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1. Ascension of Jesus
1The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3To whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God: 4and, being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: 5For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence. 6They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? 7And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority. 8But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10And while they were looking stedfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven. 12Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is nigh unto Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey off. 13And when they were come in, they went up into the upper chamber, where they were abiding; both Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14These all with one accord continued stedfastly in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. 15And in these days Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren, and said (and there was a multitude of persons gathered together, about a hundred and twenty), 16Brethren, it was needful that the Scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to them that took Jesus. 17For he was numbered among us, and received his portion in this ministry. 18(Now this man obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19And it became known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch that in their language that field was called Akeldama, that is, The field of blood.) 20For it is written in the book of Psalms,
Let his habitation be made desolate,
And let no man dwell therein:
His office let another take.
21Of the men therefore that have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us, 22beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection. 23And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show of these two the one whom thou hast chosen, 25to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away, that he might go to his own place. 26And they gave lots for them; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
That he may pass over unto those things which followed the ascension of Christ, he briefly gathereth the sum of all those which before he had handled in the former book, that he may annex this thereunto. And he briefly setteth down this description of the history of the gospel, that it is a narration of those things which Christ did and said so long as he was conversant upon earth. Furthermore, whereas they interpret this commonly, that there was first in Christ purity of life, before such time as he began to preach, it maketh nothing unto Luke’s mind. Truth it is, that the manners of a good and godly teacher ought so to be framed, that he speak first with his life, then with his tongue, otherwise he should differ nothing from a stage-player. But Luke hath respect rather unto that which he had said about the end of his gospel, (Luke 24:19,) namely, that Christ was a prophet mighty in deed and word, that is, such a one as did excel no less in deeds than in words; although there be but small difference betwixt these two places. For the mightiness of works which is commended there doth belong unto his miracles, but this, to do, doth reach further in my opinion, namely, that under the same are comprehended all the famous acts which were proper unto his ministry, wherein his death and resurrection are the chiefest. For the office of the Messias did not only consist in doctrine, but it was also behoveful that he should make peace between God and man, that he should be a Redeemer of the people, a restorer of the kingdom, and an author of everlasting felicity. All these things, I say, as they were promised of the Messias, so were they looked for at his hands.
Now we see that the sum of the gospel consisteth of these two parts, namely, of the doctrine of Christ, and of his acts; forasmuch as he did not only bring unto men that embassage which was given him in charge of his Father, but also performed all things that could be required of the Messias. He began his kingdom, he pacified God with his sacrifice, he purged man’s sins with his own precious blood, he subdued death and the devil, he restored us unto true liberty, he purchased righteousness and life for us. And to the end that whatsoever he either did or said might be certain, he proved himself by miracles to be the Son of God. So that this word, to do, is extended unto his miracles also; but it must not be restrained only unto the same. Here must we note, that those which have only the bare knowledge of the history have not the gospel; unless the knowledge of the doctrine which maketh manifest the fruits of the acts of Christ be adjoined thereunto. For this is a holy knot which no man may dissolve. Therefore, whensoever mention is made of the doctrine of Christ, let us learn to adjoin thereunto his works, as seals whereby the truth thereof is established and confirmed, and the effect declared. Furthermore, that we may reap commodity by his death and resurrection, and also that miracles may have their use, we must always have respect unto him that speaketh. For this is the true rule of Christianity.
1. Of all things which he began I do not greatly mislike the interpretation which some give of this place that Luke said rather of all than all; because it is possible in some measure to intreat of the works and doctrine of Christ, but to set down the whole course, that the narration may be perfect, were a matter of great 1818 “Nimiae,” too great. weight. Like as John doth declare that the world could not contain the books, (John 21:25.) That is also to be noted that Luke saith, that he began his history at the beginning of the works of Christ. But so soon as he hath declared the nativity of Christ, he passeth over unto the twelfth year of his age (Luke 2:42;) and after he had briefly spoken of his disputation had in the temple with the doctors, passing over eighteen years without speaking any thing of them, he entereth [on] the just narration of the works of Christ. It is, therefore, manifest that those works and sayings only which make any thing unto the sum of our salvation are noted in this place. For, after that Christ came abroad into the world clothed with our flesh, he lived privately at home until he was thirty years of age, at which time his Father put upon him another manner of person. God would have him to lead the former part of his life obscurely, to this end, that the knowledge of these things might be more excellent which do edify our faith.
The former speech. It seemed good to me to translate this on this wise, because λογον ποιεισθὰι, is the same with the Grecians, which verba facere, or to speak, is with the Latins, as Budaeus doth note. And we must understand the contrariety of the second part, which he taketh in hand, that we may know that the evangelist determined with himself afresh to write, having new matter whereupon to write.
2 Even until that day. Therefore, the ascension of Christ is the end of the history of the gospel. For he hath ascended, saith Paul, that he might fulfill all things, (Ephesians 4:10.) Our faith gathereth other fruit thereby; but it shall be sufficient to note in this place, that our redemption was fully complete and finished then when Christ did ascend unto his Father; and, therefore, that Luke did fully perform his duty in this narration, as touching the doctrine and works of Christ. And he is said to be taken up, that we may know that he is truly departed out of this world, lest we should consent unto their dotings who think that in his ascension there was no alteration of place made.
Commandment by the Holy Ghost Luke showeth in these words, that Christ did not so depart out of the world that he did no longer care for us; for in that he hath ordained a perpetual government in his Church, he thereby declareth that he had a care to provide for our salvation; yea, he hath promised that he will be present with his to the end, (Matthew 28:20,) like as, indeed, he is always present by his ministers. Luke, therefore, doth show unto us, that Christ did no sooner depart hence, but straightway he provided for the government of his Church; whence we may gather that he is careful for our salvation. And this his providence hath Paul plainly noted in the place lately cited, when he saith, That he hath fulfilled all things, making some apostles, some evangelists, some pastors, etc. But these commandments, which the evangelist saith Christ gave unto his disciples, do I interpret of the preaching of the gospel; like as ambassadors use to be instructed with certain precepts before they go of their embassage, lest they should rashly attempt any thing contrary to his will and mind that sendeth them. And all this is spoken in commendation of that doctrine which the apostles taught. The which that it may appear more manifestly, every thing is to be marked in order as it lieth. First of all, he saith they were elect and chosen of Christ, that we may be certain of their calling unto that function. Neither doth he in this place set God’s election against man’s merits, but only affirmeth that they were raised up by God, and that they did not rashly take upon them this function. That is true, indeed, that they were freely chosen; but now have we to inquire what is Luke’s drift in this place. I say that he hath respect unto nothing else, but that we may be certain of the calling of the apostles, that we may learn not to have respect unto men, but unto the Son of God, the author thereof, because this must always be a maxim in the Church, that no man usurp any honor. Secondly, he saith, that they were instructed of Christ what they should do. As if he should say, that they uttered not their own inventions, but they delivered that sincerely and faithfully which was enjoined them by their heavenly Master. And to the end that that which Christ taught them might be the more reverenced, he addeth this, that this was done by the direction of the Holy Ghost. Not because the Son of God had any need to be guided by any other, who is eternal wisdom, but because he was also man, lest any man should think that he did deliver those things unto his disciples which he delivered by man’s wit and reason, he calleth us back expressly unto the divine authority. Like as the Lord himself doth so often affirm, that he taught nothing but that which he had received of his Father; and therefore he saith, that his doctrine was not his own. Therefore, he signifieth that in the preaching of the gospel there is nothing which issueth from man’s brain, but that it is the divine ordinance of the Spirit, whereunto the whole world must be subject.
3. Unto whom, etc He addeth this, that he might make the resurrection to be believed, as a thing most necessary to be known, and without the which the whole gospel falleth fiat to the ground, neither remaineth there any more faith. And that I may omit to speak of other discommodities that come by being ignorant of the resurrection of Christ, the gospel loseth his whole authority, unless we know and be also fully persuaded that Christ being alive, speaketh unto us from the heavens. Whereunto Luke hath chiefest respect in this place. Therefore, that the truth hereof might not be called in question, he saith that it was proved by many signs and tokens. Those which Erasmus, following an old interpreter, doth call arguments, I have translated proofs. For Aristotle doth call that τεκμηριον, in the first book of his Rhetorics, which is necessary in signs. This is, therefore, that which I said before, that Christ did make manifest his resurrection unto his apostles by evident tokens, which did serve instead of necessary proofs, lest they should doubt of the same. Furthermore, he doth not reckon up those tokens and signs, saving only that he saith, that Christ did appear unto them about the space of a month and one-half oftentimes. If he had but once appeared unto them, it might have been somewhat suspicious, but in showing himself so often unto them, he dissolveth all doubts which might arise in their minds, and by this means, also, he putteth away the reproach of the ignorance which he said was in the apostles, lest it discredit their preaching.
