The acts of the apostles by john calvin edited from the original english translation of

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5. The churches were confirmed. By this we gather, that that which Luke setteth down, or rather touched concerning the decrees of the apostles, was, as it were, put in by the way, being not much appertinent unto the matter. F1032 For he commendeth a far other fruit of Paul’s doctrine, when he saith that the churches were confirmed in the faith. Therefore Paul did so order external things, that he was principally careful for the kingdom of God, which consisteth in the doctrine of the gospel, and doth far surpass and surmount external order. Therefore those decrees were mentioned, inasmuch as they were expedient for maintaining concord, that we might know that the holy man had a care thereof. But religion and godliness hath the former place, whose sole foundation is faith; which again doth stay itself upon the pure Word of God, and doth not depend upon men’s laws. Now, by this example, Luke pricketh us forward to proceed continually, lest, at the beginning, sloth or neglect of profiting come upon us. Also the way to increase faith is expressed, to wit, when the Lord doth stir us up by the industry of his servants; as at that time he used the labor and diligence of Paul and his companions. When he addeth immediately that they were also increased in number, he commendeth another fruit of preaching, and yet he doth therewithal signify unto us, that the more those profit in faith who are first called, the more do they bring unto Christ; as if faith did creep abroad unto others by branches. F1033

Acts 16:6-10

6. And when they had gone through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to speak the word in Asia 7. And going into Mysia, they essayed to go into Bithynia: and the Spirit suffered them not. 8. And when they had passed through Mysia, they came down to Troada, [Troas.] 9. And Paul saw a vision by night; There was a certain man of Macedonia, standing and praying him, and saying, Coming into Macedonia, help us. 10. And so soon as he saw the vision, we sought straightway to go into Macedonia, being surely confirmed that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

6. When they had gone throughout. Luke showeth here how diligent and careful Paul and his companions were in the office of teaching; for he saith that they journeyed through divers regions of the Lesser Asia that they might preach the gospel. But he reciteth one thing which is worth remembering, that they were forbidden by the Spirit of God to speak of Christ in some places, which serveth not a little to set forth the apostleship of Paul; as undoubtedly he was not a little encouraged to proceed, when he knew that the Spirit of God was his guide in his way, and the governor of his actions. And whereas whithersoever they came they prepared themselves to teach, they did that according to their calling, and according to the commandment of God. For they were sent to preach and publish the gospel to the Gentiles without exception; but the Lord revealed his counsel in governing the course of their journey which was before unknown, even in a moment.

Notwithstanding, the question is, If Paul taught nowhere by whither he was led by the Spirit, what certainty shall the ministers of the Church have at this day of their calling, who are certified by no oracles when they must speak or hold their peace? I answer, Seeing that Paul’s province and charge was so wide, he had need of the singular direction of the Spirit. He was not made the apostle of one particular place, or of a few cities, but he had received commandment to preach the gospel through Asia and Europe; which was to sail in a most wide sea. Wherefore, there is no cause why we should wonder that in that confused wideness God beckoned unto him, as it were by reaching forth his hand, how far he would have him go, or whither. But here ariseth another harder question, why the Lord did forbid Paul to speak in Asia, and suffered him not to come into Bithynia? For, if answer be made that these Gentiles were unworthy of the doctrine of salvation, we may again demand why Macedonia was more worthy? Those who desire to be too wise, do assign the causes of this difference in men, that the Lord vouchsafeth every man of his gospel, as he seeth him bent unto the obedience of faith; but he himself saith far otherwise, to wit, that he appeared plainly to those which sought him not, and that he spake to those who asked not of him. For whence cometh aptness to those to be taught, and a mind to obey, but from his Spirit? Therefore, it is certain that some are not preferred before other some by their merit, seeing that all men are naturally like backward and wayward from faith. Therefore, there is nothing better than to leave free power to God to vouchsafe and deprive of his grace whom he will. And surely as his eternal election is free, so his calling is also free which floweth thence, and is not grounded in men, seeing that he is not indebted to any.

