World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
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.