4. Therefore, when they were sent forth by the Holy Ghost, they went to Seleucia, and thence they sailed into Cyprus. 5. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they had John, also for their minister. 6. And when they had passed over the island unto Paphos, they found a certain false prophet, a Jew, named Bar-jesus, 7. Who was with Sergius Paulus, the proconsul, a wise wan; who, when he had called Barnabas and Paul, sought to hear the word of God. 8. And Elymas, the sorcerer, (for so is his name expounded,) resisted them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith. 9. And Saul, which was also called Paul, being full of the [Holy] Ghost, and looking steadfastly on him, 10. Said, O thou that art full of all deceit and wickedness, thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, dost thou not cease to pervert the straight ways of the Lord? 11. And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a time. And forthwith there fell upon him mist and darkness, and, going about, he sought some to lead him by the hand. 12. Then the proconsul, seeing what had happened, he believed, wondering at the doctrine of the Lord,
5. He saith that they began to preach the gospel first in Salamis, a famous city of Cyprus. Notwithstanding, they seem to begin amiss; for whereas they were sent specially to the Gentiles, they preach the word of God, nevertheless, to the Jews, I answer, that they were not so addicted to the Gentiles, that, setting aside the Jews, it stood them upon to go straight to the Gentiles, for when God did make them teachers of the Gentiles, he did not depose them from the office which they had heretofore exercised; so that there was no reason to let them, but that they might take pains, both with Jews and Gentiles; 1 yea, farther, it was meet that they should begin with the Jews, as we shall see in the end of the chapter. Moreover, Luke addeth by the way, that they were helped by John; for his meaning is not that he was their minister for any private use, or for the uses of body; but rather in that he was their helper to preach the gospel, he commandeth his godly study [zeal] and industry; not that the degree of honor was equal, but because the labor was common to all; for which cause he had the less excuse afterward, seeing that he forsook the holy calling.
Now Luke doth not without cause expressly commend Sergius's wisdom, lest any man should think that his foolishness and lightness was subject to the seducings of the sorcerer. His meaning was, indeed, to show in a clear mirror how frivolous and vain man's wisdom is, which cannot beware of such gross subtlety of Satan.
And assuredly where the truth of God doth not appear, the more men seem to be wise, the more filthily foolish are they. We see what filthy monsters of superstition did reign amongst the most witty Gentiles, and such as were furnished with all manner of learning. Therefore, there is neither judgment nor wisdom, save only from the Spirit of God. And this is the just vengeance of God upon all idolaters, that being delivered up to a reprobate sense they can discern nothing, (Romans 1:28.) Though it may be that Sergius Paulus, being weary of superstitions, did then begin to desire a more pure worship of God, at such time as he [did] light upon that sorcerer. Which if we receive, it was surely a wonderful judgment of God, that he suffered a man godly-affected to throw himself headlong into the [deadly] snares of Satan. But God doth sometimes so exercise his elect, that he causeth them to wander many ways, before they be directed into the right way.
7. And whereas Sergius Paulus, desiring some better thing than that which he had learned from his childhood, was unaptly drawn aside unto diverse superstitions, I gather hereby that he sendeth for Paul and Barnabas of his own accord, to teach him. Therefore, he had conceived a certain reverence and fear of God, though he knew him not as yet; and forasmuch as he was persuaded that that was the true God which was worshipped in Judea, he desired to know out of his word a pure and certain rule of godliness. So soon as he hath tasted of the dotings of the false prophet he standeth in doubt. And it is not to be doubted, but that God doth solicit his mind, that he may not be altogether stayed in vanity, though he suffered himself to be deceived for a time by a wicked man.
As touching the words, this place refuteth their error who think that Paul took his name of the deputy, as if he had set up some token of victory. There may many reasons be brought, and those strong enough, on the contrary; but this one place is sufficient, where Luke showeth that at such time as the deputy was not brought to the faith he had two names. And it is not to be doubted but that he retained his own name 6 amongst the Jews; and we know that this was a usual thing, that those who were citizens of Rome should borrow some Italian name. Luke joineth subtlety with
And it shall be convenient to repeat here that which I touched before, that the servants of Christ must not be blamed if they do sore inveigh against the professed enemies of sound doctrine, unless we will accuse the Holy Ghost of intemperance. Neither am I ignorant how easily men may fall in this point; for which cause godly teachers must take so much the more heed, first, that they favor not the affections of the flesh too much under the color of zeal; secondly, that they break not out with headlong and unseasonable heat where there is yet place for moderation; thirdly, that they give not themselves over to foolish and uncomely railing, but only that they express the unseemliness of the thing by gravity and weight of words. Such was the vehemency of holy zeal and of the Spirit in the prophets, which if dainty and soft men judge troublesome and raging, they consider not how dear and precious God's truth is to him.
Now there riseth not one Elymas to subvert the faith but many, and those which are far more wicked. For we see with what sacrilegious boldness they despoil God of all honor; with what filthy corruptions they profane all religion; how cruelly they throw miserable souls headlong into eternal destruction; how unseemly they mock Christ; how filthily they disfigure all the whole worship of God; with what cruel reproaches they rend the holy truth of God; with what barbarous tyranny they lay waste the Church of God; so that you would say that they tread God under foot. And yet there be many crabbed philosophers who would have these furious giants flattered and clawed by the back. 7 But forasmuch as it doth evidently appear that such did never taste what that meaneth, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up," (Psalm 69:9,) let us, bidding adieu to their coldness, or rather sluggishness, be most hot, 8 as becometh us, in maintaining the glory of God.
But now, forasmuch as many of the Papists do far exceed this sorcerer at this day in ungodliness, it is a wonder why they be suffered to be so bold without being punished. Is the hand of God weakened? Is he less careful for his glory? Hath he no care to revenge the gospel? I answer, that this visible punishment which was once laid 10 upon the sorcerer, and such as this, are perpetual examples of God's wrath against all those who are not afraid either to corrupt and deprave, or openly with slanders to resist the pure doctrine of the gospel. For we do know that miracles were wrought for a time to this end, that they may continually be in force, and be fresh before our eyes, and that they may give us light to behold the judgments of God, which we cannot see so plainly; but it is not for us to prescribe God this or that way to punish his enemies. Sergius Paulus, who, before he came to man's estate, had no taste of true religion, who, from his childhood, was infected with diverse superstitions, and had very hard lets, which kept him back from embracing the faith; lastly, who was bewitched with the dotings of the sorcerer, that he could scarce come to the faith, had need of no small helps. Hereby it came to pass that God did, as it were, reach his hand out of heaven manifestly, though he helped us all in his person; for the same gospel, the authority whereof was then established, is at this day preached to us, and yet, notwithstanding, God doth not so linger, but that he showeth his fearful power diverse ways against the enemies of the gospel, unless our eyes were so dull when he showeth his judgments that we cannot see.
1 "Ita nulla ratio prohibuit quin Judaeis promiscue et Gentibus operam suam conferrent," so nothing prevented them from bestowing their labor promiscuously on Jews and Gentiles.
2 "Discuti," dispelled.
3 "Nam ut non semper et ubique praesto sint magi qui negotium nobis facessant," for though magicians are not always and everywhere present to give us trouble.
4 "Avocamenta," enticements.
5 "Fultura," prop or support.
6 "Gentile. . . nomen," his family name.
7 "Blanditiis mulceri," soothed by flattery.
8 "Usque ad summum fervorem efferamur, "let us be carried even to the highest pitch of fervour.
9 "Ad plagam infligendam," for inflicting a blow.
10 "Inflicta," inflicted.