Acts 10:9
The next day at about the sixth hour, as the men were approaching the city on their journey, Peter went up on the roof to pray.
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
Devout HeathenR. Tuck Acts 10:2, 22
A Divine Call to PreachT. McCullagh.Acts 10:9-16
An Apostle DreamingS. A. Tipple.Acts 10:9-16
Common and Unclean ThingsA. T. Pierson.Acts 10:9-16
Devotion and ActionDionysius of Carthage.Acts 10:9-16
Doubt: its Cause and CureJ. W. Burn.Acts 10:9-16
How May We Know Our WorkChristian AgeActs 10:9-16
Ministry of MenActs 10:9-16
Peter's Blunder: a Lesson to OurselvesC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 10:9-16
Peter's Obedience to an Unexpected IntimationChristian HeraldActs 10:9-16
Peter's VisionJ. Fawcett, M. A.Acts 10:9-16
Peter's VisionPreacher's MonthlyActs 10:9-16
Retirement Necessary for PrayerC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 10:9-16
Sectarian NarrownessJ. R. Andrews.Acts 10:9-16
The Beautiful in the Common Brought Out by CleansingActs 10:9-16
The Cleansing of All Meats by ChristArchdeacon Farrar.Acts 10:9-16
The Comprehensiveness of the GospelJ. Cynddylan Jones, D. D., P. H. Power, M. A.Acts 10:9-16
The Ground of the Antipathy Between Jew and GentileArchdeacon Farrar.Acts 10:9-16
The Humility of CorneliusProf. I. H. Hall.Acts 10:9-16
The Idolatry of Self-WillJohn Smith.Acts 10:9-16
The Light of Heaven on the Open Gate of a New WorldR.A. Redford Acts 10:9-16
The Messengers of the Centurion At Peter's DoorK. Gerok.Acts 10:9-16
The Petrine Vision At JoppaG. T. Stokes, D. D.Acts 10:9-16
The Transition from the Old to the NewJ. Baldwin Brown, B. A.Acts 10:9-16
The Vision of PeterF. A. Krummacher, D. D.Acts 10:9-16
The Ecstasy and Vision of PeterE. Johnson Acts 10:9-17
Man in God's Sight; Or, Divine ImpartialityW. Clarkson Acts 10:9-48
The incident of the conversion of Cornelius is suggestive of some important truths, but of one in particular, viz. the perfectness of the Divine impartiality. We look first, however, at -

I. THE PART OF THE PHYSICAL IN THE APPREHENSION OF THE SPIRITUAL. Peter went up to pray (ver. 9); but he was very hungry and desired bodily refreshment (ver. 10). This state of body was probably favorable to his "falling into a trance" (ver. 11); however that may be, it evidently had something to do with the character of the vision which he beheld. The contents of the great sheet, the invitation to "kill and eat," answered very closely to his physical cravings. In truth, our spiritual apprehensions depend in no small degree on our bodily condition. We may safely conclude that:

1. Fasting, as such, has a very small place, if it have any at all, in the Christian dispensation. (It had only the very smallest in the Law, though Pharisaic accretions had made it a prominent feature of Jewish piety in our Lord's time.)

2. Abstinence rather than indulgence is favorable to spiritual apprehension.

3. Bodily health is the best condition for religious service.

II. THE ABSOLUTE NOTHINGNESS OF OUR PHYSICAL DISTINCTIONS IN THE SIGHT OF THE SUPREME. Peter did not at first perceive the full significance of the vision, in which he was bidden to partake of anything before him: he "doubted what this vision should mean" (ver. 17). But the coincidence of the vision with the coming of the messengers of Cornelius, and the statement of the centurion himself, removed all difficulty and doubt, and he used the noble words recorded (vers. 34, 35). Not that he meant to say that God was indifferent to the consideration whether men believed what was true or what was false; that is a gross perversion of his language, which the apostle would have resented with the greatest indignation. He meant that God regarded with equal acceptance all who held and loved the truth, whether they were sons of Abraham or whether they stood quite outside the sacred circle. The lesson for us is that most valuable one, viz. that no physical distinctions of any kind affect our position in the sight of God. "The accident of birth" has no bearing on our place in his kingdom. Neither age, nor sex, nor class, nor race has anything whatever to do with the estimate he forms of us or with the sphere he will assign us. This absolute indifference on God's part to distinctions of which we make so much, applies:

1. To the remission of sins now; that depends wholly on our spiritual relation to Jesus Christ (ver. 43).

2. To his judgment of us after death; that also will be decided by our attitude towards him (ver. 42).

3. To his communication of special gifts (vers. 44, 45). This impartiality should be copied by us and, particularly, made applicable to the standing we give to men in the visible Church (vers. 47, 48).

III. OUR COMMON RELATION TO GOD THE SOURCE OF HUMAN SACREDNESS, "What God hath cleansed, call not thou common" (ver. 15). Probably or possibly it may have been intended by this vision to confirm and illustrate the words of our Lord when he "made all things pure" (new rendering). But, however this may be, the words certainly denote that we are not to consider common or profane those whom God has redeemed from profanity. And who are these? Not only

(1) those of our race who have been actually redeemed and renewed - those who are "washed and cleansed and sanctified by the renewing of the Holy Ghost;" but also - and this is the main thought -

(2) all the children of men in virtue of their common relation to the Divine Father and Savior. As those who are "all his offspring," and who are all free to become his sons and daughters by spiritual resemblance; as those for whom the Son of God shed his blood and to whom he sends his message of love and life, - all are worthy of our "honor" (1 Peter 2:17); none are to be "lightly esteemed." - C.

On the morrow...Peter went up upon the housetop to pray.
Have you noticed that if all day long there is not a knock at the door, there will be one if you retire to pray? It is wise to do as the Saviour says, "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut to the door, pray to thy Father that seeth in secret." That shutting of the door means that we are to seek secrecy, and to prevent interruption. A little boy, who was accustomed to spend a time every day in prayer, went up into a hayloft, and when he climbed into the hayloft he always pulled the ladder up after him. Some one asked him why he did so. He answered, "As there is no door, I pull up the ladder." Oh, that we could always in some way cut the connection between our soul and the intruding things which lurk below! There is a story told of me and of some person, I never knew who it was, who desired to see me on a Saturday night, when I had shut myself up to make ready for the Sabbath. He was very great and important, so the maid came to say that someone desired to see me. I bade her say that it was my rule to see no one at that time. Then he was more important and impressive still, and said, "Tell Mr. Spurgeon that a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ desires to see him immediately." The frightened servant brought the message; but the sender gained little by it, for my answer was, "Tell him I am busy with his Master, and cannot see servants now."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. When Cornelius, the Gentile, prayed in his house, it was at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer among the Jews; when Peter, the Jew, prayed, it was at the sixth hour, or noon, which was not one of the stated times. This is worthy of being noticed as occurring at a time when in far greater matters the Jews were about to become as the Gentiles, the Gentiles as the Jews. This is the second instance of the great honour put upon prayer. A praying Gentile is the first uncircumcised person admitted into the Christian Church. A praying apostle the instrument employed to bring about this happy consummation. And to each was his own blessing given at the very time when he was in the exercise of prayer. It is well for Christians to have fixed hours of prayer; and though they should not be in bondage to such hours, yet without good reason they should not depart from them. There is in our hearts such a backwardness to so spiritual a duty, that if we do not charge it upon our conscience to observe the hour, the world will find us other employment. Peter observed the time, and was careful also in selecting the place for prayer: in the temple at the stated hours, at other times in the best adapted part of the house. He affords in this an edifying example. The house of God is open to all: at the stated times the rich and the poor may repair thither; and, surely, on the Lord's day, all, unless distance or sickness hinders, should offer both their morning and their evening sacrifice. As to private prayer, many have not the advantage of a private apartment. But men can accommodate themselves to circumstances. Noise is a disturber of sleep; but men who live in the midst of noise can sleep in the midst of it as if in the stillest solitude. And thus a poor Christian may pray with much collectedness in the midst of interruptions which would altogether discompose others, and what a man's house does not afford the open field does.

