23. Then they presented two, Joseph, whose sirname was Barsabas, which was called Justus, and Matthias. 24. And when they had prayed, they said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25. That he may take the room of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas is fallen, that he might go unto his place. 26. And they gave in their lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was by common consent counted with the eleven apostles.
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.1 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, 2 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? 3 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. 4
"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
1 "Tali dissidio," with such dissension.
2 "Medium fuit temperamentum." a middle course was adopted.
3 "Suis suffragiis," their suffrages.
4 "Valere sinamus," let us leave them alone, bid them good day.
5 "In fumum abeunt," go to smoke.
6 There is here a transposition in the translation. The 26th verse precedes the 25th.
7 "Eorum suffragiis," by their suffrages.