He intreateth of the kingdom of God He telleth us again that the apostles themselves were well taught 1919 “Ab unico magistro,” by the only master, omitted. before such time as they took upon them to teach others; therefore, whatsoever things they uttered and brought to light, either by word or by writing, touching the kingdom of God, they are those speeches which Christ himself uttered. And hereby doth he briefly set down the end of the doctrine of the gospel; namely, that God may reign in us. Regeneration is the beginning of this kingdom, and the end thereof is blessed immortality; the middle proceedings are in a more ample going forward and increase of regeneration. But that this thing may appear more evidently, we must first note, that we are born, and that we live aliens and strangers from the kingdom of God, until such time as God doth fashion us again unto a new life. Therefore, we may properly set the world, the flesh, and whatsoever is in man’s nature against the kingdom of God, as contrary to it. For the natural man is wholly occupied about the things of this world, and he seeketh felicity here; 2020 “Et ultimum bonum,” and it is his final good, omitted. in the mean season, we are as it were banished from God, and he likewise from us; but Christ, by the preaching of the gospel, doth lift us up unto the meditation of the life to come. And to the end he may the better bring this to pass, he reformeth all our earthly affections, and so having striped us out of the vices of our flesh, he separateth us from the world. And, like as eternal death is prepared for all those which live after the flesh, so in as much as the inward man is renewed in us, that we may go forward in the spiritual life, we draw nearer unto the perfection of the kingdom of God; which is the society of the glory of God. Therefore, God will reign in and amongst us now, that he may at length make us partakers of his kingdom. Hereby we gather that Christ did principally intreat of the corruption of mankind; of the tyranny of sin, whose bond-slaves we are; of the curse and guiltiness of eternal death, whereunto we all are subject, and also of the means to obtain salvation; of the remission of sins; of the denying of the flesh; of spiritual righteousness; of hope of eternal life, and of like such things. And if we will be rightly instructed in Christianity, we must apply our studies to these things.
4. Gathering them together, he commanded, etc They had before done the duty of Apostles; but that lasted but a while; and, secondly, so far forth that they might with their preaching awake the Jews to hear their Master. And so that commandment to teach, which Christ had given them, (Matthew 10:7,) whilst he lived with them upon earth, was, as it were, a certain entrance into their apostleship which was to come, for which they were not yet ripe. Therefore, their ordinary function was not laid upon them, until such time as Christ was risen again; but they stirred up their nation (as I have said) like criers, that they might give ear to Christ. And then at length, after the resurrection, they were made Apostles, to publish abroad throughout the whole world that doctrine which was committed to them. And whereas after they were made Apostles, Christ commandeth them as yet to abstain from their office, that is done not without just cause; yea, many causes may be alleged why it should be so. That filthy forsaking of their Master was yet fresh; many notes and tokens of unbelief were yet fresh. Whereas, they had been so thoroughly taught, and had so suddenly forgotten all, they showed a manifest token of their great dullness of wit. Neither were they free from sluggishness, which could not otherwise fitly be purged, than by deferring the promised grace, that he might the more sharpen their desire. But this cause is chiefly to be noted, that the Lord did appoint a certain time for the sending of the Spirit, that the miracle might be the more apparent. Again, he suffered them to rest a while, that he might the better set forth the greatness of that business which he was about to commit unto them. And thereby is the truth of the gospel confirmed, because the Apostles were forbidden to address themselves to preach the same, until they should be well prepared in succession of time.
And they were commanded to stay together, because they should all have one spirit given them. If they had been dispersed, the unity should not have been so well known. Though they were scattered abroad afterwards in divers places, yet because they brought that which they had from one and the same fountain, it was all one, as if they always had had all one mouth. Furthermore, it was expedient that they should begin to preach the gospel at Jerusalem, that the prophecy might be fulfilled,
“There shall a law go out of Zion,
and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem,” (Isaiah 2:3.)
Although the participle συναλιζομενος, may be diversely translated, yet Erasmus his translation did please me best, because the signification of gathering together will agree better with the text, [context.]
They should wait for the promise It was meet that these should be accustomed to obey first, who should shortly after lay Christ’s yoke upon the neck of the world. And surely they have taught us by their example, that we must work and rest at the Lord’s pleasure alone. For if, during our life, we go on warfare under his banner and conduct, surely he ought to have no less authority over us than any earthly captain hath in his army. Therefore, as warlike discipline requireth this, that no man wage unless he be commanded by the captain, so it is not lawful for us either to go out, or to attempt any thing, until the Lord give the watchword; and so soon as he bloweth the retreat, we must stay, [halt.] Moreover, we are taught that we are made partakers of the gifts of God through hope. But we must mark the nature of hope as it is described in this place. For that is not hope which every man feigneth to himself unadvisedly, but that which is grounded on the promise of God. Therefore Christ cloth not suffer his apostles to look for whatsoever they will, but he addeth expressly the promise of the Father. Furthermore, he maketh himself a witness thereof; because we ought to be so sure and certain, that although all the engines of hell gainstand us, yet this may remain surely fixed in our minds, that we have believed God. I know, saith Paul, whom I have believed, (2 Timothy 1:12.) And here he putteth them in mind of those things which are written in John 14:15, 16,
“I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may continue with you; I say the Spirit of truth,” etc.
“I have spoken these things unto you while I am with you.” “And the Spirit, whom my Father shall send in my name, shall teach you all things,” (John 14:25, 26,) etc.
“When the Spirit of truth shall come, whom I will send from my Father, he shall bear witness of me,” (John 15:26.)
“If I shall go hence, I will send you the Comforter, who shall reprove the world,” (John 16:7.)
And he had said long before,
“He which believeth in me, out of his belly
shall flow rivers of living water,”
5. Because John truly Christ repeateth this unto his apostles out of John’s own words. For some part of them had heard that at John’s mouth, which the Evangelists report, “I truly baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Now Christ pronounceth that they shall well perceive that that is true indeed which he said. Furthermore, this serveth greatly to confirm the sentence next going before, for it is an argument drawn from the office of Christ. And that thus: John was sent to baptize with water, he fulfilled his function as it became the servant of God. The Son of God is sent to baptize with the Holy Ghost; it remained, therefore, that he do his duty. Neither can it be otherwise but he must do that which his Father hath commanded him to do, and for which also he came down into the earth. But it seemeth a very absurd thing to restrain that unto the visible sending of the Holy Ghost, which was spoken universally of regeneration. 2121 “Generaliter de gratia regenerationis,” generally of the grace of regeneration. I answer, that Christ did not then only baptize with the Holy Ghost, when as he sent him under the form of fiery tongues; for he had baptized his apostles before this; and he baptizeth all the elect thus daily. But because the sending of the Holy Ghost after so glorious a sort was a token of the hidden grace wherewith he doth daily inspire his elect, he doth fitly apply thereunto the testimony of John. And truly this was as though it had been the common baptism of the Church. For besides that the apostles did not receive the Spirit for themselves only, but for the use of all the faithful, there was also declared the universal favor of Christ towards his Church, while that he poured out thereupon the gifts of his Spirit in great abundance.
