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Peter and John before the Council
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them,
1. And as they spoke Hereby it appeareth how watchful the wicked be, because they are always ready at an inch to stop the mouth of the servants of Christ. And, undoubt edly, they came together, as it were, to quench some great fire; which thing Luke signifieth, when as he saith that the ruler or captain of the temple came also; and he addeth, moreover, that they took it grievously that the apostles did teach. Therefore, they came not upon them by chance, but of set purpose, that, according to their authority, they might restrain the apostles, and put them to silence. And yet they have some show of law and equity; for if any man did rashly intrude himself, it was the office of the high priest to repress him; and also in like sort, to keep the people in the obedience of the law and the prophets, and to prevent all new doctrines. Therefore, when they hear unknown men, and such as had no public authority, preaching unto the people in the temple, they seem, according as their office did require, and they were commanded by God, to address themselves to remedy this. And surely, at the first blush, it seemeth that there was nothing in this action worthy of reprehension, but the end doth at length declare that their counsel was wicked, and their affection ungodly.
Again, it was a hard matter for the apostles to escape infamy and reproach, because they, being private and despised persons, did take upon them public authority; to wit, because, when things are out of order, many things must be essayed to [against] the common custom, and especially, when we are to avouch and defend religion and the worship of God, and the ringleaders themselves do stop all ways, and do abuse that office against God, which was committed unto them by God. The faithful champions of Christ must swallow up and pass through this ignominy in [under] Popery. For a thousand summers will go over their heads before any reformation or amendment will wax ripe amongst them for the better. Therefore, Luke standeth upon this point, when as he saith that they were grieved because the resurrection was preached in the name of Christ. For hereupon it followeth that they did hate the doctrine before they knew the same. He expresseth the Sadducees by name, as those which were more courageous 202202 “Animosiores,” more zealous. in this cause. For they were almost [usually] a part of the priests; but because the question is about the resurrection, they set themselves against the apostles more than the rest. Furthermore, this was most monstrous confusion amongst the Jews, in that this sect, which was profane, was of such authority. For what godliness could remain, when as the immortality of the soul was counted as a fable, and that freely? But men must needs run headlong after this sort, when they have once suffered pure doctrine to fall to the ground amongst them. Wherefore, we must so much the more diligently beware of every wicked turning aside, lest such a step do follow immediately.
Some men think that the ruler of the temple was chosen from among the priests, but I do rather think that he was some chief captain of the Roman army; for it was a place which was fortified both naturally and artificially. Again, Herod had built a tower there, which was called Antonia; so that it is to be thought that he had placed there a band of soldiers, and that the Roman captain had the government of the temple, lest it should be a place of refuge for the Jews, if they had stirred up any tumult, which we may likewise gather out of Josephus. And this agreeth very well, that the enemies of Christ did crave the help of the secular power, under color of appeasing some tumult. In the mean season, they seek favor at the hands of the Romans, as if they were careful to maintain the right of their empire.
4. And many of them which heard The apostles are put in prison, but the force of their preaching is spread far and wide, and the course thereof is at liberty. Of which thing Paul boasteth very much, that the Word of God is not bound with him, (2 Timothy 2:9.) And here we see that Satan and the wicked have liberty granted them to rage against the children of God; yet can they not (maugre their heads 203203 “Omnia machinando,” by all their machinations. ) prevail, but that God doth further and promote the kingdom of his Son; Christ doth gather together his sheep; and that a few men unarmed, furnished with no garrisons, do show forth more power in their voice alone, than all the world, by raging against them. This is, indeed, no common work of God, that one sermon brought forth such plentiful fruit; but this is the more to be wondered at, that the faithful are not terrified with the present danger, and discouraged from taking up the cross of Christ together with the faith. For this was a hard beginning for novices. Christ did more evidently declare by this efficacy and force of doctrine that he was alive, than if he should have offered his body to be handled with hand, and to be seen with the eyes. And whereas it is said that the number of those which believed did grow to be about five thousand, I do not understand it of those which were newly added, but of the whole church.