Acts 11:14
A man always takes an individual line, in opinion or in conduct, in peril of being misunderstood and called to account by his fellows. And yet the intellectual and moral advance of the race is made only by the pressure forward of individuals who, on some ground, refuse to keep in the old lines, and persist in making their own way even in districts marked by common sentiment as "dangerous." It is often the precise mission of youth to check the strongly conservative tendency around them, and utter fresh truth, or at least truth in fresh forms. This is illustrated in the case of St. Peter. He had come to grasp a truth which was a heresy from his own older standpoint, and a heresy to those with whom he had been working; but he knew it was truth, so, at the peril of being misunderstood, he acted upon the truth. He now knew that Christ's gospel was for Gentile as well as Jew, so he fearlessly went into the Gentile's house, and there preached the Word of life, and baptized the believing household. And he was misunderstood and called to account. The passage before us is his effective defense: to it there could be no reply. He rehearses the whole matter, and says, "God led me, and I followed. God taught me, and I believed. God sealed my work with the witness of his Spirit, and I know I have his acceptance." This is the answer which the sincere man who acts out of the common line may make to all who oppose or object. "I do but follow the Divine leadings and teachings; God sets my witness, and the testimony I make must be at least a portion of the truth of God."

I. GOD STILL OPENS HIS TRUTH TO INDIVIDUAL SOULS. We do not, indeed, expect new revelations. There is a sense in which the book-revelation in the Scriptures is complete: no man may add thereto or take therefrom; and no man's testimony can be of any value save as it can be tested by the revealed Word. And yet, though this may be fully admitted, we may recognize the fact that, through spiritual insight or through intellectual skill, men do bring to light missed and hidden things, or they do set received truths in forms that are new, and by their newness arrest thought and even arouse opposition. In this way every truth of the Divine revelation is brought prominently before men's thoughts every few years. God sends among us great thought-leaders; stirs, by their preachings or writings, the stagnancy of religious thought, and makes fresh and living to us truths which had become mere dead formalities. St. Peter had but a fresh hold of an ancient truth, one long revealed by psalmist and prophet: still, he had such a new grip as made him a power; even the agent that fulfilled Christ's will, and "opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.


1. His fellow-workers, who will feel a secret jealousy of his being made the medium of Divine communications, and who will keenly feel how the new truth interferes with their teachings.

2. Those of conservative tendency, who think the absolute and final truth is in their charge.

3. The earnest but timid people who fear that everything fresh must put God's truth in peril.

4. The friends of theological or ecclesiastical systems, who consider their systems complete and needing no changes, nor having any open places in which new truth may fit. St. Peter found that an imperfect report of his doings at Caesarea had gone before him to Jerusalem, and when he himself reached the holy city, he was assailed from the very narrowest platform, and accused of the very small sin from our point of view, but very large sin from the Jewish point of view, of eating with the uncircumcised." He very wisely refused a discussion on this mere feature of the matter, and explained fully what had happened. Those who contend often take a mere point of detail, and are best met and answered by putting the question in dispute on the broadest, deepest grounds.

III. PROOF OF DIVINE LEADINGS OUGHT TO SILENCE ALL OPPOSITION. This is the great lesson of St. Peter's conduct and narrative. All through he pleads that he only recognized and followed the Divine will as revealed both to him and to others. God spoke to him in trance, and vision, and providence, and inward impulse. God spoke to Cornelius by angel-form and angel-voice. God sealed the work of St. Peter with the gift of his Spirit, and, as a faithful and true man, he could only go where God led him, and speak as God bade him. To his audience it was the best of all answers, the one that would disarm all opposition. A sincere Jew must be loyal to God's will, however it might be revealed, and however strange to his feeling it might seem. And this is essentially the answer which every thought-leader and every advanced teacher now must be prepared to make and to prove. If he only speaks, as a man, some religious fancies and feelings of his own, we are rightly skeptical; but if it is plain to us that a man has been "taught of God," and if we can see signs of acceptance and Divine benediction on his work, then we too must hear his testimony with open and unprejudiced minds, seeking grace to enable us to express our old faith in the new form, or to add the new thought to our received doctrines. God may, indeed, not speak to us now by dream, or trance, or vision, or voice; but we need not therefore think that direct communication with our soul is impossible. Still we may say, "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth;" and still we have with us that Holy Ghost, whose work it is" to lead us into all truth, and to show us things to come." And it should be our abiding conviction and inspiration that "the Lord hath yet more light and truth to break forth from his Word." - R.T.

Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
I am about to tell you such words; yet I am far from supposing that this announcement of my purpose is calculated to ensure to my message that attention which it demands; for man is interested about anything rather than the salvation of his soul — and yet, "what should it profit" man? The soul once lost is lost forever.


