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1. Ascension of Jesus

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. 12Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. 13And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 14These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

15And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) 16Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 17For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 18Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 20For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. 21Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. 23And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

That he may pass over unto those things which followed the ascension of Christ, he briefly gathereth the sum of all those which before he had handled in the former book, that he may annex this thereunto. And he briefly setteth down this description of the history of the gospel, that it is a narration of those things which Christ did and said so long as he was conversant upon earth. Furthermore, whereas they interpret this commonly, that there was first in Christ purity of life, before such time as he began to preach, it maketh nothing unto Luke’s mind. Truth it is, that the manners of a good and godly teacher ought so to be framed, that he speak first with his life, then with his tongue, otherwise he should differ nothing from a stage-player. But Luke hath respect rather unto that which he had said about the end of his gospel, (Luke 24:19,) namely, that Christ was a prophet mighty in deed and word, that is, such a one as did excel no less in deeds than in words; although there be but small difference betwixt these two places. For the mightiness of works which is commended there doth belong unto his miracles, but this, to do, doth reach further in my opinion, namely, that under the same are comprehended all the famous acts which were proper unto his ministry, wherein his death and resurrection are the chiefest. For the office of the Messias did not only consist in doctrine, but it was also behoveful that he should make peace between God and man, that he should be a Redeemer of the people, a restorer of the kingdom, and an author of everlasting felicity. All these things, I say, as they were promised of the Messias, so were they looked for at his hands.

Now we see that the sum of the gospel consisteth of these two parts, namely, of the doctrine of Christ, and of his acts; forasmuch as he did not only bring unto men that embassage which was given him in charge of his Father, but also performed all things that could be required of the Messias. He began his kingdom, he pacified God with his sacrifice, he purged man’s sins with his own precious blood, he subdued death and the devil, he restored us unto true liberty, he purchased righteousness and life for us. And to the end that whatsoever he either did or said might be certain, he proved himself by miracles to be the Son of God. So that this word, to do, is extended unto his miracles also; but it must not be restrained only unto the same. Here must we note, that those which have only the bare knowledge of the history have not the gospel; unless the knowledge of the doctrine which maketh manifest the fruits of the acts of Christ be adjoined thereunto. For this is a holy knot which no man may dissolve. Therefore, whensoever mention is made of the doctrine of Christ, let us learn to adjoin thereunto his works, as seals whereby the truth thereof is established and confirmed, and the effect declared. Furthermore, that we may reap commodity by his death and resurrection, and also that miracles may have their use, we must always have respect unto him that speaketh. For this is the true rule of Christianity.

1. Of all things which he began I do not greatly mislike the interpretation which some give of this place that Luke said rather of all than all; because it is possible in some measure to intreat of the works and doctrine of Christ, but to set down the whole course, that the narration may be perfect, were a matter of great 1818     “Nimiae,” too great. weight. Like as John doth declare that the world could not contain the books, (John 21:25.) That is also to be noted that Luke saith, that he began his history at the beginning of the works of Christ. But so soon as he hath declared the nativity of Christ, he passeth over unto the twelfth year of his age (Luke 2:42;) and after he had briefly spoken of his disputation had in the temple with the doctors, passing over eighteen years without speaking any thing of them, he entereth [on] the just narration of the works of Christ. It is, therefore, manifest that those works and sayings only which make any thing unto the sum of our salvation are noted in this place. For, after that Christ came abroad into the world clothed with our flesh, he lived privately at home until he was thirty years of age, at which time his Father put upon him another manner of person. God would have him to lead the former part of his life obscurely, to this end, that the knowledge of these things might be more excellent which do edify our faith.

The former speech. It seemed good to me to translate this on this wise, because λογον ποιεισθὰι, is the same with the Grecians, which verba facere, or to speak, is with the Latins, as Budaeus doth note. And we must understand the contrariety of the second part, which he taketh in hand, that we may know that the evangelist determined with himself afresh to write, having new matter whereupon to write.

2 Even until that day. Therefore, the ascension of Christ is the end of the history of the gospel. For he hath ascended, saith Paul, that he might fulfill all things, (Ephesians 4:10.) Our faith gathereth other fruit thereby; but it shall be sufficient to note in this place, that our redemption was fully complete and finished then when Christ did ascend unto his Father; and, therefore, that Luke did fully perform his duty in this narration, as touching the doctrine and works of Christ. And he is said to be taken up, that we may know that he is truly departed out of this world, lest we should consent unto their dotings who think that in his ascension there was no alteration of place made.

