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25He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?”

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25. He saith, Yes. Peter’s reply contains a modest excuse 580580     “Une excuse bien modeste et honneste;” — “a very modest and civil excuse.” to satisfy them: “he will pay,” 581581     “Oui, (dit-il,) il payera;” — “Yes, (says he,) he will pay.” says he; from which we infer that Christ had formerly been accustomed to pay, for Peter promises it as a thing about which there was no doubt. That they address him rather than the other disciples was, as I conjecture, because Christ lived with him; for if all had occupied the same habitation, the demand would have been made on all alike. It is therefore very ridiculous in the Papists, on so frivolous a pretense, to make Peter a partner in the dignity of Christ. “He chose him (they say) to be his vicar, and bestowed on him equal honors, by making him equal to himself in the payment of tribute.” But in this way they will make all swine-herds vicars of Christ, for they paid as much as he did. And if the primacy of Peter was manifested in the paying of tribute, whence comes that exemption which they claim for themselves? But this is the necessary result of the shameful trifling of those who corrupt Scripture according to their own fancy.

What thinkest thou, Simon? In this Christ gave a proof of his Divinity, by showing that nothing was unknown to him. But what is the object of his discourse? Is it to exempt himself and his followers from subjection to the laws? Some explain it thus, that Christians have a right to be exempted, but that they voluntarily subject themselves to the ordinary government, because otherwise human society cannot be maintained. To me, however, the meaning appears to be more simple; for there was danger lest the disciples might think that Christ had come in vain, because, by paying tribute cut off the hope of deliverance; and therefore he simply affirms that he pays tribute, solely because he voluntarily refrains from exercising his right and power. Hence it is inferred that this takes nothing from his reign. But why does he not openly claim his right? It is because his kingly power was unknown to the collectors of the tribute. For, though his kingdom be spiritual, still we must maintain, that as he is the only Son of God, he is also the heir of the whole world, so that all things ought to be subject to him, and to acknowledge his authority. The meaning, therefore, is, that God has not appointed kings, and established governments over mankind, in such a manner as to place him who is the Son in the same rank indiscriminately with others, but yet that, of his own accord, he will be a servant along with others, till the glory of his kingdom be displayed.

The Pope has not less foolishly than successfully abused this passage to exempt his clergy from the laws; as if the shaving of the head made them sons of God, and exempted them from tributes and taxes. But nothing else was intended by Christ than to claim for himself the honor of a King’s Son, so as to have at least a home privileged and exempted from the common law. And therefore it is also highly foolish in the Anabaptists to torture these words for overturning political order, since it is more than certain, that Christ does not say any thing about a privilege common to believers, but only draws a comparison from the sons of kings, who, together with their domestics, are exempted. 582582     “Lesquels sont exempts de tous imposts, eux et leurs domestiques;” — “who are exempted from all taxes, they and their domestics.”