2. But wherever a man is praying, the great point is to let prayer be his one business, to be absorbed in it. Peter, while he prayed, was in a trance; the world was altogether shut out from him. A man in prayer should have his senses, memory, imagination, closed against all other objects, and should converse with God alone. This would be the way to behold heaven indeed opened, and blessings of every kind descending upon him; for prayer is the key which opens heaven, unlocks its sacred treasures, and brings down the richest gifts both of providence and grace on the head of the supplicant.

3. Yes, every good and every perfect gift is from above, etc. And the vision of Peter affords a lively illustration of this truth. If, instead of buying what we know has been killed in the slaughter house, we saw a vessel descend from heaven, and if, after we had taken out of it what was sufficient for our repast, we saw it again taken up into heaven, we should feel that the food thus given was indeed sent down from God. But in that case the truth would not be more certain than it is now. For, whence came these creatures into being? Who gave them the properties which render them fit for meat? And who keeps up the successive generations of them from age to age? For a season, and to answer a particular purpose, a great restriction was put upon these creatures. But from the beginning it was not so. The grant to Noah is unlimited — "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you, even as the green herb have I given you all things." And now that the law with its ceremonies and carnal ordinances is abolished, to us this original grant is restored in all its fulness. We know that "every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." Oh, why do we not thus sanctify our meals? To do so would give a sweetness to the humblest fare, and exalt our ordinary repasts into means of grace. And surely, when all things are become lawful to us, and no other restraints laid on us than those of charity and temperance, our larger liberty demands from us more abundant thanksgiving. But the doing away of all distinction between clean and unclean in meats is a light matter in comparison of the doing away of all distinction between clean and unclean in persons. The Jews considered all but themselves unclean. To remove this prejudice, the vision significantly taught that God had cleansed them, in order to comprehend which we must understand two things. First, that He looked upon them as clean, as fit to be received into the covenant. Every person who is born into the world is really unclean — Jew and Gentile alike, for there is no difference. But hitherto God regarded the Jews as clean, and admitted their children by circumcision into His covenant, giving them the seal of righteousness by faith, while the Gentiles He accounted unclean, and such were not admitted without circumcision. But now men of every nation were accounted clean, and could be received into the Church by baptism on professing their faith in Christ; and the children of such parents were holy, and would be admitted into the Christian Church by baptism. But the gospel covenant not only cleanses from legal uncleanness; it provides also for inward cleansing and meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light.

(J. Fawcett, M. A.)

Preacher's Monthly.
The world has had seven birthdays.

1. The creation.

2. The day of the unfolding of redemptive purpose.

3. The call of Abraham.

4. Christmas Day.

5. Ascension Day.

6. The Day of Pentecost.

7. The day which banned the distinctions of race and creed and opened the kingdom to all.


1. Peter had sought retirement for prayer. Prayer has a subjective influence. Perceptive faculties are refined and stimulated. Christ's physical form was transfigured.

2. After prayer there was ecstasy. Intuition quickened by the Holy Spirit. Equivalent to the "opening" of eyes and ears. Not delirium or rhapsody. Men should cultivate "the faculty divine," and expect the Spirit to "take the things of Christ and show them" (1 Corinthians 2:12, 13).


1. The abrogation of the ceremonial law as of binding obligation (Romans 14:14, 17).

2. The separations of men no longer lawful. The narrowness of old Judaism contrary to the all-embracing spirit of gospel grace. No class is to be favoured at the expense of another. Two great ideas are thus suggested.

(1)That of the Divine Fatherhood.

(2)That of the brotherhood of man.

(Preacher's Monthly.)

There is something very restful in the picture drawn for us of St. Peter at this crisis. There is none of that feverish hurry and restlessness which make some good men and their methods very trying to others. St. Peter, indeed, did not live in an age of telegrams and postcards and express trains, which all contribute more or less to that feverish activity and restlessness so characteristic of this age. But even if he had lived in such a time, I am sure his faith in God would have saved him from that fussiness, that life of perpetual hurry, yet never bringing forth any abiding fruit, which we behold in so many moderns. It is no wonder such men's fussiness should be fruitless, because their natures are poor, shallow, uncultivated, where their seed springs up rapidly but brings forth no fruit to perfection, because it has no deepness of earth. It is no wonder that St. Peter should have spoken with power at Caesarea and been successful in opening the door of faith to the Gentiles, because he prepared himself for doing the Divine work by the discipline of meditation, and thought, and spiritual converse with his risen Lord.


1. Joppa has been from ancient times the port of Jerusalem, and is even now rising into somewhat of its former commercial greatness, specially owing to the late development of the orange trade, for the production of which fruit Jaffa or Joppa has become famous. Three thousand years ago Joppa was a favourite resort of the Phoenician fleets (2 Chronicles 2:16). At a later period, when God would send Jonah on a mission to Gentile Nineveh, and when Jonah desired to thwart God's merciful designs towards the outer world, the prophet fled to Joppa and there took ship. And now again Joppa becomes the refuge of another prophet, who feels the same natural hesitation about admitting the Gentiles to God's mercy, but who, unlike Jonah, yields immediate assent to the heavenly message, and finds peace and blessing in the paths of loving obedience.

2. It was with Simon, the tanner of Joppa, that St. Peter was staying. Tanners as a class were despised and comparatively outcast among the Jews. Tanning was counted an unclean trade, because of the necessary contact with dead bodies which it involved. Yet it was to a tanner's house that the apostle made his way, and there he lodged for many days, showing that the mind even of St. Peter was steadily rising above narrow Jewish prejudices into that higher and nobler atmosphere where he learned in fullest degree that no man and no lawful trade is to be counted common or unclean.

II. THE TIME. Joppa is thirty miles from Caesarea. The leading coast towns were then connected by an excellent road. The centurion's messengers doubtless travelled on horseback, leading spare beasts for the accommodation of the apostle. Less than twenty-four hours after their departure from Caesarea they drew nigh to Joppa, and then it was that God revealed His purposes to His beloved servant. The very hour can be fixed. Cornelius saw the angel at the ninth hour, when he "was keeping the hour of prayer." Peter saw the vision at the sixth hour, when he went up on the housetop to pray, according to the example of the Psalmist (Psalm 55:18). St. Peter evidently was a careful observer of all the forms amid which his youthful training had been conducted. He did not seek in the name of spiritual religion to discard these old forms. He recognised the danger of any such course. Forms may often tend to formalism on account of the weakness of human nature. But they also help to preserve and guard the spirit of ancient institutions in times of sloth and decay, till the Spirit from on high again breathes upon the dry bones and imparts fresh life. St. Peter used the forms of Jewish externalism, imparting to them some of his own intense earnestness, and the Lord set His seal of approval upon his action by revealing the purposes of His mercy and love to the Gentile world at the noontide hour of prayer.

III. THE VISION. To the mere man of sense or to the mere carnal mind St. Peter's hunger may seem a simple natural operation, but to the devout believer it appears as Divinely planned in order that a spiritual satisfaction and completeness may be imparted to his soul unconsciously craving after a fuller knowledge of the Divine will. And if St. Peter's hunger was taken up and incorporated with the Divine plan of salvation, we may be sure that our own wants and trials do not escape the omniscient eye of Him who plans all our lives, appointing the end from the very beginning. St. Peter was hungry, and as food was preparing he fell into a trance, and then the vision answering in its form to the hunger which he felt was granted. The hour had at last come for the manifestation of God's everlasting purposes, when the sacred society should assume its universal privileges and stand forth resplendent in its true character as God's Holy Catholic Church — of which the Temple had been a temporary symbol and pledge — a house of prayer for all nations, the joy of the whole earth, the city of the Great King, until the consummation of all things.

