Romans 13:3
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the one in authority? Then do what is right, and you will have his approval.
Submission to Constituted AuthorityS.R. Aldridge Romans 13:1-6
Christian Duties Towards Civil RulersW. Tyson.Romans 13:1-7
Christian SubmissionT.F. Lockyer Romans 13:1-7
CitizenshipR.M. Edgar Romans 13:1-7
Civil Government an Ordinance of GodE. P. Rogers, D.D.Romans 13:1-7
Earthly CitizenshipNewman Hall, D.D.Romans 13:1-7
Governors and SubjectsBp. Hoadley.Romans 13:1-7
Human AuthorityJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 13:1-7
Human MagistracyD. Thomas, D.D.Romans 13:1-7
Law is the Shadow of God's JusticeCanon Liddon.Romans 13:1-7
Let Every Soul be Subject unto the Higher PowersRomans 13:1-7
Obedience to LawHomiletic MonthlyRomans 13:1-7
Obedience to Legal AuthorityRomans 13:1-7
Reverence for LawGeorge Dawson.Romans 13:1-7
St. Paul's Respect for Roman LawArchdeacon Farrar.Romans 13:1-7
Subjection to the Higher PowersJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 13:1-7
The Christian as CitizenC.H. Irwin Romans 13:1-7
The Christian View of the StateL. R. Dalrymple.Romans 13:1-7
The Christian's Political RelationsJ. W. Kaye, M.A.Romans 13:1-7
The Duty and Obligations of Civil ObedienceJ. Sandys, A.M.Romans 13:1-7
The Effect of Religion on a Nation's GrandeurG. Croby, LL.D.Romans 13:1-7
ConscientiousnessRomans 13:3-6
Duty of the MagistrateA. Farindon, D.D.Romans 13:3-6
Honour to Whom Honour is DueScottish Christian HeraldRomans 13:3-6
Mistaken Clemency in Courts of JusticeHomiletic MonthlyRomans 13:3-6
Our DebtsJ. Donne, D.D.Romans 13:3-6
Subjection for Conscience' SakeT. Arnold, D.D.Romans 13:3-6
The Christian's Subjection to the Civil Authority IsJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 13:3-6
The Duties of Rulers and SubjectsJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 13:3-6
The Functions of the RulerJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 13:3-6
The Ministry of Civil RulersF. D. Maurice, M.A.Romans 13:3-6
The Relative Duties of Rulers and SubjectsJ. Hoppus, LL.D.Romans 13:3-6
The Rights of the RulerJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 13:3-6
The Sword the Symbol of Righteous AuthorityE. Johnson, M.A.Romans 13:3-6
Tribute and CustomJ. Knight.Romans 13:3-6
Why Shall We Pay TaxesJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 13:3-6

The duty of Christians as citizens is in our day not sufficiently recognized. Many Christians keep aloof from public life and the duties of citizenship because of the political corruption and party strife which are so common. Others, again, enter into public duties, but seem to leave their religion behind them. The result is a sad want of Christian statesmanship and of Christian legislation.

I. THE CHRISTIAN RECOGNIZES THE NECESSITY OF GOVERNMENT. "There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" (ver. 1). This is not to be understood as meaning that every individual ruler is ordained of God. That would make the Divine Being responsible for many acts of despotism and oppression. We might as well say that every minister of religion who had received the form of ordination was therefore chosen of God, no matter what his personal character might be. The meaning rather is that government is an ordinance of God - that God has ordained or appointed it, that there should be authority and rulers. Government is necessary:

1. For the protection of life and property.

2. For the repression of crime. "Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil" (ver. 3). Governors, says St. Peter, are appointed "for the punishment of evil-doers" (1 Peter 2:14).

3. For the rewarding and encouraging of virtue. "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same" (ver. 3). So St. Peter also speaks of governors as "a praise to them that do well." Wise rulers will not only repress crime, but they will seek to encourage well-doing. They will show special favour to those who, by their own character and efforts, promote morality and temperance and honesty, and thus help to make government easy. How often do rulers forget this! How often the Christian people of a nation are ignored or even discouraged, while the godless and the immoral are high in place and favour!

