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read in Romans i. 23. The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ??—Is. xxxiii. 14. It is only in love that there is no fear; ' perfect love casteth out fear. Whosoever experiences fear does not yet love fully ;-yet the path towards faith and love is certainly through fear.
It is thus with Cornelius—trembling, and with a secret awe, he inquired, What is it, Lord ?'
The answer of the angel contains two things; the assurance of God's mercy, and a command, telling what Cornelius was to do.— Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.' What a condescending speech to man! the prayers and the alms of the Gentile Centurion are here spoken of as a sacrifice, of which the Scriptures often say, 'It has ascended up unto God.' It was a special mercy of God to appoint sacrifices for sinful men placed under the law, before he received them as his children ; for they were a seal and token to the apostate race, that the bond between them and God was not entirely broken, and at the same time they were a symbolical promise of a future and a perfect reconciliation.
They were a mutual giving and receiving—on the part of man, a free acknowledgment of guilt and separation from God—on that of God, a visible sign of his grace and compassion, without which the men of the old covenant might well have despaired. Therefore, the word of God says, speaking of sacrifices, “the smoke ascended up unto God like a sweet smelling savor.'
This can only be when they are offered with a believing heart, desirous of salvation, and when the smoke and flames of the sacrifice are an emblem of a soul, consecrated to God by the fire of his Spirit. Then the blessing of the sacrifice returns back on him that offers it, as we read in Hosea vi. 6.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.' The sacrifices which the Centurion offered with his lips and hands, from a devout and godly heart, were alms and prayers.
Such gifts and offerings are well-pleasing unto God, they ascend up to him, and are preserved in his remembrance: for the prayers of the humble,' says Jesus the son of Sirach, very beautifully, pierceth the clouds—and will not depart, till the Most High shall behold to judge righteously; and execute judgment. And again, “ The Lord preserves the good deeds of men as a signet ring, and their good words as the apple of an eye.'
The Apostle says also, Heb. vi. 10, God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shown toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.'
What honor for us mortals? The Lord of heaven and earth not only hears our petitions and prayers not only allows us to tell him every thing, and to lay open our hearts to him, but permits us also to give unto him-preserves our words and our gifts in his remembrance, and they become the common property and bond of union between the fatherly heart of our God, and the praying, loving, child-like hearts of his chosen ones!
Cornelius had, until now, sought his salvation in the path of the old covenant, of the law and the promises, by means of fasting, prayers, and alms; the way of the new covenant of mercy and truth is now to be laid open to him. After the heavenly messenger had comforted and rejoiced the terrified Centurion by his gracious words, he continued, “Now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter; he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea-side; he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.' Here we see again the friendly character of the inhabitants of heaven, and their sympathizing love towards men.
Their manner is ever the same. The shepherds of Bethlehem were afraid at the coming of the angels during the night when the glory of the Lord shone round about them ; but their fear was soon removed by the words of the messenger of God, · Fear not; for behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.'
Not only Simon the Apostle was described to Cornelius, but the house where he dwelt, which belonged to Simon the tanner, and was situated near the sea. It is worthy of remark that the Holy Scriptures often avoid the minute description of outward circumstances; for instance, with regard to the place where the Apostles were assembled at the pouring out of the Holy Ghost; and also that they, elsewhere, observe the greatest exactness, as in the present history.
Here we cannot fail to know how the occurrence happened, for we have the speech of the angel given word for word by the Evangelist, and again by Corne
lius (verse 30th.) Is not this another proof of the friendly interest taken by heavenly beings in each individual ? Every one acquainted with the gospel knows that Simon the tanner was named by the angel along with the Apostle Peter. We may here say, “As it is with God, so it is with his servants. The Lord takes pleasure in the children of men, and in every child of man, whether his station and calling be that of an artisan and tanner, or of an apostle and messenger · Have we not all one father, and hath not one God created us? are the words of the prophet Malachi, showing thereby the dignity of men, through their descent from the one whom God created in his own image. But how highly is our humanity exalted through the new covenant, in which the Son of God became a man, -in his glory is still the Son of Man,—and as the Son of Man will come again to judgment! As each one becomes sanctified by the washing of regeneration, and is received into his covenant by the triune God, as each partakes of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Lord's Supper, the seal and token of this covenant, and as each soul is saved from death, there is rejoicing in heaven!
O comforting and blessed covenant, which unites so closely our poor earthly Bethlehem, and its sinful inhabitants, with the heavenly Jerusalem and its angels ! Blessed are they whose names are inscribed above ! Amen.
THE VISION OF PETER.
• A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven.' John iïi. 27. These are the words of John the Baptist, in speaking of his divine calling, and the power
with which God had invested him to announce the kingdom of Christ. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." James i. 17. This truth is so palpable that it appears almost unnecessary to state it, were it not that, from its very obviousness, we are inclined to overlook it. As a single seed of corn cannot unfold itself into the stalk and ear 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 from above; we cannot distinguish it in the gradual development of the stalk and flower, even though, with the rapidity of Jonah's gourd, it spring up in a single night-we only observe the unfolding after it is completed., We see the rose blown, but not the act of blossoming; it almost appears
to make and form itself; but how can we doubt the care of an Almighty hand, or the wafting around it of an invisible breath? We do not doubt it, for the natural language of every heart is, “ All depends