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1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
Ver. 1. With Sapphira his wife ] Her name signifieth beautiful, or spacious. She might be so on the outside, as those apples of Sodom, the Egyptian temples, or Jewish sepulchres; but her heart was rotten, and not right with God. Hypocrites are called vipers, Matthew 3:7 , which are outwardly specious, inwardly poisonous. The swan is white in feathers but of a black skin; and was therefore reputed unclean, and unsuitable for sacrifice.
2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it , and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Ver. 2. And kept back part ] Interverted, ενοσφισατο , purloined, nimmed it away. Here was a concurrence of hypocrisy, sacrilege, diffidence, and ambition; for he would be thought as good as the best, and therefore laid that he brought at the apostles’ feet, &c. Hypocrites shall be uncased; no goat in a sheepskin shall steal on Christ’s right hand at the last day.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Ver. 3. Why hath Satan ] The first motion of selling his possession was of the Holy Ghost; but Beelzebub had soon putrified and corrupted it.
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
Ver. 4. Was it not thine own ] Wicked men have a right to earthly things as their portion, Psalms 17:14 . God gave Tyre to Nebuchadnezzar.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Ver. 5. Fell down, and gave up ] So did Nightingal, parson of Crondal by Canterbury; who, on a Shrove Sunday, reading to the people the pope’s bull of pardon sent into England by Cardinal Pool, fell suddenly down dead out of the pulpit, and never stirred hand nor foot: witnessed by all the country round about. Philbert Hamlin, martyr, had instructed in the truth a certain priest his host, who afterwards revolted. Hamlin prophesied to him that nevertheless he should die before him. He had no sooner spoke the word, but the priest going out of the prison was slain by two gentlemen who had a quarrel to him. Whereof when Hamlin heard, he affirmed he knew of no such thing; but only spake as God guided his tongue. Whereupon immediately he made an exhortation of the providence of God, which, by the occasion thereof, moved the hearts of many, and converted them to God. Patrick Hamilton, a Scotch martyr, being in the fire, cited and appealed the black friar called Campbell that accused him, to appear before the High God as general Judge of all men, to answer to the innocence of his death between that and a certain day of the next month, which he there named. The friar died immediately before the day came without remorse of conscience, &c. The Judge of the earth keepeth his petty sessions now, letting the law pass upon some few, reserving the rest till the great assizes, 1 Timothy 5:24 . Some flagitious persons he punisheth here, lest his providence, but not all, lest his patience and promise of a general judgment, should be called in question. (Aug. in Psa 30:1-12 ) Very remarkable was God’s hand upon Mistress Hutchinson (that Jezebel of new England) and her family, all slain (some say burnt) by the Indians. One of her disciples falling into a lie, God smote him in the very act, that he sunk down into a deep swoon. And being by hot waters recovered, and coming to himself, he said, Oh God, thou mightest have struck me dead, as Ananias and Sapphira, for I have maintained a lie. a
And great fear came on all ] God takes some malefactors, and hangs them up in gibbets as it were; that others, warned thereby, may hear, and fear, and do no more so. Alterius perditio tua sit cautio. Cavebis autem si pavebis. Seest thou another suffer shipwreck? look well to thy tackling.
a Mr Weld’s Preface to his Story.
6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him .
Ver. 6. And the young men arose ] Decent burial this hypocrite had, though he deserved it not. Temporaries enjoy many outward privileges per consortium through prossessions.
7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
Ver. 7. Not knowing what was done ] And thinking to find her husband in highest honour among the apostles. "But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost," Job 11:20 .
8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
Ver. 8. Yea, for so much ] Sin had woaded an impudence in her face. How much better that brave woman in St Jerome, who being upon the rack said, Non ideo negare volo, ne peream; sed ideo mentiri nolo, ne peccem, I will rather die than lie.
9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Ver. 9. To tempt the Spirit ] That is, to make trial of him whether he be omniscient and able to detect and punish your hypocrisy. No man is a gross hypocrite, but he is first an atheist.
