Acts 10:8
This is a striking passage when thoughtfully considered. The doctrine of Divine omniscience we may accept without having any adequate conception of it, or feeling any practical impression attending on our faith. The ease with which a general truth or principle may be held, while it yet remains ineffective on the life, has often been urged on us. The skilful teacher seeks to set forth the general truth in some particular instance, and expects that the truth will thus be seen clearly and grasped firmly. We have an instance in the passage before us. Cornelius had some appropriate ideas concerning God's omniscience and omnipresence, yet we may be sure that they had never been practical, real, and searching thoughts to him, until the angel showed that God knew all about him and all about Peter, his name, lodging, host, etc. In our childish days we were often frightened by being reminded of the words, "Thou God seest me." It is well if in our manhood we can have such a revelation of the marvelous minuteness, yet more marvelous tenderness and graciousness, of the Divine inspection. David's joy in the omniscience and omnipresence of God, as indicated in such psalms as the hundred and forty-ninth, may be referred to. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." We may notice the points in the passage which suggest the intimacy and exactness of God's daily knowledge of us.

I. GOD KNOWS OUR NAMES. Our surname, by which we are commonly known to the world, and even our Christian name, by which we are known to our intimate friends. He knew Peter the fisherman, but he knew him as Simon. This includes God's knowledge of all that our fellow men, with whom we have to do in daily business, know of us; and his further knowledge of all that our most intimate relatives could tell of our character and disposition. There may be some things of private thought or conduct which we would gladly keep from God; even these are "naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."

II. OUR EMPLOYMENT. God knew that this other Simon was a tanner by trade. We somehow dissociate the common occupations of life from the thought of God, but he watches us in daily work. And we may surely feel that he judges day by day the spirit in which our daily work is done. "Whereunto a man is called, therein let him abide with God."

III. THE SITUATION OF OUR HOUSE. God knew that this tanner's house was "by the seaside," placed there, probably, for the conveniences of his trade. So God knows our precise circumstances and surrounding, and the exact influence which these things bear upon us. And if he knows all this, we may confidently rest assured that he is ready and willing to be the power that helps us to overcome our disabilities, and master our difficulties, and live for him "even where Satan's seat is," if our lot should be cast in such scenes.

IV. OUR RELATION TO THE FAMILY. Brining his inspections to bear on the family circle, he knows the place of each one. He knew that Peter was only a lodger. Then he can give each one the needed grace for worthily occupying his place, and faithfully maintaining his relations and doing the consequent duties. Apart from the revelation of the humanity and sympathetic brotherhood of Christ, as "God manifest in the flesh," so minute a Divine knowledge would only appall us, crushing down energy, effort, and hope. Now we glory in the thought of the perfect knowledge, for he who besets us behind and before is our Father, whom we know well through his Son and our Brother, the "Man Christ Jesus." - R.T.







While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word.
I. THE EFFECTS OF PETER'S PREACHING. It —

1. Converted Gentiles. Peter preached the gospel (vers. 34-43). And the gospel thus proclaimed is never in vain. Man's oratory may please the ear: it is the Word of God, applied by the Holy Spirit, which alone can convert the heart. God often works suddenly and unexpectedly. A thoughtless sinner enters a church, pays no attention; but all at once some word strikes his ear. It is an arrow from the Divine quiver. He quits the Church converted. It was thus with this congregation. "While Peter yet spake," intending, probably, to say much more, "the Holy Ghost fell" — just as while Ezekiel was prophesying the dry bones moved.

2. Astonished Jews (vers. 45, 46).(1) The proof that Peter's preaching was owned of God, was the gift of the Holy Ghost. The converts spake with tongues, and thereby showed their qualifications and willingness to go as missionaries in foreign lands, and at once used their tongues to magnify God. And this is ever the effect. Whether the convert speaks in his own or foreign language, he will glorify God by telling others of Christ's pardoning love and redeeming grace.(2) The astonishment of the six Jewish disciples who had come from Joppa with Peter arose from prejudice. It probably gave them some uneasiness, because that "upon the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." They conceived that these blessings belonged exclusively to their own nation. Had they understood their Scriptures, they would have known that this event had been long ago predicted. Beware, therefore, not only of prejudice, but also of ignorance of the Scriptures. How many are being carried away by all kinds of delusions from this neglect of the Word of God! Some are settling down in a dependence upon the outward ceremonies of religion, because forgetful that a man may have "the form of godliness" without its "power." Some are trying to combine the love of the world with the service of Christ, forgetful that "No man can serve two masters." Some are panic struck at the existence of infidelity, forgetful that "In the last days scoffers shall arise."

