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whence he set sail to his own city Tarsus, † and saw not Jerusalem till several years From Acts. i. after.
The church at this time had peace, and flourished exceedingly: Saul diligently preached the word in Cilicia †2 and Syria †, and Peter made a general visitation of all the saints in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. In his progress he arrived at a town called Lydda †, where he cured one Æneas of a paralytic disorder, which had confined him to his bed for eight years, and thereby prevailed with all the inhabitants of Lydda and of Saron †, a neighbouring town, to embrace the Christian profession. From Lydda he was entreated by two messengers to come over to Joppa, a noted port about six miles distance, upon the account of one Tabitha †, (in Greek called Dorcas) a Christian woman, venerable for her piety and diffusive charity, who was lately dead. When he came to the house, he found the body in an upper chamber ready washed and prepared for its funeral, and attended with many sorrowful widows, who durst not request of him to raise her from the dead, but, by their tears and lamentations, and large commendations of her charity, sufficiently testified their desire; so that the apostle, having caused the company to withdraw, first kneeled down and made his supplications to God, and then turning to the body, with one word's speaking raised her up, and pre
with turrets; and underneath this was a key, or landing place, with a large walk upon it round the port, as a place of pleasure to take the air in-The houses about the port were all uniformly built, of the most excellent sort of marble, and in the middle of them, on a mount, stood a temple, which served as a seamark to the mariners, and was celebrated no less for its materials than its workmanship. In this temple there were two statues or images, one of Rome, and the other of Cæsar, from whom the city took its name ; and in the city, the contrivance of the very vaults and common sewers, laid at equal distances, and discharging themselves into the sea, was very wonderful." Besides these, Josephus makes mention of a stone theatre, a spacious amphitheatre, and several other buildings, which made hini, in another work of his, call it one of the fairest cities in all Judea. Joseph. Antiq. lib. xv. c. 13. de Bello, lib. iii. c. 14. and Wells's Geography of the New Testament.
This city is the same with what in Hebrew is called Tarshish, and as it stands in a plain, on the banks of the river Cydnus, it was all along, in ancient times, accounted so great a trading town, that all merchant ships are in Holy Writ frequently called by the name of ships of Tarshish. In the times of the Romans it was a city of great note, as being not only the metropolis of the province of Cilicia, but honoured likewise with the privileges of a Roman colony (which we find St Paul pleading in his own behalf, Acts xxii. 25. 28.), and with an academy furnished with such eminent men, that Strabo scruples not to say, they excelled all others in polite learning and philosophy, even those of Alexandria and Athens, and that Rome itself was beholden to this nursery of all sciences for its best professors; and therefore no wonder that St Paul, who had the first foundations of his erudition laid here, became so well instructed in the liberal arts, and so well acquainted with Heathen authors. Wells's Geography of the New Testament.
This was a province of Asia Minor, which lay on the northern coast, towards the end of the Medi
terranean Sea, and was therefore bounded by Pam-
+3 Though Syria, by heathen authors, is generally
+Josephus tells us, that this was a village not yielding to a city for greatness, Antiq. lib. xx. And he elsewhere expressly styles it a city, De Bello, lib. ii. It was burnt by Cestius, whilst the men were gone from it to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of tabernacles; but, after the destruction of Jerusalem, it was rebuilt and made one of the Jewish academies. By the Gentiles it was called Diospolis, or the city of Jupiter, but by the Christians, in the times of the holy wars, it had the name of St George's, partly from a magnificent temple, which the emperor Justinian there erected in honour of that saint, and partly from an erroneous opinion then prevailing among them, that in that place he obtained the crown of martyrdom. Wells's Geography of the New Testa
+ Is a town adjoining to Joppa, giving name to the spacious and fruitful vale which reaches from Cæsarea to Joppa, and among the Rabbins is famous for its vines. Wells's Geography of the New Testament.
+ The true reason why St Luke gives this interpretation of her Syriac name, seems to be this,That as she was a Jewess, who spoke nothing but Greek, she was called by her first name among the Jews, and by her second among the Greeks; for in both languages the two names signify the same thing, viz. a goat, or a roe. Whitby's Annotations.
