David, and that, therefore, the truth thereof must be sought elsewhere. And forasmuch as it can be found nowhere else save only in Jesus Christ, it resteth that the Jews (125) do know that that is showed to them in Christ which was foretold them so long before. That is true, indeed, that David reigned, God being the author hereof, and, in some respect, he was God’s vicegerent; yet not so that he might be above all creatures. Wherefore, this sitting agreeth to none, unless he excel and be above all the whole world.
The Lord said unto my Lord. This is the most lawful manner of ruling, when as the king (or by what other title soever he be called) doth know that he is ordained of God, therefore David pronounceth that the commandment to reign was given unto Christ by name, (Psalms 110:1.) As if he should say, He took not the honor to himself rashly, but did only obey God when he commanded him, (Hebrews 5:5.) Now must we see whether Peter’s reason be sound enough or no. He gathereth that the words concern Christ, because the sitting at the right hand of God doth not agree to David. It seemeth that this may be refuted, because David did reign by the peculiar commandment, name, and help of God; which is to sit at the right hand of God. But Peter taketh that for a thing which all men grant, which is true, and which I have already touched, that a greater and more royal government is here spoken of than that which David did enjoy. For howsoever he was God’s vicegerent and did, as it were, represent his person in reigning, yet is this power far inferior to that, to sit even at the right side of God. For this is attributed to Christ, because he is placed above all principality, and above every name that is named, both in this world, and in the world to come, (Ephesians 1:21.) Seeing that David is far inferior to the angels, he doth possess no such place that he should be counted next to God. For he must ascend far above all heavens, that he may come to the right hand of God. Wherefore no man is said to sit at it, rightly and properly, save only he which doth surpass all creatures in the degree of honor. As for him which is resident amongst the creatures, although he be reckoned in the order of angels, yet is he far from that highness. Again, we must not seek the right hand of God amongst the creatures; but it doth also surpass all heavenly principalities.
Furthermore, there is great weight even in the sentence itself. The king is commanded to bear the chiefest rule, until God have put all his enemies under his feet. Surely, although I grant that; he name of such an honorable sitting may be applied unto earthly lordship: yet do I deny that David did reign until such time as all his enemies were subdued. For we do hereby gather that the kingdom of Christ is eternal. But the kingdom of David was not only temporal, but also frail, and of a small continuance.
Moreover, when David died, he left many enemies alive here and there he got many notable victories, but he was far from subduing all his enemies. He made many of those people which were round about him tributaries to him; some did he put to flight and destroyed; but what is all this unto all? Finally, we may prove by the whole text of the Psalm, that there can nothing else be understood save only the kingdom of Christ. That I may pass over other things: that which is here spoken touching the eternal priesthood is too far disagreeing from David’s person. I know that the Jews do prattle, that kings’ sons are called elsewhere cohenim. But he intreateth here of the priesthood as it is ascribed by Moses to the king Melchizedek. And there is established by a solemn oath a certain new kind of priesthood. And, therefore, we must not here imagine any common or ordinary thing. But it had been wickedness for David to thrust himself into any part of the priest’s office. How should he then be called cohen, greater than Aaron, and consecrated of God for ever? But because I do not intend at this present to expound the whole Psalm, let this reason suffice which Peter bringeth: That he is made Lord of heaven and earth, which sitteth at the right hand of God. As touching the second member of the verse, read those things which I have noted upon the fifteenth chapter (1 Corinthians 15:25) of the former Epistle to the Corinthians, concerning the putting of his enemies under his feet.
36.Therefore, let all the house of Israel know The house of Israel did confess that that Christ should come which was promised; yet did they not know Who it was. Therefore, Peter concludeth, that Jesus: whom they had so spitefully handled, yea, whose name they did so greatly detest: is he whom they ought to acknowledge to be their Lord, and whom they ought to reverence. For, (saith he,) God hath made him Lord and Christ; that is, you must look for none other than him whom God hath made and given. Furthermore, he saith, That he was made, because God the Father gave him this honor. He joineth the title Lord with the word Christ, because it was a common thing among the Jews, that the Redeemer should be anointed upon this condition, that he might be the Head of the Church, and that the chiefest power over all things might be given him. He speaketh unto the whole house of Israel; as if he should say, Whosoever will be reckoned among the sons of Jacob, and do also look for the promise, let them know for a surety, that this is he and none other. He useth the wordhouse, because God had separated that name and family from all other people. And he saith ασφαλως, or for a surety, not only that they may repose their sure confidence and trust in Christ, but that he may take away all occasion of doubting from those which do oftentimes willingly doubt even of matters which are certain and sure. In the end of his oration he upbraideth unto them again, that they did crucify him, that being touched with greater grief of conscience, they may desire remedy.
