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Continuing the transcript of

Fifty Years of Sheffield Church Life

The Rev. W. Odom

[ photo ]
Hon. Canon of Sheffield

or see full chapter list with descriptions, and illustrations

Chapter IX


A sermon preached in the Sheffield Parish Church, on Sunday, November 13th, 1887, on the occasion of the attendance of the Mayor (Alderman W. J. Clegg) and the Members of the Municipal Corporation of Sheffield.

"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's;
and unto God, the things that are God's."
St. Matt. xxii, 21.

"God governs in the affairs of men." Such was the declaration of that great American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, a hundred years ago, in a memorable speech before the representatives of the United States – a declaration publicly repeated and adopted by President Cleveland during the recent American Centenary celebrations. And may not we rejoice in the fact that, by assembling here this morning in their public capacity, the Mayor and Corporation of Sheffield cheerfully acknowledge the same great principle – the principle which lies at the base of all solid progress, and of all true happiness – the principle that the Lord God is supreme, "the King of nations", and that we are all alike responsible to Him?

The present is one of those happy occasions on which we lay aside the shibboleth of party and the weapons of controversy, to meet in one Name, the Name of Christ, and in one spirit, the spirit of mutual goodwill. In the National Parliament, in the Convocations and Assemblies of our Churches, and in the meetings of our local Council Chamber, we have our varied expressions of opinion, and our frequent controversies. To say that all these are a waste of force and a loss of time would be folly. Apart from these, truth would often remain covered up, abuses unreformed, and religious, social, and political life become stagnant and unhealthy. By all means, let us have free and full discussion on all matters bearing upon the social and moral welfare of the people. Only let us diligently strive after right and truth, ever bearing in mind two great Christian rules which are applicable to all the concerns of life – "Let all things be done decently and in order." "Let all things be done in charity."

I frankly confess, brethren, that I feel the responsibility of my position this morning. Happily, I have had no difficulty in finding a suitable text. It comes to us in the Gospel for the day. Perhaps no words have been more often misinterpreted and misapplied.

Consider for a few moments the circumstances which prompted them. They form our Lord's answer to a malicious question, put by enemies, put for the very purpose of entrapping Him. Herod was then King of Judea – not as an independent monarch, but by right of Tiberius Cæsar, the proud Emperor of Rome, to whom the Jews had to pay tribute.

The Pharisees were the powerful and popular party, altogether opposed to the Herodian rule. The Herodians were a small party, who supported the claims of Herod doubtless with an eye for favours to come. Both parties came to our Lord, as He was teaching, with this question, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?" A difficult question, for Cæsar was not on the side of Christ. Moreover, he was a pagan, who did not acknowledge God; he was the enemy of the Jews. Here was a question asking if it was right for a nation, whose God was Jehovah, to acknowledge the rule of a heathen tyrant. Moreover, it was a direct question, which demanded a direct answer – a "Yes" or a "No". Is it lawful, or is it not? Now, if Christ had simply answered, "Yes", His popularity and His influence with the people would have been gone. If He had answered "No", it would have been rebellion against Cæsar, and His life would not have been worth a day's purchase. He calls for a penny, the little silver coin on which Cæsar's stern features were portrayed and name stamped. "Whose is this image and superscription?" He asks. They answer, "Cæsar's." He then replies to their crafty question in the memorable words of our text, "Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Just as if our Lord had said: "You acknowledge the sovereignty of Cæsar by using the coin which his bears his image; how can you refuse him tribute? But whilst you pay back to Cæsar what you acknowledge to be his, don't forget to render to Jehovah what is His, namely, the soul, stamped with His image; the life, which is His gift!"
[ Footnote – See David's words, 1 Chron. xxix, 10-14; also those of St. Paul, Rom. xii, 1, and 1 Cor, vi, 19, 20. ]

Let us now leave the history in order to consider the importance of the principles here laid down by our Lord. I desire this morning to impress upon all present that these principles are divine, and of universal application. They are, indeed, fundamental principles of the Gospel. Cæsar represents the State. The duties which I, as a man, owe to Cæsar, and those which I owe to my Father, God, are not antagonistic. If they were, life would not be worth the living! Our Lord did not intend to teach men to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the duty they owe to God and the duty they owe to the temporal power. The two principles of our text are not isolated, nor opposed the one to the other, as some have said, but they are mutual, united, interdependent. It is of the greatest importance that we should remember this, inasmuch as loyal adherence to these divine principles lies at the very foundation of all national stability and of all social progress.

This twofold principle of action, so clearly indicated by the text, is very fully illustrated by other parts of Scripture. What says St. Paul, who himself, as a Christian, personally appealed to Cæsar? "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."
[ FootnoteRom. xiii, 1, 7. ]

And St. Peter? "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king."
[ Footnote1 Peter ii, 17 ]

Our Blessed Lord declared the same thing when He summed up the moral commandments – the whole duty of man – in that twofold and wonderfully comprehensive law of love to God and love to man.
[ FootnoteMatt. xxii, 36-40. ]

The same principle is silently declared on the coins which we daily use. Do not they tell us that the Sovereign of these realms rules by the grace of God? By the providence of God, in the course of history, our gracious Queen has been called to the throne she now occupies. "By Me kings reign, and princes decree justice." I trust, brethren, I have said sufficient to show that the principles laid down in our text are not antagonistic, but mutual. Also, that they are divine laws, binding upon us who live to-day. The laws of Christianity are for the guidance of everyday life in matters both secular and religious.

