Page images

came to pass in those days, that she was sick and died. And when they had washed her corpse, they laid her in an upper

cham88 ber. And as Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples hearing that

Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him that he 39 would not delay to come to them. And Peter arose, and went

with them. And when he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber ; and all the widows stood hy him weeping, and

shewing the coats and mantles which Dorcas had made, while she 40 was with them, for the poor. And Peter putting them all out of

the room, kneeled down and prayed; and turning to the body, he

said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes, and seeing Pe41 ter, she sat up. And giving her his hand, he raised her up; and

having called in the saints and widows, he presented her to them 42 alive. And his miracle was presently known throughout all Jop43 pa; and many believed in the Lord. And he continued many

days at Joppa, in the house of one Simon a tanner.

REFLECTIONS. Bléssed appostle! who was thus enabled to imitate his divine mast ter, in what he himself has celebrated as the brightest glory of his human character, in going about doing good, and who had always a concern, like him, when he performed the most important offices of kindness to men's bodies, that all might be subservient to the edification and salvation of their souls ! -Behold, in what has now been read, not only a disease, which a continuance for eight years had rendered inveterate and hopeless, but drath itself yielding to his command, or rather to the infinitely superior power of his Lord, the great conquerer of death for himself, and adored be his compassionate name) for all his people too. It is most delightful to observe, with what solicitous care of pious humiiity Peter immediately transferred the eye and heart of Æneas, and of every spectator, from himna self to Christ, while he says, Æreas, Jesus Christ healeth thee. He would not leave them any room for a surmise, as if it was by any power of his own that so astonishing a cure was wrought; but leads thein to consider it as the act of Christ, and to ascribe the glory of the work to him whose minister he was, and in whose name he spake. Thus, if God favour us as the instruments of healing and animating those souls that were once lying in a hopeless state, not only disabled, but dead in trespasses und sins, let us acknowledge that it is not we, bus the grace of God thut is with us.

Great, no doubt, was the affliction which the disciples sustained, when so amiable and useful a person as Dorcus was taken away from them by death ; a person whose heart had been so ready to pity the afflicted, and her hand to help them ; a person whose prudence and diligence had also been as conspicuous as her charity ; for she well knew there were circumstances in which to have given the poor the value of these things in money, would have been a much less certain and suitable benefit, than to furnish them with the necessaries and conveniences of life thus manufactured for their immediate use. And surely the garments which she made and distributed, must be more preVOL. I.


cious to them in some degree for having passed through so kind a hand. Let us be cmulous of such a character, in all the expressions of it which suit our circumstances in life, that when we are dead the memory of our good actions may survive, to the credit of our profession, and to the glory of God. It was a circumstance which greatly en. hanced the value of the intended miracle, that it was to call back from the dead so excellent a person : And with what humility, with what faith was it performed ! Again does the servant follow not only the path but the very steps of bis Lord, in dirmirsing all witnesses, that nothing might look like vain-glory, that nothing might interrupt the fervour of that address he was to pour out befor God. First he bords his knees in prayer to the Lord of life, and then he directs his voice with a divine efficacy to the drad. So may we, O Lord, learn to address ourselves to those under the power of spiritual d'ath with that spirit and vigour which we receive by solemn and affectionate intercourse with thee, who hast the life of nature and of grace at thy command.

Who can imagine the surprise of Dorcas, when thus called back to life again, or of her pious friends, when they :

saw her alive? For their own sakes, and the sake of the indigent and distressed, there was cause of rejoicing, and much more in the view of such a confirmation given to the gospel, and such a token of Christ's presence with his servants. Yet to herself it was matter of resigrarion and of submission, rather than of exultation, that she was called back to these scenes of vanity, which surely would hardly have been tolerable, had not a veil of oblivion been drawn over those glories which her separate spirit enjoyed*. But we please ourselves with a charitable and reasonable hope, that the remainder of her days were yet inore zealously and vigourously spent in the service of her Saviour and her God, yielding herself to him, as in a double sense alive from the dead. Thus would a richer treasure be laid up for her in heavin; and she would afterwards return to a far more exceeding weight of glory, than that from which so astonishing a providence had, for a short in terval, recalled her.


