16.For Paul purposed.It is not to be doubted but that he had great and weighty causes to make haste; not that he made so great account of the day, but because strangers did then use to come together to Jerusalem out of all quarters. Forasmuch as he did hope that he might do some good in such a great assembly, he would not foreslow [neglect] the opportunity. Therefore, let us know that the worship of the law F1265 was not the cause that he made so great haste, but he set before his eyes the edifying of the Church; partly that he might show to the faithful that the kingdom of Christ was enlarged, partly that if there were any as yet strangers from Christ, he might gain them; partly that he might stop the mouths of the wicked. F1266 Notwithstanding, we must note, that he did, in the mean season, provide for other churches. For, in sending for the elders of Ephesus to Miletus, he showeth that he did not neglect Asia. And whereas they come together when they be called, it is not only a token of concord, but also of modesty; for they were many; yet doth it not irk them to obey one apostle of Christ, whom they knew to be endued with singular gifts. Moreover, it appeareth more plainly by the text, [context] that those are called elders, not which were grey-headed, but such as were rulers of the Church. And it is an usual thing almost in all tongues, that those be called elders and fathers who are appointed to govern others, though their age be not always accordingly.
18.Ye know.Paul, in this sermon, standeth principally upon this, that lie may exhort those pastors of Ephesus, F1267 by his own example, to do their duty faithfully. For that is the true kind of censure, and by this means is authority purchased to doctrine, when the teacher prescribeth nothing F1268 which he himself hath not done indeed before. And it was no unseemly thing for Paul to speak of his virtues. There is nothing less tolerable in the servants of Christ than ambition and vanity; but forasmuch as all men knew full well what modesty and humility was in the holy man, he needed not to fear lest he should incur the suspicion of vain boasting; especially, seeing that benign information by necessity, he did declare his faithfulness and diligence, that others might take example thereby. He doth, indeed, greatly extol his labors, patience, fortitude, and other virtues, but to what end? Surely not that he may purchase commendation at the hands of his auditory, but that his holy exhortation may pierce more deeply, and may stick fast in their minds. He did also shoot at another mark, that his integrity and uprightness in dealing might serve afterward to commend his doctrine. And he citeth eye-witnesses, lest he seem to speak of things unknown. I call those witnesses who did not only know all things, but had also a judgment which was pure, and corrupt with no affections.
19. Serving the Lord.He reckoneth up first not only in what straits he was, but most of all his humility, coupled with contempt of the world, and rebukes, and other afflictions; as if he should say, that he was not honorably received or with commendation; but he was conversant among them under the contemptible form of the cross. And this is no small trial, F1269when we faint not, though we see ourselves trodden under foot by the intolerable pride of the world.
Notwithstanding, we must note everything more distinctly. To serve the Lord is taken in this place, not for to worship God in holiness and righteousness, which is common to all the godly; but it doth signify to execute a public function. Therefore, Paul doth not speak of [as] some one private man, but as one made a minister of the Church. And so he doth testify, that he fulfilled the apostleship to him committed with humility and modesty; both because, knowing his own infirmity, he did mistrust himself; and also, because, considering the excellency of his calling, he counted himself very unmeet; F1270 and, lastly, because he did willingly submit himself to bear the reproach of the cross. For this humility is set both against vain confidence, and also haughtiness. Secondly, he toucheth F1271 his tears, which strifes, diverse assaults of Satan, the rage of wicked men, the inward diseases of the Church, and offenses, had made him shed; at length, he addeth, that he led a fearful life, F1272 amidst the layings in wait of the Jews; and he confesseth that he was tempted therewith, as he was not hardened, though he did not faint. For he is not ashamed to confess his infirmity.
His drift is, that those to whom he speaketh may not faint, through like tribulations; and that, being void of all ambition, they may do their duty carefully and reverently; and that they may not only with a patient mind suffer themselves to be despised of men, but that they may be cast down in themselves. Because, that man can never be rightly framed to obey Christ whose looks are lofty, and whose heart is proud. And (as men cannot long bear a show of virtue) to the end it may appear manifestly, that he behaved himself sincerely and from his heart, he maketh mention of his constancy which lasted three years, wherein he had still kept one course. Ye know (saith he) how I have behaved myself since the first day until this time. To conclude, this is the true trial of the servants of Christ, not to be changed as the times change; but to continue like to themselves, and always to keep a straight course.
