Wesley's Notes on the Bible
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
10:1 And there was a certain man - The first fruits of the Gentiles, in Cesarea - Where Philip had been before, Acts 8:40; so that the doctrine of salvation by faith in Jesus was not unknown there. Cesarea was the seat of the civil government, as Jerusalem was of the ecclesiastical. It is observable, that the Gospel made its way first through the metropolitan cities. So it first seized Jerusalem and Cesarea: afterward Philippi, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome itself. A centurion, or captain, of that called the Italian band - That is, troop or company.
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
10:2 Who gave much alms to the people - That is, to the Jews, many of whom were at that time extremely poor.
He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
10:3 He saw in a vision - Not in a trance, like Peter: plainly, so as to leave one not accustomed to things of this kind no room to suspect any imposition.
And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
10:4 Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God - Dare any man say, These were only splendid sins? Or that they were an abomination before God? And yet it is certain, in the Christian sense Cornelius was then an unbeliever. He had not then faith in Christ. So certain it is, that every one who seeks faith in Christ, should seek it in prayer, and doing good to all men: though in strictness what is not exactly according to the Divine rule must stand in need of Divine favour and indulgence.
And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
10:8 A devout soldier - How many such attendants have our modern officers? A devout soldier would now be looked upon as little better than a deserter from his colours.
On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
10:10 And he became very hungry - At the usual meal time. The symbols in visions and trances, it is easy to observe, are generally suited to the state of the natural faculties.
And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
10:11 Tied at the corners - Not all in one knot, but each fastened as it were up to heaven.
Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
10:14 But Peter said, In nowise, Lord - When God commands a strange or seemingly improper thing, the first objection frequently finds pardon. But it ought not to be repeated. This doubt and delay of St. Peter had several good effects. Hereby the will of God in this important point was made more evident and incontestable. And Peter also, having been so slow of belief himself, could the more easily bear the doubting of his brethren, Acts 11:2, and c.
And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
10:15 What God hath purified - Hath made and declared clean. Nothing but what is clean can come down from heaven. St. Peter well remembered this saying in the council at Jerusalem, Acts 15:9.
This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
10:16 This was done thrice - To make the deeper impression.
Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
10:17 While Peter doubted in himself, behold the men - Frequently the things which befall us within and from without at the same time, are a key to each other. The things which thus concur and agree together, ought to be diligently attended to.
And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
10:19 Behold three men seek thee, arise therefore and go down, and go with them, doubting nothing - How gradually was St. Peter prepared to receive this new admonition of the Spirit! Thus God is went to lead on his children by degrees, always giving them light for the present hour.
Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
10:24 Cornelius was waiting for them - Not engaging himself in any secular business during that solemn time, but being altogether intent on this one thing.
And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
10:26 I myself also am a man - And not God, who alone ought to be worshipped, Matt 4:10. Have all his pretended successors attended to this?
And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
10:28 But God hath showed me - He speaks sparingly to them of his former doubt, and his late vision.
Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
10:29 I ask for what intent ye have sent for me? - St. Peter knew this already. But he puts Cornelius on telling the story, both that the rest might be informed, and Cornelius himself more impressed by the narration: the repetition of which, even as we read it, gives a new dignity and spirit to Peter's succeeding discourse,
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
10:30 Four days ago I was fasting - The first of these days he had the vision; the second his messengers came to Joppa; on the third, St. Peter set out; and on the fourth, came to Cesarea.
And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
10:31 Thy prayer is heard - Doubtless he had been praying for instruction, how to worship God in the most acceptable manner.
Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
10:33 Now therefore we are all present before God - The language of every truly Christian congregation.
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
10:34 I perceive of a truth - More clearly than ever, from such a concurrence of circumstances. That God is not a respecter of persons - Is not partial in his love. The words mean, in a particular sense, that he does not confine his love to one nation; in a general, that he is loving to every man, and willeth all men should be saved.
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
10:35 But in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness - He that, first, reverences God, as great, wise, good, the cause, end, and governor of all things; and secondly, from this awful regard to him, not only avoids all known evil, but endeavours, according to the best light he has, to do all things well; is accepted of him - Through Christ, though he knows him not. The assertion is express, and admits of no exception. He is in the favour of God, whether enjoying his written word and ordinances or not. Nevertheless the addition of these is an unspeakable blessing to those who were before in some measure accepted. Otherwise God would never have sent an angel from heaven to direct Cornelius to St. Peter.
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
10:36 This is the word which God sent - When he sent his Son into the world, preaching - Proclaiming by him - peace between God and man, whether Jew or Gentile, by the God - man. He is Lord of both; yea, Lord of and over all.
That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
10:37 Ye know the word which was published - You know the facts in general, the meaning of which I shall now more particularly explain and confirm to you. The baptism which John preached - To which he invited them by his preaching, in token of their repentance. This began in Galilee, which is near Cesarea.
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
10:38 How God anointed Jesus - Particularly at his baptism, thereby inaugurating him to his office: with the Holy Ghost and with power - It is worthy our remark, that frequently when the Holy Ghost is mentioned there is added a word particularly adapted to the present circumstance. So the deacons were to be full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, Acts 6:3. Barnabas was full of the Holy Ghost and faith, Acts 11:24. The disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost, Acts 13:52. And here, where his mighty works are mentioned, Christ himself is said to be anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power. For God was with him - He speaks sparingly here of the majesty of Christ, as considering the state of his hearers.
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
10:41 Not now to all the people - As before his death; to us who did eat and drink with him - That is, conversed familiarly and continually with him, in the time of his ministry.
And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
10:42 It is he who is ordained by God the Judge of the living and the dead - Of all men, whether they are alive at his coming, or had died before it. This was declaring to them, in the strongest terms, how entirely their happiness depended on a timely and humble subjection to him who was to be their final Judge.
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
10:43 To him give all the prophets witness - Speaking to heathens he does not quote any in particular; that every one who believeth in him - Whether he be Jew or Gentile; receiveth remission of sins - Though he had not before either feared God, or worked righteousness.
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
10:44 The Holy Ghost fell on all that were hearing the word - Thus were they consecrated to God, as the first fruits of the Gentiles. And thus did God give a clear and satisfactory evidence, that he had accepted them as well as the Jews.
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.
10:45 The believers of the circumcision - The believing Jews.
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?
10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost? - He does not say they have the baptism of the Spirit; therefore they do not need baptism with water. But just the contrary: if they have received the Spirit, then baptize them with water. How easily is this question decided, if we will take the word of God for our rule! Either men have received the Holy Ghost or not. If they have not, Repent, saith God, and be baptized, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If they have, if they are already baptized with the Holy Ghost, then who can forbid water?
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
10:48 In the name of the Lord - Which implies the Father who anointed him, and the Spirit with which he was anointed to his office. But as the Gentiles had before believed in God the Father, and could not but now believe in the Holy Ghost, under whose powerful influence they were at this very time, there was the less need of taking notice, that they were baptized into the belief and profession of the sacred Three: though doubtless the apostle administered the ordinances in that very form which Christ himself had prescribed.