And now, forasmuch as they know that Jesus is the Anointed of the Lord, the governor of the Church, and the giver of the Holy Ghost, the accusation hath so much the more force. For the putting of him to death was not only full of cruelty and wickedness, but also a testimony of outrageous disloyalty against God, of sacrilege and unthankfulness, and, finally, of apostasy. But it was requisite that they should be so wounded, lest they should have been slow to seek for medicine. And yet, notwithstanding, they did not crucify him with their own hands; but this is more than sufficient to make them guilty, in that they desired to have him put to death. And we also are accused by this same voice, if we crucify him in ourselves, being already glorified in heaven, making a mock of him, as saith the Apostle, (Hebrews 6:6.)
37.They were pricked in heart. Luke doth now declare the fruit of the sermon, to the end we may know that the power of the Holy Ghost was not only showed forth in the diversity of tongues, but also in their hearts which heard. And he noteth a double fruit; first, that they were touched with the feeling of sorrow; and, secondly, that they were obedient to Peter’s counsel. This is the beginning of repentance, this is the entrance unto godliness, to be sorry for our sins, and to be wounded with the feeling of our miseries. For so long as men are careless, they cannot take such heed unto doctrine as they ought. And for this cause the word of God is compared to a sword, (Hebrews 4:12,) because it doth mortify our flesh, that we may be offered to God for a sacrifice. But there must be added unto this pricking in heart readiness to obey. Cain and Judas were pricked in heart, but despair did keep them back from submitting themselves unto God, (Genesis 4:13; Matthew 27:3.) For the mind being oppressed with horror, can do nothing else but flee from God. And surely when David affirmeth that a contrite spirit and an humble heart is a sacrifice acceptable to God, he speaketh of voluntary pricking; forasmuch as there is fretting and fuming mixed with the prickings of the wicked. Therefore, we must take a good heart to us, and lift up our mind with this hope of salvation, that we may be ready to addict and give over ourselves unto God, and to follow whatsoever he shall command. We see many oftentimes pricked, who, notwithstanding, do fret and murmur, or else forwardly strive and struggle, and so, consequently, go furiously mad. Yea, this is the cause why they go mad, because they feel such prickings against their will. Those men, therefore, are profitably pricked alone who are willingly sorrowful, and do also seek some remedy at God’s hands.
38.Peter said Hereby we see that those do never go away empty which ask at the mouth of the Lord, and do offer themselves unto him to be ruled and taught; for that promise must needs be true, Knock, and it shall be opened unto you, (Matthew 7:7.) Therefore, whosoever shall be rightly prepared to learn, the Lord will not suffer his godly desire to be in vain; for he is a most faithful master, so that he hath scholars which are apt to be taught and studious. Wherefore, there is no cause why he should fear, lest he suffer us to be destitute of sound counsel, if we be attentive and ready to hear him, and do not refuse to embrace whatsoever he shall teach us. And let us suffer ourselves to be governed by the counsel and authority of those men whom he offereth unto us to teach us, for this ready obedience cometh thence so suddenly in those which addict themselves unto the apostles, because they are persuaded that they are sent of God, to show them the way of salvation.
Repent. There is greater force in the Greek word, for it doth signify the conversion of the mind, that the whole man may be renewed and made another man, which thing must be diligently noted, because this doctrine was miserably corrupted in the time of Popery; for they translated the name of repentance almost unto certain external rites. They babble somewhat, indeed, about the reigned contrition of the heart; but they touch that part very slightly, and they stand principally upon the external exercises of the body, which were little worth; yea, though there were in them no corruption; but they urge nothing else in a manner but reigned trifles, wherewith men are wearied in vain. Wherefore, let us know that this is the true repentance, when a man is renewed in the spirit of his mind, as Paul teacheth, (Romans 12:2.) Neither need we to doubt of this; but that Peter did preach plainly of the force and nature of repentance; but Luke doth only touch the chief points, and doth not reckon up the words of the oration which he made. We must, therefore, know thus much, that Peter did at the first exhort the Jews unto repentance; and that done, he lifted them up with hope of pardon; for he promised them forgiveness of sins, which two things are the two parts of the gospel, as we know full well; and, therefore, when Christ will briefly teach what the doctrine of the gospel doth contain, he saith, that repentance and remission of sins (Luke 24:47) must be preached in his name. Furthermore, because we are reconciled unto God only by the intercession of Christ’s death, neither are our sins otherwise purged, (126) and done away, save only by his blood, therefore, Peter calleth us back unto him by name. He putteth baptism in the fourth place, as the seal whereby the promise of grace is confirmed.
