Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

April 13, 1911

Cornelius, a Seeker for Truth

Mrs. E. G. White

Immediately after the interview with Cornelius, the angel went to Peter, who, at the time, was praying upon the house-top of his lodging in Joppa. “And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance.” It was not for physical food alone that Peter hungered. As from the housetop he viewed the city of Joppa and the surrounding country, he hungered for the salvation of his countrymen. He had an intense desire to point out to them from the Scriptures the prophecies relating to the sufferings and death of Christ.

As he prayed, he became lost to the scene about him. In a vision, “he saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending 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 four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.”

In the giving of this vision to Peter may be seen the outworking of God's plan to bring to pass events whereby his great plan might be more fully carried out. Peter had not yet preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Many of them had been interested listeners to the truths which he taught; but in the minds of the apostles, the middle wall of partition, broken down by the death of Christ, still existed; and they regarded the Gentiles as excluded from the blessings of the gospel. Through the labors of the disciples, many of the Greek Jews had become believers in Christ; but the conversion of Cornelius was to be the first of importance among the Gentiles.

The time had come for an entirely new phase of work in the church of Christ. The door that many of the Jewish converts had closed against the Gentiles was now to be thrown open. The Gentiles who accepted the gospel were to be looked upon as on an equality with the Jewish disciples, without the necessity of observing the rite of circumcision.

How carefully the Lord worked to overcome the prejudice against the Gentiles, which had been so firmly fixed in Peter's mind by his Jewish training! By the vision of the sheet and its contents, he sought to divest the mind of the apostle of prejudice, and to teach the important truth that in heaven there is no respect of persons, that Gentile and Jew are alike precious in God's sight, and that through Christ the heathen are made partakers of the blessings and privileges of the gospel.

The vision given to Peter conveyed both reproof and instruction. It showed that by the death of Christ the Gentiles had been made fellow heirs with Israel. Heretofore Peter's labors had been confined to the Jews, and he had looked upon the Gentiles as unclean, excluded from the promises of God. He was now being led to comprehend the world-wide extent of God's plan.

While Peter was thinking about the vision, the men sent from the centurion stood before the gate of his lodging-house; and the Spirit said to him: “Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.”

To Peter this was a trying command. It was with reluctance at every step that he undertook the duty laid upon him, but he dared not disobey. He went down and received the messengers sent by Cornelius. They told him of their singular errand; and in obedience to the directions that he had just received from God, he promised to accompany them on the morrow. He courteously entertained them that night, and on the following morning set out with them for Caesarea, accompanied by six of his brethren. These were to be witnesses of all that he should say or do while visiting the Gentiles; for Peter knew that he would be called to account for so direct an opposition to the Jewish faith and teachings.

While the messengers of Cornelius were upon their errand, the centurion gathered as many of his relatives as were accessible, that they as well as he might be instructed in the truth. When Peter arrived, he found a large company assembled, eagerly waiting to listen to his words.

As Peter entered the house of the Gentile, Cornelius did not salute him as an ordinary visitor, but as one honored of heaven, and sent to him by God. It is an Eastern custom to bow before a prince or other high dignitary, and for children to bow before their parents; but Cornelius, overwhelmed with reverence for the one delegated by God to teach him, fell at the apostle's feet. Pete was horror-stricken; and he lifted the centurion to his feet, saying, “Stand up; I myself also am a man.” He then began to talk with him familiarly, in order to remove the sense of awe and extreme reverence with which the centurion regarded him.

To Cornelius and those assembled in his house, Peter spoke first of the custom of the Jews, saying that it was looked upon as unlawful for Jews to mingle socially with the Gentiles, and that this involved ceremonial defilement. “Ye know,” he said, “how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me.”

Cornelius then related his experience and the words of the angel, saying, in conclusion: “Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.”

