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26. Paul Before Agrippa

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: 2I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: 3Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. 4My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; 5Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. 8Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? 9I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 11And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. 12Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. 19Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. 21For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. 22Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: 23That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

24And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 25But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. 30And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: 31And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. 32Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

17. Delivering thee. He is armed in this place against all fear, which was prepared for him; and also he is prepared to bear the cross; notwithstanding, seeing he addeth immediately that Paul should come to lighten the blind, to reconcile those to God which were estranged from him, and to restore salvation to those which were lost; it is a marvel why he doth not also promise that they shall on the other side receive him joyfully, who shall by means of him receive such and so great benefits. But the unthankfulness of the world is noted out unto us in this place, because the ministers of eternal salvation are far otherwise rewarded, as frantic men do rail upon their physicians. And Paul is admonished, that whithersoever he shall come, a great part of those to whom he shall study to do good shall hate him, and seek his overthrow. And he saith plainly, that he is appointed to be a witness both to Jews and Gentiles, lest that turn to his reproach, because he made the gospel common to both alike. For the Jews had conceived such deadly hatred against him for this cause, because it grieved them that the Gentiles should be made their fellows. And though they made a show that this did proceed of zeal, because they would not have the covenant which God made with the posterity of Abraham profaned, by being translated unto strangers, yet mere ambition did prick them forward, because they alone would be excellent, all other being underlings. But in the person of one man, all godly teachers are encouraged to do their duty, that they be not hindered or kept back with the malice of men from offering the grace of God unto miserable men, though they be unworthy.

18. That thou mayest open their eyes. Paul, in taking to himself that which is proper to God, doth seem to exalt himself too high. For we know that it is the Holy Ghost alone which doth lighten the eyes. We know that Christ is the only Redeemer which doth deliver us from the tyranny of Satan. We know that it is God alone who, having put away our sins, doth adopt us unto the inheritance of the saints. But this is a common thing, that God doth translate unto his ministers that honor which is due to himself alone, not that he may take any thing from himself, but that he may commend that mighty working of his Spirit which he doth show forth in them. For he doth not send them to work, that they may be dead instruments, or, as it were, stage-players; but that he may work mightily by their hand. But it dependeth upon the secret power of his Spirit that their preaching is effectual, who worketh all things in all men, and which only giveth the increase.

Therefore, teachers are sent, not to utter their words in vain in the air, or to beat the ears only with a vain sound, but to bring lively light to the blind, to fashion again men’s hearts unto the righteousness of God, and to ratify the grace of salvation which is gotten by the death of Christ. But they do none of all these, save only inasmuch as God worketh by them, that their labor may not be in vain, that all the praise may be his, as the effect cometh from him.

And, therefore, we must note, that so often as the Scripture doth extol the external ministry so honorably, we must not separate it from the Spirit, which quickeneth the same even as the soul doth the body. For it teacheth in other places how little man’s industry can do of itself. For they must plant and water, but it is God alone which giveth the increase (1 Corinthians 11:6). But because many are hindered by their own ignorance and malice, that they cannot reap such fruit of the gospel as they ought, we must note this description, which setteth before our eyes briefly and plentifully that incomparable treasure. Therefore, this is the drift of the gospel, that being delivered from blindness of mind, we may be made partakers of the heavenly light; that being delivered from the thraldom of Satan, we may be turned to God; that having free forgiveness of sins, we may be made partakers of the inheritance among the saints. Those which will rightly profit in the gospel must direct all their senses to this end; for what good shall the continual preaching thereof do us, if we know not the true use thereof? Also, the way and means to attain to salvation is described to us, all men boast that they be desirous of salvation, but few consider how God will save them.

Therefore, this place, wherein the means is prettily comprehended, is, as it were, a key to open the gate of heaven. Furthermore, we must know that all mankind is naturally deprived of those good things which Christ saith we have by believing the gospel; so that it followeth that all are blind, because they be lightened by faith; that all are the bond-slaves of Satan, because they are set free by faith from his tyranny; that all men are the enemies of God, and subject to eternal death, because they receive remission of sins by faith. So that nothing is more miserable than we, if we be without Christ, and without his faith, whereby it appeareth how little, yea, that nothing is left for the free will of men’s merits. As touching every part, this lightening is referred unto the knowledge of God, because all our quickness of sight is mere vanity and thick darkness, until he appear unto us by his truth. That reacheth farther which followeth afterward: To be turned from darkness to light; for that is when we are renewed in the spirit of our mind.

Therefore, in my judgment, this member, and that which followeth, express both one thing, to be turned from the power of Satan unto God. For that renewing which Paul declareth more largely in the second chapter to the Ephesians, (Ephesians 2:10, and Ephesians 4:23) is expressed in divers forms of speech. Remission of sins followeth next, whereby God doth freely reconcile us to himself, so that we need not doubt but that God will be favorable and merciful to us. At length, the furnishing and filling of all things is put in the last place; to wit, the inheritance of eternal life. Some do read it falsely in one text, among those who are sanctified by faith, because this word is extended unto the whole period. Therefore, the meaning thereof is, that by faith we come unto the possession of all those good things which are offered by the gospel. And faith is properly directed unto Christ because all the parts of our salvation are included in him. Neither doth the gospel command us to seek the same anywhere else save only in him.


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