9. And I truly.If Paul had not spoken more things than those which Luke hath hitherto recited, his speech had not hanged well together. F1470 Whence we prove that which was said before, that after that he had spoken of the covenant of God, he intreated of the grace and office of Christ, as the matter required. And he repeateth the history of his conversion for this cause, not only that he may remove from himself all suspicion of lightness, but that he may testify that God had called him, and that he was even enforced by a commandment coming from heaven. For, seeing that he was, contrary to his expectation, suddenly made a sheep of a wolf, such a violent change is of no small importance to purchase credit to his doctrine.
Therefore, he amplifieth that his heat and vehement desire which he had to punish F1471 the members of Christ, and also that stubbornness whereunto he was wholly given over. If he had been nousled [brought] up in the faith of Christ from his youth, or if he had been taught by some man, he should have embraced it willingly and without resistance, he himself should have been sure of his calling, but it should not have been so well known to others. But now, seeing that being inflamed with obstinate and immoderate fury, being moved with no occasion, neither persuaded by mortal man, he changeth his mind, it appeareth that he was tamed and brought under by the hand of God.
Therefore, this contrariety is of great weight, F1472 in that he saith that he was so puffed up with pride, that he thought he should get the victory of Christ, whereby he teacheth that he was nothing less than made F1473 a disciple of Christ through his own industry. The name of Jesus of Nazareth is taken in this place for the whole profession of the gospel, which Paul sought to extinguish, by making war ignorantly against God, as we may see. F1474
10. Which thing I did.He proveth by his very facts with what force of zeal he was carried away to strive against Christ, until greater force did pull him back, and made him go the quite contrary way. Furthermore, his adversaries were witnesses of this his vehemency, so that it was most certain that he was suddenly changed; and undoubtedly the priests would never have put him in any such office, unless he had behaved himself courageously in exercising cruelty; and it was meet that he should be very courageous who should satisfy their fury. This is also to be noted, that Paul was not ashamed to confess how sore he had offended against God, so that that might turn to the glory of Christ. It was to him undoubtedly reproachful, to have been carried away with blind zeal, so that he enforced those to blaspheme which did desire to serve God; to have troubled the good and simple diversely; to have given sentence of the shedding of innocent blood; finally, to have lifted up his horns even unto heaven, until he was thrown down. But he doth not spare his own estimation, but doth willingly utter his own shame, that the mercy of God may the more plainly appear thereby.
Wherefore, there could no sinister suspicion rest in his speech, seeing that (without having any respect of himself) he saith, that he did utterly offend F1475 in those things whereby he got the praise of all the people. Therefore, he condemneth his very zeal of madness, which others did honor.
Whereby it appeareth how filthy the ambition of those men is, who are ashamed simply to confess, if they have offended through ignorance or error. For although they do not altogether excuse the same, yet they go about to lessen or paint these things, for which they ought humbly with sorrow and tears to crave pardon. But though Paul might have retained the fame of a courageous man, yet he confesseth he was a madman. For the participle which Luke useth importeth thus much, that he compelled many to blaspheme. By this we know that there was great corruption even in the very first fruits of believers, seeing that having first professed themselves to be disciples of Christ, and being afterwards discouraged with fear or stripes, they did not only deny him, but also spake evil of his blessed name. Though the very denial itself containeth an horrible blasphemy.
13. At midday, O king.The narration tendeth to this end, that king Agrippa may understand that it was no vain visure or ghost, neither was it any such trance as brought him into some madness, so that he was destitute of judgment. F1476 For though he fell to the earth for fear, yet he heareth a plain voice; he asketh who it was that spake; he understandeth the answer which was made, which are signs that he was not beside himself. Hereupon it followeth that he did not rashly change his mind, but did godlily and holily obey the heavenly oracle, lest he should of set purpose proceed to strive against God.
16. But rise.Christ did throw down Paul that he might humble him; now he lifteth him up, and biddeth him be of good courage. And even we are daily thrown down by his voice to this end, that we may be taught to be modest; but look whom he throweth down, he doth raise the same again gently. And this is no small consolation, when Christ saith that he appeared to him not as a revenger to plague him F1477 for his madness, for those stripes which he had unjustly and cruelly given, for his bloody sentences, or for that trouble wherewith he had troubled the saints, for his wicked resisting of the gospel, but as a merciful Lord, intending to use his industry, and to call him to an honorable ministry. For he made him a witness of those things which he saw, and which he should afterward see. This vision was worthy to be recorded, by which he learned that Christ reigneth in heaven, that he might no longer proudly contemn him, but acknowledge that he is the Son of God, and the promised Redeemer; he had other revelations afterward, as he saith in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and 12th chapter (<471201>2 Corinthians 12:1).