II. PETER'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT'S WORK (vers. 47, 48). This inquiry of Peter shows us —

1. How unsound are the views of the Society of Friends, who affirm that the baptism of water is unnecessary, if we have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We must never forget, however, that it is an ordinance of Christ. We admit that, like the thief upon the Cross, a believer may enter Paradise without baptism; still, our Lord's own words are — that "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." The same remarks apply to the other sacrament. Many approach those emblems with devout joy and gratitude and experience the richest blessing. But others turn their backs upon that precious ordinance, which was appointed by none other than our Lord Himself.

2. How erroneous are the views of those who hold that baptism is invariably accompanied by the gift of the Holy Ghost. These converts received the Holy Ghost first, and were baptized afterwards. It was with them as it was with Abraham. Abraham first believed and then was circumcised. And our Church says that before an adult is baptized he must have repentance and faith; both which are the fruits of the Spirit working in the soul. These we could not have as infants; bat we must have them now, otherwise our infant baptism is a delusion. How wrong, therefore, is it to speak of regeneration accompanying, by necessity, infant baptism! Jewish children, at eight days old, were admitted into covenant by circumcision; and we conclude that the children of Christian parents should be brought into the Christian covenant by the rite of baptism: but then, to dogmatise upon the effects of infant baptism is to dogmatise where the Word of God is totally silent.

3. How wrong they are who exalt baptism at the expense of preaching. Peter felt (as Paul) that his grand commission was not so much to baptize as to preach the gospel; for "he commanded them to be baptized."

III. THE ANXIETY OF THE CONVERTED SOUL FOR SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION (ver. 48). Peter, in another place, describes believers as "newborn babes," desiring "the sincere milk of the Word, that they might grow thereby." These converts gathered themselves together, as in the presence of God, to hear Peter preach; and after they had received saving instruction, by the blessing of the Holy Ghost, they were anxious to obtain further benefit from Peter's ministry. Learn that those of you who have received the Holy Ghost need the further ministry of the Word. It is a sure proof that there is spiritual good going forward when we perceive this thirst for larger acquaintance with the love and the work of the Saviour.

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

I. THE EFFUSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

1. It came to those who heard the Word. The gospel is the channel through which the Holy Spirit in His regenerating influences flows into the soul; the chariot on which the Divine Conqueror goes forth to crush the soul's enemies, and to bring it forth to freedom, light, and glory. True, He works through all nature for various purposes, but for salvation He works through the Word.

2. It produced miraculous as well as moral effects. The recipients spoke with "tongues." In what language they expressed their gratitude we are not told. Now as at Pentecost new thoughts and emotions require a new dialect. Change the thoughts and feelings of the world and you will change its language.

II. THE ADMINISTRATION OF BAPTISM (ver. 47). From this we conclude that baptism is —

1. A symbol of the Spirit's action on the soul; not only perhaps in His cleansing influence, but in the mode of communication — "poured out."

2. A ceremony of easy observance, "Can any forbid water?" which implies —(1) That the water was in the house.(2) That water could be brought. Christianity is an universal system, and any ordinance that cannot be attended to anywhere and always has no vital connection with it.

3. A service of subordinate importance. Peter does not baptize; He has a higher work. Christ baptized not (John 4:3), and Paul said, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Clerical Anecdotes.
"How comes it," demanded a bishop of Garrick, "that I, in expounding Divine doctrines, produced so little effect upon my congregation, while you can so easily rouse the passions of your auditors by the representation of fiction?" The answer was short and pithy — "Because I recite falsehoods as if they were true, while you deliver truths as if they were fiction."

(Clerical Anecdotes.)

There are two things we may notice concerning Peter's discourse —

I. THE IMPORTANT TOPICS IT EMBRACED. "While Peter spake these words." What words? Christ was the theme of this sermon; and is the grand subject of our ministrations. We tell you of Him, in the dignity of His person, the perfection of His character, the fulness of His grace, and the suitableness of His salvation. In Peter's address there are five things he mentions respecting Christ.

1. His mediatorial qualifications (ver. 38; see also Isaiah 61:1).

2. The activity of His life. "Who went about doing good."

3. The fact of His death (ver. 39).

4. The power of His resurrection (ver. 40).

5. The extent of His dominion (ver. 42).

II. THE DIVINE INFLUENCE WITH WHICH IT WAS ACCOMPANIED.

1. Its import. "The Holy Ghost fell on all," etc. There are three principal things He does: He —

(1)Enlightens the mind.

(2)Convinces the conscience.

(3)Sanctifies the soul.

2. Its objects. Those "which heard the Word." "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of the Lord."

3. Its extent. "On all them that heard." What vast numbers were converted to God in the first ages of Christianity!Two reflections naturally arise out of this subject —

1. The importance of the Christian ministry.

2. The necessity of the Spirit's agency.

(E. Temple.)

