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them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” Then Peter went down 21 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 ?” And they said, “ Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that 22 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. Then called he them in, and lodged them. 23
And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied them. And the morrow after they entered 24 into Cæsarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. And as Peter was coming in, Gornelius 25 met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter 26 took him up, saying, “ Stand up; I myself also am a man." And as 27 he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. And he said unto thein, “ Ye know how that it is an unlawful 28 thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as 29 soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?” And Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this 30 hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ' Cornelius, thy prayer is 31 heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter ; 32 he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.' Immediately therefore I sent 33 to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.”
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, “Of a truth I perceive that 34 God is no respecter of persons : but in every nation he that feareth him, 35 and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God 36 sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ : (he is Lord of all :) that word, I say, ye kuow, which was published through- 37 out all Judæa, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost 38 and with power : who went about doing good, and healing ail that were oppressed of the devil ; for God was with him. And we are witnesses 39 of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the 40 third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto wit- 41 nesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the 42 people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the 43 Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that
through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of
sins." 44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them 45 which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed
were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gen46 tiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard 47 them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which 48 have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” And he commanded
them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they hina to tarry certain days.
Hitherto (as we have seen) the Church of Christ was composed of Jews, who still combined a pious attention to the Jewish worship, with the acknowledgment of Jesus of Nazareth as their promised Messiah. They had as yet no notion of any promises which did not belong to the children of Abraham according to the flesh; so much so, that those who " were scattered abroad
persecution that arose about Stephen," “preached the word to none but to the Jews only.” (See page 82.) The minds of the first christians had in some degree been prepared, by the admission of the Samaritans into fellowship (see page 88), for that extension of the church, which gives it the name of catholic, or universal : but as these may be said to have been half Jews, and were under the covenant of circumcision, the fact of their being received as christians, would not in itself awaken any thought, that Gentiles were to be made partakers of the christian covenant equally with Jews.
Though Jerusalem was the capital city of Judæa, yet the seaport of Cæsarea was the place where the Roman governors resided, and from whence they went occasionally to the Holy City. The chief portion of the army required to maintain the Roman power in Syria was always quartered at Cæsarea. Many of the divisions (called Legions and Cohorts) had been recruited from the different countries which the Romans had conquered, and but few consisted entirely of soldiers from Italy. It happened that at this time one of these cohorts, (a corps as it would be called in the English army now), called the Italian cohort, was stationed at Cæsarea, in which a centurion named Cornelius served. (A centurion is an officer having the command of a hundred men; what would be called in England the Captain of a company.) He was a man of piety: though a Gentile and brought up as an idolater, he had become acquainted with the true God; and he not only feared that God himself, but he felt it his duty to order his household and family according to the knowledge of religion he had acquired. This knowledge was of a practical nature, for it led him to be liberal in assisting the poor to the utmost of his power, and to be constant in his prayers to God. Cornelius had set apart a day for the exercise of fasting (verse 30); and about three o'clock in the afternoon of it, as he was engaged in prayer, an angel appeared before him, in such a manner as that he could not doubt that it was a real vision, and not an imagined dream.
This angel entered the room, and called Cornelius by his name. Cornelius was alarmed, and asked what was the object of such a visit. The angel informed him that the prayers he had offered up, and the liberal gifts he had made to the poor, were not forgotten by God; and accordingly he was come to desire him to send to Joppa, in search of a person of the name of Simon Peter. He was to be found at the house of a tanner also named Simon, who lived on the beach there. Simon Peter was to be invited to come to Cornelius, and he would inform him how to proceed.
No sooner had the angel disappeared, than Cornelius called two of his private servants, as well as the soldier whose duty it was to be always in attendance on him. He made them acquainted with what had happened, and desired them to proceed at once to Joppa, according to the angel's instructions. The
messengers set forth on their journey, and on the next day they approached Joppa about noon. At that hour Peter retired for the exercise of prayer, for which the pious Jews set apart three times in each day, nine in the morning, midday, and three in the afternoon. It was customary to go on the roofs of the houses upon these occasions; and thither Peter now went. While thus engaged, he felt an unusual craving of hunger, so much so, that he desired some food to be prepared ; before it was brought to him however, an extatic condition of mind came upon him, in which he lost the sense of the objects that were present, and was entirely occupied by an extraordinary appearance that presented itself to him. Heaven seemed to open, and there came down towards him something that looked as if it had been a vast mainsail gathered up, so that the four corners seemed tied together, but in such a manner as to leave the contents visible through the intervals : it gradually came down to the earth; and when Peter looked into it, he saw a number of various animals, quadrupeds of all kinds, wild beasts, insects, and birds. While he was gazing upon these, he heard a voice which bid him kill some of these animals, and satisfy his hunger by eating of their flesh. This was so repugnant to the Jewish feelings of Peter, that at once he remonstrated, declaring that he had always been very strict in keeping the law of Moses, which forbad a Jew to use the flesh of animals that might be commonly eaten by the uncircumcised, or to partake of anything that by God's word had been classed as unclean. (Lev. xi. Deut. xiv. 1-12.) To this an answer came, telling Peter that he was not to call that common which God himself had made clean. This was repeated a second and a third time, in order to impress the mind of Peter with a more lively sense of its certainty (Gen. xli. 32); and then the thing which contained the animals, went up again into heaven. Peter remained considering
what could be meant by the sight which he had seen; and while he was engaged in meditation, the servants of Cornelius having arrived in Joppa, and inquired for the house to which they had been directed, came to the door, and standing in the porch, asked whether Simon Peter was to be found in that house. Peter could not hear them come, being at this time at the of the house in deep thought on the subject of his vision; but the Holy Ghost informed him inwardly, that three men were come to find him, and that he should
down to them, and also go with them where they led him ; he
need have no doubt concerning this journey, for the Holy Spirit himself had commissioned these men to seek him.
Peter immediately obeyed this heavenly direction; he went down to meet the messengers of Cornelius, and told them he was the person for whom they enquired, asking them for what purpose they had come.
The servants told him that a Roman Captain named Cornelius, a good' and pious man, and one who had obtained the good opinion of the Jews generally, had been instructed by an angel sent from God to fetch Peter to his house, in order that he might receive some intelligence from him. Peter immediately desired them to come in, and received them hospitably that day. On the next day he set forth to return with them, taking with him six of the christians of Joppa. (Acts xi. 12.) They journeyed that day and arrived at Cæsarea on the next. Cornelius had calculated the time when they might be expected, and had gathered a company of his relations and friends, with whom he was waiting to receive the guest thus sent to them. As Peter was approaching the house, Cornelius went forth and met him at the door. Being as yet ignorant of the spiritual nature of the true God, and having received so divine a token of Peter's mission, he cast himself before him in that posture of reverence with which the Romans were accustomed to worship their gods. Peter immediately raised him up, and bid him stand upright before him, as before one who was a fellow-man with himself. Then they entered into conversation as they went into the house, where they found a large company assembled.
Peter addressed the company, and told them that they must be aware that it was contrary to the law and custom of the Jews, that any of the family of Abraham should associate in familiar intercourse with the people of other tribes and nations; but God (he said) had made it plain to him, that he was not to separate himself from any one, as being unclean and unfit company for Jew. Therefore when the messengers had come for him he had made no objection, but had accompanied them without hesitation; now therefore he requested to be informed what was the reason for sending for him.