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1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
Ver. 1. And Saul yet breathing ] As a tired wolf, that wearied with worrying the flock, lies panting for breath. See Trapp on " Act 8:3 "
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
Ver. 2. Letters to Damascus ] The high priest, it seems, then had power at Damascus, and elsewhere out of Judea, to bind and beat his Jews, for misdemeanour in point of their religion. See Acts 18:15 .
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
Ver. 3. And as he journeyed ] So Petrus Paulus Vergerius, the pope’s nuncio, dum confutationem Evangelicorum meditatur, fit Evangelicus; moved, perhaps, by the fearful example also of Francis Spira, whereof he had been an eyewitness.
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Ver. 4. Fell to the earth ] Christ unhorsed him, but did not destroy him. He is not such a monarch as loves to get authority by sternness, as Rehoboam, but by gentleness. And though gone to heaven, yet hath he not changed his nature with change of honour; but together with beams of glory, there are still in him the same bowels of pity that he had here upon earth.
Why persecutest thou me? ] As unskilful hunters, shooting at wild beasts, may kill a man? so those that shoot at the saints, hit Christ. Their sufferings are held his, Colossians 1:24 ; their reproach his, Hebrews 13:13 . God is more provoked than Nehemiah,Nehemiah 4:3; Nehemiah 4:3 ; Nehemiah 4:5 . Christ retaineth still compassion, though freed from personal passion; and, though freed from feeling, he hath still yet a fellow feeling. a Let such among us take heed what they do, who, while they pronounce our Church antichristian, &c., strike at the beast, but wound the Lamb.
a Manet compassio etiam cum impassibilitate. Bernard.
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Ver. 5. To kick against the pricks ] A metaphor from oxen pushing back upon the goad, when they are pricked therewith, as Beza showeth out of Aeschilus.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
Ver. 6. It shall be told thee ] Christ teacheth him not immediately, but sendeth him to a preacher; so to grace his own ordinance.
7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
Ver. 7. Hearing a voice ] Not Christ’s voice, but Saul’s only, Acts 22:9 .
8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
Ver. 8. He saw no man ] This bodily blindness was a means to open the eyes of his mind, as Gehazi’s leprosy cured his soul.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
Ver. 9. And he was three days ] In this three days’ darkness, some gather by computation of time, that he was now rapped up into the third heaven, and heard those wordless words, ρηματα αρρητα , 2 Corinthians 12:4 , after that he had been thoroughly humbled. Luther likewise lay (after his conversion) three days in desperation, as Mr Perkins remembereth in his book of Spiritual Desertion, his temptations were so violent, ut nec calor, nec sanguis, nec sensus, nec vox superesset, as Justus Jonas reporteth of Luther, that was by and saw it. (Epist. ad Melancthon.) The like is recorded concerning Mr Bolton, by Mr Bagshaw in his Life.
10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here , Lord.
Ver. 10. And there was a certain ] See here the necessity and use of the ministry: "If there be a messenger with a man, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness," &c., Job 33:23 . Unus e millibus. The Vulgate translation corruptly hath it, unus e similibus.
11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
Ver. 11. The street called Straight ] God’s people are so dear to him, that their walls are ever before him,Isaiah 49:16; Isaiah 49:16 ; he loveth the streets the better they dwell in, the air the better they breathe in, Psalms 87:5-6 .
For behold he prayeth ] He never prayed till now, though a strict Pharisee. So Daniel 9:13 . The captives in Babylon prayed not in those 70 years; because they fasted to themselves, and prayed more to get off their chains than their sins, Zechariah 7:5-6 . Prayer is the breath of the spirit, Romans 8:26 ; Judges 1:20 . And prayer without the spirit is but an empty ring, a tinkling cymbal.
12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
Ver. 12. And hath seen in a vision ] It is not certain whether these be Christ’s own words, or St Luke’s; neither is it much material.
13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
Ver. 13. Then Ananias answered ] The best have their unnecessary fears, and think they have reason on their side; but convinced, they soon subscribe to God. Veniat, veniat verbum Domini, said one, et submittemus ei sexcenta si nobis essent colla.
How much evil he hath done ] And is therefore not lightly to be trusted. It is a rule in the Civil Law, Semel malus semper praesumitur esse malus: but God can soon alter a man’s mind and manners, as he did Saul’s.
14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
Ver. 14. And here he hath authority ] Therefore he was more than 20 years old (as Ambrose and Theodoret make him to be) at his first conversion. For here he hath authority committed unto him, not incident to so very a youth.