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 (<461106>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, (<490210>Ephesians 2:10, and <490423>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.
19. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision: 20. But I preached first to those which are at Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and through every region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and be turned unto God, doing works which become those which repent. 21. For this cause the Jews, having caught me in the temple, went about to kill me. 22. Therefore, seeing I have obtained help of God, I stand until this present day, testifying both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses said should come to pass: 23. Whether Christ should suffer, whether he should be the first that should rise from the dead, to show light to the people, and to the Gentiles.
19. He declareth now briefly to what end he rehearsed the history of his conversion; to wit, that Agrippa and the rest might understand that he had God for his author of all those things which the Jews condemned of sacrilege and apostacy. He speaketh to Agrippa by name, because he knew that Festus and the Romans knew not what an heavenly vision meant. Now, it appeareth that there is nothing in the very sum of his doctrine which dissenteth from the law and the prophets; whereby the oracle doth win greater credit, whereby Paul was commanded to teach nothing but that which was agreeable to the Scripture. Conversion, or turning unto God, is joined with repentance, not as some peculiar thing, but that we may know what it is to repent. Like as, also, on the contrary, the corruption of men and their frowardness F1478 is nothing else but an estranging from God. And because repentance is an inward thing, and placed in the affection of the heart, Paul requireth, in the second place, such works as may make the same known, according to that exhortation of John the Baptist: “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance,” (<400308>Matthew 3:8). Now, forasmuch as the gospel calleth all those which are Christ’s unto repentance, it followeth that all men are naturally corrupt, and that they have need to be changed. In like sort, this place teacheth that these men do unskillfully pervert the gospel which separate the grace of Christ from repentance.
21. They went about to kill me.He complaineth in this place of the iniquity of his adversaries, that it may thereby appear that their cause and conscience were both evil. F1479 For if Paul had offended they might have gone to law with him; and even there should they have stand [stood] in better state, seeing they did far pass him both in favor and authority. Therefore, their madness doth testify that they are destitute of reason. Whereas Paul saith that he was saved by the help of God, it maketh for the confirmation of his doctrine. For how is it that he reacheth out his hand to help him, save only because he acknowledged his minister, and because he will defend the cause which he alloweth [approveth?]. Moreover, this ought to have encouraged him to go forward so much the more boldly in his office, in that he was thus holpen by God. For it had been a point of an unthankful man to withdraw himself from him which had holpen him. By which example we be taught, that so often as we be delivered from danger, the Lord doth not therefore prolong our days that we may afterward live idly, but that we may do our duty cheerfully, and be ready to die every hour to his glory, who hath reserved us to himself. And yet Paul did not forget how much he was indebted to the chief captain; but in this place he commendeth the help of God, that he may show that it became him to spend all the rest of his course in his service by whom he was delivered, though that came to pass, and were done through the industry and by the hand of man.
Testifying both to small and great.We have said elsewhere that it is more to testify than to teach, as if there were some solemn contestation made between God and men, that the gospel may have his [its] majesty. And he saith that he is a witness both to great and small, that king Agrippa may perceive that this doth appertain even to him; and that when the gospel is offered even to every simple man, that doth no whit hinder but that it may ascend even unto the throne of princes. For Christ doth gather all men into his bosom with one and the same embracing, that those who lay before in the dunghill, and are now extolled unto so great honor, may rejoice in his free goodness; and that those who are placed in high degree of honor may willingly humble themselves, and not grudge to have some of the base and contemptible multitude for their brethren, that they may be made the children of God. So in the first chapter to the Romans, he saith that he is indebted both to the fools and to the wise, lest the Romans should be kept back with the confidence which they might repose in their wisdom from submitting themselves to his doctrine. By this let us learn that it is not in the teacher’s will to make choice of his hearers, and that they do no less injury to God than defraud men of their right, whosoever they be which restrain their labor unto great men, whom God doth join with those which are small. It were too cold to restrain this unto ages. F1480 Wherefore, I do not doubt but that Paul taketh away the exception which used to be between the noble and ignoble, because he was neither afraid of the dignity of the one, neither did he loathe the baseness of the other, but did show himself a faithful teacher to both alike.