II. THE CHRISTIAN RECOGNIZES THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF RULERS. Rulers are here called "ministers of God" (vers. 4, 6). Our sovereign entitles herself "Victoria, by the grace of God." All who are concerned in government have a solemn responsibility, whether they be kings or queens, ministers of state, members of the legislature, judges, magistrates, or jurymen. All must appear one day before a higher tribunal. Then the judge will be asked, "Have you done justice as between man and man?" The juryman will be asked, "Have you rendered a verdict according to the evidence?" The sovereign will be asked. "Have you been faithful to your coronation vows?" Therefore the Christian should pray for rulers. "For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Timothy 2:2). The Christian should do all he can to secure good rulers. What we need in our day is less of party politics, and more of Christian polities. Christian people, Christian Churches, should band themselves together, laying aside all political and all ecclesiastical differences, to secure Christian representatives, Christian law- makers for our professedly Christian nation.

III. THE CHRISTIAN RECOGNIZES HIS OWN RESPONSIBILITY. There are two duties distinctly specified here for the Christian citizen.

1. Obedience. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers" (ver. 1); "Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God" (ver. 2); "Wherefore ye must needs be subject" (ver. 5). If the law is to be upheld, there must be an obedient and submissive spirit on the part of every good citizen. Yet there are limits to all this. We are to interpret this passage in the light of other Bible teaching and the examples which it sets before us. The Bible does not teach the doctrine of passive obedience or non-resistance. At Babylon, Daniel resisted the reigning power. The royal mandate was issued, but Daniel did not obey it. "He kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." The Apostles Peter and John declined to obey the Jewish council at Jerusalem when they were commanded to speak no more in the Name of Jesus. They boldly answered, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot, but speak the things which we have seen and hear. Where the law of a nation or the command of an earthly ruler conflicts with the law of God, then it is clearly the Christian's duty to obey God rather than men. The English people in their past history have acted upon this principle. Twice under the reign of the Stuart sovereigns the subjects of the realm asserted, on conscientious grounds, their right of revolution and resistance. So also did the Covenanters of Scotland. Yet resistance to constituted authority should ever be a last resort, and is only to be resorted to when all more peaceful means have utterly failed to obtain justice and redress of wrongs.

2. Taxation. "For this cause pay ye tribute also" (ver. 6). This also was the teaching of Christ. No government can be maintained without expense. National defences, public institutions, all of which have for their object the protection and the well-being of all the citizens, require to be kept up. Every citizen is responsible for bearing his share in meeting expenditure for the common good. He may not approve of every item of expenditure, but that is no valid reason for refusing to contribute his share of taxation, where the representatives of the nation have decreed that the expenditure is wise and necessary. This rule, of course, has its exception also in the case of any expenditure which would do violence to the individual conscience.

3. There are other practical duties. The Christian will ever cooperate with rulers in securing and promoting peace and temperance, morality and honesty, truthfulness and justice. All these virtues are necessary to national well-being. Government would be easy if every citizen was a Christian, and if every Christian would realize his duties as a citizen. The words of Sir Arthur Helps ('Friends in Council') may be fittingly quoted here: "He who does not bring into government, whether as governor or subject, some religious feeling, some higher motive than expediency, is likely to make but an indifferent governor or an indifferent subject Without piety there will be no good government." - C.H.I.

For rulers are not a terror to good works.

1. To protect the good.

2. To restrain the evil.

3. To reward merit.


1. To respect authority.

2. To do good.

3. And thereby merit praise.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Do that which is good, and thou shall; have praise of the same
When the Emperor Nicholas was in England, in 1844, industry in Russia could hardly be said to exist, and the Czar was extremely anxious to introduce machinery of all sorts into his arsenals, so as to become independent of foreign makers. With this object he visited a number of large establishments in the Midland Counties and the North; and one Sunday morning Mr. James Nasmyth, the inventor of the steam hammer, and proprietor of large works at Patricroft, was much surprised at the appearance in his garden of an officer in a carriage and a gorgeous uniform, whose chasseur, still more gorgeous than his master, was sent up to disturb the old gentleman's Sabbath rest by loudly announcing, "Prince K — ." The prince himself walked in, smoking a cigarette, and informed Mr. Nasmyth in good English that the Czar intended to honour the Patricroft works with a visit on that afternoon. "Indeed! " replied their owner, "I regret that his majesty will not see much, as it is Sunday." "But it would be easy," rejoined the aide-de-camp, coolly helping himself to a bon-bon which his chasseur handed him out of a handsome box, "to start the works for a few hours. Mr. Nasmyth might be sure of his majesty's favour." "Sir," replied Mr. Nasmyth, "the favour of my God is more important to me than that of your master. And if I were inclined to break the Sabbath for him, my men would not. "Would you not start the works for Queen Victoria on Sunday?" asked the astonished aide-de-camp. "Her Gracious Majesty," replied the old Briton, "would never suggest such a thing." The Czar did not visit Patricroft.