15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
Ver. 15. A chosen vessel to bear ] In matters of holiness we are rather patients than agents, that we may ascribe all to God’s grace; therefore he compares us not to active instruments, as tools in the hand of a workman, but to passive instruments, such as dishes or vessels (as here) that bear and carry treasure, meat, or such-like, 2 Corinthians 4:7 ; Acts 13:15 ; "Ye men and brethren, if there be in you" (as in so many vessels of honour) "any word of exhortation, say on." But what a mouth of blasphemy opened. Quintinus the libertine, who scoffing at every apostle, Paulum vocabat vas fractum (as Calvin testifieth), a called Paul a broken vessel: so in the year 1519, Scioli quidam Tiguris iactabant haec tria, scilicet, &c. Quis tandem Paulus? nonne homo est? Apostolus est sed suburbanus tantum, &c. Ego tam cuivis Thomae vel Scoto credo quam Paulo. Some, no wiser than they should be, cast out slighting speeches to this purpose: What was Paul more than another man? an apostle, indeed, but of an inferior order; none of the twelve that conversed with Christ; neither made he any one of the articles of the Creed. I would as soon believe Thomas or Scotus, as Paul, &c. I tremble to relate how basely some Jesuits have spoken of St Paul, as savouring of heresy in some places; and better perhaps he had never written.
Before the Gentiles and kings, &c. ] Μεγιστη του κηρυγματος σαλπαγξ ο Παυλος , saith a Greek father. Paul was God’s chief herald, the gospel’s loudest trumpet.
a Instruct. adv. Libert., ix.
16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
Ver. 16. How great things he must suffer ] Opposition is (as Calvin wrote to the French king) Evangelii genius, the evil angel that dogs the gospel. And praedicare, said Luther, nihil aliud est quam derivare in se furorem totius mundi: To preach, is to get the evil will of the world.
17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
Ver. 17. Putting his hands ] Partly so to consecrate him to the Lord’s work, and partly to obtain for him the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
Ver. 18. There fell from his eyes ] God also at the same time tore the covering, rent the veil that was spread over the eyes of his understanding,Isaiah 24:7; Isaiah 24:7 . See "The Blind Eye Opened" in a discourse on Ephesians 5:8 , by my entire friend Mr Dugard.
19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
Ver. 19. With the disciples ] For as he desired to cleave perpetually to the head, so to join himself to his members, to incorporate with the Church.
20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
Ver. 20. And straightway he preached ] He conferred not with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:16 , but fell presently to work, and followed it close, as afraid to be taken with his task undone. Chrysostom saith of Paul, that he was insatiabilis Dei cultor, an insatiable server of God.
21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
Ver. 21. Is not this he? ] It is, and it is not: it is not Ille ego qui quondam, but ego non sum ego. He is another man than he was, and this the whole Church shall soon hear of: like as a bell cannot be turned from one side to another, but it will make a sound, and report its own motion.
22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
Ver. 22. Proving that this, &c. ] Συμβιβαζων . Proving it by comparing Scripture with Scripture, by laying one place to another, as joiners fit all the parts of their work together, that each part may perfectly agree with the other, Nehemiah 8:8 . The Levites read the law, and gave the sense, causing the people to understand the reading, debant intelligentiam per Scripturam ipsam: they gave understanding through the Scriptures themselves, so Tremellius rendereth it. Parallel texts, like glasses, set one against another, cast a mutual light. The lapidary brightens his hard diamond with the dust shaved from itself; so must we clear hard Scriptures.
23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
Ver. 23. And after many days ] a sc. After three years. So long he had to settle, ere God called him forth to suffer. The skilful armourer trieth not an ordinary piece with musket shot. The wise lapidary brings not his softer stones to the stithy: the good husbandman turns not the wheel upon his cummin, nor his flail upon his vetches, b Isaiah 28:25 .
a ημεραι ικαναι diebus sufficientibus.
b The bean-like fruit of various species of the leguminous plant Vicia. ŒD
24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
Ver. 24. But their laying await ] Some friend likely had advertised him, as a senator of Hala did Brentins, when some had conspired his death, Fuge, fuge, Brenti, cito, citius, citissime. Flee speedily, away for thy life. (Melch. Adam.)
25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.
Ver. 25. Let him down, &c. ] It is not unlawful then to fly in some cases. Tertullian was too rigid in condemning all kinds of flight, in time of persecution; God hath not set us as standing marks, or butts, to be shot at.
26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.
Ver. 26. They were all afraid of him ] Openheartedness is an argument of folly, Fide, diffide. Our Saviour would not lightly commit himself to any, John 2:24 . Try whom you mean to trust. Paul was somewhile a probationer ere he could be admitted.
