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Peter restores Dorcas to life
ACTS. in consequence of which, many believe.
A.M.cir.404i. When he was come, they brought Au. oiymp. him into the upper chamber: and all cir. cciv. 1. ^e widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. 40 But Peter m put them all forth, and b kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body c said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
Matt. 9. 25. » ch. 7. 60 « Mark 5. 41, 42. John 11. 43.
»/iaria, the outer and inner garments. These, it appears, she had made for the poor, and more particularly for poor zeidozes, in whose behalf she had incessantly laboured.
Verse 40. Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed] It was not even known to Peter that God would work this miracle: therefore he put all the people out, that he might seek the will of God by ferrent prayer, and during his supplications, be liable neither to distraction nor interruption, which- he must have experienced, had he permitted this company of Keeping icidozes to remain in the chamber.
And turning—to the body] Sccoa; the lifeless body, for the spirit had already departed.
Said, Tabitha, arise] During his wrestling with God, he had, undoubtedly, received confidence that she would be raised at his word.
And Khen she saw Peter, she sat tip.] As Dorcas was^ a woman so eminently holy, her happy soul had doubtless gone to the paradise of God. Must she not therefore be filled with regret to find herself thus called back to earth again? And must not the remembrance of the glories she had now lost, fill her with dislike to all the goods of earth? No: for, 1. as a saint of God, her Maker's will must be her's; because she knew that this Kill must be ever best. 2. It is yery likely that in the case of the revivescence of saint or sinner, God mercifully draws a veil over all they have seeu or known, so that they have no recollection of what they have either seen or heard. Even St. Paul found it impossible to tell what he had heard in the third heaven, though he was probably not in the state of the dead. Of the oeconomy of the invisible world, God will reveal nothing. We walk here by faith, and not by sight.
Verse 41. Saints and Kidows] In primitive times, the widows formed a distinct part of the Christian church.
Verse 42. Many believed in the Lord.] That is, in Christ Jesus, in whose name and through whose power they understood this miracle to be wrought. This miracle, as well as that at Lydda, was not only the mean of strengthening the faith of the disciples, and gaining credit to the cause of
Christianity; but also of bringing many sincere converts to : the Lord, so that the church was thereby both builded up
and multiplied. j Verse 43. He tarried many days in Joppa] Taking ad
vantage of the good impression made on the people's minds , by the miracle, he preached to them the great truths of j Christianity; and thus established them in the faith. ! Simon a tanner.] Whether the original word fivpvrjf sig: nifies a tanner or a currier, is of little consequence. The ; person who dealt in the hides, whether of clean or unclean j animals, could not be in high repute among the Jews. Even
in Joppa, the trade appears to have been reputed tn.clcan; I and therefore this Simon had his house by the sea-side. See j chap. x. 6. Of the trade itself, the Talmudists speak with
great contempt; they reckon it among blemishes. See proofs
1. Thus terminates what has not been improperly called the first period of the Christian church, which began at the day of pentecost, chap. ii. and continued to the resurrection of Dorcas; a period of about eight years. During the whole of this time, the gospel was preached to the Jews only, no Gentile being called, before Cornelius; the account of whose conversion, and the divine vision that led to it, are detailed in the following chapter. Salvation was of the Jews: theirs were the fathers, the covenants, and the promises; and from them came Christ Jesus; and it was right that they should have the first offer of a salvation, which, while it was a light to lighten the Gentiles, was to be the glory of the Israelitish people. When they utterly rejected it, then the apostles turned unto the Gentiles. Among them the Christian church was founded; and thus the reprobates became the elect; and the elect became reprobates. Reader! behold the goodness and severity of God! towards them that fell, severity; but towards thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shall be cut off, Rom. xi. 22. Thou canst only stand by faith; and be not high-minded, but fear. Nothing less than Christ dwelling in thy heart by faith, can save thy soul unto eternal life.
Observations on the
conversion of St. Paul.
2. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most remarkable facts, recorded in the history of the Christian church. When we consider the man; the manner in which be was brought to the knowledge of the truth; the impression made on his own mind and heart by the vision he had on his way to Damascus, and the effect produced in all his subsequent life, we have a series of the most convincing evidences of the truth of the Christian religion. In this light he ever Tiewed the subject himself; the manner of his conversion he ever appealed to, as the most proper apology for his conduct; and on several most important occasions, he not only refers to it, but enters into a detail of its circumstances, that his hearers might see that the excellency of the power was of Cod and not of man.
Saul of Tarsus was not a man of a light, fickle, and uncultivated mind. His natural pozcers were vast, his character the most decided, and his education, as we learn from his historian, and from his writings, was at once both liberal and profound. lie was born and brought up in a city which enjoyed every privilege of which Rome itself could boast; and was a successful rival both of Rome and Athens in arts and science. Though a Jew, it is evident that his education was not confined to matters that concerned his own people and country aloue. He had read the best Greek writers, as his style, allusions, and quotations sufficiently prove; and in matters which concern his own religion, he was instructed by Gamaliel, one of the most celebrated doctors the synagogue had ever produced. He was evidently master of the three great languages which were spoken among the onlypeople who deserved the name of nations: the Hebrew, and its prevailing dialect, the Chaldaio-Syriac; the Greek, and the Latin ; languages, which, notwithstanding all the cultivation through which the earth has passed, maintain their rank, which is a most decisive superiority over all the languages of the universe.. Was it likely that such a matt, possessing such a mind, cultivated to such an extent, could have been imposed on or deceived? The circumstances of his conversion forbid the supposition: they do more; they render it impossible. One consideration on this subject will prove, that imposture in this case was impossible: He had no communication with Christians; the men that accompanied him to Damascus were of his own mind; virulent, determined enemies to the very name of Christ: and his conversion took place in the open ilat), on the open road, in company only with such men as the persecuting high-priest and sanhedrin thought proper to be employed in the extermination of Christianity. In such circumstances, and in such company, no cheat could be practised. But was not he the deceiver? The supposition is absurd and moustrous, for this simple reason, that there was no motive that could prompt him to feign what he was not; and no end that could be answered by assuming the profession of Christianity. Christianity had in it such principles a* must expose it to the hatred of Greece, Rome, and Judea.
It exposed the absurdity and folly of Grecian and Roman superstition and idolatry; and asserted itself to be the completion, end, and perfection of the whole Mosaic ceconomy. It was therefore hated by all those nations; and its followers despised, detested, and persecuted. From the profession of such a religion so circumstanced, could any man, who possessed even the most moderate share of common sense, expect secular emolument or advantage? No! Had not this apostle of the Gentiles the fullest conviction of the truth of Christianity, the fullest proof of its heavenly influence on his own soul, the brightest prospect of the reality and blessedness of the spiritual world, he could not have taken one step in the path which the doctrine of Christ pointed out. Add to this, that he lived long after his conversion, saw Christianity and its influence in every point of view; and tried it in all circumstances. What was the result? the deepest conviction of its truth; so that he counted all things dross and dung in comparison of the excellency of its knowledge. Had he continued a Jew, he would have infallibly risen to the first dignities and honours of his nation; but he willingly forfeited all his secular privileges, and wellgrounded expectations of secular honour and emolument, and espoused a cause, from which he could not only have no expectation of worldly advantage, but which, most evidently and necessarily, exposed him to all sorts of privations, sufferings, hardships, dangers, and death itself! These were not only the unavoidable consequences of the cause he espoused; but he had them fully in his apprehension, and constantly in his eye. lie predicted them, and knew that every step he took was a progressive advance in additional sufferings, and the issue of his journey must be a violent death!
