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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 21:26-30

26. Then when Paul had taken the men, on the morrow, being purified with them, he entered into the temple, declaring the fulfilling of the days of purification until an offering might be offered for every one of them.27. And when the seven days were now almost ended, certain Jews of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, moved the people, and laid hands on him, 28. Crying, Men of Israel, help: This is that man, which teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place. Moreover, he hath also brought Grecians into the temple, and hath defiled this holy place.29. For they had seen Trophimus an Ephesian in the city with him, whom they thought Paul had brought into the temple.30. And all the whole city was moved, and the people ran together: and when they had caught Paul, they drew him out of the temple: and by and by the doors were shut.

26. Whereas some accuse Paul of subtilty, as if he did play the hypocrite, I have before refuted this. Yet I do not deny but that he granted to do thus much at the request of the brethren, being thereunto in a manner enforced. Therefore, it hath more color, and is (as they say) more disputable, that he was too easily entreated, and too ready to obey; and yet I do not admit that which some men say, that it went not well with Paul, because, taking upon him a new and unwonted person, he did not so constantly, as he was wont, maintain the liberty purchased by Christ. I confess, indeed, that God doth oftentimes punish foolish purposes with unhappy success; but I see not why this should be applied to Paul, who through voluntary subjection sought to win the favor of the rude, and such as were not thoroughly instructed, that he might do them good; being about to do that not willingly, but because he had rather yield to the brethren than stick to his own judgment. Furthermore, when he was once admitted, he might fitly have passed over to moderate that zeal. His courtesy doth rather deserve great praise, in that he doth not only gently abase himself for the unskillful people's sake, but doth also obey their foolishness who did unworthily, and against reason, suspect him. He might well have reproved them, because they had been so ready to believe reports contrary to his estimation [reputation]. In that he abstaineth, he showeth great patience; in that he winneth their favor so carefully, it is singular modesty.

Moreover, he might have been more rough and round with James and his fellows in office, because they had not been more diligent to root out errors from among the people. For though it be certain that they taught faithfully, yet it may be that the sight of the temple, and the very seat of the law, did hinder them in defending the use of liberty. But Paul, whether he went from his right of his own accord, or whether he think that they see better what is expedient than he, doth follow their counsel. And whereas false Nicodemites, following this example of Paul, go about to color their treacherous dissimulation, whilst they pollute themselves with all filthiness of Popery, it needeth no long refutation. They boast that they do this to win the weak brethren, (or that they follow their vein thus far) as if Paul did yield to them in all things without choice. If, being Jews, they should take upon them according to the pre-script of the law, to fulfill among the Jews a vow infected with no idolatry, then might they prove themselves to be like Paul. Now, forasmuch as they inwrap themselves in gross and altogether wicked superstitions, and that because they will escape the cross, what likelihood is that which they imagine?

27. The Jews which came from Asia. It is certain that these men were enemies to the name of Christ and of Christians, so that whilst Paul is bent to pacify the faithful, he incurreth the rage of the enemies. Those of Asia are, indeed, the raisers of the tumult; but the minds of all the people were so corrupt with the hatred of him that they all became partners in the fury. But this place teacheth, that we must not take it impatiently if at any time our hope be frustrate, and our counsels, which we have taken with a right and holy affection, fall not out well, that our actions may have an happy end. We must attempt nothing but with a good conscience, and according to the Spirit of God. But and if things come not to pass as we would, even then, let that inward feeling uphold us, that we know that God alloweth [approveth] our desire, though it be laid open to the reproaches and mocks of men; neither let it repent us of our gentleness, if at any time the wicked reward us otherwise than we deserve.

28. Men of Israel, help. They cry out as if they were in extreme danger, and they call upon all men to help them, as if all religion were in hazard. Whereby we see with what furious hatred they were inflamed against Paul, only because in showing that the full and perfect truth is found in Christ, he taught that the figures of the law had an end. Now, whereas they conceive a false opinion, having seen Trophimus, they do more betray by this headlong lightness how venomous they be. They accuse Paul of sacrilege. Why? because he brought into the temple a man which was uncircumcised. But they laid a most cruel crime to the charge of an innocent through a false opinion. Thus the boldness of those men useth commonly to be preposterous who are carried away with an opinion conceived before. But let us learn by such examples to beware of the distemperature of affections, and not to let light prejudices have the rein, lest we run headlong upon the innocent, being carried with blind force.

30. And the city was moved. We see in this place the vanity of the common people, which count Paul a condemned man before ever they hear him. Whereas the city is moved about godliness, |it is no marvel; but this is a point of perverse zeal and mad rashness, in that they set themselves against Paul before they know his matter. For in this corruption of nature frowardness is joined with foolishness, so that those will readily, of their own accord, make haste to maintain an evil cause who can hardly be moved with many exhortations to do well. This is a hard case, that the whole world should be armed against us at a sudden, through the persuasion of a few; but seeing it pleaseth the Lord it should be so, let every one of us prepare himself by this, and such like examples, to suffer all manner [of] assaults, and to bear and abide all brunts.

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