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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 14:11-13

11. Furthermore, when the multitude had seen what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice, saying, in the speech of Lycaonia, Gods being made like to men are come down to us.12. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter, and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the captain of the speech. 13. And Jupiter's priest, which was before their city, bringing bulls and crowns [chaplets] unto the gates, would have done sacrifice with the multitude.

11. Furthermore, the multitude. This history doth abundantly testify how ready and bent men are unto vanity. Paul uttered not that word abruptly, Arise; but he added it as it were a conclusion to the sermon made concerning Christ. Yet the people ascribe the praise of the miracle unto their idols, as if they had heard no word of Christ. Indeed, it is no such wonder, that the barbarous men fell unto superstition which they had learned from their childhood, so soon as they saw the miracle. But this vice is too common every where, and it is so bred in us, to be perverse and wrong interpreters of the works of God. Hence come such gross dotings of superstitions in Popery, because catching rashly at miracles, they take no heed to doctrine. For which cause we must take the better heed, and be the more sober, lest we happen with the sense of the flesh to corrupt (whereunto we are so bent) the power of God, which shineth and appeareth to us for our salvation. And no marvel if the Lord would have only a few miracles wrought, and that for a short time, lest through the lust of men they should be drawn unto a far contrary end; because it is unmeet that he should set his name to be mocked of the world, which must needs be, when that which is proper to him is translated unto idols, or the unbelievers corrupt his works, to invent corrupt worshipping, while that setting the word aside, they catch at every divine power which they feign.

Gods like to men. This was an opinion drawn from old fables, which, notwithstanding, took the beginning of truth. The books of the poets are full of these toys, that the gods were often seen upon earth in the likeness of men; and yet we may well think that this carne not of nothing, but rather that profane men did turn that into fables, which the holy fathers taught in times past concerning angels. And it may be that Satan, when he had men besotted, did with diverse jugglings delude them. This is of a truth, whatsoever was God's, whensoever it went with the infidels, it was corrupt by their wicked inventions. The same must we likewise think of sacrifices, wherein God did exercise his even from the beginning, that they might have the external signs of godliness and of the worship of God. And after that the unbelievers invented to themselves strange gods, they abused the sacrifices unto their sacrilegious worship. When the men of Lycaonia see unwonted power in the cripple that was healed, they persuade themselves that it is a work of God; this is all well. But it was evil done, in that they forge to themselves false gods in Paul and Barnabas, according to the old [wonted] error, for what is the cause that they prefer Barnabas before Paul, save only because they follow the childish surmise [fiction] concerning Mercury, the interpreter of the gods, in which they had been nourished? By which example we are taught what a mischief it is to be accustomed and acquainted with errors in youth, which can so hardly be rooted out of the mind, that even through the works of God, whereby they ought to have been redressed, they wax more hard.

13. Also Jupiter's priest. Though Luke doth not express with what affection he [this priest] was moved to be so diligent, yet it is to be thought, that, forasmuch as there was great hope of most plentiful gain offered, he was moved with covetousness. For he had great hope of gain in time to come, if it should be noised abroad that Jupiter appeared there. For this opinion would by and by have followed, that Jupiter was more delighted in the temple of Lystra than in any other. And so soon as such superstition hath once filled the minds of men, they spare no cost to offer sacrifice. The world is indeed of itself inclined to this, but then came the sacrificing priests, who are like fans and bellows. And it is not to be doubted, but that the whole multitude was moved with ambition, to be so desirous to offer sacrifice to Paul under the name of Jupiter, that their city might be the more famous and noble. Hence hath Satan so great liberty [license] to deceive, whilst that the sacrificing priests set nets to get gain, and the people are delighted to have errors confirmed.

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