Wherefore, we have in these few words almost the whole sum of Christianity, namely, how a man renouncing himself and taking his farewell of the world, may addict himself wholly to God; secondly, How he may be delivered by free forgiveness of sins, and so adopted into the number of the children of God. And forasmuch as we can obtain none of all these things without Christ, the name of Christ is therewithal set forth unto us, as the only foundation of faith and repentance. And we must also note this, that we do so begin repentance when we are turned unto God, that we must prosecute the same during our life; therefore, this sermon must continually sound in the Church, repent, (Mark 1:15;) not that those men may begin the same, who will be counted faithful, and have a place already in the Church; but that they may go forward in the same; although many do usurp the name of faithful men, which had never any beginning of repentance. Wherefore, we must observe this order in teaching, that those which do yet live unto the world and the flesh may begin to crucify the old man, that they may rise unto newness of life, and that those who are already entered the course of repentance may continually go forward towards the mark. Furthermore, because the inward conversion of the heart ought to bring forth fruits in the life, repentance cannot be rightly taught unless works be required, not those frivolous works which are only in estimation amongst the Papists, but such as are sound testimonies of innocence and holiness.
Be baptized every one of you. Although in the text and order of the words, baptism doth here go before remission of sins, yet doth it follow it in order, because it is nothing else but a sealing of those good things which we have by Christ that they may be established in our consciences; therefore, after that Peter had intreated of repentance, he calleth the Jews unto the hope of grace and salvation; and, therefore, Luke well afterwards, in Paul’s sermon, joineth faith and repentance together in the same sense, wherein he putteth forgiveness of sins in this place, and that for good considerations; for the hope of salvation consisteth in the free imputation of righteousness; and we are counted just, freely before God, when he forgiveth us our sins. And as I said before, that the doctrine of repentance hath a daily use in the Church so must we think of the forgiveness of sins, that the same is continually offered unto us; and surely it is no less necessary for us during the whole course of our life, than at our first entrance into the Church, so that it should profit us nothing to be once received into favor by God, unless this embassage should have a continual course; be-reconciled unto God, because
“he which knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be the righteousness of God in him,”
Moreover, the Papists do so corrupt this other part of the gospel, that they quite exclude the remission of sins, which was to be obtained by Christ. They confess their sins are freely forgiven in baptism, but they will have them redeemed with satisfactions after baptism; and although they mix the grace of Christ together therewithal, yet because they inwrap the same in men’s merits, they do by this means overthrow the whole doctrine of the gospel; for, first, they take from men’s consciences the certainty of faith; that done, forasmuch as they part the forgiveness of sins between the death of Christ and our satisfactions, they do altogether deprive us of Christ’s benefit. For Christ doth not reconcile us unto God in part, but wholly, neither can we obtain remission of sins by him, unless it be whole and perfect. But the Papists are much deceived therein, who restrain baptism unto the nativity and former life, as if the signification and force thereof did not reach even unto death.
