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Acts 19:23-28

23. And at that time there happened no small tumult about that way. 24. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gains to the men of that occupation; 25. Whom, when he had called together, and those who were makers of like things, he said, Men, ye know that by this craft we have advantage. 382382     “Nobis suppetit facultas,” our living is derived. 26. And ye see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be not gods which are made with hands: 27. And not only this part cometh in danger to us, lest it be set at nought; but also test the temple of the great goddess Diana be despised, and it come to pass that her majesty be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. 28. When they heard these things, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

 

23. Tumult about that way. Concerning this word way, let the readers understand thus much, that it is here taken for that which the Latins call sect; the Greek philosophers call it heresies or heresy. But because in the Church of God, where the unity of faith ought to reign, there is nothing more odious or detestable than for every man to choose, at his pleasure, that which he will follow, I think that Luke did fly that name which was, for good causes, infamous among the godly, and that after the Hebrew phrase, he put way instead of ordinance. And as touching the sum of the matter, we see how wonderfully the Lord did exercise his servant. He did hope when he did address himself for his journey, that the Church would be quiet after his departure, and, lo, there ariseth an uproar at a sudden where he did least fear. But in Demetrius it appeareth what a hurtful plague covetousness is. For one man, for his own gain’s sake, is not afraid 383383     “Non dubitat,” does not hesitate. to trouble a whole city with sedition. And the craftsmen, who were as firebrands kindled by him, and do spread abroad the fire everywhere, do teach us what an easy matter it is to cause filthy [sordid] men, and whose belly is their God, to commit all manner [of] wickedness; especially if they live only by gains evil gotten, 384384     “Si ex illiberali quaestu in diem vivunt,” if they live from day to day by the gain of a mean occupation. and the hope of gain be taken from them.

Moreover, in his history we see a lively image of our time. Demetrius and his band raised a tumult; because, if superstition whereby they were wont to get gains be taken away, their craft will fall to the ground. Therefore they fight as if it were for their life, lest Demetrius go without his fat prey, and the rest want their daily living. What zeal doth at this day prick forward the Pope, the horned bishops, the monks, and all the rabblement of the Popish clergy? Yea, what fury doth drive them so sore 385385     “Tam acriter,” so keenly help the meal chest, (larder.) gain to resist the gospel? They boast that they strive for the Catholic faith; neither did Demetrius want an honest color, pretending the worship of Diana. But the matter itself doth plainly declare that they fight not so much for the altars as for the fires, to wit, that they may have hot kitchens. They can well wink at filthy blasphemies against God, so they lack nothing of their revenues, only they are more than courageous in maintaining such superstitions as are meetest for their purpose. 386386     “Quae ad farinas valent,” as

Therefore, being taught by such examples, let us learn to make choice of such a kind of life as is agreeable to the doctrine of Christ; lest desire of gain 387387     “Lucri cupiditas,” eagerness for a provoke us to enter a wicked and ungodly combat. And as for those who, through ignorance or error, are fallen unto any ungodly occupation, or are entangled in any other impure and wicked kind of life, let them, notwithstanding, beware of such sacrilegious rashness. And as touching godly teachers, let them learn by this example, that they shall never want adversaries, until the whole world, through denial of itself, offer peace, which we know will never come to pass. Because Paul’s doctrine taketh away Demetrius and the rest of the silversmiths’ gains, they leap out furiously to put out [destroy] the same, will not they do the same whom the gospel shall contrary? But there is no man who hath not occasion to fight. For all the affections of the flesh are enemies to God. So that it must needs be, that how many lusts of the flesh there be [reign] in the world, there are as many armed enemies to resist Christ. It will, indeed, oftentimes fall out, that God will bridle the wicked, lest they raise some tumult, or break out into open rage. Yet, whosoever is not tamed and brought down to bear Christ’s yoke, he shall always hate his gospel. So that faithful and godly teachers must persuade themselves that they shall always have to deal with great store of enemies. Demetrius’ covetousness is manifest. Nevertheless, we must also know this, that he was Satan’s fan, [bellows] who, seeking by all means to overthrow Paul’s doctrine, found this fit instrument. Now, forasmuch as we know that Satan is a deadly enemy to Christ and the truth, do we think that he shall ever want ministers, who shall rage through his motion and persuasion, either with open rage, or else seek to work the overthrow of the gospel by secret practices, or spew out the poison of their hatred, or else, at least, show some token of enmity by fretting and murmuring?

