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10. Peter's Vision
1Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. 3He saw in a vision openly, as it were about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in unto him, and saying to him, Cornelius. 4And he, fastening his eyes upon him, and being affrighted, said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are gone up for a memorial before God. 5And now send men to Joppa, and fetch one Simon, who is surnamed Peter: 6he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side. 7And when the angel that spake unto him was departed, he called two of his household-servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; 8and having rehearsed all things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. 9Now on the morrow, as they were on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour: 10and he became hungry, and desired to eat: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance; 11and he beholdeth the heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth: 12wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the heaven. 13And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat. 14But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean. 15And a voice came unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, make not thou common. 16And this was done thrice: and straightway the vessel was received up into heaven. 17Now while Peter was much perplexed in himself what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood before the gate, 18and called and asked whether Simon, who was surnamed Peter, were lodging there. 19And while Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. 20But arise, and get thee down, and go with them, nothing doubting: for I have sent them. 21And Peter went down to the men, and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? 22And they said, Cornelius a centurion, a righteous man and one that feareth God, and well reported of by all the nation of the Jews, was warned of God by a holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words from thee. 23So he called them in and lodged them. And on the morrow he arose and went forth with them, and certain of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24And on the morrow they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his kinsmen and his near friends. 25And when it came to pass that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. 26But Peter raised him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. 27And as he talked with him, he went in, and findeth many come together: 28and he said unto them, Ye yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to join himself or come unto one of another nation; and yet unto me hath God showed that I should not call any man common or unclean: 29wherefore also I came without gainsaying, when I was sent for. I ask therefore with what intent ye sent for me. 30And Cornelius said, Four days ago, until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel, 31and saith, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32Send therefore to Joppa, and call unto thee Simon, who is surnamed Peter; he lodgeth in the house of Simon a tanner, by the sea side. 33Forthwith therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all things that have been commanded thee of the Lord. 34And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him. 36The word which he sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all.) -- 37that saying ye yourselves know, which was published throughout all Judaea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom also they slew, hanging him on a tree. 40Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, 41not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before of God, even to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is he who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. 43To him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins. 44While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. 45And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. 46For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
1. Luke passeth over now unto a worthy 643643 “Memorabilem,” memorable. history, to wit, that God vouchsafeth to advance a stranger, and one uncircumcised, unto singular honor above all the Jews, because he doth both send his angel unto him, and for his sake bringeth Peter to Cesarea, that he may instruct him in the gospel. But first of all Luke showeth what manner of person this Cornelius was, for whose cause an angel descended from heaven, and God spake to Peter in a vision. He was a captain [centurion] of the Italian band; a band [cohort] did consist upon [of] a thousand footmen, and he which was chief captain was called a tribune, (or marshal.) Again, every hundred had a captain. A legion had for the most part five bands. That band was called the Italian band, because the Romans did choose soldiers oftentimes from amongst those which dwelt in the provinces; but they had the strength of the army 644644 “Robur exercituum,” the flower of their armies. out of Italy; therefore, Cornelius was an Italian born; but he was at Cesarea with his hundred, to guard the city. For the Romans were wont so to distribute their places of abode, 645645 “Stationes,” stations. that every city of renown might have a garrison to stay sudden uproars. A rare example that a soldier was so devout towards God, so upright and courteous towards men! For at that time the Italians, when as they were carried into the provinces to live in warfare, ran to and fro like hungry wolves to get some prey; they had for the most part no more religion than beasts; they had as great care of innocency as cutthroats; for which cause the virtues of Cornelius deserve the greater commendation, in that leading a soldier’s life, which was at that time most corrupt, he served God holily, and lived amongst men without doing any hurt or injury. And this is no small amplification of his praise, in that casting away superstition wherein he was born and brought up, he embraced the pure worship of God; for we know what account the Italians made of themselves, and how proudly they despised others. And the Jews were at that time in such contempt, that for their sakes pure religion was counted infamous, and almost execrable. Seeing that none of these things could hinder Cornelius, but that forsaking his idols he did embrace the true worship of the true God alone, it must needs be that he was endued with rare and singular sincerity. Moreover, he could find scarce any thing amongst the Jews wherewith he could be allured unto the study of godliness, because there was then scarce one amongst a thousand which had even some small smattering of the law; and, undoubtedly, Cornelius had lighted upon some good worshipper of God, who being sound from corrupt opinions, did expound unto him the law faithfully, without mixing any leaven therewith; but because Luke giveth him many titles of commendation, we must note them all [singly.]
2. He saith that he was a godly man, and one that feared God; secondly, that like a good householder he had a care to instruct his families; he praiseth him afterward for the offices of love, because he was beneficial [beneficent] toward all the people; and, lastly, that he prayed [to] God continually. The sum is this, that Cornelius was a man of singular virtues, wherein the integrity of the godly consisteth, so that his life was framed, in all points, according to the rule which God prescribeth unto us. And because the law is contained in two tables, Luke commendeth, in the former place, Cornelius’ godliness; secondly, he descendeth unto the second part, that he exercised the offices of love toward men. This is very profitable to be marked, because we have a way to live well described in his person.
Wherefore, in ordering the life well, let faith and religion be the foundation, which being taken away, all other virtues are nothing else but smokes. Luke reckoneth up the fear of God and prayer as fruits and testimonies of godliness and of the worship of God, and that for good causes. For religion cannot be separated from the fear of God and the reverence of him, neither can any man be counted godly, save he who acknowledging God to be his Father and Lord, doth addict himself wholly to him. And let us know that voluntary fear is commended in this place when those men submit themselves to God willingly and from their heart, who duly consider themselves what is due to him.
Moreover, because a great part of the world doth, with reigned trifles, corrupt and deprave the worship of God, Luke added, for good causes, that Cornelius prayed continually; whereby he doth signify, that he proved not his godliness only with external ceremonies, but that he worshipped God spiritually, when as he exercised himself in prayer. We must also note the continuance of his prayer; whence we gather, that he did not pray only coldly, after the common custom, but that he was earnestly bent to prayer, as the continual benefits of God do exhort us and prick us forward thereunto, and the force of faith ought there to show itself. Wherefore let every one of us exhort himself to persevere in prayer by the example of Cornelius.
With all his house. We must not lightly pass over this commendation that Cornelius had a church in his house. And, surely, a true worshipper of God will not suffer so much as in him lieth God to be banished from his house. For how unmeet a thing is it for him to maintain his own right stoutly, that his wife, children, servants, and maids may obey him, and not to regard that God is disobeyed. It shall sometimes fall out so that a godly man cannot have even his wife to be of his mind; yet he, which ruleth others, must endeavor by all means to have God obeyed; and there is nothing more meet than that we should consecrate all ours to God as ourselves. Therefore, if a godly man have children which are unlike him, or a wife of evil conditions, or lewd and wicked servants, let him not wink, nor yet suffer his house to be polluted through his slothfulness. The diligence of Cornelius is not so much commended as the blessing of God, whereby it came to pass that he had his house obedient unto him in godliness. And we must not omit the circumstance, that he instructed his family in the fear of God, setting light by the fear of danger, which did hang over his head therefore. For the Jewish religion was in great contempt; 646646 “Valde... exosa,” exceedingly hated. and no citizen of Rome might freely 647647 “Impune,” with impunity. receive any strange religion, as they called it. Wherefore, although the sincere profession of the gospel be evil spoken of in the world, yet is it too corrupt frightfulness 648648 “Timiditas,” timidity or cowardice. if that unjust hatred hinder any man from offering his family to God for a sacrifice, by godly instruction.
Giving alms. There is also the figure synecdoche in this member, [clause.] For as it was said, even now, that the worship of God was proved by prayers, so now, when Luke speaketh of love, he maketh choice of one kind; whereby he showeth that Cornelius was a liberal and bountiful man. For our godliness ought so to appear to men, that we declare that we fear God by using bountifulness and justice. The word alms is translated unto those external good works wherewith we help the poor, (Isaiah 58:7,) forasmuch as misericordia, or mercy, is the inward affection of the heart properly. For from this fountain springeth true and well ordered bountifulness, if the troubles and sorrows of our brethren do move us to compassion; if, considering the unity which is amongst us, we foster and cherish them as we would cherish our own flesh, and study to help them as we would help our own members. Hypocrites are, indeed, sometimes liberal, or at least bountiful; but howsoever they waste all, 649649 “Ut omnia profundant,” how profuse soever they be. yet no relief which they shall bestow upon the poor shall be worthy to be called by the name of alms. For we must hold that of Paul, He which hath no love is nothing, though he give all his goods to the poor, (1 Corinthians 13:3.) Let us, therefore, learn by this word, that God doth then allow our liberality, if we relieve the poverty of the poor, being moved with compassion, and if, as it were, with open bowels we bestow that which the liberality of God doth give.
Whereas Luke saith that he gave alms to all the people, it signifieth as much as everywhere to the poor; for there were not a few rich men to whom to have given had been an absurd thing. But whereas he bestowed so liberally upon the Jews, he declared how he agreed with them in religion; in which respect Luke saith, shortly after, that he was allowed of 650650 “Probatum,” approved by. all the Jews. And if so be it he was such an excellent mirror of godliness and holiness, even when he had but a small smattering of faith, although he were letted so many ways, 651651 “Quum tam multa offendicula occurrerent,” when so many obstacles or offenses stood in the way. ought not we to be ashamed who will be accounted most Christian doctors, and are yet so cold in the exercises of godliness? If a small sparkle of faith prevailed so much in him, what ought the full brightness of knowledge to work in us? But howsoever we boast of Christ with full mouth, yet how far are we, for the most part, from the example of the holy man, so that there appeareth scarce a small shadow of those virtues wherewith he was replete? For how loose 652652 “Quantus... torpor,” how great our torpor or sluggishness. are we in prayer? How slow and sluggish to do the duties of mercy? Yea, many are not only letted with filthiness and covetousness from giving liberally so much of their own as they ought, but they are so inflamed with a desire 653653 “Insana cupidine,” an insane desire. to have, they are become so beastly through cruelty, 654654 “Tanta crudelitate efferati sunt,” so rage with cruelty. that they are not afraid to rob the poor of their substance, and to eat their very flesh.
