Acts 9:36
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated as Dorcas), who was always occupied with works of kindness and charity.
Works of PeaceE. Johnson Acts 9:31-43
AeneasC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 9:32-43
LyddaDean Plumptre.Acts 9:32-43
Peter At LyddaD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 9:32-43
Peter Working MiraclesG. C. Heckman, D. D.Acts 9:32-43
Peter Working MiraclesSermons by the Monday ClubActs 9:32-43
Summarised ServiceJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 9:32-43
The Miraculous and the SupernaturalW. Clarkson Acts 9:32-43
Working Like ChristA. Maclaren, D. D.Acts 9:32-43
A Devoted WomanActs 9:36-43
Caring for OthersJ. Ruskin.Acts 9:36-43
DorcasJ. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.Acts 9:36-43
DorcasW. Jay.Acts 9:36-43
DorcasC. S. Robinson, D. D.Acts 9:36-43
Dorcas Raised to LifeJ. M. Durrell.Acts 9:36-43
Dorcas: the Lessons of Her Life and DeathS. S. TimesActs 9:36-43
Joppa or Yafa Means BeautyS. S. TimesActs 9:36-43
Noble Womanly ServiceH. W. Beecher.Acts 9:36-43
Power in the GospelMonday Club SermonActs 9:36-43
The Appropriate Duty and Ornament of the Female SexS. Miller, D. D.Acts 9:36-43
The Christian NeedlewomanT. De Witt Talmage, D. D.Acts 9:36-43
The Emphatic Mark of Divine Approbation Which Christianity Puts Upon Womanly KindnessP.C. Barker Acts 9:36-43
The Home Mission, a Call to Our TimeK. Gerok.Acts 9:36-43
The Poor Should be Cared ForC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 9:36-43
The Raising of DorcasR.A. Redford Acts 9:36-43
The Resurrection of Dorcas -- a TypeK. Gerok.Acts 9:36-43
The Useful are Sometimes Snatched Unexpectedly AwayS. Rutherford.Acts 9:36-43
The Work for Christian WomenChristian HeraldActs 9:36-43
Traits of a Noble WomanGreat ThoughtsActs 9:36-43

The contrast between the ancient and modern world, changing somewhat the relation of almsdeeds to the rest of Christian life; but the poor always with us. The special province of woman in the Church. The individuality of the charity, not a society, but Dorcas the woman.


1. Show that Dorcas was not a mere philanthropic worker, but a true believer.

2. The disciples at once sent for Peter, believing that he represented a Divine power at work, hoping that something might be accomplished, at all events believing that the Spirit of the Lord would cast out the gloom of their sorrow.

3. It was an atmosphere of true faith in which such a miracle could be wrought.

4. The character and work of Dorcas typical of the influence of Christianity in the world; distinguishing it from all other religions; caring for the weak, lifting up women, sanctifying sorrow.

II. THE THRESHOLD OF THE GENTILE WORLD. Peter many days-at Joppa. A place where a vast and mingled population. The raising of the dead a great sign both to the world and to Peter himself. The loving character of the new doctrine set forth; a special appeal to the heathen. The rapid spread of the gospel an immense encouragement and elevation of the apostle's mind. All preparing him for the revelation about to be made. Peter and Dorcas hand-in-hand at the gate of the Gentiles, full of significance. We shall lay hold of the outlying masses of the population by Dorcas-like activity. Women will wonderfully help in the spread of Christianity. The true power of Christ is that which ministers. - R.

Now there was at Joppa.
S. S. Times.
The modern name is Jaffa or Yafa. It is a seaport town of Palestine, about forty miles northwest of Jerusalem, of which city it was the port in the days of Solomon, and has so remained down to the present day. At Joppa was landed the timber from Lebanon used in the first building of the temple (2 Chronicles 2:16), and in its rebuilding after the captivity (Ezra 3:7). At Joppa, Jonah took ship for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). Here lived "Simon the tanner," by the seaside, upon whose housetop Peter had his "vision of tolerance" (Acts 10:9-16). During the Crusades, Joppa was taken and re-taken several times by the opposing forces. It has been sacked three times since coming under the rule of the Turks — once by the Arabs in 1722, by the Mamelukes in 1775, and by Napoleon I in 1799. The modern town is increasing in numbers, its population now being estimated at above eight thousand.

(S. S. Times.)

A certain disciple named Tabitha.
I. TABITHA, which by interpretation is called DORCAS."

1. The historian bestows considerable care on the name. "Tabitha, Dorcas, Gazelle" — they are the Aramaic, Greek, and English equivalents. Whereas we in the present day go to the flowers for names, the ancients went to animals. A bold man would be compared to a lion; a beautiful woman to a "gazelle."

2. That St. Luke directs special attention to the name is a presumptive proof that it was expressive of the rare beauty of the maid who bore it. She was comparable to the gazelle — the most exquisite figure in poetry to set forth high physical attractions. Read the Canticles, and the poet has no apter figure to set forth the glory of Solomon or the beauty of his bride than roe, hart, hind, gazelle. In Dorcas, then, we behold beauty allied to Christianity; and beauty is recommended to us, not because it is beautiful, but because it is good. The classic theory of life exalts beauty above all things; but the gospel theory makes goodness paramount, and makes beauty itself pay homage to goodness.

II. Tabitha was A DISCIPLE. From the sphere of beauty we pass to the sphere of knowledge.

1. She was a disciple. Discipleship is common to all believers. The apostles in their relation to Christ were on a level with ordinary believers.

2. She was a female disciple. The word here used is not found anywhere else. The masculine form is used often enough, but not the feminine. In ancient Greek the word was not used because the thing was not known.(1) Christianity has given woman what Plato and Aristotle never did — the rank of discipleship. The schools of the philosophers were made up exclusively of men, but "honourable women, not a few," sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him. Judaism truly had its "court of the women," but that was more like a sheep pen. The genius of Judaism was separation, not communion. But "in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, but a new creature."(2) But though the gospel has lifted woman to the rank of discipleship, it has not raised her to the rank of apostleship. Dorcas also did much good; but she still continued in the privacy of discipleship. The moral rather than the intellectual is the true sphere of womanhood. The "rights of women" have been much pushed to the front lately; and women are not without danger of forgetting their "duties" in the more exciting question of their "rights." Considerable tact is necessary delicately to balance the two. In the text the Church accords to Dorcas her rights — she was a disciple; but Dorcas only thought of her duties, and right faithfully did she fulfil them.

III. Tabitha was a disciple FULL OF GOOD WORKS. We now ascend from the region of beauty and faith to the region of character.

1. Mention is specially made of Dorcas's works. In her are perceived the true development of the Christian life. Her natural powers are hallowed in discipleship; her discipleship is perfected in beneficence. When the Christian life stops short in discipleship, it remains in the embryo stage, and is in danger of dying of inanition. Knowledge gets refined, chastened in work. Water is filtered as it flows onward in its channel. Water stagnant breeds miasma. In like manner knowledge, as long as it remains mere theory, becomes morbid and unhealthy; but let it run out in good works, and it will grow healthful and clear.

2. Dorcas's works are said to be good. Upon what then does the goodness of an action depend?(1) Upon the manner of doing it. Dorcas did not undertake to accomplish a thing and then leave it in disorder and confusion. No; she finished her task neatly and pleasingly, A slovenly life cannot be said to be a good life; its negligence seriously detracts from its goodness. Quality is of greater importance in the kingdom of God than quantity. "Well done," not much done, "thou good and faithful servant." In creation "God saw," not that it was great, but "that it was good." "Be ye imitators of God like dear children." Every night review the work of the day to see if it is good.(2) Upon the character of the doer. "Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit." A bad man — bad works; a good man — good works; that is the established law of the moral world. Dorcas was first a disciple, next full of good works; she was first made good, then she did good. Herein consists the vital difference between Christianity and Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism proposes to improve the surroundings of men — to secure them better houses, wages, food, etc. Christianity proposes to improve the men themselves, being fully persuaded that if it can better the men, the men will soon better their circumstances.

3. Dorcas not only did good works, but was "full" of them, implying that her heart was the source of her works — the faith of her discipleship flowed out in deeds of benevolence. Look at the natural and the artificial tree. The fruit adorning the one is the ripe unfolding of the inward vitality; but the fruit suspended to the other has no union of life with the tree. No one can be inwardly full unless there be a spontaneous overflow in the daily life. And Dorcas's faith in the Saviour gushed out in works of beneficence to man. There was no spasmodic strain, no painful effort — doing good seemed to be natural to her. Christ's "meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him." The birds in May are so full of life that they feel inwardly constrained to give it free vent in song. And there are men and women, too, who find it their chiefest pleasure to do good. It is as easy for them to bless their fellows as it is for the sun to shine. And then every attempt to do good, whether it succeed or whether it fail, returns back upon the soul in an increase of solid strength. The leaves, which in spring come out of the life of the tree, in autumn fall thick around its roots and enrich the soil for it to draw nourishment therefrom the ensuing year. "Mercy is twice blessed — it blesseth him that gives and him that takes." Faith and good works, discipleship and usefulness, represent the receptive and the transitive sides of religion. One without the other is dead.

IV. "Tabitha was a disciple full of ALMSDEEDS WHICH SHE DID." Here we come to the sphere of action.

1. "Almsdeeds," not almsgifts. "When thou doest," not givest, "alms." Throughout the Saviour lays stress not on giving but on doing alms. "Blessed is he that considereth the poor." The charity must come, not merely from the treasury, but from a tender and sympathetic heart.

2. They were not almsdeeds which she purposed or of which she talked, but almsdeeds which she "did." No mention is made of parents or husband; she was probably a maid leading a solitary life. Will she then spend her days in idleness or vain sentiment? No; she will adopt the orphans for her family, and serve Christ in the persons of the poor. She will translate sentiment into practice. In the ironworks steam is not blown off at once into the air; it must first do work, and it is worth nothing except it work. And in our public services it is good to have our emotions well boiled at times. But we are not to let the steam blow off into the air, but to utilise it for the practical purposes of life. Sterne could weep over a dead ass, and yet allow his mother to starve for want of bread; but John Howard was never seen to shed a tear.

3. These almsdeeds consisted principally in coats and garments for the poor. The primary meaning of "spinster" is one who spins, and if need be, sews for the benefit of the family and society. The imperfect tense "was making" shows that Dorcas made sewing for the poor the main business of her life, and thus redeemed dressmaking from the degraded service of the world. St. Paul exhorts women to be "stayers at home"; on the margin, "workers at home." It is not enough that they stay at home; they should also work at home, and save themselves from the cankerous miseries of ennui. Some people possess genius for goodness — they create and invent, whereas others can only travel in the beaten paths. Robert Raikes, the founder of Sunday Schools; Charles of Bala, the founder of the Bible Society; William Wilberforce, the liberator of the slave — they all had a marvellous genius for striking boldly out in new directions. To the same class of benefactors belongs Dorcas — she invented a new method of doing good; and her method has been perpetuated and her name immortalised in the annals of the Christian Church. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might." You should endeavour to find work for yourselves, and the work for which you are best adapted. But if you possess not the genius to find work, follow diligently in the paths already marked out. Dorcas was only a sweet violet blooming in the shade; but her fragrance has filled all the churches of Europe. And Christian charity is quite competent to deal with honest poverty; but no efforts of the Church can ever overtake guilty pauperism. Our duty, then, is to dry up the fountain. You may give coats and garments, food and fuel; but the evil will remain unabated till the traffic in intoxicating drinks is restrained.


1. In the prime of life. The words leave the impression upon one that her sickness was short and violent. Probably she caught a fever on one of her visits to the poor, and suddenly died. But mark — nothing is said of the frame of her mind in her sickness; indeed, the Scriptures are generally reticent about the deaths of the saints. Men who live piously and devoutly must die in the peace of God.

2. In the midst of usefulness. Why, we cannot tell. Theology and philosophy have faced the question, but cannot solve it. But if theology cannot solve it, it can help to bring the heart to acquiesce in it. "Why were you born deaf and dumb?" asked a gentleman of a young lad. A strange light flashed in the boy's eyes, and he wrote quickly, "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight."

3. Dying in the midst of life and usefulness, she was naturally much lamented. The Church hurriedly sent a deputation to Peter; and when he arrived the "widows wept, and showed him the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them." They could not speak much for their tears; but they could exhibit the work; and the widows' tears and garments were more eloquent than any panegyric. The poor have no grand way of manifesting their sorrow; but they can weep genuine tears, and point to the coats and garments graciously given them by the hand of Charity.

VI. Dorcas WAS RAISED TO LIFE AGAIN. The Church at Joppa sent to Peter. They did not tell the apostle in words what they wanted; but their acts showed it, and he understood it. Thereupon Peter turned them all out, and turned himself to the Lord in prayer; he afterwards "turned to the body, and said, Tabitha, arise." The miracle of resuscitation was performed: "and when he bad called the saints and widows, he presented her to them alive," and doubtless she continued the same good work as before — she finished the coats and garments she had only begun. The thread that was broken was mended — the good work still went on. This incident reduces the vast drama of the world to a scale we can grasp. Men and women die; the work of life remains incomplete. Reason staggers. Is there a time of restitution coming? Yes; they that are in their "graves shall be raised up"; the thread of life will be mended — the work begun will be finished. "We spend our years as a tale that is told." But alas! many die in the midst of telling their tale, they die before fully disclosing the rich meaning of their existence. Shall it never be continued? Oh, yes; "the voice that is dumb shall again speak, the hands that are cold shall again serve. We can write on the tombstones of our friends — "to be continued."

(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

I. HER CHARACTER: "a certain disciple." But in her case, discipleship included not only the belief and profession of Christ's doctrine, but also a conformity to His example. Her religion was not only real, but eminent. She "was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did." There are many whose life is filled up with vanity and vice, but is entirely void of godliness. And there are others who are satisfied with low and common attainments. Dorcas "was full" — not full of pretences, words, hearing sermons, and public assemblies, all of which are often the mere "form of godliness." Hers was the religion of the heart and life.

1. The particular objects of her beneficence. "Widows" — a class of claimants upon kindness and charity more often mentioned in the Book of God than any other, unless it be "the fatherless," who are commonly noticed along with them. And, surely, none have greater demands upon our tenderness and compassion, and none have richer promises. It would seem that Dorcas peculiarly selected this class of characters for her beneficence. And as the charity of an individual cannot be universal in its efforts, would it not be well for those who wish to do good to have some definite plan of usefulness to pursue? Only, here two cautions are necessary. The one is, not to bind ourselves down so exclusively to anyone class of beneficiaries as to be unable or unwilling to aid other claimants. The other is, not to lay such stress upon our own objects of charity as to think slightly or meanly of those which may be preferred by others.