Although, therefore, he doth daily baptize the elect of his Father, yet was this no let why he might not show forth this token to be remembered above all others, that the apostles might know that they were only entered by John; and that not in vain, seeing their perfection was hard at hand. And that is frivolous which some gather out of this place most commonly, 2222 “Ex hoc loco et similibus vulgo colligunt,” commonly gather out of this and similar passages. namely, that the baptism of John and the baptism of Christ were diverse. For here doth not he dispute in this place of baptism, but maketh only a comparison betwixt the person of John and the person of Christ. When as John did say that he did baptize with water only, he did not reason of what sort his baptism was; but what he himself was; lest he should arrogate that unto himself which was proper to Christ. As also, the ministers in these days ought not to speak otherwise of themselves; but they must acknowledge Christ to be the author of all those things which they do prefigure in the outward baptism, and leave nothing to themselves save only the outward administration. For when as these titles are attributed unto baptism, namely, that it is the laver of regeneration, (Titus 3:5,) a washing away of sins, the fellowship of death, and burying with Christ, (Romans 6:4,) and a grafting into the body of Christ, it is not declared what man, being the minister of the outward sign, doth; but rather what Christ doth, who only giveth force and efficacy unto the signs. We must always hold fast this distinction, lest, whilst we deck man too much, we take from Christ. 2323 “Christum spoliemus,” we rob Christ.
But here may a question be moved, why he doth rather name John here than any other; first, It is manifest enough that John did profess himself to be the minister of the outward sign, namely, of water, and that Christ was the author of the spiritual baptism; secondly, Because it was meet that John should decrease and Christ increase; and, thirdly, Because the apostles did so much esteem of John, (John 3:30,) it might have been that thereby the glory of Christ might have been obscured. Therefore, Christ, to the end he might reclaim them to himself, telleth them that John did only minister unto them the external baptism; notwithstanding, he confirmeth them also, lest they should doubt of the promise; for they did attribute very much unto John, and therefore were they persuaded that the baptism which they had received by him was not in vain. Now, if that the verity and force thereof must be looked for at Christ’s hands, then ought the apostles to hope that that shall surely be fulfilled which John prefigured.
So must we, in like manner, think that we are not in vain baptized with water by men, because Christ, who commanded the same to be done, will fulfill his office, and baptize us with the Spirit. So faith draweth a consequent from the outward sign unto the inward effect; yet doth it not attribute any more than is meet, either to the sign or to the minister thereof, because in the sign it only looketh unto the promise, which is Christ’s, and doth acknowledge him to be the only author of grace. Let us, therefore, use such a mean that we do in no part diminish Christ’s honor; and yet, nevertheless, let us hope for that fruit by our baptism which is noted in this place. By assigning so short a time our Savior maketh them more joyful to hope well. Whereupon it followeth, that that death was not to be lamented which brought with it presently so precious fruit. And let us note this also, that this word baptism is used improperly in this place, that the contrariety may be full. After the same sort, Paul, in his Epistle unto the Romans, (Romans 3:26,) after he hath set down the law of works, to the end that the contrary may answer on the other side, he useth the law of faith for faith itself.
6. He showeth that the apostles were gathered together when as this question was moved, that we may know that it came not of the foolishness of one or two that it was moved, but it was moved by the common consent of them all; but marvelous is their rudeness, that when as they had been diligently instructed by the space of three whole years, they betray no less ignorance than if they had heard never a word. There are as many errors in this question as words. They ask him as concerning a kingdom; but they dream of an earthly kingdom, which should flow with riches, with dainties, with external peace, and with such like good things; and while they assign the present time to the restoring of the same. they desire to triumph before the battle; for before such time as they begin to work they will have their wages. They are also greatly deceived herein, in that they restrain Christ’s kingdom unto the carnal Israel, which was to be spread abroad, even unto the uttermost parts of the world. Furthermore, there is this fault in all their whole question, namely, that they desire to know those things which are not meet for them to know. No doubt they were not ignorant what the prophets did prophesy concerning the restoring of David’s kingdom, they had oftentimes heard their Master preach concerning this matter. Lastly, It was a saying common in every man’s mouth, that, in the most miserable captivity of the people, they should all be comforted, with the expectation of the kingdom that should be. Now, they hoped for the restoring hereof at the coming of the Messias, and hereupon was it that so soon as the apostles saw their Master Christ risen from the dead, they straightway began to think thereupon; but, in the meantime, they declared thereby how bad scholars they were under so good a Master. Therefore doth Christ briefly comprehend 2424 “Perstringit,” reprimand. in this short answer all the errors whereinto they fell in this their question, as I shall straightway declare. To restore, in this place, doth signify to set up again that which was fallen, and through many ruins grown out of fashion; for out of the dry stock of Isai [Jesse] should spring a Branch, and the tabernacle of David, which was laid waste, 2525 “Misere dissipatum,” miserably laid waste. should be erected and set on foot again.
7. It is not for you to know, etc. This is a general reprehension of the whole question. For it was too curious for them to desire to know that whereof their Master would have them ignorant; but this is the true means to become wise, namely, to go as far forward in learning as our Master Christ goeth in teaching, and willingly to be ignorant of those things which he doth conceal from us. But forasmuch as there is naturally engendered in us a certain foolish and vain curiosity, and also a certain rash kind of boldness, we must diligently observe this admonition of Christ, whereby he correcteth both these vices. But to the end we may know what his meaning is hereby, we must mark the two members which he joineth together. “It is not for you” (saith he) “to know those things which the Father hath placed in his own power.” He speaketh, indeed, of the times and seasons; but seeing there is the like reason in other things, we must think this to be a universal precept, That being contented with the revelation of God, we think it an heinous crime to inquire any further. This is the true mean between the two extremes. The Papists, that they may have somewhat wherewith to cloak their gross ignorance, say for themselves, that they omit the hidden mysteries of God, as though our whole faith and religion did consist upon any thing else than upon the hidden mysteries of God; then may we take our leave of Christ and his gospel, if we must abstain utterly from the hidden mysteries of God. But we must keep, as I said before a mean herein; for we must be desirous to learn so far as our heavenly Master doth teach us; but as for such things as he will have us ignorant of, let mine be so bold as to inquire after them that we may be wise with sobriety. Therefore, so often as we are vexed with this foolish desire of knowing more than we ought, let us call to mind this saying of Christ, “It is not for you to know.” For unless we will burst in against his will and commandment, this shall have force and strength enough to restrain the outrageousness of our wits.
Now, as touching the foreknowledge of times, Christ condemneth only the searching out thereof which reacheth beyond the measure of God’s revelation; and that is to be noted out of the second member, as before I have said, “which the Father hath placed in his own power.” Truth it is, that God hath in his own power winter and summer, and the rest of the seasons of the year, cold and heat, fair weather and foul. But because he hath testified that the course of the years shall be perpetual, (Genesis 1:14,) he is said not to have placed that in his own power which he hath revealed unto men. What thing soever the philosophers or husbandmen do comprehend or understand by art, by learning, by judgment, or experience, all that doth God not retain unto himself, because he hath after a certain sort revealed it unto them, (Genesis 8:22.) The same opinion must we have of the prophets; for it was their office to know those things which God did reveal. But we must be ignorant of the secret events of things, as touching the time to come; for there is nothing which may make us more slack in doing our duties, than too careful an inquisition herein, for we will always take counsel according to the future event of things; but the Lord, by hiding the same from us, doth prescribe unto us what we ought to do. Here ariseth a conflict, because we will not willingly suffer God to have that which is his own, namely, the sole government and direction of things which are to come; but we cast ourselves into a strange and inordinate carefulness. To conclude, Christ forbiddeth us to apply those things unto ourselves, which God doth challenge as proper to himself alone. Of this sort is the foreknowledge of those things which God hath taken to himself to govern and direct, according to his own pleasure, far contrary to our opinion, and otherwise than we could invent. 2626 “Supra ingenii nostri captum,” beyond the reach of our minds.
8. You shall receive power. Our Savior Christ doth here call them back as well unto the promise of God as also unto his commandment, which was the readiest way to bridle their curiosity. Curiosity doth rise almost always either of idleness or else of distrust; distrust is cured by meditating upon the promises of God. And his commandments do tell us how we ought to occupy ourselves and employ our studies. Therefore, he commandeth his disciples to wait for the promise of God, and to be diligent in executing their office whereunto God had called them. And in the mean season he noteth 2727 “Perstringit,” reprimandeth. their great hastiness, in that they did preposterously catch at those gifts which were proper unto the Holy Spirit, when as they were not as yet endued with the same. Neither did they take the right way herein, in that being called to go on warfare, they desire (omitting their labor) to lake their ease in their inn. 2828 “Molliter quiescere,” to take soft repose. Therefore, when he saith, you shall receive power, he admonisheth them of their imbecility, lest they follow before the time those things whereunto they cannot attain. It may be read very well either way, You shall receive the power of the Spirit; or, The Spirit coming upon you; yet the latter way seemeth to be the better, because it doth more fully declare their defect trod want, until such time as the Spirit should come upon them.
