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which thou deniest. To pledge thee in thine own cup is not much less dignity and familiarity than to sit by thee. “If we suffer with thee, we shall also reign together with thee.” What greater promotion can flesh and blood be capable of, than a conformity to the Lord of glory ? Enable thou me to drink of thy cup, and then set me where thou wilt.

But, o Saviour, while thou dignifiest them in thy grant, dost thou disparage thyself in thy denial? “Not mine to give ?" Whose is it if not thine ? If it be thy Father's, it is thine. Thou, who art truth, hast said, “I and my Father are one.' Yea, because thou art one with the Father, it is not thine to give to any save those for whom it is prepared of the Father. The Father's preparation was thine, his gift is thine ; the decree of both is one. That eternal counsel is not alterable upon our vain desires. The Father gives these heavenly honours to none but by thee; thou givest them to none but according to the decree of thy Father. Many degrees there are of celestial happiness. Those supernal mansions are not all of a height. That providence, which hath varied our stations upon earth, hath pre-ordered our seats above. O God, admit me within the walls of thy new Jerusalem, and place me wheresoever thou pleasest.

CONTEMPLATION XXII.

THE TRIBUTE-MONEY PAID.

All these other histories report the power of Christ, this shows both his power and obedience ; his power over the creature, his obedience to civil powers. Capernaum was one of his own cities, there he made his chief abode in Peter's house, (Luke iv. 31, compared with 38 :) to that host of his therefore do the toll-gatherers repair for the tribute. When that great disciple said, “We have left all,” he did not say, We have abandoned all, or sold, or given away all : but we have left, in respect of managing, not of possession; not in respect of right, but of use and present fruition; so left, that upon just occasion, we may resume; so left, that it is our due, though not our business. Doubtless he was too wise to give away his own, that he might borrow of a stranger. His own roof gave him shelter for a time, and his Master with him. Of him, as the householder, is the tribute required; and by and for him is it also paid. I inquire not either into the occasion, or the sum. What need we make this exaction sacrilegious ? as if that half shekel, which was appointed by God to be paid by every Israelite to the use of the tabernacle and temple, were now diverted to the Roman exchequer. There was no necessity that the Roman lords should be tied to the Jewish reckonings; it was free for them to impose what payments they pleased upon a subdued people : when great Augustus commanded the world to be taxed, this rate was set. The mannerly collectors demand it first of him with whom they might be more bold ; “Doth not your Master pay tribute?" All Capernaum knew Christ for a great prophet: his doctrine had ravished them; his miracles had astonished them; yet, when it comes to a money-matter, his share is as deep as the rest. Questions of profit admit no difference. Still the sacred tribe challengeth reverence : who cares how little they receive, how much they pay? yet no man knows with what mind this demand was made; whether in a churlish grudging at Christ's immunity, or in an awful compellation of the servant rather than the Master. Peter had it ready what to answer.

I hear him not require their stay till he should go in and know his Master's resolution ; but, as one well acquainted with the mind and practice of his Master, he answers Yes.

There was no truer paymaster of the king's dues, than he that was King of kings. Well did Peter know that he did not only give, but preach tribute. When the Herodians laid twigs for him, as supposing that so great a Prophet would be all for the liberty and exemption of God's chosen people, he chokes them with their own coin, and told them the stamp argued the right; “Give unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's.'

O Saviour, how can thy servants challenge that freedom which thyself hadst not? Who, that pretends from thee, can claim homage from those to whom thou gavest it? If thou, by whom kings reign, forbearest not to pay tribute to a heathen prince, what power under thee can deny it to those that rule for thee? That demand was made without doors.

No sooner is Peter come in, than he is prevented by his Master's question, “What thinkest thou, Simon, of whom do the kings of the earth receive tribute ? of their own children, or of strangers ?” This very interrogation was answer enough to that which Peter meant to move: he that could thus know the heart, was not in true right liable to human exactions.