2. The nature of her charity. Furnishing the poor widows with clothing. There are many cases in which it will be found much more useful to supply the poor with necessaries than to give them the value of these things in money. Many poor persons have a wish to appear decently clad; and upon this ground they excuse themselves from the house of God. How desirable is it to meet their wants in this respect!

3. The manner in which she supplied the relief. The benefits were of her own manufacture. She did not get them made; her alms were not only her gifts, but her deeds. There are some who are ready enough to give who never do anything. Others there are who can do nothing in a way of pecuniary assistance. But there are innumerable ways of being useful; and if you are compelled to say, "Silver and gold have I none," it becomes you to add, "Such as I have I give; my prayers: my tears; my attentions; my exertions."

4. The promptitude of her beneficence. It was immediate, not deferred or delayed; but "while she was with them." Some are future benefactors. They do not refuse, they only procrastinate. "Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give," for in the meanwhile he may be no more, and you may be no more. Some are benevolent when they leave us. But dying alms are commonly suspicious: they arise from necessity rather than choice. There is little merit in distributing what you can hold no longer. Be, therefore, your own executors.

II. HER DEATH. Religion does not exempt us from the common calamities of life. This peculiar consideration, indeed, attends the death of the godly, that they are disposed of infinitely to their advantage. But this very consideration also aggravates our grief. In proportion to their gain is our loss. There is nothing, perhaps, in Providence more mysterious than this: that the useful should be snatched away in the midst of their days, while the unprofitable and mischievous are suffered to continue; that a Voltaire should live upwards of fourscore and ten years, while a nation prematurely mourns over a Josiah, the poor widows over Dorcas, their friend and helper. But God has a right to do what He will with His own; and very often these dark dispensations are enlightened and relieved by some effects which serve to discover their design. At this season Peter was sent for and came. It seemed useless, but he knew it was well to be "ready to every good work," and he knew that "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God." No sooner was Peter arrived than a scene was presented that was sufficient to melt a heart much less tender than Peter's (ver. 39). Here we may remark that the value of persons is sometimes not known till they are gone. This is the case, indeed, with all our mercies. The praise of this good woman was like her alms, real and sincere. Here are no hired mourners, no verses, no eulogy; but garments which her own hands had made; and widows with their tears. The best posthumous fame you can acquire is derived from the commendation of facts; from a child you instructed, a sinner you reclaimed. The best proofs of your importance are to be found in the affections and benedictions of your fellow creatures while you live, and in their regrets and lamentations when you die. I hate dry-eyed funerals. Though it is distressing, it is also satisfactory to see genuine grief. Do all thus die? Do oppressive masters? Do the hard-hearted, and the close-fisted? Peter happily can do more than "weep with them that weep"; and he applies himself to his work. He "put them all forth." First, from a principle of humility; he did not wish to be seen. And, secondly, from a principle of importunity; company might have hindered the intenseness of his devotion.

III. HER RESURRECTION. Peter prayed and Dorcas arose; and then Peter "gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and presented her alive." Oh! for the painter's pencil! Oh! to see him giving, and them receiving this present! "There, take your benefactress, and dry up your tears." This is very instructive. It shows us that kindness was the principle of the miracle; not self applause. Then Peter would have required her to follow him as a standing proof of his supernatural powers: but he resigns her to those who stood in need of her services. And does not this show us the importance of beneficence? Were we left to judge, we, perhaps, should have thought it better for Stephen to have been raised up than Dorcas. But God revives the one and leaves the other in the grave, perhaps, to teach us that our thoughts are not His thoughts; that persons whose excellencies are of a retiring character may be more important in the eye of Heaven than those who are more brilliant and marvellous; and that, in some cases, a good life may be as valuable as good preaching. Whom does He, by a miracle, bring back from the arrest of death? A hero? a politician? a philosopher? No! One who made garments for the poor! And does He not hereby show us that He takes pleasure in those who, like Himself, delight in mercy; and that "He is not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love, in ministering to the saints"? In a word, does He not say, "Them that honour Me, I will honour"? But you ask, was this a privilege to Dorcas? — to be brought back into a vale of tears, and again to have to "walk through the valley of the shadow of death," after she had happily passed it? — I answer, Yes! It was a marvellous distinction conferred upon her; and it added to her usefulness, and to her reward. The saints on earth have one privilege above the saints in heaven. It is in the means and opportunities of doing good.

(W. Jay.)

The faith of this woman was of the highest type; her belief was more than a theological assent to the truth; her. faith worked by love and purified the heart. "This woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did." Notwithstanding the faith of Dorcas "It came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died." There are several considerations that press upon us in view of these facts. Sickness is not necessarily an indication of sin on the part of the individual attacked by disease; neither is illness to be attributed to a lack of faith. It is God's purpose to let the physical forces of the universe take, in most instances, the natural courses He has made; He has good reasons why diseases should be allowed, in the majority of cases, to develop through the various stages of their natural history. Sometimes we can see the good that comes to us from illness; not unfrequently it brings forth the fruit of a new purpose. There are times, however, when for His glory God interferes with the natural order of things, and brings to pass supernatural results. As the Church members turned their faces heavenward, God put it into their hearts to send for Peter, a dozen miles away at Lydda. Perhaps Peter had not the slightest idea what he would be called upon to do, but he started out. By the time he had reached the city he had received Divine illumination as to the course that ought to be pursued. Entering into the house, "Peter put them all forth," that his mind might not be distracted from any suggestion that the Spirit might make to him, and he "kneeled down and prayed." Others equally deserving a resurrection had died and were buried without a word of prayer for their resurrection. Stephen, "a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," was not called back from the spirit world. It was for the glory of God that the first martyr was taken by "devout men" from the bloody stones that had been hurled at and upon him, and carried "to his burial." It was for the good of the kingdom of God that Peter was inspired to ask for the return of Dorcas to her work, and Christ heard the petition He had Himself put into His servant's heart. The results. There was joy in the household of Dorcas; the night of weeping had passed, and the morning of joy had come. The results abundantly justified the exhibition of miraculous power in the cities of Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea. The inferences drawn from the healing of AEneas and the raising of Dorcas, so far as the topic in hand is concerned, may now be stated.

1. Holiness is not a bar to disease, although a Christian life tends to health and longevity.

2. Remedies are to be used under the advice of skilled physicians.

3. God usually permits diseases to run through the varied stages of their natural history.

4. There are times, however, when it is for the glory of God's kingdom that the Head of the Church should arrest disease by the direct action of His own Spirit.

5. When it is the purpose of Christ to "bear our sicknesses," He illuminates the minds of certain faithful disciples, impressing them with the belief that petition offered for healing will be granted.

6. Faith exercised upon the gift of especial illumination will be honoured.

7. No person has been raised from the dead since apostolic times; therefore no illumination has been given for this purpose; supposed illuminations have been hallucinations.

8. The highest type of faith expresses its needs according to the best knowledge at the time, and trustfully leaves the outcome to Him who has said, "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him."

(J. M. Durrell.)

I. THE LIFE OF DORCAS. The brief biography is exceedingly full, though it is comprised in a single verse (ver. 36).

1. Her appearance. It is a most absurd notion that useful women must be commonplace in their looks. The name given to this excellent Christian worker suggests that she was attractive and graceful.

2. Her character. One word is here employed, nowhere else to be discovered, that some assert it was here invented for this occasion — "a disciple"; in its ordinary application this means a learner, but the term here is new, and signifies a female learner. Those were days of degradation for the weaker sex until Christianity came.

3. Her activity. She could not have merited the name of the agile denizen of the desert, if she had not been as brisk as she was affectionate.

4. Lessons.(1) "Handsome is that handsome does." When a Christian lady gives herself to real work for those who are in trouble, there springs up a rare, new, unconscious beauty even in her features, which spreads over her whole life like sweet, bright sunshine.(2) Dorcas was "full of good works," and not of good wishes alone. So her needle was as noble as Moses' rod, or David's sling, or Shamgar's ox goad; for it was her answer to the Lord's question (Exodus 4:2).(3) All these works were done by, not the "Dorcas Society of Joppa," but by Dorcas. Evidently this was not a woman who bought off from labour by a contribution. Perhaps she was so busy in making "coats and garments," that she had no time to make an association. Some people lose a great deal of force in running around to get machines, and then lose more yet in running the machines they get. Organisation sometimes helps; but too much is apt to hinder. It has been known that the election of one secretary has taken more of zeal than would have fitted out three missionary boxes.


1. Even the best of people may die early.

2. Even Christian people may mourn sometimes.

3. We are bound to weep with those that weep. Very fine example is this of the oneness of sympathy among the primitive believers; they sent up to Lydda for Peter to come and aid them with counsel in their sore distress.

III. THE RESURRECTION OF DORCAS. Peter's action must be laid alongside of Elisha's (2 Kings 4:33). Also with Christ's (Mark 5:40, 41).

1. It was done by the sovereign and miraculous power of God. All talk about collusion, trick, animal magnetism, is not worth discussing.

2. But Simon's faith shines more illustriously than ever. When the rationalists point to his close imitation of the "Talitha" of Jesus in his "Tabitha" we may thank them for a beautiful suggestion; it is likely he did think of his Master then.

3. Imagine Dorcas's surprise when she first opened her eyes. How strange it is that no one of those persons who were raised from the dead ever attempted to tell the story of what they saw or heard. As one of the ancient Christian poets said of Lazarus, she was superstes sibi — her own survivor.

4. Still she did not set up for a saint, and go on exhibition. She simply went to work once more among the widows. All Joppa heard of it, and many believed in the Lord.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

S. S. Times.
I. THE GOOD ARE THE REALLY RICH. Those who are full of good works and of almsdeeds are better off than those with full bank accounts.

II. GOOD WORKS ARE THE TEST OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. If one is not fruitful in good works, he is not joined to Christ.

III. THE GOOD ARE NOT SPARED BY DEATH because of their good works. His sickle cuts down the fairest flowers as well as the obnoxious weeds.

IV. DEATH SHOWS HOW MUCH THE GOOD ARE APPRECIATED, as it shows, also, the little value of a money popularity.

V. THE DEEDS OF THE GOOD REMAIN TO TESTIFY FOR THEM after death has taken them away.

(S. S. Times.)

There is in Joppa a woman with her needle, embroidering her name ineffaceably into the charities of the world. In the room where she sits are the pale faces of the poor. She listens to their plaint, and with gifts she mingles prayers and Christian encouragement. Then she goes out, and all through the street the cry runs: "Dorcas is coming." That night a half-paid shipwright reaches home; sees his little boy well clad, and they tell him: "Dorcas has been here." But there is a sudden pause in that woman's ministry. All through the haunts of wretchedness the news comes: "Dorcas is sick!" And now, alas, for Joppa! there is wailing. That voice which had uttered so many cheerful words is hushed; that hand, which had made so many garments for the poor, is cold and still. In every place in that town, where there is sickness, or hunger, or guilt, or sorrow, there are despairing looks and streaming eyes as they cry: "Dorcas is dead!" They send for Peter. He urges his way through the crowd, kindly orders that the room be cleared, prays, and in the strength of Him who is the resurrection, exclaims: "Tabitha, arise!" We see in this subject Dorcas —

I. THE DISCIPLE. If I had not seen the word "disciple," I would have known this woman was a Christian. Such music as that never came from a harp which is not stringed by Divine grace. I wish that the wives, and mother, and daughters of this congregation would imitate Dorcas in her discipleship. Before you sit with the Sabbath class, or cross the threshold of the hospital, etc., attend to the first, last, and greatest duty — the seeking for God and being at peace with Him.


1. History has told the story of the crown and of the sword; the poet has sung the praises of nature; I tell you the praises of the needle. From the fig-leaf robe prepared in Eden, to the last stitch taken last night, the needle has wrought wonders of kindness. It has preached the gospel, it has overcome want with the war cry of "stitch, stitch, stitch." Amid the mightiest triumphs in all ages and lands, I set down the conquests of the needle.

2. I admit its crimes. It has butchered more souls than the "Inquisition"; it has punctured the eye; it has pierced the side; it has struck weakness into the lungs; it has sent madness into the brain; it has pitched whole armies of the suffering into crime and wretchedness.

3. But now I am talking of Dorcas, I shall speak only of the charities of the needle. This woman was a representative of all those women who make garments for the destitute, knit socks for the barefooted, prepare bandages for the lacerated, who make up bales of clothing for missionaries.

4. What a contrast between the benevolence of this woman and a great deal of the charity of this day! Dorcas did not spend her time planning how the poor of Joppa were to be relieved; she took her needle and relieved them. She was not like those who sympathise with imaginary sorrows, and then laugh at the boy who has upset his basket of victuals, or like that charity which makes a rousing speech on the benevolent platform and goes out to kick the beggar from the step. The sufferers of the world want not so much tears as dollars, not so much smiles as shoes, not so much "God bless you's" as jackets and frocks. There are women who talk beautifully about the suffering of the world, who never, like Dorcas, take the needle and assault it.

5. I am glad that there is not a page of history which is not a record of female beneficence. The Princess of Conti sold all her jewels that she might help the famine struck. "Maud, the wife of Henry I, went down amid the poor, and washed their sores and administered to them cordials. But why go so far back or so far away? Before the smoke had gone up from Gettysburg the women of the North met the women of the South on the battlefield, forgetting all their animosities while they bound up the wounded and closed the eyes of the slain!

III. THE LAMENTED. There may have been women there with larger fortunes and handsomer faces; but there was no grief at their departure like this at the death of Dorcas. There are a great many who go out of life and are unmissed. There may be a large funeral, high-sounding eulogiums, a marble tomb, but the whole thing may be a sham. The Church has lost nothing; the world has lost nothing. It is only a nuisance abated, or a grumbler ceasing to find fault; or an idler stopped yawning, or a dissipated fashionable parted from his wine cellar. While, on the other hand, no useful Christian leaves this world without being missed. When Josephine was carried out to her grave, there were a great many women of pride and position that went out after her; but I am most affected by the story that two thousand of the poor of France followed her coffin, wailing until the air rang again, because they lost their last earthly friend. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them!"

IV. THE RESURRECTED. In what a short compass the great writer put that, "she sat up!" What a time there must have been when the apostle brought her out among her old friends! How the tears of joy must have started! You and I have seen the same thing — not a dead body resuscitated, but the deceased coming up again after death in the good accomplished. If a man labours up to fifty years of age serving God, and then dies, we are apt to think that his earthly work is done. No! Services rendered for Christ never stop. A Christian woman toils for the upbuilding of a Church through many self-denials and prayers, and then she dies. Now hundreds of souls stand up and confess the faith of Christ. Has that Christian woman who went away fifteen years ago nothing to do with these things? The good that seemed to be buried has come up again. Dorcas is resurrected. After a while all these womanly friends of Christ will put down their needle forever. After making garments for others, someone will make the last robe for them. Then, one day there will be sky rending, and that Christian woman will rise from the dust, and will be surrounded by the wanderers whom she reclaimed, by the wounded souls to whom she administered. The reward has come. Dorcas is resurrected!