For he is
The civil ruler is —


1. Paul does not say he ought to be so, or it would be well if he would consent to be so, but that "he is." It is not in his pleasure not to be so. He must be so, if he rebel against it ever so fiercely. Nero's will might be devilish; every power which he wielded was Divine. He had been appointed to rule the world which he tormented by Him who loved that world.

2. How would such a doctrine affect the Roman Christians? They could not confound vital power with those outside accidents of it which our vulgar nature prompts us to admire when they recollected from whom it came, and they must have hated every wanton exercise of it. The effect of regarding Nero as a minister of God was, no doubt, to make them patient under his government, and afraid to engage in any mad schemes for subverting it. But this faith gave strength to their cries that the earth might be delivered from all her oppressors, assured them that those cries would not be in vain, and made them welcome their own sufferings as steps towards the redemption.

3. Those who attempt to find apologies for tyranny in Scripture, sometimes ask, "If Nero's power was ordained by God, what subjects can pretend that the powers which are over them have some lower origin?" I answer, "Certainly none." And subjects would be most unwise if they wished otherwise. For it imports that every power is a trust, and implies responsibility to a judge whom the greatest criminal cannot escape. Read Roman history in the light of St. Paul's sentence. Every sting of conscience which visited Nero that night when he knew himself to be his mother's murderer was a message to him, "Thou art God's minister, and thou hast used His "sword against thy own flesh and blood." The assassin by whom he fell at last was saying, "Thou art God's minister; and so am I, guilty like thyself, but ordained to call thee to His judgment-seat."

4. Surely, if rulers and people believed this, it would be something more than the notion that they may be brought to the bar of "public opinion." But let those who confess the power of public opinion ask themselves whether it requires any more credulity to acknowledge the presence of a living, personal ruler?

II. A minister of God TO THEE.

1. A strange assertion! A minister of God to the Roman world the emperor might be, however little he fulfilled his ministry. But a minister of God to some individual member of the Roman Church, who must have counted it the best privilege of his obscurity that the emperor would never hear of him, never inquire after him, how could he be such to that man? In this way: When a man was taken into the Christian Church, he contracted affinities and obligations to Jew and Greek, barbarian and Scythian, bond and free. But he might easily forget these, and fancy that the Church was an isolated body. The fact of being under a common civil ruler deepened and expanded the doctrine. Nor was the benefit destroyed by the character of the ruler. If he was an oppressor, there was more necessity of falling back on the Source from which his authority proceeded, in prayer that His will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

2. But I am far more desirous to assert the truth in reference to those rulers who confess their calling and try to fulfil it. So far as they contribute to the health and growth of the body politic, so far they must be ministers of God to each one of us personally. For are they not quickening our hearts and hopes, and enabling us to enter more truly the kingdom of God? It is impossible that all true human rule should not be like the Divine rule in this, that it is most minute when it is most comprehensive; that it calls for the most personal loyalty when it is most generally even and just.

III. "A minister of God to thee FOR GOOD."

1. St. Paul writes this to men who might, in a short time, be lighting the city as torches to cover the guilt of him who set it on fire. Well! and was he not, and was not Charles IX in France, and Philip II in the Netherlands? Were they not ministers of God for good to those whom they sent beyond the reach of their crimes, to cry beneath the altar for the day when the earth should no more conceal her blood or cover her slain? And it will be known, some day, to how many men, governments the most accursed have been ministers of good, by leading them from trifling to earnestness, by changing them from reckless plotters into self-denying patriots, by turning their atheism or devil-worship into a grounded faith in the God of Truth. Many such, I fear, will rise up in judgment against those who live in happier circumstances.

