Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, Why tempt you me? bring me a penny…
A penny has two sides. As I hold it up I see one and you the other. If I were to ask you what is represented on the coin, you would say, A portrait of the Queen and some Latin. If I say what I see it is something very different, it is a representation of Britannia and some English. You say one thing and I say another. Now, suppose we were to wrangle about it, and I were to contradict you, and say, "It is a falsehood; I can see no likeness of the Queen;" and you were to say, "You must be out of your senses; I am sure there is one;" that would be very foolish. Yet that is about the way with one half of the disputes amongst people. It is so with many religious controversies. And with party feeling in politics. And with those quarrels that take place in the family or amongst friends. People cannot see both sides of the penny at once. Two persons may have very different opinions on the same subject, and yet both be right. Try and remember that when you look on a penny. Look at these two sides. On the one is a portrait of the Queen. It has two inscriptions. Victoria D.G. that means by Divine grace. It is well to acknowledge that every blessing we have is through the grace of God. Then we read, Britt. Reg. F.D. that means Queen of the Britains, or the British Islands, and Defender of the Faith. The double T shows the plural, which in Latin is by doubling the last letter rather than adding S, as in English. There is a beautiful story told of our Queen. When she was a little girl, about twelve years of age, her tutors thought the time had come when she ought to know that she might some day become Queen of this great and glorious nation. Into one of her lesson books was put a paper which showed to her that it might be so. On looking at it, she said, "I see I am nearer the throne than I thought." "So it is, madam," said her governess. After some moments' thought the Princess said, "Now, many a child would boast, but they don't know the difficulty. There is much splendour, but there is more responsibility." Then she gave the lady her hand, and said, "I will be good." That was a noble resolve. None of you can hope to gain an earthly crown, but you may each resolve, and solemnly say, "I will be good." Better be good than great, better be good than rich, better be good than powerful, better be good than to sit on a throne. Best of all to have the true goodness — that which comes from the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the penny the crown is a crown of leaves. It is a fading crown. Jesus Christ has promised to all who trust Him a crown of glory that fadeth not away. You cannot be kings and queens here, but if you are amongst the followers of Christ you will be grander in heaven than kings and queens. Of all things it is best to be a Christian. The Lord said, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Try and remember that when you look upon a penny. Look to the other side, and consider the representation of Britannia. It is full of beautiful suggestions of what our nation should be. Let us consider the emblem, and we shall find it quite a treasury of good ideas. Our country would be indeed great and glorious if every British young person acted up to them.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.