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

1. I shall not inquire whether the female mind is, in all respects, the same with that of the other sex. Whatever opinion may be formed on this subject, we shall all agree that women ought not to be considered as destined to the same employments with men; and, of course, that there is a species of education, and a sphere of action, which more particularly belong to them. There was a time when a very different doctrine was growing popular: viz., that in education and employments all distinctions of sex ought to be forgotten and confounded. This delusion, however, is now generally discarded. But an error of an opposite kind has gained a lamentable currency. This is, that the station of females is so humble, and their sphere of duty so limited, that they neither can nor ought to aspire to extensive usefulness. This is the mistake of indolence or of false humility, and is plainly contradicted by reason, Scripture, and experience.

2. The contrast between the representations of Scripture and the sentiments of the world seldom appears in a stronger light than it does on the subject of which we are now speaking. In the codes of modern infidelity and licentiousness, as well as among uncivilised nations, woman is exhibited as the mere servile instrument of convenience or pleasure. In the Bible she is represented as the equal, the companion, and the help-meet of man. In the language of worldly taste, a fine woman is one who is distinguished for her personal charms and polite accomplishments. In the language of Scripture, she is the enlightened and virtuous mistress of a family, and the useful member of society. The woman who is formed on the principles of the world, finds no enjoyment but in the circles of affluence, gaiety, and fashion. The woman who is formed on the principles of the Bible, "goeth about doing good." The business of the one is pleasure; the pleasure of the other is business. The one is admired abroad; the other is beloved and honoured at home. From the representations of sacred writ it is manifest that the ornament and the duty of the female sex are as appropriate as they are important, and that they pertain especially to the relations which they bear as —

I. WIVES. On their temper and deportment, more than those of any other individuals, it depends whether peace, affection, order, and plenty reign in their dwellings, or waste, confusion, discord, and alienation disgrace them.

II. MOTHERS. Children, during the first years of their lives, are necessarily committed almost entirely to their care. And the impressions which are then made generally decide their character and destiny for this life and for that which is to come.


1. How much may every daughter, by dutiful and affectionate conduct towards her parents, promote the happiness of the whole household, and by her example contribute to the improvement of all around her!

2. How much solid good may every sister daily accomplish by assisting to educate her younger brothers and sisters, in promoting the regularity, order, and comfort of the family, and in recommending, by her whole deportment, the wisdom of economy, the sweetness of benevolence, and the purity of holiness!

3. How much may every female servant contribute to the advantage of the family! It was a little maid in the house of Naaman, the Syrian, that directed her master to the prophet of the Lord.

IV. AS MEMBERS OF SOCIETY. Let no woman imagine that she has nothing to do beyond the sphere of her own household.

1. In every walk and hour of life she may be contributing something to the purity, the order, and the happiness of the community. The influence of the female character in forming public taste and public manners is incalculable. No false sentiments can have much prevalence against which they resolutely set their faces. No corrupt practices can be general or popular which they are willing to expel from society.

2. To the female sex also properly appertains a large portion of those offices of charity to which we are constantly called. They are best acquainted with domestic wants, and are the best judges of domestic character. They have more sympathy, tenderness, leisure, and patience than men.Let me apply this subject —

1. By inferring from what has been said, the unspeakable importance of female education. If the female character be so important, then the formation of that character must be equally so.

2. By recommending the character which has been drawn especially to the young. It is a character which involves the highest honour, and which embraces its own reward. It ought to be your ambition to possess and to evince a sound understanding, and a respectable portion of literary knowledge. But it ought to be more especially your ambition to cultivate your hearts. To be so many Tabithas, adorning the doctrine of God your Saviour, and diffusing happiness among all around you, would be infinitely more to your honour, as well as your comfort, than to stand in the list of those masculine females who, while they gain a proud civil preeminence, really disgrace their sex.

3. By encouraging those who are engaged in female charitable associations. "Be not weary in well-doing." Your task is arduous; but it is still more delightful, and shall "in no wise lose its reward."

4. In conclusion, "the time is short, and the fashion of this world passeth away." Like Dorcas, we all must soon sicken and die. Do we resemble this excellent woman, in our character and hopes, as well as in our mortality? We cannot resemble her unless we are disciples indeed. We may "give all our goods to feed the poor," and "our bodies to be burned," and yet be nothing more than "a sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal." But those deeds of charity which spring from a living faith in a living Redeemer; those works of obedience which are performed from a principle of love for His name — these are "the good works and the almsdeeds" which shed a lustre around the bed of death.

(S. Miller, D. D.)

(ver. 37): — With many it is ebb water before the tide be at full. The lamps of their lives are wasted almost as soon as they are lighted. The sand of their hourglass is run out when they think it is but newly turned. But success before God depends not on the duration of one's life. The husbandman may pluck his roses and gather his lilies at midsummer, and he may transplant young trees out of the lower ground to the higher, where they have more of the sun. The goods are his own. The heavenly Husbandman makes no mistakes.

(S. Rutherford.)

(ver. 36): — Charity should be warmest when the season is coldest. That is the time for coals and blankets. It will warm your heart to warm poor people's bodies.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Monday Club Sermon.
Here is a lesson which shows the power of the gospel in two directions — the elements of gospel power and the effects of gospel power.

I. THE ELEMENTS OF POWER IN THE GOSPEL. What forces are disclosed in these verses?

1. We see the power which dwells in organisation. This is hinted in Peter's journey "throughout all quarters." The bands of disciples throughout Judaea were united under a central head and with a form of discipline. Unity gives power.

2. We see the power in sympathy. Peter found the palsied AEneas; Dorcas sought out the needy and sorrowing; and in the Church we note the interest which prompted the sending for Peter. This care for others has ever been an element of power in Christianity.

3. We note also the power in character. A character like that of Dorcas could not remain concealed. One who lived to do good could not help exerting an influence. The character and influence of God's people are most potent factors in the spread of the gospel.

4. But mightier than all human elements is the Divine power of the gospel. AEneas arose to health, and Dorcas was called back from death through the supernatural power of a living Christ. These were the tokens of a power for which no human philosophy can account in the history of the Church. Miracles more wonderful in the conversion of souls are of daily occurrence.

II. What EFFECTS OF GOSPEL POWER do we see in this story?

1. Holiness; expressed in the name "saints" applied to the followers of Christ. Christianity has given to the world a new ideal of character.

2. Practical works of usefulness. Christians have been at work feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, relieving the needy, ever since the days of Dorcas. Every hospital and asylum and charitable institution on the earth is a tribute to the power of the gospel.

3. Growth. Verses 35 and 42 call attention to the growing numbers of the Christian Church. The gospel is a seed reproducing itself by the million. This is another result of its inward power.

4. Victory over death. The restoration of Dorcas to life was only a feeble type of the more wonderful triumph of the Christian over the grave. Hers was a few hours after death; ours may be a few centuries. Both her restoration and our resurrection are wrought by the same power.

(Monday Club Sermon.)

An American paper tells the story of a woman who, because tired of a life mainly employed in dressing and eating, resolved to devote herself and her money to a nobler purpose. At the close of the war she went to a sandy island off the Atlantic coast, where about two hundred persons were living in poverty and ignorance, and established her home there, with the intention of benefiting the inhabitants. She began with teaching, by example, how to cultivate the land lucratively, and was soon imitated. Next she established a school for the children, and afterwards a church. Now the island is a thriving region, with an industrious and moral population, the change being the work of one woman.

When even the old coloured woman Katy, who earned her own livelihood; who sold cakes from day to day; who in her lifetime took forty children out of the poor house, and taught them trades, and bound them out in places of prosperity; who took no airs upon herself; who lived on the abundance of her poverty — when she died out of her sphere nobody thought to ask, "What has become of her?" She was buried, perhaps, so obscurely that no person could say, "I am sure here is where her old rattle-bones lie." But there went up heavenward a radiant procession, amidst an outburst of song, heralding the approach of some bold conqueror, crownless and sceptreless. It was the resurrected spirit of this servant of God. She lived at the bottom here, but there she lives in eternal fame. At last she broke into her crown of light, and ascended her throne, and took her sceptre. Thou that art doing noble things and asking no praise; thou that art living to do good because it is sweet to do good, and be like Christ, and bear His cross, and walk with Him in sorrow, go up, thy Christ waits for thee. And come down, thou hoary head of power that on earth art despoiling God's fair creation as food for thy lowest appetites, and living in selfishness for thyself alone; there is no road between thee and God that does not break short on the gulf between earth and heaven. The last shall be first, and the first shall be last. Seek for glory, but be careful what kind of glory you seek. Work for fame, but look out that you work for the fame that addresses itself to the top of the brain, instead of that which addresses itself to the bottom.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Great Thoughts.
We have seen many beautiful tributes to lovely woman, but the following is the finest we ever read: Place her among the flowers, foster her as a tender plant, and she is a thing of fancy, waywardness, and folly — annoyed by a dewdrop, fretted by the touch of a butterfly's wing, ready to faint at the sound of a beetle or the rattling of a window pane at night, and she is overpowered by the perfume of a rosebud. But let real calamity come, rouse her affections, enkindle the fires of her heart, and mark her then! How strong is her heart! Place her in the heart of the battle; give her a child, a bird, or anything to protect, and see her in a relative instance, lifting her white arms as a shield, as her own blood crimsons her upturned forehead, praying for her life to protect the helpless. Transplant her in the dark places of the earth, call forth the energies to action, and her breath becomes a healing value, her presence a blessing. She disputes, inch by inch, the stride of stalking pestilence, when man — the strong and brave — pale and affrighted, shrinks away. Misfortune haunts her not. She wears away a life of silent endurance, and goes forward with less timidity than to her bridal. In prosperity she is a bud full of odours, waiting but for the winds of adversity to scatter them abroad — pure gold, valuable, but untried in the furnace. In short, woman is a miracle, a mystery, the centre from which radiates the charm of existence.

(Great Thoughts.)

You have heard it said, and I believe there is more than fancy in the saying, that flowers only flourish rightly in the garden of someone who loves them. I know you would like that to be true; you would think it a pleasant magic if you could flush your flowers into brighter bloom by a kind look upon them; nay, more, if your look had the power, not only to cheer, but to guard them. And do you think it not a greater thing than all this you can do for fairer flowers than these — flowers that could bless you for having blessed them, and will love you for having loved them, flowers that have eyes like yours, and lives like yours, which once saved you save forever. Is this only a little power? Far among the moorlands, far in the darkness of the terrible streets, these feeble florets are lying with all their fresh leaves torn, and their stems broken — will you never go down to them, nor set them in order, nor protect them from the fierce wind?

(J. Ruskin.)

Christian Herald.
A Christian lady, who was engaged in work for the poor and degraded, was once spoken to by one who was well acquainted with both the worker and those whom she sought to reach, and remonstrated with for going among such a class of people. "It does seem wonderful to me that you can do such work," her friend said. "You sit beside these people, and talk with them in a way that I do not think you would do if you knew all about them, just what they are, and from what places they come." Her answer was, "Well, I suppose they are dreadful people; but if the Lord Jesus were now on earth, are they not the very sort of people that He would strive to teach? And am I better than my Master? Would He feel Himself too good to go among them?" A poor, illiterate person, who stood listening to this conversation, said with great earnestness and simplicity, "Why, I always thought that was what Christians were for." The objector was silenced, and what wonder? Is not that what Christians are for? If not, then what in the name of all that is good are they for?

(Christian Herald.)

Tabitha, arise.

1. Sorrow and sympathy of a mourning Church: the weeping widows.

2. Prayer of God's believing servants: the praying Peter.

3. The awakening call of the Divine Word: Tabitha, arise.


1. The first signs of life in an awakened soul: she opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.

2. Friendly assistance for the life yet weak: he gave her his hand and lifted her up.

3. Loving reception into the Church: he presented her alive.

4. A blessed impression upon many.

(K. Gerok.)

I. TO WHOM ADDRESSED. Arise, spirit of love. Hear its evangelical Christianity. And if men will not hear it, then shame them, ye women, who from the days of Tabitha have always been foremost in works of love and heroic deeds.

II. WHEREFORE ADDRESSED. Great is the need of the time, and great the obligation of rescuing love.

III. WHENCE ADDRESSED. Not from without. The work of home mission is no mere matter of fashion; the arm of the world can be of no use in it; the Lord Himself must be present, Peter must come; God's Word with its strength, the Church with its blessing, the spiritual office with its love.

(K. Gerok.).

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion.
The record of the advance of the young Church gives in quick succession three typical conversions: first, that of the eunuch, a foreigner, but a proselyte to the Jewish faith; secondly, that of Saul, born and bred a Jew; thirdly, this of Cornelius, a Gentile seeker after God. Within the range of these experiences the whole world was compassed. The highest apostolic sanction for an unfettered gospel was the need of the hour.

I. THE VISION OF THE ROMAN (vers. 1-8). The home of Cornelius lay thirty miles north of Joppa. Built by Herod the Great in honour of Caesar Augustus, the seat of the Roman rule in the land of the Jews, a city of splendour, with spacious artificial haven, having a temple erected to the emperor that held his statue as Olympian Zeus, and lying, as it did, within the sacred territory, yet a centre of Grecian influence and plagued by the corruptions of a pagan worship, Caesarea afforded every possible phase of contrast to the age-long intolerance of Peter's countrymen. Rome's wide empire flashed before the eye of this true-born Italian, nor could he dream that faith in a Nazarene peasant would give the Cornelian name its truest honour. Yet he was one of those rare souls of whom not a few have illuminated the darkness of heathenism, whom heart hunger leads to the truth. He was a "devout" man. He "feared" God. The second word is simply a closer definition of his religious character. His "fear" was not a superstitious dread of the wrath of God, but a brave man's dread of failing to do the will of God. Furthermore, his piety had power in it, and this, mingled with peace, won over to his faith "all his house." No man's religion can, without great hurt, fail to set forth the two sides of the character of his God. In the man who orders his household in the fear of God "mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Cornelius, constant in alms-giving and prayer, draws near to the kingdom of God's Son. The kingdom is about to be entered. The order is, "Now send." The time had come. The outlying Gentile world had grown sick at heart. The "middle wall of partition" was falling to the ground. Cornelius, for the pagan world, was to learn that the Cross was the centre of the circle, and Peter, for the Jewish world, that the circle was as big as the globe. The Divine direction is very exact. Both of the apostles' names are given. Whether Cornelius knew it or not, Philip, a resident of Caesarea, might have been called to his side within an hour. But Philip was not the man for the occasion. Of all men Peter was best fitted to preach Jesus to Cornelius, of all men the one most needing the results of his preaching. "He will tell thee what thou oughtest to do." These words emphasise two important truths:

1. They point to the value of human agency in the salvation of men. The value of human testimony to a historic fact was never lost sight of in the foundation of the Church. The answer to Hume and Strauss may be found in the meeting of these men. A man not a myth has entered our world, and God has committed to men first of all, not to books, nor papers, nor tracts, the publishing of the gospel. The true witness of true men is the surest way of redeeming China to God. A shipload of Bibles sent to Africa will, unaided, amount to little. Ten holy men turned loose will leaven it for the twentieth century, The man and the book together are invincible.

