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present to Jesus as the sinner's' only hope, he himself understood more fully the meaning of the vision he had seen, and his heart glowed with the spirit of the truth that he was presenting.
Suddenly the discourse was interrupted by the descent of the Holy Spirit. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
“Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”
Thus was the gospel brought to those who had been strangers and foreigners, making them fellowcitizens with the saints, and members of the household of God. The conversion of Cornelius and his household was but the first-fruits of a harvest to be gathered in. From this household a wide-spread work of grace was carried on in that heathen city.
To-day God is seeking for souls among the high as well as the lowly. There are many like Cornelius, men whom the Lord desires to connect with His work in the world. Their sympathies are with the Lord's people, but the ties that bind them to the world hold them firmly. It requires moral courage for them to take their position for Christ. Special efforts should be made for these souls, who are in
so great danger, because of their responsibilities and associations.
God calls for earnest, humble workers, who will carry the gospel to the higher class. There are miracles to be wrought in genuine conversions,— miracles that are not now discerned. The greatest men of this earth are not beyond the power of a wonderworking God. If those who are workers together with Him will be men of opportunity, doing their duty bravely and faithfully, God will convert men who occupy responsible positions, men of intellect and influence. Through the power of the Holy Spirit many will accept the divine principles. Converted to the truth, they will become agencies in the hand of God to communicate the light. They will have a special burden for other souls of this neglected class. Time and money will be consecrated to the work of the Lord, and new efficiency and power will be added to the church.
Because Cornelius was living in obedience to all the instruction he had received, God so ordered events that he was given more truth. A messenger from the courts of heaven was sent to the Roman officer and to Peter, in order that Cornelius might be brought into touch with one who could lead him into greater light.
There are in our world many who are nearer the kingdom of God than we suppose. In this dark world of sin, the Lord has many precious jewels, to whom He will guide His messengers. Everywhere there are those who will take their stand for Christ. Many will prize the wisdom of God above any earthly advantage, and will become faithful light-bearers. Constrained by the love of Christ, they will constrain others to come to Him.
When the brethren in Judea heard that Peter had gone to the house of a Gentile, and preached to those assembled, they were surprised and offended. They feared that such a course, which looked to them presumptuous, would have the effect of counteracting his own teaching. When they next saw Peter, they met him with severe censure, saying, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.”
Peter laid the whole matter before them. He related his experience in regard to the vision, and pleaded that it admonished him to observe no longer the ceremonial distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision, nor to look upon the Gentiles as unclean. He told them of the command given him to go to the Gentiles, of the coming of the messengers, of his journey to Cæsarea, and of the meeting with Cornelius. He recounted the substance of his interview with the centurion, in which the latter had told him of the vision by which he had been directed to send for Peter.
“As I began to speak,” he said, in relating his experience, “the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God
them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”
On hearing this account, the brethren were silenced. Convinced that Peter's course was in direct fulfilment of the plan of God, and that their prejudices and exclusiveness were utterly contrary to the spirit of the gospel, they glorified God, saying, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
Thus, without controversy, prejudice was broken down, the exclusiveness established by the custom of ages was abandoned, and the way was opened for the gospel to be proclaimed to the Gentiles.
Delivered from Prison
"Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church."
The government of Judea was then in the hands of Herod Agrippa, subject to Claudius, the Roman emperor. Herod also held the position of tetrarch of Galilee. He was professedly a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and apparently very zealous in carrying out the ceremonies of the Jewish law. Desirous of obtaining the favor of the Jews, hoping thus to make secure his offices and honors, he proceeded to carry out their desires by persecuting the church of Christ, spoiling the houses and goods of the believers, and imprisoning the leading members of the church. He cast James, the brother of John, into prison, and sent an executioner to kill him with the sword, as another Herod had caused the prophet John to be beheaded. Seeing that the Jews were well pleased with these efforts, he imprisoned Peter also. This chapter is based on Acts 12:1-23.
10 - Acts