Commandment by the Holy Ghost Luke showeth in these words, that Christ did not so depart out of the world that he did no longer care for us; for in that he hath ordained a perpetual government in his Church, he thereby declareth that he had a care to provide for our salvation; yea, he hath promised that he will be present with his to the end, (Matthew 28:20,) like as, indeed, he is always present by his ministers. Luke, therefore, doth show unto us, that Christ did no sooner depart hence, but straightway he provided for the government of his Church; whence we may gather that he is careful for our salvation. And this his providence hath Paul plainly noted in the place lately cited, when he saith, That he hath fulfilled all things, making some apostles, some evangelists, some pastors, etc. But these commandments, which the evangelist saith Christ gave unto his disciples, do I interpret of the preaching of the gospel; like as ambassadors use to be instructed with certain precepts before they go of their embassage, lest they should rashly attempt any thing contrary to his will and mind that sendeth them. And all this is spoken in commendation of that doctrine which the apostles taught. The which that it may appear more manifestly, every thing is to be marked in order as it lieth. First of all, he saith they were elect and chosen of Christ, that we may be certain of their calling unto that function. Neither doth he in this place set God’s election against man’s merits, but only affirmeth that they were raised up by God, and that they did not rashly take upon them this function. That is true, indeed, that they were freely chosen; but now have we to inquire what is Luke’s drift in this place. I say that he hath respect unto nothing else, but that we may be certain of the calling of the apostles, that we may learn not to have respect unto men, but unto the Son of God, the author thereof, because this must always be a maxim in the Church, that no man usurp any honor. Secondly, he saith, that they were instructed of Christ what they should do. As if he should say, that they uttered not their own inventions, but they delivered that sincerely and faithfully which was enjoined them by their heavenly Master. And to the end that that which Christ taught them might be the more reverenced, he addeth this, that this was done by the direction of the Holy Ghost. Not because the Son of God had any need to be guided by any other, who is eternal wisdom, but because he was also man, lest any man should think that he did deliver those things unto his disciples which he delivered by man’s wit and reason, he calleth us back expressly unto the divine authority. Like as the Lord himself doth so often affirm, that he taught nothing but that which he had received of his Father; and therefore he saith, that his doctrine was not his own. Therefore, he signifieth that in the preaching of the gospel there is nothing which issueth from man’s brain, but that it is the divine ordinance of the Spirit, whereunto the whole world must be subject.

3. Unto whom, etc He addeth this, that he might make the resurrection to be believed, as a thing most necessary to be known, and without the which the whole gospel falleth fiat to the ground, neither remaineth there any more faith. And that I may omit to speak of other discommodities that come by being ignorant of the resurrection of Christ, the gospel loseth his whole authority, unless we know and be also fully persuaded that Christ being alive, speaketh unto us from the heavens. Whereunto Luke hath chiefest respect in this place. Therefore, that the truth hereof might not be called in question, he saith that it was proved by many signs and tokens. Those which Erasmus, following an old interpreter, doth call arguments, I have translated proofs. For Aristotle doth call that τεκμηριον, in the first book of his Rhetorics, which is necessary in signs. This is, therefore, that which I said before, that Christ did make manifest his resurrection unto his apostles by evident tokens, which did serve instead of necessary proofs, lest they should doubt of the same. Furthermore, he doth not reckon up those tokens and signs, saving only that he saith, that Christ did appear unto them about the space of a month and one-half oftentimes. If he had but once appeared unto them, it might have been somewhat suspicious, but in showing himself so often unto them, he dissolveth all doubts which might arise in their minds, and by this means, also, he putteth away the reproach of the ignorance which he said was in the apostles, lest it discredit their preaching.

He intreateth of the kingdom of God He telleth us again that the apostles themselves were well taught 1919     “Ab unico magistro,” by the only master, omitted. before such time as they took upon them to teach others; therefore, whatsoever things they uttered and brought to light, either by word or by writing, touching the kingdom of God, they are those speeches which Christ himself uttered. And hereby doth he briefly set down the end of the doctrine of the gospel; namely, that God may reign in us. Regeneration is the beginning of this kingdom, and the end thereof is blessed immortality; the middle proceedings are in a more ample going forward and increase of regeneration. But that this thing may appear more evidently, we must first note, that we are born, and that we live aliens and strangers from the kingdom of God, until such time as God doth fashion us again unto a new life. Therefore, we may properly set the world, the flesh, and whatsoever is in man’s nature against the kingdom of God, as contrary to it. For the natural man is wholly occupied about the things of this world, and he seeketh felicity here; 2020     “Et ultimum bonum,” and it is his final good, omitted. in the mean season, we are as it were banished from God, and he likewise from us; but Christ, by the preaching of the gospel, doth lift us up unto the meditation of the life to come. And to the end he may the better bring this to pass, he reformeth all our earthly affections, and so having striped us out of the vices of our flesh, he separateth us from the world. And, like as eternal death is prepared for all those which live after the flesh, so in as much as the inward man is renewed in us, that we may go forward in the spiritual life, we draw nearer unto the perfection of the kingdom of God; which is the society of the glory of God. Therefore, God will reign in and amongst us now, that he may at length make us partakers of his kingdom. Hereby we gather that Christ did principally intreat of the corruption of mankind; of the tyranny of sin, whose bond-slaves we are; of the curse and guiltiness of eternal death, whereunto we all are subject, and also of the means to obtain salvation; of the remission of sins; of the denying of the flesh; of spiritual righteousness; of hope of eternal life, and of like such things. And if we will be rightly instructed in Christianity, we must apply our studies to these things.

