33.He was baptized, and all his household. Luke doth again commend the godly zeal of the keeper, that he did consecrate all his whole house to the Lord; wherein doth also appear the grace of God, in that he brought all his whole family unto a godly consent. And we must also note the notable exchange: he was of late about to murder himself, because he thought that Paul and the rest were escaped; but now laying aside all fear, he bringeth them home. F1079 So that we see how faith doth animate and encourage those to behave themselves stoutly who before had no heart. And surely, when we droop F1080 through fear and doubtfulness, there is no better matter of boldness than to be able to cast all our cares into God’s bosom; that no danger may terrify us from doing our duty, whilst that we look for an end at God’s hand, such as he shall see to be most profitable.
34. He rejoiceth that he believed. The external profession of faith was before commended in the jailer; now the inward fruit thereof is described. When he did lodge the apostles, F1081 and was not afraid of punishment, but did courteously entertain them in his own house, otherwise than he was enjoined by the magistrate, he did testify that his faith was not idle. And that joy whereof Luke speaketh in this place is a singular good thing, which every man hath from his faith. There is no great torment than an evil conscience; for the unbelievers, though the seek by all means to bring themselves into a certain amazedness, yet because they have no peace with God, they must needs quake and tremble. But admit they perceive not their present torments, yea, they rage and play the madmen through mad and unbridled licentiousness; yet are they never quiet, neither do they enjoy quiet joy. F1082 Therefore, sincere and quiet stable joy proceedeth from faith alone, when we perceive that God is merciful to us. In this respect, Zacharias saith, “Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Sion, behold, they King cometh.” Yea, this effect is everywhere in the Scripture attributed to faith, that it maketh the souls joyful. Therefore, let us know that faith is not a vain or dead imagination, but a lively sealing [sense] of the grace of God, which bringeth perfect joy by reason of the certainty of salvation, whereof it is meet that the wicked be void, who do both fly from the God of peace, and disturb all righteousness.
35. And when it was day, the magistrates sent the apparitors, [officers,] saying, Let those men go. 36. And the keeper of the prison told these words to Paul, The magistrates have sent to loose you: now therefore going out, depart in peace. 37. And Paul said to them, After that they have beaten us openly, before our cause was known, seeing that we be Romans, they have cast us into prison; and now they cast us out privily? No, surely; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. 38. And the apparitors [officers] told these words to the magistrates; who feared, after that they heard that they were Romans. 39. And they came and besought them; and when they had brought them out, they requested that they would depart out of the city. 40. And coming out of the prison, they entered in unto Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.
35. When it was day. The question is, how it came to pass that the judges did so suddenly change their purpose? The day before they had commanded that Paul and Silas should be bound with fetters, as if they meant to punish them cruelly, now they let them go free. At least, if they had heard them, it might have been that the knowledge of the cause had brought them to be more gentle and better minded. F1083 But it appeareth that, forasmuch as the matter stood as yet still in one state, they were brought into repentance of their own accord. I answer, that there is no other thing here set down but that which falleth out most commonly when sedition is once raised. For not only the minds of the common people begin to rage, but also the tempest carrieth away the governors also, no doubt perversely. For we know that of Virgil, —
“And as amidst a mighty rout, when discord oft is bred, And baser froward-minded men with furious rage are led; Forthwith flies fire, and stones are flung, madness doth tools supply, Then if on the sudden they do any one espy Whom love to commonwealth and just deserts have reverent made, They hush, and eke attentive stand, to hear what will be said: He governs both their will and rage, With words their wrath he doth assuage.”
