on Acts 10 :35
But in every nation he that feared him, etc. - In every nation he who, according to his light and privileges, fears God, worships him alone, (for this is the true meaning of the word), and worketh righteousness, abstains from all evil, gives to all their due, injures neither the body, soul, nor reputation of his neighbor, is accepted with him. It is not therefore the nation, kindred, profession, mode or form of worship, that the just God regards; but the character, the state of heart, and the moral deportment. For what are professions, etc., in the sight of that God who trieth spirits, and by whom actions are weighed! He looks for the grace he has given, the advantages he has afforded, and the improvement of all these. Let it be observed farther, that no man can be accepted with this just God who does not live up to the advantages of the state in which providence has placed him. Why was Cornelius accepted with God while thousands of his countrymen were passed by? Because he did not receive the grace of God in vain; he watched, fasted, prayed, and gave alms, which they did not. Had he not done so, would he have been accepted? Certainly not; because it would then appear that he had received the grace of God in vain, and had not been a worker together with him. Many irreligious men, in order to get rid of the duties and obligations of Christianity, quote this verse in their own favor, while they reject all the Gospel besides; and roundly assert, as they think on the authority of this text, that they need neither believe in Jesus Christ, attend to his Gospel, nor use his ordinances; for, if they fear God and work righteousness, they shall be infallibly accepted with him. Let such know that if they had been born and still were living in a land where the light of the Gospel had never shone, and were there conscientiously following the glimmering ray of celestial light which God had granted, they might, with some show of reason, speak in this way; but, as they are born and live under the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God, the just Judge, will require that they fear him, and work righteousness, According to the Light afforded by that very Gospel. The sincerity, watching, praying, fastings and alms-giving of Cornelius will not be sufficient for them who, as it may be justly said, live in splendours of Christianity. In such a state, God requires that a man shall love him with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength; and his neighbor as himself. In the face of such a requisition as this, how will the poor heathen virtue of one born in the pale of Christianity appear? And if God requires all this, will not a man need all the grace that has been brought to light by the revelation of Jesus Christ to enable him to do it?
on Acts 10 :35
But in every nation ... - This is given as a reason for what Peter had just said, that God was no respecter of persons. The sense is, that he now perceived that the favors of God were not confined to the Jew, but might be extended to all others on the same principle. The remarkable circumstances here - the vision to him, and to Cornelius, and the declaration that the alms of Cornelius were accepted - now convinced him that the favors of God were no longer to be confined to the Jewish people, but might be extended to all. This was what the vision was designed to teach, and to communicate this knowledge to the apostles was an important step in their work of spreading the gospel.
In every nation - Among all people. Jews or Gentiles. Acceptance with God does not depend on the fact of being descended from Abraham, or of possessing external privileges, but on the state of the heart.
He that feareth him - This is put for piety toward God in general. See notes on Acts 9:31. It means that he who honors God and keeps His Law; he who is a true worshipper of God, according to the light and privileges which he has, is approved by him, as giving evidence that he is his friend.
And worketh righteousness - Does what is right and just. This refers to his conduct toward man. He that discharges conscientiously his duty to his fellow-men, and evinces by his conduct that he is a righteous man. These two things comprehend the whole of religion, the sum of all the requirements of God - piety toward God, and justice toward people; and as Cornelius had showed these, he showed that, though a Gentile, he was actuated by true religion. We may observe here:
(1) That it is not said that Cornelius was accepted on accouter of his good works. Those works were simply an evidence of true piety in the heart; a proof that he feared and loved God, and not a meritorious ground of acceptance.
(2) he improved the light which he had.
(3) "he embraced the Saviour when he was offered to him." This circumstance makes an essential difference between Cornelius and those who depend on their morality in Christian lands. They do not embrace the Lord Jesus, and they are, therefore, totally unlike the Roman centurion. His example should not be pled, therefore, by those who neglect the Saviour, for it furnishes no evidences that they will be accepted when they are totally unlike him.
on Acts 10 :35
10:35 But in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness - He that, first, reverences God, as great, wise, good, the cause, end, and governor of all things; and secondly, from this awful regard to him, not only avoids all known evil, but endeavours, according to the best light he has, to do all things well; is accepted of him - Through Christ, though he knows him not. The assertion is express, and admits of no exception. He is in the favour of God, whether enjoying his written word and ordinances or not. Nevertheless the addition of these is an unspeakable blessing to those who were before in some measure accepted. Otherwise God would never have sent an angel from heaven to direct Cornelius to St. Peter.