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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 19:13-17

13. And certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, essayed to name over those which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.14. And there were certain sons of Sceva, a Jew, the chief of the priests, who did this.15. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? 16. And the man in whom the evil spirit was ran upon them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they escaped out of that house naked and wounded.17. And this was known to all both Jews and Grecians which dwelt at Ephesus; and fear came upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

13. To the end it may more plainly appear that the apostleship of Paul was confirmed by those miracles whereof mention was made of late, Luke doth now teach that when certain did falsely pretend the name of Christ, such abuse was most sharply punished. Whereby we gather that such miracles were wrought by the hand of Paul, to no other end, save only that all men might know that he did faithfully preach Christ to be the power of God; forasmuch as the Lord did not only not suffer them to be separate from the pure doctrine of the gospel; but did so sharply punish those who did draw them preposterously unto their enchantments; whence we gather again, that whatsoever miracles do darken the name of Christ they be juggling casts of the devil; and that those be coziness and falsifiers who draw the true miracles of God to any other end, save only that true religion may be established.

Certain exorcists. I do not doubt but that this office did proceed of foolish emulation. God was wont to exercise his power diverse ways among the Jews; and he had used the prophets in times past as ministers to drive away devils; under color hereof they invented conjuration, and hereupon was erected unadvisedly an extraordinary function without the commandment of God. Also, it may be that (God appointing it so to be) it did somewhat; not that he favored it preposterously, but that they might more willingly retain the religion of their fathers, until the coming of Christ. Under the reign of Christ, wicked ambition caused strife between the Christians and the Jews. For exorcists were made after the will of men; after that (as superstition doth always wax worse and worse) the Pope would have this common to all his clerks, who were to be promoted unto an higher degree. For after that they be made door-keepers, forthwith the conjuring of devils is committed to them; and by very experience they set themselves to be laughed at. For they are enforced to confess that they give a vain title, and such as is without effect, for where is the power they have to conjure devils? and the very exorcists themselves do take upon them, to their own reproach, an office which they never put in practice. But this falleth out justly, that. there is no end of erring, when men depart from the word of God. As touching these men, we gather that they were wandering rogues, and such as went from door to door, of which sort we see many at this day in Popery; for he saith that they went about. By which words he giveth us to understand, that they went to and fro as occasion was offered them to deceive men.

We adjure you by Jesus. It is a thing like to be true, [probable] that these deceivers flee unto the name of Christ, that they might get new power, whereof they had falsely boasted before, or because the power which they had did cease, that they might darken the gospel. This invocation had two faults; for whereas they were enemies to Paul's doctrine, they abuse the color thereof without faith, as it were, unto magical enchantments; secondly, they take to themselves without the calling of God that which is not in man's hand. But the lawful calling upon the name of God and Christ is that which is directed by faith, and doth not pass the bounds of a man's calling. Wherefore, we are taught by this example, that we must attempt nothing, unless we have the light of the word of God going before us, lest we suffer like punishment for our sacrilege. The Lord himself commandeth us to pray. Whosoever they be which have not the gift of miracles given them, let them keep themselves within these bounds. For when the apostles made the unclean spirits come out of men, they had God for their author, and they knew that they did faithfully execute the ministry which he had enjoined them.

16. The man running upon them. That is attributed to the man which the devil did by him. For he had not been able to do such an act of himself, as to put to flight seven strong young men being wounded and naked. And to set down for a certainty how the devil doth dwell in men, we cannot, save only that there may be a contrariety between the Spirit of God and the spirit of Satan. For as Paul teacheth that we be the temples of God, because the Spirit of God dwelleth in us; so he saith again that Satan worketh effectually in all unbelievers. Notwithstanding, we must know that Luke speaketh in this place of a particular kind of dwelling; to wit, when Satan hath the bridle so much that he doth possess the whole man.

Furthermore, God meant to show such a token, that he might declare that his power is not included in the sound of the voice, and that it is not lawful superstitiously to abuse the name of his Son. And when he suffereth Satan to deceive us, let us know that we be more sharply punished than if he should wound us in the flesh. For the false show and color of miracles is an horrible enchantment to bewitch and besot the unbelievers, that they may be drowned in deeper darkness, because they refused the light of God.

17. There came fear. The fruit of that vengeance which God brought upon those who did wickedly abuse the name of Christ is this, in that they were all touched with reverence, lest they should contemn that doctrine, whose revenger the Lord hath showed by an evident token and testimony he would be, and they were brought to reverence Christ. For, besides that God doth invite us by all his judgments to come thus far, that they may terrify us from sinning, in this example peculiarly was the majesty of Christ set forth, and the authority of the gospel established. Wherefore, there is more heavy and grievous punishment prepared for deceivers, who, with their enchantments, profane the name of Christ wittingly, lest they promise to themselves that they shall escape unpunished for such gross sacrilege. Whereas he saith that it was made known to all men, it signifieth as much as commonly or everywhere. For his meaning is, that the matter was much talked of among the people, to the end the name of Christ might be made known to more men.

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