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cupation, a soldier ; by his religion, a proselyte or converted Gentile, of which there were two sorts; some were proselytes of the covenant, that is, such Gentiles as submitted themselves to circumcision, and the whole Mosaical Ptcdagogy. These were counted as Jews, and freely conversed with as such. Others were called proselytes of the gate ; these were not circumcised, nor did they conform to the Mosaic rites; but were obliged only to observe the seven precepts of Noah: namely, to worship the true God and not idols; to abstain from blood, from fornication, from robbery, to administer justice impartially, and to do as they would be done unto. Such a proselyte as this, the Jews would not converse with, but counted unclean, being a Gentile; and such an one was this Cornelius; but though a Gentile, though a soldier, though a commissioned officer, yet a pious, charitable, good man. In all nations, in all places, of all employments, God has a number of holy and gracious persons, to honour him in the world, according to their present measure of light received from him. Observe, 2. The evidence which Cornelius gave of his religious fearing of God: He /eared God -with all his house; he gave much alms, and prayed to God always. Cornelius was therefore really, because relatively, religious; he obligeth his family to fear God as well as himself, and together with himself; like Abraham, he commands his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, Gen. xviii. 19. And thus the blessing of Abraham came upon this Gentile, Cornelius: He feared God with all his house. And his charity was as eminent as his piety: He gave much alms to the people; that is, to the people of the Jews, to whom alms was not unclean, though given by an heathen person. It is further added, that he prayed to God always: he prayed to the true God, not to idols; and he prayed to God always, that is, at every fitting season, and convenient opportunity for the duty. We are said in scripture to do a thing continually, when we do it seasonably. Thus to pray always, to pray evermore, to pray without ceasing, is, first, to keep the heart continually as much as may be in a praying frame and disposition , and, 2dly, to embrace the proper seasons and opportunities for prayer. The beauty of religion lies much in the harmonious performance of the duties of it; when one duty doth not interfere with another, but we prudently find time for all. Thus did
Cornelius here; He feared God with all his house, gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.
3 He saw in a vision evidently, about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. 4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
Observe here, 1. The extraordinary favour afforded to Cornelius; namely, the vision of an holy angel. This devout man did not seek the face of God in vain; God sends him first an angel to comfort him, then an apostle to instruct him: He saw in a vision an angel of God. Observe, 2. The effect which this sight of the angel had upon Cornelius: He was afraid. Learn hence, That whilst our souls inhahit these mortal and sinful bodies, the appearance of angels is terrible and affrighting to them, and cannot be otherwise; partly upon a natural, and partly upon a moral account. Upon a natural account, because the dread of spirits strikes our natural spirits, they shrink and tremble at the approach of spirits; both the spirits of men and of beasts quake at it; witness the ass, Numb. xxii. 25. that Balaam rode upon. And also upon a moral account, because of our consciousness of guilt; wherever there is guilt, there will be a fear, upon an extraordinary appearance of God to us, though it be but mediately by an angel. Observe, 3. The joyful message which the angel brings to Cornelius: that his prayers and his alms were come up for a memorial before God. Where note, That as God records all the prayers of his people, so he books all the acts of mercy which any of them at any time do exercise and show unto his members; he takes notice of the person, of the action, of the time when, of the manner how, of the measure and degree how much; if it be but a cup of water, yea, a cup of cold water, given in love to Christ in his members, it shall not be forgotten, but recorded and rewarded.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter. 6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side : he shall tell thee what thou oughtcst to do.