2. But the apostle was enabled to proclaim this principle on other grounds. As he believed Christ to be the King of men, he could not help believing that all human society was organised according to the law which He embodied. "The Chief of all is the servant of all." He could not doubt that if the emperor believed this he would be a blessing to the world; that he was a curse to it because he thought the world was to minister to him, and not he to it. He could not doubt that every Christian ought to maintain the truth which Nero set at naught, and that if he did, it would prove itself in his case — Nero would be a minister of God for good to him.

3. How did the faith that there is a constitution for nations, which kings did not create, work itself into the heart of modern Europe? When a mediator between God and man is rejected, you must have an absolute caliph or sultan, and a government carried on by mere officials; you cannot have the confession of a relationship between the sovereign and his subjects, involving mutual obligation. This is involved in the faith of a Son of God and a Son of Man. Whatever has suffocated that faith — be it ecclesiastical pretension, or revolt against that pretension, be it the worship of money, or the worship of a tyrant instead of a father — undermines constitutional liberty. To bring forth that faith in its fulness before the nations which nominally confess it, is to help them to break their political fetters.

(F. D. Maurice, M.A.)


1. As the minister of God.

2. For the benefit of man.


1. For this purpose he is invested with the power of life and death.

2. Must use it righteously.

3. As responsible to God.

4. For the suppression of evil.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)


1. The events of the seventeenth century, which changed the form of government and placed its institutions on a new footing, naturally gave rise to searching inquiries into the origin of lawful authority.(1) Filmer maintained that kings had a Divine hereditary right to their thrones in virtue of Adam's absolute and arbitrary dominion over his offspring. But we read of no grant of any such dominion which, had it existed, would have rendered slavery coeval with the first human family, and would nullify the claims of all monarchs excepting the true heir of Adam, if he could be found.(2) Sidney and Locke endeavoured to base the relation between rulers and subjects on the supposition that an agreement was originally entered into by the first founders of a state, which involved a tacit compact between all succeeding members of it. But we have no evidence of any such social compact having ever been made.(3) It seems more satisfactory to regard government as arising from the nature of man, though still having its first elements in the relation between the head of a family and the children. The idea of authority on the one hand, and of submission on the other, thus gained, would easily prepare the way for the union of a number of families under one head.

2. Reason cannot fail to discern the importance cf civil government to save society from a disorder which must soon have issued in its dissolution, if not in the destruction of the very race itself. Accordingly, in the Scriptures, we find civil government very clearly recognised as a Divine institution; and the general obligation to obedience is enforced under penalty of the consequences of resisting an ordinance of God. But though God has given His own sanction to the institution we have no evidence that any one particular form has been prescribed, or even that uniformity in this respect would be a good. When it is said, "the powers that be are ordained of God," the meaning is, that as government is designed for the security and happiness of society, every government, whatsoever its form, which in any particular country promotes this end, is agreeable to the will of God. Until Saul reigned, the human form of the theocratic government had been substantially a sort of republic. The monarchy, however, after it became established, received the Divine sanction.