1. Every man is a sinner, and without salvation he must perish. You may be too proud to acknowledge this, or too much occupied to give it attention, or too indifferent to ponder it, or ready to deny it in the sense which we contend. Well, "you make God a liar, and His truth is not in you," for "God has included all under sin." Perhaps you will point me to that abandoned woman, or to that bloody blasphemer, or to that iron-hearted jailer, and bid me go preach this doctrine to such as these. Ah, the question is not whether you have sinned like this or that man, but whether you have sinned at all, for so it is written, "Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Oh, you will say, I never did anybody any harm, I have been a kind parent, an upright tradesman, my reputation without a blemish; but that is not the question; the question is, hast thou "loved the Lord thy God with all thy heart"? etc. I see you shudder and shrink back! I hear you cry, "But God is merciful" — so He is, but then, if you appeal to His mercy, you give up the point, you confess yourselves sinners, for if you be not sinners you may appeal with confidence to His justice.

2. Every man's first and chief concern ought to be about the salvation of his soul, because, being a sinner, he is placed by his sin in circumstances of the most imminent peril. The wretch that trembles on the brink of a tremendous precipice, over whose head a sword is suspended by a hair, upon whom the volcano is ready to burst or the earth to yawn, is in safety compared to that sinner who has transgressed the law of God, and is exposed by his transgression to His righteous indignation and wrath. Oh, then, what will you do to be saved? Will you present an atoning sacrifice for your sins? Where will you obtain it? Have you wealth to purchase it? The ransom of ten thousand monarchs would do little, rivers of oil and oceans of blood are not sufficient. Do you propose to work out a righteousness whereby you can be justified in the sight of God? How can you do it? Can an imperfect creature work out a perfect righteousness? and even if you could for the time that is to come, how would it avail for the atonement of the sin that was past? Listen, it is our business to tell you the response to this cry from heaven.

II. THE GOSPEL IS THE ONLY SOURCE FROM WHICH SATISFACTORY INFORMATION IS OBTAINED ON THIS MOST MOMENTOUS OF ALL SUBJECTS. Take this question, "What must I do to be saved," to the system of modern infidelity or of ancient philosophy. What answer do you get? The sneer of derision, or the sullen silence of despair — they cannot tell. Take it to this Book, and the answer is instant, decisive, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." What does the violated law of God demand? Perfect obedience. Behold it in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Does justice demand an infinite atonement? Behold it in "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

1. In the gospel there are words whereby we may be saved, and the salvation they announce is precisely adapted to the sinner's case. You are guilty, but there is forgiveness for you, and you are condemned, but there is a righteousness that justifies you freely; you are a rebel and an outcast, but there is an Advocate that pleads for you; you are polluted, but there is "a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."

2. These are words whereby you may be saved individually. Let us hear your personal history. I hear one say, "I am a child of pious parents, and I have sinned against early instruction and impressions!" Well, but thou mayest be saved! I hear another, "I trampled under foot a father's admonitions, and despised a sainted mother's tears, and brought down their grey hairs with sorrow to the grave!" Well, but you may be saved! I hear another say, "Ah, but I mingled with infidels and apostates, I mocked the Bible, at God, I blasphemed Christ!" Ah, but you may be saved!

3. But while these are words whereby you may be saved, rejecting these, you must perish. "He that believeth not shall be damned." "How shall you escape if you neglect so great salvation?"

(T. Raffles, D. D.)

1. Cornelius was no common publican or sinner, but possessed all the qualifications of a saint, if a saint can grow in the sell of this earth, without a seed from heaven. If any man could be just with God apart from Christ, surely this is the man. Yet the Word of God treats him as a sinner, and tells him what he must do to be saved. There is no escape from the force of this case. It effectually shuts out all hope of merit. The difficulty of attaining a conviction of sin is greater where sins are less gross. Hence publicans and harlots go into the kingdom more readily than Pharisees.

2. By what means shall Cornelius be saved? By words. Strange when the loss is so deep and real that words, articulated air, should bring deliverance. It was natural for Naaman to toss his head in contempt at the proposal of a bath in Jordan as a cure for disease, and there is a class of scholars in our day who sneer at the proposal to cure sin by words. They have no confidence in doctrines that enter the mind from without; they would rather trust to principles that spring up within. Beware of wandering into the mist here. Words become life or death when God employs them to proclaim His will. God said, "Let there be light, and there was light." "Lazarus, come forth," and he came. Even in the ordinary experience of life men are saved or lost by words. An ocean steamer is rushing through the water — two words, "Breakers ahead!" from the watchman, "Starboard hard!" from the master, words that passed away as breath on a breeze, saved five hundred human beings from a watery grave. Humanity is like that ship, and God sends words whereby we may be saved.

3. Truth, like spirit, is invisible till embodied, and words are the body of truth. They may be spoken, or printed, or wired, it matters not what form they assume, they are the body in which truth dwells. Satan embodies himself in words whereby man may be destroyed, the Holy Spirit in words whereby we may be saved. Take heed how ye hear; the missing of a word may be the loss of a soul.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

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