4. Gathering them together, he commanded, etc They had before done the duty of Apostles; but that lasted but a while; and, secondly, so far forth that they might with their preaching awake the Jews to hear their Master. And so that commandment to teach, which Christ had given them, (Matthew 10:7,) whilst he lived with them upon earth, was, as it were, a certain entrance into their apostleship which was to come, for which they were not yet ripe. Therefore, their ordinary function was not laid upon them, until such time as Christ was risen again; but they stirred up their nation (as I have said) like criers, that they might give ear to Christ. And then at length, after the resurrection, they were made Apostles, to publish abroad throughout the whole world that doctrine which was committed to them. And whereas after they were made Apostles, Christ commandeth them as yet to abstain from their office, that is done not without just cause; yea, many causes may be alleged why it should be so. That filthy forsaking of their Master was yet fresh; many notes and tokens of unbelief were yet fresh. Whereas, they had been so thoroughly taught, and had so suddenly forgotten all, they showed a manifest token of their great dullness of wit. Neither were they free from sluggishness, which could not otherwise fitly be purged, than by deferring the promised grace, that he might the more sharpen their desire. But this cause is chiefly to be noted, that the Lord did appoint a certain time for the sending of the Spirit, that the miracle might be the more apparent. Again, he suffered them to rest a while, that he might the better set forth the greatness of that business which he was about to commit unto them. And thereby is the truth of the gospel confirmed, because the Apostles were forbidden to address themselves to preach the same, until they should be well prepared in succession of time.

And they were commanded to stay together, because they should all have one spirit given them. If they had been dispersed, the unity should not have been so well known. Though they were scattered abroad afterwards in divers places, yet because they brought that which they had from one and the same fountain, it was all one, as if they always had had all one mouth. Furthermore, it was expedient that they should begin to preach the gospel at Jerusalem, that the prophecy might be fulfilled,

“There shall a law go out of Zion,
and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem,” (Isaiah 2:3.)

Although the participle συναλιζομενος, may be diversely translated, yet Erasmus his translation did please me best, because the signification of gathering together will agree better with the text, [context.]

They should wait for the promise It was meet that these should be accustomed to obey first, who should shortly after lay Christ’s yoke upon the neck of the world. And surely they have taught us by their example, that we must work and rest at the Lord’s pleasure alone. For if, during our life, we go on warfare under his banner and conduct, surely he ought to have no less authority over us than any earthly captain hath in his army. Therefore, as warlike discipline requireth this, that no man wage unless he be commanded by the captain, so it is not lawful for us either to go out, or to attempt any thing, until the Lord give the watchword; and so soon as he bloweth the retreat, we must stay, [halt.] Moreover, we are taught that we are made partakers of the gifts of God through hope. But we must mark the nature of hope as it is described in this place. For that is not hope which every man feigneth to himself unadvisedly, but that which is grounded on the promise of God. Therefore Christ cloth not suffer his apostles to look for whatsoever they will, but he addeth expressly the promise of the Father. Furthermore, he maketh himself a witness thereof; because we ought to be so sure and certain, that although all the engines of hell gainstand us, yet this may remain surely fixed in our minds, that we have believed God. I know, saith Paul, whom I have believed, (2 Timothy 1:12.) And here he putteth them in mind of those things which are written in John 14:15, 16,

“I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may continue with you; I say the Spirit of truth,” etc.

Again,

“I have spoken these things unto you while I am with you.” “And the Spirit, whom my Father shall send in my name, shall teach you all things,” (John 14:25, 26,) etc.

And again,

“When the Spirit of truth shall come, whom I will send from my Father, he shall bear witness of me,” (John 15:26.)

And again,

“If I shall go hence, I will send you the Comforter, who shall reprove the world,” (John 16:7.)

And he had said long before,

“He which believeth in me, out of his belly
shall flow rivers of living water,”
(John 7:38.)

