Acts 10:34
Then Peter began to speak: "I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism,
Sermons
God is no Respecter of PersonsR.A. Redford Acts 10:34
A Good Man's ConversionC. S. Robinson, D. D.Acts 10:1-48
Broadening FoundationsP.C. Barker Acts 10:1-48
CorneliusW. M. Taylor, D. D.Acts 10:1-48
CorneliusJames Owens.Acts 10:1-48
CorneliusW. Hay Aitken, M. A.Acts 10:1-48
CorneliusPreacher's MonthlyActs 10:1-48
Cornelius of CaesareaG. M. Grant, B. D.Acts 10:1-48
Cornelius the Truth SeekerC. H. Payne, D. D.Acts 10:1-48
Cornelius, a Monument of the Omnipotence of GraceK. Gerok.Acts 10:1-48
Cornelius, an Example of PietyJ. T. Woodhouse.Acts 10:1-48
Cornelius, the Truth SeekerJ. G. Hughes.Acts 10:1-48
Cornelius: a Model for VolunteersG. Venables, M. A.Acts 10:1-48
Cornelius; Or, New Departures in ReligionJ. Clifford, D. D.Acts 10:1-48
DreamsG. H. James.Acts 10:1-48
Family DevotionC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 10:1-48
Peter's VisionR. T. Stevenson.Acts 10:1-48
Peter's VisionD. J. Burrell D. D.Acts 10:1-48
The Character and Conversion of CorneliusR. P. Buddicom, M. A.Acts 10:1-48
The Character of CorneliusG. Spence, D. C. L.Acts 10:1-48
The Conversion of the GentilesJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 10:1-48
The Providential Guidance of the ChurchDean Alford.Acts 10:1-48
The Supernatural PreparationD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 10:1-48
Man in God's Sight; Or, Divine ImpartialityW. Clarkson Acts 10:9-48
Peter and CorneliusE. Johnson Acts 10:23-34
The First Trumpet-Sound of the Gospel in the Heathen WorldR.A. Redford Acts 10:23-43
A Model AudienceB. D. Johns.Acts 10:30-48
A Model CongregationD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 10:30-48
A Model CongregationWilliam Forsyth, A. M.Acts 10:30-48
Attending At Ordinances EnforcedR. Watson.Acts 10:30-48
Complemental MinistryW. Arnot, D. D.Acts 10:30-48
Concerning Audiences, Preachers, Sermons, and ConversionsJ. McNeill.Acts 10:30-48
Congregations to be Well Fed with the TruthC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 10:30-48
Cornelius and PeterM. C. Hazard.Acts 10:30-48
Cornelius's Sending and Peter's ComingJ. W. Burn.Acts 10:30-48
Different Kinds of HearersT. Boston, D. D.Acts 10:30-48
Don't Grumble About the FodderActs 10:30-48
Hearing and its Proper EffectsJ. Newton.Acts 10:30-48
Interested HearersActs 10:30-48
Peter and CorneliusG. Leach, D. D.Acts 10:30-48
Peter At CaesareaT. J. Holmes.Acts 10:30-48
Peter At CaesareaD. J. Burrell, D. D.Acts 10:30-48
Punctuality in Attendance At ChurchCyclopoedia of Illustrative AnecdotesActs 10:30-48
The Best Remedy for Small CongregationsActs 10:30-48
The Gospel to the GentilesDean Vaughan.Acts 10:30-48
The Ideal CongregationD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 10:30-48
The Model CongregationWatson Smith.Acts 10:30-48
The Reciprocal Duties of a Minister and of His PeopleJ. Hughes, M. A.Acts 10:30-48
Truth Liked as a Sentiment, But Disliked as a Law of LifeH. W. Beecher.Acts 10:30-48
Various Kinds of HearersH. Smith.Acts 10:30-48
Acceptance of GodJ. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.Acts 10:34-35
Believers Outside JudaismR. Tuck Acts 10:34, 35
God no Respecter of PersonsJ. Foster.Acts 10:34-35
God no Respecter of PersonsActs 10:34-35
God no Respecter of PersonsBp. Andrewes.Acts 10:34-35
God no Respecter of PersonsActs 10:34-35
God the Rewarder of Them that Diligently Seek HimThomas Rundle, LL. B.Acts 10:34-35
God's Plan, and Our Part in ItF. B. Meyer, B. A.Acts 10:34-35
On the Reception of New TruthT. T. Munger.Acts 10:34-35
Piety and Virtue Both Required by the GospelA. Donnan.Acts 10:34-35
PrejudiceJ. Foster, B. A.Acts 10:34-35
The Glorious DoctrinesD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 10:34-35
The Individual not Overlooked in the MassW. E. C. Wright.Acts 10:34-35
The Law of Christian EnlargementBp. Huntington.Acts 10:34-35
The Outside SaintsH. Bushnell, D. D.Acts 10:34-35
Discourse of Peter At CaesareaE. Johnson Acts 10:34-43

I. THE EQUAL JUSTICE AND LOVE OF GOD. He is no respecter of persons. The conditions of acceptance in his sight are everywhere and for all men the same, viz. reverence and rightness of moral conduct. Does this imply, it matters not what a man believes, so long as he fears God and does what is right? Certainly, belief is not immediately under the control of the will. But indirectly it so far is that we are bound to keep our minds open to the light, and to seek some belief that may guide conduct. The truth is that the reverence and the moral rectitude spoken of cannot exist apart from the root of faith in a supersensual order and Divine Law. Indifferentism is not recommended nor excused. But the truth that it is only the genuine qualities of the heart, the real disposition of the will, not external associations nor advantages of birth, which constitute true worth in God's sight. And any other principle of Divine dealing than this would shock the conscience as unjust.

II. RECAPULATION OF THE GOSPEL.

1. It was a good message of peace sent to the sons of Israel. He says nothing about natural religion and the universal conscience, on which St. Paul dwells in the Romans. The gospel is pre-eminently a message by man to man; by a selected people as ministered to the race. It was diffused through the Holy Land, and its substance was well known.

2. Its substance - Jesus: his person, his sanctified character, and his mighty deeds. His life of perpetual beneficence, his healing of those under the bondage of disease and of ignorance. It was manifest to men that God was with him, setting the seal of power upon his character and deeds.

3. The existence of living witnesses to those truths. The apostles were witnesses of the facts in the physical world on which Christianity was founded. Christian teachers and Christian men now are witnesses of the facts in the moral world which are eternal, and which interpret the physical facts.

4. The death and resurrection of Jesus. The suffering and the triumph of love; here lies the very kernel of the gospel. This triumphant Christ has been made manifest to chosen witnesses - to his close companions and intimate associates during his earthly life. And they have a commission to make proclamation of these truths to the people, and to testify that he is appointed Judge of the living and the dead. Finally, the gospel has the confirmation of prophecy; and all who believe on him may receive the remission of their sins. Here, then, is a useful summary of the gospel.

(1) Peace through Jesus Christ, who has lived, suffered, and risen for men.

(2) This is a message to all men, and a call to salvation.

(3) Its aim is universal human blessedness. - J.







Then Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.
I. TO SHOW BY WHAT MARKS WE SHALL KNOW WHETHER WE OURSELVES, AND OTHERS, ARE SINCERE IN THE FEAR OF GOD.

1. The first mark of sincerity in the concerns of religion is having carefully endeavoured to find our duty. For if we take a matter of this importance upon trust, and leave custom and fashion to choose our opinions, we must confess that we are very fortunate if we are in the right. Interest and indolence are always on the side of giving in to popular systems. If loss of esteem and authority attend embracing any opinion, men examine timorously, and are afraid of evidence; and when reason begins to strike, then they ask themselves, Have any of the rulers of the people believed on Him? They creep and fix their sentiments upon others, and like the ivy, never ascend higher than that which chance has given them for a support. But the foundation of Protestantism and Christianity is another method of examination: we must throw aside the world and all the consequences that may attend it, and have our thoughts wholly on our duty. We must empty our minds of every favourite prepossession, and receive the kingdom of God like little children; have no opinion of our own, and no desire that either this or that doctrine or action should be true and our duty; but only that we may know what is truth and our duty. No person can pretend that he has not abilities, because all that is required is that they use the abilities they have. If with an honest and teachable heart they desire to do the will of God, His promise and His goodness are engaged that they shall know the truth in everything, on which their everlasting happiness depends. And if we find difficulties in performing this duty, and ourselves liable to mistakes, it ought to fill us with modesty and diligence, with mutual forbearance and charity, and then our very errors may be useful.

2. The second mark by which we may judge whether we are sincere is by working righteousness, and doing everything we know to be our duty. The end of faith is practice, and the only thing valuable in knowing our Master's will is that we may obey Him. We may therefore comfort ourselves with being sincere in our fear of the Lord, if we join a religious performance of the duties we know with our endeavouring to go on to perfection. And we religiously perform our duty if we are virtuous in secret, as well as in the eye of the world. We must perform the whole of our duty if we truly fear God, and not choose some darling folly to indulge in secret, and flatter ourselves that He hideth away His face and will not see it. We must throw aside at once all our vices, and caution most against that we are most willing to palliate and excuse, and be in every known instance obedient. It is true indeed that God has given us no commands but what is our interest and present happiness to obey; but if we perform them upon the low motives of convenience only, they are the actions of a man of prudence, but cease to be the offices of religion or Christian graces.

