World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
Luke 3:12. And the publicans277277 “Peagets;” — “tax-gatherers.” also came. The publicans are not only exhorted, in general terms, to repent, but the duties peculiar to their calling are demanded: for we know that, besides the general rule of the law, each person ought to consider what is required by the nature of the employment to which he has been called. All Christians, without distinction, “are taught of God to love one another,” (1 Thessalonians 4:9:) but then there follow particular duties, which a teacher, for example, is bound to perform towards the Church, — a magistrate or prince towards the people, and the people, on the other hand, towards the magistrate, — a husband towards his wife, and a wife towards her husband, — and finally, children and parents toward each other. The Publicans, viewed as a class, were covetous, rapacious, and cruel, and often oppressed the people by unjust exactions. In consequence of this, the Baptist reproves them for those offenses, with which that class was, for the most part, chargeable, when he commands them not to go beyond moderation in exacting tribute. At the same time, we draw this inference, that it is quite as lawful for a Christian man to receive or levy taxes, as for a magistrate to impose them.
In the same way we must judge about war. John does not order the soldiers to throw away their arms, and to relinquish their oath; but he forbids them to pillage the wretched people under the pretense of their duty as soldiers, to bring false accusations against the innocent, and to be guilty of extortions, — all of which crimes the greater part of them were accustomed to practice. These words obviously contain an approbation of civil government. It is a piece of idle sophistry to say, that John’s hearers were ignorant people, and that he gave them nothing more than elementary instructions, which fell very far short of Christian perfection. John’s office was, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, (Luke 1:17) and there is no doubt that it was entirely and faithfully performed. Those men are guilty of calumny and sacrilege, who slander the Gospel, by declaring it to be opposed to human governments;278278 “Qui veulent faire accroire qu'elle n'a rouve point les principautes, empires et gouvernements qui sont entre les hornroes; — “who wish to make it believed that it does not approve of the principalities, empires, and governments, which exist among men.” as if Christ destroyed what his heavenly Father sanctioned. But, without the sword, laws are dead, and legal judgments have no force or authority. Magistrates require not only an executioner,279279 “Un bourreau;” — “a hangman.” but other attendants, among whom are the military,280280 “Les gendarmes.” without whose assistance and agency it is impossible to maintain peace. Still, the object must be considered. Princes must not allow themselves to sport with human blood, nor must soldiers give themselves up to cruelty, from a desire of gain, as if slaughter were their chief business: but both must be drawn to it by necessity, and by a regard to public advantage.