(G. T. Stokes, D. D.)

1. "A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27; James 1:17). As a single seed of corn cannot unfold itself without the quickening influence and care of God, so the immortal seed, through which we become "the first fruits of His creatures," must be vivified by the Almighty! We do not see this influence descend; we only observe the unfolding after it is completed. We see the rose bloom, but not the act of blossoming; but how can we doubt the care of an Almighty hand, or the wafting around it of an invisible breath? All depends on God's blessing (2 Corinthians 3:5). How could we come to God if God had not first come to us! He must bless our labour, and work in us both to will and to do. This work of God in us is a mystery, yet not altogether incomprehensible; it is like the visible and palpable influence of the sun. In order to exhibit this truth we have here a visible example of the invisible influence of God, and of the descent of His Holy Spirit. We may also be assured from the history that if we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all things that we need shall be added unto us.

2. The gospel history has depicted with peculiar openness the character of Peter. The Lord had given him the surname of "Rock," not merely in reference to what he should become, but also to that which he was by nature. He was distinguished from the rest of our Lord's followers by an impetuosity of temper which seems to have been born with him, and which showed itself by obstinately holding any opinion which the mind had once embraced. None of the disciples gainsaid our Lord so often as Peter. When Jesus told them of His approaching sufferings, he said, "Be it far from Thee." When Jesus washed the disciples' feet, Peter withstood Him. In his fall also, in spite of his better judgment, he showed a stubborn obstinacy. He also subjected himself in Antioch to the severe reproof of Paul, when, to please the Jews, he once more came under the bondage of the Levitical law, to the offence of the Gentile Church. The Bible has never been silent with regard to the human weakness and errors of its heroes.

3. It appears to have been particularly difficult for the apostle to comprehend the counsel of God with regard to the calling of the Gentiles. Though he had announced at Pentecost that the Lord was about to call those who were afar off, yet he did not say this from himself, but from the Spirit of the Lord. The time and the hour, the grand moment of the second birth of the world, was now come. Our Lord had often alluded to it before, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold," etc. On another occasion He praised and rewarded the faith both of a Canaanitish woman and a Gentile centurion. He had also commanded His apostles to go to all nations and preach the gospel to every creature. Peter, who found it so difficult to wean himself from the old covenant, had to begin the work of God among the Gentiles. The beginning, however, must first be made in himself.

4. Peter went up about midday to pray on the flat roof of the house. The Jews were fond of praying there under the open heaven, because they were here undisturbed, and could turn their face towards the temple. In this circumstance we may perceive how Peter continued faithfully to observe the rules and customs of Judaism, little aware that they were soon to cease, and give place to the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth. After he had finished his prayer "he became very hungry, and would have eaten," but he must now be fed with other food. He was entranced, i.e., transported out of his natural state into a supernatural one; his outward senses were closed, but the eyes of his inner man were opened, that he might behold heavenly things. "He saw heaven opened," etc. This was done thrice, to strengthen the impression of the Divine testimony. In this vision we behold the condescension of our Lord. The whole of revelation is a letting down, a humanisation of the invisible God; through it alone can man come to his heavenly Father and become His child. Almost all the Old Testament consists of types and similitudes. Even in this day of light we see through a glass darkly the secrets of the future and perfected kingdom of heaven; yet the time shall come when we shall see them face to face. Thus the Apostle Peter, like all the prophets who were before him, was led to a higher knowledge gradually. We see also in this vision that something entirely new was about to begin in the kingdom of God upon earth. The prophet had for ages foretold it; and our Lord Himself had ordained and predicted it; but the contracted view of the disciples could not distinguish it; therefore the thing itself was done, and they were led to comprehend it slowly and gradually. The lightning's flash destroys the aged tree; but the gentle daylight develops a new life out of what seems passed away and decayed. This new light removed the old covenant and declared the new, by which all the Gentiles, without the law, were led into the path of grace.

5. The time of distinction and separation was now to cease (Ephesians 2:13-16). "Kill and eat," said the voice; the same which commanded Isaiah to write, "They shall bring an offering unto the Lord out of all nations," (chap. Isaiah 66); the same which inspired Paul to say in Romans (chap. Romans 15), "That the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost." The sanctification of the Gentiles has been going on, even to the present day, and will continue to go on until all be fulfilled which God has promised. Conclusion: We have visions and words from heaven no longer; we have both in our Bible; nor is there ever awanting a manifestation of the mind of God in daily occurrences, in providential events, and, above all, in the secret history of our souls; thus beholding God in everything, what is in itself common and unclean becomes purified and sanctified; and in this way is the grace of God revealed to all men.

(F. A. Krummacher, D. D.)

1. Aspiring! Hungering! Sleeping! Such manner of creatures we are; strange conjunctions of spirit and flesh, of heaven and earth; in whom "thoughts that wander through eternity" are stopped by needs and cravings identical with those of "all cattle and creeping things"; in whom are arms that reach after the Infinite, with the stomach and the appetites of the behest; one minute lost in lofty meditation, the next yawning for bed, or responding with moist mouth to the odour of baked meats. Yet, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," and there eating and sleeping are never wholly of the earth earthy. The meal refines more or less toward the grace of a sacrament, and again and again into the slumber heaven opens. There is an ethereal way of getting your dinner, in which the soul both gives and receives; and some men are greater often in visions than others in their intensest and most active wakefulness. The apostle who prayed, slept after a godly sort, was capable of being Divinely touched and taught through his dreams. There is a latent heavenliness in the flesh of an eminent saint, and there are heavenly possibilities in the saint's sleep. He is more susceptible at all times to communications and impressions from the Lord.

2. Some men can hardly afford to stand at ease and unoccupied without running the risk of immediate invasions from beneath. An habitual downward bent leaves them open in their dreams to hell. But to the pure and lofty heart, its loose, lazy intervals are frequently among its most growing and nourishing times, when that which it loves supremely, and is accustomed to cultivate, visits it without being sought, when its very quiescence becomes a clear mirror, in which new Divine messages form and flash. If only we are earnest, thoughtful, and nobly aspiring, we need not be afraid in the least to pause and play now and then, nor imagine that such occasional abandonment must be fruitless in relation to our higher aims. We are revealed by that which flows in upon us in empty, unemployed moments; and blessed are they to whom in these moments the best has first and facile entrance, whose vacancies angels rush to fill, and with whose earthiest elements heaven can freely mix and blend.

3. But no heavenly susceptibility, however large and fine, will exempt us from having to ask at times, What is it? Is it phantom or reality? Is it God or devil? St. Peter was left wondering whether the strange scenery amidst which he had been moving in the land of slumber was really the shrine of a Divine communication, or merely a coloured vapour exhaled from the sensation of hunger. And how often, in our waking moments, have we been visited with mental glimpses or impressions that we could not understand! "Why," he asked, "have I seen this thing, which yields to my inquiry no fruit of admonition or instruction?" Yet such fruit it was designed to yield him, and would, ere long; not, however, by continued brooding over it, but in the course of events. Let him wait until summoned to come down to men who are even now on their way to the tanner's house, and then all will grow clear. Well, is it not often thus, that life comes in time to explain the Divine reason, concerning which we have wondered, perhaps fretfully, why we were submitted to them, and have thought that they might have been spared us without loss or detriment? And yet long afterwards, maybe, we have discovered that they were not for nothing. In some later crisis of life we have found them contributing to excite and strengthen us for it. We have lived to find in our life the fruit of some of those experiences, the Divine message of which we have been unable to read, have lived to learn that they were needful for us and could not have been spared. We have felt as, in listening to the deputation from Cornelius, St. Peter felt with respect to his mysterious dream. Ah! this is why they occurred; this is what they were intended to fit us for!

