44. And as Peter yet spake these words, the Spirit came down upon all which heard the word.45. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also were poured out the gifts of the Holy Ghost.46. For they heard them speak with tongues, and glorify God. Then Peter answered, 47. Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Spirit as well as we? 48. And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
44. And as Peter yet spake. God declareth now by a new miracle, that the doctrine of the gospel is common as well to the Gentiles as to the Jews. And this is an excellent seal of the calling of the Gentiles; because the Lord would never have vouchsafed to bestow upon the Gentiles the graces of his Spirit, unless it had been to declare that even they were adopted together into the society of the covenant. These gifts, mentioned by Luke, differ indeed from the grace of regeneration; and yet, undoubtedly, God did by this means seal both Peter's doctrine, and also their faith and godliness which heard him. He saith that they were all endowed with the Spirit, like as we saw before, that they came all encouraged to learn and obey.
This visible sign representeth unto us, as it were in a table, what an effectual instrument of God's power the preaching of the gospel is; for he poured out his Spirit as Peter spake, to the end he might show that he sendeth not teachers to that end, that they may beat the air with the vain sound of their voice, but that he may work mightily by their voice, and may quicken the same by the power of his Spirit, to the salvation of the godly. Thus doth Paul put the Galatians (Galatians 3:2.) in mind, that they received the Holy Ghost by the hearing of faith; and in another place he saith that he is the minister of the Spirit, and not of the letter, (2 Corinthians 3:6.) The gift of the tongues, and other such like things, are ceased long ago in the Church; but the spirit of understanding and of regeneration is of force, and shall always be of force, which the Lord coupleth with the external preaching of the gospel, that he may keep us in reverence of his word, and may prevent the deadly dotings, wherein brain-sick fellows enwrap themselves, whilst that, forsaking the word, they invent an erroneous and wandering spirit. But it doth not, nor shall not, always so fall out, that all those which hear the word with their outward ears, do or shall also receive the Spirit; and the ministers do seldom light upon such hearers as Peter had, who are willing, with one consent, to follow God. Yet he bringeth to pass that all the elect feel in themselves the consent of the external word, and of the secret power of the Spirit.
45. The faithful were astonished. He calleth them faithful who were as yet possessed with a wicked error. So the Lord doth not by and by wipe away all clouds of ignorance from his, and yet they do not darken the praise of faith before God, because he pardoneth errors and doth vouchsafe to favor it, as if it were pure and plain. And yet it is a wonder, that seeing they knew that Peter was sent of God, they would now be amazed, as at some strange and new thing, because God giveth the grace of his Spirit to those to whom he would have Christ now preached; but the sudden change is the cause of this, because, whereas God until that day had separated the Gentiles from his people as strangers and aliens, he doth now favor them both alike, and lifteth them up into the like degree of honor. Although we be also taught by this example, how hard a matter it is for us to wind out ourselves out of our errors once conceived, especially when they are of any continuance.
46. For they heard them. He expresseth what gifts of the Spirit were poured out upon them, and therewithal he noteth the use; to wit, that they had variety of tongues given them, so that they did glorify God with many tongues. Also, it may be gathered out of this place, that the tongues were given them not only for necessity, seeing the gospel was to be preached to strangers and to men of another language, but also to be an ornament and worship to the gospel. But ambition did afterward corrupt this second use, forasmuch as many did translate that unto pomp and vain glory which they had received to set forth the dignity of the heavenly wisdom, as Paul doth sharply reprove this fault in the Corinthians. Therefore, no marvel if God took away that shortly after which he had given, and did not suffer the same to be corrupted with longer abuse.
47. Peter answered. Peter reasoneth from the thing to the sign; for, seeing that baptism is an addition or appurtenance of the spiritual grace, he which hath received the Spirit is also apt [fit] to receive baptism; and this is the (most) lawful order, that the minister admit those unto the receiving of the outward sign whom God hath testified to be his children by the mark and pledge of his Spirit; so that faith and doctrine are first. And whereas unlearned men infer thereupon that infants are not to be baptized, it is without all reason. I grant that those who are strangers from the Church must be taught before the sign of adoption be given them; but I say, that the children of the faithful which are born in the Church are from their mother's womb of the household of the kingdom of God. Yea, the argument which they use preposterously against us do I turn back [retort] upon themselves; for, seeing that God hath adopted the children of the faithful before they be born, I conclude thereupon that they are not to be defrauded of the outward sign; otherwise men shall presume to take that from them which God hath granted them. As touching the manifest grace of the Spirit, there is no absurdity therein, if it follow after baptism in them.
And as this testimony maketh nothing for maintenance of their error, so it doth strongly refute the error of the Papists, who tie the grace of the Spirit to the signs, and think that the same is fet [fetched] from heaven with enchantments, as those witches did think that they did pull down the moon with their charms. But forasmuch as Luke saith that these had the Holy Ghost given them who were not as yet baptized, he showeth that the Spirit is not included in baptism. Lastly, we must note that the apostles were content with water alone when as they did baptize, and would to God this plainness had been retained amongst their posterity, and that they had not gathered here and there divers trifles, whereof baptism is filth in Popery. They think that the worthiness of baptism is adorned with oil, salt, spittle, wax-candles, whereas they are rather filthy pollutions which corrupt the pure and natural [genuine] institution of Christ.
48. And he commanded them to be baptized. It was not of necessity that baptism should be ministered by Peter's hand, as Paul doth likewise testify that he baptized few at Corinth, for other ministers might take this charge upon them. Whereas he saith, in the name of the Lord, it must not be restrained unto the form, as we have said in the third chapter; but because Christ is the proper scope of baptism, therefore are we said to be baptized in his name. When as Luke saith, last of all, that Peter was requested by Cornelius and his kinsmen that he would tarry a few days, he commendeth in them their desire to profit. They were, indeed, endued with the Holy Ghost; but they were not so come to the top, but that confirmation was as yet profitable for them. And, according to their example, so often as opportunity to profit offereth itself, we must use it diligently; and let us not swell with pride, which stoppeth the way before doctrine.