Page images
[ocr errors]

“ house top to pray about the sixth hour. .
“ And he became very hungry and would
“ have eaten : but while they made ready,
“ he fell into a trance, and saw heaven
“ opened, and a certain vessel descending
6 unto him, as it had been a great sheet,
• knit at the four corners, and let down to
" the Earth; wherein were all manner of
“ fourfooted beasts of the Earth, and wild
“ beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of
" the air. And there came a voice to him

saying, Rise, Peter, kill and eat. But " Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never “ eaten any thing that is common or un“ clean. And the voice spake unto him " again the second time, What God hath so cleansed, that call not thou common. This

was done thrice, and the vessel was received
up again into heaven.”

Immediately after this exhibition, the Apostle, by the direction of the Spirit, went to the house of Cornelius, a devout Roman, whom God had chosen for a member of the Christian Church: of which Society that visionary Sheet was a figure, comprehending people of all nations, gathered from the four winds or quarters of the earth, and enclosed


in white linen, to signify the Christian purity and righteousness.

When he was entered into the house of Cornelius, he observed to the people who were present, “ Ye know how that it is an “ unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to “ keep company, or come unto one of ano" ther nation : but God hath shewed me, " that I should not call any man common or unclean." Here we have an apostolical comment upon the sense of this vision. God had shewed him that he should call no living creatures unclean; but by these brutes of all kinds he understands men of alt nations. And without question he applied the vision to what the wisdom of God intended to express by it. The case was this: St. Peter, as a Jew, was bound to abstain from all those animals, the eating of which was prohibited by the Law of Moses. But God shewed him that he should no longer account these animals unclean. And what doth he understand by it? That he should no longer account the Heathens so:

- God,” says he, 6. hath shewed me that I should call no man ss common or unclean:” or to speak in other words borrowed from the Apostle, “ God " hath shewed me that a Jew is now at liberty C3

" to

" to keep company or come unto one of another " nation;" which so long as the Mosaic distinction betwixt clean and unclean beasts was in force, it was not lawful for him to do : especially as Christ himself, in the beginning of his ministry, when the Jews were still entitled to the pre-eminence given them by the law, had repeated the same rule to his Apostles---"Go not into the way of the Gentiles “ but go rather to the lost SHEEP of the 66 house of Israel a.”

V. This Vision being founded upon the distinction now before us, and the sense of it being clear and unquestionable, we may proceed to make some use of it. Thus then let us argue; that if the liberty of feeding upon unclean creatures was offered to St. Peter as a sign of a communication now opened between the Jews and the Gentiles; it was the original intention of the contrary prohibition, to teach the Hebrews, that they should hold no Society with heathens and idolaters. For a liberty in one of these cases could not infer a liberty in the other, unless it hath been a truth known and acknowledged by those who understood the law, that a restraint in the one had always implied a restraint in the other. To say that animals pronounced unclean by the Law might now be eaten, was the same as to declare in other words, that the heathens might now. be safely conversed with and preached to: therefore, when it was enjoined that these creatures should not be eaten, it was the same in effect as if it had been declared in so many words, that the people of God should avoid the conversation and manners of the heathens. Nothing can be plainer, than that the uncleanness ascribed to brute creatures is not their own; for they innocently follow their several instincts; the wolf when it devours the lamb, and the swine when it wallows in the mire. The instinct of the wolf is not cruelty but appetite. In man it would be otherwise, because one man does not want the blood of another. The turpitude of the swine is not moral but natural: it is as blameless as the scent of a dunghill: yet in these things they hold up to us a picture of bad men, who when they imitate the properties of certain brutes, depart from the dignity and purity of that state to which God called his chosen people. Therefore it was well observed by Tertullian, that “ if any ill quality is con

* Matth. X. 5, 6,



" demned

“ demned in brute animals, certainly it is “ much more condemned in man, who is a

rational creature."

VI. This subject can never be misunderstood (at least, in its outlines) if it be considered, that nothing which gieth into a man can defile him; and that nothing is unclean in the sight of God but Sin. The powers

of darkness are called unclean Spirits, and unclean Devils from their wickedness. So that if

any thing is prohibited as unclean, we must understand it to be so only in a moral sense, with some respect or other to Sin.

VII. As there is nothing unclean with God but Sin; so is there nothing pure in his sight but obedience and holiness : which abserva. tion, when applied to the other part of our subject, will shew us why some animals were approved of and selected from the rest as proper to be eaten. For if unclean beasts expressed the immoral character of the unbez

lieving Gentiles, the clean ones must have a !! agreed to the character of the Israelitęs: as

when it is kņown that darkness is an image of

Quando irrationale animal ob aliquid rejicitur, magis
illud ipsum in eo qui rationalis est homine damnatur.
Tertull. de Cib. Judaic,
Luke iv, 33


« PreviousContinue »