(S. A. Tipple.)

And he save heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending
The gospel is here compared to —

I. A GREAT SHEET. A small sheet would not suffice to convey the truth God was about to reveal — that all nations were to be gathered into His Church. Judaism was only a small sheet, just big enough to cover Palestine. But Christianity was a "great sheet" — a clear hint as to its cosmopolitan character. Christianity as let down from heaven is larger than as reproduced inhuman creeds; as revealed by God it is larger than as apprehended by man. The tendency of man is to narrow the love of God, to contract the Divine sheet till it becomes no bigger than a pocket handkerchief. But just as the creation is larger than science, so is the Church of God greater than any one particular Church. Just as God is greater than man, so is the Divine revelation more comprehensive than any creed formulated by human wisdom. "Our little systems have their day," etc.

II. LET DOWN FROM HEAVEN. The idea of the comprehensiveness of the gospel has come down from God.

1. You will not find it in heathenism. The idea of universal fellowship based on universal equality never occurred to any philosopher. True, there was a dark, unconscious feeling after it. Plato's republic was a strenuous groping after the Christian kingdom of God; but it falls far short of it, because it places the ground of unity in the intellect instead of in the spiritual nature. That is only a republic among philosophers; the labouring classes are reduced to a condition of hopeless servitude.

2. You will not find it in Judaism. A few prophetic intimations were given in the Old Testament that the Gentiles would pay homage to the Messiah; but how they were to reap the benefits of redemption was not known. Now, however, the mystery is made known, but the majority of the believers utterly failed to realise it, and sought to discredit it. Upon this truth hinged the great controversy of the apostolic age; and so novel was it, so contrary to the current of thought of the age, that it took the whole lifetime of the apostles to establish it. A great truth is always slow to be apprehended by the masses of men. Take, for instance, gravitation. At the time of Sir Isaac's death no astronomer above forty years of age believed in it. Take again the principle of Free Trade; today England is the only country which thoroughly believes in it, and not all England. But these truths were not by any means of the same consequence to society as the important truth taught Peter.

III. KNIT AT THE FOUR CORNERS. The gospel is to extend its frontiers and to exert its influence over the four quarters of the globe.

1. God began with a family. He calls Abraham and separates him to Himself. In Genesis, accordingly, we find family religion the first step in the recovery of the lost world. In Genesis God has a cause, though not a kingdom — just a few worshippers, but no visible organisation.

2. After the family comes the nation. Out of Abraham's posterity God formed a nation for Himself. That is progress. It would not do to take any nation. It was necessary to have a people whose fundamental characteristic was religiousness; and it was equally necessary to train them, else they would constitute a kingdom of the devil. Judaism was not a very spiritual kingdom, but it was the best which could be established under the circumstances, and served as a nucleus for a more spiritual kingdom to come. But this kingdom could only be continued on two conditions: that it be small in extent, and that it be fenced off from the rest of the world. If it were wide in area, the sense of oneness in the subjects would have been weakened, if not destroyed, in the early stage of spiritual education. If it were not partitioned off, there would be such a rush of world life into it that the Divine element would soon be quenched. The laws of this kingdom, however, as of every new kingdom, point to defensive, not aggressive, measures, which is as much as it can do for centuries in presence of the huge world powers; and in order to defence it must be consolidated in one country and one nation.

3. But as the family merged in the nation, so the nation must merge in the world. The text evidently points out that another bold move forward is about to be made. Peter is directed to go and convert Cornelius, an uncircumcised heathen. His conversion created more excitement than any single conversion on record, not because one more soul was added, but because of the new principle it embodied, the new policy it served to inaugurate. Circumcision was here declared to be nothing, and uncircumcision nothing, but to many they were then everything. This shows a marvellous change in the policy of the kingdom. Henceforth it is to act on the aggressive. It is no longer to be confined to one people — it claims all nations. "God shall enlarge Japheth, and He shall dwell in the tents of Shem." Shem means concentration, Japheth expansion. Therein we have summed up the characteristics of religion among the Asiatics and Europeans.

IV. CONTAINING ALL MANNER OF FOUR-FOOTED BEASTS OF THE EARTH, AND WILD BEASTS, AND CREEPING THINGS, AND FOWLS OF THE AIR. Peter is here taught that the distinction between clean and unclean is abolished.

1. We trace here the same progress. First, the family is made clean. Through the fall the whole creation had become common and profane. Is it to remain so? Is God to be forever cheated out of the world His hands had made? No; He resolves to reclaim it. Not, however, all at once. God will make a beginning by separating one family. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are each separated, made clean unto God.

2. Will God stop there? No; the order of His operation is progress. The Israelites, like all other nations, were by nature unclean, lying under the curse. But by the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant they were made clean. But this nation is the "first fruits." Not only man had become unclean, but the irrational creation. Sin struck the universe with leprosy to its very heart. The animal creation, therefore, needs to be made clean. The clean nation must have clean food. God accordingly cleanses certain species of animals. Behold then a small proportion of the rational and irrational creation made clean by the establishment of the kingdom of God. In Genesis all the world, with the exception of one family only, is unclean; but in Exodus, one nation, at least, and a certain proportion of animals, have been made clean. That is progress anyhow.

3. Is the rest of the world to remain under the dominion of sin? No; the kingdom of God under the New Testament undertakes the task of cleansing the whole universe. The difference once established between the Jews and other nations is annulled, not because the Jews are made unclean, but because the Gentiles are made clean. The whole world was lying under the curse, and therefore unclean; but Jesus Christ was made a curse for the world, and consequently lifted it from men and animals. Since His sacrifice the world in its totality is clean, not morally, but judicially. What Judaism did ceremonially for one nation, Christianity has done efficaciously for all nations. The whole world is now clean. All mankind now virtually belong to the kingdom of God, and it is the paramount duty of the Church to take possession of them in the name of the Redeemer and make them so in reality. "What God hath cleansed call not thou common." "Clean" — this is the keyword of the kingdom of God. Beauty was the keyword of Greek civilisation; strength of the Roman; but the keyword of Christianity is "clean."

V. After the vision came THE INTERPRETATION.

1. Peter thought on the vision. This truth of revelation was to become a truth of reason. The Church is to continue its study of the Divine Word till all the truths of revelation become at last truths of reason. Revelation answers its purpose only as it becomes the legitimate property of reason. Take, e.g., the existence and unity of God. When this truth was revealed to Israel, no man in the native light of reason had a clear perception of it. But the reason has at last been educated up to it. So again with the moral law — the eternal difference between right and wrong. When this truth was revealed to Israel it was in advance of reason. But the reason has been gradually educated up to it. The Incarnation is still in advance of reason. But then is it never to enter reason? It is no more unbelievable to Christians than the unity of God to the Hebrews; and as the latter has passed from the region of mystery to that of reason, so I believe will do the former. Take again the truth made known in the text — the equality of Jews and Gentiles. At the time it was made it was far in advance of reason. Peter thought on it and believed it; but his whole history shows he had never been able to think right into it and through it. To the last it was to him more of a truth of faith than a truth of reason. But this truth is gradually working its way into the universal reason.

2. But Peter was not left to unravel the meaning of the vision — the clue was afforded him by the arrival of messengers from Cornelius. God always explains His supernatural revelations by natural events. Providence is the best commentary on the Bible. Just when God was stirring large thoughts in Peter respecting the universality of the gospel, He was also working in Cornelius to send a messenger to the apostle desiring a fuller knowledge of salvation at his hands. God often brings about these secret correspondences. Hardly is there an important discovery made in science but two or three inventors, ignorant of each other's designs, claim it as their own.

(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Creeping things. — The presence of "creeping things" in the sheet is a voice —


1. The largeness of His mercy. This sheet was a great sheet, and it included "creeping" things. Satan aims at contracting our views of God; at making us think that He has no room for us, or that He has no room for others.

2. The sovereignty of God's grace. He makes as much of the creeping things hidden away, despised by men, as of the four-footed beasts. He sent His messengers out into the highways and hedges to compel the poor to come in.

3. The minuteness of God's arrangements. The lesser were not lost to sight in that great sheet; they were presented to the apostle's eye in their proper place, as well as the four-footed beasts.

4. The depth of God's condescension. Proud man would have gathered into that sheet only what was of apparent value; it would never have entered into his mind to think about the creeping things at all — to tame a wild beast would be something, but what credit or honour or profit could he get out of "creeping things!"


1. When we are oppressed with a sense of our insignificance and meanness. Satan, for his own purpose, helps on this thought. He says, "I can understand God caring about so and so, he is worth something; but who knows or cares about you?" Then we are troubled about the little capacity we have for glorifying God, and Satan marshals before our minds all our weaknesses, our unfavourable position, our want of intellect or wealth. And how shall we meet all this? Only by falling back upon God Himself. We cannot explain His making any account for us, any more than we can for His including "creeping things" in that great sheet let down from heaven. Then, again, the child of God is often tempted to have heart sinkings about the future; but let him remember that God has His eye on every particle of the believer's dust. It is recorded of Lady Maxwell that she was at one time much troubled by the curious temptation that she was so insignificant she would be liable to be passed over hereafter. But we may meet all such temptations as , the mother of , met the surprise of her friends at Ostia, when they expressed their wonder that she did not fear to leave her body so far from her own country. "Nothing," said she, "is far from God, and I do not fear that He should not know where to find me at the resurrection." The small, as well as the great, are remembered in the grand distribution of rewards.

2. When we compare ourselves with those who seem to have some pretensions. The creeping thing seems ready to shrink into nothingness when placed side by side with the four-footed beast. Very often we review the character of such and such a believer, and we say, "Oh, if only I were like this man, I might feel some comfort." But remember the great beasts had no cleanliness, except from the solitary fact of being in the sheet, and so the safety and acceptance of small and great alike are due to the goodness of the Lord.

3. In forming our estimate of others we shall not exalt the great ones nor despise the weak ones if we remember well what there was in this sheet that Peter saw.

4. We have also the comforting thought that, however humble, we have our place. We may be small, and of no reputation, but the Lord thinketh on us, has a place for us, and this should be enough. And as regards our affairs, it is true that they are mere straws in comparison with the great affairs of others; we have only to do with shillings where they have to do with thousands of pounds; we have only to do with aches and pains, where they have to do with life and death. But He who fashioned the creeping thing knows its needs, and He who fashioned us knows ours.

(P. H. Power, M. A.)

Rise, Peter; kill, and eat...Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean
"Not so, Lord," is a very strange compound. "Not so Lord," is an odd jumble of self-will and reverence. We are not without fault in the matter of incorrect speech. In our utterances there has been faith mixed with unbelief, love defaced with a want of submission, gratitude combined with distrust, humility flavoured with self-conceit, courage undermined with cowardice, fervour mingled with indifference. Note here —

I. THAT THE OLD MAN REMAINS IN THE CHRISTIAN MAN. Though crucified, it is long in dying, and struggles hard.

1. Peter was Peter still. I think that if I had read Peter's life in the four evangelists, and somebody had newly shown me the present text, and asked, "Who said that?" I should have been sure that it was Peter. The best of men are but men at best. And Peter, after the Holy Ghost has fallen upon him, is, nevertheless, Peter; the accent of his words still bewrays him.

2. Peter here shows how readily he fell, not precisely into the same sin, but into the same kind of sin. This Peter who said, "Not so, Lord," is the same man who rebuked his Master, and said, "That be far from Thee, Lord." It is the same man who at supper time refused his Master. When the Lord was about to wash the disciples' feet, Peter said, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." And this is he who flatly contradicted his Master, and said, "Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will not I." He did this in his earlier days, but after the Holy Ghost had come upon him, yet he still tripped in the same place where he used to fall. What were your faults before conversion? Guard against them now. You notice about Peter, then, this thing still remaining, that he blurts out what he feels. Be it for bad or good, prompt deliverance of his mind is still the characteristic of Peter. He was always blundering because he was in such a hurry. I may be addressing young folk here who are very impulsive, and speak all in a hurry things which they afterwards are sorry for. Be on your guard against it. It is a strength if it be rightly managed. Give me the man who in a good cause does not think twice, but acts upon the warm impulses of a ready mind; but that same characteristic, if not kept in proper order by the Spirit of God, may lead you into a world of mischief. You cannot call back the words which now cause you to bite your tongue with regret.

3. Yet Peter as Peter still has good points, for he owns all this. Luke could not have recorded this incident in the Acts of the Apostles unless Peter had personally told him, and when Peter was brought up before the other apostles for what he had done, he confessed, "But I said, 'Not so, Lord'" — always outspoken, honest, and clear as the day. In this let us be at one with him.


1. The abolition of the ceremonial law. Peter was to know that those laws, which forbade the eating of this and that, were now to be abrogated. All of us are apt to err here, for we incline to attach undue importance to matters which are proper and useful in their places, but which are by no means essential to salvation. Where Jesus has made no rule we are not to make any. None are unclean whom He has cleansed. Yet this lesson is not soon learned by sticklers for propriety.

2. The equality of men before the law and under the gospel. An evangelist attracts the poorest and worst. This ought to be great joy, but in certain cases it is not. Many in effect say, "'Not so, Lord.' I do not like sitting next to one who smells so vilely, or to a woman of loose character." Never let us set up the tyranny of caste, and rebuild the middle wall of partition which our Saviour died to throw down. We sprang of a common parent, and for men there is but one Saviour.

3. The gospel principle of free and sovereign grace. You war against this yourself when you are conscious of having done wrong, and therefore doubt the grace of God; as if God wanted some good in us before He would bestow His grace upon us. A diseased man is fit to be healed, a poor man is fit for alms, a drowning man is fit to be rescued, a sinful man is fit to be forgiven.

III. THE OLD NATURE SHOWS ITSELF IN MANY WAYS. "Not so, Lord," is the cry of our unregenerate part against —

1. The doctrine of the gospel. Some persons do not believe the gospel because they do not want to believe it. They studiously omit to read all such parts of Scripture as would enlighten their minds. It is mine to believe what the Bible teaches; it is not mine to object, and cry, "Not so, Lord."

2. Duty. We can do anything except the special duty of the hour, and as to that one thing, we say, "Not so, Lord." Yonder young woman knows that according to God's "Word she must not be unequally yoked together with an unbeliever. Now, she was quite willing to be baptized, to give her money to the Lord, and, in fact, to do anything except that one act of self-denial. Yet I do not know what sorrow you will make for yourself if you really break that salutary rule. Take you the precept, and knowing that it is God's mind concerning you, never dare even for a moment to hesitate. "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."

3. Processes of sanctification. We are anxious to bear fruit, but we do not care to be pruned; we are glad to be delivered from dross, but not by the fire.

4. The dispensation of the kingdom. We like not that God should bless men by a sect to which we do not belong; we are envious for our own Moses, lest the irregular Eldads and Medads should eclipse him.