The whole history of St. Paul proves him to be one of the greatest of men; and his conduct after he became a Chris. nan, had it not sprung from a divine motive, of the truth of which he had the fullest conviction, would have shewn him to be one of the weakest of men. The conclusion therefore is self-evident, that in St. Paul's call there could be no imposture; that in his owu mind there could be no deception, that his conversion was from heaven; and the religion ha professed and taught, the infallible and eternal truth of Jehovah. In this full conviction, he counted not his life dear unto him, but finished his rugged race with joy, cheerfully giving up his life for the testimony of Jesus; and thus bis luminous sun set in blood, to rise again in glory. The can* version of St. Paul is the triumph of Christianity; his tailings, the fullest exhibition and defence of its doctrines; and his life and death, a glorious illustration of its principles. Armed with the history of Paul's conversion and life, the feeblest believer needs not fear the most powerful infidel. The ninth chapter of the Acts.of the Apostles will ever remain an inexpugnable fortress to defend Christianity, and defeat its enemies. Reader, hath not God so done his marvellous works that they may be had in everlasting remembrance 1
Account of Cornelius,
a Roman centurion.
An angel appears to Cornelius, a centurion, and directs him to send to Joppa, for Peter to instruct him in the way of salvation, 1—6. He sends accordingly, 7, 8. While the messengers are on their way to Joppa, Peter has a remarkable vision, by which he is taught how he should treat the Gentiles, 9—16. The messengers arrive at the house of Simon the tanner, and deliver their message, 17—22. They lodge there that night, and on the morrow Peter accompanies them to Ccesarea, where they find Cornelius and his friends assembled, waiting the coming of Peter, 23, 24. Peter makes an apology for his coming, and enquires for what purpose Cornelius had sent for him, 25—29. Cornelius answers, 30—33. And Peter preaches unto him Jesus as the Saviour of the world, and the Judge of quick and dead, 34—43. While he speaks, the Holy Ghost descends on Cornelius and his company,- and they spake with new tongues, and magnify God, 44—46. Peter commands them to be baptized in the name of the Lord, 47, 48.
NOTES ON CHAP. X.
I have already observed (see the conclusion of the preceding chapter) that hitherto the apostles confined their labours among the Jews and circumcised proselytes; not making any •ffer of salvation to the Gentiles: for they had fully imbibed the opinion, that none could enter into the kingdom of God, and be finally saved, unless they were circumcised, and became obedient to the law of Moses. This prejudice would have operated so, as finally to prevent them from preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, had not God, by a particular interposition of his mercy and goodness, convinced Peter, and through him all the other apostles, that he had accepted the Gentiles as well as the Jews; and would put no difference between the one and the other, purifying their hearts by faith, and giving the Gentiles the Holy Ghost, as he had before given it to the Jews. The means which he used to produce this conviction in the minds of the apostles, are detailed at length in the following chapter.
Verse 1. There was a certain man in Ccesarea"] This was Ccesarea of Palestine, called also Strato's Tower, as has been already noted; and the residence of the Roman procurator.
A centurion] EKarova^i);, the chief or captain of 100 men, as both the Greek and Latin words imply. How the Roman armies were formed, divided, and marshalled, see in the notes on Matt. xx. A centurion among the Romans was about the same rank as a captain among us.
The band, called the Italian band] The word <nttipa,, which we translate band, signifies the same as cohort or regiment, which sometimes consisted of 555 infantry and 66 ca
valry; but the cohors prima, or first cohort, consisted of 1105 infantry and 132 cavalry, in the time of Vegelius. But the cavalry are not to be considered as part of the cohort, but rather a company joined to it. A Roman legion consisted of ten cohorts; the first of which surpassed all the others, both in numbers and in dignity. When in former times the Roman legion contained 6000, each cohort consisted of 600, and was divided into three manipuli; but both the legions and cohorts were afterwards various in the numbers they contained. As there were doubtless many Syrian auxiliaries, the regiment in question was distinguished from them as consisting of Italian, i. e. Roman soldiers. The Italian cohort is not unknown among the Roman writers: Grxtfer gives an inscription, which was found in the Forum Sempronii, on a fine table of marble, nine feet long, four feet broad, and four inches thick; on which are the following words:
L. MAESIO. L. P. POL
COH. MIL. ITALIC. VOLUNT
ftVAE. EST. IN. SYRIA. PRAEF
See Gruier's Inscriptions, p. ccccxxxiii—iv.