27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
Ver. 27. And how he had preached boldly ] See Trapp on " Act 9:21 " See Trapp on " Act 9:29 "
28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
Ver. 28. And he was with them ] sc. With Peter and James, Galatians 1:18-19 . For the other apostles were then absent, about their Lord’s business.
29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.
Ver. 29. And he spake boldly ] The soul, by the witness of the Spirit, finds increase of spiritual mettle, and is steeled against opposition.
Disputed against the Grecians ] These had been St Stephen’s greatest adversaries, Acts 6:1 ; Acts 6:9 , and then Saul was very forward to join with them. Now that he was turned Christian, they sought his death, having first given out (as Epiphanius testifieth) that he turned merely out of discontent, because he could not obtain to wife the high priest’s daughter. Truth (saith one) hath always a scratched face. The devil was first a liar, and then a murderer. Those that kill a dog (saith the French proverb) make the world believe he was mad first. The credit of the Church must first to be taken away, and then she is wounded,Song of Solomon 5:6; Song of Solomon 5:6 . Before the French massacre, it was given out that the Huguenots in their nightmeetings committed most abominable uncleannesses.
30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
Ver. 30. To Tarsus ] His own country, that he might there break the bread of life where he first drew the breath of life, as Bishop Jewel desired to do. Physician, heal thyself, that is, thine own native country, said they to our Saviour,Luke 4:23; Luke 4:23 .
31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
Ver. 31. Then had the churches rest ] As when Paul was converted, the Churches rested; so, much more, when sin and Satan shall be destroyed, shall the state of the saints be most restful and blissful in heaven.
32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters , he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
Ver. 32. As Peter passed through all quarters ] Being notably active for Christ, according as it was charged upon him, Luke 22:32 ; "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." The most that the saints can do for Christ is not the one half of that which they could beteem him.
33 And there he found a certain man named Æneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.
Ver. 33. Had kept his bed eight years ] A long while surely; but what was this to an eternity of extremity in hell? Oh, take heed, and be forewarned to flee from that wrath to come. And meanwhile, every man that seeth another stricken with such chronic diseases as the palsy, and himself spared, is bound to keep a passover.
34 And Peter said unto him, Æneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
Ver. 34. And Peter said ] After he had prayed for him, likely. It is the prayer of faith that healeth the sick. Thus Epaphroditus was given in as an answer to St Paul’s prayer, and Miconius to Luther’s, after he had been almost spent with a consumption. a
a Melch. Adam in Vit. Luth.
35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.
Ver. 35. And Saron ] Alias Assaron, the same perhaps with Acheron or Ekron, counted by the very heathens the devil’s house; for there Beelzebub, the prince of devils, was worshipped, 2 Kings 1:3 . a
a Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo. Virg.
36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
Ver. 36. Full of good works and alms-deeds ] For there are other good works besides almsdeeds, though many Papists, and some as silly, have shrunk up charity to a hand breadth, to giving of alms. Let our works be done in God, John 3:21 , and for God, 1 Corinthians 10:31 . Let there be good actions and good aims; and then they shall be the works of God, John 6:28 .
37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
Ver. 37. When they had washed ] This they did to show their hope of a joyful resurrection. The heathens also, though their lives and hopes ended together, yet they washed their dead in an apish imitation of this Church custom. Faciunt et vespae faves; simlae imitantur homines.
38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
Ver. 38. They sent unto him ] As loth to lose so useful a member, so dearly missed among them. Some when they die are no more missed than the sweepings of a house or the parings of the nails. But when good people die, there is a general loss and lamentation.
39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
Ver. 39. They brought him ] Love is officious, and thinks not too much of any labour.
And showing him the coats and garments ] A worthy employment for a wealthy woman. The like is reported of Queen Anne Boleyn. And I knew a very gracious matron (one mistress Alice Smith of Stratford-upon-Avon) that found herself thus usually busied; being one of those few that both lived and died with honour.
40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
Ver. 40. Put them all forth ] That he might pray with more privacy and freedom. For he knew well that the prayer of faith could not heal the sick only, as Aeneas,Acts 9:34; Acts 9:34 , but raise the dead too, Hebrews 11:35 .
41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
Ver. 41. Presented her alive ] To her own loss for a little while; but so God might be glorified and the Church gratified, she was well contented.
42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
Ver. 42. And many believed ] So when Lazarus was raised, John 11:45 . See Trapp on " Joh 11:45 "
43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
Ver. 43. With one Simon a tanner ] Of mean rank and despicable, but religious and hospitable. Of such, and not of great ones, consisted this Church of Christ at Joppa. The poor are gospellized, ευαγγελιζονται , Matthew 11:5 . The lesser fishes bite soonest. Grandior solet esse Deus in parvulis, quam in magnis. See Trapp on " Act 10:6 "
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29