43. And there came fear upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were wrought by the apostles. 44. And all those which believed were joined together, and had all things common. 45. And they sold their possessions and substance, and did part them to all men, as every man had need.
But this place hath need of a sound exposition, because of fantastical [fanatical] spirits, which do feign a commonalty or participation together of goods, whereby all policy or civil government is taken away; as in this age the Anabaptists have raged, because they thought there was no Church unless all men's goods were put and gathered together, as it were, in one heap, that they might all one with another take thereof. Wherefore, we must in this point beware of two extremes. For many, under color of policy, do keep close and conceal whatsoever they have; they defraud the poor, and they think that they are twice righteous, so they take away no other men's goods. Other some are carried into the contrary error, because they would have all things confused. But what doth Luke? Surely he noteth another order, when he saith that there was choice made in the distribution. If any man object that no man had any thing which was his own, seeing all things were common, we may easily answer. For this community or participation together must be restrained unto the circumstance which ensueth immediately; to wit, that the poor might be relieved as every man had need. We know the old proverb, "All things are common amongst friends." When as the scholars of Pythagoras said thus, they did not deny but that every man might govern his own house privately, neither did they intend to make their own wives common; so this having of things common, whereof Luke speaketh, and which he commendeth, doth not take away household government; which thing shall better appear by the fourth chapter, whereas he nameth two alone which sold their possessions of so many thousands. Whence we gather that which I said even now, that they brought forth and made common their goods in no other respect, save only that they might relieve the present necessity. And the impudency of the monks was ridiculous, who did profess that they did observe the apostles' rule, because they call nothing their own; and yet, nevertheless, they neither sell any thing, neither yet do they pass for any man's poverty;9 but they stuff their idle bellies with the blood of the poor, neither do they regard any other thing in their having of things common, save only that they may be well filled and daintily, although all the whole world be hungry. Wherein, then, are they like to the first disciples, with whom they will be thought to be able to compare? 10
1 "Momentum," moment.
2 "Sed qui suspensos tenet adeoque constrictos," but which keeps them in suspense and restrained.
3 "Impliciti," entangled.
4 "Alios nullo metu fuisse deterritos quin furiose adversus Ecclesiam saevirent," that others were not deterred by any fear from raging against the Church.
5 "Obmuteceret," stood dumb.
6 "In obsequium Dei," into obedience to God.
7 "Emergeret," might emerge, or raise her head.
8 "Subinde sumus experti," have ever and anon experienced.
9 "Nec solliciti sunt si quisquam egeat," nor are solicitous if any man want.
10 "Quorum aemuli haberi volunt," whose rivals they would be thought.