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25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live,

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25. Neither is he worshipped with man’s hands. The same question which was answered of late concerning the temple, may now be objected touching ceremonies. For it seemeth that that may be translated unto the worshippings of the law of Moses, which Paul condemneth in the ceremonies of the Gentiles. But we may readily answer, that the faithful did never properly place the worship of God in ceremonies; but they did only count them helps wherewith they might exercise themselves according to their infirmity. When they did slay beasts, offered bread and drink offerings, light torches and other lights, they knew that godliness was not placed in these things, but being holpen by these, 296296     “Talibus rudimentis,” by such rudiments. they did always look unto the spiritual worship of God, and they made account of it alone. And God himself saith plainly in many places, that he doth not pass for any external or visible thing, that ceremonies are of themselves of no importance, and that he is worshipped no otherwise but by faith, a pure conscience, by prayer and thankfulness. What did the Gentiles then? to wit, when they erected images, they offered incense, they set forth plays, and laid their cushions before their idols, they thought they had fulfilled the offices of godliness excellent well. Not only the philosophers, but also the poets, do sometimes deride the folly of the common people, because they did disorderly place the worship of God in the pomp and gorgeousness of ceremonies. That I may omit infinite testimonies, that of Persius is well known:

“Tell me, ye priests to sacred rites, what profit gold doth bring? The same which Venus’ puppets fine, certes no other thing. Why give not we to gods that which the blear-eyed issue could of great Messiah never give from out their dish of gold? Right justly deem’d a conscience clear, and heavenly thoughts of mind, A breast with mildness such adorn’d, as virtue hath assign’d, Let me in temples offer these, Then sacrifice the gods shall please.”

And, undoubtedly, the Lord caused profane men to utter such speeches, that they might take away all color of ignorance. But it doth plainly appear, that those who spake thus did straightway slide back again unto common madness; yea, that they did never thoroughly understand what this meant. For though those who pass the common people in wit be enforced to confess that bare ceremonies are in no estimation, yet it is impossible to pull from them this persuasion, but that they will think that they be a part of the divine worship. Therefore, the more diligently they give themselves to such vanities, they do not doubt but that they do the duties of godliness well. Therefore, because all mortal men, from the highest to the lowest, do think that God is pacified with external things, and they will, with their own works, fulfill their duty towards him, that doth Paul refute. There is also a reason added, because, seeing he is Lord of heaven and earth, he needeth nothing, because, seeing that he giveth bread and life to men, he can receive nothing of them again. For what can they bring of their own, who, being destitute of all good things, have nothing but of his free goodness, yea, who are nothing but by his mere grace, who shall forthwith be brought to nought, if he withdraw the Spirit whereby they live? Whereupon it followeth, that they are not only dull, but too proud, if they thrust in themselves to worship God with the works of their own hands.

For whereas he saith, that alms and the duties of love are sweet-smelling sacrifices, that must be distinguished from the matter which we have now in hand, where Paul doth only intreat of the ceremonies which the unbelievers put in place of the spiritual worship of God. By life and breath is mean the life which men live so long as the soul and body are joined together. Touching the end of the sentence, though some Greek books 297297     “Codices,” manuscripts. agree in this reading, [κατα παντα], “through all things;” yet that seemeth to me more agreeable which the old interpreter hath, [κατα παντα], “and all things,” because it is both plainer, and doth also contain a more perfect and full doctrine. For thence we do better gather that men have nothing of their own; and also certain Greek copies agree thereto.

26. And he hath made of one blood. Paul doth now show unto the men of Athens to what end mankind was created, that he may by this means invite and exhort them to consider the end of their life. This is surely filthy unthankfulness of men, seeing they all enjoy the common life, not to consider to what end God hath given them life; and yet this beastly blockishness doth possess the more part, so that do not consider to what end they be placed in the world, neither do they remember the Creator of heaven and earth, whose good things they do devour. Therefore, after that Paul hath intreated of the nature of God, he putteth in this admonition in due season, that men must be very careful to know God, because they be created for the same end, and born for that purpose; for he doth briefly assign unto them this cause of life, to seek God. Again, forasmuch as there was not one kind of religion only in the world, but the Gentiles were distract into divers sects, he telleth them that this variety came from corruption. For to this end, in my judgment, tendeth that when he saith, that all were created of one blood. For consanguinity and the same original ought to have been a bond of mutual consent among them; but it is religion which doth most of all join men together, or cause them to fly one another’s company. Whereupon it followeth, that they be revolted from nature who disagree so much in religion and the worship of God; because, wheresoever they be born, and whatsoever place [clime] of the world they inhabit, they have all one Maker and Father, who must be sought of all men with one consent. And surely neither distance of places, nor bounds of countries, nor diversity of manners, neither any cause of separation among men, doth make God unlike to himself. In sum, he meant to teach that the order of nature was broken, when as religion was pulled in pieces among them, and that that diversity, which is among them, is a testimony that godliness is quite overthrown, because they are fallen away from God the Father of all, upon whom all kindred dependeth.

To dwell upon the face of the earth. Luke doth briefly gather, as he useth to do, the sum of Paul’s sermon; and it is not to be doubted, but that Paul did first show that men are set here as upon a theater, to behold the works of God; and, secondly, that he spake of the providence of God, which doth show forth itself in the whole government of the world. For when he saith, that God appointeth the times ordained before, and the bounds of men’s habitations, his meaning is, that this world is governed by his hand and counsel, and that men’s affairs fall not out by chance, as profane men dream. And so we gather out of a few words of Luke, that Paul did handle most weighty matters. For when he saith that the times were ordained before by him, he doth testify that he had determined, before men were created, what their condition and estate should be. When we see divers changes in the world; when we see realms come to ruin, lands altered, cities destroyed, nations laid waste, we foolishly imagine that either fate or fortune beareth the swing in these matters; but God doth testify in this place by the mouth of Paul, that it was appointed before in his counsel how long he would have the state of every people to continue, and within what bounds he would have them contained. But and if he have appointed them a certain time and appointed the bounds of countries, undoubtedly he hath also set in order the whole course of their life.

And we must note, that Paul doth attribute to God not only a bare foreknowledge and cold speculation, as some men do indiscreetly, but he placeth the cause of those things which fall out, in his counsel and beck. For he saith not that the times were only foreseen, but that they were appointed and set in such order as pleased him best. And when he addeth also that God had appointed from the beginning those things which he had ordained before his meaning is, that he executeth by the power of his Spirit those things which he hath decreed in his counsel according to that:

“Our God is in heaven; he hath done whatsoever he would,”
(Psalm 115:3.)

Now, we see, as in a camp, every troop and band hath his appointed place, so men are placed upon earth, that every people may be content with their bounds, and that among these people every particular person may have his mansion. But though ambition have, oftentimes raged, and many, being incensed with wicked lust, have past their bounds, yet the lust of men hath never brought to pass, but that God hath governed all events from out of his holy sanctuary. For though men, by raging upon earth, do seem to assault heaven, that they may overthrow God’s providence, yet they are enforced, whether they will or no, rather to establish the same. Therefore, let us know that the world is so turned over through divers tumults, that God doth at length bring all things unto the end which he hath appointed.




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