You shall be my witnesses He correcteth two errors of theirs in this one sentence. For, first, he showeth that they must fight before they can triumph; and, secondly, that the nature of Christ’s kingdom was of another sort than they judged it to have been. Therefore, saith he, You shall be my witnesses; that is, the husbandman must first work before he can reap his fruits. Hence, nay we learn that we must first study how we may come unto the kingdom of God, before we begin to dispute 2929 “Subtiliter philosophemur,” we subtlely philosophize. about the state of the life to come. Many there be which do curiously inquire what manner [of] blessedness that shall be which they shall enjoy after they shall be received into the everlasting kingdom of heaven, not having any care how they may come to enjoy the same. 3030 “Atqui in primis renunciandum erat mundo,” but they ought, in the first instance, to renounce the world, omitted. They reason concerning the quality of the life to come, which they shall have with Christ; but they never think that they must be partakers of his death, that they may live together with him, (2 Timothy 2:11.) Let every man, therefore, apply himself in his work which he hath in hand; let us fight stoutly under Christ’s banner; let us go forward manfully and courageously 3131 “Indefessis animis,” with unwearied minds, indefatigably. in our vocation, and God will give fruit in due time (and tide.) There followeth another correction, when he saith, that they must be his witnesses. For hereby he meant to drive out of his disciples’ minds that fond and false imagination which they had conceived of the terrestrial kingdom, because he showeth unto them briefly, that his kingdom consisteth in the preaching of the gospel. There was no cause, therefore, why they should dream of riches, 3232 “Delicias,” dainties. of external principality, or any other earthly thing, whilst they heard that Christ did then reign when as he subdueth unto himself (all the whole) world by the preaching of the gospel. Whereupon it followeth that he doth reign spiritually, and not after any worldly manner. And that which the apostles had conceived of the carnal kingdom proceeded from the common error of their nation; neither was it marvel if they were deceived herein. 3333 “Hac in parte omnes fuisse hallucinatos,” that they all labored under this hallucination. For when we measure the same with our understanding, what else can we conceive but that which is gross and terrestrial? Hereupon it cometh, that, like brute beasts, we only desire that which is commodious for our flesh, and therefore we rather catch that which is present. Wherefore, we see that those which held opinion, that Christ should reign as a king in this world a thousand years 3434 “Chiliastas,” the Chiliasts. fell into the like folly. Hereupon, also, they applied all such prophecies as did describe the kingdom of Christ figuratively by the similitude of earthly kingdoms unto the commodity of their flesh; whereas, notwithstanding, it was God’s purpose to lift up their minds higher. As for us, let us learn to apply our minds to hear the gospel preached, lest we be entangled in like errors, which prepareth a place in our hearts for the kingdom of Christ. 3535 Transpose thus: As for us, lest we be entangled in like errors, let us learn to apply our minds to hear the gospel preached, (a preached gospel,) which prepareth a place in our heart for the kingdom of Christ.
In all Judea Here he showeth, first, that they must not work for the space of one day only, while that he assigneth the whole world unto them, in which they must publish the doctrine of the gospel. Furthermore, he refuteth 3636 “Oblique refutat,” indirectly refuteth. the opinion which they had conceived of Israel. They supposed those to be Israelites only which were of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. Christ testifieth that they must gather thereunto all Samaria; which, although they were nigh in situation, yet were they far distant in mind and heart. He showeth that all other regions far distant, and also profane, must be united unto the holy people, that they may be all partakers of one and the same grace. It is evident (John 4:9) how greatly the Jews did detest the Samaritans. Christ commanded that (the wall of separation being broken down) they be both made one body, (Ephesians 2:14,) that his kingdom may be erected everywhere. By naming Judea and Jerusalem, which the apostles had tried 3737 “Experti sunt,” experienced. to be full of most deadly enemies, he foretelleth them of the great business and trouble which was prepared for them, that he may cause them to cease to think upon this triumph which they hoped to have been so nigh at hand. 3838 “Ut de propinquo triumpho cogitare desinant,” that they may cease to think of a near triumph. Neither could they be a little afraid to come before so cruel enemies, more to inflame their rage and fury. And here we see how he giveth the former place unto the Jews, because they are, as it were, the first-begotten, (Exodus 4:22.) Notwithstanding, he calleth those Gentiles one with another, which were before strangers from the hope of salvation, (Ephesians 2:11.) Hereby we learn, that the gospel was preached everywhere by the manifest commandment of Christ, that it might also come unto us.
9. The readers may learn out of our Institutions what profit we reap by the ascension of Christ. Notwithstanding, because it is one of the chiefest points of our faith, therefore doth Luke endeavor more diligently to prove the same; yea, rather, the Lord himself meant to put the same out of all doubt, when as he hath ascended so manifestly, and hath confirmed the certainty of the same by other circumstances. For, if so be it he had vanished away secretly, then might the disciples have doubted what was become of him; 3939 “Haesissent attoniti,” might have stood astonished. but now, sith that they, being in so plain a place, 4040 “Quam in edito et undique experto ac patente loco et constituti,” when they were standing on an elevated spot, open on all sides, with nothing to interrupt the view. saw him taken up with whom they had been conversant, whom also they heard speak even now, whom they beheld with their eyes, whom also they see taken out of their sight by a cloud, there is no cause why they should doubt whither he was gone. Furthermore, the angels are there also to bear witness of the same. And it was needful that the history should have been set down so diligently for our cause, that we may know assuredly, that although the Son of God appear nowhere upon earth, yet doth he live in the heavens. And this seemeth to be the reason why the cloud did overshadow him, before such time as he did enter into his celestial glory; that his disciples being content with their measure 4141 “Modulo,” little measure. might cease to inquire any further. And we are taught by them that our mind is not able to ascend so high as to take a full view of the glory of Christ; therefore, let this cloud be a mean to restrain our boldness, as was the smoke which was continually before the door of the tabernacle in the time of the law.
10. Two men He calleth them so by reason of their form. For although it might be that they had the bodies of men in deed, concerning which thing I will not greatly stand in defense of either part, yet certain it is they were not men; but because this metonymia is commonly used in the Scriptures, especially in the First Book of Moses, I will not greatly stand thereupon. Their white garments were a token of rare and excellent dignity. For God meant by this, as by an evident token to distinguish them from the common sort of people, that the disciples might give better ear unto them; 4242 “Ad eorum dicta attentiores,” might be more attentive to what they said. and that at this day we also may know that this vision was showed them of God.
11. Ye men of Galilee, etc. I am not of their opinion who think that this name was given the apostles after an opprobrious sort, as if the angels meant to reprehend the slowness and dullness of the apostles. In my opinion, it was rather to make them more attentive, in that men, whom they did never see before, did name them as though they had perfectly known them. But they seem to reprehend without cause, for looking up into heaven. For where should they rather seek for Christ than in heaven? Doth not the Scriptures also oftentimes exhort us thereunto? I answer, that they were not reprehended because they looked up towards heaven; but because they coveted to see Christ, when as the cloud which was put between them and him did keep them from seeing him with their bodily senses: Secondly, because they hoped that he would return again straightway, that they might enjoy the sight of him again, when as lie did ascend to stay in the heavens until such time as he should come 4343 “Secundo,” a second time, omitted. to judge the world. Wherefore, let us first learn out of this place that we must not seek Christ either in heaven, either upon earth, otherwise than by faith; and also, that we must not desire to have him present with us bodily in the world; for he that doth 4444 “Haerebit,” shall cling to. either of those two shall oftentimes go farther from him. So this their admiration is reprehended, not simply, but inasmuch as they were astonied by the strangeness of this matter; like as we are oftentimes carried unadvisedly into a wonderful great wondering at God’s works; but we never apply ourselves to consider for what end and purpose they were done.