5. Our sufferings. Whenever you are called to endure trial, do not complain of the particular form it takes. Perhaps it is great bodily pain, and you say, "I could bear anything better than this." This is a mistake. God knows what is the best for His child. Do not cry, "Not so." "Oh, I could bear sickness," says another, "but I have been slandered!" Thus our will asserts its place, and we pine to be our own god and ruler. This must not be. A dear sister had quarrelled with the Lord for taking away her husband, and she would not go to any place of worship, she felt so angry about her loss. But her little child came to her one morning and said, "Mother, do you think Jonah was right when he said, 'I do well to be angry, even unto death'?" She replied, "Oh, child, do not talk to me," and put the little one away, but she felt the rebuke, and it brought her back to her God, and back to her Church again, humbly rejoicing in Him who had used this instrumentality to set her right with her Lord.

6. Our service. The Lord says, "Go into the Sunday school." "Not so, Lord; I should like to preach," says the young man, and thus he misses his life work. Who would employ servants who, when they are told to do this or go there, should say, "No, sir; I prefer another engagement"?


1. Too conservative. He says, "Not so, Lord," and some read it, "Never, Lord, never, Lord, for I have never"; that is, "I must never do a thing I have never done." Many are of this mind; they cannot advance an inch. Many will only act as others act; they must keep in the fashion, even though they fall asleep in the doing of it. This kind of routine forbids enlarged usefulness, prevents our getting at out-of-the-way people, and puts a damper upon all zeal.

2. Propriety hinders very many; decorum is their death. Shake yourself up a little. If you are too precise may the Lord set you on fire, and consume your bonds of red tape!

3. Some are hindered by their great dignity. We have seen very great little people, and very little great people who have given themselves mighty airs; but we have never seen any good come of their greatness. God seldom sends His Elijahs bread and meat by peacocks. If you go into the houses of the poor very finely dressed, and you "condescend" to them, they will not want to see you any more. Let I grow very small, and let J grow very great.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

He that will not submit himself to nor comply with the eternal and uncreated will, but, instead of it, endeavours to set up his own will, makes himself the most real idol in the world, and exalts himself against all that is called God, and ought to be worshipped. To worship a graven image, or to make cakes and burn incense to the queen of heaven, is not a worse idolatry than it is for a man to set up self-will, to devote himself to the serving of it, and to give up himself to a compliance with his own will, as contrary to the Divine and Eternal Will.

(John Smith.)

Whitefield, on arriving at Edinburgh, found great commotion among the Presbyters, who would not hear him preach unless he declared himself on their side. "I was asked," he says, "to preach only for them until I had further light. I inquired why only for them. 'Because,' said Ralph Erskine, 'they were the Lord's people.' I then asked were there no other Lord's people but themselves; and supposing all others were the devil's people, they certainly had more need to be preached to; and therefore I was more determined to go into the highways and hedges, and that if the Pope himself would lend me his pulpit I would gladly proclaim the righteousness of Christ therein."

(J. R. Andrews.)

Ruskin, in his "Ethics of the Dust," calls our attention to the silent forces of nature, which never appear so grand as when they transmute baser materials into higher forms. We see the pool of slime transformed by the action of light and heat, repose and quiet, so that the clay hardens into blue sapphire, the sand into burning opal, the soot into flashing diamond. And even Jesus never appears so glorious in loveliness as when we see Him transforming the very filth and slime of society into gems fit to burn and shine in an immortal crown.

(A. T. Pierson.)

In Florence there is a fresco by Giotto that for many ages was covered up by two thicknesses of whitewash. It is only within a very few years that the artist's hand has come and removed that covering, and the fresco has come out clear and beautiful. Sometimes we see a person whom we feel inclined to despise, and think of little value, but God comes to him, cleanses him by removing his sin, and reveals a beauty in him that we little dreamt of.

The distinction between clean and unclean meats was one of the insuperable barriers between the Gentile and the Jew — a barrier which prevented all intercourse between them because it rendered it impossible for them to meet at the same table or in social life. In the society of a Gentile a Jew was liable at any moment to those ceremonial defilements which involved all kinds of seclusion and inconvenience; and not only so, but it was mainly by partaking of unclean food that the Gentiles became themselves so unclean in the eyes of the Jews. It is hardly possible to put into words the intensity of horror and revolt with which the Jews regarded swine. They were to them the very ideal and quintessence of all that must be looked upon with an energetic concentration of disgust. He would not even mention a pig by name, but spoke of it as "the other thing." When in the days of Hyrcanus a pig had been surreptitiously put into a box and drawn up the walls of Jerusalem, the Jews declared that a shudder of earthquake had run through 400 parasangs of the Holy Land. Yet this filthy and atrocious creature was the chief delicacy at Gentile banquets, and in one form or other one of the commonest articles of Gentile consumption. How could a Jew touch or speak to a man who might on that very day have partaken of the abomination? The cleansing of all articles of food involved immediately the acceptance of Jews and Gentiles on equal footing to equal privileges.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common
Doubtless Peter remembered that remarkable parable of Jesus (Mark 7:14-19) of which he and his brother disciples had once asked the explanation. Jesus in few words, but with both of the emphatic formulae which He adopted to arrest special attention, had said, "There is nothing from without a man entering into him which can defile him." What He had proceeded to say — that what truly defiles a man is that which comes out of him — was easy enough to understand, and was a truth of deep meaning, but so difficult had it been to grasp the first half of the clause that they had asked Him to explain a parable which seemed to be in direct contradiction to the Mosaic Law. Expressing His astonishment at their want of insight, He had shown them that what entered into a man from without did but become a part of his material organism, entering "not into the heart, but into the belly, and so passing into the draught." "This He said" — as now for the first times perhaps, flashed with full conviction into the mind of Peter — "making all meats pure," as he proceeded afterwards to develop those weighty truths about the inward character of all real pollution, and the genesis of all crime from evil thoughts, which convey so solemn a warning. To me it seems that it was the trance and vision of Joppa which first made Peter realise the true meaning of Christ in one of those few distinct utterances in which He had intimated the coming annulment of the Mosaic Law. It is doubtless due to the fact that Peter, as the informant of Mark in writing his Gospel, and the sole ultimate authority for this vision in the Acts, is the source of both narratives, that we owe the hitherto unnoticed circumstance that the two verbs "cleanse" and "profane" — both in a peculiarly pregnant sense — are the two most prominent words in the narrative of both events.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

1. We have here one of the great hinges on which history turns. Peter's vision opened up a new era; and here, too, as in every act of the human life drama, is made visible the hand of God. He stood by man in the dawn of his personal history, and spoke to Adam face to face; in the dawn of the patriarchal era, and spoke to Abraham as the Father of the family relationship; in the dawn of political life, and spoke to Moses the head of the nation as the God of nations; at last, at the dawn of the world's consciousness of its final vocation, God made the fact of the God-manhood the spring from which eternal progress should proceed.

2. The questions raised by the narrative are not met by the consideration of Peter's narrowness, nor of the liberal teachings of the vision. The apostle's views were narrow as the discipline of the school is narrow to the student, and that of the student to the man; but they were God's handiwork, and Peter was only pleading God's Word against another which seemed to be opposed to it. You will ever find some of the truest lovers of liberty among the partisans of ancient forms, while the man who throws up his cap and cries liberty is often the veriest tyrant at heart. Nathaniel was resisting the idea that good could come outer Nazareth when Jesus said, "Behold an Israelite indeed," etc. Note —


1. Here was the school in which Peter learned his prejudice (Leviticus 11:2-20; Deuteronomy 14:3-21). It is easy to speak of his proud and arrogant Judaism (Ezekiel 4:14 is a parallel case). But as we live and learn we get more distrustful of the so-called spirit of progress which cares not what it destroys, so that it may reach its Utopian goal. An intellect quick to seize novelties is mostly found in conjunction with a vain and shallow moral nature, and is sure to disappoint. The moral qualities are those which tell, and among the deepest of these is reverence; and one gets to bear with the slow movement of a reverent spirit for the sake of the great prizes it wins for mankind. The men who work most solidly at the construction of the new are men who are most deeply rooted in the old. You cannot build from balloons, but must have firm foundations.