Wherefore, let us know that the gospel springeth and issueth out to us out of the sole fountain of mere grace. And yet God doth not want a just reason, why he offereth his gospel to some, and passeth over other some. But I say that that reason lieth hid in his secret counsel. In the mean season, let the faithful know that they were called freely when others were set aside, lest they take that to themselves which is due to the mercy of God alone. And in the rest, whom God rejecteth for no manifest cause, let them learn to wonder at the deep depth of his judgment, which they may not seek out. And here the word Asia is taken for that part which is properly so called. When Luke saith that Paul and his companions essayed to come into Bithynia until they were forbidden by oracles, save only when need required, as they Lord useth to be present with his in doleful F1034 and uncertain matters.

9. A vision by night. The Lord would not that Paul should stay any longer in Asia; because he would draw him into Macedonia. And Luke expresseth the manner of the drawing, that a man of Macedonia appeared to him by night. Where we must note that the Lord did not always observe the same manner of revelation, because divers kinds are more convenient for confirmation. And it is not said that this vision was offered in a dream, but only in the night season. For there be certain night visions which men see when they be awake.

Help us. This speech setteth forth the ministry committed to Paul. For, seeing that the gospel is the power of God to salvation, (<450116>Romans 1:16,) those which are the ministers of God are said to help those who perish; that having delivered them from death, they may bring them unto the inheritance of eternal life. And this ought to be no small encouragement for godly teachers to stir up the heat of their study and desire, when they hear that they call back miserable souls from destruction, and that they help those who should otherwise perish, that they may be saved. Again, all people unto whom the gospel is brought are taught reverently to embrace the ministers thereof as deliverers, unless they will maliciously reject the grace of God; and yet this commendation and title is not so translated unto men, that God is robbed even of the best part of his praise; because, though he by his ministers give salvation, yet is he the only author thereof, as if he reached out his hands to help.

10. Being fully persuaded. Hence we gather, that is was not bare vision, but that it was also confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit. For Satan doth oftentimes abuse ghosts and visures [masks] to deceive withal, that he may mock and cozen the unbelievers. Whereby it cometh to pass, that the bare vision leaveth man’s mind in doubt; but such as are divine indeed, those doth the Spirit seal by a certain mark, that those may not doubt nor waver whom the Lord will have certainly addicted to himself. A wicked spirit appeared to Brutus, inviting him to enter that unhappy combat and battle which he had at Philippi, even in the very same place whereunto Paul was afterwards called. But as the cause was far unlike, so the Lord dealt far otherwise with his servant, so that he put him out of doubt, and left him not astonished with fear. Now, in Paul and his companions the desire to obey ensued immediately upon the certainty; for, so soon as they understand that the Lord called them, they address themselves to their journey. The termination of the participle which is here used is active; and though it have divers significations, I do not doubt but that Luke’s meaning is, that Paul and the rest, after that they had conferred [compared] this vision with the former oracles, were fully persuaded that the Lord had called them into Macedonia.

Acts 16:11-15

11. Therefore, when we had loosed from Troas, we came with a straight course in Samothracia, and the day following to Neapolis; 12. And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of the parts of Macedonia, being a free city; and we stayed in the same city certain days. 13. And on the day of the Sabbaths we went out of the city beside a river, where was wont to be prayer; and sitting, we spake to the women which came together. 14. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purples, of the city of the Thyatirans, which worshipped God, heard; whose heart the Lord opened, that she might take heed to those things which were spoken of Paul. 15. And when she was baptized, and her house, she besought us, saying, If ye judge me faithful to the Lord, enter into my house and tarry. And she enforced us.

