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they of the circumcision who believed, as many as came with
Peter, were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit was pour46 ed out upon the Gentiles also : for they heard them speaking in
divers languages, and glorifying God.-Then Peter answered, 47 Can any one forbid water, that these persons should not be bap48 tized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And
he ordered them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, And they entreated him to continue with them several days.
REFLECTIONS. There is no room to wonder, that a man of Cornelius's benevolent character should be solicitous to bring his kindred and friends into the way of that divine instruction, which he hoped himself to receive from the revelation now opening upon him. What nobler or more rational office can friendship perform! and how deficient is every thing that would assume such a name, which doth not extend itself to a care for men's highest and everlasting interests.
It must, no doubt, be some prejudice in favour of Peter on the minds of these strangers, to see that he declined that profound homage which good Cornelius, in a rapture of humble devotion, was perhaps something too ready to pay him. The ministers of Christ never appear more truly great, than when they arrogate least to theme selves ; and without challenging undue respect, with all simplicity of soul, as fellow-creatures and as fellow-sinners, are ready to impart the gospel of Jesus, in such a manner as to shew that they honour him above all, and have learned of him to honour all men. That humble subjection of soul to the divine authority which Cornelius, in name of the assembly, expressed, is such as we should always bring along with us to the house of the Lord ; and happy is that minister, who, when he enters the sanctuary, finds his people all present before God, to hear the things which God shall give him in charge to speak to them, and heartily disposed to acquiesce in whatever he shall say, so far as it shall be supported by those sacred oracles by which doctrines and men are now to be tried.
Well might Peter apprehend so natural a truth as that which he here professeth, that God is no respecter of persons, but every where accepteth those that fear him, and express that reverence by working righteousness. Let us rejoice in this thought, and while we take care to shew that this is our own character, let us pay an impartial regard to it wherever we see it in others, still cultivating that wisdom from above, which is without partiality, as well as without hypocrisy. We also know that important word which God sent to Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. May we know it to saving purposes, and believing in him receive the remission of our sins in his name ! May we shew ourselves the genuine disciples of this divine Master, by learning of him, according to our ability, to go about doing good, sowing, as universally as may be, the seeds of virtue and happiness wherever we come! And then, should the treatment which we meet with be such as our Lord found, should we be despised and reproached, should we be persecuted and at length slain, he who raised up Christ from the dead, will in due time also raise up us ; having suffered we shall reign with him, and share that triumph in which he 'shall appear as the appointed Judge both of the quick and dead.
Let us not esteem it any objection against his divine mission, that God did not humour the wantonness of men so far, as to cause him to appear in person to all the people after his resurrection; it is abundantly enough that he appeared to such a number of chosen witnesses, who were thus enabled to evidence the truth of their testimony by the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Of this, what passed with regard to these converts, when the Holy Spirit fell upon them, and they spake with tongues, is an instance worthy of being had in everlasting remembrance. Let us rejoice in this anointing of the first fruits of the Gentiles, by which their adoption into the family of God was so illustriously declared; and let us be ready, after the example of Peter, whatever preconceived prejudices it may oppose, to receive all whom the Lord hath received, from whatever state his grace hath called them, and cordially to own them as brethren whom our heavenly Father himself doth not disdain to number among his children.
Peter being questioned about his interview with Cornelius, gives a fathful
narration of it, to satisfy his brethren who were under Jewish prejudices. Ch. xi. 1–18.
