So they brought it, and He asked them, "Whose likeness is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they answered.
I. CHRIST WILL HAVE ACCOUNT OF THE SMALLEST THINGS. The denarius was a small coin in common use. The spirit of Christ, sun-like, discovers even the "motes." In all things there is duty. Christ's attitude to the Law not only general but particular. "Not one jot or tittle" was to pass away unfulfilled because of the influence of Christianity. "Ye are my disciples, if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you." We shall have to give account of smallest things at last - idle words, false shame, "the cup of cold water," etc. The parable of the pounds has for its moral, "He that is faithful in that which is least," etc. There is no slurring over of little things because of a general disposition and amiable intention.
II. SMALL THINGS OFTEN REPRESENT GREAT PRINCIPLES, AND BECOME THE VEHICLES OF GREAT DUTIES. Coins are often of value, apart from their intrinsic worth, in witnessing to conquests, political influences, the progress of civilization, etc.; and numismatists have made many important contributions to history through their testimony. In this case the witness was even more pregnant and precious. It proved what actually existed, and represented the claim of earthly powers. The duty to God was shown thereby to be something quite distinct, and the general relation of the human and the Divine in human obligations was thereby permanently settled and set forth. It is equally so in regard to other things. "A straw will show which way the wind blows, or the water flows." Illustrated in such instances as the Massacre of St. Bartholomew; watchwords and flag of truce in time of war; the potty dealings of common life; the "minor moralities" of the Christian, etc.
III. WE ARE ENCOURAGED AND COMMANDED TO BRING SMALL THINGS TO CHRIST Do not say he has no interest in them. See how he looks at that widow with her two mites. Hear how he calls the little children. We need a more thorough Christianity, and if we follow this rule of bringing our daily concerns, our griefs, our moral difficulties, our sins, to the throne of grace, we shall become "Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile." He will interpret the minutest uncertainty or perplexity, and show us the great in the little. Erasmus Darwin wrote (April 13, 1789): "I have just heard that there are muzzles or gags made at Birmingham for the slaves in our islands. If this be true, and such an instrument could be exhibited by a speaker in the House of Commons, it might have a great effect. Could not one of their long whips or wire-tails be also procured and exhibited? But an instrument of torture of our own manufacture would have a greater effect, I dare say" ('Life,' p. 46). - M.
But He knowing their hypocrisy.
Clerical Anecdotes.Sir John Trevor, who had for some misdemeanours been expelled from Parliament, one day meeting Archbishop Tillotson, cried out, "I hate to see an Atheist in the shape of a Churchman." "And I," replied the good Bishop, "hate to see a knave in any shape."
Bring Me a pennye.g., the very stamp of the coin or money which is in common circulation may put us in mind of our duty of subjection and obedience to the prince and to all lawful magistrates. So also the matter of the coin, whereof it is made, being silver or gold, may remind us of God's goodness and bounty towards us, in affording us such precious metals for our use and trading one with another. The meanest garment we wear may cause us to think of our sins and be humbled for them, sin being the first cause of nakedness appearing shameful. Every bit of meat or bread which we eat may teach us the frailty of our bodies, which cannot be sustained without such food. Every blade of grass in the field, and every flower in our garden may put us in mind of our mortality, and stir us up to prepare for death and judgment. Hence, also, it is that the Scriptures send us sometimes to brute beasts to learn our duties, as to the ox and the ass, and to the birds of the air, yea to such tiny creatures as the ant. This leaves us without excuse if, having so many masters at hand and near about us continually to teach us and stir us up to our duties, we yet do not learn, or make conscience of what is required of us.
(R. Glover.)I. They take counsel. He is thoroughly armed.
II. They would entangle Him. He seeks to deliver them out of their own snare.
III. They praise Him in order to His destruction. He rebukes them, for their awakening and salvation.
(J. P. Lange, D. D.)
1. She appears very calm, holding firm the shield of faith in her right hand. On the shield are three crosses — the cross of St. George of England, the cross of St. Andrew of Scotland, and the cross of St. Patrick of Ireland. The true Christian, however, only lays hold of the one true cross — that of Jesus Christ — and finds, resting upon that, a peace that passeth all understanding.
2. She is clad from head to foot with a robe. This reminds us that by faith in the Lord Christ the Christian has the robe of righteousness, which covers every defect. It is pure and white, and the wedding garment of the marriage supper of the Lamb. The saints in glory are represented as having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
3. She holds her head erect, having on the helmet. The Apostle speaks of the helmet of hope. Nothing can more enable us to lift up our heads and look out brightly than the hope of heaven.
4. She is prepared for attack. She holds the very ancient weapon called the trident. The Christian is surrounded by danger, and always liable to the attacks of sin and Satan, and should ever be on the guard, and the old weapon of the Word of God is the best after all. Whilst resting on faith, wearing the robe of righteousness, and lifting up the head with hope, there must be the preparation for conflict: Jesus Christ bid all His followers "Watch." There are two other beautiful emblems of the Christian hero. One is a lighthouse. This is a tall column placed in a dangerous part of the ocean, in which there is a powerful light. That shines out into the darkness and so guides vessels safely into the harbour. Thus the Christian is to show the light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and help souls to avoid dangerous rocks and to find the way to heaven. On another part of the coin is a ship in full sail. That, too, is an emblem of the Christian. He leaves the port of this world; he takes Christ for his captain; he sails through perils and dangers, through sunshine and storm, but reaches at last the desired haven. Try and remember these truths when you look upon a penny. Thus I have endeavoured to give you some of the important lessons which Jesus taught, and to illustrate them by a penny, so that when you look at a penny you may remember some of these truths you ought ever to have in mind. There are many others which might be considered if time permitted, and which you may well discover for yourselves. I conclude by giving you a very beautiful old Rabbinical legend taken from the Talmud: —
"From the mint two bright, new pennies came,
The value and beauty of both the same;
One slipt from the hand, and fell to the ground,
Then rolled out of sight and could not be found.
The other was passed by many a hand,
Through many a change in many a land;
For temple dues paid, now used in the mart,
Now bestowed on the poor by a pitying heart.
At length it so happened, as years went round,
That the long-lost, unused coin was found.
Filthy and black, its inscription destroyed
Through rusting peacefully unemployed;
Whilst the well-worked coin was bright and clear
Through active service year after year;
For the brightest are those who live for duty —
Rust more than rubbing will tarnish beauty." (J. H. Cooke.)
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