Jesus, which is taken up into heaven There are two members in this one sentence. The first is, that Christ was taken up into heaven, that they may not henceforth foolishly desire to have him any longer conversant with them upon earth. The other is straightway added as a consolation concerning his second coming. Out of these two jointly, and also severally, is gathered a firm, stable, and strong argument, to refute the Papists, and all other which imagine that Christ is really present in the signs of bread and wine. For when it is said that Christ is taken up into heaven; here is plainly noted the distance of place. I grant that this word heaven is interpreted divers ways, sometimes for the air, sometimes for the whole connection 4545 “Complexa,” system. of the spheres, sometimes for the glorious kingdom of God, where the majesty of God hath his [its] proper scat, howsoever it doth fill the whole world. After which sort Paul doth place Christ above all heavens, (Ephesians 1:22,) because he is above all the world, and hath the chiefest room in that place of blessed immortality, because he is more excellent than all the angels, (Ephesians 4:15.) But this is no let why he may not be absent from us bodily, and that by this word heavens, there may not be signified a separation from the world. Let them cavil as much as they will, it is evident that the heaven whereinto Christ was received is opposite to the frame of the world; therefore it doth necessarily follow, that if he be in heaven, he is without [beyond] the world.
But, first, we must mark what the purpose of the angels was, for thereby we shall more perfectly know what the words mean. The angels’ intent was to call back the apostles from desiring the carnal presence of Christ. For this purpose was it that they said that he should not come again until he came to judge the world. And to this end serveth the assigning of the time, that they might not look for him in vain before that same time. Who seeth not that in these words is manifestly showed that he was bodily absent out of the world? Who seeth not that we are forbidden to desire to have him upon the earth? But, they think they escape safe with that crafty answer, when as they say that then he shall come visibly; but he cometh now invisibly daily. But we are not here to dispute of his form; only the apostles are taught that Christ must abide in heaven until such time as he appear at the latter day. For the desiring of his corporeal presence is here condemned as absurd and perverse. The Papists deny that he is present in the sacrament carnally, while that his glorious body is present with us after a supernatural sort, and by a miracle; but we may well enough reject their inventions concerning his glorious body, as childish and frivolous toys. They feign unto themselves a miracle not confirmed with any testimony of Scripture. The body of Christ was then glorious, when as he was conversant with his disciples after his resurrection. This was done by the extraordinary and secret power of God; yet, notwithstanding, the angels do forbid to desire him afterward after that sort, and they say that he shall not come unto men in that sort (before the latter day.) Therefore, according to their commandment, let us not go about to pull him out of the heavens with our own inventions; neither let us think that we call handle him with our hands, or perceive him with our other senses, more than we can see him with our eyes. I speak always of his body. For in that they say it is infinite, as it is all absurd dream, so is it safely to be rejected. Nevertheless, I willingly confess that Christ is ascended that he may fulfill [fill] all things; but I say that he is spread abroad everywhere by the power of his Spirit, not by the substance of his flesh. I grant, furthermore, that he is present With us both in his word and in the sacraments. Neither is it to be doubted, but that all those which do with faith receive the signs of his flesh and blood, are made truly partakers of his flesh and blood. But this partaking doth nothing agree with the dotings of the Papists; for they feign that Christ is present in such sort upon the altar as Numa Pompilius did call down his Jupiter Elicitus, or as those witches did fetch down the moon from heaven with their enchantments. But Christ, by reaching us the bread in his Supper, doth will us to lift up our hearts into heaven, that we may have life by his flesh and blood. So that we do not eat his flesh grossly, that we may live thereby, but he poureth into us, by the secret power of his Spirit, his force and strength.
He shall so come I have said before, that by this consolation all sorrow which we might conceive, because of Christ’s absence, is mitigated, yea, utterly taken away, when as we hear that lie shall return again. And also the end for which he shall come again is to be noted; namely, that he shall come as a Redeemer, and shall gather us with him into blessed immortality. For as lie doth not now sit idle in heaven, (as Homer signifieth, that his gods be busied only about their bellies;) so shall not he appear again without profit. Therefore, the only looking for Christ’s coming must both restrain the importunate desires of our flesh, and support our patience in all our adversities; and, lastly, it must refresh our weariness. But it worketh this only in the faithful, which believe that Christ is their Redeemer; for it bringeth unto the wicked nothing but dread, horror, and great fearfulness. And howsoever they do now scoff’ and jest when as they hear of his coming, yet shall they be compelled to behold him sitting upon his tribunal-seat, whom now they will not vouchsafe to hear speak. Furthermore, it were but frivolous to move any question about his apparel wherewith he was then clothed, whether he shall come again being clothed with the same or no. Neither am I now determined to refute that which Augustine, in his Epistle unto Consentius, doth touch, (August. ad Con. Epist. 146;) notwithstanding, it is better for me to omit that thing which I cannot unfold.
12. That he may pass over unto another history, he showeth that the disciples being returned unto Jerusalem, dwelt together in one parlor. For it was the upper part of the house, which used to be let out unto those which did hire houses; 4646 “Inquilinis,” tenants or lodgers. for the most commodious places were reserved unto them that were masters of the house, (for their own use.) Wherefore, by this word Luke doth signify that they were driven into a strait room; 4747 “In angustum locum fuisse constrictos,” were confined to a narrow space. and yet, notwithstanding, though this commodity were great, yet they did not part asunder. They might have been more commodiously asunder, yet might they not part company before they had received the Spirit. In that he noteth here the distance of place, it bringeth credit unto the history. Unless, peradventure, he meant hereby to declare that they were not terrified with any fear of danger, but that they did all return and kept company together in one house, which was not so large, but that the company being greater than the place could well contain, it might breed some rumor (or noise.) A Sabbath-day’s journey was two miles, and that account doth well agree with the place of John 11:18, where he saith, “that Jerusalem was distant from Bethany almost fifteen furlongs;” which containeth about a thousand and nine hundred paces. And the mount Olivet was at the side of Bethany. There was no Sabbath-day’s journey prescribed in the law; for the Lord doth command them simply to rest upon the Sabbath-day in the law. 4848 More properly, For the Lord doth in the law command, etc. But because the Jews could not easily be ruled, but that they would run abroad about their business upon the Sabbath-day, (as the Lord himself doth complain, “that they did bear burdens out at the gates,”) (Jeremiah 17:24,) therefore, it is to be thought that it was determined by the priests, 4949 “Communi sacerdotum concilio,” by the common council of the priests, the Sanhedrim. (to the end they might restrain such enormities,) that no man should travel upon the Sabbath-day above two miles. Although Jerome, in his Answers unto Algasia, doth say that this tradition did come from two Rabbins, namely, from Atriba, and from Simon Heli.
13. Where they abode Some translate it, where they did abide; as though they did use to dwell there. But I am of that opinion, that they did then first of all use that hired room to dwell together in, until such time as the Holy Spirit was come upon them. Too, too ridiculous are the Papists, which go about to prove Peter his supremacy 5050 “Primatum,” primacy. hereby, because he is reckoned up first of all the apostles. Although we do grant that he was the chiefest of the apostles, yet it doth not follow hereupon that he was the chiefest ruler of all the world. But if he be, therefore, the chief of all the apostles, because his name is first in the catalogue of the apostles’ names, I will again conclude, that the mother of Christ was inferior unto all the rest of the women, because she is [here] reckoned the last; which they will in no case admit, as indeed it were a thing too absurd. Wherefore, unless they will set their Papacy to be laughed at of all men, as hitherto they have done, they must leave off to adorn it with such foolish toys. But what is their intent? Forsooth, they will prove out of the Scriptures that there was a secondary head of the Church, inferior to Christ; whereas there is no syllable in the Scripture which is consenting unto this their foolish invention. No marvel is it, therefore, if they do snatch here and there certain places, which, although no man smite them out of their hands, they will let fall of their own accord. But omitting them, let us mark what is Luke’s purpose in this place. Because the disciples had fallen away, and filthily fled from their Master Christ, every man whither fear did drive him, (Matthew 26:56,) they did deserve, like forsakers of their masters, or run-agates, to be deprived of honor. Therefore, that we may know that by the appointment of the Lord they were gathered together again, and restored to their former degree, Luke reckoneth up all their names.