5. Because John truly Christ repeateth this unto his apostles out of John’s own words. For some part of them had heard that at John’s mouth, which the Evangelists report, “I truly baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Now Christ pronounceth that they shall well perceive that that is true indeed which he said. Furthermore, this serveth greatly to confirm the sentence next going before, for it is an argument drawn from the office of Christ. And that thus: John was sent to baptize with water, he fulfilled his function as it became the servant of God. The Son of God is sent to baptize with the Holy Ghost; it remained, therefore, that he do his duty. Neither can it be otherwise but he must do that which his Father hath commanded him to do, and for which also he came down into the earth. But it seemeth a very absurd thing to restrain that unto the visible sending of the Holy Ghost, which was spoken universally of regeneration. 2121     “Generaliter de gratia regenerationis,” generally of the grace of regeneration. I answer, that Christ did not then only baptize with the Holy Ghost, when as he sent him under the form of fiery tongues; for he had baptized his apostles before this; and he baptizeth all the elect thus daily. But because the sending of the Holy Ghost after so glorious a sort was a token of the hidden grace wherewith he doth daily inspire his elect, he doth fitly apply thereunto the testimony of John. And truly this was as though it had been the common baptism of the Church. For besides that the apostles did not receive the Spirit for themselves only, but for the use of all the faithful, there was also declared the universal favor of Christ towards his Church, while that he poured out thereupon the gifts of his Spirit in great abundance.

Although, therefore, he doth daily baptize the elect of his Father, yet was this no let why he might not show forth this token to be remembered above all others, that the apostles might know that they were only entered by John; and that not in vain, seeing their perfection was hard at hand. And that is frivolous which some gather out of this place most commonly, 2222     “Ex hoc loco et similibus vulgo colligunt,” commonly gather out of this and similar passages. namely, that the baptism of John and the baptism of Christ were diverse. For here doth not he dispute in this place of baptism, but maketh only a comparison betwixt the person of John and the person of Christ. When as John did say that he did baptize with water only, he did not reason of what sort his baptism was; but what he himself was; lest he should arrogate that unto himself which was proper to Christ. As also, the ministers in these days ought not to speak otherwise of themselves; but they must acknowledge Christ to be the author of all those things which they do prefigure in the outward baptism, and leave nothing to themselves save only the outward administration. For when as these titles are attributed unto baptism, namely, that it is the laver of regeneration, (Titus 3:5,) a washing away of sins, the fellowship of death, and burying with Christ, (Romans 6:4,) and a grafting into the body of Christ, it is not declared what man, being the minister of the outward sign, doth; but rather what Christ doth, who only giveth force and efficacy unto the signs. We must always hold fast this distinction, lest, whilst we deck man too much, we take from Christ. 2323     “Christum spoliemus,” we rob Christ.

But here may a question be moved, why he doth rather name John here than any other; first, It is manifest enough that John did profess himself to be the minister of the outward sign, namely, of water, and that Christ was the author of the spiritual baptism; secondly, Because it was meet that John should decrease and Christ increase; and, thirdly, Because the apostles did so much esteem of John, (John 3:30,) it might have been that thereby the glory of Christ might have been obscured. Therefore, Christ, to the end he might reclaim them to himself, telleth them that John did only minister unto them the external baptism; notwithstanding, he confirmeth them also, lest they should doubt of the promise; for they did attribute very much unto John, and therefore were they persuaded that the baptism which they had received by him was not in vain. Now, if that the verity and force thereof must be looked for at Christ’s hands, then ought the apostles to hope that that shall surely be fulfilled which John prefigured.

So must we, in like manner, think that we are not in vain baptized with water by men, because Christ, who commanded the same to be done, will fulfill his office, and baptize us with the Spirit. So faith draweth a consequent from the outward sign unto the inward effect; yet doth it not attribute any more than is meet, either to the sign or to the minister thereof, because in the sign it only looketh unto the promise, which is Christ’s, and doth acknowledge him to be the only author of grace. Let us, therefore, use such a mean that we do in no part diminish Christ’s honor; and yet, nevertheless, let us hope for that fruit by our baptism which is noted in this place. By assigning so short a time our Savior maketh them more joyful to hope well. Whereupon it followeth, that that death was not to be lamented which brought with it presently so precious fruit. And let us note this also, that this word baptism is used improperly in this place, that the contrariety may be full. After the same sort, Paul, in his Epistle unto the Romans, (Romans 3:26,) after he hath set down the law of works, to the end that the contrary may answer on the other side, he useth the law of faith for faith itself.