3. He saw in a vision. Luke putteth vision for a kind of oracle coming from God, that we may know that Cornelius was brought unto the faith of Christ after an heavenly manner. And because men are oftentimes deceived with juggling, Luke setteth down the time to avoid all suspicion, when he mentioneth the ninth hour. And at that time they were wont to divide the day into twelve hours; from the rising of the sun until the going down thereof. Whereupon it followeth that it was fair daylight when the angel appeared, that the vision might be more evident. Although there were always seals added unto visions, that they might free the servants of God from fear of illusions, because when he appeared in dreams, yet were there such marks of certainty imparted in their minds as would not suffer them to doubt.
4. And he beheld, and was afraid. Luke expresseth his attentiveness in plain words, that we may know that it was no vain imagination which came upon the man as he was sleeping or doing some other thing. The fear wherewith he was taken 655655 “Terror quo correptus est,” the terror with which he was seized. proceeded from the perceiving of the majesty of God; 656656 “Ex sensu Divinae Majestatis,” from a sense of the Divine Majesty. for so soon as men conceive the presence of God, they must needs be afraid and cast down with fear. And whereas his words do no whit terrify us, that must be imputed to our sluggishness, because we do not know nor perceive that it is God which speaketh. But the godly, to whom God revealeth himself in his word, do tremble when they hear it, as Isaiah saith, (Isaiah 66:2, 5.) Furthermore, the sight of God is unto them terrible, not that they may always lie confounded, and be swallowed up of fear, but only that they may humbly address themselves to reverence him.
What is it, Lord? It appeareth plainly by this answer, that Cornelius’ mind was touched with religion; that he knew that he had to deal with God. Therefore the common translation hath it evil, 657657 “Haabet male,” is inaccurate. Who art thou, Lord? And it is likely that that which is there read was put in instead of this, forasmuch as in the Greek text there is no doubtfulness, whereby the interpreter might be deceived, and all the copies agree together in this reading, τι εστι. And assuredly, when Cornelius perceived that it is God, he submitteth himself to obey; as the answer is nothing but a commandment.
Thy prayers and alms. Because God seemeth to be after a sort deaf, unless he answer our petitions by and by, hence cometh that speech, that our prayers come unto him, and that he is mindful thereof. Furthermore, the angel assigneth this as the cause why God vouchsafeth to show to Cornelius the light of his gospel; because he hath heard his prayers and accepted his alms. Whence we gather that virtues and good works do not only please God, but that they are also adorned with this excellent reward, that he heapeth upon us and enricheth us with greater gifts for their sakes; according to that, “To him that hath shall be given,” (Matthew 13:12.) And again,
“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many things,”
For God doth after this sort extol his by a continual course of his gifts, as it were by certain steps, until he bring them to the top.
But the Papists abuse this place two ways; for because God respected the prayers and alms of Cornelius, so that he endued him with the faith of the gospel, they wrest that unto the preparations which they have invented, as if a man did get faith by his own industry and power, and did prevent 658658 “Antevertat,” anticipate. the grace of God by the merits of works. Secondly, they gather, generally, that good works are meritorious in such sort, that the graces of God are increased in every man as he hath deserved. In the former they are too childishly deceived, whilst that they feign that the works of Cornelius were acceptable to God before he was illuminate by faith. And we need not to fet [seek] a proof far to refute their ignorance; for he could obtain nothing by prayer unless faith went before, which only openeth the gate for us to pray; and Augustine weigheth that well and wisely, who derideth Pelagius, because he said that faith was obtained by prayers before it was in man in any measure: Who (saith he) will seek a physician save he who is already healed in some part? And it is the health of faith which teacheth us to knock. Furthermore, the fear of God and godliness do plainly prove that he was regenerate by the Spirit. For Ezekiel giveth 659659 “Vendicat,” claimeth. this praise to God alone, that he frameth the hearts of men to fear him, (Ezekiel 32:40 [sic].) And Isaiah saith, that the Spirit of the fear of God resteth in Christ, (Isaiah 11:2,) that we may know that he can be found no where save only in his members. Therefore it is too great folly to feign a man in the person of Cornelius, who, having nature for his guide, can attain unto eternal life, or endeavor to come thither. Therefore they reason blockishly, that we are able to prevent the grace of God with the merits of works.
As touching the second error, when as they imagine that every one of us is increased with greater graces as he hath deserved, it may easily be refuted. First, we deny that we have any good works which God hath not freely given us; secondly, we say that the right use of gifts cometh from him also and that this is his second grace, that we use his former gifts well. Thirdly, we deny that we deserve any thing by our works, 660660 “Conciliant,” procure. which are always lame and corrupt. Good works do indeed purchase for us the increase of grace, but not by their own desert. For they cannot be acceptable to God without pardon, which they obtain by the benefit of faith. Wherefore it is faith alone which maketh them acceptable. 661661 “Quae pretium illis statuit,” which gives them their value. Thus did Cornelius obtain more perfect knowledge of Christ by his prayers and alms, but in that he had God to be favorable and merciful to his prayers and alms, that did depend upon faith.
Furthermore, if good works be esteemed [estimated] by faith, it is of mercy, and not of merit, that God doth allow [approve] them. For because faith findeth no worthy thing in us whereby we can please God, it borroweth that of Christ which we want. And this is too perverse, that though the Papists have this word merit every now and then in their mouths, and cease not to puff up fools with a vain confidence, yet they bring nothing whereby the studies of men may be moved to do well. For they leave their consciences always in a doubt, and command men to doubt whether their words please God or not. Must not men’s minds need faint when they are possessed with such fear? But as for us, though we take merit from works, yet when as we teach that there is a reward laid up for them, we prick men forward with an excellent and sharp prick, to desire to live well. For we address ourselves then joyfully to serve God, when we are persuaded that we lose not our labor. And whereas there appeareth at this day no more plentiful abundance of the gifts of the Spirit, but that the more part doth rather wither away, we must thank our unthankfulhess for that. For as God did crown Cornelius’ prayers and alms, and holiness, with the most precious pearl of his gospel, so there is just cause why he should suffer us to starve, being brought unto hungry poverty, when as he seeth us abuse the treasure of his gospel wickedly and ungodlily.
Yet here may a question be asked, Whether faith require the knowledge of Christ, or it be content with the simple persuasion of the mercy of God? for Cornelius seemeth to have known nothing at all concerning Christ. But it may be proved by sound proofs that faith cannot be separated from Christ; for if we lay hold upon the bare majesty of God, we are rather confounded with his glory, than that we feel any taste of his goodness. Therefore, Christ must come between, that the mind of man may conceive that God is merciful. And it is not without cause that he is called the image of the invisible God, (Colossians 1:15;) because the Father offereth himself to be holden in his face alone. Moreover, seeing that he is the way, the truth, and the life, (John 14:6;) whithersoever thou goest without him, thou shalt be enwrapped on every side in errors, and death shall meet you [thee] on every side. We may easily answer concerning Cornelius. All spiritual gifts are offered unto us in Christ; and especially whence cometh regeneration, save only because we are ingrafted into the death of Christ, our old man is crucified? (Romans, 6:5, 6.) And if Cornelius were made partaker of the Spirit of Christ, there is no cause why we should think that he was altogether void of his faith; neither had he so embraced the worship of the true God, (whom the Jews alone did worship,) but that he had also heard 662662 “Quin aliquid simal... audesset,” without having at the same time heard. somewhat of the promised Mediator; though the knowledge of him were obscure and entangled, yet was it some. Whosoever came at that time into Judea he was enforced to hear somewhat of the Messiah, yea, there was some fame of him spread through countries which were far off. 663663 “Longe dissitas,” widely separated. Wherefore, Cornelius must be put in the catalogue of the old fathers, who hoped for salvation of the Redeemer before he was revealed. And it is properly 664664 “Improprie,” improperly. [improperly] said of Augustine, that Peter grounded his faith; whereas it had now before a firm foundation; although Augustine thinketh as we do in the thing itself, who affirmeth plainly, that Cornelius could not pray unless he had faith, in his Book of the Predestination of Saints, and other places.
5. Now send to Joppa. God dealt most favorably with Cornelius, in that he doth not command him to go himself, but to send messengers unto Peter, that he may stay quietly at home, and that Peter may endure the toil of the journey for his sake. But let us not wonder that Cornelius was so courteously handled, seeing that God thrusteth the ministers of his word daily upon the unwilling; so that he appeareth of his accord to those which do not seek him, as he saith by Isaiah, (Isaiah 65:1.) But why doth not the angel rather teach him? 665665 “Doctoris partes implet,” fulfill the office of teacher. For this seemeth an inconvenient 666666 “Parum rationi consentareum,” little accordant with reason. thing that he resigneth his office to a mortal man; for the oracle should have had greater authority than when the gospel is preached to him by a mortal man. As when Christ appeared to Paul by a vision, he set, notwithstanding, Ananias to teach him, that he might by such an example establish the ministry of the preaching of the gospel, which he committed to his Church; so now the angel giveth place to Peter, that he may execute the office committed unto him by Christ. Therefore, whosoever will be the disciple of Christ, and be illuminated by the (heavenly) light of the heavenly wisdom, let him not grudge to use attentiveness and docility toward the external voice of men, which Christ useth as an instrument, and whereunto he will have our faith annexed. And we see how sore God hath punished their furious pride, who, contemning preaching, have looked for 667667 “Captarunt,” have caught at, longed for. revelations from heaven. For since God will be heard in men, the ministers to whom he hath given his word 668668 “Apud quos verbum suum deposuit,” with whom he had deposited. cannot be contemned without contempt and reproach of him. Nevertheless, I confess that the spirits must be proved, (1 John 4:1,) that we hear not without choice whosoever do pretend that they are ministers of Christ. But because faith cometh by hearing, (Romans 10:17,) no man shall attain thereunto which shall refuse and despise the word when it is preached,
7. And after that the angel. Luke declareth here how ready Cornelius was to obey when as he maketh no tarriance, but doth that with all diligence which he was commanded to do. And this was the cause that he was so forward, because he believed the promise; as want of faith is the cause why we are so slow to follow God. Angels come not flying to us from heaven that they may appoint us certain men, but that voice of Christ soundeth in all men’s cars.
“Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,”
How is it that of an hundred scarce one or two will stir one foot, that some creep so little that they profit but a little, but because we do not indeed believe the promise? Therefore, let us learn that we must not drive off from day to day, but every man must hasten thither whither he is called, so soon as he heareth the voice of God.
Two of his servants. Cornelius had this reward for being so diligent in teaching his family, that he had faithful and honest servants who were willing to do him service; and also such as that he might commit any thing to them. On the other side, the Lord doth oftentimes punish masters with just punishments who have no regard to instruct their families. For they find those justly stubborn and unfaithful whom they would not frame unto godliness and the fear of God, and also they are afraid of their treachery.
A godly soldier. Forasmuch as this soldier was much conversant with Cornelius, he had also taught him to fear God, as well as his household servants. It is meet that we call to mind here that which I touched before, that there is no kind of life which excuseth us but that we must worship God purely. For a soldier’s life was at that time most corrupt; for they were fallen unto filthy licentiousness, from the ancient discipline, and yet the Spirit of God beareth record in this place of the godliness of soldiers. Wherefore, there is no cause why they should require a calling that is free from worshipping God, under color of warfare, who would by one means or other be free from all righteousness. If they deny that they can serve God because they be soldiers, they shall have these two soldiers meet judges and witnesses against them at the last day, who shall condemn them. And in the mean season, those brain-sick fellows are condemned who cry that it is unlawful for Christians to carry weapons. For these men were warriors, and yet godly, and when they embrace Christ they forsake not their former kind of life; they cast not away their armor as hurtful, nor yet forsake their calling.
8. Whereas Cornelius expoundeth the whole matter to the soldier and his servants, it tendeth to this end, that he may the more encourage them to give ear to the commandment, which they see is rather a commandment of God than of man; and he is not afraid to make known unto them so great a matter whom he had instructed well before.
9. On the morrow, as they journeyed. As Luke declared that Cornelius was admonished by an oracle to send for Peter, so now he setteth down another vision, whereby Peter is commanded to come to him. Whereby it appeareth that all this matter was governed by the wonderful counsel of God, who doth both make Cornelius apt to be taught, yea, he kindleth in him a study and desire to learn and, on the other side, maketh Peter willing to take in hand to teach him. But we must note the circumstances whereby he maketh the history more evident.
Peter went up upon the house, that he might pray alone by himself; for a quiet and lone place is a great help to prayer, which thing Christ himself did not omit, that the mind, being free from all things which might call it away, might be the more earnest and bent toward God. And the Jews had another manner of houses and buildings than we use; for they had walks upon the tops of their houses. The sixth hour was then noon. And it is not to be doubted but that he got himself to prayer then according to his custom. For because we are drawn away with divers businesses, 670670 “Totum fere diem,” almost the whole day, omitted. and there is no end of turmoiling, unless we bridle ourselves, it is good to have certain hours appointed for prayer, not because we are tied to hours, but lest we be unmindful of prayer, which ought to be preferred before all cares and business. Finally, we must think the same thing of time which we think of place; to wit, that they are certain remedies whereby our infirmities is holpen; which, if the apostles counted fit for them, how much must more the sluggish and slow use the same?
10. Excess of mind. Because our minds are wholly, as it were, set upon the earth, to the end Peter might the better comprehend the oracle, it was meet that his mind should be, as it were, moved from his place and carried up; and by this means was he prepared to receive the oracle, when as he is carried up above the world after an unwonted manner.
11. The opening of heaven signifieth, in my judgment, another thing in this place than in the seventh chapter. For it is said there that heaven was opened to Stephen, that he did behold the glory of Christ; in this place Peter saw our heaven which we see divided, so that a sheet came thence.
12. If any man ask how he could see a great multitude of living creatures at once, the question is easily answered. For Luke saith, All manner, because there were there divers kinds mixed one with another. Therefore he beginneth not at the first kind, that he may prosecute the number unto the last. Again, we must not measure this seeing according to the manner of men, because the trance gave Peter other eyes. But before we go any farther we must know the end of the vision. Some dispute more subtilely about the same than the place requireth, in my judgment. Therefore, I think that it is generally showed to Peter that the difference which God had made in times past is now taken away. And as he had put difference between living creatures, so, having chosen to himself one people, he counted all nations unclean and profane.
Now the difference between living creatures being taken away, he teacheth by the consequent that there is no such disagreement among men any longer as there was in times past, and that there is no difference between the Jew and the Grecian. Hereby Peter is admonished that he do not abhor the Gentiles as being unclean. Undoubtedly, God meant to encourage Peter to come to Cornelius without fear; but he had separated one people to himself from the rest, as saith Moses in his song, when as the Most High did distribute the nations, he put his lot in Jacob, etc., (Deuteronomy 32:9;) therefore he called it his inheritance and peculiar people.
According to this order, it had not been lawful to Peter to bring the covenant of salvation unto the Gentiles; for that was to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs, (Matthew 15:26,) unless, peradventure, they would be circumcised, and embrace the Jewish religion; for it was lawful to receive such as did yield themselves. Wherefore, when as the apostles were sent before to preach the gospel, they were forbidden to turn in unto the Gentiles, (Matthew 10:5.) And forasmuch as the preaching of the gospel is a most holy and weighty matter, Peter ought not to have attempted any thing therein with a doubting and wavering mind. Therefore, to the end he may be assured of his calling, God showeth manifestly, as in a picture, that the legal difference between the clean and unclean is abolished; whence he may gather that the wall which was heretofore between the Jews and the Gentiles is now pulled down. And Paul saith, that it is a mystery hid from the beginning of the world, that the Gentiles are made partakers of the same salvation with the people of God, and ingrafted into one body, (Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 3:6.)
Therefore Peter durst never have opened the gate of heaven unto the Gentiles, unless God himself had made a plain way and entrance for all men, by taking away the wall of separation. I said even now that there was no time wherein it was not lawful to admit the Gentiles unto the worship of God, so they were circumcised; but so long as they continued in uncircumcision they were strangers with God. But now God made the covenant of life common to all the whole world, which he had shut up in one nation, as in a treasure. Whence we gather that this vision is not a little profitable for us; for, when as it teacheth that the difference between Jews and Gentiles continued only for a season, it is as much as if God should pronounce from heaven that he receiveth all people of the world into favor, that he may be God over all. Finally, we have an evident proclamation from heaven, which putteth us in hope of eternal life.
But some men will object that Peter was taught before concerning this matter; for he and the rest were commanded to preach the gospel throughout the whole world, (Mark 16:15.) Therefore, he was either ignorant of his calling, or else this vision was superfluous. I answer, that there was such and so great difficulty in the novelty itself, that they could not acquaint themselves therewith by and by. They knew both the prophecies of the prophets, and the late commandment of Christ concerning the calling of the Gentiles by the gospel; but when they come to the push, they doubted nevertheless, being stricken with the strangeness of the thing. Wherefore, it is no marvel if the Lord confirm Peter with a new sign, concerning which thing we must also say somewhat as yet in the next chapter.
13. A voice from heaven. The voice came from heaven as did the sheet, that Peter might know that both came from God; neither had the sight done him any good, unless God had with this voice made clean those things which were before unclean. Whereas some pick an allegory out of the word kill, as if God did signify that men are sacrificed to him by the spiritual sword of the gospel; I do not prosecute that, but plainness pleaseth me better, that God doth take away by this voice the law concerning the choice of beasts, that he may also teach that he rejecteth no people, (Romans 15:16.) For if by the former word be meant sacrificing, what shall eat signify?
14. Not so, Lord. This is the voice of him which doth as well refuse, as also object to God his own commandment; for he is afraid, for good causes, to touch that which he knew was forbidden him in the law of God, (Leviticus 11:21, etc.) Therefore he objecteth to God the law which he himself made, lest he should break the same unadvisedly. There was a certain show of repugnancy between the law and the vision; therefore Peter is not hasty, but desireth first to have his doubt dissolved before he depart from observing the law. Yet it is a strange matter why Peter resisted more in meats than did Abraham in killing his son; for Abraham [might have] had more things to object, (Genesis 22:9, 10.) I dare not here say that that befell Peter which is too common among men, to stand more about outward and small matters than about the chief points of the law; I rather make that answer which is out of doubt, that Abraham’s mind was so persuaded, and that he was furnished with such power of the Spirit, that he overcame with 1ofty and heroical fortitude all those things which might have hindered him. But the Spirit of God wrought slenderly, 671671 “Lente,” slowly. in Peter; whereby we are taught that every small or light thing doth cause us to doubt, unless the Lord do furnish us with counsel and constancy to overcome all fear. Yet Peter dealeth very godly and very religiously, in that being in doubt amidst divers cogitations, he dare do nothing until it better appear what he ought to follow. Common signifieth in this place profane. For because the Lord (as we have said) had chosen the Jews to be a peculiar people, he had prescribed unto them this rite and manner of living, that it might distinguish them from the profane Gentiles. Therefore, whatsoever the Gentiles did use contrary to the rule of the law, that did they call common, because there was nothing pure or holy but that which God had appointed for the use of his people.