14. With their wives Some translate it women; and they think that he speaketh of those which accompanied Christ. As I will not contend with any man concerning this matter, so have I not doubted to prefer that which I thought was more probable. I grant that the word which Luke useth may be interpreted both ways. But this is my reason, why I do think that he speaketh rather of wives, because, seeing that they used afterward to carry their wives about with them, as Paul doth testify, (1 Corinthians 9:5,) it is not likely that they were then asunder. For they might more easily rest together in one place, than by wandering to and fro oftentimes to change their abiding; and, secondly, seeing that they did look for the coming of the Holy Ghost, which was even then at hand, what reason was there why they should deprive their wives of so great goodness? Peter’s wife was about to be a helper unto him shortly after, which we must also think of the rest of the wives. These women had need of heroical fortitude and constancy, lest they should faint. Who would, therefore, think that they were excluded from their husbands whilst they look for the coming of the Spirit? But if they will stick to the general word, it standeth with reason that there were married women in the company. Howsoever it be, it is Luke’s mind to tell us by the way how greatly they had changed their minds. 5151 “In melius,” for the better. For whereas before the men, being afraid, had fled away, the women are gathered together with them now, neither do they fear any danger. He doth reckon up the mother of Jesus with the other women, whom, notwithstanding, John is said to have kept at his own house. But, as I have said before, they met altogether now only for a short season; for it is not to be doubted but that they departed one from another afterwards. It is well known that amongst the Hebrews all kinsfolk are comprehended under this word brethren.
All these did continue. Here he showeth that they did diligently look for the coming of the Holy Spirit.; For this was the cause of their prayer, that Christ would send his Spirit, as he had promised. Whereupon we may gather that this is the true faith which stirreth us up to call upon God. For the security of faith doth much differ from sluggishness. Neither doth God, therefore, assure us of this grace, that our minds may straightway become careless, but that he may rather sharpen our desire to pray. Neither is prayer any sign of doubting, but rather a testimony of our (sure hope and) confidence, because we ask those things at the Lord’s hands which we know he hath promised. So it becometh us also (after their example) to be instant in prayer, 5252 “Ut precibus nostris concedat,” that he would grant our prayers. and to beg at God’s hands that he will increase in us his Holy Spirit: 5353 “Ut quotidiana Spiritus augmenta impetremus,” that we may obtain daily increase of the Spirit. increase, (I say,) because before we can conceive any prayer we must needs have the first-fruits of the Spirit. For as much as he is the only Master which teacheth us to pray aright, who doth not only give us utterance, (Romans 2:25,) but also governs our inward affections.
Furthermore, Luke doth express two things which are proper to true prayer, namely, that they did persist, and that they were all of one mind. This was art exercise of their patience, in that Christ did make them stay a while, 5454 “Suspensos tenuit,” kept them in suspense. when as he could straightway have sent the Holy Spirit; so God doth oftentimes drive off, 5555 “Differt,” defer or delay. and, as it were, suffer us to languish, that he may accustom us to persevere. The hastiness of our petitions is a corrupt, yea a hurtful plague; wherefore it is no marvel if God do sometimes correct the same. In the mean season (as I have said) he doth exercise us to be constant in prayer. Therefore, if we will not pray in vain, let us not be wearied with the delay of time. As touching the unity of their minds, it is set against that scattering abroad, which fear had caused before. Yet, notwithstanding, we may easily gather, even by this, how needful a thing it is to pray generally, in that Christ commandeth every one to pray for the whole body, and generally for all men, as it were, in the person of all men: Our Father, Give us this day, etc., (Matthew 6:9.) Whence cometh this unity of their tongues but from one Spirit? Wherefore, when Paul would prescribe unto the Jews and Gentiles a right form of prayer, he removeth far away all division and dissension. That we may, (saith he,) being all of one mind, with one mouth glorify God, (Romans 15:6.) And truly it is needful that we be brethren, and agree together like brethren, that we rightly call God Father.
15. It was meet that Matthias should be chosen into the place of Judas, lest, through the treachery of one man, all that might seem to have been made of none effect which Christ had once appointed. He did not unadvisedly choose the twelve in the beginning, as principal preachers of his gospel. For when he said that they should be judges of twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 6:13, John 6:70; he showeth here that it was done of set purpose, that they might gather together the tribes of Israel unto one faith. But after that the Jews had refused the grace offered unto them, it was behoveful that the Israel of God should be gathered together out of all countries.
This, therefore, was, as it were, a holy number, which, if it should have been diminished through the wickedness of Judas, then should the preaching of the gospel both have had, and also have, less credit at this day, if the beginning thereof had been imperfect. 5656 “Ut ita loquar claudicaret,” had been, so to speak, lame, defective. Although, therefore, Judas would (as much as in him lay) have disappointed the purpose of Christ, yet nevertheless it stood firm and stable. He perished as he was worthy, yet did the order of the apostles remain whole and sound.
The company of names It is uncertain whether he meaneth the men who only have the name properly, seeing the women are comprehended under the name of the men; or whether he taketh names simply for all the heads, as the Hebrews call them souls. This may also be called in question, whether they were wont daily to frequent that parlor in which the apostles did dwell, or they did continually dwell there with them. For the place was scarce able to contain so great a multitude, to serve them for all necessary uses. Surely it seemeth to me a thing more like to be true, that Luke doth in this place express the number of them, that we may know that they were all gathered together when Peter made this sermon. Whereby we may guess that they were not always present there. Although I dare not affirm any certain thing concerning this matter, yet being moved with a probable conjecture, I do rather lean unto this part, that the church was gathered together them because they had to intreat of a serious matter, and to this end also tendeth this word rising, [standing up.]
16. It was meet that the Scripture should be fulfilled. Because Peter doth speak in this their assembly, therefore the Papists will have him to be the head of the church. 5757 “Universae Ecclesiae,” the Universal Church. As though no man might speak in any assembly of the godly but he should straightway be Pope. We do grant, that as in every assembly there must be some which must be chief, so in this assembly the apostles did ascribe this honor unto Peter. But what maketh this unto (the proving of) their Papacy? Wherefore, bidding them adieu, 5858 “Illis valere jussis,” omitting these things. let us consider what the Spirit doth speak by the month of Peter. He saith That the Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, lest any man’s mind should be troubled with that horrible fall of Judas. For it seemed a strange thing that he which was chosen by Christ unto so excellent a function, should so filthily fall in the beginning of his course. Peter removeth this stone of stumbling, when he saith that it was foretold by the Scripture. Whence we may gather an admonition very necessary for daily practice; namely, that we ought to attribute this honor unto the prophecies of the Scriptures, that they are able to appease all such fear as we conceive of the sudden event of things. For there is nothing which doth more trouble us than when we stay still in our own sense and understanding, and procure unto ourselves lets and doubts, 5959 “Offendicula,” small scandals. which the Lord would be ready to cure, if so be that we would hold fast this one thing, that nothing is absurd which he hath foreseen, appointed, and foretold, that he might make us more strong. Neither was Judas therefore excusable, because that which befell him was foretold, seeing that he fell away, not being compelled by the prophecy, but only by the malice of his own heart. The oration of Peter hath two parts. For, in the first place, he putteth away the offense which godly minds might have conceived by reason of the fall of Judas; whence also he gathereth an exhortation that the rest may learn to fear God. Secondly, he telleth them that it remaineth that they choose another into his place, both which he proveth by testimony of Scripture.
Which the Holy Ghost foretold Such manner of speeches bring greater reverence to the Scriptures, whilst we are taught by them that David and all the rest of the prophets did speak only as they were directed by the Holy Ghost; so that they themselves were not the authors of their prophecies, but the Spirit which used their tongues as an instrument. Wherefore, seeing that our dullness is so great, that we ascribe less authority unto the Scriptures than we ought, we must diligently note such manner of speeches, and acquaint ourselves with them, that we may oftentimes remember the authority of God to confirm our faith withal.
17. Adopted. It is word for word reckoned. And he saith that he was one of the number, that he might signify unto them that it was needful that the empty place should be filled, to the end that the number might continue whole. And to this propose serveth that which followeth, that he had obtained a part in the ministry. For thereupon it doth follow that the body should be, as it were, lame, if that part should be wanting. Surely it was a thing which might make them greatly amazed, that he whom Christ had extolled unto so high dignity should fall headlong into such destruction. Which circumstance doth increase the cruelty of the fact, 6060 “Atrocitatem sceleris,” the atrocity of the crime. and teacheth the rest to take heed unto themselves. 6161 “Ut sibi caveant et metuani,” to be cautious and fear. Neither is it to be doubted but that the disciples did remember Judas with great grief and sorrow. But Peter doth here express by name the excellency of his function, that he might make them more attentive and more careful to provide a remedy.