2. They point to Jesus as the consummate revelation of God. When He can be found all else is insufficient. And it was because He could be found that Cornelius was not, could not be, allowed to remain where he was. His devoutness was not enough. No one dare teach that faith in specific doctrines of Christianity is superfluous. The opening words of Peter's sermon cannot be bent to prove that all religions are of equal value or that faith in the Redeemer is needless.

II. THE VISION OF THE JEW (vers 9-20). God's providences make a perfect fit. The messengers reached the tanner's door not an hour too soon, not a moment behind time. Was the man on the house top ready? A great thing was about to happen. A huge prejudice had come to its death. Let us pause to scan the past life of the fisherman. He had been in part prepared for the nearing duty. A more scrupulous Jew would not have entered a tanner's house. Peter lodged there. He had not been without much previous training. He had been taught, tried, had fallen, had been forgiven and restored to honour. Yet he was not ready for a worldwide need. The words of Jesus never took the place of the educating activities of after life. Peter had been called to be a "fisher of men" (Matthew 4:19). He had heard the centurion commended (Luke 7:7). He had learned how meats defile, and how they do not (Mark 7:18). Near the tragic close of his Lord's life he had seen that certain Greeks sought Him (John 12:20), and that in them the Gentile world was welcomed. Yet he was not ready. Like his fellows, he saw in the direction of his prejudices. "It required the surgery of events to insert a new truth into their minds." Yet he was God's best man for this hour, for, as Bruce has well said, "Everything may be hoped of men who could leave all for Christ's society." To learn that spirit is more than form, and that God is not partial, was a great lesson. Through the opening in heaven a "great sheet" was let down, held "by four rope ends" (Alford), or "attached with four ends, namely, to the edges of the opening which had taken place in heaven" (Meyer). In it were all kinds of animals without exception, clean and unclean. From these Peter was told to choose. With old-time bluntness he refuses. He knows not who speaks, but calls him "Lord." What did it mean? Little wonder that he was "perplexed." The most outward mark of difference between Jew and Gentile had been set at naught. He knew why these regulations had existed (see Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 16). The descendants of Abraham were not alone in making distinctions of animals. Yet none others were so thorough as those of the Jews. "The ordinance of Moses was for the whole nation. It was not, like the Egyptian law, intended for priest's alone; nor like the Hindu law, binding only on the twice-born Brahman; nor like the Parsee law, to be apprehended and obeyed only by those disciplined in spiritual matters. It was a law for the people, for every man, woman, and child of the race chosen to be a 'kingdom of priests, an holy nation' (Exodus 19:6)." He "thought" on. Was the "hedge" between races to be destroyed? Possibly. Was the vision meant for his own enlargement of privilege? Surely not. The sight, the order, shocked his sanitary creed, his patriotic sentiment, his conscience. It was hard for a Jew to yield even to a command from the skies. His "thought" may have taken in the city spread below.

(R. T. Stevenson.)

Jesus Christ is the focus of all good tendencies in history. His light, lighting every man that cometh into the world, is their origin; His triumph is the conclusion toward which they move. The story of Cornelius and Peter shows the bringing together in Christ of two great religious elements — that of devout paganism and that of faithful Judaism. Both make sacrifices, for in Judaism as well as in paganism there is somewhat that is to be left behind. Yet in both there was imperfection. Cornelius had yet to put on the gospel life, Peter had yet to renounce the imperfect Jewish life. Both needed advancement more closely toward Christ, where they could meet as one.

I. CORNELIUS, THE GENTILE, is one of the noblest figures of pre-Christian life that we have. It has often been pointed out that the Roman centurions are always well spoken of in the New Testament. But Cornelius is more plainly set before us than either of the others.

1. As a man Cornelius is deserving of our admiration. We see in him a high religious longing. He was not a dabbler in speculation, such as he might have been if he had been a Greek, or a Roman of a hundred years later. He was one of the sort of men Archdeacon Farrar has called, "seekers after God": men like , Seneca, , and ; men to whom the utmost heathenism could offer in the way of religiousness was unsatisfying (as God meant it to be) to the wants of the soul. The quantity of religiousness offered by the Roman religion was not at fault; there was an abundance of theory to appeal to the mind, plenty of supernatural legend about the gods, and a ritual elaborate enough to gratify the most ardent longing for the externals of worship. But there was not that quality in it all which could appease the cravings of the heart. It was not Divine. Cornelius longed for something better. He had been led to Judaism. Here were no idols, here were no debasing legends of deity, here was real spiritual religion. The purity and spirituality of the Hebrew monotheism, and the loftiness of its code of morals, must have come like a revelation to thoughtful hearts. They came so to Cornelius. The God of the Jews was a better God to him than Jupiter. Yet Cornelius made a discriminating use of Judaism. Cornelius penetrated to the eternally true elements of the Hebrew religion, and disregarded those parts of it which were merely typical and temporary and had no power to satisfy the soul. For his characteristics, named at some length, are spiritual and not ritualistic. He was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house" (ver. 2). The word devout, it is true, says Lechler, "may be applied even to a strictly pagan form of devoutness." It designates a worshipful bent of mind, full of reverence toward Heaven. But in Cornelius' case this reverence was rightly directed, for it rose toward the true God. It is said also of Cornelius that he "gave much alms to the people (of Israel), and prayed to God always." His religiousness was shown not only in devoutness, but in the outward life. "Because," says Calvin, "the Law is contained in two tables, Luke in the first place commends Cornelius' piety; then he descends to the second part, in the fact that he practised the duties of charity towards men." That such a man should have no influence was impossible, above all in those days when the possibilities of the pagan religions were exhausted and men were reaching out after something more satisfying, after that, indeed, which Cornelius had found. We are not surprised, therefore, to learn that "all his house" joined him in his fear of the true God (ver. 2). A man like Cornelius, reverent and thoughtful, cannot but influence others toward the same traits. And the reason for this was his strength of character. Roman soldiers were not, as a general thing, very reverent. Out of this same strength of character also, doubtless, came his patience. He had prayed earnestly to God, we know not for how long, but no unusual answer had come.

2. Such a man in himself is a delightful study in character; but he is much more valuable in this case because of his spiritual significance in relation to the gospel. He shows us plainly, by his obedience to it, the obligation of the universal law of living up to the light one has. Religious emancipation is by means of the principle of exhaustion. You use an imperfect form of religion faithfully, and you are led out of it into something better. So those who, like Paul, were zealous Jews were offering themselves to God as fit subjects for something higher still. Because all phases of belief have in them the potency of better things, men are rightly to be judged of God by their use of what they have. And no one need fear, whatever his present phase of belief Godward, that his aspirations toward something better are ever overlooked by God. The angel said to Cornelius, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God" (ver. 4). It is a comforting thought that not a single hope for religious advancement in any human soul is ever over. looked by God. Cornelius was a good man, a religious man. Even these, however, did not merit the gift of the gospel. The best of men can never claim anything at God's hands, because even the best of men never use all their privileges and perfectly fulfil the will of God. But although Cornelius had not by his life come to deserve the gift of the gospel (which is impossible), he had by it prepared himself for the gospel, and plainly evinced to God his desire for it, although the knowledge of just what it was that he desired and craved for had not crossed his mind. To those who ask it shall be given, and by his good life Cornelius had shown himself to be one of those who ask. God gives grace in exchange for grace. Using what light we have leads on to the desire for more, until we are led to want Christ, who is the final and best gift of God.

II. PETER, THE JEWISH-CHRISTIAN, gives us a study in advancing Christianity. Cornelius shows how Judaism helps to Christ; Peter shows how Judaism must be thrown off in order to reach Christ. The same thing which is set before us as a help in Cornelius is shown a hindrance in Peter. Do you wonder that a man's early training should stay by him? Was it not intended so to stay? Peter's prepossession against Gentile ways of living was fortified by the knowledge that Jewish life was founded upon Divine ordinances. The things unclean to Judaistic thought had not been made unclean by the Jews themselves, but by the very declaration of God. And yet it was narrow. It did not rise to the idea that God might be planning to displace even His own work. Peter could not see that a thing might be instituted of God and yet be temporary. He could not advance to the full conception of the possibility of progressiveness in God's revelation. Not that there was anything defective, improper, or bad in any part of God's ancient work. Bat He meant it for a certain purpose which was temporary. And it was a wonder so great that it took a miracle to dispel it. So hard is it for us to get away from our own set ideas of how God must work when He works at all. And yet God can do the difficult, even what seems the impossible. He can give a form of religion to men that seems perfect, and then He can displace it by another to which the former is but as night to noonday. Peter was to learn that a Gentile soul as such is as ready for the kingdom as a Jewish soul as such, if it is truly longing for salvation. And as this came to him it brought a lesson in humility, for he learned that the judgment of God was far better than his own. He had his prepossessions, founded in the very Word of God. He was asked to give these up by the same God. Here seemed inconsistency, impossibility. But Peter must yield. The ways of man must submit to the ways of God. Our conceptions of God, religion, piety, must all yield before God's thoughts. And if He displaces His own revelations by better ones who shall say Him nay?

III. THE GENERAL LESSONS of our study are apparent.

1. Cornelius and Peter, Jew and Gentile, both had visions granted by God. God is no respecter of persons. Some very ignorant, uneducated man, despised in our eyes, may find the truth as well as we.

2. Christ takes what is best out of all as the foundation of advance into new truth concerning Himself. God's Spirit makes a preparatio evangelica everywhere.

3. All men need progress religiously — progress not beyond Christ, but progress deeper into the mysteries of the sublime truth given to us in Him. Let no one ever say he has no more to learn about the Son of God.

(D. J. Burrell D. D.)

The subject of dreams and dreaming is a fascinating one. There have been many extraordinary dreams; but there is an element of mystery in all dreams. They are witnesses to our spiritual nature. They reveal the spirit that is in man. They give us glimpses of the inner life of the soul. Sometimes they may indicate our moral state. Some dreams are the children of an idle brain; others are shaped by the master passion of the soul. President Edwards entered all his dreams in his diary, and carefully examined them. He looked upon them as indicating the real bias of his waking thoughts. Good seeds sown in the day meant a good crop of dreams at night. Undoubtedly there is much truth in this view. Dreams are sometimes instruments of Divine teaching. The Holy Spirit speaks to men by dreams and visions. "Many of the inspired parts of Scripture came through that channel. Jacob, at Bethel, saw the ladder of mediation between heaven and earth in a dream. Peter received his commission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles in a dream. The spirit world was unfolded to Paul in visions. He saw heaven, but not with his mortal eyes; and heard the language spoken there, but not with ears of clay. The panorama of the ages passed before John in Patmos while in a state of bodily unconsciousness. The Spirit of God can waken the resources of thought in man, and impress his mind without disturbing a single eyelash, or one beat of the heart."

"For human weal Heaven husbands all events,

Dull sleep instructs, nor sport man's dreams in vain."

(G. H. James.)

1. Caesarea was situated on the Mediterranean, about thirty miles north of Joppa. It was built by Herod the Great, B.C. 22, and named after his imperial patron. It was a civil and military capital, the residence of the Roman procurator. It was garrisoned mostly by native soldiers, bat there was one cohort composed of volunteers from Italy, and over a division of that there was the centurion Cornelius. He belonged to an illustrious clan which had given to the state some of its most distinguished men; but greater than the glory of Sulla and the Scipios, who had made the Cornelian family everywhere renowned, is that which is conferred on this centurion in ver. 2.

2. Cornelius was not a proselyte, for had he been Peter would have had no difficulty, and Acts 15:14 is decisive against it. He belonged to that large class of thoughtful men who had become weary of the worthlessness of paganism. He had outgrown idolatry, and perhaps made himself familiar with the Septuagint, and certainly was convinced that God was the hearer of prayer. He might have become a proselyte, and possibly was contemplating that step when he heard of Jesus, and being a genuine truth seeker he determined to wait for light. This will enable us to understand the object of his fasting and prayer. There had come to him the inevitable question, "What wilt thou do with Jesus, that is called Christ?" and in his anxiety as to the answer he cried to God for light. And not in vain (vers. 3-6).

3. In response to the Divine direction he dispatched two of his servants and a soldier to Peter; but God had gone before them, and was even now preparing His servant for their appearance (vers. 9-16), who received a symbolic revelation of the fact that the restrictions of the Mosaic law were removed, and that the distinction between Jew and Gentile was abolished. It indicated that creation itself had been purified, and rendered clean for our use by the satisfaction of Christ. But Peter did not understand it so, but was helped by the message of the servants of Cornelius, and putting the two together he determined to go to Caesarea. As a precaution he took six brethren with him. Convinced that some important event in the history of the Church was going to happen he desired to have Jewish witnesses: an action which shows that, in spite of his impulsiveness, he was not destitute of prudence.

4. On arriving Peter found a considerable assembly, and after a preliminary discussion and explanation delivered a sermon as remarkable as any recorded in the history. While he was speaking the Holy Ghost descended, which —(1) Certified the truth of Peter's words.(2) Proved to Peter and his companions the genuineness of the faith of these Gentile converts.(3) Indicated that those who received Him should be then and there admitted to the Church (Acts 11:17).

5. This was the Pentecost of the Gentiles, and so Peter opened the door for their admission as the Lord had promised him. Thus the infant Church took a new departure, and entered on that worldwide mission in which it is still engaged. Learn then —

I. THAT THE WAY TO GET LIGHT IS TO ACT UP TO WHAT WE HAVE AND PRAY FOR MORE. Cornelius had not found Christ (Acts 11:14), but he had found something, and "whereto he had attained he walked by that rule." This is a uniform method of God's procedure (Deuteronomy 4:29; Psalm 112:4; Matthew 25:29; John 7:17; James 1:5, 6). F.W. Robertson stayed himself up with this principle during that dark wrestle with doubt in the Tyrol. Everything else went from him, but he could hold by this: "It is always right to do right"; and in the acting out of that he regained his hold of Christ.


1. Cornelius lost no time in sending for Peter; nay, after Peter came he took in all he said while he was speaking, and so received the Holy Ghost. Do, therefore, at once what is needed to secure your soul's welfare. When Pharaoh was asked by Moses when he should entreat the Lord, he said, "Tomorrow!" and you marvel at his folly. You would have said, "The sooner the better"; but beware lest you condemn yourself. "Today, if ye will hear His voice," etc. You need not send to Joppa, "The word is nigh thee" (Romans 10:8, 9).

