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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 19:18-22

18. And many of those which believed came, confessing, and showing their works.19. And many of those which used curious arts, bringing their books, burnt them before them all; and when they had cast the price of them, they found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.20. So mightily grew the word of the Lord, and was confirmed.21. And when these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in spirit, having passed over Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After that I have been there, I must also see Rome.22. And when he had sent two of those which ministered to him into Macedonia, to wit, Timotheus and Erastus, he stayed for a time in Asia.

18. Many which believed. Luke bringeth forth one token of that fear whereof he spake. For they did indeed declare that they were thoroughly touched and moved with the fear of God, who, of their own accord, did confess the faults and offenses of their former life, lest, through their dissimulation, they should nourish the wrath of God within. We know what a hard matter it is to wring true confession out of those who have offended, for seeing men count nothing more precious than their estimation, they make more account of shame than of truth; yea, so much as in them lieth, they seek to cover their shame. Therefore, this voluntary confession was a testimony of repentance and of fear. For no man, unless he be thoroughly touched, will make himself subject to the slanders and reproaches of men, and will willingly be judged upon earth, that he may be loosed and acquitted in heaven. When he saith, Many, by this we gather that they had not all one cause, for it may be that these men had corrupt consciences a long time; as many are oftentimes infected with hidden and inward vices. Wherefore, Luke doth not prescribe all men a common law; but he setteth before them an example which those must follow who need like medicine. For why did these men confess their facts, save only that they might give testimony of their repentance, and seek counsel and ease at Paul's hands? It was otherwise with those who came unto the baptism of John, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:6). For by this means they did confess that they did enter into repentance without dissimulation.

But in this place Luke teacheth by one kind, after what sort the faithful were touched with the reverence of God, when God set before them an example of his severity. For which cause the impudence of the Papists is the greater, who color their tyranny by this fact. For wherein doth their auricular confession agree with this example? First, the faithful confessed how miserably they had been deceived by Satan before they came to the faith, bringing into the sight of men certain examples. But by the Pope's law it is required that men reckon up all their words and deeds and thoughts. We read that those men confessed this once; the Pope's law commandeth that it be repeated every year at least. These men made confession of their own accord; the Pope bindeth all men with necessity. Luke saith there came many, not all; in the Pope's law there is no exception. These men humbled themselves before the company of the faithful; the Pope giveth a far other commandment, that the sinner confess his sins, whispering in the ear of one priest. Lo, how well they apply the Scriptures to prove their subtilities.

19. Who used curious crafts. Luke doth not only speak of magical jugglings, but of frivolous and vain studies, whereof the more part of men is for the most part too desirous. For he useth the word, perierga, under which the Grecians comprehend whatsoever things have in themselves no sound commodity, but lead men's minds and studies through diverse crooks unprofitably. Such is judicial astrology, as they call it, and whatsoever divinations men invent to themselves against the time to come. They burn their books, that they may cut off all occasion of erring, both for themselves and for others. And whereas the greatness of the price doth not call them back from endamaging themselves so much, they do thereby better declare the study [zeal] of their godliness. Therefore, as Luke did of late describe their confession in words, so now he setteth down the confession they make in deeds. But because the Grecians take argurion for all kind of money, it is uncertain whether Luke doth speak of pence or sestertians. Notwithstanding, because it is certain that he expressed a sum, that we might know that the faithful did valiantly contemn gain, I do nothing doubt but that he meaneth pence, or some other better kind of coin. And fifty thousand pence (denarii) make about nine thousand pound of French money [French livres].

20. Grew mightily [lions.] The word kata kratos doth signify that the word increased not a little, (or that these proceedings were not common) as if he should say, that in those increasings appeared rare efficacy, and such as was greater than it used commonly to be. The word grew do I refer unto the number of men, as if he should have said, that the Church was increased, new disciples being gathered together dally, because doctrine is spread abroad. And I interpret that, that the word was confirmed in every one thus, to wit, that they did profit in the obedience of the gospel and in godliness more and more, and that their faith took deeper root.

21. He purposed in spirit. His meaning is, that Paul purposed to take his journey through the instinct and motion of the Spirit; that we may know that all his whole life was framed according to God's will and pleasure. And therefore hath he the Spirit to be the governor of his actions, because he did both give over himself by him to be ruled, and did also depend upon his government. Neither skilleth that which followeth, that he had not that success in his journey which he did hope for; for God doth oftentimes govern and rule his faithful servants, suffering them to be ignorant of the end. For he will have them so far forth addicted to him, that they follow that which he hath showed them by his Spirit, even shutting their eyes when matters be doubtful. Moreover, it is certain that he was wholly addicted to profit the churches, omitting and foreslowing [neglecting] his own commodity, in that he had rather deprive himself of Timotheus, a most excellent to him of all, most faithful, most dear, finally, a most fit companion, than not to provide for the Macedonians.

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