1. The duties of rulers.(1) To remember their responsibility to God. "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." When it is considered that the happiness of millions is entrusted to them, how deeply should they feel that they have a "Master in heaven!"(2) To act exclusively for the public good. Not only does the text describe the civil ruler as a "minister of God for good," but pagan sages; Aristotle defines a king as "one who governs for the good and profit of his people, and not for his own ends." The doctrine that a ruler has a right to hold power merely for his own sake is a monstrous perversion of the useful principle of hereditary or vested right. Happily, this doctrine has been repudiated in our own country by the revolution of 1688. Memorable examples of the same principle have occurred in Trance and Belgium.(3) To exercise their high function so as to make the civil government a moral power and influence. A military despotism may be obeyed because it cannot be resisted; a government which seeks to gain its ends chiefly by a system of espionage; bribing may be equally dreaded, but such governments will never be respected.(4) To create the persuasion of general good and benevolent intention on their part. Rulers may often commit errors, but these will be viewed patiently if uprightness of intention is manifest; but not the most splendid talents nor even great services will compensate for the want of sincerity. Not, however, that a statesman may not modify his opinions from conviction; but how many pledges have been made on the hustings only to be broken when some prospect has dazzled the vision! Either let such pledges never be made, or let them be kept, or let those who cannot keep them retire from the scene. This uprightness of intention must be shown especially in appointments to places of trust and profit.(5) To be well informed on the main topics with which they are called to deal. Want of enlarged views and ignorance of men and things may lead to reckless and sudden changes for which the mind of a nation is not prepared, and indeed has often produced revolutions.(6) To see that the laws are impartial, and that they are impartially administered. It is the dictate, both of Scripture and of reason, that there should not be one law for the rich and another for the poor. The same principle of impartiality might be applied to the economy of trade, of education, and even of religion.(7) To set a good example. If rulers are profligate, what readier way to the demoralisation of a people! The morals of the higher classes tend to become more and more an index to those of the people.(8) To be patriotic. His country claims the statesman's highest aims and best services. He should be, then, a man of peace. Of all the calamities that can befal nations, war is by far the greatest. Peace furnishes upright and wise rulers the opportunity of domestic improvement.

2. The duties of subjects.(1) To obey the laws, or else the very design of civil government and the plain injunctions of Scripture go for nothing. Of course we ought to "obey God rather than men," but we should remember that this was said by those who, as inspired men, could not mistake as to what is obedience to God. Before, therefore, we resist the ordinance of man, let us be sure that it really does clash with the plain ordinance of God. The supremacy of the law implies that the subject surrenders the right of redressing his private wrongs to the political society of which he is a member, otherwise offences would often not be punished at all, for the aggressor might be the stronger; or, if not, the aggressor might be punished from revenge. Besides, one retaliation would lead to another, and there would be no end to this reciprocal brute force, but in the destruction of one or both of the parties. Still it must be admitted that if a robber or a murderer were to attack us we should certainly be justified in repelling him, in self-defence, because we cannot at the moment command the protection of society.(2) To honour his rulers, but not by insincere flattery, and servile fawning for the sake of advantage. To reverence the Sovereign, in whom the dignity and power of the state is embodied, is a natural sentiment as well as a religious duty; while "despising government" is strongly condemned (2 Peter 2:10). Still as it would be irrational to suppose that rulers are infallible, it cannot be wrong, on certain occasions, to find fault with their public acts. Our Saviour and the apostles did so, but censures should be tempered with the recollection that nothing is more easy than to sit in judgment on men's motives only because we ourselves may be of a different opinion. Much more has been effected towards the removal of bad laws by sober and persevering remonstrance than by unmeasured abuse. The Christian law of courtesy has as much claim to operation here as in any of the other intercourses of life.(3) To pray for them. In thus doing we are praying for the community at large, and for the whole world, the interests of which are affected by the international measures of rulers, and especially of our own, whose policy is felt over the globe.(4) To pay the taxes. The machine of government must always, in a state of society like our own, be expensive; but the complaint respecting taxation has too often been well- grounded in consequence of the self-interest and extravagance of rulers themselves. Again; a tax may have a wrong object, or it may be so levied as to bear disproportionably on the relative means of those who have to pay it. But still, when it is imposed constitutionally, it must be submitted to.(5) To do all in their power to exert a salutary influence over their rulers, so as to render the machine of government as perfect an instrument as possible for promoting the freedom and happiness of the governed. If rulers ever forget this high and religious destination and enact tyrannical laws, and if no milder measures avail to remedy intolerable oppressions, subjects are justified in resisting these encroachments. But usually the best and most direct means of exercising a salutary influence on public affairs is the election of such men for members of parliament as are likely, from their character and principles, to seek the general good. Hence it is one of the most incumbent duties of subjects to use uprightly and with an enlightened mind the elective franchise. Few notions have less foundation in reason, or in Scripture, than that "religion has nothing to do with politics." That a passion for party politics may injure the spirit of religion is not to be doubted; but this only proves that what is even obligatory may be engaged in with a wrong state of mind, and thus become evil.

(J. Hoppus, LL.D.)