3. The third mark of sincerity in our fear of God is expressing our zeal for things in proportion to their real value.

4. Another mark by which we may manifest a sincere fear of God is our being charitable to those who differ from us in our sentiments.

5. The last mark I shall mention, by which we may know our sincerity in seeking for the will of God, is by the methods we use to convince others of the truth of what we ourselves embrace and believe

II. Which brings me in the second place to show WHY THIS VIRTUE ENTITLES US TO THE FAVOUR OF GOD.

1. And first, it is all that we can possibly perform. The text tells us that God is no respecter of persons, and therefore He must have put it into every man's power to please Him: but He hath given them nothing besides their whole abilities, and therefore, if these are employed with honesty and fairness, God can expect no more. The knowledge which is sufficient to recommend a poor man, obliged to take care by his industry for the subsistence of his family, may be inexcusably little in those who are raised above such low solicitudes and enjoy leisure and improvement.

2. The second reason why this is so pleasing to God is because it will improve our natures. God who created man to communicate happiness to him, must be pleased to see him advance to all the perfection and felicity He gave him capacities to enjoy.

3. The last reason why this sincere fear of God, expressed by diligently inquiring after His will, is so pleasing to Him, is because it will always teach us those things which are most truly useful and worth knowing. This discourse may be thought liable to one objection, viz., that if sincerity is the only thing required to make us acceptable to God — and that may belong to men of every religion — therefore all religions are equal. But to answer this objection, which would have never been thought so much as plausible, had it not of late been so often, and with so much delight, repeated, if it be granted that men may support their lives by herbs and acorns, would it not be a strange conchasten to infer from thence that we esteem a country which produces that food only equal to one flowing with milk and honey? Yet the case is exactly the same and exposes the absurdity of the objection.

III. THE CONCLUSION I would draw from what I have said, suitable to the design of the day, is this, that thence we may learn to soften our conduct toward all well-disposed men that differ from us.

(Thomas Rundle, LL. B.)

Here we have one of the many strong contrasts between God and man.

I. WHY GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS AS MAN IS. Because —

1. Man's estimate is of very limited compass as to the number of persons taken account of — God's is universal. Men can take account of but very few persons for either respect or contempt. Look at the multitude of the inhabitants of a great city, or province, what a great majority of them we can have no individual estimate of at all! And then, think of a nation — and the whole world. There are, indeed, a few distinguished persons who have a character in the estimate of a great part of the civilised world, but what a diminutive number do these make! But God has His estimate of every person of the entire race.

2. The whole world of mere exteriors is as nothing to God. Man is the dupe and idolater of them all over the world. Nothing so mean or bad, but if a fine appearance can be thrown over it, it becomes as a god to him. But God estimates men in their intrinsic qualities. What an infinity of superficial shows part off from them under that inspection! What a different thing must man appear when all these are fled! And if men could be presented thus to one another, what would become of most of the human gods of human idolatry? The feebleness of our vision cannot do this entirely. But it is true, also, that we are far too willing to be imposed on by the delusive show of the world.

3. Men are respecters of persons from self-interest. They are looking up to certain men, and thinking what advantages they can confer. It were but trifling to show how the Divine Being can be under no such influence in His estimates.

4. Men respect persons because others do, without well knowing any other reason why. As a number of persons collected at a spectacle will quickly draw a multitude, so let an individual come to be accounted of importance by a portion of society, and the rest soon follows. God has no opinion in the universe to regard but His own. What is it to Him that one diminutive creature after another adds its slender intellect in affirmation of the judgment of a crowd? In every view, He is infinitely superior to the influence of all the causes by which men are made to be "respecters of persons."

II. CONTEMPLATE THIS DIVINE SUPERIORITY IN REFERENCE TO SEVERAL OF THOSE THINGS WHICH COMMAND MEN'S HIGHEST RESPECT. We all see how men are affected towards persons of —

1. Great wealth. What deference — what attention to what is said — what prompt compliance! Suppose the impression a man not known to be rich makes shall be simply that of his apparent personal qualities — his dispositions — his sense — his manners. And suppose it then to become suddenly known that he is very rich, what a difference! A very considerable degree of misconduct or vice does not put the rich down in society. They can at once defy opinion, and be sure of obsequiousness. What a state of human sentiments is this in the sight of God! He "is no respecter of persons."

2. High station in what is called birth, rank, and power. In former times (and in many parts it is so still) the multitude have regarded this class as actually being of some mysteriously higher order of human nature. Still there is quite enough "respect" to gratify their utmost pride — pompous titles of honour, a vast parade of state and ceremony. The ground is cleared for them, in society, wherever they appear; their mere will, or caprice, is considered as authority, without requiring a reason; the worship of God itself is deemed to be vastly honoured if they deign to pay it some formalities of attention. Every conceivable palliation is adduced, by force, in their behalf, to extenuate the grossness of sin; and pompous funeral celebrations are given them when they die. Now turn the thought to God. Think! If He had any partiality like this, what would become of His government? What would then have been His dispensations in Egypt, in Babylon, in Judaea? What would then be the condition of the oppressed, when they cry and appeal to Him? He looks on all these distinctions as the mere transitory accidents of the mortal condition. He requires the same self-abasement, and repentance, from all these loftier persons, as by the meanest — or they reject them at their peril. And His great messenger, Death, makes, as it were, melancholy sport of all these robes of grandeur.

3. Great mental endowment. And this is different from the others, in being a more intrinsic quality. And from that cause, and from its being less obvious to vulgar apprehension, it has nothing like so many idolaters. Nevertheless, it has always been an object of perverted regard. Every epithet appropriate to divinity has been applied. There are, at this hour, many enthusiastic admirers of human talent, who are despisers of God! In behalf of men of great talent there has been and is a disposition to suspend or abrogate the most essential laws of morality. And short of such an extreme, respect of persons may be excessive. There are persons who have no relish for truth, but as displayed in the style of genius or eloquence; as if the grave matter were nothing, and the decorations were all. There are some who habitually indulge contempt for all who are not distinguished by mental superiority, of whatever excellence otherwise. But think of Him! What is all this in His sight? The Being whose intellect pervades all things. What is the greatest human intellect compared with the least angelic spirit? What may even that spirit be, compared to the most elevated created mind? What is that — what are all minds together, as compared with the mind of God?

(J. Foster.)

Here we note — First, Peter's acknowledgment of his former mistake, in which are three things.

1. The preface. "Then Peter opened his mouth" — a Hebraism indicating that he is about to speak something weighty on mature deliberation (Matthew 5:2; Psalm 8:2; Psalm 78:2.)

2. The means of his conviction. "Of a truth I perceive" — a phrase used of those who are persuaded to change their opinion on full conviction.

3. The error that God was such a respecter of persons that He would not reveal Himself to any but Jews. Here we see —(1) That God's people may err. Peter had read the prophecies about the calling of the Gentiles, and had received Christ's commission to disciple all nations. So we often hear the truth expounded and yet perceive it not. Therefore we had need to be careful lest we be ignorant of an obvious truth.(2) That the godly, when convinced, confess their errors. Controversies would soon end if we could learn Peter's modesty. Second. Peter's positive assertion of the truth now learned.

I. WHAT IS RESPECT OF PERSONS? Regard for that outward condition whereby one differs from another.

1. Gifts of the body. It is not the strong or the beautiful that are accepted of God, but the good and holy.(1) He is strong in a spiritual sense, not that overcometh another man, but that tameth his own flesh (Proverbs 16:32) and vanquishes temptation (1 John 2:14).(2) So not beauty but grace makes us amiable in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:3, 4).

2. Gifts of mind. Learning, etc., may make us more serviceable in the world, but do not commend us to God (Genesis 3:1; 1 Corinthians 3:18).

3. Gifts of estate, rank, quality. The blood of the poor is of the same colour as of the rich (Acts 17:26). Social distinctions have no weight with God (1 Corinthians 1:26; Job 34:19; Revelation 20:12). So with bond and free (1 Corinthians 7:22; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25).

4. Nationality. Some peoples lie nearer the sun than others, but they are all alike near the Sun of Righteousness (Galatians 3:28).

5. Religious profession and privileges. Cornelius was a good man, but wanted circumcision, and was accepted, while many a carnal Jew was rejected (Romans 2:9-11). If by outward profession there be a people nearer God than others, they have the privilege to be first rewarded if they do good, but to be first punished if they do evil.