This was probably the same cohort as that mentioned here by St; Luke; for the tenth legion mentioned in the above inscription was certainly in Judea, A. D. 69. Tacitus also mentions the Italica hgio, the Italic legion, lib. i. c. 59. which Junius Blwsus had under his command in the province
of Lyons. We learn from the Roman historians, that the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth legions were stationed in Judea; and the third, fourth, sixth, and t&elflh in Syria. The Italic legion was in the battle of Bedriacum, fought A. D. 69. between the troops of Vitellius and Otho; and performed essential services to the Vitellian army. See Tacitus, Hist, lib. ii. cap. 41. The issue of this battle was the defeat of the Othonians, on which Otho slew himself; and the empire was confirmed to Vitellius.
Wherever he sees it necessary, St. Luke carefully gives dates and facts, to which any might have recourse who might be disposed to doubt his statements: we have had several proofs of this in his Gospel. See especially chap. i. 1, &c. and iii. 1, &c. and the notes there.
Verse2. A devout man] Elc-e^j from ev rcell, and estopou I worship. A person who izorships the true God, and is no idolater.
One that feared God] *s?oi;ju.Evof toy Qtov, one who was acquainted with the true God, by means of his word and laws; who respected these laws, and would not dare to offend his Maker and his Judge. This is necessarily implied in the fear of God.
With all his house] He took care to instruct his family in the knowledge, which he himself had received; and to establish the worship of God in his bouse.
Gave much alms] His love to God led him to love men; and this love proved its sincerity by acts of beneficence and charity.
Prayed to God alvcay.] Felt himself a dependent creature: knew he had no good, but what he had received; and considered God to be the fountain whence he was to derive all his blessings. He prayed to God alu.ni/; wns ever in the spirit of prayer, and frequently in the act. What an excellent character is this! and yet the man was a Gentile! He was what a Jezs would repute common and unclean, see ver. 28. He was therefore not circumcised; but, as he worshipped the true God, without any idolatrous mixtures, and was in good report among all the nation of the Jess, he was undoubtedly what was called aproselyte of the gate, though not Aproselyte of justice; because he had not entered into the bond of the covenant by circumcision. This was a proper person, being so much of a Jew and so much of a Gentile, to form the connecting link between both people: and God chose
him, THy prayers and thine alms are A.M.cir.4045. come up for a memorial before God. An. oiymp.
5 And now send men to Joppa, Cir-CCYV1and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one b Simon a tanner,
him, that the salvation of the Jews might with as little observation as possible be transmitted to the Gentiles. The choice of such a person, through whom the door of faith was opened to the heathen world, was a proof of the wisdom and goodness of God. The man who was chosen to this honour, was not a profligate Gentile; nor yet a circumcised proselyte. He was a Gentile, amiable and pure in his manners ; and, for his piety and charitableness, held in high estimation among all the nation of the Jew*. Against such a person they could not, with any grace, be envious, though God should pour out upon him the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 3. He saze in a vision evidently] The text is at plain as it can be, that an angel of God did appear to Cornelius. This was in a vision, i. e. a supernatural representation; and it was tpavscui; manifestly, evidently made; and at such a time too, as precluded the possibility of his being asleep; for it was about the ninth hour of the day, answering to our three o'clock in the afternoon, (see note on chap. iii. 1.) the time of public prayer, according to the custom of the Jews; and while Peter was engaged in that sacred duty. The angelic appearance to Cornelius was something similar to that made to Daniel, chap. ix. 20—23. and that especially to Zachariah, the father of John Baptist, Luke i. 11, &c.
Verse 4. Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial] Being all performed in simplicity and godly sincerity, they were acceptable to the Most High.
Come up for a memorial: this form of speech is evidently borrowed from the sacrificial system of the Jews. Pious and sincere prayers arc high in God's estimation; and therefore are said to ascend to him, as the smoke and Home of the burnt-offering appeared to ascend to heaven.
These prayers and alms came up for a memorial before God: this is a manifest allusion to the meat-offering, which, in Lev. ii. 16. is said to be rnsm azkerah, a memorial, (speaking after the manner of men,) to put God in remembrance that such a person was his worshipper, and needed his protection and help. So the prayers and alms of Cornelius ascended before God as an acceptable sacrifice, and were recorded in the kingdom of heaven, that the answers might be given in their due season.
