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he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's. When they heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way." In order to understand the insidious nature of the question here proposed to Jesus, it must be observed, that the Jews were at this time, as they had been for many years, under the dominion of the Romans; and as an acknowledgement of their subjection, paid them an annual tribute in money. The Pharisees however were adverse to the payment of this tribute; and contended, that being the peculiar people of God, and he their only rightful sovereign, they ought not to pay tribute to any foreign prince whatever they considered themselves as subjects of the Almighty, and released from all obedience to any foreign power. There were many others who maintained a contrary opinion, and it was a question much agitated among different parties. Who the Herodians were that accompanied the Pharisees, and what their sentiments were on this subject, is very doubtful: nor is it a matter of any moment. It is plain from their name that they were in some way or other attached to Herod; and as he was a friend to the Roman government, they probably maintained the propriety of paying the tribute.*
In this state of things both the Pharisees and Herodians came to Jesus, and after some flattering and hypocritical compliments to his love of truth, his intrepidity, impartiality, and disregard to power and greatness (calculated evidently to spirit him up to some bold and offensive declaration of his opinion) they put this question to him: "Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?" They were persuaded, that in answering this question, he must either render himself odious to the Jewish people, by opposing their popular notions of liberty, and appearing to pay court to the emperor; or, on the other hand, give offence to that prince, and ex
* Those whom St. Mark calls the Leaven of Herod, c. viii. 15. St. Matthew in the parallel passage, xvi. 5. calls Sadducees. Hence, perhaps, we may infer, that the Herodians and the Sadducees were the same persons.
pose himself to the charge of sedition and disaffection to the Roman government, by denying their right to the tribute they had imposed. They conceived it impossible for him to extricate himself from this dilemma, or to escape danger on one side or the other; and perhaps no other person but himself ould have eluded the snare that was laid for him. But he did it completely and showed on this occasion, as he had done on many others, that presence of mind and readiness of reply to difficult and unexpected questions, which is one of the strongest proofs of superior wisdom, of a quick discernment, and a prompt decision. He pursued, in short, the method which he had adopted in similar instances; he compelled the Jews in effect to answer the question themselves, and to take from him all the odium attending the determination of it.— He perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why tempt ye me? Why do you try to ensnare me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute-money. And they brought unto him a penny (a small silver coin of the Romans, called a denarius.) And he said unto them, whose is this image and superscription? And they say unto him, Cæsar's." By admitting that this was Cæsar's coin, and by consenting to receive it as the current coin of their country, they in fact acknowledged their subjection to his government. For the right of coinage, and of issuing the coin, and giving value and currency to it, is one of the highest prerogatives, and most decisive marks of sovereignty; and it was a tradition of their own rabbins, that to admit the impression and the inscription of any prince on their current coin, was an acknowledgment of their subjection to him. And it was more particularly so in the present instance, because we are told that the denarius paid by the Jews as tribute-money had an inscription round the head of Cæsar, to this effect; Cæsar Augustus, Judea being subdued.* To pay this coin with this inscription, was the completest acknowledgment of subjection, and of course of their obligation to pay the tribute demanded of them,
* See Hammond in loc.
that could' be imagined. Our Lord's decision therefore was a necessary consequence of their own concession. "Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, (which you yourselves acknowledge to be Cæsar's,) and unto God the things that are God's." And when they heard these words, they marvelled; they were astonished at his prudence and address; and left him, and went their way.
But in this answer of our Saviour is contained a much stronger proof of his consummate wisdom and discretion than has yet been mentioned. He not only disengaged himself from the difficulties in which the question was meant to involve him, but without enter. ing into any political discussions, he laid down two doctrines of the very last importance to the peace and happiness of mankind, and the stability of civil government. He made a clear distinction between the duties we owe to God and the duties we owe to our earthly rulers. He showed that they did not, in the smallest degree, interfere or clash with each other; and that we ought never to refuse what is justly due to Cæsar, under pretence of its being inconsistent with what we owe to our Maker.
On the contrary, he lays down this as a general fundamental rule of his religion, that we ought to pay obedience to LAWFUL AUTHORITY, and submit to that acknowledged and established government under which we live. The Jews had for a hundred years acknowledged their subjection, and paid their tribute to the Roman government; and our Lord's decision therefore was, "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's." It is true that the tyrant Tiberius was then emperor of Rome, but the Jews alledged no particular grievance or act of oppression to justify their refusal of tribute; and our Lord had no concern with any peculiar form of government. His decision would have been the same, had the Roman republic then existed. His doctrine was obedience to lawful authority, in whatever shape that authority, might be exercised. If it be contended that there may be extraordinary cases
of extreme and intolerable tyranny, which burst asunder at once the bonds of civil subordination, and justify resistance; the answer is, that these were considerations into which the divine founder of our religion did not think it wise or expedient to enter. He left them to be decided (as they always must be) at the moment, by the pressing exigencies and peculiar circumstances of the case, operating on the common feelings and common sense of mankind. His great object was to lay down one broad fundamental rule, which, considered as a general and leading principle, would be most conducive to the peace, the comfort, and the security of mankind and that rule most indisputably is the very doctrine which he inculcated; OBEDIENCE TO LAW
FUL AUTHORITY AND ESTABLISHED GOVERNMENT.
In perfect conformity to his sentiments, the apostles held the same language after his death, "Submit yourselves, says St. Peter, to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake; whether it be unto the king as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him, for the punishment of evil doers, and the praise of them that do well."* "Be subject to principalities and powers, says St. Paul, and obey magistrates.† Ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. Render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour."||
Here then we see the whole weight of the Gospel, and of its divine Author, thrown into the scale of lawful authority. Here we see that the Christian religion comes in as a most powerful auxiliary to the civil magistrate, and lends the entire force of its sanctions to the established government of every country; an advantage of infinite importance to the peace and welfare of society. And happy had it been for mankind, if in this, as in every other instance, they had conformed to the directions of the Gospel, instead of indulging their own wild projects and destructive theories of resistance
* 1 Pet. ii. 13-14.
†Tit. iii. 1.
to civil government, and the subversion of the most ancient and venerable institutions. Happy had it been for the Jews in particular, if they had adopted our Saviour's advice; for by acting contrary to it, by breaking out as they did soon after into open rebellion against the Romans, they plunged themselves into a most cruel and sanguinary war, which ended in the entire overthrow of their city, their temple, and their government, and the destruction of vast multitudes of the people themselves. Similar calamities, have, we know, in other countries, arisen from similar causes; from a contempt of all legitimate authority, and a direct opposition to those sage and salutary precepts of the Gospel, which are no less calculated to preserve the peace, tranquility, security, and good order of civil society, than to promote the individual happiness of every human being, here and for ever.
The Pharisees having been thus completely foiled in their attempt to ensnare and entangle our Saviour in his talk, the next attempt made upon him was by a different set of men, the Sadducees, who disbelieved a resurrection, a future state, and the existence of the soul after death. And their object was to shew the absurdity and the falsehood of these doctrines, by stating a difficulty respecting them, which they conceived to be insuperable. The difficulty was this: "The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, saying, Master, Moses said, if a man die having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh and last of all the woman died also: therefore in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, ye do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God; for in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven.