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1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band ,
Ver. 1. A centurion of the band ] He might well have been a commander in the thundering legion, qui plus precando quam praeliando potuerunt, κεραυνοβολος . Preces sunt bombardae et instrumenta bellica Christianorum, said Luther, who also spared not to tell the Elector of Saxony, his protector and patron, that he by his prayers would secure his Highness’s soul, body, and estate engaged in the gospel’s cause. Sive id credat Celsitudo vestra, sive non credat. Imo Iudico, saith he, C. V plus a me praesidii et tutelae habiturum esse quam mihi praestare, &c. Yea, I am of the mind that your Highness hath more safety from me than I have from you.
2 A devout man , and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
Ver. 2. A devout man, &c. ] ευσεβης . Not of the king’s religion, whatever it be, as those Melchites it, Nicephorus. And as Tertullian tells us in his Apology, that the people were bound to worship those gods only that the Senate decreed should be worshipped. Cornelius was a right worshipper.
With all his house ] A man is really what he is relatively. David would show his sincerity by being good at home,Psalms 101:2; Psalms 101:2 .
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.
Ver. 3. About the ninth hour ] Which was the time of the evening sacrifice, when the joint prayers of the Church were ascending as incense.
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.
Ver. 4. Thy prayers and thine alms ] Dr Powel relateth this saying of Leotinus, Prince of Wales, that when he was moved by some to make war upon our Henry III, Ego, inquit, formido eius eleemosynas magis certe multo quam eius copias. And the queen-mother of Scotland was heard to say, that she more feared the fastings and prayers of John Knox and his disciples than an army of twenty thousand men.
For a memorial before God ] How did the angel know this? Angels have a threefold knowledge: 1. Natural; 2. Revealed, as Daniel 9:20-23 , and here; 3. Experimental,Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 3:10 .
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
Ver. 5. Call for one Simon ] Though an angel certifies Cornelius’s prayers were accepted, yet he reads not to him the doctrine of redemption, but refers him to Peter. The office of preaching the gospel is taken from the angels (who first preached it to the shepherds) and given to the ministers.
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
Ver. 6. With one Simon a tanner ] God knoweth all his by name, and condition of life.
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;
Ver. 7. A devout soldier ] Cornelius had either found him, or made him so. Nero complained that he could never find a faithful servant; and no wonder, for those that were good, cared not to come about him; and those that were bad, he cared not to make better, as being himself desperately wicked. Qualis herus, talis servus. The master’s faults go as little unattended as their persons.
Of them that waited on him ] The Syriac hath it, of them whom he esteemed highly. Good servants are rare and precious.
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
Ver. 8. And when he had declared ] He knew well the worth of a faithful messenger, Proverbs 25:13 . Howbeit the more to affect their hearts, and the better to effect his design, he sets God before them, and shows them the whole matter. God’s commands carry a divine authority, and soon prevail with the religious. Dicto citius dicta peragunt. They say with him in the poet (Lucan),
" Iussa sequi, tam velle mihi, quam posse, necesse est. "
9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
Ver. 9. Upon the housetop to pray ] He got upon the leads, as well to avoid distraction as to excite devotion by a full view of heaven above.
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
Ver. 10. He fell into a trance ] His soul was sundered, as it were, for a season, from his body, while he talked with God. So our Saviour was transfigured as he was praying. John was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, when he received his revelation; Paul was rapped up into the third heaven. Giles of Bruxelles (a Dutch martyr), in his prayers was so ardent, kneeling by himself in some secret place, while he was a prisoner, that he seemed to forget himself. Being called many times to eat, he neither heard nor saw those that stood by him, till he was lifted up by the arms, and then gently he would speak unto them, as one awakened out of a sweet sleep.
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:
Ver. 11. And saw heaven opened ] sc. The visible heaven, the air; for, as for the third heaven, it openeth not without a miracle, as some think.
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
Ver. 12. Were all manner of fourfooted ] Gr. παντα . All, that is, some of all sorts; so, omne animal, every living creature, is said to be in Noah’s ark; and in the like sense, Christ is said to die for all.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
Ver. 13. Kill and eat ] Peter was hereby taught not to kill and slay in battle, as many of his warlike pretended successors have done, but to kill that corruption that he found in the Gentiles, by the sword of the Spirit, &c. Julius II can turn him either way, to Peter’s keys or Paul’s sword. a
a Cum Petri nihil efficiant ad praelia claves auxilio Pauli forsitan ensis erit.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
Ver. 14. Common or unclean ] By commonness there is contracted an uncleanness. It is hard to deal in the world, and not be defiled with the corruption that is in the world through lust.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
Ver. 15. That call not thou common ] Or profane thou not, συ μη κοινου . See Trapp on " Act 10:14 "
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Ver. 16. Received up again into heaven ] The Church’s original is from heaven,Revelation 21:10; Revelation 21:10 , and thither she shall be taken up again. As in the mean space, our commoration is on earth, our conversation in heaven, Philippians 3:20 .