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A. M. 4041, sented her alive to her friends and relations: which gained him a great number of con&c. or 5448. verts at Joppa, and encouraged him for some considerable time to take up his abode there, lodging in the house of one Simon a tanner.
While he abode at Joppa, retiring one day † to the top of the house about noon-tide to pray, after he had ended his devotions, he found himself hungry; but, while the people were preparing his dinner, he fell into a trance, wherein was presented to him a large sheet, or table-cloth, let down, as it were, by the four corners from heaven, wherein were creatures of all kinds, clean and unclean, and at the same time he heard a voice calling to him to kill, and eat freely of them; which when Peter, a little too tenacious of the rites and institutions of the Mosaic law, declared his aversion to do, the voice rejoined, That what God had pronounced clean, he ought by no means to account common or unclean. This representation was made to him three several times, after which the sheet was again taken up, and the vision disappeared. But while Peter was revolving within himself what the meaning of this might be, three messengers knocked at the door, desiring to speak with him; and when they had delivered their message, viz. That Cornelius, a Roman, captain of a company in the Italian legion f2, then at Cæsarea, and a person of eminent virtue, piety, and charity, had, by an immediate command from God, sent to him; he, the next day, with six other brethren from Joppa, went along with them, and the day following arrived at Cæsarea.
Cornelius, in expectation of his coming, had invited his friends and relations to his house, and, as Peter drew near, fell down at his feet to worship him; but the apostle, rejecting the honour, as what was due to God alone, entered into the house, and there made his apology to the company, viz. "That though they could not but know that it was not lawful for a Jew to converse (in the duties of religion especially) with those of another nation; yet, since God had now taught him to make no distinction, he very readily attended their pleasure, desiring to know the occasion of their sending for him." Whereupon Cornelius made answer, "That he did it upon the express command of God, who, by his angel ‡, had ordered him to send for him at Joppa, from whom he
At the dedication of the temple, Solomon had so oft, and so solemnly, requested of God, that he would hearken" to the supplications of his people," who should at any time "spread out their hands towards that place," 1 Kings viii. 30. 38. that it thence became a custom among the Jews, whenever they were absent from Jerusalem, to offer up their prayers in places where they might have a free prospect towards it. Thus of Daniel it is recorded, that when he prayed (as he did it three times a-day), "the windows of his chamber were opened towards Jerusalem," Dan. vi. 10. and therefore, in all likelihood, St Peter being now at Joppa, went up to the roof of the house to pray for the same reason. Whitby's Annotations.
The cohors of the Romans, which the Greek renders g, and we band, was a body of infantry consisting of five hundred men, ten of which bands made a legion; and the manner in which the Romans distinguished and denominated their bands and legions was very various. Sometimes it was from the order of places, and so they were called the first or second band, according to their rank and precedency: Sometimes from the commanders they were under, as the Augustan and Claudian band, &c. because persons of that name did lead them: Sometimes from their own behaviour, as the Victrix, the Ferrea, the conquering, the iron band, &c. by reason of the great
valour which, in some sharp engagements, these had shewn: Sometimes from the countries they were chiefly quartered in, as the German and Panonian band, &c. and sometimes from the parts from whence they were gathered, as this of Cornelius is called the Italian band, because it was raised out of that country, and was a body of forces well known for their gallantry and great exploits among the writers of the Roman history. Calmet's Commentary.
But if God was so very kind to Cornelius, as to send an angel to him, why did not he at the same time give that angel commission to instruct him in what he was to do, and to save his apostle a journey from Joppa to Cæsarea? Now, besides the honour which God, in this method of proceeding, designed to confer upon St Peter and his ministry, it is apparent, that hereby he intended to let us know, that we are not to expect extraordinary ways of instruction where he hath instituted ordinary means. The angel, no doubt, might as readily have told Cornelius what he ought to do, as bid him send for Peter, and God could as easily have given him his Spirit at that time as four days after; but then this would not have been so agreeable to the order which Christ had settled in his church. Christ had appointed his apostles to mi. nister his ordinances; and therefore God did not suffer even an angel to break in upon this economy, but ordered St Peter to wait upon the centurion, that his
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should receive some special instruction, and that for this reason they were all then met From Acts i. together, attending the commands which he had brought them from God."