15. God hath made clean. He speaketh of meats; but this sentence must be extended unto all parts of the life. It is word for word, That which God hath made clean, do not thou make profane; but the sense is, It is not for us to allow or condemn any thing; but as we stand and fall by the judgment of God alone, so is he judge of all things, (Romans 14:4.) As touching meats, after the abrogating of the law, God pronounceth that they are all pure and clean. If, on the other side, there start up a mortal man, making a new difference, forbidding certain, he taketh unto himself the authority and power of God by sacrilegious boldness. Of this stamp were the old heretics, Montanus, Priscillianus, the Donatists, the Tatians, and all the Encratites. Afterwards the Pope, to the end he might bind all those sects in a bundle, made a law concerning meats. And there is no cause why the patrons of this impiety should babble that they do not imagine any uncleanness in meats, but that men are forbidden to eat flesh upon certain days, to tame the flesh. For seeing they eat such meats as are most fit, both for delicacy and also for riot, why do they abstain from eating bacon, as from some great offense, save only because they imagine that that is unclean and polluted which is forbidden by the law of their idol? With like pride doth the tyranny of the Pope rage in all parts of life; for there is nothing wherein he layeth not snares to entangle the miserable consciences of men. But let us trust to the heavenly oracle, and freely despise all his inhibitions. We must always ask the mouth of the Lord, that we may thereby be assured what we may lawfully do; forasmuch as it was not lawful even for Peter to make that profane which was lawful by the Word of God.
Furthermore, this is a place of great importance to beat down the frowardness of men, which they use too much in perverse judgments. There is no man almost which doth not grant liberty to himself to judge of other men’s doings. Now, as we are churlish and malicious, we lean more toward the worse part, so that we take from God that which is his. This voice alone ought to suffice to correct such boldness, That it is not lawful for us to make this or that unclean, but that this power belongeth to God alone. And also in these words is given us to understand, that the Jews were not therefore the holy people of the Lord, because they excelled through their own worthiness, but only by reason of God’s adoption. Now, after that God had received the Gentiles into the society of the covenant, they have all equal right.
16. This was done thrice. The repetition of the vision served for the confirmation of Peter, lest any doubt 672672 “Vel anxietas vel scrupulus,” or anxiety or scruple, omitted. should remain in his mind. Whence we gather how deeply the observing of the law was rooted in his mind. And I know no reason why God left him in a dump, [perplexed,] until, by the event which followed, he might learn the cause of the vision, save only because being astonished he did not desire to know what this thing meant; although it was all in good time, that the messengers of Cornelius should come shortly after to interpret it. The vessel was at length taken up again into heaven, that Peter might be certified that this message came from heaven, [God.]
17. Peter was taught not only by the vision, but also by the Word of God; and yet in seeing he saw not, until the Spirit is unto him an interpreter; a most excellent mirror of our slackness. Although we be yet far unlike to Peter; for we are so far from understanding by and by what God will, or to what end he speaketh to us, that many interpretations are scarce sufficient for us. But we must also note that which Luke addeth, that Peter did think earnestly upon the vision, to wit, after that he was come to himself again after his amazedness; for this was a token of godly reverence, that he did not carelessly suffer the vision to escape him. Therefore the Lord opened to him when he did knock, (Matthew 7:7.) And we are justly plagued for our sluggishness, in that we profit no better in the Word of the Lord, seeing we are so cold, and have so small desire to inquire.
20. Go, doubting nothing. The Scripture useth this word often, when it will express of what sort the obedience of faith ought to be. So Paul, in the fourth chapter to the Romans, (Romans 4:19,) when as he commendeth the faith of Abraham, saith, That he doubted not when as the Lord promised him seed, being now aged and past hope of children. And in the fourteenth, (Romans 14:23,) in treating of meats, he condemneth doubting consciences. And it is properly to reason on both sides, (as they say,) when as we are carried hither and thither by course, by gathering contrary reasons. But we must not follow God with a doubtful and wavering, but with a quiet and constant mind. In sum, the Lord will have us to attribute so much to him, that when we hear him we dispute no longer what we have need to do, but that we set down for a certainty, that that must be done which he commandeth. And surely it is meet that his will should show us the way, when all clouds are driven away, and that it should subdue all our senses unto it, unto willing obedience, all reasoning [disputation] being broken off; which is also better gathered by the next text. For the reason is added, why it is not lawful for Peter to suspend his judgment in an uncertain matter, because God is the author of the business; because it is as much as if it should be said, that we ought to be content with the beck of God alone, that we may obey his commandment. And hereby are we also admonished that men’s consciences shall by no other means be quiet, that they safely do that which they do, than when being taught by the Word of God, they determine that they do nothing without his commandment and conduct.
21. Behold, I am he whom ye seek. Luke declareth now how ready Peter was to obey; secondly, that he understood at length, by the messengers, to what end the vision was showed unto him. For he heareth that he is called by Cornelius, a man that is a Gentile, whom he would have counted profane, and unworthy of his company, unless his judgment had been corrected with this voice, “That which God calleth pure, judge not thou to be common.” This is to be wise indeed, when as abandoning all vain confidence, and correcting our stubbornness, the authority of God doth so pull us unto it, and doth so possess our minds, that we count nothing right but that which it prescribeth.
22. Cornelius, a just man. Cornelius’ servants commend their master not ambitiously, or to the end they may flatter him, but that Peter may the less abhor his company. 674674 “Ab ejus congressu minus abhorreat,” may be less averse to meet with him. And for this cause they say that he was approved of the Jews, that Peter may know that he was not estranged from true and sincere godliness. For even those which were superstitious, though they served idols, did boast that they were worshippers of God. But Cornelius could not have the Jews, who retained the worship of the true God alone, to be witnesses of his godliness, unless he had professed that he worshipped the God of Abraham with them. Furthermore, as this was a rare example, so it ought to have moved Peter not a little. Although they lean most of all to this argument, that they may persuade him that which they go about, that all this matter is governed by the commandment of God, as if they should say, That he is not so much called by a mortal man as by God, who had so commanded by his angel.
23. And Peter also, being overcome with the authority of God, deliberateth no longer, but lodgeth the men, that he may go with them forthwith. So we must meekly submit ourselves to God; and there remaineth nothing after that we know his will, but that we run speedily thither whither he calleth us. There is no difficulty in the rest.
The day following he went forth. It should seem that they arrived a little before night 675675 “Sub vesperum,” towards evening. because they were not as yet entered the city at noon, and the vision which was showed thrice asked no small time. Therefore, when they had taken their rest all night, they address themselves to return. Again, there was a point of courtesy in that some of the faithful do accompany Peter, who were sent, as it is to be thought, by the whole church, to bring him even to Cesarea. These men journey with Peter for goodwill and honor’s sake; but the Lord bringeth them, that they may be witnesses of his grace. So that they are bountifully rewarded for their thankfulness, when as for confirmation of their faith they see the kingdom of Christ spread abroad even unto the Gentiles.
24. Cornelius waited for them. Luke doth not only commend the godly affection of Cornelius in this point, that he waited earnestly for Peter’s coming, but because he would have his friends and kinsfolks to be companions with him in the faith. This was a thing not without great danger, to call together a company of men, that they might embrace a new kind of religion. And there wanted not reasons, under color whereof he might have flattered [excused] himself; for he was not commanded to call others to accompany him, but rather they were passed over, and he himself was chosen to be made partaker of so great goodness; but he considered with himself how much he was indebted 676676 “Quantum... deberet,” how much he owed. both to the glory of God, and also to the salvation of his brethren. He knew that it was an unjust thing, and a point of discourtesy, to provide for himself alone, and not to regard others. He counted it a point of filthy carelessness 677677 “Foedae socordiae,” shameful sloth. to hide the treasure of the gospel under the ground. Therefore, he did that which the Lord requireth of all his by Isaiah and Micah, that every one exhort his brother (taking him as it were by the hand) unto the faith.
Therefore, Cornelius hath taught us by his example, that when God revealeth himself unto us we must not choke the light of his knowledge with sloth or fear, but we must rather endeavor that our faith may shine before others to give light, and to show the way to them; for the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven is not such, that even the least portion can be taken from us, if many be made partakers thereof; but if others be made co-heirs with us, it shall rather increase our glory, Furthermore, we must mark how far he is from vainglory; for he calleth them to be his school-fellows, being himself ready to learn. This is the true study of godliness, when as together with zeal there appeareth such plainness, 678678 “Simplicitas,” simplicity, singleness of mind. that we are not ashamed to depend upon the mouth of God. For many are pricked forward with ambition, to employ themselves in teaching the ignorant; and foolish babbling discovereth their folly, when as they huddle out words more earnestly, and they would have none heard but themselves. But this alone ought to be the drift of all men, to bring themselves and all the whole world under God, that when men are subdued unto true humility, he alone may have the preeminence. Let not him which excelleth in the faculty and grace of teaching refuse to teach his brethren, so that he be free from boasting, and proud desire to excel. Let him to whom it was not granted to be a teacher keep himself within his bounds. Let neither of them desire mastership, as James teacheth them; but let one so edify another, that neither the learned, neither the unlearned, be ashamed to be brought into order.
Notwithstanding, it is demanded, 679679 “Quaeritur tamen,” it is asked, however. what kinsfolks he could have in Judea, seeing that he was an alien, and was come thither only by reason of war, which continued but for a short time? As I affirm nothing, so I embrace this as most probable, that he had some in his garrison which were his kinsmen; for neighbors, and those which were of acquaintance were wont to serve under one captain. And we need not doubt of this, but that Cornelius’ kinsmen were desirous to be under him, forasmuch as he was a centurion. He calleth familiar friends αναγκαιους, as those are called of the Latins, Necessarii, which are nearer together. 680680 “Qui arctiore vinculo inter se conjuncti sunt,” who are bound together by a closer tie.
25. Falling down at his feet, he worshipped. Here is the word προσεκυνησεν, which signifieth to testify honor or worship, either by bowing the knee or ducking down the head, or by any other gesture. Now, the question is, whether Peter refuteth this worship for modesty’s sake only, or he disalloweth it as a thing altogether unlawful? It appeareth that Cornelius’ fact displeased Peter, by the reason which is by and by added, Arise, for even I am a man. For we may gather that there was some divine thing in that worship, because he did ascribe unto mortal man the honor which is due to God alone. But we must not think that Cornelius did count Peter instead of God; for if he translated God’s honor unto mortal man, where is that godliness and religion, with the title whereof he was of late adorned? Therefore, I think that he meant nothing less than to spoil God of his lawful worship, that he might give it to man; but forasmuch as he meant to give singular honor unto the prophet and apostle of Christ, he fell into an immoderate token of reverence, and so he offended in excess.
