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34. For so many as were. Although this be an universal speech, yet is it all one as if it were indefinite. And assuredly it is to be thought that there were many which did not diminish their possessions, and that may be gathered out of the text, [context.] For when he speaketh of Joses anon, undoubtedly he meant to note a notable example, passing all others. Therefore he saith, that all did that which many did every where; neither doth this disagree with the common use of the Scripture. Again, he meaneth not that the faithful sold all that they had, but only so much as need required. For this is spoken for amplification’s sake, that the rich men did not only relieve the poverty of their brethren of the yearly revenue of their lands, but they were so liberal, that they spared not their lands. And this might be, though they did not rob themselves of all, but only a little diminish their revenues; which we may gather again out of the words of Luke, for he saith that this was the end, that no man might lack. He showeth further, that they used great wisdom, 234234 “Adhibitam fuisse prudentiam,” that prudence was used. because it was distributed as every man had need. Therefore the goods were not equally divided, but there was a discreet distribution made, lest any should be out of measure oppressed with poverty. And, peradventure, Joses hath this commendation given him by name, because he sold his only possession. For by this means he passed all the rest.
Hereby it appeareth what that meaneth, that no man counted anything his own, but they had all things common. For no man had his own privately to himself, that he alone might enjoy the same, neglecting others; but as need required, they were ready to bestow upon all men. And now we must needs have more than iron bowels, seeing that we are no more moved with the reading of this history. The faithful did at that day give abundantly even of that which was their own, but we are not only content at this day wickedly to suppress that which we have in our hands, but do also rob others. They did and faithfully bring forth their own; we invent a thousand subtile shifts to draw all things unto us by hook or by crook. They laid it down at the apostles’ feet, we fear not with sacrilegious boldness to convert that to our own use which was offered to God. They sold in times past their possessions, there reigneth at this day an insatiable desire to buy. Love made that common to the poor and needy which was proper to every man; such is the unnaturalness of some men now, that they cannot abide that the poor should dwell upon the earth, that they should have the use of water, air, and heaven. 235235 “Ut communem terrae habitationem, communem aquae, aeris, et coeli usum pauperibus invideant,” that they envy the poor a common dwelling on the earth, the common use of water, air, and sky.
Wherefore, these things are written for our shame and reproach. Although even the poor themselves are to blame for some part of this evil. For seeing goods cannot be common after this sort, save only where there is a godly agreement, and where there reigneth one heart and one soul; many men are either so proud or unthankful, or slothful, or greedy, or such hypocrites, that they do not only so much as in them lieth quite put out the desire to do well, but also hinder ability. And yet must we remember that admonition of Paul, that we be not weary of well-doing, (Galatians 6:9.) And whereas, under color of this, the Anabaptists and fantastical [fanatical] men have made much ado, as if there ought to be no civil property of goods amongst Christians, I have already refuted this folly 236236 “Delirium,” delirium. of theirs in the second chapter. For neither doth Luke in this place prescribe a law to all men which they must of necessity follow, while that he reckoneth up what they did in whom a certain singular efficacy and power of the Holy Spirit of God did show itself; neither doth he speak generally of all men, that it can be gathered that they were not counted Christians which did not sell all that they had.