II. In WHAT SENSE IS THIS DENIED OF GOD?

1. He is no respecter of persons in His government. This is forbidden to man (Leviticus 19:15); and so denied of God (1 Peter 1:17). God may be considered as a righteous Governor and as a free Lord. In the latter capacity He may do as He seeth meet. Hence of His free mercy He called the Gentiles, and gives the grace of His gospel to one and not to another (Matthew 20:15). We can plead no right either by merit or purchase. On the other hand God governs man by a law, and judges according to that law (Cf. Romans 9:16 and 1 Corinthians 9:24).

2. He is no respecter of persons in His gifts of grace (Matthew 11:27).

III. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS QUALIFICATION? "That feareth God and worketh righteousness."

1. Fear is the principle of obedience. Not that this excludes faith in Christ (John 15:5; Hebrews 11:6; Hosea 3:5).(1) Holy fear is of two kinds.(a) The fear of reverence, which is necessary that we may not offend God (Jeremiah 10:7; Revelation 15:4).(b) The fear of caution, which is necessary to make us watchful against temptations (Hebrews 4:1; 2 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Peter 5:8).(2) Why is this frame of heart pitched upon?(a) That we may carefully abstain from what displeases God (Genesis 39:9; Philippians 2:12).(b) Because it produces a diligent endeavour to approve ourselves to Him.

2. Working righteousness is the fruit of this sense of God upon our hearts. This is required —(1) In respect of God that we may honour Him in the world: for our obedience makes our esteem of Him visible (2 Thessalonians 11, 12; Acts 10:2).(2) It is for our own comfort. When we obey God it leaves an evidence in our consciences (1 John 3:19; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Proverbs 3:17). Comforts are the rewards of obedient children (Psalm 11:6).

IV. THE MEANING OF THE PRIVILEGE. "Is accepted of Him." He that feareth God, etc. —

1. Is sure of God's favour and protection (Philippians 1:6).

2. God will increase this, for He delighteth to crown His own gifts (Proverbs 4:18; Proverbs 10:29).

3. God will perfect it and reward it (Psalm 15:2; Psalm 106:3).

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I. A POINT NEWLY PERCEIVED. "Now." That so great an apostle should confess this shows that his Roman chain was not yet made, and that his brother apostles (chap. Acts 11) had no idea of his infallibility. Job in scorn said to some in his time, "You are the only men, you perceive all"; but Moses did not (Numbers 15:34), nor Elijah (2 Kings 4:27). But Caiaphas perceived all (John 11:49); not so Peter here, and Paul (1 Corinthians 13:9). Of a truth we perceive Peter comes not near his successor, who perceives all that is to be perceived at once, and gets Caiaphas' knowledge by sitting in Peter's chair. But it is not only this they differ in. For Peter took Cornelius up (ver. 26); his successor lets Cornelius's lord lie. The Samaritan woman said, "The Messiah when He is come will tell us all." Yet when He came He said even to Peter, "What thou knowest not now" (John 13:7). I speak this for some who are far enough from Rome but think they perceive all God's secret decrees. Luther well said that everyone has by nature a Pope within. Even they that believe it not of Rome are easily brought to believe it of themselves. "Of a truth I perceive" will bear two senses — "I perceive that I did not before," or "I perceive that the contrary whereof I conceived before." Not to perceive is only to be ignorant, but Peter had held quite contrary. Ignorance is but privative, this positive, and so an error — an error in the great mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16), a part whereof was preached to the Gentiles. And this error he held in common with his brethren. This only we are to look to, that with Peter we be not wilful, but ready to repent, when shown our error. Then we may conclude that if we be otherwise minded God will show it unto us (Philippians 3:15).

II. WHAT THAT POINT IS.

1. Privative — that "God is no respecter of persons" — i.e., in Greek and Hebrew "faces" which show themselves first (1 Samuel 16:6). Under the face we understand the facing; under the person everything that personates and makes personable — country, condition, birth, riches, etc. Men respect all this, but it is nothing to God. Was Peter, then, ignorant of this? No, for Moses had said it (Deuteronomy 10:17), and Elihu saw it by the light of nature (Job 34:19). And so Samuel (1 Samuel 16:7) and Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:7). The answer is that Peter knew it before, but not as now. We know many things by book and speculation, which, when we come to an experience of it, we say, "Yea, I know it indeed," as if we had never known it before. Experimental knowledge is knowledge in truth. Was this Peter's knowledge? No; for he, as we, have experience of it daily. God deals His gifts of nature — outward: beauty, strength, etc. — inward: wit, memory, judgment — without respect of persons. He bestows them on the child of the mean as soon as of the mighty. So it is in wealth and worldly preferment (Psalm 113:7), and in God's judgments. And no man had better experience of it than Peter, who, a poor fisherman, was accepted to be an apostle (Galatians 2:6). What shall we say then? Though he could not but know this general truth, yet he thought that there were exceptions, not of persons, but of nations, and that of all nations the Jews alone were accepted of God (Amos 3:2; Psalm 147:20). This had run in Peter's head, but he perceives he was wrong, and that by Cornelius' vision compared with his own.

2. Positive. "In every nation," etc. Solomon in effect said as much long before (Ecclesiastes 12:13).(1) "Feareth" and "worketh" jointly. Not the one without the other — neither fear which works not, nor works which do not come from God's fear in our hearts. Pharisaic personations, Paul's "mask of godliness" (2 Timothy 3:5), Peter's "cloke" (1 Peter 2:16) God cannot accept. God Himself told Samuel (1 Samuel 16:7) that He "looks not as man looks." Man looks upon the outside, God looks within. The inwards were God's part in every sacrifice. He looks first at the heart, and in the heart to the affections; of all affections that of fear; of all fears that of God. How comes God to be feared? We fear evil, but there is no evil in God. Ans.: Not for any evil in Him, but for some evil we may expect from Him, if we fear not to offend Him, by doing that which is evil, which punishment is not evil but just. Paul, knowing the terror of this, persuades men (2 Corinthians 5:11). This fear to suffer evil for sin makes men fear to do the evil of sin or to forsake it (Job 1:1; Jonah 3:5).(2) Separately.(a) First, fear — because it is first; "the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). It was the first passion that was raised in Adam (Genesis 3:10). Then he began to play the wise man and forethink of the folly he had committed. Fear is a bridle to hold us in or turn us from evil (Proverbs 3:7). Another reason is, fear is most general. It goes through all — heathens, as is shown in the case of Nineveh; beasts, as in the ease of Balaam's ass. And this fear, if it have its full work to make us depart from evil, is wisdom complete (Job 28:28; Ecclesiastes 8:12); for of the seven spirits which are the divisions of one and the same Spirit, the last and chief is "the Spirit of the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2). Regard not them who say that this is no New Testament doctrine, for even there it abideth. There it is the dawning of the day (Malachi 4:2). It is as the court is to the temple, as the needle that first enters and draws after it the thread that sews all together. Not to fear is the next way to fear. The work of fear is to make us cease from sin; ceasing from sin brings with it a good life; a good life carries with it a good conscience; and a good conscience casts out fear. This for the introduction, and ever after, when faith is entered it is a sovereign means to preserve (Philippians 2:12; 1 Peter 1:17; Matthew 10:28). So, then, this fear is not Moses' song only (Revelation 15:3, 4).(b) But works also. Is God all for within? Accepts He of nothing without? He accepts a good righteous work too if it proceed from His fear in the heart. God would have us begin with "fear," but not end there. For neither fear alone nor faith alone is accepted of Him. If it be true fear such as God will accept, it is not a dull, lazy fear, his fear that "went and digged his talent in the ground." God will have his talent turned above ground, and not have religion invisible within. And observe that it is not "that doeth," but "worketh righteousness," i.e., that makes it a trade. "Learn it," says Isaiah (Isaiah 1:17), as one would learn a handicraft to live by; learn it and make an occupation of it, after Christ's example (ver. 38). This "righteousness" is described in ver. 2.

III. GOD'S ACCEPTATION.

1. He will take them —(1) Where they be to take; but where they are not He cannot take. Our "alms," alas! are shrunk up pitifully; "prayer" swallowed up with hearing, and feasting substituted for "fasting."(2) But it is said that there is no faith here, without which it is impossible to please God. But would Cornelius have spent his words and chastened his body without some faith? Would he have called upon a God in whom he did not believe? (Romans 10:14). Nay, he must have believed that God is, that He may be sought, and that He will not fail them that seek Him (Psalm 9:10; 2 Corinthians 8:12). The flax did but smoke, but Christ quenched it not, etc. He took him as He found him, and that in order to bring him nearer the ways of His salvation.(3) But now, lest one error beget another, take this — that he was, and we shall be, accepted, gives us some heart; and that he was but accepted takes away all self-conceit. It is neither our fear nor our works, but God's gracious acceptation. God counts them worthy and so makes them worthy. His taking our works of righteousness well in work is their worth. There was another centurion whom the elders of the Jews dignified highly; but he indignified himself as lowly (Luke 7:4-6). So with Job (Job 1:8; 9:15; 10:15). See Ephesians 1:6. Our work is to get men to do well, but not to ween of their well-doing.

2. To what end accepted. The profession of religion by baptism.

(Bp. Andrewes.)