For it can scarce be expressed in words how prone men are to fall to superstition, when as that honor is given to the ministers of Christ, which hath any small show of divine worship; for we fall easily unawares into that whereof we thought full little. There were less danger in a king or in the chief chieftains of this world; for he which falleth down before a king keepeth himself within the bounds of earthly and civil honor. But the case standeth otherwise in the ministers of Christ; for as their office is spiritual, so if any man fall down at their feet to worship them, this honor hath in it some spiritual thing. For we must put a difference between civil worship, which men use among themselves in respect of civil order, and that under which is contained religion, or which respecteth directly the honor of God; as also between laws which are made for temporal regimen, or which bind the conscience. For certain foolish men are deceived too far, who think that kneeling is in this place condemned simply and of itself. But this is that which I said, Cornelius doth not here salute his proconsul, or the emperor, after any civil sort; but being stricken with wondering when he saw Peter, he honoreth him as he would have honored God, if he had been present; so that he giveth man more than is meet, having, as it were, forgotten himself. He thought nothing less (as I have already said) than to rob God of any part of his honor, that he might give that to man which he took from him. But when as the worship which is given to man hath somewhat which is, as it were, linked with the honor of God, men fall into a fault contrary to their hope and opinion, so that they extol man above his degree, and give him the worship which is due to God.
The Papists, omitting that distinction, snatch only at one member for they handle religious worship only. To the end they may ascribe some part thereof, with some honest color, unto creatures, they cut [subdivide] it into latria, dulia, and hyperdulia. They give latria to God alone; as if they should say, that the adoration of worship is due to him alone. They make dulia common to the dead and their bones, to images and pictures. They assign their hyperdulia to the Virgin Mary, and to the cross whereon Christ hanged. That I may omit to say that they babble through childish ignorance, how many of them do understand that rotten distinction? Neither do I speak only of the common sort, but of the chieftains. Therefore, all their worshippings must needs be infected and corrupt with wicked superstition, seeing they unadvisedly match creatures with God. But Luke saith not in this place that Cornelius gave to Peter latria, (or the honor due to God;) he useth only the general word worshipped, and he addeth, notwithstanding, that he was reproved, because he did wickedly extol man higher than became him. Surely, if that new opinion concerning the adoration which is called dulia had any place, Peter ought to have admonished Cornelius that he should not go beyond dulia. But because no worship whereunto religion is annexed, and the respect of God’s honor, doth leave to God his honor untouched, what man soever it have; therefore, Peter is content with this one only reason that he is a man. Moreover, I would gladly know of the Papists, whether they think that John was so blockish, that he would take the honor due to God, which they call latria, and give it to the angel? Surely, there was nothing else that caused him to worship the angel, save only too much and preposterous reverence, and that in honor of God, whose glory shone in the angel; notwithstanding his fact is condemned. Therefore, to the end we may give God that which is his own, let the spiritual worship, under which is comprehended religion, remain whole and sound to him.
28. Ye know that it is not lawful. This seemeth to be no friendly preface, and such as may rather harden 681681 “Exasperet,” exasperate. than win their hearts, when as they hear that they are accounted so unclean, that with their familiarity and conference they pollute the saints; which must needs be a great reproach for them. But it was needful for Peter thus to speak, lest they should suspect that he had an evil conscience, because, contrary to the custom delivered by the fathers, he came. 682682 “Quasi legis contemptor,” as if he had been a despiser of the law, omitted. But when as he affirmeth that he was sent of God, all such suspicion is taken away and purged. Moreover, he mitigateth very well by these words the offense which did stick in their minds, by reason of an old grudge which was between the Jews and the Gentiles, so that he could by no means have entered his speech better, For he pronounceth that those are now clean who were before unclean, so that they have mutual fellowship now with the saints. Furthermore, whereas he said that it was wickedness for the Jews to go in unto the Gentiles, we must know that this came not so much from the law, as from the observation of the fathers. God had forbidden, indeed, that they should (not) entangle themselves with marriages or covenants, (Deuteronomy 7:3;) they were never forbidden to eat with them, or to use the common businesses of life. But lest that familiarity might entice them into that which was forbidden, they observed the custom delivered by the fathers, so that they did not company together. It is to no end to dispute here whether that tradition did bind men’s consciences; for Peter doth not teach 683683 “Ex professo,” professedly, omitted. what is lawful according to God, but what was commonly used.
No man. He maketh the sum and end of the vision more plain, when he referreth that unto men which was spoken of meats. And whereas he saith, that no man is unclean, it may not be understood of (all) particular persons; for it is certain that all unbelievers are polluted with uncleanness of conscience, so that they pollute those things which are otherwise pure, when as they do but touch them. Paul also saith that their children remain unclean until they be cleansed by faith. Finally, if faith alone do purge and purify the hearts of men, unbelief doth make the same profane. But Peter 684684 “Tantum,” only, omitted. compareth the Jews and the Gentiles together in this place; and because the wall of separation was pulled down, and the covenant of life 685685 “Et salutis,” and salvation, omitted. is now common to them both alike, he saith that those are not to be counted aliens who are made partakers of God’s adoption.
29. We must also note that which he addeth, that he came without gainsaying, For this is the holy silence of faith, when as without murmuring against God we receive that meekly which he commandeth, abandoning 686686 “Procul abigendo,” driving far away. all contrary reasons which intrude themselves.
Because this answer of Cornelius containeth only the bare repetition of the history, I shall not need to stand long about that. The sum is, that he called Peter at the commandment of God.
30. I was fasting. Many Greek books 687687 “Codices,” manuscripts. have ημην, I sat. The old interpreter omitteth the word fasting, which I think was done through error or negligence, because it is expressed in all the Greek books. 688688 “Codicibus,” manuscripts. Furthermore, he maketh express mention of fasting, partly that we may know that he prayed not coldly, or overfields 689689 “Defunctorie,” perfunctorily. at that time; secondly, that the vision may be the less suspected. For doubtless the brain of a man that is fasting (where there is moderate sobriety) doth not easily admit any strong imaginations, wherein appear images and strange forms, whereby men are deceived. 690690 “Hallucinationes in spectris,” spectral delusions. Therefore Cornelius’ meaning is, that he was earnestly bent to pray, at such time as the angel appeared to him, and that his mind was free from all such lets which use to make men subject to fantasies and imaginations. 691691 “Phantasmatibus ac spectris,” phantasms and specters. And to the same end tendeth the circumstance of time, that this was done when it was now fair daylight, three hours before the going down of the sun.
A man stood in shining garment. He calleth him a man, whom he knew was an angel of God; but it is a common thing for the name of the visible form wherein God or his angels appear to be translated unto him or them; so Moses doth sometimes call them angels, and sometimes men, which appeared to Abraham in shape of men. The shining garment was a token of heavenly glory, and, as it were a sign of the divine Majesty which appeared 692692 “Quae fulgere... debuit,” which must have been refulgent. in the angel. The evangelists declare, that there was such brightness in Christ’s garment when he showed his glory to the three disciples in the mount. The same thing do they witness of the angels which were sent to testify Christ’s resurrection. For, as the Lord beareth with our infirmity thus far that he commandeth his angels to descend under form of our flesh, so he casteth out upon them certain beams of his glory, that the commandments which he hath committed to them may be the more reverenced and believed. Here ariseth a question, whether that were a true and natural body, and whether that were a garment in deed, or Cornelius did only see such a shape and show; and though this be not so necessary to be known, and we can scarce affirm any thing for a truth, 693693 “Pro certo,” for certain. yet it seemeth to me more probable as touching conjecture, that God to whom it belongeth to create all things gave to the angel a true body, and did clothe the same with a most gorgeous garment; but so soon as the angel had ended his embassage, I think he was restored to his own nature, the body and garment being brought to nought, and that he suffered no human thing 694694 “Neque tamen humani quidquam passum,” and that he had no human property. so long as he was in the shape of man.
33. Therefore, we are all now present. To the end Peter may be more ready and willing to teach, Cornelius affirmeth that himself and the rest will be apt to be taught, and ready to obey God; for this serveth not a little to move the teacher to take pains with the hearers, when as he hopeth assuredly that they shall profit thereby, These words, before God, may have a double meaning; they may either be an oath, or Cornelius may thereby simply profess that that company was gathered together at his house, as in the sight of God, that they may hear man’s voice in like sort as if it proceeded out of God’s own mouth. Whethersoever you choose, there shall be always one end; 695695 “Idem semper erit finis,” the result will be the same. for to the end Cornelius may the more procure the credit of his sincerity, he testifieth that he hath God before his eyes, whom no man may mock by dissimulation; and assuredly, so often as the Word of God is set before us, we must thus think with ourselves, that we have not to deal with a mortal man, but that God is present, and doth call us. For, from this respect of God ariseth the majesty of God’s word, and reverence in hearing the same. Notwithstanding, he seemeth to promise unadvisedly for others in a matter so weighty, for who can be a fit borrow [cautioner] for another man’s faith? But because every man had promised obedience for himself, he doth, for good causes, hope that they were so affectioned; and, undoubtedly, we may think that they had promised that they would be obedient to his sayings so soon as the matter was showed them, and that even then every one confirmed by himself that which one had spoken in the name of all.
To hear all things. This only is true faith when we embrace not the one half of the Word of God alone, but addict [subject] ourselves wholly unto it; and yet, notwithstanding, there be few examples in the world of this full and universal faith, for the more part doth not submit themselves to the doctrine of God, as if they had made a covenant with God, save only so far forth as it pleaseth them. If any thing displease them they either carelessly contemn or mislike the same. But Cornelius doth wisely distinguish between God and man, for he maketh God the author of the doctrine, and leaveth nothing for man besides the ministry and embassage. “Thou shalt” saith he, “have attentive scholars, and those which will be obedient in all things which God hath commanded thee; that he alone may be principal, and thou only his minister; that, he alone may speak but out of thy mouth,” which thing God prescribeth to all his servants in the person of Ezekiel.