18. And he truly It seemeth unto me a thing like to be true, that this narration of the death of Judas was put in by Luke; therefore, it seemeth good to me to include it within a parenthesis, that it may be separated from Peter’s sermon. For to what end should Peter here reckon up unto the disciples those things which they already knew well enough?
Secondly, it should have been an absurd thing to have spoken after this among them, that the field which was bought with the money that was given to betray Christ was called of the Hebrews, in their own mother tongue, Aceldama. But whereas some do answer, that Peter spoke this unto the Galileans, whose speech did disagree with the Jewish tongue, it is but vain and frivolous. In very deed they did somewhat disagree in pronunciation; yet not so much but that they did well understand one another; like as do these of Paris and the men of Rouen.
Furthermore, how could this be a fit word for Jerusalem, where Peter made his sermon? To what end should he interpret in Greek among the Hebrews their own mother tongue? Therefore doth Luke of himself put in this sentence concerning the death of Judas, lest Peter’s words might seem strange 6262 “Lectoribus obscura essent,” might be obscure to his readers. through ignorance of that history.
He possessed a field This word hath a double signification, which, in my opinion, doth rather signify in this place to possess than to get; yet because it skilleth little whether way we read it, I leave it indifferent. And he speaketh after this sort, not because Judas had the use of the field, or that he himself did buy it, seeing it was bought after his death. But Luke’s meaning was, that his burial was the perpetual note of ignominy; was the reward which he had for his falsehood and wicked act. Neither did he so much sell Christ for thirty pieces as his apostleship. He enjoyed not the money; 6363 “Argento potitus non est,” he did not obtain the money. he only possessed the field. Furthermore, it came to pass through the marvelous providence of God, that the very common name of the field should be a note of infamy for the priests, which had bought (the) innocent blood of [from] the traitor. He saith that the Hebrews did call it by that name in their tongue, because he himself was a Grecian born; and he calleth that the Hebrew tongue which the Jews did use after the captivity of Babylon, namely, such as was mixed of the Assyrian tongue and of the Chaldean tongue.
It is written in the book of Psalms He taketh away, by authority of Scriptures, all offense which might have happened by reason of the falling away of Judas. Yet might this place seem to be greatly wrested: First, in that David did not wish that these things might befall any particular person, but (in the plural number) he wisheth them unto his enemies. Secondly, it seemeth that Peter doth apply these things amiss unto Judas, which were spoken of the enemies of David. I answer, that David doth there speak after this [afterwards] of himself, that he may describe the condition and state of Christ’s kingdom.
In that Psalm (I say) is contained the common image of the whole Church, which is the body of the Son of God. Therefore, the things which are there set down must needs have been fulfilled in the head, which are indeed fulfilled, as the evangelists do testify, know, if any man object that those things which there were spoken against the enemies of David do not fitly agree unto Judas, we may easily gather that they do so much the rather agree with him, because David doth not respect himself as being separated from the body of the Church; but rather as he was one of the members of Christ, and so taking upon him his image, he steppeth forth in his name.
Whosoever shall mark that this singular person was attributed to David, that he should be a figure of Christ, will not marvel if all these things be applied unto him which were prefigured in David. Although, therefore, he doth comprehend the whole Church, yet he beginneth at the head thereof, and doth especially describe what things Christ should suffer by the hands of the wicked. For we learn out of Paul’s doctrine, that whatsoever afflictions the godly suffer, they are part of the afflictions of Christ, and serve to the fulfilling of the same, (Colossians 1:14.) This order and connection did David observe, or rather the Spirit of God, who meant by the mouth of David to instruct the whole Church. But as touching the persecutors of Christ, all that which is commonly spoken of them is by good right referred unto their standard-bearer; whose impiety and wickedness, as it is most famous, so his punishment ought to be made known unto all men. If any man do object again, that that which is recited in the Psalm is only certain cursings, and not prophecies; and that, therefore, Peter doth gather improperly that it was of necessity that it should be fulfilled, it is soon answered. For David was not moved with any perverse or corrupt affection of the flesh to crave vengeance; but he had the Holy Spirit to be his guide and director. Therefore, what things soever he prayed for there, being inspired with the Holy Ghost, they have the same strength which prophecies have, because the Spirit doth require no other thing than that which God hath determined with himself to perform, and will also promise unto us. But whereas Peter doth cite out of the Scriptures two diverse testimonies; by the first is meant, that Judas, together with his name and family, should quite be extinguished, that his place might be empty; the other, which he fetcheth out of the 109th Psalm, tendeth to this end, that there should be another chosen to supply his place. These seem at first to be contrary; namely, a waste habitation and succession. Yet, because the Spirit saith only, in the former place, that the adversaries of the Church should be taken away, that their place might be empty, and without one to dwell therein, in respect of themselves, this is no let why another may not afterward supply their empty place. Yea, this doth also augment their punishment, in that the honor, after it was taken from him that was unworthy thereof, is given to another.
And his bishopric The Hebrew word could not be translated more fitly. For פכודה (pecudah) doth signify a jurisdiction or government, so called of the overseeing and beholding of things. For as for those which interpret it wife, the text 6464 “Contextus,” context. refuteth them; for it followeth in the next verse, of his wife, that she may be made a widow. Therefore, after that he had wished that the wicked may be deprived of his life, he addeth, moreover, that he may be spoiled of his honor; neither doth he stay here, but also he desireth that another may succeed him, whereby, as I have said before, his punishment is doubled. In the meanwhile, he noteth by the way, 6565 “Oblique,” indirectly. that this false, treacherous, and wicked person, whereof he speaketh, should not be some one of the common sort, but such an one as should be indued with honor and dignity; from which, nevertheless, he shall fall. And out of this place must we learn, that the wicked shall not escape scott free, which have persecuted the Church of God; for this miserable and wretched end is prepared for them all.
21. We must therefore. This which he bringeth in might seem, at the first sight, to be far set [fetched.] For if so be it David did speak of transposing 6666 “Transferendo,” transferring. Judas’s bishopric, it did not thereupon straightway follow that the disciples should choose another to be his successor; yet, because they knew that they had this charge given them to order the Church, so soon as Peter had told them that it did please the Lord that it should be so, he gathereth thereupon that they ought to do it. For whensoever God will use as means, 6767 “Quum opera nostra uti velit Deus,” since God is pleased to use our agency. to maintain the government of his Church, so soon as we know what his will is, we must not linger, but stoutly perform whatsoever is required in our ministry (and function.) That was, without all controversy, what was the duty of the Church; like as, at this day, when we hear that those must be put from their office which behave themselves ungodly and wickedly, and that others must be chosen in their rooms, the Church must take this charge in hand. Wherefore, it was superfluous to move any question about a thing that was not to be doubted of. Therefore, let us always remember to consider what we have to do, that we may be ready to obey the Lord. Furthermore, when as he intreateth of the making of an apostle, he saith, He must be a witness of the resurrection; which signifieth that the apostleship is not without the preaching of the gospel. Whence it may appear how vain and frivolous the Popish bishops are, which having on only dumb visors, brag that they are the successors of the apostles; but wherein are they like unto them? I grant that Peter doth here require such a witness as saw the Lord after his resurrection, of which sort John professeth himself to be one, when he saith, “He which saw it beareth witness,” (John 19:35.) For this did serve for the confirmation of faith; yet, nevertheless, Peter maketh it a thing necessary in him and the rest of his fellows in office, that they should teach, whilst he maketh them and himself preachers or witnesses of the resurrection.
He nameth the resurrection, not because they must bear witness thereof alone; but because, first, under this is comprehended the preaching of the death of Christ; secondly, because we have the end of our redemption therein, and the accomplishment thereof, and also it bringeth with it the celestial government of Christ, and the power of the Spirit in defending his, in establishing justice and equity, in restoring order, in abolishing the tyranny of sin, and in putting to flight all the enemies of the Church. Let us know, therefore, that those things are not excluded by this word which are necessarily knit together. Nevertheless, let us note that the resurrection is here named before other things, as being the chief point of the gospel, as also Paul teacheth, (1 Corinthians 15:17.)