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain

1. God giveth the power, the magistrate hath it: God lendeth the sword, the magistrate bears it. And though ambition hath presented this power under divers forms of popularity, aristocracy, and monarchy, yet the commission and seal is still the same. The king's broad seal, what is it? The matter is wax; a small piece of money will buy a greater quantity: but having the image and superscription of my prince, it is either my pardon, or my liberty, or my charter, or my possessions. So the magistrate, what is he? My fellow, dust and ashes, nay, a sinful man. And yet, as "the minister of God," he is sealed, and hath the image and superscription of the Deity.

2. But though God hath conveyed His power, yet He hath not done it to every man upon the same terms; not to Joab the captain as to David the king; not to Shaphan the chanceller as to Josiah on the throne; not to Gallio the deputy as to Caesar the emperor; not to the under-officers as to the judge; not to the judge as to the king. No private man may be a swordsman. If Peterer will be drawing to lop off an ear he must hear, "They that use the sword," etc. (Matthew 26:52).

3. As God hath given the sword to the magistrate, so hath He fastened it to his hand. No discontent shall move it, no argument stir it, no murmuring sheath it; no time, no calling, no liberty free or privilege from the power of it. Behold St. Paul here, upholding that sword which he was to feel, adoring that power he sunk under, and bowing to majesty when the throne was Nero's.

II. WE MUST NOW PLACE THE "NON FRUSTRA" UPON THE SWORD. "Wherefore the sword? wherefore authority?" "That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Timothy 2:2); that every man may sit under his own vine, and under his own fig-tree; that the poor man may keep his lamb, and the jawbone of the oppressor be broken; that peace may shadow the commonwealth and plenty crown it. Authority is not only "not in vain," but "profitable" and necessary. God could have governed us without a sword, but it was not good for men to be so governed. We love and fear at a distance. And as the object is either nigh or remote, so it either affects or frights us. "We fear man more than God," and the shaking of his whip than the scorpions of a Deity.

1. The magistrate, like God Himself, "governs us by that which is adverse to us," curbeth the transgressor by the execution of penal laws.

2. No magistrate doth simply will the affliction of the offender, or punish only to show his authority, but for the amendment of the offender and the peace of the commonwealth. You who are invested with this power remember the end. Remember you were placed with a sword to pursue the wicked, to run after the oppressor, and take the prey out of his mouth. And in doing this you defend and safeguard the innocent. The death of one murderer may save a thousand lives. The neglect hereof heaps injury upon injury.(1) The first lights upon God Himself, of whose Divine power this power is a very beam. By injustice men undervalue Him, and put Him below His vassal, as if His omnipotency were weaker than man, His honour cheaper than a fee, heaven at a lower price than a bribe, and Christ Himself not worth forty pieces of silver.(2) From God the injury descends to the commonwealth. It brings in that which it should cast out. Sin unpunished makes a greater breach than sin committed. For adultery, murder, drunkenness, deceit, may give the blow, but injustice wounds.(3) Many times the injury falls upon the offender, whose greatest punishment it is that he is so much wronged as to be befriended, and so much favoured as to be unpunished.(4) But the wrong rests and dwells in the magistrate, who in a manner abjures his office, degrades himself by his connivance, and makes the sword less terrible by not using it; the not executing the law upon the greatest working a secret and reserved contempt thereof in the meanest.

(A. Farindon, D.D.)

Homiletic Monthly.
Mirabeau once said, "We live in an age where wrong constantly triumphs over right, and where justice itself is a lie." There can be no greater curse to a nation than a corrupt judge and a perjured juror, and the Bible distinctly declares that God will call all such to a terrible account. It has ever been the case that where wholesome and just laws have failed to be strictly administered lawlessness and crime have abounded. Mercy to a great criminal often means cruelty and injustice to the people. This mistaken clemency leads to serious evils.

1. It confuses the public conscience as to the distinction between right and wrong.

2. It undermines respect for law and rulers.

3. It tends to anarchy, mob, and lynch law.

4. It jeopardises the securities and rights of society, and is subversive of morality and order.

(Homiletic Monthly.)

The sword is not only the breaker, it is more constantly the preserver of national peace. Physical force in quiescence is like a sentinel, guarding our liberties and our laws. The magistrate, as well as the soldier, bears not the sword in vain. Though it be seldom drawn from its sheath, it is the commanding symbol of righteous authority.

