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Acts 17:5-10

5. And the unbelieving Jews being moved with envy, [zeal,] and taking to them certain vagabonds, froward fellows, and having assembled the multitude, they made a tumult in the city; and besetting the house of Jason, they sought to bring them out unto the people. 6. And when they had not found them, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the governors of the city, crying, Those who have troubled the whole world are come hither also, 7. Who Jason hath received privily; and all these do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8. And they troubled [stirred up] the multitude and the magistrates of the city when they heard these things: 9. And when they had received sufficient assurance of Jason and the rest, they let him go. 10. And forthwith the brethren sent forth Paul and Silas by night unto Berea, who, when they were come, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

 

5. And being moved with envy. We see how Paul could nowhere erect the kingdom of Christ without some conflict, for so soon as any fruit of doctrine appeared, there arose persecution therewithal; but because he knew that he was to war against Satan and the wickedness of the world, he was not only hardened against all assaults, but he was more encouraged more courageously to proceed. Therefore, all the servants of Christ must be content with this one example of him, if they see that their labor doth yield some fruit, they must recompense all manner of persecutions with this reward. And this place teacheth that the zeal wherewith the unbelievers are carried headlong, and set on fire, is nothing else but furious force, 250250     “Rabiosum... impetum,” a rabid impulse. because it is not governed by the prudence of the Spirit, neither yet with righteousness or equity. And though they do always pretend the name of God for an excuse of their disordered zeal, yet this history doth plainly declare, that mere hypocrisy doth reign inwardly, and that all corners of their hearts are stuffed with poisoned malice. These enemies of Paul did boast that they were defenders of the law of God; and that they did hate Paul, and contend with him only in defense thereof.

Why do they then arm the wicked, and conspire together with them to raise tumult? Why then do they also before a profane magistrate bring the gospel in that contempt which might have redounded to the contempt of the law? Such sedition doth plainly declare, that they were moved with nothing less than desire to please God, to be thus hot against Paul, for to what end do they beset Jason’s house, and strive disorderly 251251     “Tumultuose,” tumtultuously. to pluck out Paul thence, save only that they may set him before the people to be stoned? Therefore, let us know that wicked zeal, which is hot [boils] in superstitious men, is always infected with hypocrisy and malice; and this is the cause that it breaketh out into cruelty without keeping any measure.

Taking to them certain vagabonds. The Greek word which Luke useth doth signify sluggards, and men whereof there ought no account to be made, who, having nothing wherewith they could keep themselves occupied at home, did run up and down idle; 252252     “Per forum,” through the market-place. or bold [audacious] fellows and hungry, who are ready to forswear themselves to raise tumults, and to be at one end of 253253     “Operam suam locare,” hire out their assistance in. every wicked fact. Whereby it doth likewise appear that their own conscience told them that they did amiss, seeing they got wicked men to take their part, and to give them their consent. For seeing the magistrate did favor them, what did move them to raise that tempest, save only because they had no hope to have any success, unless (matters should be out of order and) all should be in an uproar? And Luke describeth how such fans did raise sedition; to wit, they gathered the people together in troops, and spread abroad their poison here and there, until they were strong enough to make an assault; 254254     “Donec ad vim inferendam sufficerent,” until they were able to offer violence. which policy [artifice] is too common among seditions fellows, as those cities which are subject to this mischief do full well know.

6. Those men who have troubled the whole world. This is the state of the gospel, to have those uproars which Satan raiseth imputeth to it. This is also the malicousness of the enemies of Christ, to lay the blame of tumults upon holy and modest teachers, which they themselves procure. Assuredly, the gospel is not preached to this end that it may set men together by the ears; 255255     “Ut homines ad mutuous conflictus accendat,” that it may inflame men to mutual conflict. but rather that it may keep them in peace, being reconciled to God. When Christ doth meekly will us 256256     “Ad se benigne invitet,” benignity invite us to himself. there to come unto him, Satan and the wicked rage; 257257     “Tumultuanture,” make a tumult. therefore, Paul and Silas might easily have defended themselves; but it was requisite for them to suffer this false slander for a time; and so long as they were not heard, to put it up quietly. And the Lord meant by their example to teach us, that we must not give place to slanders and false reports; but we must stand stoutly in maintaining the truth, being ready to hear evil for things done well. Wherefore, away with the perverse wisdom of some, who, to the end they may escape false slanders, cease [hesitate] not to betray Christ and his gospel through their treacherous moderation, as though their good name were more precious than Paul’s and such like, yea, than the sacred name of God, which is not free from blasphemies.

