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Questions of the Day

May 14, 2015

“First, a little upon some of the QUESTIONS OF THE DAY, not with any intent of interesting you in them, but rather of calling you somewhat away from them lest they too much engross you. The first question of the day is nearly akin to that which was proposed to our Lord by the Pharisees and the Herodians. It deals with the connection between politics and religion, the vexatious question of Church and State. How far does Caesar’s rule go? Where does it end? And where are we amenable to God alone?

This enquiry, in a very practical shape, presses upon the Dissenters of England. We are told that we enjoy toleration—the very word is insult! What would the members of the dominant sect think if we talked of tolerating them? We shall never be satisfied until all religious communities stand upon an equal footing before the Law. Caesar has no right to demand of us that we shall support the religion or the superstition which he chooses to select. An Established Church is a spiritual tyranny! We wear no chains upon our wrists, but on our spirits our oppressors have thrust fetters which gall us worse than bands of steel. We are compelled, as a part of the nation, to support, through taxation, a church whose business it is to pull down that which with prayers and tears we live to build up and would even die to maintain.

Now, we cannot think about all this and be earnest about it—we confess it and are grieved it is so—without very much of our strength running in that direction. And that is strength which we would rather spend upon pure, spiritual religion. We desire to be always and alone preaching Christ. We desire to be building up His Church and living at peace with all our brethren. We need, in all things, to be giving unto God all our heart and soul and strength. But this altercation concerning God and Caesar will come in. It imperatively demands our attention and so it distracts us in a measure from our higher work and, therefore, the sooner it is done with the better. We cannot be always taken up with this matter. We count the Gospel to be worth 10,000 times as much.

The Savior, when the Caesar question was brought forward, answered it most completely. They said, “Shall we pay tribute to Caesar?” “Whose money is this?” said He. “Caesar’s money.” “Very well. You have evidently submitted to Caesar’s government, you are under his sway. Therefore pay to him the tax which he demands of you, but still by no means forget that you are under God’s government. Therefore render unto God the things that are God’s.” He drew a line of distinction here which always ought to be maintained. “To Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” To maintain order, to repress crime, to preserve individual liberty, to protect each man’s rights—this is Caesar’s business.

To teach us religion? Is Caesar to do that? God forbid, for what religion will Caesar teach us? Is he a Pagan? He will enforce idolatry! Is he a Papist? He will ordain Popery! Is he an atheist? He will establish infidelity. Remember the days of Queen Mary and see what Caesar is capable of when he meddles with religion! It is none of Caesar’s business to deal with our consciences! Neither will we ever obey Caesar in any matter which touches conscience. He may make what laws he will about religion, but by our loyalty to God we pour contempt on Caesar when he usurps the place of God! He is no more to us than the meanest beggar in the street if he goes beyond his own legitimate authority. To Caesar, Caesar’s politics to politicians. Obedience, cheerful and prompt, to civil rulers. To God, and to God only, things that are God’s! And what are these? Our hearts, our souls, our consciences. Man himself is the coin upon which God has stamped His image and superscription (though, alas, both are sadly marred!), and we must render to God our manhood, our wills, our thoughts, our judgments, our minds, our hearts. Consciences are for God. Any law that touches a conscience is null and void, ipso facto, for the simple reason that kings and parliaments have no right to interfere in the realm of conscience. Conscience is under law to none but God. We do not believe in liberty of conscience towards God. We are bound towards Him—to believe what He tells us and to do what He bids us—but liberty of conscience in respect to all mankind is the natural right of every man of woman born and it ought to be tenderly respected. Our Lord, here, lays the controversy to sleep by telling us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

– Charles Spurgeon


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