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ST. MATTHEW Xxii. 15.
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
I HAVE lately told you, not once but often, that the Pharisees were the greatest enemies to our blessed Lord. They were rank hypocrites. They wished to be thought what they were not. They wished to be looked upon as good and religious people, when they were full of all wickedness and malice. They tried at this time to put our blessed Lord in danger of his life. I am to inform you, that, at this time of our Lord's life the king of the
country, in which our Saviour lived, was called Herod. Some of the Jews called themselves Herodians, or were called so by others, because they were very fond of this man, though he was a great tyrant, and wished the people to do many things contrary to their religion, in order to please the Romans, who had made him a king. The Pharisees took these Herodians with them to Jesus, and asked him a question, which, as they thought, would either make him disliked by the people, or be thought an enemy to Herod. They began to compliment him, and to praise him, thinking that they could impose on Jesus by fine words and fair speeches. They, who are fond of praising others to their face, are generally deceitful. Their words are sometimes smoother than oil, while in reality they be very swords. The Pharisees told Jesus, that they knew him to be true and sincere and fond of plainspeaking that he taught the way of God in truth, and as it ought to be taught, and
in doing his duty cared for no man, and regarded no man's person in preference to what conscience directed to be done. All this was very fine, and indeed very true. But what they said with their lips was very far from their hearts. For they made professions of respect, and proceeded at the same time to make him run the risk of losing his life. They ask him, whether he thought it lawful to give tribute-that is, to pay any taxes-to Cæsar, the great king of the Romans, under whom the Jews were in subjection. They thought, that if he said, Yes, pay your tributes to Cæsar, the people around him would have said he was an enemy to his country: and if he said, that God's people ought to pay no taxes to a strange king, that the governor of the country, through the information of the Herodians, would lay hold of him, and crucify him at once as an enemy to the king. Our Lord saw through their art, and desired them to shew him a penny (more in value than our bitt.) On this
penny a head and some letters were marked. He asked them whose head it was. They said, it was Cæsar's. Then said he, "Render unto Cæsar the things which be Cæsar's, and to God the things that be God's." He did not tell them either to pay or not to pay tribute. He told them that they were to do their duty whatever it was. And what duty they owed to the king, they were to pay to the king, and what duty they owed to God, they were to pay to God. He hereby plainly shewed that all Christians, while they love and serve God, should also obey and fear all those who are in authority over them: that the Christian religion was not to make people live without law or government or authority, was not to set slaves free or to make people throw off the authority of kings and magistrates; but that all were to lead quiet and peaceable lives, and do their duty in the state of life in which it pleased God to place them.
My Christian friends: ever since the world was, people have lived under government and discipline. They have been always subject one to another. Without laws to protect our persons and properties, what happiness could there be on earth? The weak would always be mastered by the strong. The robber who had strength, the thief who had art, would be for ever taking what did not belong to him: and where would be the remedy? After you
had planted your land and raised your poultry, and made yourselves comfortable in your houses, a stronger man than you would come and take away your houses, and enjoy all that
drive you from them, you had worked for.
This would be the
case, if he did not know that there were laws to punish him, magistrates to put those laws in force, and an authority in the country to protect the honest and industrious. The idea of living without being subject to law and authority is the most