“Then Peter ... said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

God had favored the Jews above all other nations; but if they rejected the light, failing to live up to their profession, they would be no better in his sight than other nations. Those among the Gentiles who, like Cornelius, feared God and worked righteousness, walking in the light they had, were kindly regarded by God, and their sincere service was accepted. But the faith of Cornelius could not be perfect without a knowledge of Christ; therefore God sent additional knowledge to him, for the further development of his character. Many refuse to receive the light that God sends them, and in excuse, quote the words of Peter to Cornelius, “In every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” They maintain that it is of no consequence what men believe, so long as their works are good. Such are in error. Faith and works must be united. We should advance with the light given us. If God brings us into connection with those who have received truth substantiated by his Word, we should accept this truth with joy. Those who claim that faith alone will save them, are trusting to a rope of sand; for faith is made perfect by good works.

To that company of attentive hearers Peter preached Christ,—his life, his miracles, his betrayal, his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension, and his work in heaven as man's representative and advocate. As the apostle spoke, his heart glowed with the spirit of the truth that he was presenting. His hearers were charmed by the teaching they heard; for their hearts were prepared to receive the gospel.

The discourse was interrupted by the descent of the Holy Spirit. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. And 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. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.”

“Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The conversion of Cornelius and his household was but the first-fruits of a harvest to be gathered in. From this household a wide-spread work of grace was carried on in a heathen city.

When the brethren in Judea heard that Peter had gone to the house of a Gentile, and preached there, they were surprised and offended. They feared that such a course, which looked to them presumptuous, would tend to contradict his own teachings. When they next saw Peter, they met him with severe censure, saying, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.”

Peter laid the whole matter before them. He related his experience in regard to the vision, and pleaded that it admonished him no longer to observe the ceremonial distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision, nor to look upon the Gentiles as unclean. He told them of the command given him to go to the Gentiles, of the coming of the messengers, of his journey to Caesarea, and of the meeting with Cornelius. He recounted the substance of his interview with the centurion, in which the latter had told him of the vision by which he had been directed to send for Peter.

“As I began to speak,” he said, in relating his experience, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If then God gave unto them the like gift as he did also unto us, when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?”

On hearing this account, the brethren were silenced. Convinced that Peter's course was in direct fulfilment of the plan of God, and that their prejudice and exclusiveness were to be utterly destroyed by the gospel, they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life.”

Thus, without controversy, prejudice was broken down, and the way was opened for the work to be carried on among the Gentiles.

April 13, 1911

A Study of Principles—No. 6

D. E. Robinson

The day following the special meeting referred to in last week's issue, on the Armadale (Australia) camp-ground, in which Mrs. White spoke of the principles that should govern our work where prejudice is strong, she wrote the following letter to one who had strongly urged that to refrain from Sunday labor in the South would be wrong:

“Dear Brother: Yesterday extracts were read from letters from your pen in reference to our brethren in the Southern field. This subject is a very delicate one to handle, and I would not have anything to say upon it if I did not feel that I dare not withhold light that has been given me. My brother, I was made sad to hear the extracts from your letter. This is not the advice that Jesus gave in his sermon on the mount.

“‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.’

“The principles that you present to others, you should first know are faultless because sustained by a ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ How careful we should be in giving advice, lest our counsel result in great evil and suffering. How much better for the families to go out into some other cities or some other country, but never encourage the spirit of defiance and resistance, even if they are placed in the chain-gang. The bigotry that exists, the prejudice against truth to sustain religious error, is firm; for the human agent is stirred with hellish power from beneath. The Lord sees, the Lord knows, all about the sufferings of his people for the truth's sake. Pray, our Saviour says, for those who entreat you evil, and resist not evil.

“There is a matter which I have written in regard to, the introduction of the truth among the colored people. This can not be done in any haphazard way, neither can advice be given to the believers and to those who teach the truth to be presumptuous. When the period comes in the Southern States to do as did the three worthies, who refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar's image, that time will present decisions for or against the commandments of God. There is no need of closing up our own way entirely. It will be made more difficult to work the many fields that have not yet been touched. Our policy is, Do not make prominent the objectionable features of our faith, which strike most decidedly against the customs and practises of the people, until the Lord shall give the people a fair chance to know that we are believers in Christ, and in his preexistence. Let the testimony of the world's Redeemer be dwelt upon. ‘I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.’ There is need of strictly guarding the words that the pen traces upon paper. The Lord help us to learn in the school of Christ his meekness and his lowliness.

“If the majesty of heaven guards his every word lest he should stir up the spirit of Satan and the fallen angels, how much more careful should we be in all things in connection with his work.