11. This history doth, as it were in a glass, show how sharply the Lord did exercise the faith and patience of his, by bringing them in great straits which they could not have overcome unless they had been endued with singular constancy; for the entrance of Paul into Macedonia is reported to be such, as that it might have cause him to give but small credence to the vision. These holy men, leaving the work which they had in hand, did cross the seas with great haste, as if the whole nation of the Macedonians would have come to meet them with earnest desire to be helped. Now, the success is so far from being answerable to their hope, that their mouths are almost quite stopped. When they enter the chief city, they find non there with whom they may take any pains; therefore they are enforced to go into the field, that they may speak in an obscure corner and wilderness. Yea, even there they cannot have one man which will hearken to their doctrine; they can only have one woman to be a disciple of Christ, and that one which was an alien. Who would not have said that this journey was taken in hand foolishly which fell out so unhappily? But the Lord doth thus bring to pass his works under a base and weak kind, F1035 that his power may shine more clearly at length; and it was most meet that the beginnings of the kingdom of Christ should be so ordered, that they might taste [savor] of the humility of the cross. But we must mark the constancy of Paul and his companions, who being not dismayed with such unprosperous beginnings, try whether any occasion will offer itself contrary to their expectation. And assuredly the servants of Christ must wrestle with all lets, neither must they be discouraged, but go forward to-morrow, if this day there appear no fruit of their labor, for there is no cause why they should desire to be more happy than Paul. When Luke saith that they abode in that city, some had rather have it, that they conferred or disputed, but the other translation is more plain. And the text persuadeth us to make choice thereof, because Luke will shortly after declare that Lydia was the first-fruits of that Church; and we may easily guess that the apostles went out of the city, because there was no gate opened to them in it.

13. In the day of the Sabbaths. No doubt the Jews sought some place which was solitary and by the way, when they were disposed to pray, because their religion was then everywhere most odious. And God, by their example, meant to teach us what great account we ought to make of the profession of faith; that we do not forsake it either for fear of envy or of dangers. They had, indeed, in many places synagogues, but it was not lawful for them to assemble themselves publicly at Philippi, which was a free city of Rome. F1036 Therefore, they withdraw themselves into a secret corner, that they may pray to God where they could not be espied; and yet there were those who did grudge even at this, so that they might think that it might both cause trouble and danger, but they prefer the worship of God before their own quietness and commodity. Furthermore, we may gather by this word Sabbath, that Luke speaketh of the Jews. Secondly, forasmuch as he commendeth the godliness of Lydia, it must needs be that she was a Jewess, which matter needeth no long disputation, forasmuch as we know that it was an heinous offense for the Grecians and Romans to celebrate the Sabbath, or to take up Jewish rites. Now, we understand that the Jews made choice of the river’s bank, but because they shunned the company of men, and the sight of the people. If any man object, why did not every man pray in his house privately? The answer is ready, that this was a solemn rite of praying, to testify godliness; and that being far F1037 from the superstitions of the Gentiles, they might one exhort another to worship God alone, and that they might nourish the religion received of the fathers among themselves. As touching Paul and his fellows who were lately come, F1038 it is to be thought that they came thither not only to pray, but also because they hope to do some good. For it was a fit place for them to teach in, being far from noise; and it was meet that they should be more attentive to hear the word who came thither to pray. Luke putteth the day of the Sabbaths instead of the Sabbath; where, following Erasmus, I have translated it, There was wont to be prayer; the old interpreter hath, did seem. And the word [nomizesqai] hath both significations among the Grecians. Yet this sense is more fit for this present place, that they did commonly use to have prayer there.

We spake to the women. Either that place was appointed for the assemblies of women, F1039 or else religion was cold among men, so that they came more slowly. Howsoever it be, we see that the holy men omit no occasion or opportunity, because they vouchsafed to offer the gospel even to women alone. Furthermore, forasmuch as it seemeth likely to me that men and women made their prayers there together, I suppose that Luke omitted the men either because they would not hear, or else because they profited nothing by hearing.

14. A woman named Lydia. If they had been heard of a few women, yet this had been to enter in, as it were, by a strait chink; but now whereas one only heareth attentively and with fruit, might it not have seemed that the way was stopt before Christ? F1040 But afterward there sprung a noble Church of that one small graft, which Paul setteth out with many excellent commendations; yet it may be that Lydia had some companions, whereof there is no mention made, because she did far excel them all. And Luke doth not assign that for the cause why this one woman did show herself apt to be taught, because she was more witty F1041 than the rest, or because she had some preparation of herself; but he saith that the Lord opened her heart that she might give ear and take heed to the speech of Paul. He had of late commended her godliness; and yet he showeth that she could not comprehend the doctrine of the gospel, save only through the illumination of the Spirit. Wherefore, we see that not faith alone, but all understanding and knowledge of spiritual things, is the peculiar gift of God, and that the ministers do no good by teaching and speaking unless the inward calling of God be thereunto added.

