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by Dr. John Thomas
And let it be observed, furthermore, that the angel of God was not permitted to preach the gospel to Cornelius; or, in other words, to tell him what he ought to do; or "the words by which he and his house might be saved".
He was only allowed to tell him to send for Peter.
According to modern notions, this was quite unnecessary; for, cries popular ignorance, it would have saved both time and trouble if the angel had told Cornelius at once what it was necessary for so excellent a man to believe and do, instead of sending three men through the broiling sunshine to fetch Peter to Caesarea.
O what a lesson is contained in this interesting narrative for the "clergy," "ministers," and people of these times!
How it convicts them of infidelity to the gospel, and sinfulness before God; or, if sincerity be granted to them, and, doubtless, there are among them many honest and well-intentioned persons, who "err, not knowing the scriptures"; grant, then, that they sincerely love truth in the abstract, yet comparing their creeds and preaching, and practices, with the testimonies contained in the second, tenth and eleventh of the Acts, to say nothing of others -- how condemned are they as vain talkers, and deceived leaders of the blind.
It is really painful to listen to the superficial dissertations of the textuaries, retailed to the people from the pulpits of the day.
Theological speculations on isolated scraps of scripture are substituted for the words of Peter and the other apostles, by which alone even the "pious" can be saved.
They talk of true religion, of primitive Christianity, of the gospel, of churches of Christ, and of an evangelical ministry; but where among Papist or Protestant, Church or Dissent, are these things to be found, reflecting the precepts, precedents, and morality of the "pure and undefiled religion" of the New Testament?
This New Testament Christianity is the grand desideratum of the Protestant world; which, however, we despair of beholding even in theory until Messiah shall appear in his kingdom, and abolish all existing names and denominations, which serve, indeed, as a kind of ecclesiastical police, but are perfectly useless as institutions capable of indoctrinating mankind with the things which they ought to believe and do, if they would become joint-heirs with Jesus of the kingdom, glory, and empire of the Ancient of Days.
From the testimonies before us, then, we learn, That "piety" and morality alone, will not save men; That good and pious men must believe certain things, and do certain others, for salvation; That these things, indispensably necessary to salvation, are set forth in Peter's words spoken to his contemporaries; That Peter's words are the keys to the mystery, and fellowship, of the gospel of the kingdom; That there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles in relation to this mystery; That God hath appointed men, and not angels, to preach the gospel; That Peter was to be sent for, because to him alone the keys were given; That, though piety and morality alone cannot save; neither can faith, unaccompanied by fruits meet for repentance, give a man inheritance in the kingdom of God.
Peter having arrived at the house of Cornelius, announced to all present, "the things which God had commanded him to speak".
Having stated the great discovery made to him by the spirit, how that "God was no respecter of persons; but that in every nation he that fears him (not however with that fear "which is taught by the precepts of men"), and works righteousness (such as God requires) is accepted of him": -- he directed their attention to "that word which God sent unto the children of Israel by Jesus Christ," preaching peace.
He told them that they were acquainted with that word; for it was published throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after John's proclamation.
As they knew it, he did not occupy time in repeating it in detail.
The reader knows what the word was that God sent to Israel by Jesus Christ, for we have already spoken of it; but, lest it should have escaped him, we will reiterate it.
"I was sent," says Jesus, "to preach the kingdom of God".
This was his message to Israel.
Hence, he styles it in the parable of the sower, "the word of the kingdom".
This word was so notorious to all that sojourned in the land of Israel, that it was as familiar as any question could possibly be.
It was known also to every one, how that Jesus was anointed, or christened, with the Holy Spirit at his immersion in the Jordan by John; and how he went about doing good and healing the infirmities of the people; and none knew better than Roman centurions, that he was slain and hanged on a tree.
These were matters of household notoriety and belief.
A far more comprehensive faith than that of the moderns; but yet impotent to the justification of Cornelius and his house.
More words were yet to be reported to them.