10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
Ver. 10. Then fell she down ] Melancthon makes mention of a cursing woman, that had her neck writhed by the devil, as her mouth was full of cursing and bitterness, A.D. 1551.
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Ver. 11. And great fear ] See Trapp on " Act 5:5 " Laudo Venetos, apud quos unicum publicae pecuniae intervertisse denarium, non infame solum est, sed et capitale. Among the Venetians, it is death to diminish a penny of the public stock. a
a Zenecat. in Observat. Politic. i.
12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.
Ver. 12. Were many signs and wonders ] Which were as so many sermon bells to bring men to the Church; and as so many wings to carry the gospel abroad the world.
13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
Ver. 13. Durst no man join himself ] None of the powerful enemies of the Church durst insinuate (for fear of the danger) as Sanballat and Tobiah would have done in Nehemiah’s days; and as the Jesuits today have a practice of running over to the Lutheran Church, pretending to be converted, and to build with them; but it is only to keep up that bitter contention between the Calvinists and Lutherans.
14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
Ver. 14. And believers were the more added ] So little lost the Church by that dreadful doom that befell Ananias and Sapphira, Isaiah 26:9 . Hypocrites are but the warts, or rather botches, of the Church. When God’s judgments are upon them, the inhabitants of the earth will learn righteousness; they will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked, Psalms 58:10 . Let the Lord but kill Jezebel’s children with death, and then all the Churches will take knowledge that it is He that searcheth the reins and heart, and that giveth unto every man according to his works, Revelation 2:23 .
15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
Ver. 15. The shadow of Peter passing by ] Upon these stupendous miracles, as upon so many eagles’ (or rather angels’) wings, was the gospel carried abroad the world then. And the establishing of the Reformation begun lately by Luther, &c., to be done by so weak and simple means, yea, by casual and cross means, against the force of so potent and political an adversary as the pope, is that miracle which we are in these times to look for.
16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.
Ver. 16. And they were healed every one ] Christ is Jehovah the Physician, Exodus 15:26 . He hath a most happy hand, and was never foiled by any disease, Psalms 103:3 . Omnipotenti medico nullus insanabilis occurris morbus; to an Almighty Physician no disease can be incurable. (Isidore.)
17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,
Ver. 17. With indignation ] Gr. With zeal: but it was that bitter zeal, James 3:14 , that grows not but in Satan’s gardens.
18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
Ver. 18. Put them in the common prison ] Bocardo (when the good bishops were there in Queen Mary’s days) was called a college of quondams (has beens): and almost all other prisons in England were become right Christian schools and Churches, saith Mr Fox.
19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
Ver. 19. But the angel of the Lord ] There was one Laremoth, chaplain to the Lady Anne of Cleves, a Scotchman, to whom, being in prison in Queen Mary’s days, it was said, as he thought, once, twice, thrice, Arise, and go thy ways. Whereupon he arising from prayer, a piece of the prison wall fell down, and he escaped beyond sea.
20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
Ver. 20. Stand and speak ] Stand close to the work, stir not a foot, start not a hair’s breadth.
21 And when they heard that , they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
Ver. 21. They entered into the temple early, &c. ] True obedience is prompt and present, ready and speedy, without delays and consults, Psalms 119:60 ; Mark 1:18 ; Zechariah 5:9 , they had wings and wind in their wings, to note, as Junius observes, their ready obedience.
22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,
Ver. 22. But when the officers came ] As at a lottery, they came with heads full of hopes, but returned with hearts full of blanks.
23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.
Ver. 23. We found no man within ] This might well have made them to desist. But what said the prophet long before? "Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see;" howbeit, "they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at thy people," &c.,Isaiah 26:11; Isaiah 26:11 .
24 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
Ver. 24. They doubted of them ] Conturbabantur, et ad angustias inexplicabiles detrusi haesitabant, they were at their wit’s end, διηπορουν , and could not tell what in the world to do with them. Herod was troubled in like sort, Luke 9:7 . So was Diocletian, who therefore laid down the empire, because he could not conquer the Christians, merely out of discontent; so did Charles V
25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
Ver. 25. Behold, the men whom ye put in prison ] Surely there is neither wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord,Proverbs 21:30; Proverbs 21:30 . God’s mind is fulfilled by them that have least mind to it; human wisdom, while it strives for masteries, is shamefully foiled and out mastered.