But were the apostles alone witnesses of the resurrection? Was not this also common to the rest of the disciples? For Peter seemeth to challenge this as proper only to the apostles. I answer, that this title is therefore attributed unto them, because they were chosen peculiarly unto that function, and because they had the chief room amongst those which did bring this embassage; therefore, though they were the chief of those which were assigned, yet were not they only appointed thereunto.
All that time. He beginneth at that time when Jesus began to show himself unto the world, which is diligently to be observed, as before I have said; for he lived privately until such time as he was almost thirty years of age. For he would not make himself known further than was needful for our salvation. Therefore, when the time was come wherein he must go about that business which his Father had appointed him, he came abroad like a new man, and one that was but lately born. Every man may easily perceive what great force this hath to bridle our curiosity. The whole life of Christ might have been a mirror most marvelous, 6868 “Admirable speculum,” an admirable mirror. of more than absolute perfection; and yet, notwithstanding, that he might keep us occupied in the study and meditation of those things which were most needful to be known, he would lead the better part of his life obscurely and in secret. 6969 “Quasi sepultam,” as it were buried. Who dare now wander without Christ, seeing that he doth apply the knowledge of himself to the edifying of faith?
The Hebrews take this, to go in and out, for to be conversant and to lead the life among men. In which sense, citizens are said to go in and out by the gates of their city; so John 10:9,
“If any man enter in by me, he shall go in and out,
and shall find pasture.”
Although, in the Second Book of the Chronicles, the first chapter, and tenth verse, it seemeth to be a token of rule and government.
23. They were to choose one only into the room of Judas; they present two. Here may a question be asked, Why they were not contented with one only? Was it because they were so like, that they could not discern whether was more fit? This truly had been no sufficient reason why they should suffer it to be decided by lots. And also it seemeth that Joseph was of greater estimation otherwise; or was it because they were diversely affectioned? But this seemeth scarce probable, neither is this to be admitted as true, because of that most excellent testimony which Luke did give a little before of their unity and agreement. Lastly, It had been very absurd for them to have polluted the election of the apostle with such strife and contention. 7070 “Tali dissidio,” with such dissension. But for this cause did they use the casting of lots, that it might be known that Matthias was not only chosen by the voices of men, but also that he was made by the determination and judgment of God.
For there was this difference between the apostles and the pastors, that the pastors were chosen simply by the Church, the apostles were called of God. In which respect Paul, in the preface of his Epistle to the Galatians, (Galatians 1:2,) doth profess himself to be an apostle, “neither of men, neither made by man.” Therefore, like as the dignity of this function was excellent, so was it meet that in the choosing of Matthias, the chief judgment should be left unto God, howsoever men did their duty. Christ by his own mouth did appoint the rest; therefore, if Matthias had been chosen only by man to be one of them, he should have had less authority than they. This was very orderly done, 7171 “Medium fuit temperamentum.” a middle course was adopted. that the disciples should present unto God those whom they thought to be the best; and he should choose to himself whom he knew to be most fit, so that God, by the fall of the lot, doth pronounce that he did allow of the apostleship of Matthias. But the apostles might seem to have dealt very rashly and disorderly, which laid so great and weighty a matter upon a lot; for what certainty could they gather thereby? I answer, that they did it only as they were moved thereunto by the Holy Spirit; for although Luke doth not express this, yet, because he will not accuse the disciples of rashness, but rather doth show that this election was lawful and approved of God; I say, therefore, that they went this way to work, being moved by the Spirit, like as they were directed in all the action by the same Spirit. But why do they not pray that God would choose whom he would out of the whole multitude? Why do they restrain his judgment unto two? Is not this to rob God of his liberty, when as they tie him, and, as it were, make him subject unto their voices and consents? 7272 “Suis suffragiis,” their suffrages. But whosoever shall quietly ponder the matter shall plainly perceive, by the drift of Luke, that the disciples durst do nothing but that which they knew was their duty to do, and was commanded them by the Lord. As for the contentious, let them go shake their ears. 7373 “Valere sinamus,” let us leave them alone, bid them good day.
24. In praying, they said. Word for word it is, Having prayed, they said; but there is no obscurity in the sense, because his meaning was to speak as followeth, that they prayed; and yet he doth not reckon up all the words, being content briefly to show the sum. Therefore, although they were both of honest conversation, yea, although they did excel in holiness and other virtues, yet because the integrity of the heart, whereof God is the alone knower and judge, is the chief, the disciples pray that God would bring that to light which was hidden from men. The same ought to be required even at this day in choosing pastors; for howsoever we are not to appoint two for one, yet because we may oftentimes be deceived, and the discerning of spirits cometh of the Lord, we must always pray unto God, that he will show unto us what men he will have to be ministers, that he may direct and govern our purposes. Here we may also gather what great regard we must have of integrity and innocency in choosing pastors, without which both learning and eloquence, and what excellency soever can be invented, are as nothing. 7474 “In fumum abeunt,” go to smoke.
25. 7575 There is here a transposition in the translation. The 26th verse precedes the 25th. Of the ministry and apostleship. Because the word ministry was base, he addeth apostleship, wherein there is greater dignity; although the sense shall be more plain if you expound it, “the ministry of the apostleship.” For the figure hypallage is common in the Scriptures. Assuredly Luke meant to join with the burden the excellency of the office, that it might have the greater reverence and authority; and yet this was his intent also, to declare that the apostles are called unto a painful function.
26. They gave in their lots We will not, in this place, make any long disputation about lots. Those men who think it to be wickedness to cast lots at all, offend partly through ignorance, and partly they understand not the force of this word. There is nothing which men do not corrupt with their boldness and vanity, whereby it is come to pass that they have brought lots into great abuse and superstition. For that divination or conjecture which is made by lots is altogether devilish. But when magistrates divide provinces among them, and brethren their inheritance, it is a thing lawful. Which thing Solomon doth plainly testify, when he maketh God the governor of the event.
“The lots (saith he) are cast into the bosom, and the judgment of them cometh forth from the Lord,” (Proverbs 16:33.)
This ordinance or custom is no more corrupt and depraved by corruption, than the corrupt vanity of the Chaldeans doth corrupt true and natural astrology. Whilst the Chaldeans go about, with the name of astrology, to cloak and color their wicked curiosity, they defame a science both profitable and praiseworthy. The same do those which tell men their destinies (as they call them) by casting lots; but it is our duty to discern the lawful use from the corruption. He saith the lots were given, that being put into a pot, or one of their laps, they might afterwards be drawn out. And here we must also note that this word lot is diversely taken in this place; for when he said before that Judas had obtained a lot of the ministry, his meaning was, (according to the common custom of the Scripture,) that he had a portion given him of the Lord. He speaketh afterwards properly, and without any figure of a lot, yet is it likely, forasmuch as the word גראל, (goral) is commonly used by the Hebrews for both things, that Peter meant to allude unto that which they were about to do, and that Luke had respect unto the self-same thing.
The lot fell upon Matthias. It came to pass as no man would have looked for; for we may gather by that which goeth before, that there was not so great account made of Matthias as of the other; for, besides that Luke gave him the former place, the two sirnames which Barsabas had do show that he was in great estimation. He was called Barsabas, (that is, the son of an oath, or of rest,) of the thing itself, as if he were some mirror, either of faithfulness and innocency, or of a quiet and modest nature. The other sirname did import singular honesty. This man, therefore, in men’s judgment, was the former, [superior;] but God did prefer Matthias before him. Whereby we are taught that we must not glory if we be extolled unto the skies in the opinion of men, and if by their voices and consents 7676 “Eorum suffragiis,” by their suffrages. we be judged to be most excellent men; but we must rather have regard of this, to approve ourselves unto God, who alone is the most lawful and just judge, by whose sentence and judgment we stand or fall. And we may oftentimes mark this also, that God passeth over him which is the chiefest in the sight of men, that he may throw down all pride which is in man. In that he addeth, that he was reckoned amongst the rest, he wipeth away all sinister note of rashness from the casting of lots, because the Church did embrace him as chosen by God on whom the lot fell.