row q the apostles and the brethren who were in Judea,
heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 3 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they who were of 3 the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou didst go
in to the house of men, who were uncircumcised, and didst eat 4. with them. And Peter beginning from his vision, opened to them 5 the matter in order, saying, I was praying in the city of Joppa,
and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descend
ing from heaven, let down by the four corners, and it came close 6 to me: and looking attentively upon it, I observed and saw
four-footed creatures of the earth, and wild beasts, and reptiles, 7 and fowls of the air, all prohibited by our law. And I heard a
voice saying to me, Arise, Peter, kill and eat : But I said, By no
means, Lord, for nothing common or unclean hath ever entered 9 into my mouth. And the voice answered me the second time from
heaven, Those things which God hath cleansed, do not thou 10 call common. And this was done three times. And all the 11 things were drawn up again into heaven. And behold at that
instant three men were come to the house in which I was, sent 12 from Cæsarea to me. And the Spirit commanded me to go with
them without any scruple. Accordingly I went, and these six
brethren also went along with me. And we entered into the 13 man's house ; and he told us how he had seen an angel standing,
in his house, and saying to him, Send men to Joppa, and fetch 14 hither Simon whose sirname is Peter, who shall speak words to
15 thee by which thou and all thy family shall be saved. And as I
began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, even as it did upon 16 us at the beginning of our ministry. And I remembered the word
of the Lord Jesus, how he said, John indeed baptized with water, 1Y but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Since therefore
God gave to them the same gift as he did to us, who had believed
on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I that I should be able to 18 prohibit God, or oppose his pleasure ?- And when they heard
these things, they acquiesced and glorified God, saying, It is plain, God hath then given to thc Genuiles also repentance unto life.
REFLECTIONS. With what joy ought every one who loved God or man to have heard that the Gentiles had received the word of the gospel ; yet we find those of the circumcision disputing with Peter upon the occasion. Their prejudices as Jews were so strong, that they thought the passage to the church must still lie through the synagogue, and so remembered that they were disciples of Moses, as almost to forget that they were the disciples of Christ. Let us always guard against that narrowness of mind which would limit even the Holy One of Israel to the bounds which we shall mark out, and exclude others from his favour that our own honour may appear so much the more signal... But let us with pleasure observe the mildness and prudence of Peter ; warm as his temper naturally was, and high as he was raised by the divine favour? though he had been so remarkably turning the key of the kingdom of heaven itself, and opening it by immediate divine direction to the uncircumcisad, that they might enter ; yet he stands not upon the general honours of his apostolical character, nor insists upon that imfilicit submission to him which some, with no such credentials, have been ready to arrogate to themselves ; but he condescends to the yonger brethren, and gives them a plain, distinct, and faithful narration of the whole matter, just as it was.
Thus let us learn, in the spirit of gentleness, humility, and love, to vindicate our actions where they have been uncandidly mistaken. And when we have the pleasure to know that they are right, let us enjoy that happy reflection to such a degree, as not to suffer ourselves to be disquieted and put out of temper, by the rash charges and censures of those who will judge our conduct before they have examined into it ; and are disposed, more to their own detriment than it can possibly be to ours, to err on the severe extreme.-Peter, we see, very circumstantially recollected what be had seen and heard. Let it also be our care to treasure up in our memory, and to inscribe on our hearts whatever God shall be pleased, though in more ordinary methods of instruction, to discover to us ; and never let us be disobedient to any intimation of the divine will, but, on the contrary, always most cheerfully acquiesce in it. Who are we, thai in any respect we should resise God? and particularly, who are we, that we should in effect do it by laying down rules relating to Christian communion, which should exclude any whom he has admitted ? O that all the churches, whether national or separate, might be led seriously to consider, how arrogant
an usurpation that is on the authority of the supreme Lord of the church that the sin of this resistance to God may not be laid to * the charge of those who, perhaps in the main with a good intention, in an overfondness for their own forms, have done it, and are continually doing it Like these brethren of the circumcision, let us be willing to yield to the force of evidence, even when it leads us into an unexpected path ; and let us glorify God, when he is pleased to manifest himself to those who seemed to us to have the least room to hope for such a favour. Whether it be to us or to others that God hath granted repentance unto life, may we rejoice in it, and adore his goodness therein! For it is certain that none of the delights of life, which men so fondly pursue, are half so valuable as that godly sorrow qvhich worketh repentance unto salvation.