Hereupon St Peter began his discourse, and declared, " That now he perceived plainly that God had made no distinction of persons and people, but that the pious and godly of all nations were to meet with acceptance; that peace and reconciliation between God and man was a doctrine published by the prophets of old, and, of late, since the time of John the Baptist, preached through Galilee and Judea; that of this peace Jesus of Nazareth was the only Mediator between God and man, as appeared by the Divine powers and graces wherewith he was invested, and which he constantly exercised in doing good to mankind; that of his life and actions, more especially of his crucifixion by the Jews, and resurrection from the dead, of his appearing to his disciples, and even eating and drinking with them after his resurrection, he and the rest of the apostles were chosen witnesses; and that from him they had received, before his ascension, a command and commission to publish to all nations under heaven, that he was the person whom God had appointed to be the great Judge of all the world'."
While Peter was thus preaching to them, the Holy Ghost fell upon all that heard him, without the imposition of the apostles hands. This made the Jewish converts, who came along with Peter, wonder not a little, that the gifts of the Holy Ghost should be poured upon the Gentiles; but Peter perceiving it, ordered them immediately to be baptized, and (to instruct them more fully in their Christian profession) tarried for some considerable time with them.
When he returned to Jerusalem, the Jewish converts †, who still retained their inveterate prejudice against the Gentiles, utterly condemned him for conversing so familiarly, and eating with them; but, for his apology, having given them a plain narrative of the whole affair, and the occasion of it, he concluded at last with this inference,
Divine mercy might not redound upon him only, but be extended to his relations and friends. Whitby's Annotations.
But whom did he order to do this? The Gentiles? It seems, at first sight, not a little absurd, that they who were not yet baptized themselves should baptize others. Or were they some of those who came along with him to Cæsarea? These are generally supposed to be no more than lay-brethren, who were not permitted to baptize but in cases of necessity: but, considering that St Peter was now upon his visitation through Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, it seems reasonable, that he should carry some of his deacons (at least) along with him, to attend in such offices as these. Such was the beginning of the conversion of the Gentiles: For that Cornelius and his company were the first fruits of the heathen world, is evident from the injunction which our Saviour gave his apostles," not to go into the way of the Gentiles," Matth. x. 5. from the practice of those that were scattered abroad upon the death of Stephen, "but preached the word to the Jews only," Acts xi. 19. from the wonder which the Jewish converts with St Peter expressed, when they say," that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost," Acts x. 45. and from the altercation which the brethren at Jerusalem had with him at his return, "thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them," Acts xi. 3. which to me is a proof sufficient that the door of faith was not opened to the Gentiles before the conversion of Cornelius, who (according to the
account of some Latin writers) was made afterwards
†The ancient fathers are generally of opinion, that the apostles themselves had no hand in this controversy, and some of them suppose, that the great fomentor of it was Cerinthus, whose heresy grew afterwards famous in the church: but, if we consider how zealous the Jews, even after their conversion, were for their laws and customs, Acts xxi. 20, 21, how St Peter himself, before he received this vision, laid it down for a rule, that it was unlawful for a Jew to converse with an alien, Acts x. 28. and, even after this vision, how he withdrew from the believing Gentiles, for fear of the censure of those "who came from Jerusalem," Gal. ii. 12. we cannot see why it should be inconsistent with the character of the very greatest of the apostles to enquire into the reasons of St Peter's conduct, which, according to their present persuasion, was not warrantable: Since "this was a mystery (as St Paul tells us) which, in other ages, was not known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, viz. that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of God's promise in Christ, by the Gospel," Eph. iii. 5, 6, &c. Calmet's Commentary, and Whitby's Annotations.