6. He showeth that the apostles were gathered together when as this question was moved, that we may know that it came not of the foolishness of one or two that it was moved, but it was moved by the common consent of them all; but marvelous is their rudeness, that when as they had been diligently instructed by the space of three whole years, they betray no less ignorance than if they had heard never a word. There are as many errors in this question as words. They ask him as concerning a kingdom; but they dream of an earthly kingdom, which should flow with riches, with dainties, with external peace, and with such like good things; and while they assign the present time to the restoring of the same. they desire to triumph before the battle; for before such time as they begin to work they will have their wages. They are also greatly deceived herein, in that they restrain Christ’s kingdom unto the carnal Israel, which was to be spread abroad, even unto the uttermost parts of the world. Furthermore, there is this fault in all their whole question, namely, that they desire to know those things which are not meet for them to know. No doubt they were not ignorant what the prophets did prophesy concerning the restoring of David’s kingdom, they had oftentimes heard their Master preach concerning this matter. Lastly, It was a saying common in every man’s mouth, that, in the most miserable captivity of the people, they should all be comforted, with the expectation of the kingdom that should be. Now, they hoped for the restoring hereof at the coming of the Messias, and hereupon was it that so soon as the apostles saw their Master Christ risen from the dead, they straightway began to think thereupon; but, in the meantime, they declared thereby how bad scholars they were under so good a Master. Therefore doth Christ briefly comprehend 2424     “Perstringit,” reprimand. in this short answer all the errors whereinto they fell in this their question, as I shall straightway declare. To restore, in this place, doth signify to set up again that which was fallen, and through many ruins grown out of fashion; for out of the dry stock of Isai [Jesse] should spring a Branch, and the tabernacle of David, which was laid waste, 2525     “Misere dissipatum,” miserably laid waste. should be erected and set on foot again.

7. It is not for you to know, etc. This is a general reprehension of the whole question. For it was too curious for them to desire to know that whereof their Master would have them ignorant; but this is the true means to become wise, namely, to go as far forward in learning as our Master Christ goeth in teaching, and willingly to be ignorant of those things which he doth conceal from us. But forasmuch as there is naturally engendered in us a certain foolish and vain curiosity, and also a certain rash kind of boldness, we must diligently observe this admonition of Christ, whereby he correcteth both these vices. But to the end we may know what his meaning is hereby, we must mark the two members which he joineth together. “It is not for you” (saith he) “to know those things which the Father hath placed in his own power.” He speaketh, indeed, of the times and seasons; but seeing there is the like reason in other things, we must think this to be a universal precept, That being contented with the revelation of God, we think it an heinous crime to inquire any further. This is the true mean between the two extremes. The Papists, that they may have somewhat wherewith to cloak their gross ignorance, say for themselves, that they omit the hidden mysteries of God, as though our whole faith and religion did consist upon any thing else than upon the hidden mysteries of God; then may we take our leave of Christ and his gospel, if we must abstain utterly from the hidden mysteries of God. But we must keep, as I said before a mean herein; for we must be desirous to learn so far as our heavenly Master doth teach us; but as for such things as he will have us ignorant of, let mine be so bold as to inquire after them that we may be wise with sobriety. Therefore, so often as we are vexed with this foolish desire of knowing more than we ought, let us call to mind this saying of Christ, “It is not for you to know.” For unless we will burst in against his will and commandment, this shall have force and strength enough to restrain the outrageousness of our wits.

Now, as touching the foreknowledge of times, Christ condemneth only the searching out thereof which reacheth beyond the measure of God’s revelation; and that is to be noted out of the second member, as before I have said, “which the Father hath placed in his own power.” Truth it is, that God hath in his own power winter and summer, and the rest of the seasons of the year, cold and heat, fair weather and foul. But because he hath testified that the course of the years shall be perpetual, (Genesis 1:14,) he is said not to have placed that in his own power which he hath revealed unto men. What thing soever the philosophers or husbandmen do comprehend or understand by art, by learning, by judgment, or experience, all that doth God not retain unto himself, because he hath after a certain sort revealed it unto them, (Genesis 8:22.) The same opinion must we have of the prophets; for it was their office to know those things which God did reveal. But we must be ignorant of the secret events of things, as touching the time to come; for there is nothing which may make us more slack in doing our duties, than too careful an inquisition herein, for we will always take counsel according to the future event of things; but the Lord, by hiding the same from us, doth prescribe unto us what we ought to do. Here ariseth a conflict, because we will not willingly suffer God to have that which is his own, namely, the sole government and direction of things which are to come; but we cast ourselves into a strange and inordinate carefulness. To conclude, Christ forbiddeth us to apply those things unto ourselves, which God doth challenge as proper to himself alone. Of this sort is the foreknowledge of those things which God hath taken to himself to govern and direct, according to his own pleasure, far contrary to our opinion, and otherwise than we could invent. 2626     “Supra ingenii nostri captum,” beyond the reach of our minds.