The gospel preached at Antioch: Barnabas confirms the disciples, there
culled Christians. Agabus foretells a famine. Ch. xi. 19, &c. 19 OW therefore they who were dispersed by the distress
and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but the 20 Jews only. But some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene,
who having entered into Antioch, spake to the Greeks or Gentiles*, 21 preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with
them, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord. 22 And the report concerning them came to the ears of the church
that was at Jerusalem ; and they sent forth Barnabas to go as far 23 as Antioch. Who, when he was come, and beheld the grace of
God, rejoiced, and exhorted them all to achere to the Lord with 24 full determination of heart ; for he was a good man, and full of
the Holy Spirit, and of faith : and a considerable number were 25 added unto the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus, to seek af. 26 ter Saul ; and finding him there, he brought him to Antioch. And
it came to pass that they assembled in the church for a whole
year, and taught considerable numbers ; and the disciples were by 27 divine † appointment first named Christians at Antioch.
And in these days, prophets came from Jerusalem to · Antioch. 28 And one of them, whose name was Agabus, stood up in one of
their assemblies, and signified by the Spirit, that there should
shortly be a great famine over all the land: which quickly came 29 to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar who then reigned. And .
the disciples determined that, according to the respective abili
* The common reading, Emanuisas Grecians, or Hellenists (who were Jews) cannot be the true one. The Alex. MS. and the Syriac read Eagyas Greeks or Heathens. Here undoubtedly we have the first account of the preaching of the gospel to the idolatrous Gentiles.-Antioch was the capital of Syria. - † This I think, with others, the Greek word here used implies. Vol. I.
ties of each, they should send to the assistance of the poor bres 30 thren who dwelt in Judea. And this they did ; sending their cons tribution to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
REFLECTIONS. Let us with pleasure observe, how in the instance here recorded, the blood of a martyr was the seed of the church ; an event afterwards so common, that it became a proverb. Thus they who were scattered abrvad on the death of Stephen every where dispersed the gospel ; and let us be thankful that some of them brought it to the Geniili: as well as to the Jewe. Freely did it run, and illustriously was it glurifi.d. But with whatever evidence and advantage they preached it, with whatever spirit and zeal (in some measure the natural consequence of having been called to suffer so dearly for it) the success of all is to be traced up to the hand of the Lord that was with them.
This engaged men to belirve and turn unto the Lord ; to stop in their career of sin, to pause upon their condućt, to accept of the Lord Jesus Christ as the saviour, and to consecrate themselves to God through him. O that his hand might be with all his ministers! O that such success might every where be produced by its powerful operations ! Well migit Barnabas r:juice when he saw such a scene, and more distant brethren be pleased when they heard of it ; for what is the triumph of the gospel but the triumph of human happiness ? And who, that has cordially received the gospel, does not feel his whole heart most tenderly interested in that ? He wisely and properly. exhoried the m, nuving once embraced this divine and glorious dispensation, with full purpose of heart to cleuve unto the Lord ; and there was great need of such an exhortation, as well as a very solid foundadation for it. Such difficulties will arise in our Christian course, though we should not meet with persecutions like theirs, that we shall need a most steady resolution of mind in order to our adherence to the Lord; but let us arm ourselves with it, and hold fast the profission of our faith without wavering, since he is invariably faithful who hath promised. Such exhortations as these will be most efectual when they come, as in this instance they evidently did, from a good man, whose example will add authority to his words, and so be a means not only to quicken religion in the hearts of those who have already embraced it, but to propagate it to those who are yet strangers to it.
With pleasure let us reflect upon this honourable nume, which the disciples of Jesus first wore at Antioch ; they were called Christians, as it seems by divine appointment : And would to God that no other, no dividing name, had ever prevailed among them! As for such distinguishing titles, though they were taken from Apollos, or Cephas, or Paul, let us endeavour to exclude them out of the church as fast as we can ; and while they continue in it, let us take care that they do not make us forget our most ancient and most glorious title. Let us take heed, that we do not so remember our difference from each other in smaller matters, as to forget our mutual agreement in embra. cing the gospel of Christ, and in professing to submit ourselves to him as our common Prince and Saviour.-The notice of the