"Oh," you say, "I am such a little plant; I do not grow well; I do not put forth as much leafage, nor are there so many flowers on me, as many round about me." It is quite right that you should think little of yourself; perhaps to droop your head is part of your beauty. Many flowers had not been half so lovely if they had not practised the art of hanging their heads. But "supposing Him to be the gardener," then He is as much a gardener to you as He is to the most lordly palm in the whole domain. In the Mentone garden grows the orange and the aloe, and others of the finer and more noticeable plants; but on the wall to my left grow common wall flowers and saxifrages and tiny herbs such as we find on our own rocky places. Now the gardener has cared for all of them, little as well as great. In fact, there were hundreds of specimens of the most insignificant growths all duly labelled and described. The smallest saxifage will say, "He is my gardener just as surely as he is the gardener of the Gloire de Dijon or the Marechal Neil."

Prejudice is one of the greatest enemies to human welfare. Of all the train of mental ills with which we are affected it is one of the most difficult to be eradicated.

1. Prejudice has given protracted vitality to countless social abuses. One of the best remedies for this evil is to inspect closely the grounds of our cherished prepossessions, and to ask, Why do I do this? Why do I feel so?

2. The strongest prejudices are religious. What is given to us by tradition from our forefathers, familiarised to our earliest associations, we can hardly bring ourselves to question or examine, and we often hold as enemies those who differ from us even in minor points. As we generally feel more earnestly about religion, to our prejudices here we may trace all those religious feuds and bitter persecutions which have disgraced the page of history.

3. In the context we have a memorable instance of relinquishment of the strongest possible prejudice, so strong even in a good and noble man that direct Divine interposition was necessary for its removal. Notice —

I. SPIRITUAL EXCELLENCE, AND NOT THE ACCIDENTS OF EXTERNAL CONDITION, ALONE AVAILS WITH GOD. Take some illustrations confirmatory of this from —

1. The Scriptures: e.g., the choice of Abraham, Moses, etc.

2. The dispensations of Providence.(1) Wealth and power are administered impartially.(2) Health is equally shared by rich and poor.(3) Genius: our poets, legislators, inventors, orators, and divines have more frequently emerged from the cottage than from the mansion.(4) So with the blessings of happiness, life, and age. Death which spares not the hovel spares not the palace, just as the wind fades the cottage flowers as well as the productions of the conservatory.

3. The administration of the benefits of redemption. Not many mighty are called, yet there are some — Wilberforce and Bunyan. Only one door of mercy to all. "Whosoever will," etc.

4. The day of judgment and its results. "We shall all stand before," etc.

II. WHY HAS GOD NO RESPECT OF PERSONS EXCEPT IN RELATION TO MORAL GOODNESS?

1. Accidents in condition seemingly great to us bear no such relation to Him. This world is like a grain in the balance of His mighty creation. Its revolving centuries are but "as yesterday when it is past." He surveys all toils, plans, etc., serenely as the stars look with undisturbed light on mortal things.

2. They are not the essential elements of our being. They spring from birth, etc. They are not the man, and pass away with time.

III. WHY DOES GOD SUPREMELY VALUE SPIRITUAL EXCELLENCE?

1. It is the true basis of worth in every intelligent creature. It is so of angels, and of man as man. "In every nation," etc.

2. It is God's own spiritual reflection, and therefore the true basis of friendship with Him. God's moral nature must take cognizance of its kindred elements. Here, then, is consolation for all. None are too lowly or poor to be the accepted friends of the Lord of the universe.

(J. Foster, B. A.)

1. The main purpose of the Acts is to unfold the broadening spirit and form of the Church of God. It is a history of transition. On its first page the Christ ascends. As the heavens, into which He rises, overarch the whole world, so His gospel spreads its wings for its worldwide flight. Soon the Spirit breathes upon the apostles, and they begin to act under an inspiration as free and wide as the wind that typifies it. On every page some barrier gives way; with every line the horizon broadens. One feels as if sailing in a great ship, under a bounding breeze, out of a narrow harbour into the wide sea.

2. With this change of scene there is corresponding change of personal attitude; conversions not only in character, but in opinion; it is a record not only of repenting and turning, but of broadening. Valuable as this book is as a record of events, it is more valuable as introducing the life of the Spirit, and as showing how the faith of ages develops into liberty and the full life and thought of humanity.

3. The incident before us is a happy illustration of this in its assurance of possible sainthood outside of the Church, yet showing its hard conditions, telling us how the centurion's devout aspirations carried him into the realm of vision, and brought upon him an inspiration greater than any that came upon his blind yearnings after righteousness. Here also is a somewhat similar experience of Peter. Sleep is not vacant of spiritual impression. Into that mystery the Spirit may come as unto its own, and say what it could not when the man is hedged about with wakeful and watchful powers. Shakespeare puts the deepest moral experiences of men into their dreams.

4. Notice how God not only enlarges and broadens the views of these men, but does this in the direction of Himself. For there is an enlargement of view that is mere breadth without height; it grows wise over matter and force, creeps but never soars, deeming the heights above to be empty. In preceding centuries the mind shot upward, but within narrow limits. There was no look abroad; nature was simply to be used as found, not studied for further uses. Hence, there was great familiarity with the lore of religion, but dense ignorance of the laws of matter and of human society. Today the reverse is true. It is interesting to note how this tendency pervades classes that apparently do not influence one another: thus the scientific class and the lighter literary class; neither reads the works of the other, yet in each we find the same study of matter and man, and the same ignoring of God and the spiritual nature. Or, compare the man of universal culture with the average man of the world, who reads the newspaper, and keeps his eyes open on the street: the latter knows little of the former, yet we find them holding nearly the same opinions about God and the faith, vague and indifferent; but both are very observant of what is about them. And all this is for some wise end. It had become necessary that man should have a better knowledge of the world, and of his relations to it and to society. Hence his attention is directed thither by a Divine and guiding inspiration, and no thinking man can be exempt from it. The only danger is lest the tendency become excessive, and we forget to look upward in our eagerness to see what is about us. It is the office of Christian thought to temper and restrain these monopolising tendencies and secure a proper balance between them. "God fulfils Himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world."

5. I have fallen into this train of thought by reflecting how God led Peter away from his small notions of religion, and brought him into a higher and larger conception of Himself. As we read the story we wonder at the readiness and ease with which Peter gave up old habits of thought and entered into new ones. What is the explanation?

I. IT IS IN THE NATURE OF RELIGIOUS CHANGES THAT THEY SHALL OCCUR SUDDENLY. There may be, there must be, long seasons of preparation, but the transition is instantaneous. Saul goes a-persecuting, and a light above the sun's dazzles him into instant submission. The Holy Spirit comes like a rushing wind upon the disciples, and in an hour they are new men. The jailer hears and believes in a night. Luther, while toiling up the holy stairs, holding to salvation by works, drops that scheme on the way, and lays hold of the higher one of salvation by faith. Ignatius Loyola in a dream has sight of the Mother of Christ, and awakes a soldier of Jesus. It is often so. We do not so much grow into the possession of new spiritual truths as we awake to them. Their coming is not like the sunrise that slowly discloses the shapes and relations of things, but is like the lightning that illuminates earth and sky in one quick flash, and so imprints them forever on the vision. Character is of slow and steady growth, but the revelations of truth that inspire character are sudden. A new outlook is gained, and the man is changed, as, in climbing a mountain, it is some sharp turn in the path that reveals the new prospect which inspires the onward march. Some can affirm that it was in a moment that the charm of poetry, the pleasurable consciousness of thought, the passion of love, the dignity of manhood, the obligation of service, the sense of the Divine goodness, came upon them.

II. PETER GOT SIGHT OF LARGER AND MORE SPIRITUAL TRUTHS THAN HE HAD BEEN HOLDING. When what claim to be truths are of equal proportion, we balance them, or try one and then the other; but as soon as one asserts itself as larger and finer we accept it instantly. Peter had been used to believing that God was a respecter of persons, but when he caught sight of the fact that God has no partialities, his true-loving nature rushed at once toward the greater truth.

1. We have an appetence for new spiritual truth, and take to it readily. This does not imply that we are to go about peering into the corners of the universe to find new truths, nor that we are to sit down and manufacture them. Truth already exists; there is now all there ever will be. All we have to do is to take it; to hold ourselves open to it; to do God's will, and we shall know it. The fundamental Christian idea is God seeking man, not man seeking God. We make but a poor figure when we attempt to think out a religion. It is not a search after God, but a revelation of God. We ourselves can find nothing. The main thing for us to do is to get out of the caves of sin and self-conceit into the open air, where the sun shines and the Spirit breathes.

2. There is also in such truth a self-attesting power that tends to secure instant reception. When one comes to me with a new machine, or a new theory of government, or of matter, or life, I hesitate; but when I see a new disclosure of the Divine love, or a fresh exhibition of humility and patience, or of some new adaptation of Christianity to human society, I at once believe. It is simply another candle brought into a lighted room.

3. This self-attesting quality goes farther and becomes commanding. Peter says, "God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." It is one of the subtle workings of all high truth that it vests itself, as by some instinct, with the Divine attributes.