2. But the promptitude of Peter is quite as noteworthy (ver. 29), and we who have to deal with men about their souls should take a lesson. I once preached to an enormous audience in a circus. When I had finished I was quite prostrated, and while in that condition a man wished to speak with me about the way of life. I made an appointment for the next morning. But he never came. And I have written down that as one of the lost opportunities of my life, and its memory has been a spur to me ever since. "The King's business requires haste." Now — alike for preacher and hearer — is the accepted time.

III. THAT PREACHERS AND HEARERS ARE PREPARED FOR EACH OTHER BY GOD. Cornelius is led in a peculiar manner to send, and Peter to go: when they come together the result is blessing. It is the same now. The preacher is led through a special spiritual history; he is guided to the choice of a particular subject, to treat it in a peculiar way, to preach it at some distant place. The hearer is brought through circumstances of trial perhaps; he is led on a certain day to a certain place of worship, how he knows not, but there he hears the message God sends for him. It seems as he listens that the preacher must know his past life, and so speaking to his circumstances he is blessed in his conversion. This is no uncommon history.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)


1. He was a devout man, and one who feared God. His morality was not of that mean character, or dwarfish stature, or unhallowed allowance, which satisfied the scanty requirements of paganism and idolatry. He had reverence for the demands, he had zeal for the glory, he had impulse from the love of God.

2. He was a charitable man. To heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, was his delightful employment.

3. He was a man of prayer. Here lay the great excellence of his character; here the grace which sanctified every other, implanted by the Holy Spirit in his heart; and here the secret of that mercy of which he was made a partaker. His supplication was no transient, hasty homage of the lip or knee, but the settled habit of his mind, the unwearied uninterrupted practice of his life.

4. He was a man of family religion.


1. God is no respecter of persons.

2. What should be the character of ministerial labour and duty.(1) The more earnestly and faithfully a minister of religion labours, the more certainly will he find cause to know that the way of God is not as his way, nor the thoughts of God as his thoughts.(2) The more earnestly a minister is engaged in private prayer for himself, and for the success of the great cause of mercy and of man in which he is engaged, the more surely will he learn the mind of God, the more enlarged will be his views, the more certain his success in preaching the gospel.

(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)

We learn from the history —

1. That it is possible to live a life of piety under unfavourable circumstances.

2. That goodness, wherever found, is noticed and remembered by God.

3. That God gives more light to him who is conscious of his need of it and who humbly seeks it.

4. That in order to impart this greater light the human ministry of the Word has been appointed.

(James Owens.)

I. HE WAS A DEVOUT MAN. This takes him out of the ranks of those whose religion is not a religion of devotion. The religion of too many is a religion of fashion. They are expected to go to church, to pray and sing and hear while there, but they are glad when it is over, and that it will not have to be repeated for a week. As a devout man Cornelius was —

1. Thoroughly in earnest. Earnestness alone will never take a man to heaven, but no one ever got there who was not in earnest.

2. Impressed with the majesty of God. He had realised something of the glorious character of Him with whom he had to do. Are you overshadowed by the august presence of the Most High? If not, you are not in the same category as Cornelius.

II. HE FEARED GOD WITH ALL HIS HOUSE. He took an interest in the well-being of his subordinates. He did not regard himself as a mere ruler. Too many officers treat their men as mere automata, made to stand before them in a line and go through their evolutions like machines. Is it a matter of solicitude with us that our servants should feel the power of God's grace? How many ladies speak to their maids about their souls?

III. HE GAVE MUCH ALMS TO THE PEOPLE. He was a man of large-hearted liberality. How many professing Christians would be startled if they asked the question faithfully, "What proportion of my income do I give to God?" Remember the generosity of the Pharisees, and our Lord's declaration, "Except your righteousness shall exceed," etc.

IV. HE PRAYED TO GOD ALWAYS. How many are content with a few hurried moments of prayer, and think that a trouble.

1. He prayed for greater light. Many are perfectly satisfied with their attainments, or even with their non-attainments, and prefer darkness or twilight to light.

2. He prayed like a man who expected to receive the answer. Would anything surprise some of you more than if God were to answer your prayer?

3. When his prayer was partially answered, he took pains to secure the full blessing.

V. WE HAVE SAID A GOOD DEAL IN CORNELIUS' FAVOUR: Now what do you think of him? Some may say, That is an excellence I cannot hope to attain. Stop! Cornelius, with all his excellence, was AN UNSAVED MAN. Let me not be misunderstood. He had been faithful to the light he had, and if he had been called away he would have been judged according to that, and not by a standard that he was unacquainted with. Peter lays down this principle clearly in vers. 34, 35. But Cornelius was so far unsaved that if when the gospel reached him he had rejected it, he could not have escaped condemnation (see Acts 11:14). You cannot save a man who is saved already. If so good a man could yet be a lost soul, what must be the case with many here?

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

1. In religious biography "army Christians" have a recognised place and honour for simplicity and thoroughness. To the soldier the very conditions of his life render compromise an impossibility. In discipline, in the habit of obedience, in the self-restraint and self-effacement required of the true man in arms, are also to be found true elements in the education of the man of God. In Bible history, many of those whom we most admire were warriors — the simple Joshua, the lordly Gideon, the "Sweet Singer" David, the pious Josiah; and in what book is more praise given to worth than is given to faithful Ittai, grateful Naaman, "My sergeant Cyrus," the courteous Julius, and the nameless but immortal centurion of Capernaum?

2. When introduced to us, Cornelius is an officer of the Roman garrison stationed at Caesarea, then the civil capital of Judaea. His name at once attracts attention. What the name of Howard, or Russell, or Talbot is to English, or Douglas, or Gordon, or Stewart to Scottish history, that was the gens Cornelia to the City of the Seven Hills. A cadet of a noble house we may therefore conceive him to have been. The benign influence of noblesse oblige would be upon him and help to preserve a stainless name from stain. The regiment to which he was attached seems to have been one of special honour, and the position of an officer in it would be correspondingly eminent. Later on we encounter an officer of an "Augustan" cohort at Caesarea, Julius, the courteous custodier of St. Paul. It is quite possible that Cornelius and Julius may have been officers of the same regiment, which would readily account for the kindly feeling which the latter manifested towards his prisoner.

3. As regards the piety of Cornelius the narrative speaks enthusiastically (ver. 2). This eulogy seems to describe a "proselyte of the gate." The more exclusive Jews made the "gate" to be as high and forbidding as possible, but the Hellenists gloried in the tribute paid by every inquirer to the spiritual supremacy of the prophets, and encouraged them to study the Scriptures and to attend the synagogues. So it came that there was, more or less loosely, connected with the synagogues in almost every great centre, a floating body of students of all shades of opinion, from those who were merely attracted by the simple and central principle of the unity of the Godhead, on to those who were on the threshold of circumcision. Among these it is strange if we cannot find room for one to whom the terms applied to proselytes are given, "devout," and "one that feared God"; who gave alms to Jews; observed the Jewish hours of prayer, and was manifestly familiar with the Jewish Scriptures.

4. The narrative at once lets us see that this man is thoroughly in earnest. He is one of those "violent" ones who take the kingdom of heaven "by force." We find him spending a whole day (ver. 30) in fasting and prayer. At the ninth hour (3 p.m.), the hour of evening prayer, the answer comes. He had heard about Jesus (ver. 37, "Ye know"); his mind, enlightened by Jewish prophecy, and unobscured by Jewish prejudice, saw neither "stumbling block" nor "foolishness" in a suffering Saviour. The angelic visitor does not constitute himself the expounder of Divine truth; he only tells where such an expounder may be found. The miracle ceases, as it always does, at the earliest possible point.

5. There is a fitness in the Roman from Caesarea seeking the Jew at Joppa. For Caesarea was new-built and heathen; Joppa from time immemorial had been the port of Jerusalem, a town Jewish in all its history and relations, and associated with many of the most stirring events of Jewish history. It is still further fitting that the city of Jehovah should linger on, like the Jewish people, dejected but not destroyed, whilst that of Caesar has ceased to be.

6. But meanwhile a preparatory work had to be accomplished in the mind of the prejudiced fisherman of Galilee. It is impossible for one who has not encountered it to gauge the mastering tyranny of religious caste. Our class distinctions exist in spite of religion, under its mollifying influence, and, when they pass beyond certain bounds, under its ban. But in caste religion adds its sanction to the distinctions, and stereotypes and stamps them as Divinely appointed, permanent and necessary. Caste had crept into the Jewish Church. The Jews, instead of regarding themselves as Heaven's instruments for the sake of others, had come to plume themselves on being Heaven's favourites for their own sake. The atmosphere of such a caste pride is like a spiritual sirocco, drying up the moisture of charity, and parching into an unbrotherly Pharisaism. In such an atmosphere St. Peter had been born and bred. Then he and the other disciples are called of Jesus Christ. For three or four years they are within the sweep of His liberalising love. Then comes Calvary, the Resurrection, and thereafter Pentecost. On that day Peter expounded the prophecy: "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh." Surely the truth has now entered into him, and will never more leave room for caste. But no I It is in him still, living and strong, and He who "knows what is in man" has a feeling for His servant's infirmity, and provides that special symbolic teaching which he needs before he may dare to enter upon the work whereunto he is now called.

7. Thus prepared the apostle goes with the messengers of the centurion. And now the two are face to face. It is a strange meeting — the servant of Christ and the soldier of Caesar. That Cornelius did not resent or recoil from such a teacher proves at once how truly religion had done its royal work within him. Two men more opposed as to race, birth, breeding, and habits, can scarcely be conceived; and it could not but be that there was much in the peasant calculated to rasp the Patrician, yet the soldier of Caesar deems it no dishonour to bow the knee before the legate of Jehovah.

8. We need not trace the interview through its details. The significant fact — one of overwhelming importance in the development of the idea of the Church — is that Cornelius and his household are received as Christians, not through the preliminary "gate" of circumcision, but directly through that of baptism. What the significance of that fact was it now concerns us to see. The infant Church was surrounded by dangers on all sides and far ahead. It had to face those which arose from the hostility of the world's governments and from the contact of Oriental theosophies. But its nearest, and deadliest danger arose from the Church from which itself sprung. Springing forth from the bosom of Judaism, the Christians were, at the outset, regarded as a Jewish sect, amenable to Jewish ecclesiastical law and discipline. They worshipped in the synagogues and in the temple. In this aspect the danger was that the hierarchy might crush them. This was a danger that could be measured. But the Church's friends were more to be feared than her foes. Those without might cruelly seek to destroy, but those within conscientiously sought to corrupt. Every Jew was brought up to believe that the Law was eternal in its minutest details, ceremonial and judicial. Other than Jews might enter the kingdom of God, but only by the entrance of circumcision. The majority of the Jewish Christians carefully dovetailed their conceptions of the Messiah into conformity with this fundamental requirement. The popular thought placed the law first; and the Messiah was to be gloried in as the magnifier of its scope and the extender of its authority. If we rightly understand this prejudice, so deeply bedded in the Jewish mind as to be with difficulty dragged out of the hearts of even apostles, we shall be in a position to understand the danger to the Church from the influx of Jewish converts. They came into the Church devoutly believing Jesus to be the Messiah; but they continued to believe that, first of all, He was a Jewish Messiah, and all the citizens of His kingdom must first become Jews. This was the position assumed by an active and aggressive party "they of the circumcision," i.e., "Judaizing Christians." The position taken up by the Church and by all the apostles, but most strongly by St. Paul, was antagonistic to this. The law was but a pedagogue to lead up to Christ; in all its ceremonial it was local and temporary, designed for a special purpose of preparation, which purpose was accomplished when the Saviour came; it was therefore no longer required. Here was the momentous issue, whether Christianity will shrink into a mere Jewish sect, or swell into the Catholic Church. When we consider the character of the danger, we cease to be surprised that Paul became a "chosen vessel" to bear the gospel to the Gentiles, free from all the demands of a ceremonial Judaism. Neither the training nor the temperament of St. Peter fitted him for the task; the cause was therefore taken out of his hands. In those of St. Paul it was safe. But let us not forget that the older and less qualified man was the instrument selected of God for the introduction of the first heathen into the Church. As was to be expected from the presence of such a party as I have described, his action was promptly challenged at Jerusalem. The defence was a simple narrative of facts. "What was I that I should withstand God?" The reply was satisfactory to the Church, and ought to have been final to all. But caste dies hard.

9. And so we have the noble Roman recognised as a member of the Visible Church. The baptism did not make him a Christian; it proclaimed a fact that already existed. God owned him first; man afterwards.

(G. M. Grant, B. D.)

Cornelius marks the beginning of a new epoch. Like the first flower of spring he is the sign and herald of the new forces at work changing the face of the whole earth. His history carries us to the final fighting ground of the "decisive battle" between the narrow and fettering forces of Judaism and the catholic energies of Christianity. He stands at the head of Gentile Christianity, and is to Saul of Tarsus what John the Baptist was to Jesus Christ. Coming up out of the darkness of heathenism, he bursts upon the vision of the Church like a flash of unexpected light. No prophet announces his advent; no visible teacher prepares him for his work. He is outside the "churches," but in the kingdom. The building of the City of God offers room for the lowliest worker as well as demands the man of transcendent gifts. It welcomes the inconspicuous Ananias of Damascus not less than the famous pupil of Gamaliel, and advances to its perfection by the experience and toil of Cornelius, the Roman soldier, as well as by the practical wisdom of James, the chief pastor of the Christian flock in the holy city. Let each man, therefore, heed the light he now sees, do the duty that is next him, fill with unfaltering faithfulness his own sphere in the Divine will, and it is enough. God orders our way. If we know and do our own work all is well — its value, its near or far off results, we cannot estimate. In some callings men easily assess their gains, and take their true place in a graded scale of workers. We cannot. They know what they earn. We never do. Gold is easily counted; but where is the ledger account of new ideas disseminated, of spiritual renewals accomplished, of human justice and right established, of souls made true, and peaceful, and strong? Saul, unlikeliest of all the Jews to human seeming, will take up and advance the labours of the martyred Stephen; and Cornelius, unlikelier still, for he is not a Jew, will make the crooked straight and the rough places plain for the advent and ministry of the Apostle of the Gentiles.