By the word heart, the Scripture meaneth sometimes the mind, as when Moses saith, “God hath not given thee hitherto a heart to understand.” So likewise in this place, Luke doth not only signify unto us that Lydia was brought by the inspiration of the Spirit, with affection of heart to embrace the gospel, but that her mind was lightened, that she might understand it. By this let us learn that such is the blockishness, such is the blindness of men, that in seeing they see not, in hearing they hear not, until such time as God doth give them new eyes and new ears. But we must note the speech, that the heart of Lydia was opened was opened that she might give ear to the external voice of the teacher. For as preaching alone is nothing else but the dead letter, so we must beware lest a false imagination, or a show of secret illumination, lead us away from the word whereupon faith dependeth, and wherein it resteth. For many, to the end they may amplify the grace of the Spirit, feign to themselves certain inspired persons, F1042 that they may leave no use of the external word. But the Scripture doth not suffer any such divorce to be made which joineth the ministry of men with the secret inspiration of the Spirit. Unless the mind of Lydia had been opened, Paul’s preaching should have been only literal; F1043 and yet the Lord doth not inspire her with bare revelations only, but he giveth her the reverence of his word, so that the voice of man, which might otherwise have been uttered in vain, doth pierce into a mind endued with heavenly light.

Therefore, let those brain-sick fellows be packing, [begone,] who, under color [pretext] of the Spirit, refuse external doctrine. For we must note the temperature of moderation which Luke setteth down here, that we can have or obtain nothing by the hearing of the word alone, without the grace of the Spirit; and that the Spirit is given us, not that he may bring contempt of the word, but rather that he may dip [instill] into our minds into our minds, and write in our hearts the faith thereof.

Now, if the cause be demanded why the Lord opened one woman’s heart alone, we must return unto that principle, that so many believe as we are ordained F1044 to life. For the fear of God, which went before the plain and manifest knowledge of Christ in Lydia, was also a fruit of free election. The describers of situations of places F1045 say, that Thyratira is a city of Lydia situate upon the side of the river called Hermus, and that it was sometimes called Pelopia; but some there be who attribute it to Phrygia, some to Mysia.

15. When she was baptized. Hereby it appeareth how effectually God wrought in Lydia even in a short moment. For it is not to be doubted but that she received and embraced the faith of Christ sincerely, and gave him her name, before Paul would admit her unto baptism. This was a token of mere readiness; also, her holy zeal and godliness do therein show themselves, in that she doth also consecrate her family to God. And, surely, all the godly ought to have this desire, to have those who are under them to be partakers of the same faith. For he is unworthy to be numbered among the children of God, and to be a ruler over others, whosoever is desirous to reign and rule in his own house over his wife, children, servants, and maids, and will cause them to give no place to Christ. Therefore, let every one of the faithful study to govern and order his house so, that it may be an image of the Church. I grant that Lydia had not in her hand the hearts of all those which were of her household, that she might turn unto Christ whomsoever she would; F1046 but the Lord did bless her godly desire, so that she had her household obedient. The godly (as we have already said) must endeavor, with might and main, to drive from their houses all manner of superstition; secondly, that they have not profane families, but that they keep them under the fear of the Lord. So Abraham, the father of the faithful, was commanded to circumcise all his servants with him; and he is commanded for the care he had to govern his house, and to instruct his family. Furthermore, if this duty be required at the hands of the householder, much more of a prince, that he suffer not so much as in him lieth the name of God to be profaned in his realm.

She besought them, saying. This hath the force of an adjuration, when she saith, if ye have judged me faithful; as if she should say, I beseech you by that faith which you have approved by baptism, that ye refuse not to lodge with me; and Lydia did by such an earnest desire testify how entirely she loved the gospel. Nevertheless, it is not to be doubted but that the Lord gave her such an affection, to the end Paul might be the more encouraged to proceed, not only because he saw that he was liberally and courteously entertained, but also because he might thereby judge of the fruit of his doctrine. Therefore, this was not the woman’s inviting only, but also God’s to keep Paul and his company there, to which end that tendeth also that Lydia enforced them, as if God did lay hand upon them, and stay them in the woman’s person.

