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10. And he became very hungry, and 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 four-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 I 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.
It was part of the law of Moses to distinguish certain animals which might be used for food from others which were forbidden. In the eleventh chapter of Leviticus these are enumerated at length. Moses there says, "These are the beasts which
thou shalt eat. Others shall be an abomination unto you; their carcases shall ye not touch; they are unclean unto you.
Such differences as to food lawful and unlawful make a practical separation between people and nation. This, doubtless, was one chief intention of that law, which laid down distinctions between the clean and the unclean animal. It restrained the intercourse of the Israelites with other nations. Now, however, this separation was to be at an end.
"All flesh should see the salvation of
God." There was to be "neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision, nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free but Christ all, and in all.”~ And this was signified to Peter in the vision which he saw. God had now cleansed the Gentiles. No man should be reckoned so common or unclean but he might arise, and wash away his sins, being baptized in the name of the Lord." The parable was to be accomplished; and the messengers of the Lord were to go out not only into "the streets and lanes of the city," but into the "highways and hedges," that the Lord's house might be filled.
Here also is an emblem of the grace which Christ bestows. It leaves nothing common or unclean. They who would have seemed farthest removed from the divine favour, in nature, in habit, in character, being "renewed in the spirit of their mind," become "new creatures," are received at the king's table, and enabled to "sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God."
7 Col. iii. 11.
PETER ACCOMPANIES THE MESSENGERS OF CORNELIUS, AND FINDS HIM WITH HIS FRIENDS, EXPECTING HIS ARRIVAL.—A. D. 41.
ACTS x. 17-33.
17. 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.
St. Luke, in writing this, sets before us the providential care of God watching over his people, and ordering those events which are to bring about his purposes respecting them. This is done here by actual visions and revelations. An angel is sent to Cornelius. A vision is shown to Peter: and while he thinks on the vision, and doubts what it should mean, the Spirit instructs him in the will of God. It was a period of extraordinary interposition on the part of God. But without the angel who may be really heard, and without the vision which may be plainly seen, God will always
find means that they shall know his will, who, like Cornelius and Simon, have hearts prepared to follow it. "What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose."
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 Cæsarea. And Cornelius waited for them, 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, and 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 I 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?
30. And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my
1 Psalm xxv. 12.
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 sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
33. Immediately therefore I sent 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.
A revelation, which he knew to have come from God, had directed Cornelius to expect from Peter instructions of infinite importance. And Cornelius here describes the state of mind in which he and his party were waiting for these instructions. Now are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. And, if we consider, it is the very frame of mind in which we ought to be ourselves found at this moment: the frame in which we should always receive God's word, whether written in the scripture, or declared in the public ministrations of the church. It implies reverence, attention, expectation.
1. It implies, first, REVERENCE. And the Bible has a claim to reverence. It is as direct a communication from God, as the message of Peter to Cornelius. We should not study the scripture, if we did not believe this. We open it with the same impression as that which influenced Cornelius and his friends. They would not have been to