Let us know, therefore, that forgiveness of sins is grounded in Christ alone, and that we must not think upon any other satisfaction (127) save only that which he hath performed by the sacrifice of his death. And for this cause, as we have already said, doth Peter express his name, whereby he doth signify unto us, that none of all these things can be rightly taught, unless Christ be set in the midst, to the end the effect of this doctrine may be sought in him. That needeth no long exposition where he commandeth them to be baptized for the remission of sins; for although God hath once reconciled men unto himself in Christ” by not imputing unto them their sins,” (2 Corinthians 5:19,) and doth now imprint in our hearts the faith thereof by his Spirit; yet, notwithstanding, because baptism is the seal whereby he doth confirm unto us this benefit, and so, consequently, the earnest and pledge of our adoption, it is worthily said to be given us for the remission of sins. For because we receive Christ’s gifts by faith, and baptism is a help to confirm and increase our faith, remission of sins, which is an effect of faith, is annexed unto it as unto the inferior mean. Furthermore, we must not fetch the definition of baptism from this place, because Peter doth only touch a part thereof. Our old man is crucified by baptism, as Paul teacheth, that we may rise unto newness of life, (Romans 6:4.) And, again, we put on Christ himself, (1 Corinthians 12:0.) and the Scripture teacheth every where, that it is also a sign and token of repentance, (Galatians 3:27.) But because Peter doth not intreat in thin place openly of the whole nature of baptism, but speaking of the forgiveness of sins, doth, by the way, declare that the confirmation thereof is in baptism, there doth no inconvenience follow, if ye do omit the other part. (128)
In the name of Christ. Although baptism be no vain figure, but a true and effectual testimony; notwithstanding, lest any man attribute that unto the element of water which is there offered, the name of Christ is plainly expressed, to the end we may know that it shall be a profitable sign for us then, if we seek the force and effect thereof in Christ, and know that we are, therefore, washed in baptism, because the blood of Christ is our washing; and we do also hereby gather, that Christ is, the mark and end whereunto baptism directeth us; wherefore, every one profiteth so much in baptism as he learneth to look unto Christ. But here ariseth a question, Whether it were lawful for Peter to change the form prescribed by Christ? The Papists do think, at least feign so, and thence do they take a color of liberty to change or abrogate the institutions of Christ. They confess that nothing ought to be changed, as touching the substance, but they will have the Church to have liberty to change whatsoever it will in the form. But this argument may easily be answered. For we must first know that Christ did not indite and rehearse unto his apostles magical words for enchanting, as the Papists do dream, but he did, in few words, comprehend the sum of the mystery. Again, I deny that Peter doth speak in this place of the form of baptism; but he doth simply declare that the whole strength (129) of baptism is contained in Christ; although Christ cannot be laid hold on by faith without the Father by whom he was given us, and the Spirit by the which he reneweth and sanctifieth us. The answer consisteth wholly in this, that he intreateth not in this place of the certain form of baptizing, but the faithful are called back unto Christ, in whom alone we have whatsoever baptism doth prefigure unto us; for we are both made clean by his blood, and also we enter into a new life by the benefit of his death and resurrection.
Ye shall receive the gift of the Spirit. Because they were touched with wondering when they saw the apostles suddenly begin to speak with strange tongues, Peter saith that they shall be partakers of the same gift if they will pass over unto Christ. Remission of sins and newness of life were the principal things, and this was, as it were, an addition, that Christ should show forth unto them his power by some visible gift. Neither ought this place to be understood of the grace of sanctification, which is given generally to all the godly. Therefore he promiseth them the gift of the Spirit, whereof they saw a pattern in the diversity of tongues. Therefore this doth not properly appertain unto us. For because Christ meant to set forth the beginning of his kingdom with those miracles, they lasted but for a time; yet because the visible graces which the Lord did distribute to his did shoe, as it were in a glass, that Christ was the giver of the Spirit, therefore, that which Peter saith doth in some respect appertain unto all the whole Church: ye shall receive the gift of the Spirit. For although we do not receive it, that we may speak with tongues, that we may be prophets, that we may cure the sick, that we may work miracles; yet is it given us for a better use, that we may believe with the heart unto righteousness, that our tongues may be framed unto true confession, (Romans 10:10,) that we may pass from death to life, (John 5:24) that we, which are poor and empty, may be made rich, that we may withstand Satan and the world stoutly. Therefore, the grace of the Spirit shall always be annexed unto baptism, unless the let be in ourselves.
39.For the promise appertaineth unto you. It was requisite that this should be expressly added, that the Jews might certainly think and persuade themselves that the grace of Christ did belong as well to them as to the apostles. And Peter proveth it thus, because the promise of God was made unto them. For we must always look unto this, because [that] we cannot otherwise know the will of God save only by his word. But it is not sufficient to have the general word, unless we know that the same is appointed for us. Therefore Peter saith, that those benefits which they see in him and his fellows in office were in times past promised to the Jews; because this is required necessarily for the certainty of faith, that every one be fully persuaded of this, that he is comprehended in the number of those unto whom God speaketh. Finally, this is the rule of a true faith, when I am thus persuaded that salvation is mine, because that promise appertaineth unto me which offereth the same. And hereby we have also a greater confirmation, when as the promise is extended unto those who were before afar off. For God had made the covenant with the Jews, (Exodus 4:22.) If the force and fruit thereof come also unto the Gentiles, there is no cause why the Jews should doubt of themselves, but that they shall find the promise of God firm and stable.
