Page images

to their religion. What our Saviour thought of their traditions, what of the law and the Prophets, you have heard. The Christian church likewise has the Apostles and Evangelists; they have also too many traditionary doctrines, which have no foundation in Holy Writ; what are we to do then ? Do we want better authority than that of our Saviour to reject the traditions of men, and to hold fast the doctrine of the A postles and Prophets of the gospel ? that is, as St. Jude exhorts us, to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.'

[ocr errors]



We have, in this and the following verses, the duty which subjects owe to their temporal governors, taught and maintained by several arguments; to understand the sense and propriety of which, we must consider the circumstances of the time, place, and persons here concerned. There is no appearance in the gospel that our Saviour intended to alter the civil governments of the world. His errand was of a different nature ; and he speaks of government only as occasion required. In Matt. xxii, 17. we find a captious question put to him by the Pharisees, whether it was lawful to pay tribute to the Roman emperor or not? The question arose from hence ; that à certain Jewish sect held this payment to be unlawful. The author of this opinion was Judas of Galilee, who, when the nation was ordered to be taxed, raised a great rebellion. His fate is related fully by Josephus, and mentioned by Gamaliel in Acts v. 37. By degrees they gathered strength, and in the reign of Claudius ravaged many places in Samaria : their pretence for freedom was, as we learn from St. Chrysostom, that being the freemen of God, they ought not to be the subjects or slaves of men, They were called Galileans, their founder being of that country, as also many of his followers. By this name Christians went in the first ages; they are so called by several heathen writers : Julian thus also designates them. Hence the Christians going by the name of Galileans were thought by the heathens to entertain the opinions of those who refused obedience to earthly princes, and were for setting up an independent government. Thus Tertullus the orator accused St. Paul, (Acts xxiv. 5.); thus also did the Jews accuse the Christians to the magistrates of Thessalonica, (Acts xvii. 16.) Hence that question of the Pharisees, Is it lawful to pay tribute to Cæsar? for they hoped to have found something whereof to have impeached our Saviour before the Roman governor.

The collectors of tax seem to have had the same jealousy concerning our Saviour, when in Matth. xvii. 24. they inquired of St. Peter whether his Master would


tribute or no ; to which he answers, yes : and our Saviour, though he intimates that he ought to have been exempted, says to St. Peter, when he had cast his hook into the sea, and taken the piece of money from the mouth of the fish,

Give it them as tribute for me and yourself, lest we should offend them.' This scandal, which he and his Apostles lay under, urged both him and them to vindicate themselves, and to teach their followers such obedience to the higher powers as might leave no pretence for such an accusation. That the Apostles had reference to the same in pressing obedience of all kinds on their disciples, is evident from the argument with which they close their instructions; that the word of God be not blasphemed, or evil spoken of : this text commented on, showing that Christians were more liable to reproach in this case than in any other: hence the reason why our Lord bids St. Peter pay the tribute : hence St. Paul's orders to Titus, ch. ii. 5. and 10.: also Tim. vi. 1. See also 1 Peter, ii. 15. 16. Besides these reasons, drawn from the Apostles' own writings, St. Jerome, in his comment on Tit. iii. 1., and St. Chrysostom, on Rom. xiii., teach the same thing. Hence we may see why the Apostles so earnestly press their new converts with a more than ordinary obedience to their governors: the honor of Christ and the gospel was nearly concerned in their behavior, which ought to be dearer to them than their lives: this point enlarged on. St. Paul more especially labors this point, when he writes to the Christians at Rome, where the least. disorder would be

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

soonest taken notice of, and most improved to the prejudice of the gospel. If we examine what St. Paul has taught on this point, we shall find it built on reasons purposely adapted to confute the error of the Galileans and some judaizing Christians, and to require such a scrupulous obedience as might clear the gospel and its professors from the scandal thrown on them by the heathen. The doctrine of the former part of the text opposes that of the Galileans; and is supported in the latter part by arguments peculiarly adapted to combat their error, He allows what they say to be true respecting God; but this is so far from exempting them from subjection to temporal power, that it proves the contrary: for the power of the magis, trate being delegated from God, is therefore more especially to be regarded by those who pretend in a peculiar manner to be his servants. It was obvious to object to this reasoning, that the powers then in being could not be ordained by God; because they had thwarted all his purposes. To prevent which he purposely adds, ai ojoai étovolai, the powers which nou be, are ordained of God; whence he draws this consequence, whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. , In what sense the rulers of the world


be said to be the ordinance of God, and to derive their power from him, is to be found from the state of the world, which requires them to protect the innocent and defend the weak : therefore to pretend an exemption from their power is to act in opposition to his will. As some pretended to withdraw their obedience from the prince, because they had been made partakers of the freedom of the gospel, so others in a state of servitude thought they had a right to throw off their bondage for the same reason : the Apostle therefore uses the same way of arguing with them, exhorting them to submit to their masters as unto God. Thus he lays down this general rule : Let every man abide in the same calling, &c. (1 Cor. vii. 20.); which he particularises in Ephes. vi. 5. 7. The same is somewhat dif. ferently expressed in Col. iii.: and is treated with some warmth in 1 Tim. vi. 3-5. In all these passages he plainly refers to the opinion of such as taught that the gospel had introduced a perfeot state of freedom, and therefore teaches his converts that Christianity should make them better, not worse servants; since they ought to obey from the heart, as serving God and not men. St. Peter also teaches the same: submit yourselves évery ordinance of man for the Lord's sake. Hence it is plain that the Apostle's argument is chiefly directed against those who were for making religion the cloak of disloyalty, on the specious pretence of setting up the Lord Jesus. The Apostle uses a second argument to inforce his doctrine, laid down at first in the words of the text : Let every soul be subject to the higher powers : and here the first doubt is, where the argument begins; for the words immediately following those last treated of may either be taken as the first of the second argument, or as a farther conclusion drawn from the first : and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. If'they who resist the power, do resist the ordinance of God, then this consequence is so evident, that it can lose nothing of its force should it be taken as introducing a new argument; which on the whole it seems to do: reasons for this given. To go on with the argument: it is drawn from the common topic of hope and fear; and by setting before us both the power and right of our governors to punish us, when we refuse to acknowlege their authority, it tacitly warns us to expect no protection from God against their just anger : it is absurd to expect assistance from God in opposition to his own authority delegated to earthly powers.

The gospel in every page encourages its disciples to bear up against the afflictions or persecutions of the world, and to be exceeding glad, because their reward shall be great in heaven; but lest those who suffered as seditious subjects should entertain these hopes, he also warns them that the prince acts by the will of God in punishing such offenders.

« PreviousContinue »