2. Consider the philosophy of the Mosaic system. Man is a being of a double nature. An animal cannot go far wrong about food; he has an instinct which tells him what is good and what bad. But man is far more richly furnished with appetites, and with objects which gratify them. Why? Because God intended to teach him that appetite is not a sufficient guide, and that he must bring judgment into play. This remark applies far more widely than to matters of eating and drinking; our habits, associates, work, are to be by the elections of a will guided and governed by a reason which acquaints itself with the mind of the Creator. When man was in his first estate this was a simple "of course." Hence the liberty of Adam (Genesis 2:15-17) and of Noah (Genesis 9:1-3). But man again corrupted his way, and the wanton indulgence of appetite became the great bane and destroyer of mankind. So God took the Jewish people, and instructed them in the art of discernment of moral choice. His way with their food is but a specimen of His way in all the education of their souls. And men had to ask about everything — "Is it lawful?" The aim of the discipline being that they should ask, "Is it good?" and make their election accordingly. Pork is a harmless thing to us; eaten freely in the East, leprosy results. But the real question is, Why does not the law put the prohibition on the simple ground — it is not for your good? This leads me to another principle.

3. In the early stages of human culture nothing is strong enough to curb man's desires and to stimulate the exercise of discernment but religion. There is hardly one thing precious to man's secular life which has not been won for him by the force which religion has brought to bear on his natural powers. The knowledge of letters was kept alive solely by the desire of man to read and understand the Word of God and religious books. The desire to calculate rightly church festivals began all the investigations and triumphs of modern astronomy. Monks established the truce of God, and only by the strong hand o! religion could the horrors of war be mitigated. The right of our dead to undisturbed repose was secured by the cross of the Church under whose shadow the ashes of our ancestors lay. And God began from the beginning with the Jews, and made the simplest matters of right or prudence matters of religion from the very first. They were to eat, and fulfil every function of life "because the Lord their God" would have it so.

II. THE PROGRESS OF SOCIETY HAS TENDED TO RELEASE MEN FROM THESE BONDS, and to bring all that concerns man's welfare under the influence of the special faculties which have charge of the separate departments of life.

1. Of old men wrote books for the glory of God; and the religious guardians of men judged whether they fulfilled that purpose and might be safely read. Now men write books simply to tell what they know, and it is left to the taste of society to read them or not. Of old men abstained from meats because they were an abomination to God; now He leaves them free to judge and to choose that which they find to be for their good. Peter might still practise an abstinence which a Roman might regard as idle, but Peter would not be suffered to let that stand in the way of the conversion of the world. The child full-grown was to judge for himself where his legal tutor had hitherto judged for him. Paul fully understood this (Romans 14:1-9). And so it is with all things. A man may eat in England not what he likes, but what he finds to be for his good. So with fast and feast days services, places, etc.

2. But is this use of the natural faculties a less sacred religious duty than was of old obedience to a religious law? Certainly not. The secular duty becomes sacred to the spirit, and the whole life is brought under the broad religious obligation of a freeborn son to a gracious God. "Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." The progress of Christianity tends to place all man's acts under the rule of his natural faculties given to him for this very end, and to make the right use of these faculties the most sacred duty of his life before God. First law, then liberty, in order to the discovery of the Diviner law, "the perfect law of liberty," wherein to continue is to be blessed. God has made all life sacred. He gives up some, to claim the whole; but to claim it, not peremptorily as a Master, but lovingly as a Father, who seeks not your works, but yourself.

3. God hath cleansed all things to the godly, but to the ungodly nothing is clean. There is nothing common or unclean but a common and unclean soul and its life. That is essential uncleanness, and only one Fountain can cleanse it, only one Spirit consecrate it.

(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Now while Peter doubted...the men which were sent from Cornelius...stood before the gate.
How proud heathenism knocks humbly at the gates of Christ's kingdom.


1. Roman pride.

2. Jewish prejudice.


1. With the centurion, the drawing of the Father to the Son.

2. With the apostle, the emancipating Spirit of Truth, and the constraining love of Christ.


1. On the part of the messenger's humble request.

2. On the part of Peter's friendly reception.

(K. Gerok.)

Peter was a type of the better class of sincere, humble, open-minded doubters. There is no affinity between his case and that of the inveterate, conceited, and propagandist sceptic who airs his infidelities as symptomatic of genius, and bids thereby for leadership in modern thought. But there is considerable resemblance between the apostle and a large class who deserve from us what he received from God — sympathy and guidance.


1. Prejudice arising from early education. Peter only held what he had been taught upon parental, ministerial, and even Divine authority. Much of modern doubt is a mere matter of prejudice. Ideas received as truths from others clash with what Christians believe to be Divine truths, and the former are preferred.

2. Habit. The ingrained custom of eating only "clean" meat, and conversing only with "clean" men, incapacitated Peter to conceive of the abandonment of ceremonial distinctions. And so there is a sceptical habit of thought which grows with indulgence, and which almost without any volition on the part of the doubter bars the entrance of Christian truth.

3. Narrow views of God's dispensations and purposes. What God meant for a time only, Peter held He meant forever. So sometimes the sceptic fastens on some temporary act or partial principle of the Divine administration as types of the whole. He raises objections, e.g., against suffering, overlooking its disciplinary character, or against the immoralities of some of God's agents, forgetting that God makes the wrath of men to praise Him.

4. Mental unrest. The vision was the cause of Peter's doubts. His mind was in a state of chaos, as the foundations of all that he held dear and certain seemed to be undermined. All the convictions instilled by training, ingrained by habit, and deepened by narrow but intense thought, suddenly began to give way — a state of mind familiar to sincere doubters. The truth has not dawned, but all that justifies scepticism as a defensible intellectual mood has disappeared.


1. The illumination of the Spirit of God. Reason will not resolve doubt, hence the futility of mere controversy. Truth must be apprehended by the heart, and only He who made it, and knows what it needs, can reach that. Pray, and sooner or later the Comforter will guide you into all truth.

2. Promptitude and activity in duty. "Arise and get down." Brooding over it will only intensify that morbidity of mind which is its most fruitful soil. Working will at least find an outlet for the imprisoned sentiments which knock so painfully at the interior walls of the soul. And get about some practical employment at once. Delays are weakening.

3. Obedience to Divine impulses. These are seldom still in the seeker after truth. What God's Spirit did to Peter miraculously He does for us naturally by impressions, opportunities, strange feelings leading or driving us now here and now there. But as Peter's going with the men led to the dissolving of his doubts, so if any man will do God's will he shall know of the doctrine.

4. The cure is often effected by unexpected incidents, and in unlikely ways; but the man who prays, works, and is obedient to the light he has, will find these lying across life's ordinary path.

(J. W. Burn.)

While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said...Arise
The Spirit calls the apostle from prayer and meditation to action. The contemplative life is but the preparation for the active, as the active is strengthened by solitude and contemplation. The man of God needs both, and either without the other is a maimed and imperfect life.

(Dionysius of Carthage.)

I was present at the Rev. Peter Mackenzie's oral examination. At the close the president said, "All may retire except Mr. Mackenzie." When by himself he was asked, amongst other questions, "What led you to preach?" He answered, "After my conversion I was asked to address the Sunday School, and did so. Then two local preachers asked me to go with them to try and preach. I hesitated, and they said they would call for me. While praying upstairs that God would direct me, I heard them below asking for me. I got up from my knees, still undecided, and opened my Bible on these words: 'While Peter thought upon the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise, therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, nothing doubting, for I have sent them.'" This answer produced not only surprise, but something like a scene. Other questions followed, which he answered with such beautiful simplicity and naturalness that several members of the committee were moved to tears.