20. I have kept back nothing.He commendeth his faithfulness and diligence in teaching in three respects, that he instructed his scholars thoroughly and perfectly, so that he omitted nothing which might make for their salvation; that being not content with general preaching, he did also endeavor to do every man good. Thirdly, he reciteth a brief sum of all his whole doctrine, that he exhorted them unto faith in Christ and repentance. Now, forasmuch as he depainteth out unto us a pattern of a faithful and good teacher, whosoever they be who are desirous to prove their industry to the Lord, they must set before their eyes the edifying of the Church, as he commandeth Timotheus in another place, to consider what things be profitable, that he may be instant in delivering those things (<540407>1 Timothy 4:7, 8). And surely the Scripture (according to whose rule all manner of teaching must be examined, yea, which is the only method of teaching aright) doth not contain profound F1273speculations, to delight men when they have nothing else to do; F1274 but as the same Paul doth testify, it is all profitable to make the man of God perfect.
But Paul prescribeth such a desire to edify, that the pastor must omit nothing, so much as in him lieth, which is profitable to be known. For they be bad masters who do so keep their scholars in the first principles, that they do never come unto the knowledge of the truth (<550307>2 Timothy 3:7). And surely the Lord doth not teach us in his word only to [by] halves, (as they say) but he delivereth perfect wisdom, and such as is in all points absolute. Whereby it appeareth how impudently those men boast themselves to be ministers of the word, who do not only cloak and foster the ignorance of the people with their silence, but do also wink at gross errors and wicked superstitions; as at this day in Papistry, many send out some sparks of sound doctrine, but they F1275 dare not drive away the darkness of ignorance, and whereas the wicked fear of the flesh doth hinder them, they pretend that the people is not capable of sound F1276 doctrine.
Indeed, I confess that all things cannot be taught at one time, and that we must imitate Paul’s wisdom, who did apply himself unto the capacity of the ignorant. But what moderation is this when they suffer the blind to fall into the ditch, when they leave miserable souls under the tyranny of antichrist, and whereas they see idolatry rage, the worship of God corrupt, his law broken, and, finally, all holy things profaned, they do either with silence pass over such filthy confusion, or else they show it underhand, sparingly and obscurely, like men that be afraid? Therefore, we must note Paul’s word, when as he saith that he kept back nothing, but did show whatsoever things were profitable for the people; for by this we gather that the pure and free F1277 profession of sound doctrine is required at the hands of the servants of Christ, wherein there must be no boughts nor crooks, and that nothing is more unseemly in them than oblique insinuations, and such as are inwrapped in crafty dissimulation.
Publicly, and throughout every house.This is the second point, that he did not only teach all men in the congregation, but also every one privately, as every man’s necessity did require. For Christ hath not appointed pastors upon this condition, that they may only teach the Church in general in the open pulpit; but that they may take charge of every particular sheep, that they may bring back to the sheepfold those which wander and go astray, that they may strengthen those which are discouraged and weak, that they may cure the sick, that they may lift up and set on foot the feeble, F1278 (<263404>Ezekiel 34:4) for common doctrine will oftentimes wax cold, unless it be holpen with private admonitions.
Wherefore, the negligence of those men is inexcusable, who, having made one sermon, as if they had done their task, live all the rest of their time idly; as if their voice were shut up within the church walls, seeing that so soon as they be departed, thence they be dumb. Also, disciples and scholars are taught, that if they will be numbered in Christ’s flock, they must give place to their pastors, so often as they come unto them; and that they must not refuse private admonitions. For they be rather bears than sheep, who do not vouchsafe to hear the voice of their pastor, unless he be in the pulpit; and cannot abide to be admonished and reproved at home, yea, do furiously refuse F1279 that necessary duty.
21.Testifying both to Jews.Descending now unto the third point, he setteth down the sum of this doctrine in a few words, to wit, that he exhorted all men unto faith and repentance, as it was said before, that the gospel consisteth upon [of] these two points only. Whence we do also gather wherein the true edifying of the Church doth properly consist, the care and burden whereof doth lie upon the pastor’s shoulders, and whereunto we must apply all our study, if we be desirous to profit profitably in God’s school. We have already said that the word of God is profaned, when the readers of the same do occupy themselves in frivolous questions. But to the end we may not read the same wanderingly, we must note and aim at this double mark which the apostle setteth before us. For whosoever he be that turneth unto any other thing, in taking great pains, he shall do nothing else but walk in a circuit. By the word testifyhe expresseth great vehemency, as if he should have said that by testifying he did commend, that the excuse of ignorance might not remain. For he alludeth unto the custom used in courts, where testifying is used to take away all doubt. As men are not only to be taught, but also to be constrained to embrace salvation in Christ, and to addict themselves to God, to lead a new life. And though he affirm that he was wanting to none, yet doth he place the Jews in the first place; because, as the Lord hath preferred them in the degree of honor before the Gentiles, so it was meet that Christ and his grace should be offered them until they should quite fall away.