I. SOME CIRCUMSTANCES THAT PRECEDED THIS DESCENT.

1. The time of the miracle — "While Peter was speaking." The Holy Ghost cannot go at a slow pace; it is the devil in the serpent that creeps, but the Spirit as a dove flies. As regards the centurion we may say, "When God teaches, how fast a godly man learns." Christ did His miracles in an instant. It is true that there is a growth in knowledge, and ignorance is overcome by degrees; but when the Holy Ghost takes a man into His school, He deals not with him as a painter who makes an eye, an ear, etc., and passes his pencil a hundred times over every muscle and hair, and in many sittings make up one man, but He deals as a printer that in one strain delivers a whole story. The time, then, was when Peter prepared by the Holy Ghost was to prepare others for the Holy Ghost. "When he spoke," i.e.

2. Preached to them. For to him who has a spiritual taste no honey is so sweet as the Word of God preached according to His ordinance. If a man taste a little of this as Jonathan did, though he think his eyes enlightened, it may be to his death (1 Samuel 14:27). If a man read the Scriptures a little, superficially, he 'thinks he sees everything clear as the sun: but he may find wormwood in this honey,' because he finds "the wages of sin is death," and he will take no more of the honey, viz., that "when a sinner repents he shall find mercy." As the Essential Word, the Son is Light of light, so is the written Word — one place takes light of another: and if thou wilt so read and hear that thine affections mislead thee; if thou hear sermons so that thou art glad when sins are rebuked that thou art free from, and art deaf when thine own sins are declaimed against, thou wilt take so little of this honey that Jonathan's case will be thine. The Scriptures are made to agree with one another, but not to agree with thy particular humour. But yet the counsel is good on the other side too (Proverbs 25:16). Content thyself with reading and hearing what is clear and profitable, and perplex not thyself with those things which God has not revealed.

3. "Whilst he yet spake." The Spirit did not leave them to future meditations, but spoke at once to their consciences. As a gardener takes every bough, and places it against a wall where it will produce most fruit, so the Holy Ghost places the words of the preacher, one upon an usurer, another on an adulterer, another on an ambitious person, another on a briber, when the preacher knows of none of these.

4. Nay, it is not only "whilst he was yet speaking," but as St. Peter says in the next chapter, "As I began to speak." It was then when, whilst, and as soon as, he preached; but Peter had some preparation as we know from the vision, and with the subject of his preaching he was well acquainted (ver. 43). So while his manner was extemporal, his matter was prepared.

II. THE DESCENT itself.

1. The Person who fell. As the Trinity is the most mysterious part of our religion, so in the Trinity the Holy Ghost is the most mysterious Person. But these mysteries are not to be chewed by reason, but to be swallowed by faith. We professed the three Persons in one God at our baptism, and have sealed that contract in the other sacrament: and this is bur eternal life. There is a Holy Ghost, and He falls down on those who hear the Word.

2. It is as wonderful that He should fall down from heaven and yet be in heaven. "How art thou fallen" (Isaiah 14:12) was asked of a being who should never return. But the Spirit fell so from, that He remained in heaven. This Dove did more than that which was sent from the ark (Genesis 8:7).

3. But there is more than a descent, even an earnest communication, a throwing, a pouring out of Himself. He falls as waters that cover that it falls on, as an army which conquers and governs that on which it falls. But He falls otherwise on the ungodly; on him He falls like hail, and leaves him in impenitence because be hath despised the Holy Ghost. But when the Spirit puts on the nature of a dove, and a dove with an olive branch, and that in the ark — i.e., testimonies of our peace and reconciliation with God, in His Church — He falls as that kind of lightning which melts swords and hurts not scabbards — He shall melt thy soul, and not hurt thy body.

4. Further, this falling of the Holy Ghost was not such an insinuation that He conveyed Himself into these particular men for their salvation, but such a powerful and diffusive falling as made them work for others. A great doubt was removed by them whether it were lawful to receive Gentiles. So this falling was not an infusion of justifying grace merely, but also such an infusion of gifts as might edify others. Good hearers, then, became good preachers.

(J. Donne, D. D.)

I. WHAT IT IS. "The Holy Ghost fell," i.e., "descended" —

1. As lightning, flashing conviction suddenly, startlingly, effectually.

2. As rain, gentle, refreshing, fertilising.

3. As cataracts and water floods, destroying and bearing away all obstacles.

4. As fire consuming stubble, purifying dross, and turning the true metal into its own nature. The Holy Spirit thus convinces of sin, prepares the heart for the Word, vanquishes unbelief and self-will, consumes sin and inspires enthusiasm.