25. By this craft. Demetrius doth in this place filthily betray his malice. It is lawful for a man, in some measure, to provide for his private profit; but to trouble common [the public] peace for a man’s own gain, to overthrow 388388     “Pervertere,” to pervert. equity and right, to give over a man’s self to do violence and commit murder, to extinguish that of set purpose which is just and right; that is too great wickedness. Demetrius confesseth that this is the state of the cause, because, [viz. that] Paul denieth that those are gods which are made with men’s hands. He doth not inquire whether this be true or no; but being blinded with a desire to get gain, he is carried headlong to oppress true doctrine. The same blindness doth drive him headlong to seek violent remedies. Also the craftsmen, because they be afraid of poverty and hunger, run headlong as violently; for the belly is blind and deaf, so that it can admit no equity. For which cause, every one of us ought more to suspect himself, when the question is touching our own gain and profit, lest the same covetous desire which made these men so mad take away all difference of justice and injustice, of that which is filthy and that which is honest.

27. Not only this part. This is first disorderly handled in 389389     “Hoc primum praepostere,” this is, in the first place, preposterous. that Demetrius is careful for religion after other things; 390390     “Secundo tandem loco,” only in the second place. because nothing is more absurd than to prefer the belly before the goddess; but even this is also vain, in that he pretendeth that the worship of Diana is in hazard. For if he had suffered no loss by Paul’s doctrine, he would have sat quietly at home; he would neither have taken thought for the worship of Diana, neither would he have troubled others. What is the cause, then, he is so diligent and so earnest in his business? even this, because he was plagued at home; and because he saw that he and his copartners had no honest or probable cause to make any stir, he goeth about to color [gloss] the matter with some other color. Therefore, to the end he may cover the shame of his wicked fact, he cloaketh it with the title of religion, which is plausible. So that the wicked, howsoever they strive frowardly against God, yet they gather here and there honest excuses 391391     “Captant honestos praetextus,” catch at specious pretexts. impudently; but God doth not suffer himself to be mocked, but doth rather pull them out of their starting-holes [subterfuges]. There needeth no other witness to refute Demetrius’ hypocrisy, because he cutteth his own throat with his own words, when he betrayeth the sorrow which he had conceived, because of the loss which he sustained. 392392     “Dum privatae jacturae dolorem prodit,” while he betrays grief for a private loss. In like state do the Papists stand at this day; they boast with full mouth that they be patrons of the Catholic faith and of the holy mother the Church, but when they have spoken 393393     “Sic praefati,” premised this much. thus touching their zeal, in the very handling of the cause they breathe out with open throat the smell of their kitchens. But if we have a desire to handle the cause of godliness purely and in earnest, let us forget our commodities, that the glory of God may have the chief place. For the show of profit doth so tie all our senses with enticements, that though we wander through all manner of wickedness, yet do we flatter ourselves so long as we be determined to provide for our own commodity.

Whom all Asia and the world doth worship. It seemeth to Demetrius an unmeet thing that Diana her majesty should be brought to naught, which all the world doth reverence and worship, and this is a common starting-hole [subterfuge] for all superstitious persons, to pretend the consent of the multitude. But true religion requireth a more steadfast stay than in the will and pleasure of men. There is nothing which at this day doth more keep back the simple and unskillful than that they dare not cast from them (such ancient) errors as are commonly received everywhere. Because they feign and imagine that that which pleased many, though foolishly and rashly, is to be counted lawful. For which cause they be not afraid boldly to set the very name of custom against God himself. But the Lord doth prescribe to us another manner of rule, to wit, that being content with his authority alone, we do not pass either for the opinion of men, nor for our own commodity, nor for the custom of many nations.


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