« AnteriorContinuar »
ge.ther, if they had not believed that God had summoned them. Nor should we be reading the scripture, unless we believed that God had revealed it for our instruction. Peter was listened to, that he might "tell words by which Cornelius and all his house should be saved."2 The scripture is listened to for the same reason. It is " able to make us wise unto salvation." 3 Cornelius and his party would have acted most unreasonably, if after assembling with so much preparation, they had turned away from Peter's doctrine, and said, This is not what we expected to hear, nor will we listen to it. The Christian is equally unreasonable unless he receives the Bible, not as the word of man, but as it is in truth, the word of God :4 unless he receives it with submission, even though it condemns him; with reverence, even if it surprises him. Cornelius, we shall see, did not suffer himself to cavil or dispute. As he had prepared himself to hear all the things commanded of God, so he did unhesitatingly receive them. And although they were new and unexpected, and different from all his previous views, he yielded ready obedience, and acted on the just sentiment, "What am I that I should reply against God?"
2. Another feeling expressed in the words of Cornelius is Attention. We are all here present, to hear the things commanded thee.
There is great meaning in that phrase of scrip■
* Ch. xi. 34. 3 2 Tim. iii. 15.
4 1 Thess. ii. 13.
ture, "the hearing ear." For all ears are not hearing ears. Many have been present year after year, when scripture has been read and expounded, who cannot be said to have ever heard at all. They are present in body, but absent in mind. The minister, when he visits the beds of the dying, often has the opportunity of seeing this. He perceives the earnest interest, the anxious inquiry, the impatience to understand. He is astonished, perhaps, at the difference—no listlessness—no weariness. And if he were to ask the reason, he would be told,—I feel the importance now, of all you say: I wish to understand: I cannot dispense with the instruction, which before I undervalued and neglected. And now, perhaps, for the first time, the hearer receives the word as applying to himself; as being his own immediate and personal concern. This is what I am to believe. This is what I am to repent of having done. This is what I am to resolve on doing. This is the command which God has issued to direct me. Such are his feelings now: and the more plainly the word is spoken, or the more closely it touches him, the better he is satisfied, because he is then most profited, and makes most progress in what he is really desirous to attain.
3. There is still another feeling which ought not to be left without notice: that of Expectation. The language of Cornelius is the language of expectation. Now we are all here present before God, to hear all the things that are commanded thee of God. And in this spirit should we enter the sanctuary, and attend upon all religious ordinances. Though we are always in God's presence, though he is about our paths, and spieth out all our ways; yet are we more especially and more solemnly present before him, when assembled in the place where he is worshipped, the place set apart for the preaching of the word. We acknowledge this. Every one will allow, that he is only in the church at all because he believes that God has appointed the ministry, and approves the ministration; designs the ordinances as the chief means by which the gospel should be preached, and those who receive it be instructed, guided, edified, and strengthened. Let us attend, then, in a corresponding spirit: in a spirit of earnest expectation like that of the company at Joppa, that "God will come unto us, and bless us," that Christ will realize his gracious promise, and "be in the midst of those" who are met together in his name.5
Under the influence of such expectation and attention, we may justly exclaim with the Psalmist; "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! Blessed are they that dwell in thy house! For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand." 6
s See Exodus xx. 24. Matthew xviii. 20.'
PETER PREACHES THE GOSPEL TO CORNELIUS AND HIS FRIENDS.—A. D. 41.
Acts X. 34—48.
34. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35. But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
Very different was the opinion of the Jewish people; and of Peter himself, before the vision; had enlightened him. St. Paul represents their opinion, (Rom. ii. 17,) "Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things which are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind; a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law."
Such was the general sentiment; still more broadly expressed in another passage: "We who are Jews by nature; not sinners of the Gentiles."1
1 Gal. ii. 15.
Peter is alluding to this national feeling, when he declares the impression produced upon his mind by the vision which he had seen and the events connected with it. Now / perceive—what I had never understood before—that God is no respecter of persons, "puts no difference" 2 between us Jews and others: but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
We find no difficulty in subscribing to this sentiment. It needs no vision to convince us of its truth. But, alas! where, but among them to whom he has revealed his name and his will, where shall we find those, who do fear God and work righteousness?
This, however, we know; and in this we are content to rest. "When the Gentiles, (Rom. ii. 14,) which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves;" "For there is no respect of persons with God."
Nay, more also is revealed to us. "That servant (Luke xii. 47) which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required ; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
All the rest we leave to Him who shall "judge
2 Ch. xv. 9.