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A. M. 4047,
That since God had been pleased to bestow on these Gentiles the same privileges and marks of conversion that he had done on his select disciples, it would in him have been direct disobedience to the Divine will, had he denied them admission into the church, or refused them his instructions and conversation;" which fully satisfied the audience, and turned their displeasure against him into praise and thanksgiving to God, for having communicated the same mercy to the Gentiles that he had done to the Jews.
After the general dispersion, which followed upon St Stephen's death, some disciples, who were born at Cyprus and Cyrene †, having travelled through several countries, and hitherto preached to the Jews only, when they came to Antioch †2, and there heard of the conversion of Cornelius and others, they applied themselves to the Greeks || who lived in that city, and, by the blessing of God, made great numbers of converts daily; insomuch, that the apostles who remained at Jerusalem, when they heard of this happy progress, sent Barnabas †3, a pious man, and indued with many excellent gifts, to assist the disciples, and confirm the believers in that city. The success of the Gospel in so large a place was no small consolation to him: And therefore having exhorted the brethren to hold fast the profession of their faith, he thence departed to Tarsus to find out Saul, and with him, in a short time, returned to Antioch; where, for the space of a whole year, they daily resorted to the places of public concourse, and gained con
This was a city of great note, and once of such power as to contend with Carthage for some pre-eminences. It stood on the western parts of Lybia, properly so called; and, as it was the principal city, it sometimes gave the name of Cyrenaica to the whole country, which, by the sacred writer, is paraphrastically called Lybia about Cyrene, Acts ii. 10. The city itself is famous in profane writers for being the birth place of Eratosthenes the mathematician, of Callimachus the poet, and, in Holy Writ, of Simon, whom the Jews compelled to bear our Saviour's cross. Wells's Geography of the New Testament.
This Antioch, to distinguish it from sixteen other cities which, in Syria and other countries, bore that name, was frequently called Antiochia Epidaphne, from its neighbourhood to Daphne, a village where the temple of Daphne stood. It was built, as some say, by Antiochus Epiphanes; as others, by Seleucus Nicanor, the first king of Syria after Alexander the Great, in memory of his father Antiochus, and was, after that, the royal seat of the kings of Syria. In the flourishing times of the Roman empire, it was the ordinary residence of the prefect or governor of the eastern provinces, and was also honoured with the residence of many of the Roman emperors, especially of Verus and Valens, who spent here the greatest part of their time. As to its situation, it lay on both sides the river Orontes, about twelve miles distant from the Mediterranean Sea; was in former times adorned with many sumptuous palaces and stately temples, and both by nature and art fortified even to admiration; but being taken by the Saracens, and afterwards by the Turks, it began to grow into decay, and is now in so desolate and ruinous a condition, that the patriarch has long since removed his dwelling to DaWhitby's Alphabetical Table, and Wells's Geography of the New Testament.
The learned Grotius is pretty positive, [and
Exλures, as it is in our vulgar copies, and denotes
+3 The Scripture acquaints us, Acts iv. 36. that his name was originally Joses, that he was descended of the tribe of Levi, but born at Cyprus ; and that as he was the first who sold an estate and put the purchase money into the common fund then applied to the sustenance of poor Christians, he very likely from that action received the name of Barnabas, which (according to St Luke's interpretation) signifies "the son of consolation." But besides the qualifications mentioned in the text, there were two other reasons that might induce the apostles to make choice of Barnabas, preferably to any other upon this occasion; 1st, Because he was a great master of the Greek, which was the current language of Antioch, as being himself born at Cyprus, where that language only was in use. And, 2dly, Because the apostles thought it might be more agreeable to these first planters of the Gospel in Antioch, (who were a great many of them natives of Cyprus) to have a fellow-labourer of the same country sent amongst them. Calmet's Commentary.
verts so numerous and considerable, that in this city the disciples of Jesus first obtained From Acts. i. the honourable name of CHRISTIANS +.