Acts 16:16-22

16. And it happened, as we went to prayer, a certain maid, having a spirit of divination, did meet us, which brought her masters much gain by divining. 17. She followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which preach to us the way of salvation. 18. And this she did many days. And Paul, taking it grievously, and turning back, said to the spirit, I command thee, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that thou come out of her. And he came out the same hour. 19. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, having taken Paul and Silas, they drew them into the market-place to the rulers. 20. And when they had presented them to the magistrates, they said, These men trouble our city, seeing they be Jews: 21. And they preach ordinances, which we may not receive nor keep, seeing we are Romans. 22. And the multitude came together against them; and when the magistrates had rent their garments, they commanded them to be beaten with rods.

16. Luke prosecuteth the increase of the Church; for though he do not straightway in a word express that thing, yet is it easily gathered out of the text, that many were brought into the faith, or at least that the Church was somewhat augmented, and Paul did not frequent the assemblies in time of prayer in vain. Notwithstanding, Luke doth also report that Satan did interrupt this course; to wit, because after that the apostles were beaten with rods, and cast in [into] prison, they were at length enforced to depart the city; yet we shall see in the end of this chapter, that when Satan had done his worst, there was some body of the Church gathered before they did depart.

Having a spirit of divination, (or of Python.) The poets do feign that the serpent called Python was slain with the dart of Phoebus; hereupon rose another invention; F1047 that they said, that those who were possessed were inspired with the spirit of Python, and, peradventure, they were thereupon called Phoebades, in honor of Apollo. But Luke followeth the common custom of speaking, because he showeth the error of the common people, and not through what inspiration the maid did prophesy. For it is certain that the devil did deceive men under the visor of Apollo, as all idolatry and subtilty was invented and forged in his shop. But some men may marvel that the devil (through whose motion and persuasion the maid did cry) was the author of such an honorable commendation, wherewith she adorned Paul and Silas, and the rest. For, seeing that he is the father of lying, how could the truth proceed from him? Secondly, how is it that he gave place willingly to the servants of Christ, by whom his kingdom was destroyed? how can this hang together, that he prepared the minds of the people to hear the gospel, whose mortal enemy he is? Assuredly, there is nothing more proper to him than to turn away the minds of the people from the word of the gospel, which he doth now will and wish them to hear.

Whence cometh such a sudden change, or unwonted emotion? But the devil is the father of lying in such sort, that he covereth himself under the ale and deceivable color of truth. There he played another person through his crafty subtilty, than was agreeable to his nature; F1048 that by creeping in craftily he might do the more hurt; and, therefore, whereas he is called the father of lies, we must not so take it as if he did always lie manifestly and without any color. Yea, rather we must beware of his crafty subtilty, lest when he pretendeth the color of truth he deceive us under a vain show. We see, also, how he useth like subtilty daily. For what can bear a fairer show than the Pope’s titles, wherein he doth not boast himself to be the adversary of Christ, but he doth not boast himself to be the adversary of Christ, but his vicar? What can be more plausible than that solemn preface, In the name of the Lord, Amen? Notwithstanding we know, that whilst the hypocritical ministers of Satan do thus pretend the truth, they corrupt it, and, with a deadly corruption, infect it. Seeing that Satan hath a double way to resist the gospel, to wit, because he doth sometimes rage openly, and sometimes he creepeth in craftily under lies, he hath also two kinds of lying and deceiving, either when he overthroweth the Word of God with false doctrines and gross superstitions, or else when he doth craftily feign that he is a friend of the Word, and so doth insinuate himself subtilely; F1049 yea, he doth never hurt more deadly than when he transformeth himself into an angel of light. Now, we perceive to what end that so gorgeous a title did tend, wherewith he did extol Paul and his companions, namely, because it was not so convenient for him to make open war against the gospel, he went about to overthrow the credit thereof by secret shifts. For if Paul had admitted that testimony, there should have been no longer any difference between the wholesome F1050 doctrine of Christ and the mocks of Satan. The light and brightness of the gospel should have been entangled in the darkness of lying, and so quite put out.