I. Approaching in this spirit of trust and hope and ardour, the study of Cornelius, as he appears in Luke's history, revealing the methods and movements of God in securing new departures in religion, we note first THAT CORNELIUS GATHERS INTO HIMSELF IN COOPERATING FULNESS THE CHIEF PROVIDENTIAL FORCES OF THE AGE, and so becomes the fitting instrument for incarnating and manifesting the remedial energy and wide range of the religion of the Saviour. The historian compels us to see that Cornelius is a Roman. The whole atmosphere is Roman! How, then, could he whose chief business it was to trace in his two Gospels the gradual growth of Christian work from Nazareth to Rome, pass by this first Christian Roman of them all, as he is led into the clear radiance of "the light of the world." Cornelius was not a proselyte. He is still within the circle of alienated heathendom, and yet by one step he passes into the school of Christ, and enters into living relations with Him, without being detained for a moment or a lesson in the training school of Moses. It is this which marks the crisis. Herein is the revolution. The germ of the Christian religion is planted in this uncircumcised, uninitiated Gentile, finds in his devout yearnings for God, loyalty to Christ, generous love of the needy, and beautiful largeness of soul, the appropriate conditions for rapid and sure development, and forthwith gives incontrovertible signs that though the planting may be Peter's, yet the increase belongs first to the germ itself, and has been secured, in the Divinely-prepared soil, by the operation of the Spirit of God. Religious particularism is in Him exposed, condemned, and cast out for evermore. God's great "universalities of love, provision, and ministry to souls" are manifest; Christianity has a new starting point, and henceforth pursues a new line of progress. As a river it had entered into human history in Nazareth and Jerusalem, and had made its channels deep and wide; here in Caesarea, at the borders of the non-elect world, it starts along a new course, cuts for itself wider and deeper channels, and makes everything to live whithersoever it comes. So the Judaism in which Christianity was born is left behind, and that transference of the religion of Jesus to the Latin world, by which it was to work as a regenerating leaven in the European races, is commenced. In Cornelius the centurion, the glorious gospel of the blessed God makes its auspicious start for the Great West. Now this, it must be remembered, is the first proof of the realisation of the world purpose of God in the gift of revelation. "The universe," as Renan has said, "is incessantly in the pain of transformation," and goes towards its end with what he calls "a sure instinct," but with what we believe to be a Divinely-redeeming impulse; that end being the salvation of all men through a universal religion. The first fathers of the Hebrew faith caught a glimpse of that world-embracing aim, and the exile of Israel in Babylon lifted it on high, brought it into the life of the people, so cleansing their conceptions of God and man, and preparing them for their worldwide mission. Then the victories of Alexander the Great brought in their train the diffusion of the Greek language, Greek thought, and Greek culture, throughout the world. To these beneficent ministries were added the discovery of new routes to the East, the development of traffic, and the commingling of the different races of men; all to be perfected and crowned by the ascent to the summit of power of Roman Imperialism, and the shaping of the nations into that one political federation which became the basis for that universal civilisation which was the material condition for the reception and dissemination of a really universal religion. But for us, living in the midst of dreaded religious changes, the biography of Cornelius is not only an argument, but also a message of peace and hope. It bids us trust in the living God — the God who is a consuming fire, but whose fires only burn up the waste materials of old religions to make room for the building of the new and better edifice. The kingdom of truth and of redemption is His. He rules it, and all new departures in religion are under His sway. He prepares for its advances by processes out of sight, continues the succession of heroic souls, who free us from the tyranny of dead dogmas; who gather up the results of His manifold working in all the departments of life, scientific and social, political and religious, and who then, vitalising and unifying them all by the Spirit of Christ Jesus, lead the life of the world to higher and heavenlier places. Lessing says: "The palace of Theology may seem to be in danger through the fire in its windows, but when we arrive and study the phenomenon we find it is but the afterglow from the west which is shining on the panes, really endangering nothing, but yet for a moment or two attracting all." Let us not fear. The God of Cornelius is the Father of Jesus Christ, and the Saviour of all men.

II. Advancing to a further point in the record, it appears that GOD PERFECTS THE SPIRITUAL EDUCATION OF PETER BY CORNELIUS; ill short, He finishes the work that was commenced on and in the chief apostle by John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, by the agency of a saint of paganism. Peter was a dull scholar, and required to be converted a good many times. It was a hard task to surrender his Jewish exclusiveness. All his traditions and preferences were against the sacrifice. He could not see the bearing, and did not admit the far-reaching applications of the truths he proclaimed. Thus the soldier comes to the aid of the seer. So the saint of heathendom goads into bold and aggressive action the disciple of Jesus Christ. Christianity advances through vision and service; through prophets on the heights of meditation and warriors confronted with crowds of foes in the valleys of evil. Some men require arousal. They see, but they stand still; they know, but they will not do. They linger shivering on the brink, waiting for the leadership of a more venturesome spirit. We need one another. The men of intelligence require the men of action; the press cannot dispense with the pulpit, nor the pulpit with the press: even apostles may learn from the humblest inquirers. The Reformation, prepared by Erasmus and the Humanists, waits for the moral fervour and splendid courage of Martin Luther. Peter, leader and apostle though he was, owes an unspeakable debt to the God-trained soldier of Caesarea.

III. TRUTH, LIKE A TORCH, THE MORE IT IS SHOOK IT SHINES. The new light in the house of Cornelius sends out its radiance to Jerusalem, arresting the attention and arousing the opposition of the fathers and brethren of the new Christian society. Peter appeared before the Church and told his simple tale. The appeal was victorious. God was understood and glorified, and the verdict was given by the Church with heartiness and praise, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life." Is not that the way God is working amongst us today? Is He not preparing a glorious future for the Churches by the work and experience of individuals here and there, in and out, of the Churches? Cornelius is a religious reformer. God puts into his experience the truths of His Gospels in their widest range, and thereby they are built into, and operate as part of, the working energies of the Christian system. The centurion himself, in the fulness of his spiritual gifts and achievements, demonstrates that God is not a respecter of persons and races, but of aims and faiths, of yearnings and character. The unit of the Christian theology is a Christian man; a man who has come to Jesus Christ as he was, with all God has done in him and for him, with all he has acquired, in intellect and character, at home and in contact with men; and has come through Jesus Christ to the possession of the ideas, motives, and powers of the Holy Spirit; and is by that Spirit made a new man. I adopt the language of Milton: "Now once again by all concurrence of signs, and by the general instinct of holy and devout men, God is decreeing some new and great period in this Church, even to the reforming of the Reformation itself." Let us be hopeful and patient. No knowledge can be a menace to the truth of Christ Jesus. It must glorify Him. The wise men will bring their gifts and lay them at the feet of Christ. A new Cornelius — now outside the Churches not unlikely — will God give to His children who, himself freighted with the rich results of the intellectual, social, and spiritual activity of the century, will force us into the presence of God, to hear what He Himself has commanded His Peters to say to us; and He will fellow the preaching with such signs of salvation and power, that the Churches will gratefully say: "Then hath God granted unto the learned and scientific, and to the social outcast also repentance unto life."

IV. Finally, the portrait of Cornelius, together with the glimpses we obtain of Peter, reveals THE MEN IN WHOM GOD PREFERABLY WORKS FOR THE TRUEST SPIRITUAL PROGRESS OF MEN.

1. Cornelius is a "devout man." He cultivates communion with God. Strong impulses urge him towards the higher significance of life, prepare his spirit for visions of the unseen world, and open his soul for the larger faith he avers, and the sublime inspirations he receives.

2. With this intense spiritual yearning he blends a wise management of his house, as if himself consciously under God's authority, and responsible for the well-being of those under him, so theft some of his soldiers catch the infection of his devoutness, and his domestics share his solitude to hear God's messenger.

3. In him also is seen the Roman love of rectitude and fair dealing. He is a "just man."

4. He has not taken advantage of his place to plunder, as too many others did. But he gave much alms to the people. His social sympathies were as strong as his religious. You cannot hope to take any helpful part in hastening the arrival of an era of purified and enlarged thought of God, of intenser love of God and men, of spiritual quickening and social regeneration, unless, conscious of your weakness and sin, you make it your business, whilst believing in Him "who is the propitiation for our sins," to walk in the light as He is in the light, and so to have fellowship with men and experience that continuous "cleansing from all sin" which is the pledge and guarantee of Divine adequacy for faithful and fruitful work.

(J. Clifford, D. D.)

Here is one man who is a truth seeker, and there is another who is a truth teacher. One has what the other needs; but they are unknown to each other, and separated by a great chasm. How can they be brought together? God commissions an angel to appear to Cornelius, and to tell him to send Peter. God appears to Peter, and shows him that "nothing that He has made is common or unclean." The scholar and the teacher are soon face to face; and then, "while Peter spake, the Holy Ghost fell on those who heard the word." This incident shows that every step in the work of conversion is known and arranged by God. The text affords a beautiful illustration of —

I. PERSONAL PIETY. "Cornelius was a devout man, and one that feared God." A devout man now is one that is devoted to the service and worship of God. This word seems originally, however, to have had the meaning of thoughtful, serious, and reverently inclined. Cornelius had not found "the pearl of great price," the "one thing needful," but he was an earnest seeker, prayerful, and, according to his light, sincerely pious. The Word of God —

1. Points out the necessity of personal piety. It affirms first that "we have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God"; and then, "that without holiness, no man can see the Lord." Jesus said, "Except ye be converted," etc.

2. Explains the nature of personal piety — a change of heart that leads to a change of life. Godliness is Godlikeness — in thought, and spirit, and life: "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature," etc. It is possible to observe the outward forms of religion without experiencing its saving power, and to have a name to live, but to be dead. Knowledge, liberality, morality, prayer, cannot save us. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

II. DOMESTIC PIETY. "With all his house." We are not told how many members it contained, nor whether they were old or young; but we are told that they feared God. Cornelius not only renounced idolatry himself, but he taught his children to renounce it. If we want our children to give themselves to Christ, we must lead the way. Example is better than precept. Domestic piety adds very much —

1. To the general comfort of the family circle. In the most orderly households there may be much to disturb the peace and try the temper, but where the home atmosphere is pervaded by a devout spirit, there will be a kindliness of speech and a tenderness of spirit that will lighten the burdens of life.

2. To the spiritual welfare of the family circle. The "curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked"; but "the Lord blesseth the habitation of the just." The poor man may not enjoy the dainties that are found on the rich man's table, or the pictures that adorn his walls; but "the blessing of the Lord it maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow thereto." Are we not more anxious about the mental culture and the social status of our children than about their spiritual growth? Do not our prayers pull one way and our lives another?

III. PRACTICAL PIETY. "Who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway." It is not every servant that has a good word for his master. If there be any defect in a man's character, no one can detect it sooner than his servant. But Cornelius's servant says, "His master is a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nations of the Jews."

1. True piety manifests itself —(1) In generous deeds. This was not a speaking, but a shining religion. He sounded no trumpet, but his light streamed forth, like the light from a lighthouse, far over the troubled sea of life. True piety must report itself. Benevolence is one of the natural fruits of piety. "Pure religion and undefiled before God," etc.(2) In a prayerful spirit. This combination is very beautiful. Work and worship; profession and practice; grace and generosity.

(J. T. Woodhouse.)

Although it seemed good to Almighty God, under the old dispensation, to separate for Himself a peculiar people, and to make Himself known to them in a wonderful manner, He gave frequent intimations that this knowledge should, in the fulness of time, be extended to the Gentiles also. In this incident, in the conversion of Cornelius, we behold the rise of that mighty stream which has poured its healing waters over so large a portion of the civilised world, fulfilling in its course the prediction of the evangelical prophet: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isaiah 9:2).

I. THE CHARACTER OF CORNELIUS. He is introduced in the text as a Roman soldier, a centurion, an officer of considerable rank and distinction, in the cohort or regiment called the Italian band, quartered at Caesarea. He had been a heathen, but by the grace of God had been delivered from the vain and idolatrous worship of the gods of his own country to serve the true and living God. How, or in what way, this change had been effected, we know not with any certainty. It is not improbable that, in consequence of his residence in Judaea, the scriptures of the Old Testament had fallen in his way, and he had been led to study them in an unprejudiced and teachable spirit, and had become convinced that the gods of the heathen were no gods, and that the God of Israel He was the true and only God. He is introduced to us as "one that feared God with all his house." And such must ever be the result of an honest fear or reverence of God, drawn from the Word of God, and wrought by the Spirit of God. It is the "beginning of wisdom": it works in the mind of the individual to produce conviction. But conviction once produced, it stops not with the individual; it moves him to exert his influence for the benefit of others, and especially of those of his own household; and, if we are right in our conjecture that it was from the Holy Scriptures that the centurion had become acquainted with Israel's God, there can be little doubt that these same Scriptures would be employed by him as the means of instructing those about him. If you, like Cornelius, fear God, are you not afraid to neglect His Word? Let me urge it upon you to assemble your children and the members of your house once at least on every day, and read aloud some portion of that blessed Book, and then conclude with a few words of supplication. But it is stated of Cornelius, whose conduct suggests to us these remarks, that he "prayed to God alway." It may be, that whilst I have been urging on you once at least each day to gather your families together for a few minutes to read the Word of Life, you have been finding out excuses in your manifold engagements, and saying within yourselves, "It is impossible, it is utterly impossible: at such an hour I have to be at such a place, and at such and such a time to do such and such things: it is quite impossible." Listen to me, if it be really and truly impossible, God may possibly accept the excuses you have been framing. But here the question naturally arises, Had Cornelius, concerning whom it is recorded that "he prayed to God alway," no engagements? Had he, a Roman soldier, appointed to command at least a hundred men, and to communicate continually with the authorities at Rome concerning the conduct of the refractory Jews, at this time subjects to the emperor his master, had he nothing to do? Might he not easily have found excuses? But how, it may be inquired, could he, if thus fully occupied, how could he possibly pray to God alway? Listen to me whilst I endeavour to supply the answer. He feared God, felt reverently and gratefully His mercy in making Himself known to him; and he was afraid lest, if left an instant to himself, he might, at some time or other, relapse into his former state of idolatry and heathenism; and it was his aim, therefore, to live in a constant spirit of prayer, so that the fire might ever be burning on the altar of his heart: his very duties were so performed, and his mind so carefully regulated by continual meditation upon and intercourse with his heavenly Friend, that it was no exaggeration to say of him, "He prayed to God always." Cornelius was a soldier — a profession, generally but too hastily, supposed unfavourable to the growth of grace in the heart. Undoubtedly some callings seem, from their very nature, to afford larger opportunities of the means of grace and association with God's dear children than do others: but I should say, in general, that the state of all others the most unfavourable to vital godliness is a state of idleness and inactivity. God appoints us duties; and it is, I am thankful to be enabled to state from extensive personal experience and observation, quite possible diligently to attend to them, and yet sedulously to cultivate the paramount interests of the immortal soul; nay, more, so to perform things temporal that they may minister to the attainment of things eternal. In this view of the subject, let us stay a moment to see what the profession of Cornelius would teach him. First, then, his profession would teach one who prayed to God alway, faithfulness to his earthly sovereign, who had committed to him the overseership of that portion of the Roman empire; and thus such a one would be reminded of the fidelity and integrity which he owed to his heavenly Master, to his own soul, and to the interests of those who formed his household. Next, his profession, the very life of which is vigilance, would suggest the need there is of continual watchfulness, lest "the adversary, who goeth about seeking whom he may devour," "should obtain an advantage over him." I will mention only one other lesson which he would learn, referred to in pointed terms by the apostle in 2 Timothy 2:4: "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath called him to be a soldier." To sit loosely by all earthly matters. I might pursue the thought: and if you were each to tell me what are the occupations to which God has called you — whether you be one to whom God has committed the responsibility of wealth and influence; whether you be lawyer, physician, student, man of business, mechanic, handmaid, or domestic servant — it would not be difficult to make out before you how each particular department of your earthly calling might be made subservient to the growth of some spiritual grace, and to suggest the exercise of that blessed state of mind which possessed Cornelius, who "prayed to God alway." But the Roman soldier did not restrict himself to his privilege of prayer; neither was he watchful only, as became him. We are therefore in no respect surprised to find it written of him that he "gave much alms." He discovered a liberal disposition in relieving the distresses of the poor, as well as a peculiar fervour of mind towards God by the constancy and devoutness of his prayers. His benevolence and his piety were intimately connected, and they reflected a lustre upon each other. They who are always asking, and as constantly receiving, will not fail to be continually communicating. Other particulars are recorded of this most exemplary soldier which I can only cursorily glance at. In the thirtieth verse we read that it was "while fasting" that the "man in bright clothing stood before him"; in the twenty-second verse that he was a just man, and "of good report among all the nation of the Jews"; and this notwithstanding the hatred which they entertained towards the Romans, whose servant Cornelius was; so justly had he conducted himself, so "unspotted had he kept himself from the world," that God had given him favour in their sight, and he was well reported of "amongst all the nation of the Jews." How lovely and consistent is his character in the view of man! There is not a shade upon it to dim its lustre.

