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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 27:33-44

33. And when the day began to appear, Paul exhorted them all to take meat, saying, This is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, receiving nothing at all.34. Wherefore I exhort you to take meat; for this no doubt is for your health; because there shall not one hair fall from the head of any of you.35. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in the sight of them all; and when he had broken it, he began to eat.36. Then were they all refreshed in their minds, and they also took meat.37. And all the souls which were in the ship were two hundred threescore and sixteen.38. And when they had eaten enough, they did lighten the ship. casting out the wheat into the sea.39. And when it was day, they knew not the land; but they spied a certain haven having a bank, into the which they minded to thrust the ship.40. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves to the sea; also, having loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, they drew toward the shore.41. But when they were fallen into a place where two seas met, they thrust in the ship, and the fore part did stick fast, and moved not; but the hinder part brake through the violence of the waves.42. Furthermore, the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any, after he swam out, should escape.43. But the centurion, being desirous to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and should escape to land.44. And the other, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship; and so it came to pass, that they all escaped safe to land.

33. And when the day began. Whatsoever the mariners think, Paul's faith doth not quail; but he leaneth steadfastly to the promise which was made to him. For he doth not only exhort them to take meat, as did he who, in extreme despair, uttered these words, Dine, soldiers, we shall sup in hell; but continuing steadfast in his prophecy, he willeth them to be of good courage. The force of faith doth therein show itself, when as it armeth us unto patience, and doth valiantly bear off and beat back those assaults wherewith Satan goeth about to shake it. But whereas he saith, that they continued fasting for the space of fourteen days, it may seem absurd and false. There may some one man be found which can abide to fast long, but it is scarce credible of so great a multitude. We may easily answer, That their unwonted abstinence from meat is improperly called fasting; because they had never filled their belly during all that time; because those who are in sorrow and heaviness do almost loathe meat. And because despair was the cause of this their loathing of meat, he affirmeth again that they shall live, so they be of good courage. For a faithful minister of the word must not only bring abroad the promises, but also counsel men to follow God whithersoever he calleth them; and that they be not slothful and sluggish. Furthermore, the meaning of the words is this, God hath determined to save you, this confidence ought to animate you, and to make you merry, that you be not negligent in your own business.

35. He took bread. That he may the better encourage them, by his own example, he taketh bread and eateth. Luke saith that he gave thanks, not only according to his daily custom, but because that served greatly to testify his boldness and good confidence. It is not to be doubted but that Paul himself did that when he took meat, which he commandeth other men; but now he doth not only testify his thankfulness, neither doth he only desire of God that he will sanctify the meat which he is about to eat; but he calleth upon God without fear, who is the author of his life, that those poor wretches, which were drenched in sorrow, might conceive some good hope. And he prevailed thus far, at least, that they gathered so much courage to them as to take meat, who had, through fear, forgotten to care for their life.

37. All the souls The number of the men is recited, first, that it may more plainly appear that none of the multitude did perish. For Luke doth not show how many men did swim to the shore, but how many men were then in the ship. Secondly, that the miracle may be made more evident and also famous; for, in man's judgment, it is a thing impossible that two hundred threescore and sixteen men should escape to land, having suffered shipwreck, without loss of any man's life. For it is likely that few had any skill in swimming except the mariners. And though they were somewhat refreshed with the meat which they had eaten, yet they were brought so low with sorrows and wearisomeness, that it is a marvel that they were so nimble as that they could move their arms. And now we must consider what a stir they kept; whereas it is seldom seen that twenty or thirty men do so swim in danger, but one of them doth hinder or drown another. Therefore, God did plainly stretch forth his hand out of heaven, seeing all those came to shore safe and sound which had cast themselves into the sea.

38. And when they had eaten enough. This circumstance doth show that they were at length moved with Paul's words. It was not yet light, that they could know whether there were any haven near. And yet they cast out into the sea the wheat which remained, that they might lighten the ship. They would not have done this unless Paul's authority had prevailed more with them now than before. But as all unbelievers are unstable, that persuasion did quickly vanish out of their minds.

41. They thrust in the ship. And then it might seem that both God had mocked Paul, and that he, with trifling, had brought his partners in a vain hope; but God did forthwith put away that error by giving them prosperous success. It was meet that when the ship was broken, they should be so discouraged, and that their souls should so melt, that despair might increase the glory of the miracle. For God useth to moderate and govern his works so, that he maketh some show of difficulty by reason of many lets [hindrances] which fall out. By this means he sharpeneth our senses unto greater attentiveness, that we may at length learn that, though all the world strive against him, yet will he have the victory. This is the reason why he had lieffer [rather] draw Paul and his companions to the shore after that the ship was lost, than bring the ship whole to land.

42. The counsel of the soldiers. This was too horrible unthankfulness. Though the soldiers might thank Paul twice or thrice for their lives, yet are they minded to kill him, for whose sake they ought to have spared the rest. He had saved them even as an angel of God; he had given them wholesome counsel; he had refreshed them in the same day when they were past hope; and now they stick not to seek to destroy him, by whom they were so often and so many ways delivered. Wherefore, if it so fall out that we be ill rewarded for our good deeds, there is no cause why the unthankfulness of men should trouble us, which is a disease too common. But they are not only unthankful to Paul, who was the minister of their life, but also their filthy misbelief and forgetfulness of the goodness of God doth betray itself. They had of late received that oracle, that their souls were given to Paul; and now seeing they will be saved after he is dead, what other thing go they about but to resist God, that they may save themselves from death contrary to his will? Therefore, they have now forgotten that grace whereof they tasted against their will in extreme despair, neither doth it taste any longer, after that they see the haven nigh at hand. But it behoveth us to consider the wonderful counsel of God, as well in saving Paul as in fulfilling his promise; when as he bringeth those men to land, who did what they could to make his promise of none effect. Thus doth his goodness oftentimes strive with the wickedness of men. Yet he doth so pity the wicked, that, deferring their punishment until so fit opportunity, he doth not quite discharge them; yea, the longer he tarrieth, the more grievously he punisheth, and so by that means he maketh amends for his long tarrying.

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