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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 10 - Verse 4

Verse 4. And when he looked on him. Greek, Having fixed his eyes attentively on him.

He was afraid. At the suddenness and unexpected character of the vision.

What is it, Lord? This is the expression of surprise and alarm. The word Lord should have been translated Sir, as there is no evidence that this is an address to god, and still less that he regarded the personage present as the Lord. It is such language as a man would naturally use who was suddenly surprised; who should witness a strange form appearing unexpectedly before him; and who should exclaim, "Sir, what is the matter?"

Are come up for a memorial. Are remembered before God. Comp. Isa 45:19. They were an evidence of piety towards God, and were accepted as such. Though he had not offered sacrifice according to the Jewish laws—though he had not been circumcised—yet, having acted according to the light which he had, his prayers were heard, and his alms accepted. This was done in accordance with the general principle of the Divine administration, that God prefers the offering of the heart, to external forms; the expressions of love, to sacrifice without it. This he had often declared, Isa 1:11-15; Am 5:21,22; 1 Sa 15:22, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams;" Hos 6:6; Ec 5:1. It should be remembered, however, that Cornelius was not depending on external morality. His heart was in the work of religion. It should be remembered, further, that he was ready to receive the gospel when it was offered to him, and to become a Christian. In this there was an important difference between him and those who are depending for salvation on their morality in Christian lands. Such men are apt to defend themselves by the example of Cornelius, and to suppose that as he was accepted before he embraced the gospel, so they may be without embracing it. But there is an important difference in the two cases. For,

(1.) there is no evidence that Cornelius was depending on external morality for salvation. His offering was that of the heart, and not merely an external offering. Moral men in Christian lands depend on their external morality in the sight of men. But God looks upon the heart.

(2.) Cornelius did not rely on his morality at all. His was a work of religion. He feared God; he prayed to him; he exerted his influence to bring his family to the same state. Moral men do neither. All their works they do to be "seen of men;" and in their heart there is "no good thing towards the Lord God of Israel." Comp. 1 Ki 14:13; 2 Ch 19:3. Who hears of a man that "fears God," and that prays, and that instructs his household in religion, that depends on his morality for salvation?

(3.) Cornelius was disposed to do the will of God, as far as it was made known to him. Where this exists there is religion. The moral man is not.

(4.) Cornelius was willing to embrace a Saviour, when he was made known to him. The moral man is not. He hears of a Saviour with unconcern; he listens to the message of God's mercy from year to year without embracing it. In all this there is an important difference between him and the Roman centurion; and while we hope there may be many in pagan lands who are in the same state of mind that he was —disposed to do the will of God as far as made known, and therefore accepted and saved by his mercy in the Lord Jesus—yet this cannot be adduced to encourage the hope of salvation in those who do know his will, and yet will not do it.

{e} "memorial before God" Isa 14:19

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