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LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM. Preached in St. Paul's Cathedral.
St. Mark xii, 17. " Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. "
I suppose that as I read these words my hearers will entertain no doubt about the subject which I wish to bring before them. The text and the application of the text are too familiar to leave them in any uncertainty. The preacher who selects it must desire to say something on the relations of church and state. He must intend to discuss the advantages or the disadvantages of an establishment. He must wish to adjust and apportion the obligations which we owe to the civil and the spiritual powers respectively. He must propose drawing a line between our duties as citizens — as men of the world, and our duties as Christians — as churchmen. Let me say plainly at the outset that I have no such intention. I do not underrate the importance of such questions ; but the subject which I purpose bringing before you this afternoon is far more momentous to you and to me than any political aspects of religion. I do not underrate their importance, but I do not intend speaking of them to-day, because, if I understand the text aright, it has nothing at all to do with such topics, or, at least, it has only a very remote and
indirect bearing upon them. It does not direct our attention towards — but it calls our attention away from — the political aspects of the gospel. This language perhaps will seem startling to some. They have been accustomed to regard the text as the chief authority on this subject. They have seen it so quoted frequently in the newspaper. They have heard it so applied again and again in sermons. Churchmen and Nonconformists, friends of establishment and foes of establishment, have alike accepted it in this bearing. But can this possibly be its bearing ?
30 The Things that are God's.
If this were so it must be intended to draw a broad line of demarcation between two sets of duties. Here is one set of obligations which we owe to Caesar and not to God ; and there is another set which we owe to God and not to Caesar. Keep the two quite distinct ; do not think at all of God's pleasure or displeasure when you are doing Caesar's work ; and do not regard Caesar's approval or disapproval when you are doing God's work. If the purport of the precept, I say, is distinction, the distinction must be as sharp and definite as this. It proclaims in fact a duality of authority. Yet we are startled when the issue i thus plainly set before us. Can anything be imagined more unscriptural — might I not say more irreligious, more blasphemous — than this ? Is not the Bible from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation one unbroken protest against this sharp distinction of the secular and the
spiritual ? Does it not teach us that our religion must be everywhere because God is everywhere ? And more especially when it enforces our duties towards temporal rulers, what language does it hold ? Are we not plainly told that we owe obedience to kings and governors, because they are God's instruments, God's representatives, God vicegerents ? See how St. Paul emphasizes this truth. " There is no power," he says, " but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whoso resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God. He is a minister of God to thee for good. He is a minister of God to execute wrath. For this cause pay ye tribute also, for they are God's ministers." Not less than six times in as many verses does St. Paul reiterate this statement that allegiance to our temporal rulers is allegiance also to God ; and in the last passage, as you will have observed, the precept has reference to this very matter of paying tribute. It is plain, therefore, that the text cannot mean this ; and if we desire to know what is its real purport we must investigate the circumstances which called the words forth. Who were the questioners ? What was their motive ?
The questioners, we are told, were the Pharisees and Herodians. With the Pharisees we are well acquainted. Of the Herodians we know nothing except what this incident reveals. Whether they were a religious sect or a political party, we are not informed. Their name only shows that they were favourable to the ascendency of Herod and Herod's family. The Pharisees and the Herodians alike must have had a genuine interest in the question which they asked — " Is it lawful to
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give tribute to Caesar or not ? " It was not a mere speculative question : it was a direct, pressing, personal, practical matter — " Shall we give or shall we not give ? Here is the tax-gatherer at my door, and it is a matter of conscience with me whether I can give or whether I ought not rather to submit to all the untold consequences of refusal." To the Herodians, probably, the question presented itself as the alternative between allegiance to a native dynasty and the demands of a foreign ruler. But to the Pharisee it would assume a far higher aspect than this. To him it was essentially a matter of conscience, a matter of religion. This Caesar was the arch-heathen, the arch-enemy of Israel. He had his throne on the Babylon of seven hills. He had set his heel on the neck of the covenant people of God. Everything about him was profane. The sound of the Roman language in the law courts offended the ears of the Pharisee. The sight of the Roman eagle hovering over the temple area shocked his eye. Could he, a son of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, by an overt act acknowledge the sovereignty of this profane tyrant ? Was it not a question between king Caesar who was there and king Messias who was to come ? And, if so, ought he to hesitate for a moment ? Was it not in another form the same alternative which was offered to Israel of old — " If Jehovah be God then follow Him, but if Baal be God then follow Him."