26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.
Ver. 26. And brought them without violence ] The apostles made no resistance, but showed themselves patient and peaceable, blameless amidst a perverse generation, and harmless as doves, that neither provoke the hawk nor project revenge; but when pursued, they save themselves, if they can, by flight, and not by fight.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
Ver. 27. They set them before the council ] Where the high priest might well have done, as the prolocutor here in the convocation held at London, A. D. 1553, did; he confessed that those dejected ministers before them had the word on their side; but the prelates in place had the possession of the sword.
28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.
Ver. 28. And intend to bring this man’s blood upon us ] They pretend the doctrine, but this was the thing that most troubled them; they should be counted kill-Christs. It is but just that οι πραξοντες τα μη καλα, τλησωσι τα μη φιλα : they that do things not honest, should both hear and bear things not delightful. (Eurip.) But wicked men love not to be told their own; neither accept they of the punishment of their iniquity, Deuteronomy 28:43 . They report me to suck blood (said Bonner in open court) and call me Bloody Bonner! whereas, God knows, I never sought any man’s blood in all my life. The very same day wherein he had burned good Mr Philpot, being drunk with blood, and not well knowing what he did, he delivered Richard Woodman with four more (whom but two days before he had threatened to condemn, and the very morrow after he sought for again, yea, and that earnestly), requiring of them but to be honest men, members of the Church Catholic (which they promised), and to speak good of him; and no doubt (saith Woodman) he was worthy to be praised, because he had done the devil his master such doughty service. A certain unknown good woman in a letter to him did him right. Indeed, said she, you are called the common cutthroat, and general slaughter slave to all the bishops of England, &c.
29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
Ver. 29. We ought to obey God rather than men ] This is a principle granted and grafted in us by nature. I love and embrace you, O Athenians (said Socrates, in his Apology), but yet I will obey God rather than you. See Trapp on " Act 4:19 " See Trapp on " Mat 22:21 " The article is twice repeated when our Saviour speaks of God, more than when of Caesar; to show that our special care should be to give God his due.
30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
Ver. 30. Ye slew and hanged on a tree ] Constantine the Great, in honour of our Saviour, took away by a law that custom of crucifying men, in use, till then, among the Romans: a lingering and cruel kind of death; as was likewise that of impaling, very usual, saith Illyricus, among the ancients. The malefactors had a stake or pale ( σκολοψ ) thrust in at their anus, and it came out again at their shoulders; so that if the stake did not pierce their hearts or vitals, as it was thrust up, they lived sometimes two or three days in exquisite pain and torment. And to this kind of cruel death, said he, St Paul seemeth to allude, 2 Corinthians 12:7 .
31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
Ver. 31. To be a Prince and a Saviour ] Σωτηρα . Hoc vero quantum est? saith Cicero (In Ver.) Ita magnum, ut Latino uno verbo exprimi non possit. Is nimirum soter est qui salutem dedit. The Greek word for "Saviour" is so emphatic, that other tongues can hardly find a fit word to express it. Antigonus Σωτηρ εκριθη , Antigonus (for liberty restored to the Lacedaemonians) was counted and called a "Saviour;" so was the Roman Fabricius at Athens, Hunniades in Hungary, &c. Before them all, Joseph was called by Pharaoh Zaphnathpaaneah, that is (as Jerome interpreteth it), the "Saviour of the world." Several kings of Syria, who had the name Antiochus common to them, were distinguished by glorious epithets. One was called Antiochus ο Μεγας , the Great; another, Antiochus Επιφανης , or Illustrious; a third, Antiochus θεος , which signifies God; a fourth, Antiochus Σωτηρ , that is, Saviour; a fifth, Antiochus Ευπατωρ , a most indulgent father. Christ is all these more truly and by an excellency. A great God above all gods, an illustrious Prince and Saviour (as the apostle here styleth him), a most tender hearted Father, who could not only wish, with David, to die for his Absaloms, but did it in very deed, and all to purchase repentance, and thereby remission of sins; according to that holy petition of an ancient, First give repentance, and then pardon. (Hilar.)