(T. McCullagh.)

In photography it is the sun that makes the portrait. There is no drawing of the outline by a human hand, and no shading of the figure according to rules of the painter's art. The person stands up in the light, and the light lays his image on the glass. Yet in this work there is room for the ministry of man. Without the ministry of man the work could not in any case be done. A human hand prepares the plate for securing the picture, and adjusts the instrument for throwing the light at the proper moment on the prepared surface. Although in the real work of making the picture man has no hand at all, his place is important and necessary. A similar place under the ministry of the Spirit is given to the ministry of men. God does not send angels to make the gospel known. We learn it from men of flesh and blood like ourselves. Cornelius and his house will be saved, but Peter must go from Joppa to Caesarea and open up to them the way of salvation.

The Romans were quite as proud as the Jews, and the condescension of a man in the station of Cornelius, in sending to a tanner's house for light from an obscure person of the common sort seems incredible in the ordinary course of Oriental thought and custom. To send to such a one for religious instruction is altogether incredible. No one among us, even in the face of cruel religionist riots, can conceive of the wall that exists between religious parties in the East, or the way that religious sects wield power and maintain their adherents. The truth is, that this lesson, with the passages that precede it, heralds one of the greatest Oriental revolutions that the world has ever seen, and one which gives the deepest view of the prophecy of Isaiah 52:13-15.

(Prof. I. H. Hall.)

Get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing
Christian Age.
? — "Doubting nothing" — that is the secret of liberty, efficiency, and success. You see it in the inventor who is certain of the combination of instruments by which he is to accomplish a result of value to mankind; in the teacher who knows that he has a truth to communicate which it is of importance to men to apprehend; in the soldier who knows, because he knows the commander, that the order which has been given is wise, practicable, needful; in the sailor who trusts his clock and his compass, and goes on his course, after his observation, doubting nothing, knowing where he is exactly. Everywhere this confidence is the condition of enthusiasm and of success, and in Christian enterprises it is a confidence not merely in the usefulness of the work, but in the Divine authority, care, affection, impulse, which attend us in our endeavours to perform it. It was precisely this that Peter felt. Except for the vision out of which this confidence was flashed, except for the voice of the Spirit which interpreted the vision, he would hardly have been ready to go. But, in consequence of this, he recognised the call which was made upon him by the centurion's servants. They were not bearing merely a message from the Roman officer, but from the Author of the world and the King of the Church. Peter doubted afterward, in the characteristic reaction of his impetuous spirit, whether the Jew could receive a Gentile and eat with him. But at this point he went, doubting nothing, and made the world free to enter into the Church of Christ. There come often questions of duty to individual Christians or to Churches who wish that they could have instruction like that which was given to the apostle. The work to which they appear to be called by God is difficult and dangerous and costly. There are arguments for it and against it; and so they confuse themselves in perplexities, balancing the reasons for and the reasons against, until, perhaps, the opportunity has passed. Now we do not see visions or hear voices, but there are certain indications, when a work is appointed for us, which are as intelligible and impressive.

I. WHEN THE WORK IS PART OF THE PLAN GOD WOULD HAVE ACCOMPLISHED. When it concerns His glory properly it is then connected with His plan. Not that Christian duty is restricted to efforts for the religious instruction and conversion of men; there are multitudes of interests which are connected with this. Enterprises that seek the intellectual culture of mankind, the secular and social interests of the community; the public welfare in the matter of health, order, just and liberal government; all these are as obligatory upon the Christian as a duty as that which immediately concerns the instruction of men in religious truth. Every stone in the wall has its office to accomplish. A man who is building a cathedral cannot say, "I wilt make it all of statues, or spire." And, therefore, Christian duty is never narrow. When any work, then, contributes to the plan of God and meets us directly in our path, we may be persuaded that it is a part of the work which God assigns to us.

II. WHEN IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE REALISED YET WITH EFFORT AND SELF- DENIAL. We are not responsible for what we cannot accomplish; e.g., for preaching in tongues we do not know, for building churches and floating them over the seas to China and Japan. God's errand is always a practicable errand, and in proportion to the effort and self-denial required, His authorship of the message concerning the work becomes more evident to the thoughtful Christian mind. We usually judge exactly the opposite. We say, "That is a good work, and I can do it in a minute; therefore that is God's errand for me. It is a good work, and I can help it by a little gift which I never shall miss. That is evidently God's plan." No; God's plan exactly reverses that. He makes duty the more obligatory the more difficult it is, for the development of Christian energy, generosity, patience. God does not need our help. Why, then, does He ask for it? Because thus He develops us. He applies not tests merely, but stimulants to whatever is best in us. The man who has given himself to his country loves it better, the man who has fought for his friend honours him more, the man who has laboured for his community values more highly the interests he has sought to conserve.

III. WHEN THE CALL FOR IT COMES UNEXPECTEDLY AND BY NO PREARRANGEMENT OF OURS. We recognise God's intervention in our plans, in part, by the suddenness with which the event occurred contrary to expectation, as when a friend is restored from sickness when all our hope had faded; as when a path is suddenly opened to prosperity and usefulness, where everything seemed hedged up and we could not contrive any way by which to reach the result. When the Bible Society was formed no man was expecting it. A Welsh missionary had distributed some thousand copies of the Welsh Scriptures, and went to London to get more and could not. He said to one and another, "Why cannot we have a society to print the Bible in Welsh?" They came together to see if it could be done, and one man, whose name had hardly ever been heard, rose and said: "Yes; but if for Wales, why not for all the world?" Sudden as a flash it came out of the clear sky, and instant was the response. Out of that came the Bible Society of England, of America, of the world. When a man contemplates God's glory in the sanctification of men, proposes to us a work possible for us with effort and self-denial, comes to us without our prevision or prearrangement, it is God's work.

IV. WHEN THE IMPRESSION IS BURNED IN UPON THE MIND, day after day, week after week, an ever-deepening sense of duty concerning that work — that is God's voice to us. This silent influence of the Spirit was what wrought for us the Bible. This silent influence of the Spirit is the privilege of every Christian now. When that remains, deepening continually in you, becoming clearer and stronger, we must trust it as the discovery of God's mind to us concerning our duty. No man who has once learned to trust it will ever trust anything else in preference to it. In the great crisis of life that is always the way. Hold the mind prayerfully in conference with God, unresistingly under the impression of His Spirit. When it points in a certain direction, then follow it into darkness or day; wheresoever that leads, go. We are certain of success; go, nothing doubting. When all those signs combine, then Peter may keep his vision and the voice of Zion which spoke in the air around him. I hear a voice within, and whosoever follows that voice follows God and follows Him into His glory.

(Christian Age.)

Christian Herald.
Mr. Joseph C. Palmer, in the early days of California, was a member of a bank which did an immense business. Once a depositor called to draw £5,600 from the bank. Mr. Palmer's consent was necessary, but he had been called away to attend some duty a mile or more from the bank. Thither the depositor hastened and made known his wants and the necessity of having them attended to at once. Mr. Palmer could find neither pen, pencil, ink, nor paper. But without a moment's hesitation he picked up a shingle, borrowed a piece of red chalk, and with it wrote a cheque on the shingle in large and distinct letters for £5,600. This was promptly honoured when presented. It is probably the only instance on record of such a cheque being drawn and honoured; but in this case the paying clerk accepted the instructions of his principal, though conveyed in an unusual manner, without hesitation. Would that Christian men were as ready to obey the intimations of God's will, even if they are revealed in unlooked for ways and are opposed to preconceived notions. The apostle Peter showed this readiness on one memorable occasion (chap. Acts 10:10-23).

(Christian Herald.)

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