Human Coins

Luke 20:24.---' Whose image and subscription hath it.'

The words of no Oriental Rabbi should be considered only in their surface interpretation; still less would it be possible thus to consider the words of One who spake as none other spake; One who was not a 'Teacher come from God,' but God come as a Teacher.

It is not possible that those who heard our Lord's question 'Whose image and superscription hath it?' could have limited their understanding of its meaning to the surface plane. Their possession of the Oriental habit of mind would have led their thoughts beyond the letter. They knew that the special characteristic of this Teacher was, that 'without a parable spake he not unto them.' They knew that it was not the first time that He had used the allegory of the coin to indicate the human race. They were, moreover, thoroughly at home in the Hebrew Scriptures; and when the Lord asked, 'Whose is this image?' their minds would, almost automatically, have turned to the profound declaration in the Book of Genesis, 'So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him.'

The question then is an example of our Lord's thought-provoking method of teaching. It was a momentary lifting of the curtain that covers the mystery of man's being; it was a reiteration of His dogma, 'the kingdom of heaven is within you'; it was a reaffirmation of the fact that nothing can ever really change the central current of man's purpose, and regenerate man's nature, but the clear recognition of his dignity, his responsibility, his potentiality, as possessed by God, loved by God, linked with God, no, one with God; that if there had been brought to Jesus some utterly degraded specimen of the human race, as they brought Him that silver didrachma, and the question were asked, 'Whose is the image and subscription' on this man? there could have been but one reply---'In the image of God, created he him'; and that which God hath once impressed with His image, though that image may be defaced and overlaid, can never be obliterated.

There is a couple of lessons arising out of our Lord's question.

The THEOLOGICAL LESSON from the human coin stamped with the Divine image is one of the utmost importance as a stimulus to optimism. It is the twin-truth of the Eternal humanity in God, and the Eternal divinity in man; that man, however buried and stifled now in the corruptible body, is, in his inmost self, indestructible, and inseparably linked to the Father of Spirits. For the purpose of Divine self-manifestation, man is as necessary to God as God is to man. 'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork'; but only man---mental, moral man---can declare the nature of God and show the character of God. We, then, are personal spirits, who have proceeded from God into matter, and 'the image and superscription' of the Creative Sovereign Power, where we came, remains for ever indelibly impressed upon us. Inasmuch as humanity is the chosen vehicle of self-unfolding of God, it will, through much initial imperfection, and through many changes, struggle upwards and onwards in development, until, at last, it shall be found complete in Him, and His purpose be completely fulfilled.

There follows, from this consideration, what we may call THE PERSONAL LESSON. This irresistible evolution of the race will not be impersonal, it will not be wholesale; it will be one by one. With God each one counts for one. Each one of us is a responsible, moral being, and a responsible moral being, perfected, purified, tested and found faithful, is not machine-made; he must be grown. In other words, he must be exposed to what, with our present imperfect knowledge, we call evil. Temptation is an inexorable law of moral growth. And just here comes in the explanation, from the analogy of the coin, of our startling dual nature. That this educative operation of the will of the Father may be effected, man is made a composite being. He possesses an inferior animal nature; in other words, there is a reverse side to the coin.

Have you ever examined closely the reverse side of a sovereign, say a king of England. Close to the date you may see the minute capital letters "B.P." Not one person in a thousand has ever seen these initials; they have not looked for them. They are the initials of Benedetto Pistrucchi, the talented chief engraver to the Mint, in the reign of George III., the designer of the coin which Ruskin said was the most beautiful coin in Europe---the English sovereign.

Carry on the analogy, always remembering that analogies are only meant to give play to thought. Who is the 'Benedetto Pistrucchi' who has stamped the reverse of every human coin with the device of our common humanity, the conditions of our flesh and blood existence? Do you say, 'The devil'? Oh no, surely not the devil. St. Paul is careful to point out, in Romans viii., that it is not the devil. He says man was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by God. The same die that stamped the King's image stamped the reverse side of the coin. No, the initials on the reverse side of the human coin are the initials of human heredity.

It is all part of the plan of Nature and there is nothing to be ashamed of. But when we are discouraged by the striving of the animal nature and utterly disgusted with ourselves we must turn over the coin; turn away our attention from the 'Benedetto Pistrucchi' side, and think intensely into the other side. Say, 'But I am the Lord's; His image is stamped on me. His life is in me. His eternal purpose is my perfection. My true self is His Divine Spirit.' And such thought becomes creative; it restores the equilibrium; it helps the atonement---the at-one-ment of the two sides of the coin, of the human and the Divine, making, as the Apostle says, 'of the twain one new man.'

So much for ourselves. But now in our judgments of others. Here again, remember, we cannot see both sides of the coin at once, and therefore our judgments are literally one-sided. Our heroes are not deserving of all the attention we give them. Our villians are not as dark as we paint them; they live before us, and before all men, with the reverse side up. But we never honestly try to turn over a human coin of this description without finding the King's image---often much defaced and covered with accretions, but always there.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha