19. And there came from Antioch and Iconium Jews, by whom the multitudes were persuaded, and when they had stoned Paul, they cast him out without the city, thinking that he was dead.20. And as the disciples stood about him, he arose and entered into the city: and on the morrow he went forth with Barnabas to Derbe.21. And when they had preached the gospel to this city, and had framed malay disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22. Strengthening the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of heaven.
19. There came. Paul and Barnabas can hardly stay the people from doing sacrifice; but a company of knaves do, with small ado, persuade them to stone Paul, whom of late they made a god. Whereby appeareth how much more men be bent unto superstition than unto the true worship of God, and how arrogant superstition is, which will always bear the chief sway in appointing the worship of God. The servants of God seek no other thing but to bring men under obedience of him, which is salvation and felicity alone. They challenge to themselves no lordship, they hunt after no gain; and yet the world cannot abide them. For almost all men murmur; and now and then there rise tumults. Those who are thus stubborn against God, they be too ready to believe seducers, and willingly submit themselves to their tyranny. So the Pope had liberty to deceive at his pleasure, and not only to oppress miserable souls with slavery, but also cruelly to torment them. Whatsoever he commanded it was obediently received, and even at this day, though he make impossible laws, yet dare no man once mutter against them. Nevertheless, the yoke of Christ is sweet, (Matthew 11:30,) and yet few there be who will suffer it.
Therefore, in this history is most lively painted out unto us the forwardness of the world. Paul might have reigned under the title of Mercury, with the commendation of all men; he will not be a god. Because he serveth Christ faithfully, he is stoned. His constancy is commended, to the end we may follow it. He was indeed wonderfully delivered by the Lord; but as touching himself he suffered a most cruel kind of death. Therefore, we must make like account of this testimony, which he doth also recite in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (2 Corinthians 11:25,) as if he had been slain. Furthermore, we need not doubt but that the common sort made insurrection against him outrageously. So that, what violence soever the wicked do to the servants of Christ, it is never called in question; the laws are whist, [silent;] judgments cease; the magistrate is asleep; there is no patron to be found.
20. As the disciples. Though no man defended Paul, yet Luke showeth that the godly were desirous of his life; yet they did so moderate themselves, lest they should attempt anything with great danger to no end, seeing they could not help him unless it were done privily. And surely we must always mark what the Lord hath brought to our hand. If I, standing upon the bank, shall see a man in the midst of the water, and cannot reach him my hand when he is like to be drowned, what is remaining for me to do but to commend him to the Lord? And [but] if there be any hope to help him, then must I endanger myself. Therefore, we will not say that Saint Paul was left alone by the disciples through sloth, seeing they could not help him; and they declare their love and care when they stand about him after he is cast out.
They went to Derbe It appeareth plainly by this that Paul was miraculously saved, seeing that, on the morrow, after he was cast out for dead, he taketh his journey, being fresh and sound; whence it is also gathered what an invincible heart he bare against all evils and afflictions. For he creepeth not into a corner, where, like an overworn soldier, he may live idly; but he goeth to the same places where he was uncourteously and cruelly handled but a little before. Notwithstanding Luke showeth that the church was first planted among the men of Derbe, he addeth afterward, that Paul and Barnabas returned unto the churches which they had ordained, that they might confirm the disciples; whereby by he giveth us to understand that the use of the Word consisteth not in instruction only, whereby the hearer is only taught, but that it is also available for confirmation of faith, in admonishing, exhorting, and reproving. And Christ doth not only command his ministers to teach, but also to exhort; and Paul saith that the Scripture is profitable not only to teach, but also to exhort, (2 Timothy 3:16.) Wherefore, let not pastors think that they have done their duty as they ought, when they have well trained up their people in true knowledge, unless they employ themselves to this part also. Again, let not the faithful neglect the Word of God, as if the reading and preaching thereof were unnecessary; because there is no man who hath not need of continual confirmation.
22. And exhorting them. This was the principal way to confirm, in that they provoke the disciples who had before embraced the Gospel and did profess it, to go forward by exhorting them; for we are far from being so ready and stout as we ought. Therefore our laziness needeth pricks, and our coldness must be warmed. But because God will have his exercised with diverse combats, Paul and Barnabas admonish the disciples to be ready to suffer tribulation. A very necessary admonition, that we must go on warfare in this world, that we may live well and godly. If the flesh should not molest us, if Satan should attempt nothing, if the wicked should not trouble us with some stumbling-blocks, it were no such troublesome thing to persevere; because that were a sweet walk through a soft and pleasant way; but because there arise on every side, and every minute of an hour, [moment,] infinite assaults, which provoke us to fall away, there ariseth the hardness, and therefore is it that the virtue of constancy is so rare. Therefore, to the end we may persist even unto the end, we must be prepared for war.
But Luke speaketh not in this place only of the persecutions which the adversaries raise against us with drawn swords and flaming fires; but he comprehendeth under the word tribulations, all sorrows and miseries whereunto the life of the godly is subject; not because the faithful alone are miserable; because this is the common state both of the good and bad. Whence also cometh that famous proverb, It is the best not to be born; and the next to die very quickly. But when as God doth oftentimes spare the wicked, and doth fat them with prosperity, he is more sharp and hard, toward his children. For besides common molestations, they are oppressed peculiarly with many discommodities, and the Lord doth humble them with such exercises, keeping their flesh under correction lest it wax wanton; he awaketh them, lest they lie sleeping upon earth. Unto these are added the reproaches and slanders of the wicked; for they must be, as it were, the offscourings of the world. Their simpleness is laughed at; but they use wicked mocks and scoffs, principally against God. Last of all, the lust of the wicked breaketh out into open violence; so that they have need to strive with many tribulations, and it cannot be but that all their life shall be envied and unquiet amidst so many enemies. But this is the best comfort, and which is sufficient enough to confirm their minds, that this way (though it be hard and sharp) leadeth unto the kingdom of heaven. For we gather by this that the miseries of the godly are more happy than be all the doting dainties and delights of the world.
Therefore, let us remember, first, that this condition is set down for us, that we suffer many tribulations; yet let us also remember to add this, to mitigate the bitterness thereof, that by them we be brought unto the kingdom of God. Furthermore, their babbling is frivolous, who gather hereby that patience is a work which deserveth eternal salvation, seeing that the cause of salvation is not in this place handled, but after what sort God useth to handle his in this world; and the comfort is added, not to extol the dignity and merit of works, but only to encourage the godly, that they faint not under the burden of the cross. All mankind, as we have said before, as well one as other, is subject to many miseries; but the afflictions of the reprobate are no thing else to them but the very entry of hell; but these turn to the saints to an happy and joyful end, and for them they fall out well; and so, consequently, they be helps for salvation, because they take part with Christ. We must note that Paul and Barnabas being not content with the plural number, do plainly set down many tribulations, lest any man, after he hath suffered one or two, or a few, do at length sink down. Therefore, let the faithful think that they must pass through continual miseries; that done, let them prepare themselves not for one kind of persecution only, but for diverse kinds. For though God handle some men more courteously and gently, yet doth he pamper none of his so daintily that he is free from all tribulations.