And we must note these three degrees, that the promise was first made to the Jews, and then to their children, and last of all, that it is also to be imparted to the Gentiles. We know the reason why the Jews are preferred before other people; for they are, as it were, the first begotten in God’s family, yea, they were then separated from other people by a singular privilege. Therefore Peter observeth a good order, when he giveth the Jews the pre-eminence. Whereas he adjoineth their children unto them, it dependeth upon the words of the promise: I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee, (Genesis 17:7,) where God doth reckon the children with the fathers in the grace of adoption.
This place, therefore, doth abundantly refute the manifest error of the Anabaptists, which will not have infants, which are the children of the faithful, to be baptized, as if they were not members of the Church. They espy a starting hole in the allegorical sense, (130) and they expound it thus, that by children are meant those which are spiritually begotten. But this gross impudency doth nothing help them. It is plain and evident that Peter spoke thus because God did adopt one nation peculiarly. And circumcision did declare that the right of adoption was common even unto infants. Therefore, even as God made his covenant with Isaac, being as yet unborn, because he was the seed of Abraham, so Peter teacheth, that all the children of the Jews are contained in the same covenant, because this promise is always in force, I will be the God of your seed.
And to those which are afar off. The Gentiles are named in the last place, which were before strangers. For those which refer it unto those Jews which were exiled afar off, (and driven) into far countries, they are greatly deceived. For he speaketh not in this place of the distance of place; but he noteth a difference between the Jews and the Gentiles, that they were first joined to God by reason of the covenant, and so, consequently, became of his family or household; but the Gentiles were banished from his kingdom. Paul useth the same speech in the second chapter to Ephesians, (Ephesians 2:11,) that the Gentiles, which were strangers from the promises, are now drawn near, through Jesus Christ, unto God. Because that Christ (the wall of separation being taken away) hath reconciled both (the Jews and Gentiles) unto the Father, and coming, he hath preached peace unto those which were nigh at hand, and which were afar off. Now we understand Peter’s meaning. For to the end he may amplify the grace of Christ, he doth so offer the same unto the Jews, that he saith the Gentiles are also partakers thereof. And therefore he useth this word call, as if he should say: Like as God hath gathered you together into one peculiar people heretofore by his voice, so the same voice shall sound everywhere, that those which are afar off may come and join themselves unto you, when as they shall be called by a new proclamation.
40.And with many Although in these things which we have had hitherto, Luke did not recite the words of St Peter, but did only briefly touch the chief points; notwithstanding he telleth us again in this place, that Peter did not use doctrine only, but did add the pricks of exhortations. And he expresseth plainly that tie stood much (131) hereupon. Whereas he saith, that he did exhort and beseech, he noteth therein his earnestness. For it was not so easy a matter for them by and by (132) to take their leave of those errors wherewith they were of late infected, and to shake off the government of the priests whereunto they were accustomed. Therefore it stood him upon to pull them violently out of this mire. The sum was this, that they should beware of that froward generation. For they could not be Christ’s unless they would depart from his professed enemies. The priests and scribes were then in great authority, and forasmuch as they did cover themselves under the visor [mask] of the Church, they did deceive the simple, this did hinder and keep back a great many from coming to Christ. Also some might waver, and other some might fall away from the right faith. Therefore Peter plainly declareth that they are a froward generation, howsoever they may boast of the title of the Church. For which cause he commandeth his hearers to separate themselves from them, lest they entangle themselves in their wicked and pestiferous fellowship. Whereas he saith, Be ye saved, he signifieth unto them that they shall surely perish if they couple themselves with such a plague. And surely experience doth teach us, how miserably those men are tossed to and fro who cannot discern the voice of their pastor from the voice of other men; (133) and again, what an hindrance softness and sluggishness is to a great many, whilst they desire to stand in a doubt. (134) Therefore he commandeth them to depart from the wicked if they will be saved. And this point of doctrine is not to be neglected. For it were not sufficient to have Christ set before us, unless we were also taught to flee those things which do lead us away from him. And it is the duty of a good shepherd to defend his sheep from the wolves. So at this day, to the end we may keep the people in the sincere doctrine of the gospel, we are ever now and then enforced to show and testify how much Papistry differeth from Christianity, and what a hurtful plague it is to be yoked with the unfaithful enemies of Christ. Neither ought Peter to be accused of railing, because he calleth the reverend 6tthers, who had the government of the Church (135) in their hands at that day, a froward generation For those dangers which may draw the soul unto destruction are to be showed by their names. For men will not beware of poison, unless they know that it is poison.