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 enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate,
Ver. 17. Stood before the gate ] They pressed not in till licensed; they knew that Jews would not easily converse with them being Gentiles. This was their modesty, not often seen in soldiers.
18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
Ver. 18. And called and asked ] Whether death will use so much manners as these did, viz. to call and ask for us, or ever he seizeth us, it is uncertain. Senibus mors in ianuis, adolescentibus in insidiis, saith Bernard. The young man hath death at his back, the old man before his eyes, saith Aquinas. And that is the more dangerous enemy that pursueth thee, than that which marcheth up toward thy face. Be sober, be vigilant: of doomsday there are signs affirmative and negative, not so of death; and yet every man’s death’s day is his doomsday.
19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
Ver. 19. While Peter thought on ] διενθυμουμενου , Gr. thought in his mind; cogitabat quasi coagitabat. He was busily plodding, and the Spirit came in to help him. Divine meditation is a studious act of the mind, searching the knowledge of a hidden truth, by the discourse of reason. Or, it is a steadfast and earnest bending of the mind upon some heavenly matter, for the settling of our judgments and bettering of our heart and lives.
20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
Ver. 20. Doubting nothing ] Or, not arguing the case, μηδεν διακρινομενος , but readily yielding the obedience of faith.
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?
Ver. 21. Peter went down ] He sent not for them up, much less made he them to wait three days at the gate (as that pope did Henry the emperor) before they could have a hearing.
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.
Ver. 22. That feareth God ] Not with a base fear, as those mongrels, 2 Kings 17:32 , that feared the Lord for his lions sent among them (like as some Indians in this day fear the devil because he beats them), but with an amicable, filial, reverential fear, which got him a good report among all the nation of the Jews; such as St Paul thus bespeaketh, "Men of Israel, and ye that fear God,"Acts 13:16; Acts 13:16 . a
a Duo sunt timores, servilis et amicalis. Beda.
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.
Ver. 23. Certain brethren from Joppa ] Who were well paid for their courteous pains, when (for confirmation of their faith) they beheld the kingdom of Christ propagated and preached to the Gentiles also.
24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
Ver. 24, Cornelius waited for them ] So the people waited for Zacharias, Luke 1:21 . It is fit the people should wait for the minister, not the minister for the people, Zechariah 8:21 .
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him .
Ver. 25. Worshipped him ] Not as God, with divine worship; yet with too much humility, which Peter correcteth. The word must be glorified, the ministers not overly admired.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
Ver. 26. But Peter took him up ] Longe aliter papa, the pope (Diocletian-like) holds forth his toe to be kissed, and suffers his parasites to deify him.
" Tu vere in terris diceris esse Deus. "
"You truly on earth are said to be God."
I myself also am a man ] We must glorify the word, not the preacher, Acts 13:48 .
27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
Ver. 27. He found many that were come together ] With good and honest hearts, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, resolved to be ruled by God, and to pass into the likeness of the heavenly pattern. Lord, saith Nazianzen, I am an instrument for thee to touch. I am only thy clay and wax, said another.
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.
Ver. 28. Not call any man unclean ] Scilicet, quoad communem vitae usum; Nam alioqui omnes natura impuri; i.e. in regard of civil conversation. By nature (it is true) we are all 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?
Ver. 29. Without gainsaying, as soon as sent for ] Hoc est sanctum fide; silentium, saith Calvin, this was the holy silence of faith; this was to preach Christ the Lord; and himself the Church’s servant, for Jesus’ sake. A servant is not αυτοματος , one that moveth absolutely of himself; he is υπηρετης and οργανον , saith Aristotle, the master’s instrument, and wholly his, ολως εκεινου , 1 Corinthians 4:5 . Peter’s pretended successor styleth himself the "servant of God’s servants;" but is nothing less.
For what intent ] This he desireth to know of them, that he might not shoot at rovers, run at uncertainty; but be able to conclude his discourse, as he did, Det Deus, ut sermo meus adeo commodus sit, quam sit accommodus, God grant my speech may be as profitable as it is seasonable.
30 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,
Ver. 30. I was fasting until, &c. ] Fulness breeds forgetfulness; but fasting maketh a man capable of heavenly visions of divine glory. The three great fasters, Christ, Moses, and Elias, met gloriously in Mount Tabor.
31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
Ver. 31. Cornelius, thy prayer is heard ] This was a singular happiness, and a sure seal of his good estate to Godward, Psa 66:18-19 John 9:31 . Every access to God with success, every gracious return of prayer, sealeth up this comfort to the soul, that since He that hath the keys of David hath once opened unto us not only a door of utterance, but a door of entrance to the throne of grace, it shall never be shut again any more.
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.
Ver. 32. He is lodged, &c. ] God takes notice of every circumstance of his people’s affairs; their very walls are ever before him, Isaiah 49:16 . He thinks the better of the houses they lodge in, and looks upon all that favour them with special content; "I will bless them that bless thee,"Genesis 12:3; Genesis 12:3 . See Trapp on " Gen 12:3 "
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.