8. You shall receive power. Our Savior Christ doth here call them back as well unto the promise of God as also unto his commandment, which was the readiest way to bridle their curiosity. Curiosity doth rise almost always either of idleness or else of distrust; distrust is cured by meditating upon the promises of God. And his commandments do tell us how we ought to occupy ourselves and employ our studies. Therefore, he commandeth his disciples to wait for the promise of God, and to be diligent in executing their office whereunto God had called them. And in the mean season he noteth 2727     “Perstringit,” reprimandeth. their great hastiness, in that they did preposterously catch at those gifts which were proper unto the Holy Spirit, when as they were not as yet endued with the same. Neither did they take the right way herein, in that being called to go on warfare, they desire (omitting their labor) to lake their ease in their inn. 2828     “Molliter quiescere,” to take soft repose. Therefore, when he saith, you shall receive power, he admonisheth them of their imbecility, lest they follow before the time those things whereunto they cannot attain. It may be read very well either way, You shall receive the power of the Spirit; or, The Spirit coming upon you; yet the latter way seemeth to be the better, because it doth more fully declare their defect trod want, until such time as the Spirit should come upon them.

You shall be my witnesses He correcteth two errors of theirs in this one sentence. For, first, he showeth that they must fight before they can triumph; and, secondly, that the nature of Christ’s kingdom was of another sort than they judged it to have been. Therefore, saith he, You shall be my witnesses; that is, the husbandman must first work before he can reap his fruits. Hence, nay we learn that we must first study how we may come unto the kingdom of God, before we begin to dispute 2929     “Subtiliter philosophemur,” we subtlely philosophize. about the state of the life to come. Many there be which do curiously inquire what manner [of] blessedness that shall be which they shall enjoy after they shall be received into the everlasting kingdom of heaven, not having any care how they may come to enjoy the same. 3030     “Atqui in primis renunciandum erat mundo,” but they ought, in the first instance, to renounce the world, omitted. They reason concerning the quality of the life to come, which they shall have with Christ; but they never think that they must be partakers of his death, that they may live together with him, (2 Timothy 2:11.) Let every man, therefore, apply himself in his work which he hath in hand; let us fight stoutly under Christ’s banner; let us go forward manfully and courageously 3131     “Indefessis animis,” with unwearied minds, indefatigably. in our vocation, and God will give fruit in due time (and tide.) There followeth another correction, when he saith, that they must be his witnesses. For hereby he meant to drive out of his disciples’ minds that fond and false imagination which they had conceived of the terrestrial kingdom, because he showeth unto them briefly, that his kingdom consisteth in the preaching of the gospel. There was no cause, therefore, why they should dream of riches, 3232     “Delicias,” dainties. of external principality, or any other earthly thing, whilst they heard that Christ did then reign when as he subdueth unto himself (all the whole) world by the preaching of the gospel. Whereupon it followeth that he doth reign spiritually, and not after any worldly manner. And that which the apostles had conceived of the carnal kingdom proceeded from the common error of their nation; neither was it marvel if they were deceived herein. 3333     “Hac in parte omnes fuisse hallucinatos,” that they all labored under this hallucination. For when we measure the same with our understanding, what else can we conceive but that which is gross and terrestrial? Hereupon it cometh, that, like brute beasts, we only desire that which is commodious for our flesh, and therefore we rather catch that which is present. Wherefore, we see that those which held opinion, that Christ should reign as a king in this world a thousand years 3434     “Chiliastas,” the Chiliasts. fell into the like folly. Hereupon, also, they applied all such prophecies as did describe the kingdom of Christ figuratively by the similitude of earthly kingdoms unto the commodity of their flesh; whereas, notwithstanding, it was God’s purpose to lift up their minds higher. As for us, let us learn to apply our minds to hear the gospel preached, lest we be entangled in like errors, which prepareth a place in our hearts for the kingdom of Christ. 3535     Transpose thus: As for us, lest we be entangled in like errors, let us learn to apply our minds to hear the gospel preached, (a preached gospel,) which prepareth a place in our heart for the kingdom of Christ.

