« PreviousContinue »
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 LAWPUL 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 alleged 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 · VOL. II.
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 LAWFUL 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 for the praise of them that do well*.” “ Be subject + i Peter, ii. 13, 14.
to principalities and powers, says St. Paul, and obey magistrates*. Ye must needs be subject not only for wrathi, but also for conscience sake f. 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 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 * Tit. iii. 2. of Rom. xiii. 5. Rom. xii. 7.
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, tranquillity, 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 show the absurdity and the falsehood of these doctrines, by stating a difficulty respecting them, which they conceived to be insuperable. The dif
ficulty 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. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
This answer of our Saviour's has by some been thought to be obscure, and not to go directly to the point of proving a resurrection,