4. I have had in mind thus far not any new truths, but rather a fresh and expanding vision of other sides of many-sided truth. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as new truth; but there is such a thing as fresh sight of the truth. We can hardly do anything worse for our moral growth than to hold it in such a way that it may not change its form. Not that one is to hold his faith as in a constant flux, or suffer himself to be blown about by every new wind of doctrine, but rather that he should attain the two-fold attitude of alertness and passivity: passive to the Spirit that is ever breathing upon us, and alert to note and follow the unfolding revelation of God in the world.

III. HAVING SPOKEN GENERALLY, I SHALL NOW SPEAK MORE PARTICULARLY OF SOME OF THESE TRUTHS. To call attention to this intermingling of permanent and changing qualities.

1. Take that of the Trinity. It has another look today from that it wore a hundred years ago. It is the characteristic thought of God at present that He is immanent in all created things, yet personal, the life of all lives, the soul of the universe. With such a conception of God, it becomes easy to see how there should be a Son of man who is also the Son of God, and a Spirit everywhere present and acting — a paternal heart and will at the centre, a Sonship that stands for humanity, a spiritual Energy that is the life of men, and through which they come into freedom and righteousness. This conception of God may be brought into the category of science, and even be required by it.

2. So of the atonement: it has always been putting on new forms and yielding a richer life. It is the most elastic of the doctrines, and we are getting to understand it as containing the law and method of life for every man: "He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."

3. So also of regeneration. It has been held simply as a moral necessity, having its basis in sin; but we are beginning to see that Christ taught it also as a psychological necessity. We must be born again, not merely because we are wicked, but because we are flesh and need to be carried forward and lifted up into the realm of the spirit, — a constructive rather than a reconstructive process.

4. In the same way the doctrine of Divine sovereignty is resolving into the universality of law. Science, with its doctrine of an original, ultimate force, advances more than half way towards this assaulted truth.

5. Or take the doctrine of sin, its inheritance and its relation to the personal will. The doctrine of heredity as found in the pages of science, the doctrine of freedom as found in the pages of philosophy and the observation of life, yield nearly all we care to claim.

6. So, too, of the miracles. Modern intelligence has grown so wide that it embraces both law and miracle in one harmony. No one now defines one as the violation of the other. An assertion of "the reign of law" does not disturb us so long as we are conscious of the hourly miracles wrought by personality.

7. Take next retribution. It will never be denied so long as men have eyes to trace cause and effect. Just now we are finding out that it is not a matter of future time, but of all time; an eternally acting principle. The true preacher of retribution makes it clear that the wages of sin is death, and emphasises the two features of retribution that alone are effective, its nearness and its certainty.

8. Take the inspiration of the Bible. There is not now, and probably never will be, any generally accepted theory, simply because inspiration cannot be so compassed; as Christ said, "Thou canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth." It is the breathing of God upon the soul. We are getting to speak less of the inspired book, and more of the inspired men who wrote it. The revelation, therefore, will have a two-fold character: it will be Divine and human, the one conditioning the other; not an imperfection, but rather the only kind of revelation that could serve our needs, for the line of revelation from God to man must run through the human heart. But without a theory, we are reading the Bible with fuller faith than ever before. The more light we bring to it from nature and study and experience, the clearer its truths stand out; in such light it is becoming its own evidence, and no more needs an apologetic theory than a candle needs an argument for illumination.

IV. BUT A THOUGHTFUL MIND WILL ASK, HOW HAPPENS IT THAT CHRISTIANITY HAS THIS TWO-FOLD FEATURE of a permanent essence and a shifting form? The answer will take him into that world of thought recently opened, the main feature of which is the law of development. The timid may linger on the threshold, but once in, the atmosphere is found friendly. It is not something to be quelled, but an ally to be pressed into service. What it does for every other department of thought it may do for the faith — open another door between the mystery of the external order and the human reason. Recognising this principle, we can read the Old Testament, and need no other explanation or apology than it affords. The sayings of the Christ become principles and revelations of eternal truth. The mustard seed, the leaven, etc., not only fall in with the principle, but attest Christ's absolute knowledge of it. It will be noticed that the reception of new truth has been spoken of in two ways that are apparently contradictory: one as quick and as by instant revelation; the other gradual, a growth or development. They are not inconsistent, but represent the two-fold nature of truth as having a Divine source and element and a human ground and element, and the two-fold nature of man as spirit and mind. These methods play into each other. One prepares the way for the other. One is slow, and keeps pace with the gradual advance of society and a like development of the individual. The other is quick, is allied to the mysterious action of the Spirit, which knows not time nor space, and accords with the loftiest action of our nature. I gain knowledge slowly; I gain the meaning of knowledge instantly.

(T. T. Munger.)

When we assume the certain exclusion from God of all born subjects of false religions, is not Peter's vision as truly for us as for him? The Old Testament denounces idolatry, it is true, but these denunciations were not made to the idolaters, but to God's own people dwelling in a clearer light. So when we say, "There is none other Name," etc., do we not fall into the mistake of not observing that it is those who have heard of the name of Christ, that are put under this ban, and not Pagan people who have never heard of Him? If in every nation he that feareth God, etc., is accepted of Him, how many may there be who never heard of Christ, to whom God is an unknown God, who yet are so far right with God as to be fitly joined with us in the common hope! They compose a Church beyond the Church who, without a gospel, have learned to walk in God's private light. A glance at certain great first principles would induce the hope that many more than one commonly suspects are harvested for the kingdom.(1) That God loves all men impartially, having the desire to be loved by all.(2) That He is never afar off from any, but is putting in them a desire to seek and to find Him.(3) That the Spirit of God is going through all minds, drawing their inclinings towards the inborn grace that will be in turn His finding of them. My present object is to show how God finds access to outsiders, and engages them in a felt devotion to His friendship, by an examination of Bible examples.

1. Take Enoch. There was no Scripture or Church in his day. He lived a solitary life of walking with God. tic was probably derided by his contemporaries, which made it his necessary comfort to live "in the testimony that he pleased God." And this was not audible, but was the witness of the Spirit who came in the door of nature set open wider by his faith till finally he became so leavened by the Divine affinities that he was translated.

2. Noah was a preacher of righteousness without a Bible, and there was no person out of his own family who had any care for religion. And the oracle that found him so verified itself as to put him on building the ark; for God, by a process which he could only trust, and not understand, was preparing him to be the father of a better age.

3. With Abraham the Church begins, and yet he is prepared by an outside training. He had no written revelation or organised religion. But he came out a profoundly religious character, from amidst idolaters, so that he could receive a life call at first hand, and take the necessary guidance in that call.

4. Moses was brought up as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, separated from his race, and trained in all the learning of the Egyptians, a training which shows itself in all his politics. Then in Midian Jethro, an outside, but grandly religious man, comes to help him in his religious development. So Moses was a virtual outsider till his call in the burning bush.

5. Then take Balaam, the beauty and evangelical richness of whose oracles are inimitable. He was a soothsayer, but while divination had been forbidden to the Jews, it had not been forbidden to the Mesopotamians. And therefore it was only natural that he should mix enchantments with his oracles — just as our astrologers and alchemists sought religious light with mixtures of incantation. He was certainly faithful to his convictions, against the blandishments employed to win his consent.

6. Job is not a Jew, and his book not a Jewish book. Its piety is real, but out of all connection with Bible history. And thus you have one of its most remarkable books of Scripture, a theodicy for after ages, the work of an outsider.

7. Cyrusis one of the best characters of ancient history, and the reason of his conduct towards God and His people is given by Isaiah, who declares that God unseen has holden his right hand, and raised him up in righteousness.

8. At the very opening of the New Testament we encounter the Magi, religiously related to Cyrus, priests of the Merle-Persian religion, watching the stars to spell God's oracle, and becoming so spiritualised in habit as to be not unfitly honoured by the guidance of a star to Christ.

9. The Syrophoenician woman, whose faith was so heartily commended, was Pagan born, but by some heavenly guidance went to Christ for help.

10. The case of the centurion was like that of Cornelius, about whom Christ says, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." And He did not stop there, "I say unto you, that many shall come from the east," etc.

11. I might turn off here to such as Numa, , , , and , and look directly into the workings of the religious nature in many thoughtful men outside revelation, and see their notions of God, their expressed longings for a revelation, their gropings, and almost findings. Their yearnings sometimes put them in a state in which they lay hold of Christ at the very first discovery, even as a starving man of bread.

12. And if we go apart still further — among the savage tribes, we find many traditions that seem almost to have the sanctity of a revelation, and now and then a character assuming the distinctions of genuine piety. So we see that God has had His witnesses in every age of the world apart from His covenant and the institutions of His grace. From all this we may learn the following lessons:

I. WE ARE NOT TO JUDGE THAT THE MERE POSSIBILITY OF A REVELATION OUTSIDE THE BIBLE SUPERSEDES THE WANT OF IT. That was not the opinion of God when He sent His angel to Cornelius to put him in the way of one who should teach him Christ. The souls most enlightened have sighed for a veritable revelation. Having gleams, almost visions of God, they wanted it the more. Christ, the Bible not wanted! Just as well to be without a revelation! What could show the unsupportable destitution of such a state better than the gropings and only casual findings of hungry millions?

