39. And we are witnesses of all things which he did in the country of the Jews, and at Jerusalem, whom they slew, hanging him on a tree.40. Him God raised the third day, and showed him openly, 41. Not unto all the people, but to the witnesses appointed before of God for this purpose; namely, to us who did eat and drink with him after that he was risen from the dead: 42. And he commanded us that we should preach to the people, and should testify that he is appointed judge of the quick and dead.43. To this man do all the prophets bear witness, that whosoever believeth in him may, through his name, receive remission of sins.
39. And we be witnesses. That he may make his words to be believed, he saith, that he and his fellows in office saw with their eyes all those things which they spake concerning Christ. Shortly after, he taketh the word witness in another sense, when he saith that they were appointed witnesses by God, and that they are brought forth, as it were, by God, that they might by their preaching bring men unto the faith of Christ. So Paul, in the fifteenth of the First to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 15:15,) saith,
|We (saith he) should be found false witnesses [of Gods] unless Christ were risen from the dead.|
And we have already heard by the mouth of Christ, |Ye shall be my witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and at Jerusalem.| And now Peter calleth himself only an historical witness, because he beheld the things which were done. And here he toucheth his death briefly, because it was openly known; he standeth longer upon his resurrection, which was more doubtful, and the knowledge whereof was more available unto faith.
41. If any man demand here, Why God did not show his Son openly to all men after his resurrection? I answer, Although there could no reason be showed, yet ought the counsel of God alone to suffice sober and modest men, that they may assure themselves without all doubt that that is best which God hath thought meet. And yet, assuredly God used this moderation to a good end. For the certainty of the resurrection was proved by many and firm testimonies, and this was profitable to exercise the faith of the godly, to believe the gospel rather than their eyes. As touching the wicked and professed enemies of Christ seeing that being so often convict they would never yield to God, they were unworthy to have Christ to admit them to behold the glow of his resurrection. Though even they were sufficiently convict with the report of the soldiers, whom they had hired to keep the sepulcher; that I may omit other reasons which we may fet out of the Harmony. Therefore, let us assure ourselves of this, that the holy apostles were chosen by the holy decree of God, that by their testimony the truth of Christ's resurrection might stand. Whosoever is not content with this approbation, let him take away and overthrow if he can that inviolable decree of God, which Peter commendeth to us in this place. And as for us, if we covet to have God the sure author of our faith let us learn to be content with the witnesses whom in due time he hath brought forth, as it were, by his hand, being ordained by him before the world was made.
Who did eat. And here it appeareth what great regard Christ had of our rudeness and ignorance, who did abase himself so far for our sake, that when he was now endued with heavenly glory, he did yet, notwithstanding, eat and drink as a mortal man. Wherefore, there is no cause why we should complain that the resurrection of Christ is obscure and doubtful; for he suffered his disciples to be slow and hard of belief for this cause, that being better confirmed, they might take from us all occasion of doubting. Yea, rather, we must endeavor ourselves that our unworthiness and unthankfulness do not darken so great kindness of the Son of God toward us. But when as the Scripture saith, that Christ did eat, curious men move a question, what became of that meat? But the answer is easy; that like as it was created out of nothing, so was it easily brought to nothing by the divine power of Christ. That meat which is taken for the sustenance of the body is concocted and afterward digested; but we know that Christ took this meat to feed our faith, and in this use was it spent. And those men are deceived who think that Christ did only seem to eat, For what good could such a visor or vain show have done? For when, as we say that Christ was not enforced with any necessity of his own to eat, but that he meant only to provide for those that were his, all occasion is cut off from the frivolous inventions of men.
42. And he commanded us. He beginneth in this place to intreat of the kingdom of Christ, when he saith that Christ did rise again for this cause, that he may once judge the world. For by the same right are the government of heaven and earth, and the perpetual government of the Church, due to him. He saith that he shall be judge of quick and dead; because, when as the dead shall rise again, others also, who shall then remain alive, shall be changed in a moment, as Paul teacheth in the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52,) and in the First to the Thessalonians, and the fourth chapter, (1 Thessalonians 4:17.) In the word testify there is great weight; because, as men are naturally inclined unto unbelief, the simple preaching of the gospel should not be so effectual, unless the Lord should establish it with strong protestations. And chiefly, every one of us doth feel in himself too much what a hard matter it is both to lift up our minds to hope for the coming of Christ, which are entangled in earthly snares, and also continually to keep them fixed in this meditation, seeing they cease not with their lightness to be carried hither and thither continually.
