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5While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

Peter Delivered from Prison

6 The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. 11Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

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5. But prayers were made. Luke teacheth here that the faithful did not, in the mean season, foreslow [neglect] their duty, Peter stood in the forward 754754     “In prima acie,” in the front rank, the van. alone; but all the rest fought with their prayers together with him, and they aided him so much as they were able. Hereby we do also gather, that they were not discouraged, for by prayer they testify that they persist so much as they are able in defense of the cause, for which Peter is in danger of life. This place teacheth, first, how we ought to be affected when we see our brethren persecuted by the wicked for the testimony of the gospel, for if we be slothful, and if we be not inwardly touched with their dangers, we do not only defy and them of the due duty of love, but also treacherously forsake the confession of our faith; and, assuredly, if the cause be common, yea, if they fight for our safety and salvation, we do not only forsake them, but even Christ and ourselves; and the present necessity requireth, that they be far more fervent in prayer than commonly they are, whosoever will be counted Christians. We see some of our brethren (being brought to extreme poverty) live in exile, others we see imprisoned, many cast into stinking dungeons, many consumed with fire, yea, we see new torments oftentimes invented, whereby being long tormented they may feel death. Unless these provocations sharpen our desire to pray, we be more than blockish; therefore, so soon as any persecution ariseth, let us by and by get ourselves to prayer.

Also, it is a likely thing that the Church took greater thought for Peter’s life, because they should have suffered great loss if he had gone. 755755     “In ejus morte,” in his death. Neither doth Luke say barely that prayer was made; but he addeth also, that it was earnest and continual, whereby he giveth us to understand that the faithful prayed not coldly or over fields; 756756     “Defunctorie,” perfunctorily. but so long as Peter was in the conflict, the faithful did what they could to help him, and that without wearisomeness. We must always understand the name of God, which is here expressed, whensoever mention is made of prayer in the Scripture, for this is one of the chiefest and first principles of faith, that we ought to direct our prayers unto God alone, as he challengeth to himself this peculiar worship, “Call upon me in the day of tribulation,” (Psalm 50:15.)

6. When he was about to bring him forth. It seemeth at the first blush that the Church prayeth to small purpose, for the day was now appointed wherein Peter should be put to death, and he is within one night of death, and yet the faithful cease not to pray, because they know that when the Lord doth purpose to deliver his, he taketh his time oftentimes in the last and farthest point of necessity, and that he hath in his hand diverse ways to deliver. Secondly, we may think that they did not so much pray for Peter’s life, as that the Lord would arm him with invincible fortitude, for the glory of the gospel, and that God would [not] set the gospel of his Son open to the reproaches and slanders of the wicked.

That night he slept. All these circumstances do more set forth the wonderful power of God, for who would not have thought that Peter was already swallowed up of death? for though he drew breath as yet, yet he had no chinch [chink] to creep out at, for as much as he was beset with many deaths. Therefore, whereas he escapeth from amidst deaths, whereas he goeth safely among the hands of his hangmen, whereas the chains are molten and are loosed, whereas the iron gate openeth itself to him; hereby it appeareth that it was a mere divine kind of deliverance, and it was profitable for Peter to be thus taught by these signs, that he might with more assurance forthwith declare unto men the grace of God thus known. Again, it appeareth by this strait keeping that Herod meant nothing less 757757     “Nihil Herocli fuisse minus in animo,” that there was nothing Herod less intended. than to let Peter go away alive.

7. A light shined, It is to be thought that Peter alone saw this light, and that the soldiers did either sleep so soundly, or else were so amazed, that they neither felt nor perceived any thing, And there might be two causes why God would have the light to shine; either that Peter might have the use thereof, and that the darkness might be no hindrance to him, or that it might be to him a sign and token of the heavenly glory. For we read oftentimes that the angels appeared with glistering brightness, even when the sun did shine, Assuredly, Peter might have gathered by the strange light that God was present, and also he ought to have made his profit thereof. When as the angel smiteth Peter’s side, it appeareth hereby what a care God hath for his, who watcheth over them when they sleep, and raiseth them when they are drowsy. And surely there were nothing more miserable than we, if the continuance of our prayers alone did keep God in his watching over us; for such is the infirmity of our flesh that we faint and quail, and we stand most of all in need of his help when our minds, being drawn away, do not seek him. Sleep is a certain image of death, and doth choke and drown all the senses, what should become of us if God should then cease to have respect to us? But forasmuch as when the faithful go to sleep, they commit their safety to God, it cometh to pass by this means, that even their sleep doth call upon God.

Whereas he saith, that immediately after the angel had said the word the chains were loosed, we gather by this, that there is power enough in the commandment of God alone to remove all manner [of] lets, when all ways seem to be stopt on all sides, so that if he intend to appease the motions and tumults of war, although the whole world were appointed in armor, their spears and swords shall forthwith fall out of their hands; on the other side, if he be determined to punish us and our sins with war, in a moment, (in the twinkling of an eye,) their minds, which were before given to peace, shall wax hot, and they shall lay hand on their swords. Whereas Luke setteth down severally both the words of the angel, and also the course of the matter, it serveth for the more certainty of the history, that it may in every respect appear that Peter was delivered by God.

9. He knew not that it was true. He did not think that it was a vain or false visor, as Satan doth oftentimes delude men with jugglings; but true is taken in this place for that which is done naturally and after the manner of men. For we must note the contrariety [antithesis] that is between the thing itself and the vision. Furthermore, though he think that it is a vision, yet doth he willingly obey; whereby his obedience is proved, whilst that being content with the commandment of the angel alone, he doth not inquire nor reason what he must de, but doth that which he is commanded to do.

10. When they were past. God was able to have carried Peter away in the turning of an hand; 758758     “Momento uno,” in one moment. but he overcometh diverse straits one after another, that the glory of the miracle might be the greater. So he created the world in six days, (Genesis 1.) not because he had any need of space of thee, but that he might the better stay us in the meditating upon his works, (Exodus 20:11,) for he applieth the manner of doing unto our capacity, and unto the increase of faith. If Peter had at a sudden been carried unto the house where the brethren were assembled, then should one only deliverance have been acknowledged, but now we see, as it were with our eyes, that he was delivered more than ten times.

11. Then Peter returning to himself. It is word for word, being made in himself, because, being before astonied with a strange and incredible thing, he was, as it were, without himself. But now at length, as it were after a trance, he knoweth that he is delivered from death. His words set down by Luke contain a thanksgiving; for he extolleth with himself the benefit of God which he had tried, [experienced,] and whereof he had tasted, and he doth highly commend it with himself, until he find some other witnesses. He saith that the angel was sent of God, according to the common meaning of the godly, who hold that the angels are appointed to be ministers, to be careful for, and to take charge of their safety; for unless he had been thus persuaded, he would not have spoken of the angel. And yet he doth not commend the angel as the author of the grace, but he ascribeth all the whole praise of the work to God alone, neither do the angels help us to this end, that they may derive unto themselves even the least jot of God’s glory. Whereas he saith that he was delivered out of the hand of Herod, he amplifieth the goodness and benefit of God, by the power of his enemy. To the same end tendeth that which he addeth of the Jews; for the greater the number of the enemies was, the more excellent was the grace of God toward his servant; for it is a great matter that God alone being favorable, the deadly hatred of all the whole world should come to nought.