Observe here, 1. That although God sent an angel to Cornelius, to acquaint him with his will; yet the angel was to direct him to the apostle, who was to instruct him in the faith. This, no doubt, God did to put honour upon the ministers and ministry of the gospel; as also to let us understand and know, that we are not to expect extraordinary ways of teaching, when God affords us the use of ordinary means: Send to Joppa, and call for Peter, he shall tell thee what thou ou'ghtest to do. Observe, 2. What an exact knowledge Almighty God has of particular persons, and particular places: he tells Cornelius, by the angel, in what town Peter was, in Joppa; in whose house he lodged, in Simon's the tanner; in what part of the town the house stood, by the sea-side. It is matter of consolation, yea, of great consolation, to the people of God, to know and remember that God knows them; he knows their persons, their purposes, their performances, their places of abode; he knows who they are, what they do, and where they dwell. So dear are the holy servants of God unto him, that he loves the very street in which they lodge, the house in which they dwell; the walls of their hahitation are continually before him, and he delights perpetually to look upon them. O let holiness to the Lord be writ in legible characters upon the walls of our houses! Zcch. xiv. 20. Then will God dwell where we dwell, and the beloved of the Lord shall dwell-in safety by him.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; 8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. 0 On the morrow as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the house-top to pray, about the sixth hour: 10 And he became very hungry, aud would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been
a great sheet, knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth; 12 Wherein were all manner of foor footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for 1 have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time. What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Observe here, 1. That as Cornelius had a vision from God to encourage him to send for Peter, so the apostle had likewise a vision to encourage him to go to Cornelius. In which note, I. the time when be had this vision, it was at the sixth hour, or high noon; which was one of the three hours of prayer. When we are upon our knees in prayer, then is the time for receiving gracious manifestations from God. Note, 2. The place where he had this vision when at prayer; upon the house-top. The Jewish houses being flat-roofed, with battlements upon them, Peter went up to the house-top to pray, as a place of privacy and retirement, free from noise and distraction; as also to take the advantage of the place focdivine contemplation, and perhaps to look towards the temple, which was formerly a type of Christ. It teaches us, that fitting places, as well as fitting seasons for prayer, are to be sought out and improved by us; Peter -went up upon the house to pray. Note, 3. The frame wherein St . Peter was as to his body, when he had this vision; namely, exceeding hungry. God ordered it so, to fit him the more for the vision of dainty meat . O taste and see how gracious the Lord is, in sending down a dish of dainties from heaven to his hungry children, that are praying to him here on earth! Note, 4. The manner how this vision was made to St . Peter: it was in the way of a divine rapture or eestasy: he fill into a trance; his soul was as it were abstracted out of the body, and absent from it; that is, drawn off from the perception of all earthly and sensible objects, and enabled unto a more entire attendance upon spiritual and heavenly matters and mysteries. To be sure it made him forget his dinner, and filled him with divine consolation; a soul fed and filled with divine dainties, doth sometimes forget bodily hunger: we read no more of St. Peter's sharp hunger after this divine entertainment. Note, 5. The vision itself, or what was represented to St. Peter, first to his eye, then to his ear. To his eye first, He saw heaven opened, ver. 11. Teaching that although heaven had been shut to the children of men by the sin of the first Adam, yet now it was opened by the grace of the second Adam to all believers, both Jews and Gentiles. Next he saw a great vessel descending like a large sheet, with all sorts of meats in it, both clean and unclean; and he hears a voice from God, giving him a commission, though he was a Jew, to feed freely, without distinction of clean and unclean; signifying to him thereby that he might indifferently converse with Gentiles as well as Jews, and preach the gospel to one as well as the other. Note, lastly, How St. Peter's Jewish principles made him startle at this large commission, looking upon the command as unlawful and impious, ver. 14. Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean: But mark the divine correction: What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. His mistake was rectified by God, who gave him by this vision a clear intimation, that the distinction of meats was now taken away, and the difference between nation and nation was now removed by the death of Christ; and, consequently, that he might go and preach the gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile, without scruple or doubtfulness , the partition wall betwixt Jew and Gentile being now broken down. Learn hence, That the doctrine of the conversion of the Gentiles, came first from heaven, was revealed and made known by God himself, who has graciously declared, Gal. iii. 28. That there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither hord nor free, neither male nor female ; for -we are all one in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God, that the blessing of Abraham is come upon us, through Jesus Christ.
n Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate, 18 And
called, and asked, whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. 19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. 20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
Here note, 1. How St. Peter sets himself to meditate what he had seen and heard from God: He pondered with himself what this vision, which he had seen, should mean. Whatever passes from God to man, either by the eye, or through the ear, ought to be the subject of our deepest meditation. We are to contemplate the excellences and perfections which are in the word and works of God with an intellectual eye, and to dwell upon them in our serious thoughts. Note, 2. The care which the Holy Spirit took to resolve satisfactorily the inward doubtings and reasonings of St. Peter's mind concerning this matter. I have sent them, says the Holy Spirit; therefore arise, and go down, nothing doubting. Where observe, both the divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost: he that knows the thoughts, the doubtings and reasonings, of man's heart, as the Holy Ghost here did St. Peter's, is truly and really God; and he that commands and forhids, is really a person. So doth the Holy Spirit here: he commands St. Peter to go to Cornelius, and forhids his doubting of the lawfulness or success of his journey: Go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them.
21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek. What is the cause wherefore ye are come? 22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee. 23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And
the morrow after they entered into Cesarea. And Cornelius waited tor tin-m, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. 25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, arid worshipped him. 26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. 27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me, that 1 should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for. I ask therefore, for what intent ye have sent for me.