II. LET NO ONE TURN THE BLAME UPON GOD THAT WHAT IS SO MUCH WANTED EVERYWHERE IS NOT EVERYWHERE GIVEN. Doubtless God might rain Bibles, but He must also rain written languages, and the power to read them. And then the readers would want to know how the book grew to be a book, the revelation how revealed. If a Bible could be got up mechanically as showers in the sky it might justly be concluded that all men ought to have it. But it has first to be incarnated, and so revealed through humanity; for truths must be enunciated in persons. Bibles could not be made faster than men are good enough to have revelations made through them.

III. WE ARE NOT TO PUSH THE DISSEMINATION OF THIS GOSPEL BY ANY FALSE ARGUMENT THAT DISHONOURS GOD. Tell us not that every man ignorant of Christ must perish. Why should we push ourselves to this work of gospelling the world, by putting it on that He has given no possibility of life to millions? Rather let us tell what God is doing for them, what possibilities He opens for them, and how certainly He sometimes gains them to His love. Then as we are so gloriously privileged let us give them our privilege.

IV. LET US HAVE IT AS ONE OF OUR MOST SACRED DUTIES TO THE BIBLE, NOT TO USE IT SO AS TO SHUT OURSELVES AND ALL THAT HAVE IT AWAY FROM GOD'S IMMEDIATE REVELATION BY IT. The external revelation is not given to be a substitute for the internal, but a guide into it. We are to find God after all by an immediate knowledge like all the outside saints, only with the help of the Bible which they had not. The Bible is received only when spiritually discerned: i.e., when it brings us in where God is, to know Him by our faith and love, and have Him in a first-hand knowledge, even as Abraham had, or Job, or Cornelius. If we desire to know Boston, the map of the way will not show it, but will only take us thither, and let us get the knowledge for ourselves. The Bible in like manner tells us how others found God, that we may find Him also. Conclusion: Let us cast a glance into that future life, in which all righteous souls are gathered. Many of them will belong to the class of inside saints, some to the class of outside; the former will have known Christ all their lives and been fashioned by His Gospel and character; the latter will now meet Him perhaps for the first time, and will salute Him as the unknown Friend they had always with them. To meet with these outside saints — outside no longer — how blessed it will be! And what a beautiful variety they will give to the general brotherhood! "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold," etc.

(H. Bushnell, D. D.)

I. IT HAS BEEN MADE AN OBJECTION TO CHRISTIANITY THAT IT INVOLVES A SYSTEM OF RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES LIMITED, FOR SOME TWO THOUSAND YEARS, TO A SINGLE NATION: and although the New Testament proposes a more catholic plan, still it makes itself responsible for the Old. How is this consistent with the benevolence of a God whose love is wider than the world?

1. Long before this separation of Israel, God declared that it was not a permanent law. At the very moment when the selection began, an explicit prediction was carefully annexed to it that it would be expanded into a grand brotherhood of the world. Abraham, in whom the special calling began, was the very man to whom the Lord said, that among his descendants there should be a "seed," a certain wonderful Son, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed. That mysterious Shepherd-king of the whole human flock was to have a Hebrew mother (Galatians 4:4), so as to connect the special preparation with the universal blessing: but that He might be free of every possible human restriction, His Father was to be the Father of all that live. The promise in Genesis is as broad and as catholic as the preaching in the Acts.

2. Is there anything in this selection that justifies it? Why does a missionary gather in a score or two of children, out of hundreds, into a school, leaving the rest for the time untaught? When a Christian merchant wants to benefit paganism, why does he choose out one or two native youths of bright parts and send them to England for an education, instead of scattering spelling books among the heathen houses? When you want to introduce into a manufacturing interest an improved machinery, why do you send a single student to the best engineering school instead of exhorting the agents and masters of the mills to improve themselves in that department of science? The principle is that of selection and concentration, for the sake of a general benefit, and such is the nature of the human mind and of human society that practically this is the better and shorter way. Now, when Moses was lying all unconscious of it in the little rush basket in the Nile, the great problem was how to stop the race from going any further wrong, and how to turn it about, and get it ready for the setting up of a Divine order. And this was to be done not by thrusting in of an arbitrary revolution which would simply set the outward works all right, but would leave the springs of spiritual life — love, choice, energy, faith — all untouched. The thing wanted was to bring in and set up these grand interior holy forces in the soul. God took, therefore, the practical way. He chose out one nation, and sent it to school to learn the prophetic rudiments of Christianity and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. This is the key to the scheme. Was not the plan magnificent? Can the best critic or the shrewdest objector suggest a wiser? And when we take a view of the whole Old Testament history, with all its strange incidents, its erring heroes, and faulty saints, intermingled with its splendid virtues, its sublime loyalty, its eloquence and poetry, and its supernatural prophecies, is it not a very poor thing indeed to carp at an unexplained passage here and there, or to sneer and cavil at some half-veiled feature in the majestic working out of the design? And all this while the original intention was never forgotten. When the Jew should have been drilled and taught, the Gentiles would be gathered in. No sidereal motion in astronomy, no regularity in celestial cycles and orbits wilt be more sure than the rising, in the due time, of the Epiphany star — "A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of My people Israel."

3. Another explanation to relieve the alleged narrowness of the Jewish religion is its constant progress as it goes on. With the intensest hostility to everything foreign; with an intolerance and superciliousness all the more tenacious because bound up with their religious scruples, there was ever a mighty hope of the breaking down of all international walls, and the gathering in of all to an equal share with themselves in the peace and glory of the Messiah's dominion. The strain grows louder and more confident all along. till, in Malachi, we have it resounding in that sentence, to which the famous saying of the great orator, where the morning drum beat of the British Empire circles the earth, is but a feeble figure: "From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great among the Gentiles," etc.

II. GIVE A FEW MOMENTS TO A USE OF ST. PETER'S WORDS WHICH WILL BRING THEM DOWN TO OURSELVES. "In every nation he that feareth God," etc.

1. The sense here is not theological, but popular; so that they are wide of the mark who suppose that the apostle means to take back all that he preached of every man's need of repentance and faith. He means this: — In every nation, now that Jesus Christ has come, there is an equal access to the open door for every tongue and tribe and people. The Pentecostal signs mean nothing less. There are no external disqualifications, and no internal incapabilities for being saved. "Fearing God and working righteousness" is the ground of acceptance, not meritoriously, into heaven, but into the privileges and helps of the Church as the school for heaven. Christ died for all. The Church is Catholic. And while St. Peter spoke, "on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost."

2. So the Word and Spirit of Christ go on constantly filling out our small measures of charity and hope — breaking up our petty judgments, enlarging our sympathies for all classes. We have a great many personal and private limitations.(1) The circle of our own purely personal interests. Christ, by the Cross of His sacrifice, makes a constant remonstrance against these; and unless we catch His spirit, and give up self for service, we can be none of His.(2) The circle of the family. This is a little wider, but often only a little. We may only see ourselves, and love ourselves, in our children. But our doctrine requires us to see whether our absorption in our own domestic pleasures restricts our sympathies for strangers.(3) The circle of our own social set — a very dangerous as well as subtle enemy to true spirituality and nobleness. All the mutually admiring and complacent members just reflect each other's prejudices, study to please each other's whims, and so, of course, must stop growing in all that constitutes greatness of heart. Then there is the circle of business engagements, where the slave of mercantile ambition, or routine, sacrifices home, church, and his higher life for the poverty that is starving him.(4) The circle of patriotic attachments. Scarcely yet — Christian as we claim to be — has the idea of the brotherhood of nations entered into the statesmanship, much less into the politics and legislation, of even civilised man.

3. We are not to suppose that Epiphany signifies to us a mere sending out of a few missionaries to foreign countries. Done earnestly and heartily, that is worth doing, and, the more we do it, the more Christian-like we become. Men may say they prefer to give their missionary money nearer home, where they see what becomes of it. But remember that it is by setting up standards and beacons, Christianising a few here and there, even when results look small, that a great testimony to Christ is finally given.

(Bp. Huntington.)

He that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him
Religion consists of two constituent branches — faith and practice.

1. The fear of God, in the most extensive sense of it, denotes the whole of piety; all those devout affections of soul, reverence, love, gratitude, and truth; and all those external acts of worship, prayer, and praise, which we are bound to pay to the Supreme Being.

2. Righteousness, in its most general meaning, signifies the whole of moral virtue; and to do works of this kind is not barely to abstain from acts of injustice and oppression, but to abound in offices of kindness and humanity.