II. THE REASONS WHEREFORE HE WAS SELECTED FROM THE HEATHEN WORLD AS THE FIRST CONVERT TO THE FAITH OF A CRUCIFIED REDEEMER. Some have thought it "vain for us to seek the reason wherefore he obtained this honourable preference," and have contented themselves with the reflection that "God distributes His favours as He pleases." This is indeed true: "He giveth not account of any of His matters" (Job 33:13); but I think a reason may be gathered from the history itself, viz., that "such was his amiable character before his extraordinary call, that he seemed less likely than many others to offend the prejudices, of the Jews." I do not think this enough. I think the facts of the case supply a more probable and instructive reason. Something more was needed in the counsels of Jehovah than this bright and lengthened catalogue of gifts and graces. What I shall the man who is exemplifying in his daily walk and conversation an amount of excellence so near perfection that there is, perhaps, no merely human character in the New Testament which surpasses it — does he need to be "told words whereby he and all his house may be saved"? and shall there be no salvation for them without? It is even so. The Word which states the need informs us what it was which Cornelius needed, and which all have need to know as well as he. You will find it in the discourse addressed by Peter to Cornelius, and "his near kinsmen and near friends," whom his piety had called together upon the occasion. Speaking to them of "Jesus of Nazareth" — of Him "whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power" — the apostle says, at the forty-third verse of the chapter whence our text is taken, "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins." These were the words whereby he and all his house were to be saved: these were the "things" which "God" had "commanded" to be "heard." These were the fundamentals of the Christian dispensation.

III. We must at this point seek to gather up from the entire subject SOME PRACTICAL INSTRUCTION, which may, by the gracious influence of the Holy Ghost that fell on all who heard the apostle's word, be blessed to us. And first, let those who, like Cornelius, are just, devout, prayerful, liberal, self-denying, and of good report among the people, let them know assuredly that they are sinners as Cornelius was, and have need to learn, if they have not yet learned, "words whereby they must be saved." All their virtues are inadequate to the blotting out one single sin. It must be confessed that the case of the Roman soldier, whose character we have been considering, is a very strong one; but if the view which I have taken of it be correct, it would seem to have been selected in order to lay the axe to the root of all self-righteousness, of all regard to and dependence upon works as the ground of men's acceptance before God. But are there none, on the other hand, who profess to have laid hold upon Christ, to believe on Him, to depend on Him alone, who reject the merit of good works; are there none of these who are yet negligent to "adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things," in their tempers, in their moderation, in their freedom from selfishness? who possess but little of the energy and benevolence, the charitable, prayerful, estimable spirit of Cornelius? If such there are among ourselves, let them, let all of us, be stirred up by the example of the Roman convert to greater faithfulness and watchfulness and diligence and love.

(G. Spence, D. C. L.)

A Gentile, a Roman, a soldier, a centurion: all barriers, one would think, to Divine grace; but it goes through them all.

(K. Gerok.)


1. He was devout; he reverenced the Supreme Being. This he might do as a sincere pagan; and in this the pious heathen of all lands may put to the blush the irreligious man in Christian lands.

2. He was God-fearing. His character was not built upon any mere materialistic philosophy that makes all virtue spring from self-interest.

3. His influence was felt throughout his household. A man's religion that does not affect his family is a very weak, sentimental thing, not worth the having. The religion of Cornelius made his very soldiers devout.

4. In him there was a happy blending of subjective piety and of objective goodness.(1) He "prayed" — not merely the instinctive prayer of nature, nor the sentimental prayer of the naturalist. His was the intelligent cry of a personal soul to a personal God. And that not in some moment of distress, as does the terrified atheist whose fear overmasters his creed; but "always" — habitually. Herein does Cornelius rebuke the prayerless man.(2) He "gave much alms" — not to his own kindred and friends alone, the limit of many a man's benevolence, but to the despised Jews. There are many whose religion is all breath and no bread. The prayer of faith and the gift of love, like the two wings of a bird, bear the heart's burden up to the bosom of the Infinite, and come back again like a white dove of peace, with a new blessing and a Divine strength. The alms of Cornelius had no merit in themselves; but, as an index of the heart's longing and aim, they were acceptable to God.

5. He was sincere — a word signifying without wax and originally applied to pure honey. Applied to man it indicates the pure honey of honest desire and purpose without the wax of self-deception, prejudice, or pride. God loves a true, sincere man, though his head be enveloped in clouds of error and of doubt.

6. He was an honest seeker after truth. Paganism had not satisfied him; he wandered through the halls of philosophers, but the vision of truth came not to his weary eyes. With yearning of heart he had fled to Judaism, and in its clearer vision of God he had rejoiced; but even there he had not rested, for he felt that the revelation was not full. So he waited and longed for the completed vision as travellers on the mountains watch and wait for the rising of the sun.

7. He was susceptible and receptive. There is many a man, dissatisfied with old formulas and dogmas, calling himself truth seeker and progressionist, who yet has in his heart no open door for truth. There are many, like Pilate, whose intellects cry, "What is truth?" but whose souls have no eye to perceive it, and no welcome for it. Cornelius cried for it, hailed it, and was therefore led on by the angel into the fair kingdom of truth, down to its deepest mysteries, up to its gleaming heights.


1. Cornelius was praying when he saw an angel, who said, "Cornelius, thy prayers and thine alms," etc. This was God's response to the prayer of that devout, sincere thinker, and everywhere God seeks the soul that seeks Him.

2. But the angel does not preach the gospel to Cornelius. No angel ever preached Christ since that first announcement of His advent. Man preaches to his brother man — the sinner saved, to the sinner lost. To Peter shall be given the distinguished honour of gathering in this first Gentile fruit to the Christian Church. But even he is not prepared for so great a mission, and it required a miracle to induce him to open the door for Gentiles to come in. Prejudice is an evil spirit not easily cast out of the human mind. Hardly yet is the entire Church free from its pernicious influence. Are there not high walls surrounding sections of the Church today, outside of which there is believed to be no salvation? Each in his own way the radical, the sceptic, the free-religionist, and the agnostic is alike the bigoted slave of prejudice. Let us heed this Divine rebuke of all unscriptural distinctions in Christ's kingdom. What is their basis? Wealth, social position, colour, and nameless other foolish dividing lines.

3. While Peter hesitated, the messengers from Cornelius arrived, and Peter returned with them, yielded to the heavenly teaching, declaring, "Of a truth," etc. And preached Jesus; the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard, who were immediately received into the Church.

III. THE GREAT LESSON concerning the sufficiency of moral excellence for the individual character, or of natural religion for the race. Let us be candid.

1. God does set a value upon moral excellence. Good works springing from right motives are good in His sight, and nothing is gained, but much is lost, when Christian teachers speak too disparagingly of moral virtues. Whether there be or be not a hereafter, it is far better to be moral than immoral.

2. True moral excellence is an important and hopeful foundation upon which to build. It is not a matter of surprise that men are alienated if they find themselves classed with criminals without a word of qualification. Let us, then, put a right estimate on moral character and good works. The misguided religionist says, "Good for nothing"; the moralist says, "Good for everything"; God says, "Good according to the spirit that prompts them."

3. It is important that this whole matter should be better understood. The imputation of teaching a religion that does not fully recognise the value of morality is a libel upon Christianity. The Christian religion alone contains an absolutely perfect system of morals, inseparably connected with its facts and doctrines. And wherever Christianity has been faithfully presented the highest type of character has been its unfailing fruit. And yet it is quite possible that the moral element is sometimes less emphasised than the spiritual. But the religion of Christ is not chargeable with such confusion of ideas, or failure in application of Christian ethics. It is not only a gospel of grace, but a gospel of character. It does recognise all that is good in man; but in seeking his highest development it bids him beware of trusting his own deceitful heart, and of seeking to build his character on the sandy foundation of self-righteousness.

4. But there is nothing in this narrative to prove that simple morality is all that a man needs to fit him for heaven, and that the religion of nature is all-sufficient.(1) Cornelius was no mere moralist; he placed no dependence on good works. He received the gospel under the influence of the first gospel sermon that he ever heard.(2) The history teaches us that even this man's character was not in its natural state sufficient, and could only find completeness in Christ. Were his condition and character all that could be desired, why did not God leave him as he was? This, then, is the prime thought that underlies this entire subject. There is no completeness of character, of happiness, or of life, apart from Christ. Grant that you are thoroughly moral, is it not better to be Christly too? What if in winter you say, "The air is crisp and bracing, the hearth fire is cheerful; I want no better climate than this"? Will you shut yourself in when spring comes?

(C. H. Payne, D. D.)

Sir Thomas Abney had been accustomed to have family prayer at a certain time. Be was made Lord Mayor of London. His hour of family prayer being some time about the time of the banquet, he begged to be excused for a little, for he had an urgent engagement with a special friend. He then went and called his family together to meet with God in prayer. Do the same; if even a banquet should come down upon you, quit the table for the altar, and your guests for your God.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. HIS CHARACTER. He was no mere moralist.

1. He acted up to the light he had, which the moralist does not.

2. His morality was only the outward proof of his devoutness.

3. He did not depend upon his good works, but sought something better.

4. He embraced Christ when revealed to him.

5. He impressed others with his devoutness.

II. THE HEAVENLY INTEREST IN HIM. This shown by angels, who take active part in the work of human recovery. This interest is seen —

1. In their minute acquaintance with our circumstances. Cornelius mentioned by name, and Peter, and the town, house, situation, host all indicated.

2. In their joy over repenting sinners.

3. In their ministry during the whole career of the heirs of salvation. Thus angels are our examples.

III. HIS HUMAN GUIDE. Peter rather than the angel.

1. This is God's plan. Man and man only employed to prophesy, give Divine news, to be a vehicle of Christ's manifestation.

2. Salvation is a practical work. We need the living illustration of a human life. We need not only a teacher but a witness; one who can verify from experience.

3. It redounds more to the glory of God and Christianity. The greatness of the result is heightened by the feebleness of the instrument.

4. It confers honour upon and promotes unity among men. The most important work reserved for men.

IV. THE OBSTACLES REMOVED OUT OF HIS WAY. There were great barriers of race, rank, culture etc., but all were broken down

(J. G. Hughes.)

Preacher's Monthly.
I. THE WORKINGS OF REDEMPTIVE PROVIDENCE ARE MANIFOLD AND COMPLEX. Paul is converted, and is being trained for his future work. Peter receives a vision intended to break down exclusiveness. Cornelius receives Divine instructions to send for the apostle. Each is done separately and miles apart. Yet Divine power and wisdom unite them, and bring out of them the subjection of the Roman empire to Christ and the creation of modern Europe. How much depended on these three men, strangers to each other!

II. DIVINE GRACE OPERATES BEYOND THE PALE OF THE VISIBLE CHURCH. Cornelius a good man according to his light. Reverent and charitable, two indubitable marks of religion. Not a proselyte, but not counted common or unclean. Entered the kingdom of Christ without passing through the Jewish gate. Many like Cornelius at Rome and in Greece, and now in India, China, etc.

III. THE LIMITS AND INSUFFICIENCY OF NATURAL RELIGION. The prayer and alms of Cornelius went up as a memorial to God; but these were not enough, or he would not have been bidden to send for Peter. But faithfulness to the light of nature led up to the Christian revelation.

1. A caution against latitudinarian indifference. There is no foundation for a belief in the sufficiency of natural light.

2. The breaking down of natural impediments to the progress of the gospel. "In every nation."

3. Here is the ground of hope for humanity.

4. Here is the essential character of the provisions of the gospel. "There is none other name," etc.

(Preacher's Monthly.)

1. How often Roman officers are honourably mentioned in Scripture. "I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof," etc., was the humble language of one of them. "Truly this man was the Son of God!" cried another, as he witnessed the Crucifixion. How humane and prudent the chief captain who saved St. Paul from scourging and treachery; or the centurion who saved all the prisoners from execution at Melita, in order to secure the life of St. Paul! It says much for the discipline of the Roman army that men of such humanity and intelligence were promoted to places of authority, and partly accounts for the marvellous successes of that wonderful nation; while, again, it testifies to the power of Christianity, that men so much opposed to it should be induced to admire those in whom it was seen most conspicuously. Look now, however, at this centurion mentioned in the text. You, who have volunteered to buckle on the sword in defence of your country, may well contemplate the picture of this good soldier of Caesar and of Christ.

2. Note his bravery. Some say that Christianity and bravery cannot co-exist, Nonsense! The Christian is the only brave man in existence. Ungodly men are the cowards! Why is it that so many never enter the house of God, or make a profession of religion? Because they are ashamed to be taunted with the title of saint or Christian. Not so, Cornelius. He was valiant as a soldier serving beneath the Roman eagles. He was brave, too, as he showed his anxiety to enlist under the banner of the Cross!

3. He was also religiously brave, for he is described as "a devout man, and one that feared God." He was at this period in a most interesting state of mind. He had come over from Rome a worshipper of false gods. While in Judaea, he appears to have become convinced that heathenism was wrong; and, in searching after truth, he was probably influenced by the proceedings of the devout among the Jews in Caesarea. He also became "devout." How he reproves the careless talkers in Christian England, whose lips are often glib for the oath, and ready for the immoral jest!