But, O Saviour, may I presume to ask, what this is to thee? Thou hast said, “My kingdom is not of this world ;" how doth it concern thee what is done by the kings of the earth, or imposed upon the sons of earthly kings ? thou wouldest be the son of an humble virgin, and choosest not a royal state, but a servile. I dispute not thy natural right to the throne, by thy lineal descent from the loins of Judah and David : what, should I plead that which thou waivest? It is thy divine royalty and Sonship which thou here justly urgest ; the argument is irrefragable and convictive. If the kings of the earth do so privilege their children, that they are free from all tributes and impositions, how much more shall the King of heaven give this immunity to his only and natural Son! so as, in true reason, I might challenge an exemption for me and my train. Thou mightest, o Saviour, and no less, challenge a tribute of all the kings of the earth to thee, by whom all powers are ordained ; reason cannot mutter against this claim ; the creature owes itself and whatsoever it hath to the Maker, he owes nothing to it. " Then are the children free." He, that hath right to all, needs not pay any thing, else there should be a subjection in sovereignty, and men should be debtors to themselves. But this right was thine own peculiar, and admits no partners; why dost thou speak of children, as of more, and extending this privilege to Peter, sayest, “Lest we scandalize them?” Was it for that thy disciples, being of thy robe, might justly seem interested in the liberties of their Master ? surely no otherwise were they children, no otherwise free. Away with that fanatical conceit, which challenges an immunity from secular commands and taxes, to a spiritual and adoptative sonship: no earthly saintship can exempt us from tribute to whom tribute belongeth. There is a freedom, O Saviour, which our Christianity calls us to affect; a freedom from the yoke of sin and Satan, from the servitude of our corrupt affections: we cannot be sons, if we be not thus free. Oh free thou us by thy free Spirit from the miserable bondage of our nature, so shall the children be free: but, as to these secular duties, no man is less free than the children. O Saviour, thou wert free, and wouldst not be so; thou wert free by natural right, wouldst not be free by voluntary dispensation. “Lest an offence might be taken.” Surely had there followed an offence, it had been taken only, and not given. “Woe be to the man by whom the offence cometh :" it cometh by him that gives it, it cometh by him that takes it when it is not given : no part of this blame could have cleaved unto thee either way. Yet such was thy goodness, that thou wouldst not suffer an offence unjustly taken at that which thou mightest justly have denied. How jealous should we be even of others' perils ! how careful so to moderate our power in the use of lawful things, that our charity may prevent others' scandals ! to remit of our own right for another's safety! Oh the deplorable condition of those wilful men, who care not what blocks they lay in the way to heaven, not forbearing by a known lewdness to draw others into their own damnation !

To avoid the unjust offence, even of very Publicans, Jesus will work a miracle. Peter is sent to the sea, and that not with a net, but with a hook. The disciple was now in his own trade. He knew a net might inclose many fishes, a hook could take but one: with that hook must he go angle for the tribute-money. A fish shall bring him a stater in her mouth ; and that fish that bites first. What an unusual bearer is here ! what an unlikely element to yield a piece of ready coin!

Oh that omnipotent power, which could command the fish to be both his treasurer to keep his silver, and his purveyor to bring it! Now whether, O Saviour, thou causedst this fish to take up that shekel out of the bottom of the sea; or whether by thine almighty word thou madest it in an instant in the mouth of that fish, it is neither possible to determine, nor necessary to inquire. I rather adore thine infinite knowledge and power, that couldst make use of unlikeliest means ; that couldst serve thyself of the very fishes of the sea, in a business of earthly and civil employment. It was not out of need that thou didst this, though I do not find that thou ever affectedst a full purse. What veins of gold, or mines of silver did not lie open to thy command! but out of a desire to teach Peter, that while he would be tributary to Cæsar, the very fish of the sea was tributary to him. How should this encourage our dependence upon that omnipotent hand of thine, which hath heaven, earth, and sea at thy disposing ! still

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