Saturday, July 2, 2011

Freedom and Obedience

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 ever 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 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.

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled "Questions of the Day and the Question of the Day," delivered January 26, 1873. Image by nosha on Flickr under Creative Commons License.

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