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This opened an intercourse between Jerusalem and Antioch; so that when certain persons who, at that time, had the spirit of prophecy, were come from Jerusalem, and among them, one named Agabus †2 had foretold, that there would shortly be a great famine in many parts of the Roman empire, (which accordingly happened in the fourth year of the reign of Claudius) the Christians of Antioch determined to make a collection for their brethren in Judea +3; which, upon the approach of the dearth, they accordingly did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul: But before their arrival at Jerusalem, Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, (merely to ingratiate himself with the Jews) raised a sharp persecution against the Christians. He ordered James (the son of Zebedee 4 and brother of John), commonly called the Great, to be beheaded; and having apprehended Peter and put him in prison, he set a guard of sixteen soldiers upon him, designing, immediately after the feast of the Passover, to bring him forth to the Jews, and, if they desired it, to have him executed. But the very night before the day intended for his arraignment and execution, God sent an angel from heaven, who knocked off his chains †, opened the prison door, and without the
+ Before this, they were called, among themselves, brethren, saints, disciples, believers, the faithful, and those that called on the name of Christ; and among their enemies, Galileans, Nazarenes, and the men of the sect; but now, by the conversion of so many heathens both in Cæsarea and Antioch, the believing Jews and Gentiles being all made one church, this new name was given them as more expressive of their common relation to their master Christ; and that it was given in a solemn manner, we have reason to conclude from the propriety of the original word. For χρηματίσαι is commonly used with regard to edicts and proclamations, such especially as contain the people's professions of allegiance to emperors, and the privileges granted by them to the people: And therefore it seems not improbable, that the imposition of this name was done by a public act and declaration of the whole church, about the beginning of the reign of Claudius, ten years after our Lord's ascension, (as an ancient historian informs us) whether Euodius was at that time the bishop of Antioca or no. Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, and Cave's Lives of the Apostles.
+ Who this Agabus was, we have no account in any ecclesiastical history, only the Greeks tell us that he was one of our Lord's seventy disciples, and as he is said to have suffered martyrdom at Antioch, accordingly they observe his festival on the eighth of March: But in regard to the truth of his prophecy, Eusebius tells us, that the famine which he foretold oppressed almost the whole empire, and was recorded by historians the most averse to the Christian religion, viz. by Dion Cassius, who calls it a very great famine, Hist. lib. xvi. ; by Josephus, who tells us, that in Judea many perished for want of victuals, Antiq. lib. xx. c. 2.; and by Suetonious, who observes, that the emperor himself, upon this occasion, was so in sulted by the people in the common market-place, that he was obliged, by a postern gate, to retire into his palace. In Claudio, chap. xviii. Calmet's Commentary, and Whitby's Annotations.
+3 The reasons why this supply was principally sent to Judea, might be, either because there the calamity fell heaviest, or because believers were like to find least pity there, or because this was a fitting tes timony of gratitude to the country from whence the means of their conversion first came, according to that subsequent reasoning of St Paul's, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, ought it to be accounted a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" 1 Cor. ix. 11. Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels.
+ These titles are given the apostle either upon the account of his age, or to distinguish him from another of the same name who was bishop of Jerusalem, and is usually styled the Less. He was by country a Galilean, and born very probably either at Capernaum or Bethsaida. He had his first institution (together with his brother John the evangelist) under the Baptist, but how he disposed of himself after our Lord's ascension, it does not certainly appear. St Jerome makes him to have preached to the Jews of the dispersion; but that his labours carried him at all out of Jadea, or even from Jerusalem itself, no authentic history informs us. That his zeal was very industrious and ardent there, no other prooi is necessary, than that Agrippa, a great asserter of the Jewish religion, made choice of him for the first sacrifice to the fury of the people: But that his courage and constancy at the time of his trial was such, as even converted his accuser, made him come and fall down at his teet, and heartily beg pardon for what he had said against him; and that, after the apostle had forgiven him, hẹ, in the presence of the whole assembly, declared himself likewise to be a Christian, and so they were both beheaded together, is evident from the testimony of Eusebius, lib. ii. c. 9. who had this account (as he acquaints us) from the Institutions of Clemens of Alexandria. Cave's Lives of the Apostles, and Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels.
+5 That the manner of securing a prisoner was to have him fastened, by two chains, to two soldiers. or 3 F