43. To him bear all the prophets. Luke toucheth and gathereth the sum of the sermon briefly, as we have said; therefore is he so short in noting the fruit of the history. Let us know that the words uttered by Peter are not recited in this place; but that it, is only declared of what things he intreated. And we must consider three things, That it is the proper office of Christ to reconcile men to God when their sins are done away; that we have remission of sins by faith; that this doctrine is not new or of late invented, but that it had all the prophets of God since the beginning of the world to bear witness of it.
As touching the first, if God be pleased and pacified by not imputing our sins, it appeareth hereby that he hateth and is displeased with all mankind, until such time as they begin to please him by free pardon. Therefore we are all condemned of sin, which maketh us subject to the wrath of God, and bindeth us with the guiltiness of eternal death; and because we are destitute of righteousness in ourselves, we are taught to flee unto the mercy of God, as unto our only fortress. When as he saith that the faithful receive remission of sins, there is understood a hidden contrariety between them and God; for God must needs offer it of his own accord that the faithful may receive it. When as he saith that it is given by the name of Christ, his meaning is, that we return into God's favor by the benefit of Christ alone, because he hath once reconciled him to us by his death; or, as they say commonly, that we obtain forgiveness of sins by Christ's mediation, (and coming between,) and by none other means.
Satan could never blot out of the minds of men the feeling of their guiltiness, but that they were always careful to crave pardon at God's hands; but forasmuch as there was but one way and means to obtain pardon, miserable men, being deluded with the jugglings [impostures] of Satan, did invent to themselves wonderful labyrinths, in whose crooks and turns they wearied themselves in vain. This first error did first lead them away from the right way, because they essayed to deserve pardon, which is offered freely, and is received by faith alone. Afterward there were innumerable kinds of satisfactions [expiations] invented whereby they appeased God. The beginning thereof flowed indeed from the Word of God; but forasmuch as when God gave unto the fathers the sacrifices and rites of oblations, he shadowed Christ, blind and profane men, setting Christ aside, and following a vain shadow, did corrupt all that which was God's in sacrifices and satisfactions. Wherefore, what sacrifices soever the Gentiles did use since the beginning of the world, and those which the Turks and Jews use at this day, may be set against Christ as things altogether contrary. The Papists are never a whit better, save only that they sprinkle their satisfactions with the blood of Christ; but they deal too disorderly therein, because, being not content with Christ alone, they gather to themselves, on every side, a thousand manner of sacrifices or satisfactions. Therefore, whosoever desireth to have remission of sins, let him not turn aside from Christ, even the least nail's breadth.
When as we hear, that we have remission of sins by believing, we must understand and know the force and nature of faith, as undoubtedly Peter intreated abundantly of this, [viz.] after what sort we must believe in Christ. And this is nothing else, but with the sincere affection of the mind to embrace him as he is set before us in the gospel; so that faith dependeth upon the promises. Yet Peter seemeth to deal amiss, because whereas we have two principal things by our Savior Christ, he doth only make mention of the one of them; for he speaketh nothing of repentance and newness of 1ife, which ought not to be omitted in the sum of the gospel. But we may easily answer, That the regeneration of the Spirit is comprehended under faith, as it is an effect thereof. For we believe in Christ for this cause, partly that he may restore us unto the Father's favor by the free imputation of righteousness; partly that he may sanctify us by his Spirit, And we know that we are adopted by God to be his children upon this condition, that he may govern us by his Spirit. Therefore, it was sufficient for Peter to show how men, who were by nature estranged from God, do return into favor with him.
As touching the third member, we need not reckon up all places of the prophets, where they set before us Christ to be the mediator, who by obtaining pardon for our sins, doth reconcile God to us; but this is their common order of teaching, and, as it were, their rule, to call back all the godly unto that covenant which God made with Abraham putting the mediator between. Furthermore, this point is very needful to be known, that the grace which was offered at length by Christ is the same which the law and the prophets, in times past, delivered unto the fathers to be hoped for. And surely it was of great force with Cornelius and such like, who did greatly reverence the law and prophets, that they might know that that was performed and accomplished in very deed in Christ which was testified in the oracles of the prophets. Therefore, to the end the ministers of the Church may agree with the prophets in their form of teaching, let them study by preaching to set forth Christ; let them continually testify that we must seek righteousness at his hands alone, which consisteth upon [of] free remission of sins. This is another manner of antiquity than that which is showed with great boasting of the Papists, whilst that they thrust in the rotten inventions of their satisfactions into the place of Christ's blood.