“Take” saith he, “the word out of my mouth, and thou shalt show unto them from me,”
34. Opening his mouth. We have already said, that the Scripture useth this phrase when it doth signify that there was any grave or weighty oration or speech made. In the fifth of Matthew, (Matthew 5:1,) it is said that Jesus opened his mouth when he would preach to his disciples, and intreat of most weighty matters, as if a man should say in Latin, he began to speak, having first well bethought himself what he would speak.
In truth I find. Καταλαμβανεσθαι is to apprehend, or to gather by reasons, signs, and conjectures. Cornelius was a Gentile born, yet God heareth his prayers; he vouchsafeth to show him the light of the gospel; he appointed and sendeth an angel to him particularly; thereby doth Peter know that, without respect of persons, those do please God which live godly and innocently. For before, (being wholly possessed with this prejudice, that the Jews alone were beloved of God, as they alone were chosen out of all people,) [nations,] he did not think that the grace of God could come unto others. He was not, indeed, so gross that he thought that godliness and innocency of life were condemned because they were in a man that was a Gentile; but, seeing he did simply snatch at that, 696696 “Illud arriperet,” laid hold of the fact. that all those were estranged from the kingdom of God, and were profane, which were uncircumcised, he entangleth himself unawares in that so filthy an error, that God did despise his pure worship and an holy life, where there was no circumcision; because uncircumcision made all virtues unsavory to the Jews. By which example, we are taught how greatly we ought to beware of prejudices, which make us oftentimes judge amiss.
Furthermore, we must note what the word person doth signify, because many are thereby deceived, whilst that they expound it generally, that one man is preferred before another. So Pelagius denied in times past that some are chosen and some are [re]proved 697697 “Reprobari,” reprobated. of God; because God did not accept persons. But by this word we must understand the external state or appearance, as they call it; and whatsoever is about man himself, which doth either bring him in favor, or cause him to be hated; riches, nobility, multitude of servants, honor, do make a man to be in great favor; poverty, baseness of lineage, and such like things, make him to be despised. In this respect, the Lord doth oftentimes forbid the accepting of persons, because men cannot judge aright so often as external respects do lead them away from the matter. 698698 “Judicem a causa abducunt,” lead the judge away from the cause. In this place, it is referred unto the nation; and the meaning is, that circumcision is no let, but that God may allow 699699 “Gratam habeat ac probet,” may approve and be pleased with. righteousness in a man that is a Gentile. But it shall seem by this means that God did respect persons for a time. For, when as he did choose the Jews to be his people, passing over the Gentiles, did he not respect persons? I answer, that the cause of this difference ought not to be sought in the persons of men, but it doth wholly depend upon the hidden counsel of God. For, in that he rather adopted Abraham, that with him he might make his covenant, than the Egyptians, he did not this being moved with any external respect, but (all) the whole cause remained in his wonderful counsel. Therefore, God was never tied to persons.
Notwithstanding, the doubt is not as yet dissolved, 700700 “Nondum tamen soluta est difficultas,” the difficulty, however, is not yet solved. because it cannot be denied but that circumcision did please God, so that he counted him one of his people who had that token of sanctification. But we may easily answer this also that circumcision followed after the grace of God, forasmuch as it was a seal thereof. Whereupon it followeth that it was no cause thereof. Nevertheless, it was unto the Jews a pledge of free adoption; in such sort, that uncircumcision did not hinder God, but that he might admit what Gentiles he would unto the society of the same salvation. But the coming of Christ had this new and especial thing, that after that the wall of separation was pulled down, (Ephesians. 2:14,) God did embrace the whole world generally. And this do the words in every nation import. For so long as Abraham’s seed was the holy inheritance of God, the Gentiles might seem to be quite banished from his kingdom; but when Christ was given to be a light of the Gentiles, the covenant of eternal life began to be common to all alike.
35. He which feareth God, and doth righteousness. In these two members is comprehended the integrity of all the whole life. For the fear of God is nothing else but godliness and religion; and righteousness is that equity which men use among themselves, taking heed lest they hurt any man, and studying to do good to all men. As the law of God consisteth upon [of] these two parts, (which is the rule of good life) so no man shall prove himself to God but he which shall refer and direct all his actions to this end, neither shall there be any sound thing in all offices, [duties,] unless the whole life be grounded in the fear of God. But it seemeth that this place doth attribute the cause of salvation unto the merits of works. For if works purchase favor for us with God, they do also win life for us which is placed in the love of God towards us. Some do also catch at the word righteousness, that they may prove that we are not justified freely by faith, but by works. But this latter thing is too frivolous. For I have already showed that it is not taken for the perfect and whole observing of the law, but is restrained unto the second table and the offices of love. Therefore it is not the universal righteousness whereby a man is judged just before God, but that honesty and innocency which respecteth men, when as that is given to every man which is his.
Therefore the question remaineth as yet, whether works win the favor of God for us? which that we may answer, we must first note that there is a double respect of God in loving men. For seeing we be born the children of wrath, (Ephesians 2:3,) God shall be so far from finding any thing in us which is worthy of his love, that all our whole nature causeth him rather to hate us; in which respect, Paul saith that all men are enemies to him until they be reconciled by Christ, (Romans 5:10.) Therefore the first accepting of God, whereby he receiveth us into favor, is altogether free; for there can as yet no respect of works be had, seeing all things are corrupt and wicked, and taste of [bespeak] their beginning. Now, whom God hath adopted to be his children, them doth he also regenerate by his Spirit, and reform in them his image: whence riseth that second respect. For God doth not find man bare and naked then, and void of all grace, but he knoweth his own work in him, yea, himself. Therefore, God accepteth the faithful, because they live godly and justly. And we do not deny that God accepteth the good works of the saints; but this is another question, whether man prevent the grace of God with his merits or no, and insinuate himself into his love, or whether he be beloved at the beginning, freely and without respect of works, forasmuch as he is worthy of nothing else but of hatred. Furthermore, forasmuch as man, left to his own nature, can bring nothing but matter of hatred, he must needs confess that he is truly beloved; whereupon, it followeth that God is to himself the cause that he loveth us, and that he is provoked [actuated] with his own mercy, and not with our merits. Secondly, we must note, that although the faithful please God after regeneration with good works, and their respects of works, yet that is not done with the merit of works. For the cleanliness of works is never so exact that they can please God without pardon; yea, forasmuch as they have always some corruption mixed with them, they are worthy to be refused. Therefore, the worthiness of the works doth not cause them to be had in estimation, but faith, which borroweth that of Christ which is wanting in works.
36. Concerning the matter. Because the Greek text is abrupt, some think that the accusative case is put instead of the nominative; and that the sense is this, This is the word which God hath sent unto the children of Israel. Other some refer it unto the word ye know, which followeth afterward; and they think that there was another word added to make the sentence more pleasant. For Luke putteth λογον in the former place, and afterward ρημα. But forasmuch as it is common and familiar amongst the Grecians to understand 701701 “Subaudire,” to supply. the prepositions; this sense, which I have set down, seemeth to me more agreeable, though, if the harshness of the speech can be any better mitigated, I will willingly yield. Therefore I take this member to be a preface, which appertaineth unto this worthy work of God, which he showed amongst the children of Israel, preaching peace by Christ. That done, there is added a narration. At length, in the conclusion of his speech, Peter showeth to what end Christ was sent into the world. Furthermore, he beginneth with this commemoration not without cause, That God sent his word unto the children of Israel. And speech is put for thing in the Hebrew phrase. The eternal covenant which God had made with that people was at that time famous. There was nothing more commonly known among the Jews than that there was a Redeemer promised in times past to the fathers, who should restore things which were decayed unto a flourishing and blessed estate. This did those also know who were familiarly conversant with the Jews. Therefore, to the end Peter may purchase greater credit, he saith that he will speak of no new or unknown thing, but of the restoring of the Church, which did depend upon the eternal covenant of God, and which was now manifestly showed, and almost in every man’s mouth.
Preaching peace. Peter teacheth here what manner [of] rumor and thing that was which was spread abroad; to wit, such as that it did make peace. I take peace in this place for the reconciling of men and God, which, notwithstanding, hath in it the perfect 702702 “Solidam et perfectam,” the perfect and entire. salvation of the Church. For, as horrible confusion, and, as it were, a huge lump, 703703 “Tetrum chaos,” a dire chaos. do follow after that God is once estranged from us; so, so soon as his fatherly favor doth once appear, he gathereth his Church together, and true felicity ariseth. Therefore, this is Peter’s meaning, that God showed himself merciful to his people in Christ, and that he received into favor Abraham’s children again, (whom he seemed to have cast away for a time,) that he might establish among them a flourishing estate. And as he maketh God the author of this peace, so he placeth Christ in the midst as the pledge thereof, that it may be certain and holy. He coupleth peace and preaching expressly together, because this is one way whereby the fruit of the reconciliation, purchased by Christ, cometh unto us. In like sort, after that Paul had taught that Christ is our peace, he addeth immediately, that he came to preach peace unto those who were nigh at hand and far off, (Ephesians 2:17.)