II. WHAT IT ACCOMPANIES. The preaching of the Word. "While Peter yet spake."

1. The Spirit honours the instrument of His own making. "Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," and what they said He reinspires, and makes the gospel the power of God unto salvation. Sometimes He works directly, sometimes with other instruments — prosperity or adversity, sickness or restoration, the commonplace or extraordinary events of life, life or death, for "the wind bloweth where it listeth"; but usually it is by the Word.

2. Let men not dishonour this instrument.(1) The tendency is to disparage preaching and exalt devotion, but without preaching there will be few converted worshippers, although there may be many who draw near with their lips whose hearts are far from God.(2) If preaching is to be tolerated it must be short. But this usually comes from people who can sit out three hours at a concert or a play, whereas they tire with half an hour of the "words of eternal life."

3. The preacher's duty is to declare the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear or not. But let him so preach as to win the ear; then he may expect the same results as Peter had. "My Word shall not return unto Me void."

III. WITH WHAT IT IS FOLLOWED.

1. On the part of the beholders — astonishment.(1) It was astonishing in itself. It ought not to have been in the case before us, for we have the record of three similar manifestations, of which these spectators must have heard from Peter, if they were not actual witnesses. Let us not blame them, for nothing would surprise an average church today more than a revival, although "we have heard with our ears and our fathers have told us," etc.(2) It was astonishing in the subjects of it. Yet it ought not to have been, for it had been clearly predicted, as Peter announced at Pentecost. But we must not judge them harshly, for the Church today, with a wider knowledge, throws up its hands in wonder at the conversion of any one of more than ordinary depravity.

2. On the part of the subjects.(1) Testimony. They spoke with tongues — miraculously endowed in this case. But when the Spirit comes, does He sanctify the heart and not the tongue? Our modern proprieties permit the use of every other instrument, but lay an embargo on the tongue. But the Scripture saith, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."(2) Praise. They magnified God the Author of this good and perfect gift. If conversion does not lead to rapturous thankfulness, it may well be suspected.(3) Baptism — obedience to Christ's particular requirement, and involving all else in the way of duty.

3. On the part of Peter —(1) Continuous instruction (ver. 48).(2) Vigorous defence of his policy (Acts 11:1-18).

(J. W. Burn.)

What is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit? It is the doctrine of the interworking of the Spirit of God upon the souls of men. I have no philosophy about it. All I say is this — that God knows what is the secret way in which mind reaches mind: I do not; you do not. I do not know why words on my tongue wake up thoughts corresponding to those words in you. I do not know why the soul of man, like a complex instrument of wondrous scope, is played upon by my words, so that there are waked up in it notes along the whole scale of being. I do not understand why these things are so; but, unquestionably, they are so. I do not know how the mother pours her affection on the child's heart; but she does. Two stars never shone into each other as two loving souls shine into each other. I know it is so; but I do not know why it is so. I do not know how soul touches soul, how thought touches thought, or how feeling touches feeling; but I know it does.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Mental power may fill a chapel; but spiritual power fills the Church. Mental power may gather a congregation; spiritual power will save souls. We want spiritual power. We know some ministers before whom we shrink into nothing as to talent, but who have no spiritual power, and when they speak they have not the Holy Spirit with them; but we know others, simple-hearted, worthy men, who speak their country dialect, and who stand up to preach in their humble sanctuary, and the Spirit of God clothes every word with power; hearts are broken, souls are saved, and sinners are born again.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It may be that during a sermon two men are listening to the same truth; one of them hears as attentively as the other, and remembers as much of it; the other is melted to tears or moved to solemn thoughts; but the one sees nothing in the sermon, except certain important truths well set forth; as for the other, his heart is broken within him and his soul is melted. How is this? I reply, because the mysterious Spirit of the living God goes with the truth to one heart and not to the other. Yonder sinner only feels the force of truth, and that may be strong enough to make him tremble, like Felix; but this man feels the Spirit going with the truth, the Spirit causes him to pass into the state of salvation. This change takes place instantaneously. It is as miraculous a change as any miracle of which we read in Scripture. It may be mimicked, but no imitation of it can be true and real. Men may pretend to be regenerated without the Spirit, but regenerated they cannot be. It is a change so marvellous that the highest attempts of man can never reach it. We may reason as long as we please, but we cannot reason ourselves into regeneration; we may meditate till our hairs are grey with study, but we cannot meditate ourselves into the new birth. This is worked in us by the sovereign will of God alone.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

In vain do the inhabitants of London go to their conduits for supply unless the man who has the master key turns the water on; and in vain do we think to quench our thirst at ordinances, unless God communicates the living water of His Spirit.

(H. G. Salter.).

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