Cornelius, being divinely instructed, sends for Peter, wño, laught by å vise,

ion not to scruple it, returns with his messengers to Cæsarea. Ch: x. 1—23.

COW there was a certain man in Cæsarea, named Cornelius,

a centurion, being a commander of that which is called the 2 Italian band or cohort ; a man of piety, and one that feared God,

with all his house ; giving also much alms to the people, and 3 praying to God continually. He evidently saw in a vision, about

the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in to him, and 4 saying to him, Cornelius. And having fixed his eyes upon him

he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord, which this meaneth

* Perhaps her spirit had not entered the region of glory. ED.

13 air.

And her the angel) said to him, Thy prayers and thine alms are 5 come up as a memorial before God. And now, as a proof of it,

send men to Joppa, and fetch hither one Simon, whose sirname is 6 Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by 7 the sea-side: he shall tell thee what thou must do. As soon then

as the angel who spake to Cornelius was gone, he called two of his

domestics, and a pious soldier of them that waited upon him; 8 and having related to them all these things, he sent them to Jop9 pa. On the next day, while they were on their journey, and

drew near the city, Peter went up to the top of the house to pray 10 about the sixth hour (i... about noon.) And he was very hungry,

and would have taken a little refreshment; but while they were 11 preparing it, he fell into an ecstasy or trance. And he saw heav,

en opened, and something descending to him, like a great sheet, 12 fastened at the four corners, and let down to the earth ; in which

there were all sorts of things, prohibited by the law: four-footed animals of the earth, and wild beasts, and reptiles, and fowls of the

And there came a voice to him, saying, Rise, Peter, kill 14 and eat. But Peter said, By no means, Lord, for I have never 15 eaten any thing which is common or unclean. And the voice said

to him again the second time, Those things which God hath 16 cleansed, do not thou call common. And this was done three

times, and the vessel, or sheet, was taken up into heaven again.-17 And while Peter was doubting in himself what the vision which

he had seen might import, behold the men who were sent from

Cornelius, having inquired out the house of Simon the Tanner, 18 stood at the door; and calling to those within, they asked, if Si19 mon whose sirname was Peter lodged there. Now as Peter was

reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold three 20 men are inquiring for thee: arise therefore, and go down, and

take the journey with them without any scruple ; for I have sent 21 them. Then Peter went down to the men who were sent to him

from Cornelius, and said, Behold, I am the man whom you in22 quire for; what is the cause for which you are come hither? And

they said, Cornelius the centurion, a righteous man, who feareth God, and bath a character attested by all the Jewish people, hath been divinely instructed by an holy angel to send for thee to his

house, an to hear words from thee on some important subject, 23 Having therefore called them in, he entertained them that night ;

and the next day Peter set out with them : and some of the preth: ren, who were inhabitants of Joppa, went with him.

REFLECTIONS. We are now entering on a series of the story in which we ourselves are intimately concerned: We are going to see the first fruits of the Gentiles gathered into the church ; and let us see it with gratitude and delight. Most amiable and exemplary is the character of Core nelius, who, though exposed to all the temptations of a military life, maintained not only his virtue but his piety too. He fiared God, and he wrought righteousness : and daily presented before God prayer and alms, which added a beauty and acceptance to each other: And he was also an example of domestic, as well as of personal religion ; as if he had been trained up under the discipline of that he, roic general and prince, who so publicly and so resolutely declared before an assembled nation, even on the supposition of their general apostacy, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Io him God was pleased to send the gospel, and the manner in which he sent it is well worthy of our remark. An angel appeared, not himself to preach it, but to introduce the apostle, to whom that work was assign: ed. With what holy complacency of soul did Cornelius hear, by a messenger from heaven, that his prayers and alms were come un for an acceptable memorial before God! They whose prayers and alms are proportionably affectionate and sincere, may consider it as a testimony borne to the gracious manner in which an impartial and immuta. ble God regards and accepts them.-Yet after all that they have done, let them learn by the conduct of this de out, upright, and char. itable man, not so to rest in their own virtues as to negiect inquiring after that way of salvation which God has established by his Son, but always ready to regard it as the one thing needful; let them maintain an uniformity in their character, by a diligent and candid attention to the declaration of it in the gospel.

