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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 26:24-32

24. And as Paul answered for himself, Festus saith with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.25. And Paul said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and sobriety.26. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom I also speak freely: for I think that none of these things are hidden from him; for this was not done in a corner.27. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.28. And Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou briefly persuadest me to become a Christian.29. And Paul saith, Would to God that not only thou, but also all which hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.30. And when he had thus spoken, the king arose, and the governor, and Bernice, and those which sat with them.31. And when they were gone apart, they talked together between themselves, saying, This man doth nothing worthy of death or bonds.32. Then Agrippa said to Festus, This man might have been loosed, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

24. Festus said with a loud voice. This outcry which Festus doth make doth show how much the truth of God prevaileth with the reprobate; to wit, though it be never so plain and evident, yet is it trodden under foot by their pride. For though those things which Paul had alleged out of the law and prophets had nothing in them which was anything like to madness, but were grounded in good reason, yet he doth attribute the same to madness, not because he seeth any absurdity, but because he refuseth those things which he doth not understand. Nothing was more foolish or more unsavory than the superstitions of the Gentiles, so that their high priests were for good causes ashamed to utter their mysteries, whose folly was more than ridiculous.

Festus doth grant that there was learning packed in Paul's speech; nevertheless, because the gospel is hidden from the unbelievers, whose minds Satan hath blinded, (2 Corinthians 4:3) he thinketh that he is a brain-sick fellow which handleth matters intricately. So that though he cannot mock and openly contemn him, yet he is so far from being moved or inwardly touched, that he counteth him a man which is frenzy [frenzied] and of mad curiosity. And this is the cause that he cannot away to mark what he saith, lest he make him mad also; as many at this day fly from the word of God, lest they drown themselves in a labyrinth. And they think that we be mad because we move questions concerning hidden matters, and so become troublesome both to ourselves and also to others. Wherefore, being admonished by this example, let us beg of God that he will show us the light of his doctrine, and that he will therewithal give us a taste thereof, lest through obscurity and hardness it become unsavory, and at length proud loathsomeness break out into blasphemy.

25. I am not mad. Paul is not angry, neither doth he sharply reprehend Festus for his blasphemous speech; yea, he speaketh unto him with great submission. For it was no place for reprehension, and it became him to pardon the ignorance of the man, seeing he did not set himself face to face against God. Also, he had respect unto his person [office]. For though he were unworthy of honor, yet was he in authority. And yet for all that he doth not therefore give place to his blasphemy, but he defendeth the glory of the word of God. Whereby we do also see, that not caring for himself, he did only take thought for his doctrine. For he doth not vaunt of his wit; he doth not labor in defense of his wisdom; but he is content with this defense alone, that he teacheth nothing but that which is true and sober.

Furthermore, [the] truth is set against all manner [of] fallacies and fraud: sobriety against all manner [of] frivolous speculations and thorny subtilties, which are only seeds of contention. Paul doth, indeed, refute Festus' error; yet we may gather by this, which is the best manner of teaching, to wit, that which is not only clean from all fallacies and deceit, but also doth not make the minds of men drunk with vain questions, and doth not nourish foolish curiosity, nor an intemperate desire to know more than is meet, but is moderate and good for sound edification.

26. For the king hnoweth of these things. He turneth himself unto Agrippa, in whom there was more hope. And, first, he saith that he knew the history of the things; but he calleth him straightway back to the law and the prophets. For it was to small end for him to know the thing which was done, unless he did know that those things which had been spoken before of Christ were fulfilled in the person of Jesus which was crucified. And whereas Paul doth not doubt of Agrippa's faith, he doth it not so much to praise him, as that he may put the Scripture out of all question, lest he be enforced to stand upon the very principles. Therefore, his meaning is, that the Scripture is of sufficient credit of itself, so that it is not lawful for a man that is a Jew to diminish any jot of the authority thereof. And yet Paul doth not flatter him; for though he did not reverence the Scripture as became a godly man, yet he had this rudiment from his childhood, that he was persuaded that nothing is contained therein besides the oracles of God. As the common sort of men, though they do not greatly care for the word of God, yet they acknowledge and confess generally and confusedly that it is the word of God, so that they are letted with some reverence either to reject or to despise the same.

28. And Agrippa said unto Paul. The apostle prevailed thus far at least, that he wrung out of king Agrippa a confession, though it were not voluntary, as those use to yield who can no longer resist the truth, or, at least, to show some token of assent. Agrippa's meaning is, that he will not willingly become a Christian; yea, that he will not be one at all; and yet that he is not able to gainsay, but that he is drawn after a sort against his will. Whereby it appeareth how great the pride of man's nature is until it be brought under to obey by the Spirit of God.

Interpreters expound this, en oligo diversely. Valla thought that it ought to be translated thus, Thou dost almost make me a Christian. Erasmus doth translate it a little. The old interpreter dealeth more plainly in a little; because, translating it word for word, he left it to the readers to judge at their pleasure. And surely it may be fitly referred unto the time, as if Agrippa had said, Thou wilt make me a Christian straightway, or in one moment. If any man object that Paul's answer doth not agree thereto, we may quickly answer; for seeing the speech was doubtful, Paul doth fitly apply that unto the thing which was spoken of the time. Therefore, seeing Agrippa did mean that he was almost made a Christian in a small time, Paul addeth that he doth desire that as well he as his companions might rise from small beginnings, and profit more and more; and yet I do not mislike that that en oligo doth signify as much as almost. This answer doth testify with what zeal, to spread abroad the glory of Christ, this holy man's breast was inflamed, when as he doth patiently suffer those bonds wherewith the governor had bound him, and doth desire that he might escape the deadly snares of Satan, and to have both him and also his partners to be partakers with him of the same grace, being in the mean season content with his troublesome and reproachful condition. We must note that he doth not wish it simply, but from God, as it is he which draweth us unto his Son; because, unless he teach us inwardly by his Spirit, the outward doctrine shall always wax cold.

Except these bonds. It is certain that Paul's bonds were not so hard, ne [nor] yet did they cause him such sorrow, wherein he did oftentimes rejoice, and which he doth mention for honor's sake, as being the badge of his embassage, (Galatians 6:17), but he hath respect to those to whom he wisheth faith without trouble or cross. For those who did not as yet believe in Christ were far from that affection to be ready to strive for the gospel. And surely it behoveth all the godly to have this gentleness and meekness, that they patiently bear their own cross, and that they wish well to others, and study so much as in them lieth to ease them of all trouble, and that they do in no case envy their quietness and mirth. This courtesy is far contrary to the bitterness of those who take comfort in wishing that other men were in their misery.

31. They spake together. In that Paul is acquitted by the judgment of them all, it turned to the great renown of the gospel. And when Festus agreeth to the rest he condemneth himself, seeing he had brought Paul into such straits through his unjust dealing, by bringing him in danger of his life under color of changing the place. And though it seemeth that the appeal did hinder the holy man, yet because this was the only way to escape death, he is content, and doth not seek to get out of that snare; not only because the matter was not even now safe and sound, but because he was admonished in the vision that he was also called by God to Rome (Acts 23:11).

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