41.They, therefore, which willingly. Luke showeth more plainly how fruitful this one sermon which Peter made was: to wit, that it gained unto Christ about three thousand men. And therewithal he declareth the nature and force of faith when he saith, that with a prompt and ready (136) mind they embraced his word. Therefore, faith must begin with this readiness and willing desire to obey. And because many do show themselves at the first very willing, who afterward have in themselves no constancy or continuance, lest we should think that it was some sudden pang (137) which by and by fell away, Luke doth also afterward commend their constancy, who (as he said) did willingly embrace this word of the apostles, showing that they were joined unto the disciples, or that they were engrafted into the same body, and that they continued in their doctrine. Therefore we must neither be slow to obey, nor yet swift to leap back; but we must stick fast, and stand stoutly to that doctrine which we did forthwith (without any tarriance [delay]) embrace. Furthermore, this example ought to make us not a little ashamed. For whereas there was a great multitude converted unto Christ with one sermon, an hundred sermons can scarce move a few of us; and whereas Luke saith that they continued, there is scarce one amongst ten that doth show even a mean desire to profit and go forward, yea, rather, the more part doth soon loathe our doctrine. Woe be, therefore, to the sluggishness and lightness of the world!
42.In their doctrine Luke doth not only commend in them the constancy of faith or of godliness, but he saith, also, that they did constantly give themselves to those exercises which serve to the confirmation of faith; to wit, that they studied continually to profit by hearing the apostles; that they gave themselves much to prayer; that they did use fellowship and breaking of bread very much.
As touching prayer and doctrine the sense is plain. Communication or fellowship, and breaking of bread, may be taken diversely. Some think that breaking of bread doth signify the Lord’s Supper; other some do think that it signifieth alms; other some that the faithful did banquet together (138) among themselves. Some do think that κοινωνια, doth signify the celebrating of the Holy Supper; but I do rather agree to those others who think that the same is meant by the breaking of bread. For κοινωνια, unless it have somewhat added unto it, is never found in this sense; therefore, I do rather refer it unto mutual society and fellowship, unto alms, and unto other duties of brotherly fellowship. And my reason why I would rather have breaking of bread to be understood of the Lord’s Supper in this place is this, because Luke doth reckon up those things wherein the public estate of the Church is contained. Yea, he expresseth in this place four marks whereby the true and natural face of the Church may be judged. Do we then seek the true Church of Christ? The image thereof is lively depainted and set forth (139) unto us in this place. And he beginneth with doctrine which is, as it were, the soul of the Church. Neither doth he name all manner of doctrine, but the doctrine of the apostles, that is, that which the Son of God had delivered by their hands. Therefore, wheresoever the pure voice of the gospel doth sound, where men continue in the profession thereof, where they exercise themselves in hearing the same ordinarily that they may profit, without all doubt there is the Church.
Hereby we may easily gather how frivolous the boasting of the Papists is, whilst that they carelessly (140) thunder out with fall mouth the name of the Church; whereas, notwithstanding, they have most filthily corrupted the doctrine of the apostles. For if it be duly examined, we shall find no sound part at all; and in most points they do as much dissent from the same, and have as little agreement therewith as light with darkness. The rule of worshipping God, which ought to be fetched out of the pure Word of God alone, is only made and patched together (141) amongst the Papists, of the superstitious inventions of men. They have translated unto the merits of works the hope of salvation, which ought to have rested in Christ alone. The invocation of God is altogether polluted with innumerable profane dotings of men. Finally, whatsoever is heard amongst them, it is either a deforming of the apostles’ doctrine, or else a clear overthrowing (and destroying) of the same. Therefore, we may as easily refute the foolish arrogancy of the Papists, as they can cloak their dealings with the title of the Church. For this shall be the state, (142) whether they have retained the purity of doctrine, from which they are as far as hell is from heaven. But they are wise enough in that point, because they will have no controversy moved about doctrine. But we, as I have said, may freely contemn that vain visor, [mask,] forasmuch as the Spirit of God doth pronounce that the Church is principally to be (esteemed and) discerned by this mark, if the simplicity or purity of the doctrine delivered by the apostles do flourish (and be of force) in the same.
In fellowship. This member and the last do flow from the first, as fruits or effects. For doctrine is the bond of brotherly fellowship amongst us, and doth also set open unto us the gate unto God, that we may call upon him. And the Supper is added unto doctrine instead of a confirmation. Wherefore, Luke doth not in vain reckon up these four things, when as he will describe unto us the well-ordered state of the Church. And we must endeavor to keep and observe this order, if we will be truly judged to be the Church before God and the angels, and not only to make boast of the name (143) thereof amongst men. It is certain that he speaketh of public prayer. And for this cause it is not sufficient for men to make their prayers at home by themselves, unless they meet altogether to pray; wherein consisteth also the profession of faith.