37. Ye know how the word. This sermon of Peter consisteth upon [of] two members principally; for in the former he reciteth an history; secondly, he descendeth unto the fruit of the history). For seeing that the coming of Christ into the world, his death and resurrection, are the matter of our salvation, Christ cannot otherwise be set before us to salvation, than if we first know that he hath put on our flesh; that he was in such sort conversant amongst men; that he proved himself, by certain testimonies, to be the Son of God; that he was at length nailed upon the cross, and raised up from the dead by the power of God. Again, lest the knowledge of the history be unprofitable and cold, we must also show the end why he came down from his heavenly glory into the world, why he suffered such a death so reproachful amongst men, and accursed by the mouth of God. The cause of his resurrection must be showed, whence the effect and fruit of all these things is gathered; to wit, that Christ was humbled, that he might restore us unto perfect blessedness who were quite lost; and also that he put on brotherly love together with our flesh; that by taking upon him our infirmities, he unburdened us thereof; that he made satisfaction for our sins, by the sacrifice of his death, that he might purchase the Father’s favor for us; that when as he had gotten the victory of death, he purchased for us eternal life; that he set heaven open for us by his entrance into the same; that all the power of the Spirit was poured out upon him, that he might enrich us with his abundance, (Isaiah 61:1.)
This order of teaching doth Peter observe when he beginneth with the history of the gospel; and afterward showeth what we have by Christ’s descending into the earth, by his death and resurrection. First, he saith, that Jesus of Nazareth came abroad after John’s baptism. For because John was appointed to this end, by the counsel of God, that he might lift up the minds of the people to wait for Christ, it was not meet that this point should be omitted. He was counted an excellent prophet of God; therefore his authority was of great importance to make Christ to be believed, especially amongst the ignorant and those which were but novices. We must note the phrase, that John preached baptism. For Luke comprehendeth, indeed, under the word baptism, all the whole ministry of John; nevertheless he showeth that it was no dumb sign, and void of doctrine. And assuredly this is the chiefest thing in all sacraments, that the Word of God may appear engraven there, and that the clear voice may sound. For which cause, that wicked profanation which is seen in Papistry is so much the more to be detested, because, burying preaching, they do only charm the sacraments with magical enchantment,
38. Jesus of Nazareth. He calleth him a Nazarite here, not because he was born there, but because he came thence to execute his office; again, because he was surnamed thus commonly. He saith that he was anointed with the Spirit and power by hypallage. For the power wherein Christ exceeded proceeded from the Spirit alone. Therefore, when as the heavenly Father anointed his Son, he furnished him with the power of his Spirit. Peter saith immediately after, that this power appeared in miracles; although he expresseth one kind only in plain words, that Christ testified that he was endowed with power of the Holy Ghost that he might do good in the world. For it was not meet that the fearful power of God should be showed forth in him, but such as might allure the world with the sweet taste of goodness and grace to love him and to desire him. The metaphor of anointing is usual so often as mention is made of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. It is now applied unto the person of Christ, because by this means he was consecrated a king and priest by his Father. And we know that in time of the law, oil was a solemn token of consecration. The going of Christ is taken for the course of his calling, as if he should say, that he fulfilled his function until the time appointed before. The similitude is taken from travelers which go forward in their journey until they come unto the appointed place; although he showeth therewithal that he walked through Judea in three years, so that no corner was without his good deeds.
Those which were holden of devils. This also was a more manifest token of God’s power in Christ, that he did not only heal men of common diseases, but did also cure desperate evils. All diseases are indeed light punishments 704704 “Totidem ferulae,” so many rods. wherewith God doth punish us; but when as he dealeth more gently with us according to his fatherly kindness, he is said to strike us with his hand then; but in more grievous scourges he useth Satan as the minister of his wrath, and as it were an hangman. And we must diligently mark this distinction; for it were an absurd thing to say that he is tormented of the devil who is sick of an ague, or of some other common kind of disease; but the alienating of the mind, 705705 “Mentis alienatio,” mental alienation. furious madness, and other, as it were, monstrous griefs, [evils,] are fitly and properly attributed to Satan. And, in this respect, the Scripture useth to call men who are so taken and carried headlong with such madness that they have no hold of themselves, so that they seem to be turned almost into beasts, men possessed of devils.
Because God was with him. Peter noteth briefly to what end those powers did tend which were showed 706706 “Editae,” exhibited, performed. by the hand of Christ, to wit, that tie might purchase credit among men, who did behold God as it were present; and this was the true use of miracles, as we have said already elsewhere, and as we shall see again hereafter when we come to it. For we must stay ourselves upon this principle, that we diminish the majesty of God unless we embrace and reverence those whom he marketh with the mark of his servants. Therefore, forasmuch as powers [miracles] did plainly prove that Christ descended from heaven, his dignity is placed without the lot of man’s judgment.
39. And we be witnesses. That he may make his words to be believed, he saith, that he and his fellows in office saw with their eyes all those things which they spake concerning Christ. 707707 “Ita loqui de rebus probe compertis,” and so spake of things well ascertained, omitted. Shortly after, he taketh the word witness in another sense, when he saith that they were appointed witnesses 708708 “Certos testes,” sure witnesses. by God, 709709 “Quo significat publicam apostolis impositam esse personam, utque ad hoc peculiariter delectos esse,” by which he intimates that a public character was assigned to the apostles, and that for this they were specially chosen, omitted. and that they are brought forth, as it were, by God, that they might by their preaching bring men unto the faith of Christ. So Paul, in the fifteenth of the First to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 15:15,) saith,
“We (saith he) should be found false witnesses [of Gods] unless Christ were risen from the dead.”
And we have already heard by the mouth of Christ, “Ye shall be my witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and at Jerusalem.” And now Peter calleth himself only an historical witness, because he beheld the things which were done. And here he toucheth his death briefly, because it was openly known; he standeth longer upon his resurrection, which was more doubtful, and the knowledge whereof was more available unto faith.
41. If any man demand here, Why God did not show his Son openly to all men after his resurrection? I answer, Although there could no reason be showed, yet ought the counsel of God alone to suffice sober and modest men, that they may assure themselves without all doubt that that is best which God hath thought meet. And yet, assuredly God used this moderation to a good end. For the certainty of the resurrection was proved by many and firm testimonies, and this was profitable to exercise the faith of the godly, to believe the gospel rather than their eyes. As touching the wicked and professed enemies of Christ seeing that being so often convict they would never yield to God, they were unworthy to have Christ to admit them to behold the glow of his resurrection. Though even they were sufficiently convict with the report of the soldiers, whom they had hired to keep the sepulcher; that I may omit other reasons which we may fet out of the Harmony. 710710 “Quas petere licebit ex Harmonia,” which may be seen in my Harmony. Therefore, let us assure ourselves of this, that the holy apostles were chosen by the holy decree of God, that by their testimony the truth of Christ’s resurrection might stand. Whosoever is not content with this approbation, let him take away and overthrow if he can that inviolable decree of God, which Peter commendeth to us in this place. And as for us, if we covet to have God the sure author of our faith let us learn to be content with the witnesses whom in due time he hath brought forth, as it were, by his hand, being ordained by him before the world was made.
Who did eat. And here it appeareth what great regard Christ had of our rudeness and ignorance, who did abase himself so far for our sake, that when he was now endued with heavenly glory, he did yet, notwithstanding, eat and drink as a mortal man. Wherefore, there is no cause why we should complain that the resurrection of Christ is obscure and doubtful; for he suffered his disciples to be slow and hard of belief for this cause, that being better confirmed, they might take from us all occasion of doubting. Yea, rather, we must endeavor ourselves that our unworthiness and unthankfulness do not darken so great kindness of the Son of God toward us. But when as the Scripture saith, that Christ did eat, curious men move a question, what became of that meat? But the answer is easy; that like as it was created out of nothing, so was it easily brought to nothing by the divine power of Christ. That meat which is taken for the sustenance of the body is concocted and afterward digested; but we know that Christ took this meat to feed our faith, and in this use was it spent. And those men are deceived who think that Christ did only seem to eat, For what good could such a visor or vain show have done? 711711 “Nec video quorsum attineat ejusmodi subterfugia quaerere,” nor do I see the use of having recourse to subterfuges (futile explanations) of this kind. For when, as we say that Christ was not enforced with any necessity of his own to eat, but that he meant only to provide for those that were his, all occasion is cut off 712712 “Ansa praecisa est,” no handle is left for. from the frivolous inventions of men.
42. And he commanded us. He beginneth in this place to intreat of the kingdom of Christ, when he saith that Christ did rise again for this cause, that he may once judge the world. For by the same right are the government of heaven and earth, and the perpetual government of the Church, due to him. He saith that he shall be judge of quick and dead; because, when as the dead shall rise again, others also, who shall then remain alive, shall be changed in a moment, as Paul teacheth in the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52,) and in the First to the Thessalonians, and the fourth chapter, (1 Thessalonians 4:17.) In the word testify there is great weight; because, as men are naturally inclined unto unbelief, the simple preaching of the gospel should not be so effectual, unless the Lord should establish it with strong protestations. And chiefly, every one of us doth feel in himself too much what a hard matter it is both to lift up our minds to hope for the coming of Christ, which are entangled in earthly snares, and also continually to keep them fixed in this meditation, seeing they cease not with their lightness to be carried hither and thither continually.
43. To him bear all the prophets. Luke toucheth and gathereth the sum of the sermon briefly, as we have said; therefore is he so short 713713 “Vel potius concisus,” or rather concise, (abrupt,) omitted. in noting the fruit of the history. Let us know that the words uttered by Peter are not recited in this place; but that it, is only declared of what things he intreated. And we must consider three things, That it is the proper office of Christ to reconcile men to God when their sins are done away; that we have remission of sins by faith; that this doctrine is not new or of late invented, but that it had all the prophets of God since the beginning of the world to bear witness of it.
As touching the first, if God be pleased and pacified by not imputing our sins, it appeareth hereby that he hateth and is displeased with all mankind, 714714 “Totum humanum genus exosum illi esse et infensum,” that the whole human race is hostile and hateful to him. until such time as they begin to please him by free pardon. Therefore we are all condemned of sin, which maketh us subject to the wrath of God, and bindeth us with the guiltiness of eternal death; and because we are destitute of righteousness in ourselves, we are taught to flee unto the mercy of God, as unto our only fortress. When as he saith that the faithful receive remission of sins, there is understood a hidden contrariety between them and God; for God must needs offer it of his own accord that the faithful may receive it. When as he saith that it is given by the name of Christ, his meaning is, that we return into God’s favor by the benefit of Christ alone, because he hath once reconciled him to us by his death; or, as they say commonly, that we obtain forgiveness of sins by Christ’s mediation, (and coming between,) and by none other means.