! It was a question, I say, which a perfectly sincere, but somewhat bigoted Pharisee might have asked. But these men were not sincere. The evangelist speaks of their craftiness — their hypocrisy. Our Lord addresses them as hypocrites. Saint Luke describes them as spies who feigned themselves just men. Their object was not to solve their own difficulties, but to involve Christ in difficulties. In the scriptural language, they were "tempting Him " — drawing Him on that they might weave their meshes about Him. Hence the unnatural alliance. The Pharisees and the Herodians had nothing in common, but they banded themselves together to destroy Jesus, just as the Pharisees and the Sadducees made common cause, just as Jews and Romans were leagued together, just as Herod and Pontius Pilate shook hands over their victim, because, though they hated one another, they hated Him far more. Had they not both alike cause to hate Him ? Could the Pharisees love Him when He denounced their zeal as cunning, and their piety as pretence — when He held them up a scorn and by-word to the people whose
32 The Things that are God's.
professed leaders they were ? Could the Herodians wish Him well when He stigmatized their chief as a fox ? Therefore they conspired. They appealed to His courage. " Thou art true and carest for no man." They will flatter His pride and lure Him to His ruin. The question places Him in a dilemma. " Shall we give tribute to Caesar or not ?"
If He answered " Yes " He would lose caste : He would forfeit His character for boldness : He would offend the scruples of the religious zealots : He would sink into a mere truckler and time-server. If He had any design of becoming a popular leader — possibly a Messiah — this would be its death's blow. Antagonism to foreign rule was the only standing-ground for such a leader as this. But this was not what they hoped. They desired that He would answer " No." By praising His courage and independence of spirit they strove to elicit this answer from Him, and if He should so answer their work was done. It was overt treason : it was rank rebellion. The iron grip of the Roman authorities would close upon Him at once, and there would be an end of Him. Their conduct was of a piece with the shameful hypocrisy which afterward raised the cry, " We have no king but Caesar" — Caesar whom they detested — Caesar against whom their heart of hearts rebelled — Caesar whose yoke they would have thrown off to-morrow if they could.
Our Lord's reply is not direct ; not " Yes " nor " No." He asks for a penny, a denarius, the common silver coin of the day. What do they see there ? The broad brow, the laurel crown, the stern, cruel, impenetrable visage of Tiberius, the reigning emperor, or, perhaps, the singularly handsome regular features of his predecessor, the now deified Augustus. And this portraiture, this name thus stamped on the coin, is, in some sense, a mark of ownership. It comes from Caesar's mint and must be restored to Caesar's exchequer. It symbolizes the obligations which are due to the civil power. It tells of a fixed and orderly government which secures their lives and properties to them, which
provides for the impartial administration of justice, which watches over and regulates commercial transactions, which would assign its weight and its value to this very coin, which, in short, makes life possible and worth living for them. Caesar's head, Caesar's superscription, is engraved upon the coin, just as it is engraved upon the institutions under which they live. The question was not rightly put — " Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar ?" The answer is, " You are not only per-
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mitted — you are bound — to give tribute. The payment is the repayment for the inestimable benefits which you have received from the state."
This, then, is the purport of our Lord's answer. He declares not, indeed, the divine right of Augus, or of Tiberius — not the divine right of Kings or Emperors, or yet the divine right of democracies, but the divine right of established government — the divine right of law and order. The argument would have been just as valid, if, instead of Augustus or of Tiberius, the head of the Roman republic had been stamped upon that coin.
" Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Here is the complete answer to their question. But this is not enough. The opportu-
nity is seized ; a rebuke is administered ; and a lesson is enforced. These Pharisees were very scrupulous about the lower duties of religion, but very forgetful of the higher. Tbey paid their tithe of mint and anise and cumin to the extreme farthing, and yet they omitted the weightier matters of the law, and judgment, and mercy, and truth. They washed the outside of the cup and platter, but within they were full of extortion and excess. So here they are infinitely scrupulous, or, at least, they feign themselves so — infinitely scrupulous about the political aspects of religion ; but are they equally anxious about the moral arid the spiritual ? This is the frame of mind which our Lord would correct. " Yes," He seems to say, " ask, if you will, what is your duty with regard to Caesar, but do not stop here. Do not rest content with dwelling on the politics of religion. Rise above your relations towards Caesar, and face your relations towards God. This silver piece is a type — is a parable for you. Is there no other tribute, think you, which you owe to a higher than Caesar ? Is there no other coinage which bears the image and superscription of one greater than Caesar ? Aye, for is it not written, ' God created man in His own image : in the image of God created He him.' His effigy is stamped upon thee : His name and attributes are written around thee. From His mint thou wast issued, and to His treasury must thou be repaid. If to Caesar thou owest the tribute of the perishable coin, to God thou owest the tribute of thy soul, thy heart, thy mind, thy life — the tribute of thyself." I suppose that for every one who is really eager about the spiritual and the personal aspects of religion — who hungers and thirsts
34 The Things that are God 's.
after righteousness — whose soul pants after the living God — scores of persons take an active and a sincere interest in the polemics of religion — the controversy between Romanism and Protestantism, the disputes between churchmen and Nonconformists, the relations of church and state. This is not a disease of any one time or any one place. It was characteristic alike of the orthodox Pharisee and the heretic Samaritan. When the Samaritan woman suddenly finds herself face to face with a prophet, how does she use her opportunity? "Sir, teach me how to lay aside this burden of wickedness " ? " Sir, help me to cleanse my sin-stained life"? "Sir, bring me nearer to God"? Not this, but " Sir, tell me whether at Jerusalem or on this mount men ought to wor ship " — a question not unimportant in itself, a question to which there was a right and a wrong answer, but a question infinitely little, infinitely valueless, to her then and there — to her with her God-forsaken heart — to her with her sullied life.
Whose is this image and superscription ? — this which is stamped on thyself, O man ? It was not an uncommon metaphor to speak of men as coin — the dishonest as bad, and spurious, and counterfeit, the upright as genuine currency, with the true ring. So an apostolic father writes in the next age, " There are two coinages — the one of God, the other of the world, and each is stamped with its own device. The unbelievers
bear the impress of this world, — believers the impress of God the* Father, through Jesus Christ." When, then, having first asked, " Whose image is this ? " our Lord closes with the injunction, " Render to God the things that are God's," is it too much to infer that the connecting link between the symbol and the application was the familiar text at the beginning of Genesis, " In the image of God created He him." Whose is this image ? Look into your own heart, and see what lineaments are traced there. What is this conscience, approving, stimulating, terrifying, punishing, but the impress of the righteousness of God ? What ij this capacity of progress which distinguishes you from the beasts th ¦'; perish, which urges you ever forward, eager and restless, the individu il and the race alike, but the signet of the perfection of God? What ithis power of memory and imagination which annihilates time ard space, penetrating into the prehistoric past, and projecting itself into the boundless future, traversing the heavens with more than the speed of lightning, but the stamp of the infinity of God ? What is this anxiety
The Things that are God 's. 35
about the hereafter, this desire of posthumous fame, this interest in descendants yet unborn, this witness of your immortality within you, but the seal set upon you by the eternity of God ? Yes, everywhere are God's features stamped upon L your soul, however blurred by ill usage, and however corroded by rust.
But it will be objected, " Suppose that the doctrine of evolution, of development, of which I hear so much in this day " — suppose that this doctrine be true. What then ? The fact remains a fact by whatever process it came to be a fact. The image does not cease to be God's, image in whatever furnace the metal was fused. The superscription does not cease to be God's superscription by whatever die the coin was. stamped. Your faculties, your aspirations, your needs, are still the same, and they bear the impress of an eternal, infinite, perfect, righteous being.
But, once again, what is this image and superscription — this which is stamped on thee, O Christian ? When thy brow was sealed in baptism, with what signet was it sealed ? Remember how the apostle speaks of admission into the church of Christ, and to the privileges of the gospel, as a recreating, a renewing, after the image of God.
In this second creation the same image was restamped upon you. The blurred lines were sharpened as you passed once again through the mtnt of God. The obverse is still the face of God, while the reverse is the cross of Christ. The old ownership is doubly confirmed. You are bought — bought with the heaviest price which even God Himself could pay. You are not your own : you are God's. God's by redemption, now, as you were God's by creation before. " Render to God the things which are God's."
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