43.And there came. He signifieth unto us that the show and sight of the Church was such, that it made others afraid which did not consent unto [its] doctrine; and that was done for the preserving and furthering of the Church. When there ariseth any seen all men set themselves stoutly against the same; and as novelty is odious, the Jews would never have suffered the Church of Christ to stand one minute of an hour, (144) unless the Lord had restrained them with fear as with a bridle. Furthermore, Luke noteth the manner of fear, that it was no such fear as bringeth men unto the obedience of Christ, but such as causeth men to stand in a doubt, and so, consequently, doth, as it were, so bind them hand and foot, (145) that they dare not hinder the Lord’s work. Like as there be some at this day who will willingly be ignorant of the gospel; or, at least, are so holden (146) with the cares of this world, that they cannot thoroughly join themselves unto Christ; and yet they are not so hard-hearted but that they confess that the truth is on our side; and, therefore, they rest, as it were, in the middle way, neither do they favor the cruelty of the wicked, because they are afraid to strive against God. And whereas he saith, Every soul, he speaketh thus by synecdoche. For it is certain that many did contemn the hand of God, and that other some were stricken with no great fear, but that they did furiously rage together against the Church. (147) But Luke’s meaning was this, that there appeared such power of God in the Church, that the people for the most part had not one word to say. (148)
And many wonders. This member serveth also to the showing of the cause. For the miracles served to make them afraid, together with other works of God, although this was not the only reason, but one of many, why they were afraid to set themselves against God, who was on that side, as they did gather by the miracles; whence we gather that they are not only profitable for this to bring men to God, (149) but also to make the wicked somewhat more gentle, and that they may tame their furiousness. Pharaoh was a man of desperate stubbornness, (Exodus 8:8, etc. 19,) and yet we see how miracles do sometimes pierce his obstinate heart. He forgetteth them by and by; but when the hand of God is heavy upon him, he is compelled through fear to yield. To be brief, Luke teacheth that the Jews were by this means kept back, that the Church, which might easily have been destroyed, might have got up her head. (150) Which thing we have oftentimes tried (151) even in our time. And he doth not only declare that they were bridled with fear, lest they should be so bold as to attempt so much as they lusted to do hurt to the Church, but that they were also humbled with reverence to the glory of the gospel.
44.And all Whereas I have translated it joined together, it is word for word in St Luke, Into the same, or into one, which may be expounded of the place; as if he should have said that they were wont to dwell together in one place. Notwithstanding, I had rather understand it of their consent (and agreement;) as he will say in the fourth chapter, “That they had one heart,” (Acts 4:32.) And so he goeth forward orderly, when, as he beginneth with their mind, he addeth afterward their bountifulness, as a fruit proceeding thence. Therefore, he giveth us to understand that they were rightly joined together with brotherly love amongst themselves, and that they did indeed declare the same, because the rich men did sell their goods that they might help the poor. And this is a singular example of love, and therefore doth Luke record the same, to the end we may know that we must relieve the poverty of our brethren with our plenty.
But this place hath need of a sound exposition, because of fantastical [fanatical] spirits, which do feign a commonalty or participation together of goods, whereby all policy or civil government is taken away; as in this age the Anabaptists have raged, because they thought there was no Church unless all men’s goods were put and gathered together, as it were, in one heap, that they might all one with another take thereof. Wherefore, we must in this point beware of two extremes. For many, under color of policy, do keep close and conceal whatsoever they have; they defraud the poor, and they think that they are twice righteous, so they take away no other men’s goods. Other some are carried into the contrary error, because they would have all things confused. But what doth Luke? Surely he noteth another order, when he saith that there was choice made in the distribution. If any man object that no man had any thing which was his own, seeing all things were common, we may easily answer. For this community or participation together must be restrained unto the circumstance which ensueth immediately; to wit, that the poor might be relieved as every man had need. We know the old proverb, “All things are common amongst friends.” When as the scholars of Pythagoras said thus, they did not deny but that every man might govern his own house privately, neither did they intend to make their own wives common; so this having of things common, whereof Luke speaketh, and which he commendeth, doth not take away household government; which thing shall better appear by the fourth chapter, whereas he nameth two alone which sold their possessions of so many thousands. Whence we gather that which I said even now, that they brought forth and made common their goods in no other respect, save only that they might relieve the present necessity. And the impudency of the monks was ridiculous, who did profess that they did observe the apostles’ rule, because they call nothing their own; and yet, nevertheless, they neither sell any thing, neither yet do they pass for any man’s poverty; (152) but they stuff their idle bellies with the blood of the poor, neither do they regard any other thing in their having of things common, save only that they may be well filled and daintily, although all the whole world be hungry. Wherein, then, are they like to the first disciples, with whom they will be thought to be able to compare? (153)
46.Continuing in the temple We must note that they did frequent the temple for this cause, because there was more opportunity and occasion offered there to further the gospel. Neither were they drawn with the holiness of the place, seeing they knew that the shadows of the law were ceased; neither meant they to draw others by their example to have the temple in any such reverence; (154) but because there was there great concourse of people, who having laid aside their private cares, wherewith they had been drawn away elsewhere, (155) did seek the Lord; they were continually in the temple, that they might gain such unto Christ. There might be another reason which might induce them hereunto, that they might have a mutual conference and imparting of doctrine amongst themselves, which they could not have done so conveniently in a private house, especially seeing they were so, many.