Saying no other thing.First, this is worth the noting, that Paul, to the end he may bring in fit and substantial witnesses of his doctrine, doth not take the same from among men, but he citeth Moses and the prophets, to whom the Lord had granted undoubted authority. And surely this is one principle to be observed, when we will teach soundly, to utter nothing but that which did proceed out of the mouth of God. Secondly, this is worth the noting, that these were the principal points of the disputation which Luke doth now touch; that this was the proper office of Christ, by his death to make satisfaction for the sins of the world, by his resurrection to purchase righteousness and life for men; and that the fruit of his death and resurrection is common both to Jews and Gentiles. But forasmuch as there is no manifest and (as they say) literal testimony extant in the law concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, undoubtedly they had some doctrine delivered by hand from the fathers, out of which they did learn to refer all figures unto Christ. And as the prophets, which did prophesy more plainly of Christ, had their doctrine from that fountain, so they made the men of their time believe that they delivered unto them no new thing, or which did dissent from Moses. And now Paul did either not finish his apology, or else he gathered more evident testimonies of all those things wherein he professed Moses and the prophets to be his authors.
The first of those which.There were some other whose resurrection went before Christ’s in time; namely, if we admit that the saints of whom the Evangelists speak (<402752>Matthew 27:52) did come out of their graves before Christ, which may likewise be said of the taking up of Enoch and Elias (<010524>Genesis 5:24; <120211>2 Kings 2:11). But he calleth him in this place the first; as in another place the first fruits of those which rise again (<461523>1 Corinthians 15:23). Therefore, this word doth rather note out the cause than the order of time, because, when Christ did rise again, he became the conqueror of death and Lord of life, that he might reign forever, and make those who are his partakers of [his own] blessed immortality. Under this word light, he comprehendeth whatsoever doth pertain unto perfect felicity, as by darkness is meant death and all manner of misery. And I do not doubt but that Paul alluded unto the sayings of the prophets,
“The people which walked in darkness saw great light,”
“Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall be seen upon thee,” (<236002>Isaiah 60:2).
“Behold, those which are in darkness shall see light,”
“I have made thee a light of the Gentiles,” (<234906>Isaiah 49:6).
And it appeareth by many oracles that the light of life should come out of Judea, and should be spread abroad among the Gentiles.
24. And as Paul answered for himself, Festus saith with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 25. And Paul said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and sobriety. 26. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom I also speak freely: for I think that none of these things are hidden from him; for this was not done in a corner. 27. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28.And Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou briefly persuadest me to become a Christian. 29. And Paul saith, Would to God that not only thou, but also all which hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. 30. And when he had thus spoken, the king arose, and the governor, and Bernice, and those which sat with them. 31. And when they were gone apart, they talked together between themselves, saying, This man doth nothing worthy of death or bonds. 32. Then Agrippa said to Festus, This man might have been loosed, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
24.Festus said with a loud voice.This outcry which Festus doth make doth show how much the truth of God prevaileth with the reprobate; to wit, though it be never so plain and evident, yet is it trodden under foot by their pride. For though those things which Paul had alleged out of the law and prophets had nothing in them which was anything like to madness, but were grounded in good reason, yet he doth attribute the same to madness, not because he seeth any absurdity, but because he refuseth those things which he doth not understand. Nothing was more foolish or more unsavory than the superstitions of the Gentiles, so that their high priests were for good causes ashamed to utter their mysteries, whose folly was more than ridiculous.
Festus doth grant that there was learning packed F1481 in Paul’s speech; nevertheless, because the gospel is hidden from the unbelievers, whose minds Satan hath blinded, (<470403>2 Corinthians 4:3) he thinketh that he is a brain-sick fellow which handleth matters intricately. So that though he cannot mock and openly contemn him, yet he is so far from being moved or inwardly touched, that he counteth him a man which is frenzy [frenzied] and of mad curiosity. And this is the cause that he cannot away to mark what he saith, lest he make him mad also; as many at this day fly from the word of God, lest they drown themselves in a labyrinth. And they think that we be mad because we move questions concerning hidden matters, and so become troublesome both to ourselves and also to others. Wherefore, being admonished by this example, let us beg of God that he will show us the light of his doctrine, and that he will therewithal give us a taste thereof, lest through obscurity and hardness it become unsavory, and at length proud loathsomeness break out into blasphemy.