Therefore, there can be nothing more unseemly than what in a hot tumult the judges should be set on fire [along] with the people; but it falleth out so for the most part. Therefore, when those officers saw the people up, they thought there was cause enough why they should beat the apostles with rods. But now they are caused with shame and infamy to suffer punishment for their lightness, [levity.] Peradventure also, when they inquire of the beginning of the tumult, they find those who had deceived the people F1084 in the fault. Therefore, when they had found out that Paul and Silas were innocent, they let them go, though too late. By which example, those which bear rule are taught to beware of too much haste. Again, we see how carelessly magistrates flatter F1085 themselves in their own offenses, which they know full well they have committed, especially when they have to do with unknown and base persons. When these men grant free liberty to Paul and Silas to depart, they are not ignorant that they had before done them injury; yet they think it will be sufficient if they do not continue to do them injury still, and to be more cruel upon them. F1086 The apparitors [officers] are called [rabdoucoi], of the staves which they did bear; whereas the ensigns of the sergeants [lictors] were hatches bound with rods.
After that they have beaten us openly. Their defense consisteth upon [of] two points, that they raged against, and cruelly intreated, the body of a man that was a Roman; secondly, that they did that contrary to the order of law. We shall see afterwards that Paul was a citizen of Rome. But it was straitly provided by Portius’ law, by the laws of Sempronius, and also by many more, that no man should have power of life or death over any citizen of Rome but the people. Notwithstanding, it may seem to be a strange thing that Paul did not maintain [assert] his right before he was beaten with rods; for the judges might honestly excuse themselves by his silence; but it is to be thought that he was not heard in the midst of the tumult. If any man object that he doth now seek remedy too late, and out of season, yea, that he doth catch at a vain and foolish comfort, F1087 when he requireth that the magistrates come themselves, we may readily answer, Paul was like to fare never a whit the better therefore; but we must mark that he meant nothing less than to provide for his own private commodity; but that he might ease the brethren somewhat afterward, F1088 that the magistrates might not be so bold as to rage so freely against the good and innocent brethren. Because he had gotten their heads under his girdle, F1089 he translated his right to help the brethren, that they might be borne with. This was the cause for which he did chide them. And so Paul did wisely use the opportunity offered him; as we must neglect nothing which may take for the bridling of the enemies, that they take not to themselves so much liberty to oppress or vex the innocent, forasmuch as the Lord bringeth to our hands such helps not in vain. Notwithstanding, let us remember that if we have been injured in anything, we must not repay injuries, but we must only endeavor to stay their lust, lest they hurt others in like sort.
38. They were afraid, because they were Romans. They are not once moved with the other point, because they had handled innocents cruelly without discretion; F1090 and yet that was the greater reproach. But because they did not fear that any man would punish them, they were not moved with God’s judgment. This is the cause that they do carelessly pass over that which was objected concerning injury done by them, only they are afraid of the officers F1091 of the Romans, and lest they should be beheaded for violating the liberty in the body of a citizen. They knew that this was death if any of the chief governors [prefects] should commit it, then what should become of the officers of one free city? F1092 Such is the fear of the wicked, because they have an amazed F1093conscience before God, they do long time flatter themselves in all sins, until the punishment F1094 of men hang over their heads.
40. When they saw, etc. They were desired to part presently; yet it became them to regard the brethren, lest the tender seed of the gospel should perish, and undoubtedly they would have tarried longer if they had been suffered, but the prayers and requests of the magistrates were imperious and armed, which they are enforced to obey. Nevertheless, they foreslow [neglect] not their necessary duty, but they exhort the brethren to be constant. And whereas they went straight to Lydia, it is a token, that though the Church were increased, yet that woman was the chief even of a greater number, as touching diligence in duties of godliness; F1095 and that appeareth more plainly thereby, because all the godly were assembled in her house.
1. And when they had journeyed through Amphipolis and Appollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews. 2. And as his manner was, Paul entered in unto them, and three Sabbaths disputed with F1096 them out of the Scriptures. 3. Opening and alleging that Christ must have suffered and rise again from the dead; and that this is Christ, whom, saith he, I preach to you. 4. And certain of them believed, and were joined to Paul and Silas, and of religious Grecians a great multitude, and of chief women not a few.