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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.
25. Falling down at his feet, he worshipped. Here is the word προσεκυνησεν, which signifieth to testify honor or worship, either by bowing the knee or ducking down the head, or by any other gesture. Now, the question is, whether Peter refuteth this worship for modesty’s sake only, or he disalloweth it as a thing altogether unlawful? It appeareth that Cornelius’ fact displeased Peter, by the reason which is by and by added, Arise, for even I am a man. For we may gather that there was some divine thing in that worship, because he did ascribe unto mortal man the honor which is due to God alone. But we must not think that Cornelius did count Peter instead of God; for if he translated God’s honor unto mortal man, where is that godliness and religion, with the title whereof he was of late adorned? Therefore, I think that he meant nothing less than to spoil God of his lawful worship, that he might give it to man; but forasmuch as he meant to give singular honor unto the prophet and apostle of Christ, he fell into an immoderate token of reverence, and so he offended in excess.
For it can scarce be expressed in words how prone men are to fall to superstition, when as that honor is given to the ministers of Christ, which hath any small show of divine worship; for we fall easily unawares into that whereof we thought full little. There were less danger in a king or in the chief chieftains of this world; for he which falleth down before a king keepeth himself within the bounds of earthly and civil honor. But the case standeth otherwise in the ministers of Christ; for as their office is spiritual, so if any man fall down at their feet to worship them, this honor hath in it some spiritual thing. For we must put a difference between civil worship, which men use among themselves in respect of civil order, and that under which is contained religion, or which respecteth directly the honor of God; as also between laws which are made for temporal regimen, or which bind the conscience. For certain foolish men are deceived too far, who think that kneeling is in this place condemned simply and of itself. But this is that which I said, Cornelius doth not here salute his proconsul, or the emperor, after any civil sort; but being stricken with wondering when he saw Peter, he honoreth him as he would have honored God, if he had been present; so that he giveth man more than is meet, having, as it were, forgotten himself. He thought nothing less (as I have already said) than to rob God of any part of his honor, that he might give that to man which he took from him. But when as the worship which is given to man hath somewhat which is, as it were, linked with the honor of God, men fall into a fault contrary to their hope and opinion, so that they extol man above his degree, and give him the worship which is due to God.
The Papists, omitting that distinction, snatch only at one member for they handle religious worship only. To the end they may ascribe some part thereof, with some honest color, unto creatures, they cut [subdivide] it into latria, dulia, and hyperdulia. They give latria to God alone; as if they should say, that the adoration of worship is due to him alone. They make dulia common to the dead and their bones, to images and pictures. They assign their hyperdulia to the Virgin Mary, and to the cross whereon Christ hanged. That I may omit to say that they babble through childish ignorance, how many of them do understand that rotten distinction? Neither do I speak only of the common sort, but of the chieftains. Therefore, all their worshippings must needs be infected and corrupt with wicked superstition, seeing they unadvisedly match creatures with God. But Luke saith not in this place that Cornelius gave to Peter latria, (or the honor due to God;) he useth only the general word worshipped, and he addeth, notwithstanding, that he was reproved, because he did wickedly extol man higher than became him. Surely, if that new opinion concerning the adoration which is called dulia had any place, Peter ought to have admonished Cornelius that he should not go beyond dulia. But because no worship whereunto religion is annexed, and the respect of God’s honor, doth leave to God his honor untouched, what man soever it have; therefore, Peter is content with this one only reason that he is a man. Moreover, I would gladly know of the Papists, whether they think that John was so blockish, that he would take the honor due to God, which they call latria, and give it to the angel? Surely, there was nothing else that caused him to worship the angel, save only too much and preposterous reverence, and that in honor of God, whose glory shone in the angel; notwithstanding his fact is condemned. Therefore, to the end we may give God that which is his own, let the spiritual worship, under which is comprehended religion, remain whole and sound to him.