Satan could never blot out of the minds of men the feeling of their guiltiness, but that they were always careful to crave pardon at God’s hands; but forasmuch as there was but one way and means to obtain pardon, miserable men, being deluded with the jugglings [impostures] of Satan, did invent to themselves wonderful labyrinths, in whose crooks and turns they wearied themselves in vain. This first error did first lead them away from the right way, because they essayed to deserve pardon, which is offered freely, and is received by faith alone. Afterward there were innumerable kinds of satisfactions [expiations] invented whereby they appeased God. The beginning thereof flowed indeed from the Word of God; but forasmuch as when God gave unto the fathers the sacrifices and rites of oblations, he shadowed Christ, blind and profane men, setting Christ aside, and following a vain shadow, did corrupt all that which was God’s in sacrifices and satisfactions. 715715 “Quicquid Dei erat in piaculis,” every thing of an expiatory nature appointed by God. Wherefore, what sacrifices soever the Gentiles did use since the beginning of the world, and those which the Turks and Jews use at this day, may be set against Christ as things altogether contrary. The Papists are never a whit better, save only that they sprinkle their satisfactions with the blood of Christ; but they deal too disorderly therein, 716716 “Sed in eo nimio sunt praeposteri,” but in this they are exceedingly preposterous. because, being not content with Christ alone, they gather to themselves, on every side, a thousand manner of sacrifices or satisfactions. Therefore, whosoever desireth to have remission of sins, let him not turn aside from Christ, even the least nail’s breadth.
When as we hear, that we have remission of sins by believing, we must understand and know the force and nature of faith, as undoubtedly Peter intreated abundantly of this, [viz.] after what sort we must believe in Christ. And this is nothing else, but with the sincere affection of the mind to embrace him as he is set before us in the gospel; so that faith dependeth upon the promises. Yet Peter seemeth to deal amiss, because whereas we have two principal things by our Savior Christ, he doth only make mention of the one of them; for he speaketh nothing of repentance and newness of 1ife, which ought not to be omitted in the sum of the gospel. 717717 “Quae in evangelii summa praetermitti minime debuerat,” which ought by no means to have been omitted in a summary of the gospel. But we may easily answer, That the regeneration of the Spirit is comprehended under faith, as it is an effect thereof. For we believe in Christ for this cause, partly that he may restore us unto the Father’s favor by the free imputation of righteousness; partly that he may sanctify us by his Spirit, And we know that we are adopted by God to be his children upon this condition, that he may govern us by his Spirit. Therefore, it was sufficient for Peter to show how men, who were by nature estranged from God, do return into favor with him.
As touching the third member, we need not reckon up all places of the prophets, where they set before us Christ to be the mediator, who by obtaining pardon for our sins, doth reconcile God to us; but this is their common order of teaching, and, as it were, their rule, to call back all the godly unto that covenant which God made with Abraham putting the mediator between. 718718 “Mediatore interposito,” by the imposition of a Mediator. Furthermore, this point is very needful to be known, that the grace which was offered at length by Christ is the same which the law and the prophets, in times past, delivered unto the fathers to be hoped for. And surely it was of great force with Cornelius and such like, who did greatly reverence the law and prophets, that they might know that that was performed and accomplished in very deed in Christ which was testified in the oracles of the prophets. Therefore, to the end the ministers of the Church may agree with the prophets in their form of teaching, let them study by preaching to set forth Christ; let them continually testify that we must seek righteousness at his hands alone, which consisteth upon [of] free remission of sins. This is another manner of antiquity than that which is showed with great boasting of the Papists, whilst that they thrust in the rotten inventions 719719 “Putida... figmenta,” the foul figments. of their satisfactions into the place of Christ’s blood.
44. And as Peter yet spake. God declareth now by a new miracle, that the doctrine of the gospel is common as well to the Gentiles as to the Jews. And this is an excellent seal of the calling of the Gentiles; because the Lord would never have vouchsafed to bestow upon the Gentiles the graces of his Spirit, unless it had been to declare that even they were adopted together into the society of the covenant. These gifts, mentioned by Luke, differ indeed from the grace of regeneration; and yet, undoubtedly, God did by this means seal both Peter’s doctrine, and also their faith and godliness which heard him. He saith that they were all endowed with the Spirit, like as we saw before, that they came all encouraged to learn and obey.
This visible sign representeth unto us, as it were in a table, what an effectual instrument of God’s power the preaching of the gospel is; for he poured out his Spirit as Peter spake, to the end he might show that he sendeth not teachers to that end, that they may beat the air with the vain sound of their voice, but that he may work mightily by their voice, and may quicken the same by the power of his Spirit, to the salvation of the godly. Thus doth Paul put the Galatians (Galatians 3:2.) in mind, that they received the Holy Ghost by the hearing of faith; and in another place he saith that he is the minister of the Spirit, and not of the letter, (2 Corinthians 3:6.) The gift of the tongues, and other such like things, are ceased long ago in the Church; but the spirit of understanding and of regeneration is of force, and shall always be of force, which the Lord coupleth with the external preaching of the gospel, that he may keep us in reverence of his word, and may prevent the deadly dotings, wherein brain-sick fellows enwrap themselves, whilst that, forsaking the word, they invent an erroneous and wandering spirit. But it doth not, nor shall not, always so fall out, that all those which hear the word with their outward ears, do or shall also receive the Spirit; and the ministers do seldom light upon such hearers as Peter had, who are willing, with one consent, to follow God. Yet he bringeth to pass that all the elect feel in themselves the consent of the external word, and of the secret power of the Spirit.
45. The faithful were astonished. He calleth them faithful who were as yet possessed with a wicked error. So the Lord doth not by and by wipe away all clouds of ignorance from his, and yet they do not darken the praise of faith before God, because he pardoneth errors and doth vouchsafe to favor it, as if it were pure and plain. And yet it is a wonder, that seeing they knew that Peter was sent of God, they would now be amazed, as at some strange and new thing, because God giveth the grace of his Spirit to those to whom he would have Christ now preached; but the sudden change is the cause of this, because, whereas God until that day had separated the Gentiles from his people as strangers and aliens, he doth now favor them both alike, and lifteth them up into the like degree of honor. Although we be also taught by this example, how hard a matter it is for us to wind out ourselves out of our errors once conceived, especially when they are of any continuance.
46. For they heard them. He expresseth what gifts of the Spirit were poured out upon them, and therewithal he noteth the use; to wit, that they had variety of tongues given them, so that they did glorify God with many tongues. Also, it may be gathered out of this place, that the tongues were given them not only for necessity, seeing the gospel was to be preached to strangers and to men of another language, but also to be an ornament and worship to the gospel. But ambition did afterward corrupt this second use, forasmuch as many did translate that unto pomp and vain glory which they had received to set forth the dignity of the heavenly wisdom, as Paul doth sharply reprove this fault in the Corinthians. Therefore, no marvel if God took away that shortly after which he had given, and did not suffer the same to be corrupted with longer abuse.
47. Peter answered. Peter reasoneth from the thing to the sign; for, seeing that baptism is an addition or appurtenance of the spiritual grace, he which hath received the Spirit is also apt [fit] to receive baptism; and this is the (most) lawful order, that the minister admit those unto the receiving of the outward sign whom God hath testified to be his children by the mark and pledge of his Spirit; so that faith and doctrine are first. And whereas unlearned men infer thereupon that infants are not to be baptized, it is without all reason. I grant that those who are strangers from the Church must be taught before the sign of adoption be given them; but I say, that the children of the faithful which are born in the Church are from their mother’s womb of the household of the kingdom of God. Yea, the argument which they use preposterously against us do I turn back [retort] upon themselves; for, seeing that God hath adopted the children of the faithful before they be born, I conclude thereupon that they are not to be defrauded of the outward sign; otherwise men shall presume to take that from them which God hath granted them. As touching the manifest grace of the Spirit, there is no absurdity therein, if 720720 “Tempore,” in point of time. it follow after baptism in them.
And as this testimony maketh nothing for maintenance of their error, so it doth strongly refute the error of the Papists, who tie the grace of the Spirit to the signs, and think that the same is fet [fetched] from heaven with enchantments, 721721 “Eamque exorcismis non secus elici putant e coelo,” and think it can only be brought down from heaven by exorcisms. as those witches did think that they did pull down the moon with their charms. But forasmuch as Luke saith that these had the Holy Ghost given them who were not as yet baptized, he showeth that the Spirit is not included in baptism. Lastly, we must note that the apostles were content with water alone when as they did baptize, 722722 “Ad conferendum baptismum,” in giving baptism. and would to God this plainness had been retained amongst their posterity, and that they had not gathered here and there divers trifles, whereof baptism is filth in Popery. They think that the worthiness of baptism is adorned with oil, salt, spittle, wax-candles, whereas they are rather filthy pollutions which corrupt the pure and natural [genuine] institution of Christ.
48. And he commanded them to be baptized. It was not of necessity that baptism should be ministered by Peter’s hand, as Paul doth likewise testify that he baptized few at Corinth, for other ministers might take this charge upon them. Whereas he saith, in the name of the Lord, it must not be restrained unto the form, as we have said in the third chapter; but because Christ is the proper scope of baptism, therefore are we said to be baptized in his name. When as Luke saith, last of all, that Peter was requested by Cornelius and his kinsmen that he would tarry a few days, he commendeth in them their desire to profit. They were, indeed, endued with the Holy Ghost; but they were not so come to the top, but that confirmation was as yet profitable for them. And, according to their example, so often as opportunity to profit offereth itself, we must use it diligently; and let us not swell with pride, which stoppeth the way before doctrine. 723723 “Qui ingressum obstruat doctrinae,” which obstructeth the entrance of doctrine.