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St. Peter suppose he did. In truth, there was something extraordinary in this prostration of Cornelius, but without any thing of idolatry. He was a person of rank, St. Peter made no figure in civil life, yet Cornelius received him not only with respect, but as his superior : not only as his superior, but with the greatest degree of reverence; not only with the greatest degree of reverence, according to the usages of his own nation, but with an expression of veneration, which, though common in the country where Cornelius then resided, his countrymen were ready to say ought to be appropriated to to those that were more than men : but it seems he felt the greatest degree of reverence and awe at the sight of the Apostle, and those emotions threw him into the attitude he had frequently seen the inhabitants of Syria put themselves in, when they would express the greatest respect, the rather as the Apostle was a native of that country. .
The case of St. John's throwing himself at the feet of the Angel,” is to be viewed in a somewhat different light. St. John did nothing at all but what was conformable to the usages of his own country, when the people of it designed innocently to express great reverence and gratitude. It is astonishing then that so many learned men should have looked upon it as an idolatrous prostration. Nothing however is more certain than this fact : and it has 2 Rev. xix. 10, and c. xxij. 8.
been thus understood, not only by controversial writers, when disputing with heat against their antagonists; but by the more cool and dispassionate commentators. That they should not at all consider the Eastern usages, is no wonder; they have been in common most unhappily neglected; but the attenipt of the Apostle to repeat the prostration, (for he would have done it a second time) sufficiently shewed, one would imagine, that the Apostle did not think the angel rejected it as an idolatrous piece of respect. What a strange interpretation must that be, which supposes St. John, a Jew by descent, a mortal enemy in consequence by birth to all idolatry; a zealous preacher against it, through a very long life; who finished one of his epistles with these very words, Little children, keep yourselves from idols, as desirous to have this perpetually fixed on their memories, whatever else they forgot; should, when suffering in Patmos for the LORD JESUS, and when blessed with the influence of the prophetic spirit, attempt to do an idolatrous action, and to repeat that attempt in opposition to the checks of his celestial teacher ! Nothing sure can be more inconceivable. At the same time nothing is easier than the true interpretation-struck with veneration for his angelic instructor, and full of gratitude towards him for what he had shewn him, he fell, according to the custom of his nation, at his feet to do him reverence: See thou do it not, said the Angel, it is not to me these thanks are due, I have in this been only fulfilling the orders of him who is my LORD as well as yours; worship God therefore, to whom in justice you ought to ascribe these illuminations. Beauteous was this turning away of the Angel from him in the Apostle's eyes, and from the additional force of this graceful action, as well as from a lively sense, that though honours are ultimately due to God, as the Original Author of every good gift, and in particular of intellectual lights, yet that it was to express a reverence too to them that are the instruments of conveying them to us. St. John, upon some farther revelation of the Angel, would have again thrown himself at his feet, but found the Angel persevering in that most amiable and devout modesty-worship God,
Farther Considerations on the same Subject.
THEVENOT remarked, in the passage I cited under the last Observation, that the people of Constantinople wished the Grand Signior, when he saluted them as he rode through their streets, an happiness and prosperity, with a low and respectful voice. I do not however appreliend, that the customs of the East, with respect to the manner of doing persons honour there, are changed, though we read, that when our LORD entered with something of state into Jerusalem, they cried Hosanna to the son of David; blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Matt. xxi. 9; and that when Solomon was brought np from Gihon, after having received the regal unction, The people rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them, 1 Kings i. 40: since these were not the sounds of salutation, but the cries of people at some distance from Solomon, and from our LORD, dispersedly expressing their triumph. · So we find in Maillet, that when there is any rain at Cairo, it is so extraordinary, and at the same time so exquisitely grateful, that the children run about the streets with cries of joy ;5 and that when the only son of that magnificent person, who was the Bashaw of Egypt in 1696, was passing along in a grand procession, in order to be circumcised, the way was all strewed with flowers, and the air rung with acclamations and cries of joy. This was ainong a people that would doubtless have saluted a prince as he passed along, in the same manner in which the people of Constantinople saluted their Sultan, with a low and respectful voice. This difference is to be attended to, as it serves to determine
a James i. 17.
that what was said when our LORD entered Jerusalem, was the expression of gratulation and triumph, not a salutation or speaking to him.
Salutation both by Attitude and Expression.
The excellence of Eastern salutations consists not merely in the attitudes into which they put themselves, but in the expressions they make use of, which have frequently something very devout, and very sublime in them. .
God be gracious unto thee, my son, were the words with which Joseph received Benjamin, Gen. xliii. 29. This would have been called through all Europe, and the living languages of this part of the world, the giving a person one's benediction, says Sir J. Chardin in his MS; but it is a simple salutation in Asia, and is there used instead of those offers and assurances of service which it is the custom to make use of in the West, in first addressing or taking leave of an acquaintance. It cannot easily be believed how eloquent the people of the East of all religions are in wishing good, and the mercies of God to one another, upon all occasions, and even those that scarcely know them to whom they speak; yet at the same time they are some of the worst and most double tongued