Verse 6. Simon a tanner] See the note on chap. ix. 43.
What thou oughtest to do.] From this it appears "that matters of great moment had occupied the mind of Cornelias.
He Mas not satisfied with the state of his own soul, nor with the degree he possessed of religious knowledge; and he set apart a particular time for extraordinary fasting and prayer, that God might farther reveal to him the knowledge of his will. Perhaps he had heard of Jesus, and had been perplexed with the different opinions that prevailed concerning him; and now prayed to God that he might know what part he should take; and the answer to this prayer is, "Send to Joppa for Simon Peter, he shall tell thee what tlwu oughlest to do." This clause, so explanatory, is wanting in almost every MS. and Version of note. Griesbach and some others have left it out of the text ,
Verse 7. And a devout soldier] It has already been remarked that Cornelius had taken care to instruct his family in divine things; and it appears also that he had been attentive to the spiritual interests of his regiment. We do not find that it was then, even among the Romans, considered a disgrace for a military otficer to teach his men lessons of morality, and piety towards God.
Verse 8. He sent tlicm to Joppa."] It has been properly remarked, that from Joppa, Jonah was sent to preach to the Gentiles of Nineveh; and from the same place Peter was sent to preach the gospel to the Gentiles at Ca:sarea.
Verse 9. On the morroic, as they went on their journey] From Joppa to Caesarea was about twelve or fifteen leagues; the messengers could not have left the house of Cornelius till about two hours before sun-set; therefore, they must have travelled a part of the night, in order to arrive at Joppa the next day, towards noon. Calmet. Cornelius sent too of his household servants, by way of respect to Peter; probably the soldier was intended for their defence, as the roads in Judea were by no means safe.
Peter went up upon the house-top to pray] It has often been remarked, that the houses in Judea were builded with flat roofs, on which people walked, conversed, meditated, prayed, &c. The house-top was the place of retirement; and thither Peter went for the purpose of praying to God.
Verse 10. He became very hungry] It seems that this happened about dinner-time; for it appears that they were
9 1 On the morrow, as they went A-M.cir.4iw3
... , , . . A.D.cir.41.
on their journey, and drew nigh unto An.oiymp. the city, h Peter went up upon the cir'EEIlt house-top to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 ° And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a
making ready, Txpz<m£vx*oyruiv dressing the victuals for the family. The dinner among the ancients was a very slight meal; and they had no breakfast: their supper was their principal meal. And in very ancient times, they ate only once in the day. Supper was the meal at which they saw their friends, the business of the day being then finished.
He fell into a trance] 'EirenvBv or' avrov cxratri;, an extasy fell upon him. A person may be said to be in an extasy when transported with joy or admiration ,• so that he is insensible to every object, but that ou which he is engaged. Peter's extasy is easily accounted for: he went up to the housetop to pray: at first he felt keen hunger; but being earnestly engaged with God, all natural appetites became absorbed in the intense application of his soul to his Maker. While every passion and appetite was under this divine influence, and the soul, without let or hindrance, freely conversing with God, then the visionary and symbolical representation mentioned here, took place.
Verse 11. And saw heaven opened] His mind now entirely spiritualized, and absorbed in heavenly contemplation, was capable of discoveries of the spiritual world; a world, which with its ir\rlpu!^a.i or plenitude of inhabitants, surrounds us at all times; but which we are incapable of seeing, through the dense medium of flesh and blood, and their necessarily concomitant earthly passions. Much, however, of such a world and its ccconomy may be apprehended by him who is purified from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit; and who has perfected holiness in the fear of God. But this is a subject to which the enthusiast in vain attempts to ascend. The turbulent working of his imagination, and the gross earthly crudities which he wishes to obtrude on the world as revelations from God, afford a sufficient refutation of their own blasphemous pretensions.
A great sheet knit at the four corners] Perhaps intended to be an emblem of the universe, and its various nations, to the four corners of which the gospel was to extend; and to offer its blessings to all the inhabitants, without distinction of nation, &c.