But the question is, why God doth grant Satan so great liberty, as to suffer him to deceive miserable men, and to bewitch them with true divinations? For, omitting the disputations which some men move concerning his foresight, I take this for a plain case, that he doth prophesy and foretell things to come, and which are hidden only through God’s sufferance. But God seemeth by this means to lay open men who are reckless or careless to his subtilty, so that they cannot beware. For seeing that prophecies breathe out divine power, men’s minds must needs be touched with reverence so often as they come abroad, unless they contemn God. I answer, that Satan hath never so much liberty granted him of God, save only that the unthankful world may be punished, which is so desirous of a lie, that it had rather be deceived than obey the truth. For that is a general evil, whereof Paul complaineth in the first chapter to the Romans,(<450121>Romans 1:21,) That men do not glorify God, being known naturally by the creation of the world, and that they suppress his truth unjustly.

It is a just reward for so great unthankfulness, that Satan hath the bridle given him, that through divers jugglings he may work the ruin of those who turn away maliciously from the light of God. Therefore, so often as you read the divinations of Satan, think upon the just judgment of God. Now, if God so sharply punish the contempt of his light in the profane Gentiles, who have no other teachers but the heaven and earth, how much more sharp punishment do those deserve who wittingly and willingly choke the pure doctrine of salvation, revealed to them in the law and the gospel? No marvel, therefore, if Satan have long bewitched the world so freely with his subtilty, since that the truth of the gospel hath been wickedly contemned, which was made most manifest. But it is objected again, that no man is free from danger when false divinations fly to and fro so fast. For even as well the good as the evil seem to be subject to the cozenage of Satan when the truth is darkened and overcast. The answer is ready, though Satan set snares for all men in general, yet are the godly delivered by the grace of God, lest they be caught together with the wicked. There is also a more manifest distinction set down in the Scripture, because the Lord doth by this means try the faith and godliness of his, and doth make blind the reprobate, that they may perish as they be worthy. Therefore Paul saith plainly, that Satan hath not leave granted him to lead any into error save those who will not obey God and embrace the truth, (<530211>2 Thessalonians 2:11,12.)

Whereby is also reproved their wicked ungodliness, who, under this color, excuse the profane contempt of all doctrine; whither shall we turn ourselves, (say they,) seeing that Satan is so expert to deceive? Therefore, it is better for us to live without any religion at all, than, through the desire of religion, to run headlong into destruction. Neither do they object and pretend this fear for their excuse in earnest; but, seeing they desire nothing more than to wander carelessly, like beasts, without any fear of God, they can be content with any excuse, so they be not tied to any religion. I confess, indeed, that Satan doth no less craftily than wickedly abuse the sacred name of God; and that that proverb is too true which Papistry hath brought forth, that, the Lord doth pronounce that he will be the teacher of the humble, and hath promised that he will be nigh to those which are right in heart; seeing that Paul teacheth that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit; seeing that he doth testify that those who are well-grounded in the faith of the gospel are not in danger to be seduced by man; seeing that Peter calleth the Scripture a light shining in a dark place; seeing that courteous exhortation, or inviting of Christ, can never deceive us, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you;” let Satan do what he can, and let the false prophets seek to darken the truth so much as they are able, we need not be afraid lest the Spirit of wisdom and discretion [discernment] forsake us, who ruleth F1051 Satan at his pleasure, and maketh us triumph over him by the faith of his word.

Directory: files -> english -> texts -> calvin -> commentaries
texts -> Ante-nicene fathers
texts -> Henry wace, D. D
texts -> Philip schaff, D. D., LL. D., Professor of church history in the union theological seminary, new york. In connection with a number of patristic scholars of europe and america
commentaries -> The book of joshua by john calvin translated from the original latin, and collated with
texts -> Philip schaff, D. D., LL. D., Professor in the union theological seminary, new york. In connection with a number of patristic scholars of europe and america
texts -> Philip schaff, D. D., LL. D., Professor in the union theological seminary, new york. In connection with a number of patristic scholars of europe and america
texts -> Ante-nicene fathers
texts -> Philip schaff, D. D., LL. D., Professor in the union theological seminary, new york. In connection with a number of patristic scholars of europe and america
commentaries -> The acts of the apostles by john calvin edited from the original english translation of

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