Ver. 33. Now therefore we are all, &c. ] All of a mind to serve the Lord with one shoulder, Zephaniah 3:9 ; as Hezekiah’s servants joined together in that laudable work of copying out those proverbs of Solomon for the Church’s use, Proverbs 25:1 .
Present before God ] Whom we look full in the face, ενωπιον , seeing him by faith who is invisible, and setting ourselves to receive the law at his mouth, to hear the word, not of a mortal man, but of the everliving God.
To hear all things ] sc. With due reverence and diligence; not to jeer at anything that is commanded thee of God, that hath the stamp and impress of God upon it, that comes cum privilegio, and appears to be cor et anima Dei (as Gregory calleth the word), the counsel and mind of God. Lo, these were right hearers. Oh for such in this day! Ours (alas) have corpora in sacellis, animos in sacculis, as Ezekiel’s had, Ezekiel 33:31 , and as serpents have their bodies in the water, but their heads out.
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
Ver. 34. No respecter of persons ] That is, of their outward state and condition, as country, sex, wealth, wisdom, &c. Outward things neither help nor hurt, please nor displease God, but as they are in a good or bad man; as a cipher by itself is nothing, but a figure being set before it, it increaseth the sum.
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
Ver. 35. He that feareth him and worketh righteousness ] This is the whole duty of man, asEcclesiastes 12:13; Ecclesiastes 12:13 . His duobus membris comprehenditur totius vitae integritas. (Calvin.)
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
Ver. 36. Preaching peace ] For God speaks peace to his people; he creates the fruit of the lips to be peace; he, by his promises powerfully applied, lodgeth a blessed calm in the conscience, and saith to the distempered affections, Peace, and Be still, hushing all; for he is Lord of all.
37 That word, I say , ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
Ver. 37. After the baptism ] See how orderly Peter preacheth (like as Luke writeth, καθεξης , sigillatim ), giving his hearers a distinct and punctual narrative of the life and death of Jesus Christ, of his offices and efficacies. To speak clearly and coherently, to cast his matter into a good mould and method, as it is not every man’s happiness, so it is no small commendation to him that can skill of it; and must be endeavoured by all that would win upon their people’s affections, and draw them to duty, as the Athenian orators, who were there hence called Δημαγωγοι , people leaders.
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.
Ver. 38. Oppressed of the devil ] The devil complained in the days of Diocletian that he could not give right oracles, because of the Christians. (Euseb. ii.) And those that conspired against Athanasius, cried out, that by his prayers he hindered their proceedings. (Ruffin. i. 33.) The soldiers that went against the Angrognians, told their captain that the ministers of that place, with their prayers, so conjured and bewitched them, that they could not fight.
39 And we are 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:
Ver. 39. And we are witnesses ] Eye-witnesses (which are far better than ear-witnesses) and ancient witnesses, such as of whom Aristotle saith, πιστοτατοι οι παλαιοι αδιαφθοροι γαρ ; the more ancient the more credible. Plus valet oculatus testis unus quam auriti decem. (Plaut.)
40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
Ver. 40. Him God raised ] Christ’s death he despatcheth in a word, as a thing well known. His resurrection (because more questioned, and of greater moment to beget faith) he more largely discourseth.
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.
Ver. 41. Eat and drink with him ] In nihilam abiit cibus post resurrectionem sumptus.
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.
Ver. 42. Ordained of God ] Gr. ωρισμενος , determined, and by definitive sentence concluded.
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Ver. 43. Shall receive remission of sins ] Together with all the purchase of his passion. But this is instanced as a principal piece thereof, and worthily. David had a crown of pure gold upon his head, Psalms 21:3 , but he blesseth God for a better crown,Psalms 103:3-4; Psalms 103:3-4 , viz. pardon of sin.
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
Ver. 44. While Peter spake; &c. ] As manna descended in the dew, so doth the Holy Ghost in and by the preaching of the word, Galatians 3:2 ; Isaiah 30:20-21 .
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Ver. 45. See Trapp on " Act 10:23 "
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
Ver. 46. Spake with tongues ] This diversity of tongues, laid at first on mankind as a curse, Genesis 11:1-9 , God turned into a blessing to his Church, which yet some of the Christian Corinthians abused to pomp and ostentation,1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 ; which, as copperas, will turn milk into ink; or as leaven, which turns a very passover into pollution.
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
Ver. 47. Can forbid water ] Plain water, without oil, salt, spittle, cream, or other popish additaments.
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Ver. 48. To be baptized ] The use of the sacraments is to seal up adoption in infants, and faith in those of riper years.
And he commanded them to be baptized ] And so to be incorporated into Christ’s body the Church: that they might be saved by the "washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost," Titus 3:5 . It is a noble question in divinity, seeing regeneration is attributed both to the word and to baptism, how the one worketh it differently from the other? Or, if both work it, why is not one superfluous?
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 10". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18