Repentance toward God.We must first note the distinction of faith and repentance, which some do falsely and unskillfully confound, saying, that repentance is a part of faith. I grant, indeed, that they cannot be separate; because God doth illuminate no man with the Spirit of faith whom he doth not also regenerate unto newness of life. Yet they must needs be distinguished, as Paul doth in this place. For repentance is a turning unto God, when we frame ourselves and all our life to obey him; but faith is a receiving of the grace offered us in Christ. For all religion tendeth to this end, that, embracing holiness and righteousness, we serve the Lord purely, also that we seek no part of our salvation anywhere else save only at his hands, and that we seek salvation in Christ alone. Therefore, the doctrine of repentance containeth a rule of good life; it requireth the denial of ourselves, the mortifying of our flesh, and meditating upon the heavenly life. But because we be all naturally corrupt, strangers from righteousness, and turned away from God himself. Again, because we fly from God, because we know that he is displeased with us, the means, as well to obtain free reconciliation as newness of life, must be set before us.
Therefore, unless faith be added, it is in vain to speak of repentance; yea, those teachers of repentance who, neglecting faith, stand only upon the framing of life, and precepts of good works, differ nothing, or very little from profane philosophers. They teach how men must live; but, forasmuch as they leave men in their nature, there can no bettering be hoped for thence, until they invite those who are lost unto hope of salvation; until they quicken the dead, promising forgiveness of sins; until they show that God doth, by his free adoption, take those for his children who were before bond-slaves of Satan; until they teach that the Spirit of regeneration must be begged at the hands of the heavenly Father, that we must draw godliness, righteousness, and goodness, from him who is the fountain of all good things. And hereupon followeth calling upon God, which is the chiefest thing in the worship of God.
We see now how that repentance and faith are so linked together that they cannot be separate. For it is faith which reconcileth God to us, not only that he may be favorable unto us, by acquitting us of the guiltiness of death, by not imputing to us our sins, but also that by purging the filthiness of our flesh by his Spirit, he may fashion us again after his own image. He doth not, therefore, name repentance in the former place, as if it did wholly go before faith, forasmuch as a part thereof proceedeth from faith, and is an effect thereof; but because the beginning of repentance is a preparation unto faith. I call the displeasing of ourselves the beginning, which doth enforce us, after we be thoroughly touched with the fear of the wrath of God, to seek some remedy.
Faith toward Christ.It is not without cause that the Scripture doth everywhere make Christ the mark whereat our faith must aim, and as they say commonly, set him before us as the object. For the majesty of God is of itself higher than that men can climb thereunto. Therefore, unless Christ come between, all our senses do vanish away in seeking God. Again, inasmuch as he is the Judge of the world, it must needs be that the beholding of him without Christ shall make us afraid. F1280 But God doth not only represent himself unto us in Christ’s image, but also refresh us with his Fatherly favor, and by all means restore us to life. For there is no part of our salvation which may not be found in Christ. By the sacrifice of his death he hath purged our sins; he hath suffered the punishment that he might acquit us; he hath made us clean by his blood; by his obedience he hath appeased his Father’s wrath; by his resurrection he hath purchased righteousness for us. No marvel, therefore, if we said, that faith must be fixed F1281 in the beholding of Christ.
22. And, behold, I go now bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing what things shall befall me there: 23. Save only that the Holy Ghost doth witness throughout every city, saying that bonds and afflictions are prepared for me. 24. But I care not, neither is my life dear to me, that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25. And now, behold, I know that after this ye shall not see my face, all you through whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God. 26. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am clean from the blood of all men. 27. For I have kept nothing back, but have showed you all the counsel of God.
22.And, behold.He declareth now more fully to what end he intreated of his upright dealing; to wit, because they should never see him any more. And it was very expedient that the pattern which was set before them by God of them to be followed should be always before their eyes, and that they should remember him when he was dead. For we know how readily men degenerate from pure institution. But though he deny that he doth know what shall befall him at Jerusalem, yet because he was taught by many prophecies that bonds were prepared for him there, as if he were now ready to die, he cutteth off shortly after the hope of his return. And yet for all this he is not contrary to himself. He speaketh doubtfully at the first of set purpose, that he may soften that which was about to be more (hard and) bitter; and yet he doth truly affirm, that he knew not as yet the ends and events of things, because he had no certain and special revelation touching the whole process.