4. The acorn contains the oak, and the hero may be often discovered in the recruit. It is beautiful to notice in the centurion the early germ which needed only the fuller light of the gospel to bring it into maturity. This "devout man" already "feared God." It would require more moral courage than many who have been enlisted under Christ's banner possess, to enable them to say, "I fear God." It is a noble testimony when a man can "put down" the scene of godless hilarity and the foolish jesting of the scoffer by any such noble confession.

5. And now observe a yet more eloquent proof of the reality of the work which was proceeding in that man's soul! Cornelius, if he had been a hypocrite, might have disguised the fact from his soldiers and from his neighbours; but he would hardly succeed with his household. What a testimony it is to this noble centurion, that he stood not alone in his family, while he avowed his creed in Jehovah as the Lord God of heaven and earth! "He feared God with all his house." It may be one great cause why we have so few specimens of thorough family religion that the consistency which adorned this centurion is not found in modern professors.

6. And there is yet another testimony to his sincerity. It is usual for officers to select their attendants and servants from amongst the soldiers of their regiment. Cornelius did so, and when he was bidden to send for Peter, to whom could he look for ambassador on so important an enterprise? Does it not tell a tale that he found no sort of difficulty? He could look at home and find persons whose character fitted them to go, ay, and in the ranks of his own men as well (ver. 7).

7. Notice further how excellently this truth seeking man endeavoured to live according to his profession. He "gave much. alms to the people." True religion is an active, living energy, which influences you in everyone of your proceedings. It enforces acts of self-denial; and in this list of self-denying deeds is the act of almsgiving.

8. "Thy prayers" too! I can remember when it was considered a soldier-like act to swear lustily. Happily that day is over; but the day has not yet arrived when a prayerful soldier, or indeed a prayerful civilian, is not exposed occasionally to scorn and derision for his piety. Conclusion: You who have come forward so nobly, when your queen and country were imperilled, aim to rival the Roman in bravery, and see that you are not outdone by him in the heartiness of your piety, and in your confession of Christ.

(G. Venables, M. A.)

(Acts 10:24): —

I. GOD'S WORD TREATS ALL MEN AS NEEDING TO BE "SAVED." It is interesting to notice how the language changes as the story runs on. In his vision Cornelius is informed that Peter "shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do" (Acts 10:6). When the man comes to relate it to others, he quotes it thus, "Who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee" (Acts 10:32). But Simon declares that what he had been sent to do was to tell Cornelius words whereby he and all his house might be "saved" (Acts 11:14). It becomes evident, therefore, that this centurion was as yet an unsaved man And this is worth noticing, when we look at his character.

1. He was a thoroughly religious man (ver. 2).

2. He was prayerful. That is a great felicity which in the New Revision changes our tame expression into, "I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house" (ver. 30). It is likely that Cornelius had family prayers regularly.

3. Twice, also, it is stated that he was liberal in benefactions.

4. He was a useful man. There comes out a fact which is in many respects more impressive because of its artless form. His servants and orderly were religious. It might be conjectured that Cornelius had had something to do with the training of these people.

5. He was of good reputation among his neighbours (ver. 22). What could anyone need more? Yet God's inspired Word declares here that Cornelius was not "saved."

II. GOD'S WORD GIVES US TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALL MEN CAN BE "SAVED." Simon Peter is dispatched on the errand of saving Cornelius. Just think, for a moment, of the disabilities of this man. If we should doubt anybody's chance, we should doubt his.

1. He was a heathen from Italy at the start.

2. He was a soldier. His daily life led him constantly to be in the barracks, and among the followers of a legion of loose homeless creatures whose lives were apt to be immoral. Still, we must be fair: there are four centurions mentioned in the New Testament, and each of them has left behind him a most creditable record. One of them Jesus commended for his remarkable faith (Matthew 8:10). One of them bore witness to the divinity of the Lord Jesus on the Cross (Mark 15:39). One of them was of much help and comfort to the Apostle Paul at what was very nearly the lowest point in his fortunes (Acts 27:3). And this is the fourth one, and he certainly shows well. But war is a hard trade; piety in military life is pitifully like an alpine flower pushing up through the snow, and trying to blossom on a rock beside a glacier. And so it is the more beautiful when it succeeds in its pure purpose.

3. Cornelius was a government officer. That army of possession was in a sense political. It is natural always for the spirit of authority to generate arrogance; and true piety invariably demands humility and charity. As a matter of fact it is known now that Palestine in those days was a hot bed of corruption; the Roman officers oppressed and fleeced the conquered inhabitants unmercifully. All this was against Cornelius: he was once a heathen, military, politician. But it is edifying to learn that even he could be "saved" (vers. 34, 35).


1. The two conditions which Simon Peter lays down plainly are faith (Acts 10:43) and repentance (Acts 11:18). There is a voluminousness in his argument that renders this quite clear.

2. It is of inestimable advantage for any teacher of the gospel that he should surrender all other dependences, and rely only on the pure gospel for the conversion of souls. It is manifestly of the highest moment that Simon Peter should have been intelligently informed, and now humbly possessed, of the doctrines of grace. We do not see how he could have made his speech and fulfilled his duty that day, if he had not felt precisely what the prophet Isaiah once said (Isaiah 50:4).


1. One may be aroused in conscience, and yet remain unsaved. Suppose Cornelius had been mortified, and wounded, and grown petulant, and so refused to obey the angel's command!

2. One may be diligent in religious routine, and yet remain unsaved. How exemplary this man appears to us now!

3. One may be virtuous in his life, and remain unsaved. Cornelius was "just" and "devout"; but he was yet "lacking."

4. One may be counted excellent, and yet remain unsaved.

5. One may even be instrumental in saving others, and yet remain unsaved. Cornelius needed the whole gospel still.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)


1. Genesis

1. How worlds are made, and light is parted, and arrangements are completed as if some stupendous event were about to transpire! Something is going to happen! The secret is revealed in these words, and God said, "Let us make man."

2. Matthew 1. The first of Genesis turned into human history. There again you have that movement, urgency, and great rapidity. The reading of the genealogical record means something. The secret is revealed in the statement that Jesus was born to save His people from their sins.

3. Acts 10. What movement, what dreaming and visioning and singular combination of events! Having read the first of Genesis and the first of Matthew, I feel that all these visions and trances must lead to something. What is it? The secret is revealed in these words, "God is no respecter of persons," etc. In all the three chapters, therefore, I find a result which explains the process and satisfies the imagination.


1. We cannot tell what we do. No occasion ends in itself. We know not what a day may bring forth, but tomorrow will certainly bring forth the seed of today. Always know that you are being prepared for some Divine issue. Your coming to church today may be the making of you! The introduction to a friend this morning may change every aspect of your coming history! The grave you dug but yesterday may be the altar at which your first heart prayer was uttered!

2. How wondrously Peter was prepared for this marvellous outcoming of Divine purpose. We read in the preceding chapter, last verse, that he "tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner." He has got so far on the road to the Gentiles. A Jew of Peter's temper who could lodge with a tanner may tomorrow go to convert a Gentile. God fixes lodgings. An ancient Rabbi said, "It is impossible that the world can do without tanners, but woe unto that man who is a tanner." The address is given — "whose house is by the seaside." The reason being that the Jews would not have tanneries in the towns. If a man married without telling his bride that he was a tanner, she could instantly demand release. The law which provided that the childless widow was to marry the brother of a deceased husband was set aside in the event of that brother being a tanner. You see, then, how stubborn were the prejudices against tanning, and yet we read as if it involved no extraordinary principle that Peter "tarried many days with one Simon a tanner." It means everything, there is a revolution in these words. This makes a breach in the wall, buttressed with the traditions of generations — a breach that will widen until the whole falls, and man everywhere hail man as brother!

3. The point to be observed is, how unconsciously men are being prepared for higher communications and wider services. God leads us on step by step. We do not jump to conclusions in Divine Providence. We go forward a step at a time, and we never know how far we have advanced until we come to the last step, and find that it is but a step. This is God's way. This is how He trains you, dear children, for the last step which we now call death. Now in this early morning of your life you do not want to die. But little by little, day by day, suffering by suffering, trial by trial, loss by loss, a time will come when even you will say, "I have a desire to depart." God deals thus gradually and gently with us. Sometimes His providences seem to be abrupt and even violent, but in reality they move along a gradation settled and adjusted by the tenderest love. Things that are impossible to you today will be the commonplaces of tomorrow. You do not speak to the farthest-off man at once; but you speak to the man who is next to you, and then to the one following, and so, a man at a time, you move on until the distance is traversed and he who was once far off has been brought nigh! Upon this daily and inevitable process rests your confidence that prejudice of the most stubborn kind shall be broken down, and one day we shall know that every land is home and every man is brother!


1. Cornelius saw in a vision an angel. Peter fell into a trance and heard a voice. That is our daily life. We cannot be shut up within the four corners of a vulgar materialism. God has still over us the mysterious reign of dreams. Why wonder if dreams will come true, when dreams are true? You should have spoken to the angel, and said, "What is it, Lord?" You should even have contradicted the angel, and said, "Not so, Lord," and then further conversation would have ensued. Instead of that you continue to sleep, and in the morning ask if dreams come true! You had your chance and missed it. The night is full of crowds. In the infinite galleries of the night the angels walk, visiting the beloved of God. Dreams of your own causing are not the dreams we are now speaking about. Physical nightmare is one thing, spiritual vision is another.

2. But even apart from the ministry of the night we have in our day dreams events sufficiently spiritually mysterious to inspire the religious imagination. "How strange," say we, "that it should have been so." "How remarkable that our letters should have crossed." "Why, at the very time I was doing this you must have been coming to me! How singular!" This is an irreligious way of talking about human history and Divine issues, I want to cleanse my life of all mere accidents, and to feel that my down-sitting and my up-rising, and my out-going, my in-coming are matters of importance in heaven — that the very hairs of my head are all numbered! Why do we belittle our experience and deplete it of everything that could give nobility, and enlargement, and apocalypse to our highest nature? Rather be it mine to say the vision was from heaven, and an angel spake to me, than to vulgarise the universe and to find in it nothing that I cannot mark with plain figures.

IV. HERE WE HAVE A HIGHER LAW SWALLOWING UP A LOWER ONE — "God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." It requires God to show that to some men. This is nothing short of a Divine revelation — to see the man within the creature. I see the poor clothing, the unkempt body — there is something behind! I see the roughness, rudeness — there is something behind. A man! Said the murmuring multitude respecting Zacchaeus, "Christ hath gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." But Jesus called the sinner "a son of Abraham." Lord, open our eyes that we may see one another! Christianity has come to eat up and absorb all our little laws and to set us under a nobler legislation. Said Christ, "Who is My mother, and who are My brethren?" And turning to His disciples, He said, "Whosoever doeth the will of My Father that is in heaven, the same is My mother, and sister, and brother." We are under the foolish notion that a man is a brother because we were born of the same mother. Nothing of the kind. There may be no greater stranger in the universe than the one born of the same mother. They are brothers who are one in soul, one in conviction, one in hope!

(J. Parker, D. D.)

The conversion of the Gentiles was no new idea to Jews or Christians, but it had been universally regarded as to take place by their reception into Judaism. A gospel of the uncircumcision however soon began to be recognised by some. Stephen, carrying out the principles of his own apology, could hardly fail to recognise it, and the Cyprian and Cyrenean missionaries of Acts 11:20 preached the Word to pure heathen certainly before the conversion of Cornelius. This state of things might have given rise to a permanent schism in the Church. The Hellenists, and perhaps Saul, with his definite mission to the Gentiles, might have formed one party, and the Hebrews, with Peter at their head, the other. But as Neander observes: The pernicious influence with which from the first the self-seeking and one-sided prejudices of human nature threatened the Divine work was counteracted by the superior influence of the Holy Spirit, which did not allow the differences of men to reach such a point of antagonism, but enabled them to retain unity in variety. We recognise the preventing wisdom of God — which, while giving scope to the free agency of man, knows how to interpose His immediate revelation just at the moment when it is requisite for the success of the Divine work — by noticing that when the apostles needed this wider development of their Christian knowledge for the exercise of their vocation, and when the lack of it would have been exceedingly detrimental, at that very moment, by a remarkable coincidence of inward revelation with a chain of outward circumstances, the illumination hitherto wanting was imparted.

(Dean Alford.)

This consisted in a miraculous communication —

I. TO CORNELIUS. It required a special Divine interposition to prepare in the Gentile world an audience for a gospel sermon, and one occurred in the case of this heathen soldier. An angel —

1. Visited him.(1) The form was human. Painters and poets give angels wings, the Bible does not.(2) The appearance was appalling. The sentimental may talk about the beauty of angels, but to the sinner their manifestation is always connected with terror.

2. Encouraged him (ver. 4).(1) Genuine goodness includes piety and philanthropy.(2) The virtues of good men are recognised in heaven. What more encouraging than this?

3. Directed him (ver. 5). Why not tell him what to do thyself, angelic spirit? Because the gospel is to be preached by men, not angels. The supernatural communication answers the end. Cornelius is prompt to obey. What Abraham is to Jewish saints, Cornelius is to the Gentile Christians — the first called out miraculously by God, the moral father of the great family. The preparation of the heart for the reception of the gospel is a work of the Lord. When the Great Husbandman prepares the soil the seed will germinate.

II. TO PETER. Observe —

1. His circumstances.(1) His spiritual exercise. He had just been employed in prayer. He who would see heaven opened must pray.(2) His physical state — hungry. Both soul and body therefore were craving, the one for communications from God, the other for food.(3) His mental state — in a trance, a state of utter abstraction from all external objects. Then the vision came. There was a natural connection between his hunger and the creatures he saw. In God's revelations the human often plays a conspicuous part. The vision was symbolic. The vessel may denote the human creation containing Jews and Gentiles: its descent from heaven the equal Divine origin of both; the command to kill and eat the advent of a dispensation to annul all that was ceremonial and narrow in Judaism. The vision teaches —(a) The Divine origin of the race. "All let down" from heaven. Every birth is a Divine emanation. There is nothing new but souls.(b) The great diversities of the race. "All manner," etc. Great are the distinctions among men — physical, mental, and moral; yet all from heaven.(c) The ceremonialisms which divide the race. They are to be killed by the apostles of Christianity.

2. His strong antagonism to the purpose of this wonderful vision (ver. 14). The fact that the vision occurred thrice plainly indicated how potent his religious antipathies were.

3. The providential agency by which this antagonism was removed. While Peter was in doubt, just at that point the centurion's emissaries came. If our doubt is honest, as was Peter's, Providence will send an interpreter.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

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