I. PIETY WITHOUT VIRTUE, FAITH WITHOUT MORALITY, FALLS SHORT OF THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER, AND WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED BY THE SUPREME BEING. There is no part of religion more binding upon mankind than justice and beneficence. From our situation in society, in the midst of our fellow creatures, dependent on one another, we are taught to cultivate humanity as the most useful virtue in life. From our Christian obligations we are bound to practise universal benevolence, not merely as an ordinary virtue, but as the distinguishing quality of a true Christian. What, then, shall we think of the immoral devotee, the man of prayers without good works? He wants the most godlike disposition of heart, and the most substantial virtues in life. He wants the distinguishing character of a Christian, and an indispensable qualification for eternal glory. His devotion is either a hypocritical appearance assumed to impose upon the world, and to serve his own ends; or it is only a transient glow of devotion raised occasionally in the mind, which, like the morning cloud and the early dew, soon passeth away; or, which is oftener the case, it is the superstitious observance of a mistaken and corrupted mind, which would substitute a form of godliness in place of virtue. True piety is a principle which regenerates the heart and reforms the life.

II. MORALITY WITHOUT PIETY, GOOD WORKS WITHOUT FAITH, A REGARD TO SOCIETY WITHOUT THE FEAR OF GOD, IS EQUALLY INSUFFICIENT TO SALVATION. There is no sentiment of mind which is more deeply founded in nature and reason than a sense of God and of religion. Devotion is no enthusiastic rapture. It is only the exercise of affections which form a part of our constitution, and are essential to the human mind. We are formed by nature to admire what is great, and to love what is good. You treat great men with marks of respect. And is no reverence due to the greatest of all beings, to the King of kings, and the Lord of lords? You profess esteem for worthy characters, and have you no regard to the infinite perfections of the Divine nature? To remain unmoved at the view of infinite goodness implies the utmost degree of corruption. Such a person must, indeed, be far from the kingdom of God. Depravity of heart, however, is not the only crime of the mere moralist, the man of good works, without faith. His discharge of the moral duties, upon which he values himself, must be exceedingly defective. A sense of what is right, a regard to honour, and the instinct of benevolence, may work upon men's minds, and engage them to do many good actions. But those natural principles are too weak to resist the force of corrupt passions. Such is our propensity to vice, and so numerous the temptations to sin, that far stronger restraints are necessary. Accordingly, the man of mere morality is always inconsistent in character. If it be fair on one side it is strained on the other. Though he practise some virtues which deserve to be applauded, he is guilty, at the same time, of vices which tarnish his reputation; and thus, while he is confessedly devoid of piety to God, he is defective in justice and charity to men.

III. THE SUFFICIENCY WHEN UNITED. The union of these amiable qualities forms the character, not only of the respectable man, but of the true Christian. Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. The true Christian, the man who fears God, and works righteousness, is not merely entitled to acceptance through Christ. He is also qualified for the enjoyment of future glory. His charity joins him to man; his piety unites him to God.

(A. Donnan.)

There is no argument here in favour of heathenism. — it is rather an argument in favour of Judaism. Cornelius's character was not the result of classic culture, but of classic culture supplemented by Divine revelation. Seeing, then, that he was accepted of God before his conversion, why not let him and others like him alone? Simply because they cannot let themselves alone. They are still conscious of a painful void in the heart, which only God in Christ can fill. To be "accepted of God" is not the only desire of the heart; man wants to be perfected. Judaism would enable a man to be accepted; but it could not "make the comers thereto perfect." "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did." This, then, is the reason why Cornelius needed the gospel — the gospel alone could fill the desires of his heart and perfect him in goodness. And what aspect of the gospel did Peter present to him? First, that God in Christ came to seek man, to do him good. In this Christianity differed from all the heathen religions. The latter always represent man seeking God but never finding. One of their own writers was at last obliged So exclaim — "Man cannot find God, God must therefore find man." Read the Bible and you discern in every page, not man seeking God, but God seeking man. But Peter not only spoke of the Saviour's life, he dwelt also upon His death. Other religions declared what man ought to do for God; this religion declares what God has done for man. The preaching of the gospel thus tended to revolutionise the world. The world, so to speak, is thrown off its centre. In ancient astronomy the sun revolved around the earth: in modern astronomy the earth revolves around the sun. We see a corresponding change in the science of religion. Compare the end of the chapter with the beginning. The beginning tells us what Cornelius did for God — he prayed, he fasted, he gave alms: — that is the groundwork of all ancient religions. The end tells us what God did for Cornelius — He sent His Son Jesus to live and die, "that through His name whosoever believeth in Him should receive remission of sins": that is the groundwork of the Christian faith.

(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

I. THE ABSOLUTE IMPARTIALITY OF GOD. The words "God is no respecter of persons" —

1. Do not teach —(1) That God pays no regard to men. The deist would have us believe this; reason, consciousness, analogy, and the Bible, however, refute it.(2) That God looks upon men indiscriminately — regards them merely in the mass. No; He looks on each individually.(3) "That God bestows blessings on some which He denies to others; although this is true, for He has given to each some distinguishing blessing of mind, body, or estate."

2. They do teach that God does not respect persons —(1) In the same sense that man does. Man's respect for persons is —

(a)Very limited. How little man knows of his race. God knows the millions.

(b)Very superficial, whereas God looks at the heart.

(c)Selfish, whereas God's is beneficent.

(d)Popular. Man respects those whom the multitudes applaud.

(e)Adventitious. It is because of what man has rather than what he is.(2) In the sense of disturbing for any the settled conditions of happiness. The conditions of physical, mental, and moral health are the same to all.(3) In the sense of limiting His salvation to any particular class. This is what the apostle means here. God's provisions of mercy are for the world.

(a)The merits of the atonement are sufficient for all.

(b)The force of moral motive is adapted to all.

(c)The agency of the Spirit is available to all.

II. THE NECESSARY ELEMENT OF MORAL GOODNESS. "He that feareth God," etc.

1. The fear here, of course, is not the servile, but the filial; it is the fear of a love which casts out all slavish feeling. The word stands here, as elsewhere, to represent that state of mind which God requires from every man. It is a fear that worketh righteousness. It must be of such a character as inspires and secures right conduct in relation to God, man, and the universe. There is a fear toward God that worketh nothing. It just touches the soul occasionally and goes off in a sigh. There is a fear that worketh wrong — a superstitious feeling that leads to an unnatural and intolerant life. The fear that worketh right is alone the genuine thing; it is the essence of moral goodness.

2. This is that in a man which God respects and accepts wherever found. He does not accept a man because of his birth, country, or particular form of worship, or because of his Judaism, Gentilism, or Christianity. He that is right, whether he be a Socrates or a Paul, a Cornelius or a Peter, is accepted of Him. The Bible is full of this truth (2 Kings 22:19; Psalm 34:18; 52:15-19; Deuteronomy 10:12; 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:8).

III. THE MEDIATORSHIP OF CHRIST (ver. 36). The Word, i.e., gospel, is God's instrument to generate this rectitude of soul. Peter shows that Christ's mission —

1. Was Divine in its origin.

2. Was redemptive in its purpose.

3. Was universal in its aspect.

4. Involved His death on the Cross, and His resurrection from the dead.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

To study the unfolding of the Divine plan is one of the greatest occupations that can engage the mind of man. It engages the student of nature. It is the pursuit of the devout historian, to whom the track of human history appears spread out as a river from its source to its mouth. It is above all the study of the Christian, who, Bible in hand, loves to muse on that wonderful development of the Divine plan which, through page on page of psalm, and prophecy, and history, has wrought out the wealth of meaning that lay enshrined in that earliest promise given to man between his fall and his expulsion from the gate of Paradise. The chapter Item Which our text is taken possesses extreme interest because it records a marked stage in the development of the Divine plan.

I. THE DIVINE PLAN IS COINCIDENT WITH HUMAN NEED. "While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee, arise, get thee down, and go with them." The point to notice is that these three men were representatives of the great heathen world — etc., they were not acquainted with what is known as revealed religion. One was a devout soldier, the other two were household servants of a Roman officer, who commanded one of the choicest regiments in the Roman army. We are thus confronted with the whole question of the heathen needs. There are men whose goodness is unquestionable who reason thus, "The gospel is the ordained means of salvation and the only means; now it is clear that the heathen, having never heard the gospel, cannot believe it, therefore they cannot be saved." Now, this line of reasoning cannot be true. Even if it were argued as consistent with God's justice, it could not be shown to be consistent with His pitiful goodness, to condemn them to suffer for the ages of the ages, if there were no way of salvation for them but the holding of definite convictions about the person and work of One who had never been revealed to them.

1. Nationality is of no account to God. The Jew thought that salvation was for him alone.

2. It is also clear that God deals with men according to their light. Our Lord drew a clear distinction between the servants that knew and those that knew not their Lord's will.