“I think it would be very becoming to all who claim to follow Christ, to be indeed learning of Christ, his methods, and his meekness and lowliness of heart. We have a decided message to bear. In Jude we have a description of the pollution of the world, and the working agencies of Satan to corrupt the world. ‘Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.’

“‘And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.’ Zechariah 3:1. These things are written for our benefit, and we are to study the Word in all these things now; for they concern us, particularly.

“There is to be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. Our work is to study to weed out of all our discourses everything that savors of retaliation and defiance and making a drive against churches and individuals, because this is not Christ's way and method. He did not pronounce scathing rebukes against those who knew not the truth, but against those whom God had made the depositaries of sacred responsibilities, a people chosen and favored with every temporal and spiritual advantage, and yet bearing no fruit....

“The Lord pities the world, his vineyard, which has not been worked. He is sparing the world to let increased light come to it. In the midst of wrath he remembers mercy. His heart of divine mercy is full of love and compassion for the thousands who are in ignorance of the truth. There has been everything done for those who have a knowledge of the truth, to keep them in the truth; but those who know not the truth have not received one tithe of the advantages that they should have had. And thus it continues to be. God help the people to whom he has given every advantage, as he did the Jewish nation, to receive and impart to those who are in ignorance of the light of truth, instead of rejecting the light and blessing.

“I do not know that you understand this. May the Lord help you to discern. It is not the place of those who have had from Jesus light, precious light, to condemn those to whom this light has never come, and to write or speak things which will close the ears and door of the heart; to hedge up the way, so that Satan's power shall take possession of human minds; and to give the imagination a false viewing, that will through any course that we shall pursue bring on a state of things that will prevent us from reaching the world. This the Jewish nation did. They made themselves obnoxious to the world.

“How shall correct impressions of what we really do believe be given to our world?—By studying methods, not of contention and condemnation; for there are thousands living up to the best light they have. Every means should be used to get the knowledge of the truth before the thousands who will discern evidence, who will appreciate the likeness of Christ in his people, if they can have an opportunity to see it. There are those among us who, if they would take time to consider, would regard their do-nothing position as a sinful neglect to use the talents which God has given them. God has given his messengers the truth to proclaim. Then the churches are to voice the truth from the lips of the messengers, and use their talent in every way possible to make the ministry a power to communicate truth by their catching the first rays of light, and diffusing the same.

“Here is our great sin. We are years behind. The ministers have been seeking the hidden treasure, and have been opening up the casket, and letting the jewels of truth shine forth; but there is not one-hundredth part done or being done by members of the church that God requires of them. They will in that great day be self-convicted and self-condemned for their slothfulness. May the Lord lead them to penitence, and to now see themselves and exclaim, ‘Lord, I am that fruitless fig-tree.’ May the Lord forgive his people who are not doing the work in his vineyard that he has given them to do.

“I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.’ ‘I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.’ Study this subject; read the next verse. We see that this is the very message that has been going forth to the people of God.

“The large halls in our cities should be secured, that the third angel's message may be proclaimed by human lips. Thousands will appreciate the message. While so much time and money have been absorbed in ministerial institutes for those who have the truth and do not appreciate it, thousands are in ignorance of the truth. They know not what is the faith of Seventh-day Adventists.

“Why do not the church-members communicate that which they have received? Why this negligence? Why this selfish neglect when the value of souls is at stake?

“Why is there not now something being done in a larger measure than has been done? Why are camp-meetings kept year after year in the same locality? Why are they not taken to cities that know nothing of our faith? The plea is, There will be a saving of money and labor. Let the saving be done in other lines. But when souls are to be labored for, and the truth is to come before those who know it not, let us not talk of limiting on this line.

“A world is to be warned. Watch, wait, pray, work, and let nothing be done through strife and vainglory. Let nothing be done to increase prejudice, but everything possible to make prejudice less, by letting in light, the bright rays of the Sun of Righteousness, amid the moral darkness.

“There is a great work yet to be done. Every effort possible must be made to reveal Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour, Christ as the sin-bearer, Christ as the bright and morning star: and the Lord will give us favor before the world until our work is done.”

Sanitarium, Cal.

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