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10. Peter's Vision
1Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. 3He saw in a vision openly, as it were about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in unto him, and saying to him, Cornelius. 4And he, fastening his eyes upon him, and being affrighted, said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are gone up for a memorial before God. 5And now send men to Joppa, and fetch one Simon, who is surnamed Peter: 6he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side. 7And when the angel that spake unto him was departed, he called two of his household-servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; 8and having rehearsed all things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. 9Now on the morrow, as they were on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour: 10and he became hungry, and desired to eat: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance; 11and he beholdeth the heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth: 12wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the heaven. 13And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat. 14But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean. 15And a voice came unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, make not thou common. 16And this was done thrice: and straightway the vessel was received up into heaven. 17Now while Peter was much perplexed in himself what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood before the gate, 18and called and asked whether Simon, who was surnamed Peter, were lodging there. 19And while Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. 20But arise, and get thee down, and go with them, nothing doubting: for I have sent them. 21And Peter went down to the men, and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? 22And they said, Cornelius a centurion, a righteous man and one that feareth God, and well reported of by all the nation of the Jews, was warned of God by a holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words from thee. 23So he called them in and lodged them. And on the morrow he arose and went forth with them, and certain of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24And on the morrow they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his kinsmen and his near friends. 25And when it came to pass that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. 26But Peter raised him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. 27And as he talked with him, he went in, and findeth many come together: 28and he said unto them, Ye yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to join himself or come unto one of another nation; and yet unto me hath God showed that I should not call any man common or unclean: 29wherefore also I came without gainsaying, when I was sent for. I ask therefore with what intent ye sent for me. 30And Cornelius said, Four days ago, until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel, 31and saith, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32Send therefore to Joppa, and call unto thee Simon, who is surnamed Peter; he lodgeth in the house of Simon a tanner, by the sea side. 33Forthwith therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all things that have been commanded thee of the Lord. 34And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him. 36The word which he sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all.) -- 37that saying ye yourselves know, which was published throughout all Judaea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom also they slew, hanging him on a tree. 40Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, 41not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before of God, even to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is he who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. 43To him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins. 44While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. 45And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. 46For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
12. If any man ask how he could see a great multitude of living creatures at once, the question is easily answered. For Luke saith, All manner, because there were there divers kinds mixed one with another. Therefore he beginneth not at the first kind, that he may prosecute the number unto the last. Again, we must not measure this seeing according to the manner of men, because the trance gave Peter other eyes. But before we go any farther we must know the end of the vision. Some dispute more subtilely about the same than the place requireth, in my judgment. Therefore, I think that it is generally showed to Peter that the difference which God had made in times past is now taken away. And as he had put difference between living creatures, so, having chosen to himself one people, he counted all nations unclean and profane.
Now the difference between living creatures being taken away, he teacheth by the consequent that there is no such disagreement among men any longer as there was in times past, and that there is no difference between the Jew and the Grecian. Hereby Peter is admonished that he do not abhor the Gentiles as being unclean. Undoubtedly, God meant to encourage Peter to come to Cornelius without fear; but he had separated one people to himself from the rest, as saith Moses in his song, when as the Most High did distribute the nations, he put his lot in Jacob, etc., (Deuteronomy 32:9;) therefore he called it his inheritance and peculiar people.
According to this order, it had not been lawful to Peter to bring the covenant of salvation unto the Gentiles; for that was to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs, (Matthew 15:26,) unless, peradventure, they would be circumcised, and embrace the Jewish religion; for it was lawful to receive such as did yield themselves. Wherefore, when as the apostles were sent before to preach the gospel, they were forbidden to turn in unto the Gentiles, (Matthew 10:5.) And forasmuch as the preaching of the gospel is a most holy and weighty matter, Peter ought not to have attempted any thing therein with a doubting and wavering mind. Therefore, to the end he may be assured of his calling, God showeth manifestly, as in a picture, that the legal difference between the clean and unclean is abolished; whence he may gather that the wall which was heretofore between the Jews and the Gentiles is now pulled down. And Paul saith, that it is a mystery hid from the beginning of the world, that the Gentiles are made partakers of the same salvation with the people of God, and ingrafted into one body, (Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 3:6.)
Therefore Peter durst never have opened the gate of heaven unto the Gentiles, unless God himself had made a plain way and entrance for all men, by taking away the wall of separation. I said even now that there was no time wherein it was not lawful to admit the Gentiles unto the worship of God, so they were circumcised; but so long as they continued in uncircumcision they were strangers with God. But now God made the covenant of life common to all the whole world, which he had shut up in one nation, as in a treasure. Whence we gather that this vision is not a little profitable for us; for, when as it teacheth that the difference between Jews and Gentiles continued only for a season, it is as much as if God should pronounce from heaven that he receiveth all people of the world into favor, that he may be God over all. Finally, we have an evident proclamation from heaven, which putteth us in hope of eternal life.
But some men will object that Peter was taught before concerning this matter; for he and the rest were commanded to preach the gospel throughout the whole world, (Mark 16:15.) Therefore, he was either ignorant of his calling, or else this vision was superfluous. I answer, that there was such and so great difficulty in the novelty itself, that they could not acquaint themselves therewith by and by. They knew both the prophecies of the prophets, and the late commandment of Christ concerning the calling of the Gentiles by the gospel; but when they come to the push, they doubted nevertheless, being stricken with the strangeness of the thing. Wherefore, it is no marvel if the Lord confirm Peter with a new sign, concerning which thing we must also say somewhat as yet in the next chapter.