BY PERSEVERANCE we advance towards the end of our Christian
course, but when we gain heavenly-mindedness it is as if the Holy City
came down from Heaven to meet us on our way. This grace is the last attainment
of the Christian character, granted, we may believe, in order that we may
escape the bitterness of death by anticipation of what is beyond death.
It is the Land of Beulah, to which come sounds and visions of the heavenly
Jerusalem, that the Christian pilgrims may there await in peace their final
passing of the river. We may be deeply thankful for a Sunday in which we
are taught to anticipate the Sabbath-keeping of the people of God, and
to hope our-selves to enjoy such “an eve untouched by shadows of decay.”
THE EPISTLE. (PHIL. iii. 17.)
THE HEAVENLY CITIZENSHIP.
We live in two spheres, the earthly and the heavenly, and have, therefore,
connection with each, viz., an earthly and a heavenly citizenship. S. Paul
draws two pictures in solemn contrast.
A. The Citizens of Earth.
These are they who forget their heavenly sphere. They are the enemies
of the Cross and of the principle of self-sacrifice, of which the Cross
is the highest example. They live entirely to gratify their appetites,
lusts, and passions. They glory in their shame, having no sense of anything
higher or better. They mind earthly things, speaking and thinking only
of the earth and of the cares, loves, and enjoyments of the transient present.
It would seem that to such the Paradise of God is no more than a name,
a dream, a fiction. Their treasure and their hearts are upon earth.
B. The Citizens of Heaven.
The word translated conversation is, of course, to be rendered citizenship.
This citizenship is not future, but present—it is, not shall be. Though
absent from the heavenly City, we are none the less its citizens, for the
Church on earth and the Church in Heaven are in truth one, and the Kingdom
of Grace is but a suburb of the Kingdom of Glory.
As citizens of Heaven we are to be more anxious about our interests
there than about any of our earthly concerns. We are so to regard Heaven
as our native country that our thoughts turn to it as to our home. We are
to be guided by its laws and possessed by its spirit of obedience, love,
and praise. We must be seen to be evidently preparing in character and
disposition for the future enjoyment of the rights we already possess,
and to be desirous of becoming more worthy of fellow-citizenship with the
Saints. We are also to find in our position and prospects a consolation
in trial and an encouragement in toil.
C. The Completion of Citizenship.
This will be the consequence of the manifestation of our King, and will
(1) The Salvation of the Body.
The body is now the “body of our humiliation.” It has become this as
being made the instrument of sin, as the seat of temptation, and as the
object of sin’s penalty of decay and of sin’s triumph in death. The body
is to be restored unto the likeness of the glorified body of Christ, and
that by which we have been connected with a world of sin shall be our means
of correspondence with a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness.
(2) The Restitution of all Things.
THE GOSPEL. (S. MATT. xxii. 15.)
OUR TWOFOLD CITIZENSHIP.
The power which will renew the body will also renew the world, now
defiled with sin, stained with blood, its light polluted by scenes of wickedness,
its night blackened with deeds of darkness, its very air the vehicle of
curses and hideous words of blasphemy. The renewed body is the pledge of
a renewed world, purified by disinfecting fire, to be the home of purified
As members of the Church, we have a citizenship in Heaven, but we have
also a citizenship on earth, and must learn how these are related the one
to the other. It is impossible not to admire the practical wisdom to which
we owe the selection of the Gospel of the day, while we deplore the unfortunate
rendering of citizenship as conversation, which has so much obscured the
other-wise obvious mutual connection.
We are concerned less with the attempt of the Pharisees and Herodians
to entangle our Saviour in order to accuse Him either of impiety or disloyalty,
than with His answer. That which confused their error was designed to lead
more earnest seekers into truth, and to help us who desire to perceive
and know what we ought to do, both as citizens of earth and of Heaven.
A. The Claims of Caesar.
The Christian has a duty to the world in which he lives, and to the
powers by which that world is governed. He must not make religion an excuse
for being careless in respect of any earthly duty, in regard to his business,
his family, his city, country, or King.
If Caesar, a heathen Roman Conqueror, had a just claim, how much more
our Christian rulers! The Roman tribute was a rendering back to Caesar
an acknowledgment for benefits of law, security, and order enjoyed under
his rule. Our tribute money is our bounden acknowledgment of far higher
benefits of liberty, peace, confidence, religious freedom, social comfort,
B. The Claims of God.
These also depend on what we have received from Him. Our Saviour puts
the two duties side by side, but this only shows how much the last is greater
than the first. We are bidden to make a return to God for our creation,
preservation, and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption of
the world, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
Caesar is satisfied with the return of the things that are his; God
demands the return of ourselves, for we ourselves are His.
C. The Consistency of these
Christ answered the dilemma by the command to do both. The private duty
to God is rarely inconsistent with public duty, and so long as Caesar demands
no more than is his he must be obeyed. Should he demand to rule conscience
he intrudes into the things that are God’s, and must be resisted, even
But in the main duties to God and man are consistent, because they are
not two duties at all, but one. The division into sacred and secular is
convenient, but means no more than that some duties are directly paid to
God, others indirectly through man to God. Our Saviour drew no hard and
fast line between things of Caesar and things of God. If we are to eat
and drink to God’s glory, we are surely to do our public duties to God.
Caesar is best served by those who serve him for God’s sake. If Christ
bids us render duty to Caesar, and we do it because Christ bids us, we
serve not Caesar, but Christ.
THE COLLECT. THE CITIZEN’S
The beauty of this prayer will be appreciated when it is remembered
that in the case of S. Paul the privileges of a citizen included the right
of appeal to the Emperor. So the Christian citizen may appeal to his God.
A. The Right of Appeal by Prayer.
As members of the Kingdom of Heaven we may find in God a refuge against
trouble and danger, strength to support our weak-ness and to enable us
for duty, and a source of inspiration when cold and dead in heart. He is
the Author of all godliness, and can alone conquer the godlessness of our
natures and our “minding of earthly things.”
B. The Petitions which can be
Prayer must be devout through knowledge of the glory of Him to Whom
it is addressed, and believing through vision of His love. Both these features
are necessary to effectual prayer, and we are led to both in the prayer
Christ has taught us—” Our Father which art in Heaven.”