In all Judea Here he showeth, first, that they must not work for the space of one day only, while that he assigneth the whole world unto them, in which they must publish the doctrine of the gospel. Furthermore, he refuteth 3636     “Oblique refutat,” indirectly refuteth. the opinion which they had conceived of Israel. They supposed those to be Israelites only which were of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. Christ testifieth that they must gather thereunto all Samaria; which, although they were nigh in situation, yet were they far distant in mind and heart. He showeth that all other regions far distant, and also profane, must be united unto the holy people, that they may be all partakers of one and the same grace. It is evident (John 4:9) how greatly the Jews did detest the Samaritans. Christ commanded that (the wall of separation being broken down) they be both made one body, (Ephesians 2:14,) that his kingdom may be erected everywhere. By naming Judea and Jerusalem, which the apostles had tried 3737     “Experti sunt,” experienced. to be full of most deadly enemies, he foretelleth them of the great business and trouble which was prepared for them, that he may cause them to cease to think upon this triumph which they hoped to have been so nigh at hand. 3838     “Ut de propinquo triumpho cogitare desinant,” that they may cease to think of a near triumph. Neither could they be a little afraid to come before so cruel enemies, more to inflame their rage and fury. And here we see how he giveth the former place unto the Jews, because they are, as it were, the first-begotten, (Exodus 4:22.) Notwithstanding, he calleth those Gentiles one with another, which were before strangers from the hope of salvation, (Ephesians 2:11.) Hereby we learn, that the gospel was preached everywhere by the manifest commandment of Christ, that it might also come unto us.

9. The readers may learn out of our Institutions what profit we reap by the ascension of Christ. Notwithstanding, because it is one of the chiefest points of our faith, therefore doth Luke endeavor more diligently to prove the same; yea, rather, the Lord himself meant to put the same out of all doubt, when as he hath ascended so manifestly, and hath confirmed the certainty of the same by other circumstances. For, if so be it he had vanished away secretly, then might the disciples have doubted what was become of him; 3939     “Haesissent attoniti,” might have stood astonished. but now, sith that they, being in so plain a place, 4040     “Quam in edito et undique experto ac patente loco et constituti,” when they were standing on an elevated spot, open on all sides, with nothing to interrupt the view. saw him taken up with whom they had been conversant, whom also they heard speak even now, whom they beheld with their eyes, whom also they see taken out of their sight by a cloud, there is no cause why they should doubt whither he was gone. Furthermore, the angels are there also to bear witness of the same. And it was needful that the history should have been set down so diligently for our cause, that we may know assuredly, that although the Son of God appear nowhere upon earth, yet doth he live in the heavens. And this seemeth to be the reason why the cloud did overshadow him, before such time as he did enter into his celestial glory; that his disciples being content with their measure 4141     “Modulo,” little measure. might cease to inquire any further. And we are taught by them that our mind is not able to ascend so high as to take a full view of the glory of Christ; therefore, let this cloud be a mean to restrain our boldness, as was the smoke which was continually before the door of the tabernacle in the time of the law.

10. Two men He calleth them so by reason of their form. For although it might be that they had the bodies of men in deed, concerning which thing I will not greatly stand in defense of either part, yet certain it is they were not men; but because this metonymia is commonly used in the Scriptures, especially in the First Book of Moses, I will not greatly stand thereupon. Their white garments were a token of rare and excellent dignity. For God meant by this, as by an evident token to distinguish them from the common sort of people, that the disciples might give better ear unto them; 4242     “Ad eorum dicta attentiores,” might be more attentive to what they said. and that at this day we also may know that this vision was showed them of God.

11. Ye men of Galilee, etc. I am not of their opinion who think that this name was given the apostles after an opprobrious sort, as if the angels meant to reprehend the slowness and dullness of the apostles. In my opinion, it was rather to make them more attentive, in that men, whom they did never see before, did name them as though they had perfectly known them. But they seem to reprehend without cause, for looking up into heaven. For where should they rather seek for Christ than in heaven? Doth not the Scriptures also oftentimes exhort us thereunto? I answer, that they were not reprehended because they looked up towards heaven; but because they coveted to see Christ, when as the cloud which was put between them and him did keep them from seeing him with their bodily senses: Secondly, because they hoped that he would return again straightway, that they might enjoy the sight of him again, when as lie did ascend to stay in the heavens until such time as he should come 4343     “Secundo,” a second time, omitted. to judge the world. Wherefore, let us first learn out of this place that we must not seek Christ either in heaven, either upon earth, otherwise than by faith; and also, that we must not desire to have him present with us bodily in the world; for he that doth 4444     “Haerebit,” shall cling to. either of those two shall oftentimes go farther from him. So this their admiration is reprehended, not simply, but inasmuch as they were astonied by the strangeness of this matter; like as we are oftentimes carried unadvisedly into a wonderful great wondering at God’s works; but we never apply ourselves to consider for what end and purpose they were done.