Bound in the spirit.Some expound this that he was bound to the churches, who had committed to him this function to carry alms. Notwithstanding, I do rather think that hereby is meant the inward force and motion of the Spirit, not as though he were so inspired, F1282 that he was out of his wit, but because being certified of the will of God, he did meekly F1283 follow the direction and instinct of the Spirit, even of his own accord. Therefore, this speech importeth as much as if he should have said, I cannot otherwise do, unless I would be stubborn and rebellious against God, who doth as it were draw me thither, being bound by his Spirit. For to the end he may excuse himself of rashness, he saith that the Spirit is the author and guide of his journey. But would to God those brain-sick men, who boast that the Spirit doth incite to them those things which proceed from their own fantasy, did know the Spirit as familiarly as did Paul, who doth, notwithstanding, not say that all his motions and instigations F1284 are of the Spirit, but declareth that that fell out in one thing as a singular thing. For men do oftentimes foolishly and unadvisedly take in hand those things which they put in practice afterward stoutly, because they be ashamed of lightness and instability. And he doth not only mean that he took in hand his journey for a good cause, which the Spirit of God showeth him, but that it is altogether necessary for him, because it is wickedness to resist. Furthermore, let us learn, by the example of the holy man, not to kick against the Spirit of the Lord, but obediently to give over ourselves by him to be governed, that he may rule us at his pleasure after we be as it were bound to him. F1285 For if the reprobate, who are the bond-slaves of Satan, be carried not only willingly, but also greedily, through his motion, F1286 how much more ought this voluntary bondage or service to be in the children of God?
23. But that the Holy Ghost.I do not understand this of secret oracles, but of those foretellings which he heard everywhere of the prophets. And this speech hath greater dignity to set forth the prophecies, than if the men themselves which spake were called and cited to be witnesses. For by this means the word of God hath his [its] authority, when we confess that the Spirit of God is the author thereof, though the ministers be men. Now, forasmuch as the same Spirit, which foretelleth Paul of bonds and tribulations, doth also hold him fast bound that he cannot refuse to submit himself unto him, by this we learn, that what dangers soever hang over our heads, we are not thereby acquitted, but that we must obey the commandments of God, and follow his calling. In vain, therefore, do those men flatter themselves, who will do good so long as they be free from molestation, and may make discommodities, damages, and dangers of death, sufficient excuses.
24.I care not.All the godly must be so framed in their minds, and chiefly the ministers of the Word, that, setting all things apart, they make haste to obey God. The life is, indeed, a more excellent gift than that it ought to be neglected; to wit, seeing we be therein created after the image of God, to the end we may think upon that blessed immortality which is laid up for us in heaven, in which the Lord doth now by diverse testimonies and tokens show himself to be our Father.
But because it is ordained to be unto us as a race, we must always hasten unto the mark, and overcome all hindrances, lest any thing hinder or stay us in our course, For it is a filthy thing for us to be so holden with a blind desire to live, that we lose the causes of life for life itself; and this do the words of Paul express. For he doth not simply set light by his life; but he doth forget the respect thereof, that he may finish his course; that he may fulfill the ministry which he hath received of Christ, as if he should say that he is not desirous to live, save only that he may satisfy the calling of God; and that, therefore, it shall be no grief to him to lose his life, so that he may come by death unto the goal of the function prescribed to him by God.
And we must note that which he saith, with joy, for his meaning is, that this is taken from the faithful by no sorrow or grief, but that they both. live and die to the Lord. For the joy of a good conscience is more deeply and surely laid up, than that it can be taken away by any external trouble, or any sorrow of the flesh; it triumpheth more joyfully than that it can be oppressed. Also, we must note the definition of his course; to wit, that it is the ministry received of the Lord. Paul doth indeed speak of himself; yet,by his own example, he teacheth that all those go astray who have not God to be the governor of their course. Whereupon it followeth that his calling is unto every one of us a rule of good life. Neither can we be otherwise persuaded that the Lord alloweth that which we do, unless our life be framed and ordered according to his will, which certainly is required, especially in the ministers of the word, that they take nothing in hand unless they have Christ for their author. Neither is it to be doubted but that Paul, in giving his apostleship this mark, (as he useth to do very often) doth confirm the credit thereof. He calleth it the gospel of the grace of God, of the effect or end, notwithstanding this is a title of rare commendation, that, by the gospel, salvation and the grace of God are brought unto us. For it is very expedient for us to know that God is found there to be merciful and favorable.
25. And, behold, now I know.He doth now utter that plainly which he had insinuated covertly. And we said that he did put them out of hope of his return, to the end he might more deeply imprint in their minds his exhortations. For we know what great force the words and speeches of men have which are uttered at their departure or death. Also, he would have them beware by this forewarning, that they do not depend upon his presence, and so their faith should faint through wearisomeness. The doctrine of the gospel is called the kingdom of God now again, which doth begin the kingdom of God in this world, by renewing men after the image of God, until it be made perfect at length in the last resurrection,