There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,…
We gather -
I. THAT GOD HAS HIS SERVANTS IN UNEXPECTED PLACES. We look for piety in certain quarters where it may be supposed to flourish; in others we do not look to see it; yet in these latter it may be found. Who would have expected that a centurion in a Roman regiment would prove to be a worshipper of God - one that "feared God with all his house"? He and his family must have been living in a way that contrasted strangely with the great majority of those in a similar position. We must never conclude that men are irreligious because of the class to which they belong or of the occupation in which they are engaged. Sometimes, in spite of the most uncongenial surroundings, and sometimes taking part in avocations which few godly men could possibly embrace, there are found simple-hearted and sincere Christian men. Christ has his servants, not only on the exposed hillside and the open plain, but in the most secluded glen, hidden where no eye can see them, living in the very last place where we should go to find them.
II. THAT PIETY SHOULD BE INSEPARABLY ASSOCIATED WITH CHARITY, Cornelius was "a devout man .... who gave much alms to the people" (ver. 2). In certain lands and at certain times, as in the country and at the period to which our text belongs, devotion and almsgiving were very closely conjoined in the public mind. It is quite possible, as was then too painfully evident, that these may be found existing together in outward form, with no acceptableness to God. But it is not the less true that God demands of us that reverent thought directed toward him should be found in close connection with generous thought directed toward our brother (see 1 John 4:20). Christian charity should be both deep and broad.
1. It should spring from a deep sense of the worth of human souls whom Christ pities and seeks to save.
2. It should extend beyond occasional gifts to those who are in extremity of want. It should include an intelligent endeavor to do that which is really best for the lasting well-being of the people.
III. THAT A SPIRIT OF DEVOUT INQUIRY IS ONE SURE SIGN OF GENUINENESS IN RELIGION. Taking the expression, "Thy prayers... are come up for a memorial" (ver. 4) with "he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do" (ver. 6), we conclude that Cornelius was deeply conscious that he needed to know more of God than he knew, and that he was prayerfully endeavoring to find his way into the path of truth and heavenly wisdom. This is a mark of reality. Those who complacently conclude that they know all that is to be known, that wisdom dwells with them as in its chief home, that they have no need for spiritual solicitude as to themselves, - these are they whose piety we may distrust. But the humble and earnest seeker after more light and truth is the man about whose moral integrity there cannot be two opinions. He bears the stamp of sincerity on his brow.
IV. THAT GOD WILL FULFIL THE DESIRE OF HIM WHO IS THUS SEEKING AND STRIVING. God gave to this devout inquirer that which he sought. He granted him a vision, and instructed him how to obtain the further truth he needed that he might find rest unto his soul (vers. 3-6). Thus he will treat us also. Only we must fulfill his Divine and constant conditions, viz.:
1. Earnest, repeated, patient inquiry (Matthew 7:7, 8).
2. Living up to the light we have (John 7:17). Half-hearted or impatient prayer will wait in vain for the door to be opened into the kingdom. Inconsistent piety will never know the doctrine which is of God. But let a man seek with his whole soul and let him live according to the known will of God, and then let him "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him," and God will give him his heart's desires (Psalm 37:4, 7). - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,