Breaking bread from house to house. Luke signifieth unto us, that they did not only show some token of true godliness publicly, but that the course and tenor of their private life was alone in that respect. For whereas some do think that in this place, by breaking of bread is meant the Holy Supper, it seemeth to me that Luke meant no such thing. He signifieth, therefore, unto us, that they used to eat together, and that thriftily. (156) For those which make sumptuous banquets do not eat their meat together so familiarly. Again, Luke addeth, in singleness of heart; which is also a token of temperance. In sum, his meaning is to declare, that their manner of living was brotherly and sober. Some do join simplicity and gladness with the praise of God; and both texts may well be allowed. (157) But because there can be no singleness of heart in praising God, unless the stone be also in all parts of the life, therefore it is certain, that there is mention made thereof in this sense, that the faithful did always use the same in all places. (158) And we must also note the circumstance of time, that, being environed and beset with many dangers, they were merry and joyful. The knowledge of God’s love toward us, and the hope of his protection, do bring us this goodness with them, that we praise God with quiet minds, whatsoever the world doth threaten. And as Luke spoke a little before of the public estate of the Church, so he declareth now what form and manner of life the faithful did use; that we may learn by their example a thrifty fellowship in our manner of living, and in all our whole life to embrace singleness, to enjoy the spiritual joy, and to exercise ourselves in the praises of God. Furthermore, the singleness of heart reacheth far; but if you join it in this place with breaking of bread, it shall signify as much as sincere love, where one man dealeth plainly with another, neither doth any man craftily hunt after his own profit. Yet had I rather set the same against that carefulness, wherewith worldly men (159) do too much torment themselves. For when as we do not cast our care upon the Lord, this reward hangeth over our heads, that we tremble and quake even when we take our rest.
47.Having favor. This is the fruit of an innocent life, to find favor even amongst strangers. And yet we need not to doubt of this, but that they were hated of many. But although he speak generally of the people, yet he meaneth that part alone which was sound, neither yet infected with any poison of hatred; he signifieth briefly, that the faithful did so behave themselves, that the people did full well like of them for their innocency of life. (160)
The Lord added daily. He showeth in these words that their diligence was not without profit; they studied so much as in them lay to gather into the Lord’s sheepfold those which wandered and went astray. He saith that their labor bestowed herein was not lost; because the Lord did increase his Church daily. And surely, whereas the Church is rather diminished than increased, that is to be imputed to our slothfulness, or rather forwardness. (161) And although they did all of them stoutly labor to increase the kingdom of Christ, yet Luke ascribeth (162) this honor to God alone, that he brought strangers into the Church. And surely this is his own proper work. For the ministers do no good by planting or watering, unless he make their labor effectual by the power of his Spirit, (1 Corinthians 3:0.) Furthermore, we must note that he saith, that those were gathered unto the Church which should be saved. For he teacheth that this is the means to attain salvation, if we be incorporate into the Church. For like as there is no remission of sins, so neither is there any hope of salvation. (163) Furthermore, this is an excellent comfort for all the godly, that they were received into the Church that they might be saved; as the Gospel is called the power of God unto salvation to all that believe, (Romans 1:16.) Now, forasmuch as God doth gather only a part, or a certain number, this grace is restrained unto election, that it may be the first cause of our salvation.
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A Handbook on The Letter from James - Slightly Imperfect