(E. Johnson, M.A.)

Wherefore ye must needs be subject... for conscience' sake
I. NECESSARY. Because —

1. It is a Divine ordinance.

2. Essential to the general good.


1. Not only for wrath,

2. But conscience' sake.

III. COMPLETE. Because it is —

1. Willing.

2. Sincere.

3. Conscientious.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Our notions about public duty are low altogether, because we often look upon civil society either as a matter of mutual convenience only between man and man, or else as an injustice and encroachment made by the rich and powerful on the rights and welfare of others. But as Christ has ennobled and sanctified the dearest of our domestic relations, that of marriage, by comparing it to the tender and affectionate care with which He watches over those who are united in one body to Him as the Head, so are our public relations raised by being equally connected with the service of our Lord. Laws and governments are His ordinance, just as marriage is His ordinance, or the relations between parents and their children. They are His ordinance, because He knew that without them we should be in a state hardly better than that of beasts; because He willed that some image of His own just government, however faint, should exist in the world; some power that should put down the most violent forms of evil, even though it could not touch those which lurk within the heart, nor reward the virtue of the good. And hence "laws are entitled to our obedience, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake; that is, not only because we may incur a penalty if we disobey them, but because, whether we do or no, we are certainly, by disobeying them, doing that which is displeasing in the sight of God."

(T. Arnold, D.D.)

For this cause pay ye tribute also
? — Because —

1. Government must be supported.

2. The governor as well as the labourer is worthy of his hire.

3. The governor is God's minister.

4. It is a conscientious duty.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Render therefore to all their dues. — We owe —


1. Fear (Matthew 10:28). By reason of —

(1)His sovereignty (Malachi 1:6).

(2)His justice.

(3)His power (Jeremiah 5:22).

2. Love (Deuteronomy 6:5); for —

(1)His excellency in Himself (Song of Solomon 5:16).

(2)His love to us (1 John 4:10, 11).

3. Desires (Psalm 73:25). Because He is —

(1)The ocean of happiness in Himself (Matthew 19:17).

(2)The fountain of it to us (Psalm 36:9).

4. Faith in what He saith (1 John 5:10).

(1)Because of His own veracity (Hebrews 6:18).

(2)The certainty of the revelations confirmed by miracles (2 Peter 1:18, 19).

5. Trust on what He promises (Proverbs 3:5; Romans 4:20). Because of —

(1)His freedom in making them.

(2)His faithfulness in keeping them (Deuteronomy 7:9).

6. Thankfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Because —

(1)We are unworthy of any mercy (Genesis 32:10).

(2)It is all we can return (Micah 6:8).

7. Obedience (1 Samuel 15:22).(1) Which should be —

(a)Sincere (Romans 6:17).

(b)Universal (Luke 1:6; Psalm 119:6).

(c)Constant (Luke 1:75).(2) This we owe, by reason of our —


(b)Preservation (Acts 17:28).

(c)Redemption (1 Corinthians 6:20).

(d)Vow in baptism.

(e)Our profession of the Christian religion (2 Timothy 2:19).

8. Honour and adoration (Malachi 1:6).

(1)Of His wisdom (Romans 11:33).

(2)Omniscience (Psalm 147:5).

(3)Omnipresence (Psalm 139:5, 7).

(4)Omnipotence (Matthew 19:26).

(5)Mercy (Exodus 34:6).


(7)Eternity (Exodus 3:14).

9. Then render unto God His dues. Consider —

(1)Otherwise you rob God (Malachi 3:8).

(2)You rob yourselves, your happiness consisting in obeying God. You rob yourselves —

(a)Of the comforts of a good conscience (2 Corinthians 1:12).

(b)Of joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17).

(c)Of the favour of God (Isaiah 59:2).

(d)Of a blessing here (Deuteronomy 28:1).

(e)Of happiness hereafter (Hebrews 7:14).(3) By paying Him His due you secure yourselves —

(a)From present curses (Malachi 2:2; chap. Romans 8:28).

(b)Future torments (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9).(4) He will call you to account (2 Corinthians 5:10).

(5)Render His due, and He will render to you His promise in heaven (Matthew 25:46).