Observe here, 1. The messengers whom Cornelius sent to St. Peter: two of his household servants, and a devout soldier. All soldiers are not rude; but some are religious. Behold a devout soldier under a devout captain, and two household servants whom their master's example had rendered humble and modest. Observe, 2. The just and laudable, not false and flattering character, which they gave of their Master Cornelius: That he was a just man, one that feared God, and one of good report among all the nation of the Jews. It is both the duty and the commendation of servants, to give to their masters due honour; and, when called to it, their deserved character. Observe, 3. How St. Peter's doubts being resolved, he disputes no farther, delays no longer, but hastens immediately to Cornelius: when once God's command is plain, we must not dispute, but despatch; we must no longer object, but obey. Observe, 4. The reverence given by Cornelius to St. Peter: He fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. It seems to be more than a civil reverence which he gave him; it looks as if Cornelius took him for an angel in human shape, or a person sent immediately from heaven to him, and accordingly he prostrates himself before the apostle; but St. Peter would by no means receive any undue honour or respect from him, assuring him, That he
was but a man, and God's messenger sent unto him. Whatever Peter's pretended successor challenges as his due, of reverence and homage, St. Peter himself would not suffer Cornelius to lie at his feet, much less to kiss his feet; the ambassador would not run away with the honour which belonged to the prince that sent him. Observe, 5. How St. Peter acquaints Cornelius, that that partition-wall betwixt the Jews and Gentiles, which was erected and set up by God's command, was now by the same authority pulled down and removed; and that no man is now unclean by any ceremonial uncleanness, because he is not circumcised; and consequently, that Cornelius, though of another nation, might converse with, and be conversed with, as freely as if born a Jew. Since the coming of Christ, no person or nation is legally or ceremonially unclean; but every nation, or every person, by nature morally unclean.
SO And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour, and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon whose surname is Peter: he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner, by the seaside; who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. 33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee: and thou hast well done that thou art conie. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
Observe here, 1. Cornelius relates the occasion of his sending for St. Peter, and the warrant which he had for so doing: he declares, that as he was fasting and praying in his family, he had a vision, in which an angel directed him to send for the apostle. Where note, That Cornelius doth not talk of his fasting, praying and alms-giving, by way of ostentation, to boast of himself, but only to give satisfaction to St. Peter, that he had certain advice from heaven for what he did in sending for ban. Observe, 2. The readiness of Cornelius's obedience in sending for St. Peter: Imtncdiately therefore I sent to thee. Joppa from Cesarea is computed lo be about forty miles; but no sooner did Cornelius receive the commandment, but without delay he put it in execution, and sent men to Joppa, When our call is clear, our obedience must be speedy. Observe, 3. The kind reception which Cornelius gives St. Peter: Thou hast melt done that thou art come. He dolh not only approve of the apostle's coming, but thanks him for it. Observe, 4. The preparation and readiness of Cornelius and his friends to hear and receive the word of God from St. Peter's mouth: We are all here present before God, to hear alt things that are commanded thee of God. Where note, 1. He desires the tame holy doctrine, which the apostle came to preach, may be delivered to his family, his friends, and his kinsfolk, as well as himself. A good man would not go to heaven alone; but is desirous of the mstruction, conversion, and salvation ot others, as well as of himself; We arc all here. Note, 2. The place of God's pure worship is the place of his special presence: We are till here present before God. Note, 3. The end for which they were now come into the presence of God; it was to hear what God should speak, yea, to hear all things which God should command the apostle to speak; intimating to us, that as St. Peter himself was, so all the ministers of Christ are, confined within their commission, we must only speak what God commands; neither are hearers bound io receive any thing else. Woe unto us, if when God sends us on his errand, we tell our own tale. The word is the counsel °f God; Now it is the counsel of God only, and the whole counsel of God also, that we are to declare, and our people are to hear: We are all present before God, to hear all things that are commanded »' of God.
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, anil said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and workcth righteousness, is accepted with him.
As if the apostle had said, " I now very plainly perceive that the partition-wall is broken down, and that national prerogatives, or personal excellences, find no acceptance with God; but that any man, be oc of what nation or family soever, if he
feareth God, and workcth righteousness, shall find acceptance with him." Observe here, 1. That no external qualifications, personal privileges, and prerogatives, will procure favour and acceptance with God, who neither receives nor rejects men barely for outward respects, J perceive that God is no respecter of persons. Observe, 2. The true character of a religious man: he is one that feareth God and worketh righteousness; that is, a strict observer of the duties of both tables, of piety towards God, and of justice and charity towards man; and the phrase of working righteousness implies diligence, and delight, and perseverance in the ways and works of righteousness. Observe, 3. The privilege of such a religious and truly righteous man: He is accepted with God. Thence learn, That both the person fearing God, and his works of righteousness, are accepted with him, of any nation under heaven, of any callmg, sex, or condition whatsoever: In every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ; he is Lord of all; 37 That word, Isay, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached: 38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with him. 39 And we arc witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree. 40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; 41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. 43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever