There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,…
Here is one man who is a truth seeker, and there is another who is a truth teacher. One has what the other needs; but they are unknown to each other, and separated by a great chasm. How can they be brought together? God commissions an angel to appear to Cornelius, and to tell him to send Peter. God appears to Peter, and shows him that "nothing that He has made is common or unclean." The scholar and the teacher are soon face to face; and then, "while Peter spake, the Holy Ghost fell on those who heard the word." This incident shows that every step in the work of conversion is known and arranged by God. The text affords a beautiful illustration of —
I. PERSONAL PIETY. "Cornelius was a devout man, and one that feared God." A devout man now is one that is devoted to the service and worship of God. This word seems originally, however, to have had the meaning of thoughtful, serious, and reverently inclined. Cornelius had not found "the pearl of great price," the "one thing needful," but he was an earnest seeker, prayerful, and, according to his light, sincerely pious. The Word of God —
1. Points out the necessity of personal piety. It affirms first that "we have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God"; and then, "that without holiness, no man can see the Lord." Jesus said, "Except ye be converted," etc.
2. Explains the nature of personal piety — a change of heart that leads to a change of life. Godliness is Godlikeness — in thought, and spirit, and life: "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature," etc. It is possible to observe the outward forms of religion without experiencing its saving power, and to have a name to live, but to be dead. Knowledge, liberality, morality, prayer, cannot save us. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
II. DOMESTIC PIETY. "With all his house." We are not told how many members it contained, nor whether they were old or young; but we are told that they feared God. Cornelius not only renounced idolatry himself, but he taught his children to renounce it. If we want our children to give themselves to Christ, we must lead the way. Example is better than precept. Domestic piety adds very much —
1. To the general comfort of the family circle. In the most orderly households there may be much to disturb the peace and try the temper, but where the home atmosphere is pervaded by a devout spirit, there will be a kindliness of speech and a tenderness of spirit that will lighten the burdens of life.
2. To the spiritual welfare of the family circle. The "curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked"; but "the Lord blesseth the habitation of the just." The poor man may not enjoy the dainties that are found on the rich man's table, or the pictures that adorn his walls; but "the blessing of the Lord it maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow thereto." Are we not more anxious about the mental culture and the social status of our children than about their spiritual growth? Do not our prayers pull one way and our lives another?
III. PRACTICAL PIETY. "Who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway." It is not every servant that has a good word for his master. If there be any defect in a man's character, no one can detect it sooner than his servant. But Cornelius's servant says, "His master is a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nations of the Jews."
1. True piety manifests itself —
(1) In generous deeds. This was not a speaking, but a shining religion. He sounded no trumpet, but his light streamed forth, like the light from a lighthouse, far over the troubled sea of life. True piety must report itself. Benevolence is one of the natural fruits of piety. "Pure religion and undefiled before God," etc.
(2) In a prayerful spirit. This combination is very beautiful. Work and worship; profession and practice; grace and generosity.
(J. T. Woodhouse.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,