1. Superiors, civil, ecclesiastical, economical.

(1)Subjection (Romans 5:1; Titus 3:1).

(2)Tribute (Matthew 17:24-27).


(a)We ought to have a care of the public good.

(b)It is a debt of gratitude for the benefits we receive from the magistrate.

(c)A debt of justice for his trouble in the management of public affairs (Romans 13:6).(4) Fear (Proverbs 24:21).

(5)Honour (1 Peter 2:17).

(a)So as to acknowledge them to be ordained of God.

(b)Love them for their office sake.

(c)Be thankful for the benefits we receive from them.

(d)Fidelity and allegiance (2 Samuel 20:2).

(e)Entertain no ill thoughts of his person or actions (Ecclesiastes 10:20).

2. Inferiors (Job 31:13-15).

(1)Humility and respect (Philippians 2:3).

(2)Charity and relief (1 Timothy 6:17; Job 31:16-21). Consider —

(a)He that pities the poor, lends to God (Proverbs 19:17).

(b)This is the only way to lay up our treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19, 20).


1. Love (ver. 8).

(1)This is Christ's special command (John 13:34).

(2)Without this we have no love for God (1 John 4:20, 21).

2. Honour (1 Peter 2:17

It is one degree of thrift to bring our debts into as few hands as we can. Our debt here we cannot bring into fewer than these three:

I. OUR DEBTS TO GOD. Consider them to be our sins, and we dare not come into reckoning with Him, but we discharge ourselves entirely on our Surety, Christ; but yet of that debt we must pay an acknowledgment, an interest, as it were, of praise for all we would have and prayer for all we would have.

II. OUR DEBTS TO MAN. Our creditors are —

1. Persons above us. To these we owe in matter of substance, tribute, and custom; and in matter of ceremony, fear, and honour.

2. Persons below us to whom we owe counsel to direct them and relief in compassion of their sufferings.


1. Some of these are to be tendered at noon, i.e., to be paid in our best strength and prosperity in the course of our lives.

2. Others are to be tendered at night at our deaths.Conclusion: Render therefore to all their dues.

1. For your debt to God we bring you to Church. This is no place to arrest in, but yet the Spirit of God calls upon you for these debts. Praise Him in His holy place, and pray to Him in His house, which is the house of prayer.

2. For your debts to man we send you to court to pay those owing to superiors; to hospitals and prisons to pay those owing to inferiors. And though courts and prisons be illpaying places, yet pay your debts of substance and ceremony, of tribute and honour, at court; and your debts of counsel and relief to those who need them in the darkest corners.

3. For your debts to yourselves, make even with yourselves all the way in your lives, lest your payment prove too heavy, and you break, and your hearts break when you come to see that you cannot do that upon your death bed.

(J. Donne, D.D.)

are here —


1. Support.

2. Submission.

3. Respect.


1. As due.

2. As recognised by God.

3. As imperative on all Christians.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom.
There is some difficulty about the distinctive signification of φόρος (tribute), and τέλος (custom). By some the former is regarded as a tax upon land; by others, as upon property generally, whether movable or immovable. Those critics who give to φόρος the wider signification, limit τέλος to a capitation tax; and those who confine φόρος to a tax upon land give τέλος a larger meaning, as signifying a tax upon merchandise as well as upon persons. Judging from the apostle's use of the word, φόρος was the general term for all contributions, and was used in the same way that the word "taxes" is sometimes largely used; and in its limited sense it applies to all burdens upon landed or personal property; while τέλος was a capitation tax which Christ told Peter to pay for himself and his Lord.

(J. Knight.)

Honour to whom honour
Scottish Christian Herald.
Lord Dartmouth is the person to whom Newton's Letters "in the Cardiphonia" to a Nobleman, are addressed, and to whom Cowper alludes, "And one that wears a coronet and prays." It is said that after the prince came to the throne, on a public day Lord Dartmouth appeared at the levee, when one of the attendant noblemen said, "I'll bet Dartmouth has been at prayer to-day." "Yes, and please your majesty," said Lord Dartmouth, "I thought it right first to pay my duty to my God and then to my king." "Well said, Dartmouth," replied his majesty, "and like yourself."

(Scottish Christian Herald.)

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