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The Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity.
by the Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D.D.
from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.
A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year,
S.P.C.K., London, 1902.
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.”

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 include—

     (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 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 souls.


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, and prosperity.

     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 Claims.

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 unto death.

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 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 Granted.

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.”