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The sacrifices and ceremonies, the tabernacle and the temple, the people of Israel and their history, Canaan with its warriors and its very names, were all images and pictures of what was to come,-glimmerings of a yet concealed light and future blessing, the elements of the true life which is in Christ Jesus. We
well admire it. Even in this day of light, since the coming of the Son of God, 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, and know even as also we are known. Thus the Apostle Peter, like all the prophets who were before him, was led to a higher knowledge gradually, and step by step. We see also in this vision, that something entirely new was about to begin in the kingdom of God upon earth. The prophets 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 day-light developes a new life out of what seems past away and decayed. This new light removed the old economy and covenant which God had established during more than fifteen hundred years, by laws and precepts, priests and prophets : it was also the declaration of a new covenant, by which all the Gentiles, without the law, were led into the path of grace. This decree of God, the fulfilment of which Peter was to begin, was disclosed to the Apostle visibly, though mysteriously. God has always connected the
visible world with the invisible, in his manifestations to men,-and even in the pouring out of the Holy Ghost. He had commanded, through Moses, the distinction of animals into the clean and the unclean; into those which might be eaten and sacrificed, and those which might not. By this law He had typified the separation of the people of Israel from those nations who were stained with idolatry ; Psalm lxxx. thus compares the heathen to the wild beast of the field. The time of distinction and separation was now to
Paul says in Ephesians ii. 13, 14, 15, 16, ‘Ye who were sometimes far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ, for he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us. Having abolished, in his flesh, the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace. And that he might reconcile both unto God, in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.' Through him both Jew and Greek have access, by one spirit, unto the Father.
• 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. lxvi.—the same which inspired Paul to say in Romans, chap. xv. ' 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 through the mouth of His ho
ly prophets. The beginning of this great work of God has been made ; it now becomes us, as brethren in the truth, to forward its progress by our labors and prayers, that His kingdom may come, ever more and more, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We have visions and words from heaven no longer ; we have both in our Bible; nor is there ever wanting a manifestation of the mind of God in the daily occurrences around us, in the providential events of life: and, above all, in the secret history of our souls; thus beholding God in every thing, what is in itself common and unclean becomes purified and sanctified ; and in this way is the grace of God revealed to all men.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE MESSENGERS OF CORNELIUS AT JOPPA.
It is a remark of Luther, the father of our church, that the history of the people of God differs as much from the histories and biographies of men, as heaven does from earth. In profane history one may see the greatness or the littleness of the work; but in this narration there is only one thing to admire and honor, namely, the word of God, through whose will and guidance all things are accomplished. The histories of the Bible are, with justice, called holy, not only because they are written by holy men, but because they are the words of God, and we must observe this particularly in order to understand what a great treasure the Evangelist Luke has left us, in his Acts of the Apostles. They are not so much histories by the Apostle, as the very words of God, telling how the Gospel, by means of those whom he had sent, began to make its way through the whole world, and through faith on the part of mankind, justified and blessed them without law. In this book we find the doctrine and the example of faith side by side, and we see at the same time the human sympathy and condescension of God our Savior, awakening a new life in the hearts of men. How gently and tenderly did he receive into his fold those who sought admittance, sending to them his faithful servants and mes
sengers ! fulfilling to his chosen ones the gracious promise : ‘Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made and I will bear; even I will carry and will deliver you.' Isaiah xlvi. 4.
• Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which
he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate, and called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. While Peter thought on the vison, the Spirit said unto him, behold, three men seek thee; arise, therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius, and said, behold I am he whom ye seek; what is the cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius the Centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God, by an holy angel, to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee. Then called he them in and lodged them'
.-Acts x. 17-23.
In the last section of our history, we saw how the decrees and secret counsels of God, for calling in the Gentiles, and blessing the whole human race, by the Gospel, were revealed to the Apostle Peter in a vision from above, and how this work of mercy, this new creation, like the creation of the first man, when it was said, “ Let us make man in our image,' began in heaven above, in order to be perfected in earth among the children of men.
We have now to consider this beginning and progress of the divine work upon earth.