There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,