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those who are also under the power of it, may be collected from this parable. May we be enabled, while we name the name of Christ, also to depart from all iniquity," and thus to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things,76 that approving ourselves as the children of God, His name may be glorified in us and by us, and we may be blessed by Him both in time and in eternity.
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, the One living and true God in Three Persons, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all honour, glory, might, majesty, dominion and praise, for evermore. Amen.
THE TWENTY THIRD SUNDAY AFTER
THE TRIBUTE MONEY.
Matthew xxii. 21.
THEN SAITH HE UNTO THEM, RENDER THERE-
IN the Gospel for this day an account is given of a crafty plan formed by the Pharisees, who were bitterly opposed to our Lord Jesus Christ, for the purpose of making Him obnoxious either to the people, or to the Government, and of having Him, in the latter case, put to death. The account is introduced in the following manner : Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. St. Luke says,
They watched Him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words, that so they might deliver Him unto the power and authority of the Governor.” St. Matthew states, that they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians. The Pharisees entered into an agreement with the Herodians, with whom they were on other occasions at utter variance, in the hope that by pretending to lay before Him a conscientious scruple, they might draw an answer from Him, which they might turn to His disadvantage, and by this means bring Him into a state of difficulty and peril.
It may be proper to observe that the Pharisees professed to be strict adherents to the law of Moses; and thought that it was an intolerable degradation for the Jewish people to be subject to a foreign power; and that any Jew who should inculcate submission to the Roman yoke was an enemy to the law. The Herodians on the other band were the adherents or partizans of King Herod, whom the Romans had set over Galilee, the northern part of the Holy Land; and whose government was held in abhorrence by the Jews. The Herodians were therefore extremely jealous of any expressions being made use of which might be
77 Luke xx. 20.
construed into disaffection towards the Roman
The Pharisees and Herodians being thus persons of opposite sentiments in political affairs, it was imagined that whatever answer our Saviour might make to the question which they agreed to propose to Him, He could not avoid giving cause of complaint to the one party or the other. They therefore addressed Him in a flattering manner, as if they had the utmost respect for His character as a prophet, and were only anxious to be rightly informed of their duty; saying, Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth ; neither carest Thou for any man; for Thou regardest not the person of men. Our Saviour had shown the inflexible uprightness of His character in the parables and discourses which He had delivered, wherein He had particularly exposed the false pretensions of the Pharisees;7 78 and therefore they might well address Him in this manner, since what they said was merely the truth. But on this occasion their eulogy was hypocritical, and uttered for the purpose of ensnaring Him.
The question which after this deceitful address they wished Him to answer, in such a way as became the independent character
78 Matthew xxi. 45.
which they ascribed to Him, was this: Tell us therefore, openly and honestly, what thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cesar or not? or in other words, Ought we, the children of Israel, the disciples of Moses, the peculiar people of God, to pay taxes to the Roman, or a heathen, Government? Had our blessed Lord answered at once in the affirmative, that it was lawful to pay this tribute, the Pharisees would have endeavoured to set the people against Him, as one who intended to abrogate the law of Moses. Had He replied in the negative, that it was not lawful, which they hoped He would honestly avow, as it became a Jew in their opinion to do, then the Herodians were ready to accuse Him as a promoter of rebellion; and it was expected that such a reply would have been sufficient to cause Him to be put to death by the Roman Governor. The accusation which was afterwards brought against Him before Pilate was to the same effect. They began to accuse Him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cesar, saying, that He Himself is Christ, a King.79 The falsehood of that charge appeared by the answer which He now gave
Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why
79 Luke xxiii. 2.