32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
Ver. 32. To them that obey him ] πειθαρχουσιν . The Syriac and Arabic have it, To them that believe in him, πιστευουσιν . It comes all to one pass; for neither is faith without obedience, nor obedience without faith; and both are from the Spirit.
33 When they heard that , they were cut to the heart , and took counsel to slay them.
Ver. 33. They were cut to the heart ] They were so vexed as if they had been cut with a saw, διεπριοντο ; or the gnashing of their teeth sounded as the reciprocation of a saw.
34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
Ver. 34. Named Gamaliel ] Who was, say the Jews, the son of Simeon, Luke 2:25 , the son of Hillel. See Acts 22:3 .
35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
Ver. 35. Take heed to yourselves ] Anger is an evil counsellor; do nothing rashly. Alexander slew those in his heat whom afterwards he would have revived with his life blood. Ambrose, absolving Theodosius the emperor; enjoined him to stay the execution of whatsoever statute, till thirty days were over.
36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
Ver. 36. Rose up Theudas ] See Joseph. Antiq. xviii. 20; xvii. 12.
37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
Ver. 37. Rose up Judas of Galilee ] Or Judas Gaulonites. It was the blood of his followers that Pilate mingled with their sacrifices, Luke 13:1 . To his faction belonged those cut throats or murderers, Acts 21:38 , who might very well be of the sect of the Essenes, called by some Hashom, that is, rebels; because, under pretence of asserting the pubhc liberty, they taught the Jews not to acknowledge the Roman Empire; choosing rather to endure the most exquisite torments than to call any man living Lord. (Joseph. xviii. 2.)
38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
Ver. 38. Let them alone, for if, &c. ] Perilous counsel, but profitable to the Church; God so ordering it, as he doth all, for the best to his.
39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
Ver. 39. Ye cannot overthrow it ] Neither you, nor kings and tyrants to help you; so one ancient Greek copy readeth it. Diocletian laid down the empire in great discontent, because he could not, by any persecution, suppress the true Christian religion. (Beza.) So did Charles V, a political prince, and a sore enemy to the Church. He, when he had in his hand Luther dead, and Melancthon, Pomeran, and other preachers of the gospel, alive; he not only determined not anything extremely against them, or violated their graves, but also entreating them gently, sent them away; not so much as once forbidding them to publish openly the doctrine that they professed. For it is the nature of Christ’s Church, that the more that tyrants spurn against it, the more it flourisheth and increaseth.
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them , they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
Ver. 40. And to him they agreed ] So did the enraged people to the elders, alleging the example of Micah the Morasthite, Jeremiah 26:18 . See the use and efficacy of history, which hath its name, say some, παρα το ισταναι τον ρουν , of stopping the stream of violence.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
Ver. 41. Worthy to suffer shame ] That they were graced so to be disgraced for Christ, Elegantissimum oxymorum, most elegant oxymoron saith Casaubon. So Philippians 1:29 ; "To you it is given (as an honorary) to suffer." Which (saith Father Latimer) is the greatest promotion that God gives in this world. Martyr etiam in catena gaudet, for even a martyr in chains is happy, saith Augustine. Master Glover, martyr, wept for joy of his imprisonment. And God forgive me, said Master Bradford, my unthankfulness for this exceeding great mercy, that among so many thousands he chooseth me to be one in whom he will suffer, &c. The martyrs in Severus the emperor’s days, released for a season, seemed to come e myrotheca non ergastulo, saith Eusebius (v. 2), out of a perfuming house rather than a prison house; merry they were and much cheered, that were so much honoured as to suffer for Christ.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
Ver. 42. They ceased not ] Crescit igitur animus cum adversis. The more outrageous the one the more courageous the other party.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29