3. It is also clear that God can give credit for the quality of man's moral attitude. After, on one occasion, upbraiding the cities in which His mighty works had been done, our Lord went on to say, "If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." He here tells us what would have been. Now, this intimate knowledge of the moral condition of man, of the quality of the soul, and of the way in which it would act, is an essential qualification of the Judge of all men. It enables Him to deal not with the results or manifestation of character, but with its essence. I go into the market, and on a barrow I see some spring flowers. An experienced friend says, "Buy them." On inquiring I find the price enormous. "What!" I whisper to my friend, "Are they worth so much?" "Yes," he replies, "if you plant them in your hothouse, or beneath a sunny wall, they will bloom and fruit thus and thus." His knowledge of what they may do under certain conditions justifies me in buying the unsightly bulbs at an extravagant figure. Now, it is so that our Lord deals with men. He thinks, not so much of their creed, or even of their actions, but of their moral nature, and of what they may or might become, if favoured by certain soil, and sun, and rain. And if in the twilight of heathenism the soul has yet attained but a sickly growth, the Lord will still set a high value on it, and if He sees that in the full light of the gospel it would have equalled the moral nature of the best, He will put it on a level with them. We cannot too much insist on this, that our Master knows the moral nature of each, and what it would do under more favourable circumstances, and He judges us not by what we say or do, but by what we are. He knows how much of our failure to put to the credit of ignorance, and how much to the essential stupidity and stubbornness of our hearts.

4. It is also clear that God has not left Himself or His truth without witness in the heathen world.

5. It is also clear that no man is saved apart from the death of Christ.

6. It is clear also that the acceptance of men, whether Jew or Gentile, is only possible to faith.

7. But if this be the case with the heathen, why send them the gospel? For two reasons. First, because what they have cannot satisfy the noblest spirits. Cornelius is said to have prayed to God alway. For what did he pray? Evidently for what he had not got, for light and grace and power, for the fulness of God's salvation. Outside of Christ there is no certain knowledge of the love of God, of forgiveness of sin, or of eternal life; the heathen can only guess at the best; he longs to know that God is love, that sin may be forgiven, and that there is a future life. And for further light and teaching on these momentous subjects, the heathen world sends its representatives to knock at the door of the Christian Church. But there is a yet more imperious demand which sends them there, referred to in the expression, "Words by which thou shalt be saved." Great as is the yearning to know, there is a still stronger one to be. The one demand of the noblest souls was for power — power to salvation, power to resist sin, power to fulfil the noblest yearnings of the soul. And this is the burden of our message to the heathen today. We do not deny to them visions of God, intuitions of truth, lofty unselfishness, morality, prayer; but we affirm that they lack power, power unto salvation. But, secondly, the heathen for the most part are not represented by Cornelius. They have not faith. They do not live up to their light. They fail to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. They do not fear God and work righteousness. They are sunk in sin, from which they show no inclination to arouse themselves. In this case they have to be saved from the results of their own evil choice. They must be awakened, convicted of sin, led to repentance. There is no doubt, therefore, as to the need of man, and we adore the grace of God that His plan has been coincident with it. It is always so. Nature and Providence work as a double hinge. The fish do not seek insects in the summer afternoon, which do not flutter over the silver surface of the pool. Birds do not seek for fruits and berries which are not strewn through the woodlands.

II. THE DIVINE PLAN CAN ONLY BE WROUGHT OUT THROUGH HUMAN COOPERATION. In each stage of its unfolding it has been so. When from amid the recreant race of man God was desirous to select one family to become the depository of the sacred trust, He called Abraham from kindred and country, and prepared him by special trials for his high commission. When the progress of the Divine purpose seemed to be arrested by the captivity in Egypt, He took up the broken thread in Moses, the faithful servant. And at each successive crisis there was a David or a Hezekiah, an Ezra or a Nehemiah to carry it forward; as in the torch bearing of the old Greek games. And thus it has been in all subsequent ages, as the plan of God has taken some new phase there has ever been a Paul, an , a Luther, a Wesley, a Carey, through whom it has wrought. By men the will of God has been done on earth, as it is in heaven. This is the one passionate yearning of all true hearts, to know whether they are carrying out God's plan. There is plenty of work which is being done in the world which is abortive. Great beginnings, poor endings. This line of thought suggests some very serious reflections. It is clear that God's plan is not as yet realised. And what sort of men are they through whom He will work? Ah, Peter shall furnish the illustration. There was plenty of human nature about him. But with all the peculiar idiosyncrasies that marked this foundation stone from all the rest in the foundations of the New Jerusalem, there was that devotion to the Lord and Saviour, that love for prayer, that openness of heart to the Divine Spirit, that willingness to obey, that absence of assumption, which lifted the prostrate soldier to his feet with the words, "Stand up, I also am a man"; which are the prime notes of any soul to whom God will reveal His purpose, and by whom He will effect it. Is this thy state of heart? Then wait at Joppa, however obscure the place, and tiresome the delay. Nourish thy heart with prayer and meditation. Dare to wait though all men bid thee begone. If the vision tarry, wait for it.

III. THE EVOLUTION OF THE DIVINE PLAN IS ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY GHOST. Plan and power always go together. "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word." There is no need to expatiate on our need of the Holy Ghost, and that need is two fold, first as respects His influence on the worker, then as respects His cooperation in the work. There is a mysterious something in the worker who is endued with the Holy Ghost, which you can neither define nor imitate

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

This is not an answer to the question, Are there few that be saved? It only states the conditions of being acceptable to God. This is not a saying which the profane and prayerless may take comfort in, for it speaks of the acceptance only of those who are reverent toward God. It is not a message of peace to any who are selfish, unjust, or immoral, but to those only who work righteousness toward their fellow men. It does not say there is no difference between religions; that Christianity and the worship of heathen temples are just alike in the sight of God. It simply says that God is indifferent to national lines, and accepts an obedient heart and life in one nation as readily as in another. It does not follow that men are just as likely to be devout and righteous in one land as in another. Race, training, associations, occupation, do influence character. God never overlooks the individual in the mass of which he is a part. God regards biography more than history. If your son or daughter has gone to some new region or strange city, you are more concerned in your child's welfare than in the history of the place. General and individual forces appear everywhere interworking in human life, yet can be broadly distinguished everywhere. History occupies itself with general movements under the impulse of physical conditions, or tides of public feeling. Biography is concerned with the development of individual character in the midst of these general forces. History is vaster than biography. Social life makes individuals part of an organisation. History is more and other than the sum of the lives of its actors, as a twisted rope has more strength than the sum of its strands. History is vaster than biography. Yet on the other hand we cannot explain the character and lives of individual men and women by the social and physical conditions into which they are born and among which they develop. In the later centuries, at least, race has been a stronger element than climate in determining the course and development of history, the English stock showing its superior vigour in all the zones, though not, it must be confessed, in all the arts. The superiority of race to physical conditions is not, however, the highest point of man's dignity. Peter saw a more glorious sunlit summit of truth when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the family of the Gentile Cornelius. He saw that the individual is more even than race and environment, more than the fated development of inherited characteristics under the influence of these or those external conditions. Each soul is a living unit, responsible to God and under God's particular regard. Race, climate, and the movements of surrounding life affect every individual. Yet is the individual supreme. Shall Joseph because he is in Egypt say, It avails nothing to worship the God of my fathers in this strange land? If Joseph had taken the colour of his surroundings, where had been his honour as the deliverer of his people, and who had saved Egypt from the famine? If Moses had become a courtier in Pharaoh's court, or a hermit in Arabia, who had led Israel out of Egypt? That God is thus a Father and never overlooks the individual in the mass, is a truth of the greatest practical importance to us. God never uses men as a chess player does his pawns — to win a victory for himself without regard to the pieces used. The chess player moves his pieces here or there for the sake of the game. God rules and overrules the affairs of history for the sake of individuals. The earth was made for man. Institutions, as the family government, and the like, have been established of God, not for their own sake but for their share in promoting the welfare of individuals. No individual need ever be in despair because the drift of life about him is toward evil and the multitudes are swept on by the current toward ruin. Fear God and work righteousness, and you shall be acceptable to God. The evil drift of life about us is never a sufficient excuse for evil living or neglect of Christian duty on our part. We may not be responsible for the general tendency of life in our time or community, but we are responsible for the way we individually behave in the current. The ship master must sail for his port whichever way the currents run. The more adverse the currents, the more resolutely must he hold the helm. The chance for a Cornelius to be acceptable to God, while in the brutal army of Rome, lay in the individual power to be different from his surroundings. It does not signify much in respect to individual character to be swept along in general movements, whether of religious fervour, of temperance enthusiasm, or of patriotic zeal. What most signifies both in manifesting and developing character, is the individual movement apart from that which is general. We are of such high estate in God's image that every individual can be more than his surroundings. It is just in such times that righteousness most shines out in contrast with evil-doing, and the strength of reverent faith grows stronger by the very lack of anything short of God to cling to. The hope of religion in the world, the hope of every reform and of all progress, lies in the superiority of the individual soul to its surroundings, in the vital power of individual character. If men must be formed by their surroundings, no generation could ever break away from the corruptions of the past. But men are individual centres of power. So you and I are called to fear God and work righteousness, whether others hear the Divine call or forbear. We may make our own calling and election sure, and we may by God's blessing turn the current of the time to piety and righteousness.

(W. E. C. Wright.)

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