Jesus, which is taken up into heaven There are two members in this one sentence. The first is, that Christ was taken up into heaven, that they may not henceforth foolishly desire to have him any longer conversant with them upon earth. The other is straightway added as a consolation concerning his second coming. Out of these two jointly, and also severally, is gathered a firm, stable, and strong argument, to refute the Papists, and all other which imagine that Christ is really present in the signs of bread and wine. For when it is said that Christ is taken up into heaven; here is plainly noted the distance of place. I grant that this word heaven is interpreted divers ways, sometimes for the air, sometimes for the whole connection 4545     “Complexa,” system. of the spheres, sometimes for the glorious kingdom of God, where the majesty of God hath his [its] proper scat, howsoever it doth fill the whole world. After which sort Paul doth place Christ above all heavens, (Ephesians 1:22,) because he is above all the world, and hath the chiefest room in that place of blessed immortality, because he is more excellent than all the angels, (Ephesians 4:15.) But this is no let why he may not be absent from us bodily, and that by this word heavens, there may not be signified a separation from the world. Let them cavil as much as they will, it is evident that the heaven whereinto Christ was received is opposite to the frame of the world; therefore it doth necessarily follow, that if he be in heaven, he is without [beyond] the world.

But, first, we must mark what the purpose of the angels was, for thereby we shall more perfectly know what the words mean. The angels’ intent was to call back the apostles from desiring the carnal presence of Christ. For this purpose was it that they said that he should not come again until he came to judge the world. And to this end serveth the assigning of the time, that they might not look for him in vain before that same time. Who seeth not that in these words is manifestly showed that he was bodily absent out of the world? Who seeth not that we are forbidden to desire to have him upon the earth? But, they think they escape safe with that crafty answer, when as they say that then he shall come visibly; but he cometh now invisibly daily. But we are not here to dispute of his form; only the apostles are taught that Christ must abide in heaven until such time as he appear at the latter day. For the desiring of his corporeal presence is here condemned as absurd and perverse. The Papists deny that he is present in the sacrament carnally, while that his glorious body is present with us after a supernatural sort, and by a miracle; but we may well enough reject their inventions concerning his glorious body, as childish and frivolous toys. They feign unto themselves a miracle not confirmed with any testimony of Scripture. The body of Christ was then glorious, when as he was conversant with his disciples after his resurrection. This was done by the extraordinary and secret power of God; yet, notwithstanding, the angels do forbid to desire him afterward after that sort, and they say that he shall not come unto men in that sort (before the latter day.) Therefore, according to their commandment, let us not go about to pull him out of the heavens with our own inventions; neither let us think that we call handle him with our hands, or perceive him with our other senses, more than we can see him with our eyes. I speak always of his body. For in that they say it is infinite, as it is all absurd dream, so is it safely to be rejected. Nevertheless, I willingly confess that Christ is ascended that he may fulfill [fill] all things; but I say that he is spread abroad everywhere by the power of his Spirit, not by the substance of his flesh. I grant, furthermore, that he is present With us both in his word and in the sacraments. Neither is it to be doubted, but that all those which do with faith receive the signs of his flesh and blood, are made truly partakers of his flesh and blood. But this partaking doth nothing agree with the dotings of the Papists; for they feign that Christ is present in such sort upon the altar as Numa Pompilius did call down his Jupiter Elicitus, or as those witches did fetch down the moon from heaven with their enchantments. But Christ, by reaching us the bread in his Supper, doth will us to lift up our hearts into heaven, that we may have life by his flesh and blood. So that we do not eat his flesh grossly, that we may live thereby, but he poureth into us, by the secret power of his Spirit, his force and strength.

He shall so come I have said before, that by this consolation all sorrow which we might conceive, because of Christ’s absence, is mitigated, yea, utterly taken away, when as we hear that lie shall return again. And also the end for which he shall come again is to be noted; namely, that he shall come as a Redeemer, and shall gather us with him into blessed immortality. For as lie doth not now sit idle in heaven, (as Homer signifieth, that his gods be busied only about their bellies;) so shall not he appear again without profit. Therefore, the only looking for Christ’s coming must both restrain the importunate desires of our flesh, and support our patience in all our adversities; and, lastly, it must refresh our weariness. But it worketh this only in the faithful, which believe that Christ is their Redeemer; for it bringeth unto the wicked nothing but dread, horror, and great fearfulness. And howsoever they do now scoff’ and jest when as they hear of his coming, yet shall they be compelled to behold him sitting upon his tribunal-seat, whom now they will not vouchsafe to hear speak. Furthermore, it were but frivolous to move any question about his apparel wherewith he was then clothed, whether he shall come again being clothed with the same or no. Neither am I now determined to refute that which Augustine, in his Epistle unto Consentius, doth touch, (August. ad Con. Epist. 146;) notwithstanding, it is better for me to omit that thing which I cannot unfold.


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