7. All these men, etc. The second point of the accusation of this, that they violate the majesty of the empire of Rome. A great and grievous crime, yet too impudently forged. Paul and Silas sought to erect the kingdom of Christ, which is spiritual. The Jews knew that this might be done without doing any injury to the Roman empire. They knew that they meant nothing less than to overthrow the public estate, or to take from Caesar his authority. Therefore, the Jews catch at the pretense of treason, that they may oppress the innocent with the envy of the crime alone. 258258     “Sed colorem hunc malitiose obtendunt quaerendae invidiae causa. Non tanti erat apud Macedones religio, praesertim Judaica, ut ejus causa homines ignotos, protinus ad caedem raperent;” but maliciously use this pretext for the purpose of producing obloquy. There was not so much religion, especially Jewish, among the Macedonians, that for its sake they would hurry off strangers to execution. Omitted.

Neither doth Satan cease at this day to blear men’s eyes with such smokes and mists. The Papists know full well, and they be sufficiently convict before God, that that is more than false which they lay to our charge, That we overthrow all civil government; that laws and judgments are quite taken away; that the authority of kings if subverted by us; and yet they be not ashamed to the end they may make all the whole world offended with us, falsely to report that the Jews do not only allege that Caesar’s commandments were broken, because Paul and Silas durst presume to alter and innovate somewhat in religion, but because they said there was another king. This crime was altogether forged; but if at any time religion enforces us to resist tyrannical edicts and commandments which forbid us to give due honor to Christ, and due worship to God; we may then justly say for ourselves, that we are not rebellious against kings, for they be not so exalted, that they may go about like giants to pull God out of his seat and throne. That excuse of Daniel was true, that he had not offended the king, whereas notwithstanding he had not obeyed his wicked commandment, neither had he injured mortal man, because he had preferred God before him. So let us faithfully pay to princes the tributes which are due to them, let us be ready to give them all civil obedience; but if, being not content with their degree, they go about to pluck out of our hands the fear and worship of God, there is no cause why any should say that we despise them, because we make more account of the power and majesty of God.

8. They raised the multitude. We see how unjustly the holy men were handled. Because they had no place granted them to defend themselves, it was an easy matter to oppress them, though they were guiltless. We see, likewise, that it is no new matter for magistrates to be carried away with the rage of the people as with a tempest, especially when the injury toucheth those who are strangers and unknown, at whose hands they look for no reward; because they will not come in danger for nothing. For then they care not for reason or equity, neither do they hear the matter, 259259     “Nec suscipitur causae cognitio,” nor do theytake cognisance of the cause. but one driveth forward another without any resistance, and all things are done out of order, as when they run unto some great fire. But it came to pass, by the singular goodness of God, that so great heat was stayed by and by; for so soon as the magistrates profess that they will know farther of the matter, the multitude is appeased; assurance [security] is taken; and, at length, the matter is ended.

10. They sent them out to Berea. Hereby it appeareth that Paul’s labor brought forth fruit in a small time; for though the brethren send forth him and Silas, yet they adjoin themselves as voluntary companions to their danger and cross by this duty. But the constancy of Paul is incredible, because, having had such experience of their stubbornness and malice of his nation, he doth never cease to try whether he can bring any to Christ, namely, seeing he knew that he was bound both to Jews and Gentiles, no injury of men could lead him away from his calling. So all the servants of Christ must so wrestle with the malice of the world, that they shake not off Christ’s yoke with what injuries soever they be provoked.


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