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22. Paul's Arrest and Defense
1Brethren and fathers, hear ye the defence which I now make unto you. 2And when they heard that he spake unto them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet: and he saith, 3I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as ye all are this day: 4and I persecuted this Way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and journeyed to Damascus to bring them also that were there unto Jerusalem in bonds to be punished. 6And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and drew nigh unto Damascus, about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. 9And they that were with me beheld indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. 10And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me I came into Damascus. 12And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews that dwelt there, 13came unto me, and standing by me said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And in that very hour I looked up on him. 14And he said, The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. 15For thou shalt be a witness for him unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name. 17And it came to pass, that, when I had returned to Jerusalem, and while I prayed in the temple, I fell into a trance, 18and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; because they will not receive of thee testimony concerning me. 19And I said, Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20and when the blood of Stephen thy witness was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting, and keeping the garments of them that slew him. 21And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles. 22And they gave him audience unto this word; and they lifted up their voice, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. 23And as they cried out, and threw off their garments, and cast dust into the air, 24the chief captain commanded him be brought into the castle, bidding that he should be examined by scourging, that he might know for what cause they so shouted against him. 25And when they had tied him up with the thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? 26And when the centurion heard it, he went to the chief captain and told him, saying, What art thou about to do? for this man is a Roman. 27And the chief captain came and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? And he said, Yea. 28And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this citizenship. And Paul said, But I am a Roman born. 29They then that were about to examine him straightway departed from him: and the chief captain also was afraid when he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. 30But on the morrow, desiring to know the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him, and commanded the chief priests and all the council to come together, and brought Paul down and set him before them.
6. And it happened. Because this history was expounded more at large in the ninth chapter, I will only briefly touch those things which were there spoken. But this is peculiar to this present place, that Paul reckoneth up his circumstances, that by them he may prove that he was converted by God. And this is the third member of the sermon; otherwise this change should have been thought to have proceeded of inconstancy, or rashness, or else it should not have been void of some infamy. For nothing is more intolerable than to start aside from the course of godliness which men have once entered; and also not to do that which they are commanded to do. Therefore, lest any man might suspect Paul’s conversion, he proveth by many miracles which he bringeth to light, that God was the author thereof. In the night-season there appear oftentimes lightnings, which come of the hot exhalations of the earth; but this was more strange, that about noon a sudden light did not only appear, but did also compass him about like a lightning, so that through fear thereof he fell from his horse, and lay prostrate upon the ground. Another miracle, in that he heard a voice from heaven; another, in that his companions heard it not as well as he. Also, there follow other things, that, after that he was sent to Damascus, the event is correspondent to the oracle; because Ananias cometh to meet him. Also, in that his sight is restored to him in a moment.
I fell to the earth. As Paul was puffed up with Pharisaical pride, it was meet that he should be afflicted and thrown down, that he might hear Christ’s voice. He would not have despised God openly, neither durst he refuse the heavenly oracle; yet his mind should never have been framed unto the obedience of faith, if he had continued in his former state; therefore, he is thrown down by violence, that he may learn to humble himself willingly. Furthermore, there is in Christ’s words only a brief reprehension, which serveth to appease the rage of Paul being so cruelly bent. Nevertheless, we have thence an excellent consolation, in that Christ taking upon him the person of all the godly, doth complain that whatsoever injury was done to them was done to him. And as there can no sweeter thing be imagined to lenify the bitterness of persecution, than when we hear that the Son of God doth suffer not only with us, but also in us, so again, the bloody enemies of the gospel, who being now besotted with pride, do mock the miserable Church, shall perceive whom they have wounded.
9. They which were with me. I showed in the other place, that there is no such disagreement in the words of Luke as there seemeth to be. Luke said there, that though Paul’s companions stood amazed, yet heard they a voice. 502502 “Vocem audisse, neminem vidisse,” heard a voice, and saw no one. But in this place he saith, they heard not the voice of him which spake to Paul though they saw the light. Surely it is no absurd thing to say that they heard some obscure voice; yet so that they did not discern it as Paul himself, whom alone Christ meant to stay and tame with the reprehension. Therefore, they hear a voice, because a sound doth enter into their ears, so that they know that some speaketh from heaven; they hear not the voice of him that spake to Paul, because they understand not what Christ saith. Moreover, they see Paul compassed about with the light, but they see none which speaketh from heaven.
10. What shall I do, Lord? This is the voice of a tamed man, and this is the true turning unto the Lord; when laying away all fierceness and fury, we bow down our necks willingly to bear his yoke, and are ready to do whatsoever he commandeth us. Moreover, this is the beginning of well-doing, to ask the mouth of God; for their labor is lost who think upon repentance without his word. Furthermore, in that Christ appointeth Ananias to be Paul’s master, he doth it not for any reproach, or because he refuseth to teach him; but by this means he meaneth to set forth, and also to beautify the outward ministry of the Church.
And even in the person of one man, he teacheth us 503503 “Commune documentum nobis praebuit,” he hath given us a common proof, that we must not grudge to hear him speak with the tongue of men. To the same end tendeth that which followeth immediately, that he was blind, until offering himself to become a scholar, he had declared 504504 “Probasset,” he had proved. the humility of his faith. God doth not indeed make blind all those whom he will lighten; but there is a general rule prescribed to all men, that those become foolish with themselves who will be wise to him.
12. One Ananias. Paul proceedeth now unto the fourth point, to wit, that he did not only give his name to Christ, being astonished with miracles, but that he was also well and thoroughly instructed in the doctrine of the gospel. I have already said that Ananias met Paul, not by chance, but through the direction of Christ. And whereas he giveth him the title of godliness as concerning the law, and saith that he was well reported of by the whole nation, in these words he preventeth the wrong 505505 “Sinistram,” sinister. opinion which they might conceive. As they loathed the Gentiles, so they would never have allowed any teacher coming from them; and one that had revolted from the law should have been most detestable. Therefore, he witnesseth that he worshipped God according to the law, and that his godliness was known and commended among all the Jews, so that they ought not to suspect him. These words, according to the law, are ignorantly, by some, coupled with the text following, that he was approved according to the law. For Ananias’ religion is rather distinguished by this mark from the superstitions of the Gentiles. Though we must note, that the law is not mentioned to establish the merits of works, that they may be set against the grace of God; but Ananias’ godliness is clearly acquitted of all evil suspicion which might have risen among the Jews. And seeing that he restoreth sight to Paul with one word, it appeareth thereby that he was sent of God, as I have said before.