Peter retires for secret prayer in the middle of the day, as if he had learned of David to say, Evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud. He seeks a convenienť retirement, and in that retirement the vision of the Lord meets him ; a vision mysterious indeed in its first appearances, but gradually opened by divine providence, the process of which renders many things plain, which at first seemed dark and unaccountable. This vision declared to him in ef. fect the abolition of the Mosaic ceremonial law, of which the precepts relating to the distinction of meats made so important a part; and we see here with pleasure, that strict as his observation of it had been from his very birth, he was not now disobedient to the heavenly vision, but freely received ihe uncircumcised, and freely goes to be a guest to one who was so. Thus let us always preserve an openness and impar, tiality of mind, and in proportion to the degree in which we appear: willing to know the truih, we shall find that ihe truik will make us free.

Nevertheless, as it was an affair about which some difficulties might arise, and some censures even in the way of duty be incurred, he takes some of the brethren with him, that their advice and concurrence in what he did might be a further justification of his conduct, to those who were not perhaps sufficientiy aware of the divine direca tion under which he was: How agreeable a mixture of prudence and humility! Let it teach us on all proper occasions to express at once 4 becoming deference to our brethren, and a prudent caution in our own best intended actions, that even our good may not be evil sproken of, when It lies in our power to prevent it,

SECTION XXIII. Peter preaches the gospel to Cornelius and his friends ; who upon believing

it, receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized. Ch. x. 24, &c.



him from Joppa, entered into Cæsarea ; and Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his relations and intimate 25 friends. And, as Peter was entering, Cornelius met him, and fall

ing down at his feet, payed homage to him, as a divine messenger. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, Arise, I also myself am a man 27 as thou art. And discoursing with him, he went in, and found 28 many gathered together. And he said to them, You know that

it is looked upon as unlawful for a man that is a Jew, to join with, or to come into the house of one of another nation : nevertheless

God hath shewn me, that I am to call no man common or unclean. 29 Wherefore when I was sent for I came without debate : I ask 30 therefore on what account you have sent for me? And Cornelius

said, Four days ago I was fasting till this hour, and at the ninth

hour I prayed in my house, and behold a man stood before me in 31 bright raiment, and said to me, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and 32 thine alms are remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppan

and call hither Simon, whose sirname is Peter; he lodgeth in

the house of one Sinnen a Tanner, by the sea-side; who wlien he is 33 come, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee,

and thou hast done well in coming. Now therefore we are all

here present before God, to hear all those things which God 34 hath given thee in charge to diliver. Then Peter opening his

mouth said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of 35 persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh 36 righteousness, is acceptable to him. This is that message, which

he sent to the children of Israel, proclaiming the glad-tidings of 37 peace by Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Ye know the report

there was, through all Judea, which began from Galilee, after the 58 baptism which John preached, concerning Jesus of Nazareth ; hos

God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power; who

went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by 39 the devil ; for God was with him. And we his apostles are wit

nesses of all things which he did, both in the region of the Jews

and in Jerusalem ; whom they slew, hanging him upon a tree. 40 This very person hath God raised up on the third day, and hath 41 given him to become manifest ; not to all the people, but to

witnesses before appointed by God, even to us, who have eaten and 42 drunk with him after he rose from the dead. And he hath given

in charge to us to proclaim the glac-tidings to the people, and to

testify that it is he who is appointed by God to be the judge of 43 the living and the dead. To him bear all the prophets witness,

that every one who believeth on him shall receive the forgiveness 44 of sins by his name. While Peter was yet speaking these words, 45 the Holy Spirit fell upon all that were hearing the word. And

« PreviousContinue »