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shadow alone, healed many who were laid in his way.*
After Samaria had, through the instrumentality of Philip, received the word of God, Peter and John were sent there by the apostles, in order that they might lay their hands on the converts, and cause them to receive the Holy Spirit. † And then it was that Peter so indignantly rebuked Simon the sorcerer, who thought that the gift of God might be purchased with money. “ Thy money perish with thee,” said he; “ thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.”
* It is not expressly asserted in Acts, v. 15, that those persons were healed by Peter's shadow, and therefore some commentators have taken it for granted that they were not, and have even gone so far as to assert that the apostle's neglect of them was a punishment for their superstition. So says Rosenmuller. But in the next verse we are told that great numbers of sick persons were also brought to him from the cities round about, and “were healed every one." Now there seems to be no good reason why these should be healed, and those who belonged to the city should be neglected. Their being placed in Peter's way, so that even his shadow might pass over them, shows more the affectionate and confident faith of them and their friends, than it does their superstition. If Peter was empowered from on high to heal diseases, he could do so by his
shadow, as well as by a touch or a few words. His will was the i agent: the signs of its exertion were of no importance in them
selves. As we are not informed that Peter rebuked those who laid the sick under his shadow, the most reasonable and compassionate inference is, that these, as well as the others, were healed.
| The fact that the apostles sent Peter on this mission, is proof sufficient that his precedence among them was far from being of the papal character.
We now find him very actively engaged in the duties of his apostleship, “passing throughout all quarters," performing miracles, preaching the word, and feeding the sheep of the great shepherd. At Lydda, he healed a certain man, named Æneas, who had been sick with the palsy eight years; and at the neighbouring town of Joppa he raised to life a pious female disciple' by the name of Tabitha, or Dorcas. *
At Joppa he abode many days with one Simon, a tanner. It was while he was living here, that he was called to instruct and baptize Cornelius, the centurion, who dwelt in Cæsarea ; to prepare him for which duty, he was taught, in a remarkable vision, not to call any creature of God common or unclean, and that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. With these convictions on his mind, he obeys the call of Cornelius to come to him, and while he is addressing him, witnesses the descent of the spirit on him and his family, and orders them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Thus he fulfilled to the utmost the prediction with which his name of Peter was conferred on him, and founded the Christian church in both the Jewish and the Gentile world. It was an event of which we at this period can hardly estimate the importance. Devoid of Jewish prejudices and antipathies, we can hardly conceive with what consternation the Jewish converts, who, as Jews, had always cherished the belief that religion and truth and God's peculiar favor always had been, and always were to be, confined to them, must have listened to the intelligence, that the chief of the apostles had been breaking down the wall, and drawing up the veil which were interposed between the faithful people and the rest of the world, and that henceforth there was to be no spiritual distinction between Hebrew and Greek, Jew and Gentile. Some conception of this indignant surprise of theirs may be formed from the recorded circumstance, that when Peter had returned to Jerusalem, “ they that were of the circumcision," including his fellow apostles, and indeed the whole Christian church, “contended with him, saying, thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” It was enough to provoke their amazement, that he simply eat with them. But Peter had the steadfastness to defend himself, and expound the whole matter to them from the beginning; and so much were they impressed by the force and reason of his words, that they acquiesced in peace, " and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
* Tabitha being the Syriac name, and Dorcas its translation into Greek. The words mean a doe or kid.
Not long after this, Peter was put into prison by Herod, but was set free by an angel, who came to him while he “ was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains.” That he was sleeping in such a situation, is an incidental and beautiful proof of his tranquillity in extreme danger. He then went down from Judea to Cæsarea, and there abode; very probably in the house, or under the protection of Cornelius, his distinguished convert.
The next time that we hear of him, is at the meeting of apostles and elders, which is generally called the Council of Jerusalem, and which was convened to settle the long and vehemently agitated question, again brought up by some of the believing Pharisees, whether it was needful to circumcise all converts, and command them to keep the law of Moses. When there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and gave his decided opinion against the necessity of circum
cising the Gentiles, or bringing them under the ceremonial law. And with this opinion the Council at last coincided.
With the history of this Council, the notices of Peter's life in the Acts of the apostles come to an end. He is named a few times in the epistles of Paul, and once with reprehension. That apostle tells us, in his epistle to the Galatians, that when Peter was come to Antioch,* he withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed; for that although he had already eaten with Gentiles, according to his own new principles so openly professed, yet when some of the circumcision came to Antioch, he withdrew from the Gentiles, from fear of the circumcised. This was an inconsistency, certainly, and shows that some remains of weakness still lingered about the character of Peter ; but it is the only inconsistency which is laid to his charge from the time of his Master's resurrection; and he can easily
* Ecclesiastical historians say that Peter founded the church at Antioch, and some add, that he was its first bishop. Chrysostom writes, “ This is one prerogative of our city, (Antioch,) that we had at the beginning the chief of the apostles for our master. For it was fit, that the place, which was first honored with the name of Christians, should have the chief of the apostles for its pastor. But though we had him for a master awhile, we did not detain him, but resigned him to the royal city, Rome. Or rather, we have him still. For though we have not his body, we have his faith.” – - Chrysostom, as adduced by Lardner.