Whilst speaking thus, I am quite aware of the difficulties which cluster around our present subject. There are exceptions to every rule. We had an example last Sunday in the Lesson,* which told us how Daniel refused to obey the king's decree which commanded him to stop praying to Jehovah.
[ * FootnoteDaniel, vi. ]

There is another example in Peter and his fellow Apostles, who refused to conform to the order of the Jewish Council, which commanded them not to preach Jesus. This defiance of human law was in each case justifiable, because such law was directly opposed to the divine law. And here the eternal principle comes in as our infallible guide in every case where human law clashes with or is opposed to divine law. "We ought to obey God rather than men."
[ FootnoteActs iv, 17-20; v, 28, 29. ]

All really noble action, all enduring work, springs from this great principle of constantly acknowledging the sovereignty and supremacy of One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

But, before leaving this subject, I desire to say a few words concerning its practical bearings upon the age in which our lot is cast. The difficulties of the present age are many. Its social problems are great and complicated. "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's." Cæsar, the ruling power, not only governs the State, but represents the State, speaks and acts in its name. If we respect the ruler, we shall respect the subjects. If we have goodwill towards the one, we shall have deep concern for the moral welfare and social happiness of the other.

Now, am not I right in saying that no thoughtful person is satisfied with the present condition of things? Every man who has an eye to see and a heart to feel – be he politician, philosopher, or preacher – knows well that things in this our land are not what they ought to be. Evil forces are at work on all sides. There is a deep social unrest, a festering cancer of discontent, and a deliberate disregard of lawful authority, which threaten not only to disturb the peace, but also to undermine the greatness and discredit the character of this England of ours. Around us are many – rich and poor alike – who are utterly disqualified – morally disqualified – to exercise the privileges which have been entrusted to them by the State. We have amidst us a vast army of spendthrifts, idlers, drunkards, and moral wrecks. These fail to answer the great end of their existence. Nay, they are curses to the people amid whom they dwell – dead weights which impede the moral, social, and spiritual progress of the nation. Alas, they will neither help themselves nor allow others to help them.

In this Christian England of ours there is more crime, more pauperism, more intemperance, more Sabbath desecration, more miserable homes, more discontent, more real poverty, than most of us suspect. No observant man will charge me with pessimism for speaking thus.

What is the remedy, we ask, for these social evils? The answer is, an honest performance of the principles of our text. As one who for the last ten years has been in almost daily contact with the poorer working classes, I have no hesitation in saying that if our working men would render both to Cæsar and to God the things which are due, or, in other words, cease to be slaves to strong drink and betting, work honestly, think for themselves, and, above all, give earnest heed to those great questions which concern the soul and eternity, there would be very little real poverty, very little discontent, very little complaining in our streets.

Moreover, we are faced with another fact. We are sitting under what has been called "the shadow of our civilization." Too many around us – wholly absorbed in selfish pursuits – are making a god of gold, and forgetting to render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's.

Are not there in this England of ours, yea, in this great town of ours, the sharpest contrasts between abundant riches and extravagant expenditure on the one hand, and deepest poverty and abject want on the other? Such a picture cannot be said to indicate, in any true sense, national prosperity.

Now, without listening for a moment to the wild dreams of that Socialism which declares that it is a sin to be rich, and which demands the same property for all, I have no hesitation in saying that the ever-widening gulf between class and class – the lack of the old friendly relationship between master and servant – the want of larger sympathy between rich and poor, lie at the root of much of the social unrest and moral torpor which is seen around us. I do not forget the many grand exceptions. Thank God for a Shaftesbury, a George Peabody, a George Moore, and a Samuel Morley! These are types of many noble men who live to-day, and who are using their position and talents and wealth as stewards of God, and so rendering "unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

Still, what I have said is true of great numbers. Too many who are privileged with position, influence, and wealth, forget their obligations. Are not there employers of labour who look upon their workmen as mere pieces of machinery, "which, when used up and worn out, must be replaced by new ones!" Are not there masters who speak to their men as if they were dogs, and mistresses who forget that their domestic servants are women, of the same flesh and blood as themselves! All such know little of the joy of practising the Apostolic precept, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." All such have yet to learn the lesson of our text, "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

Brethren, let me, in conclusion, in the Name of my Master, Christ, who pleased not Himself, commend the principles of my text to everyone present. We have here a call to action. We believe in God. In Him we live, move, and have our being. All we possess – life, strength, talents, influence, wealth – are His gifts. We are no advocates of a dead creed, however orthodox. We plead for a religion which is a power in daily life, making it pure, unselfish, noble, and useful. We desire to leave the world better and brighter than we found it.

"Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee."

Both in Church and State, in our National Parliament, in our local Councils, in our public offices, in the pulpits of our churches, we want MEN. Men, not creatures of circumstance who hang out their cloaks to the winds of expediency, but men of upright principle; men of pure and unselfish heart; men who will trust in God and do the right; men who will "render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's."

To you, brethren, who are members of the Corporation, an honourable and responsible position has been assigned. Your office is to be used, not for private ends, but for the common good of your fellow-townsmen. As public men – as members of Cæsar's household – your words and actions, both in public and private life, should be above suspicion. For you we pray this morning. We pray that your discussions in the Council Chamber during the coming year may be guided by wisdom and discretion, and that all your endeavours to further the health, happiness, and prosperity of this our great town may be crowned with abundant success.

Brethren, we are all stewards. Ere long, every one of us, preacher and hearer, will be called upon to give an account of his stewardship. Our talent or talents, lent for a while, will have to be accounted for; our seals of office delivered up to the King of Kings. Oh, for grace to use them rightly now, and to keep them untarnished! So shall the Royal Master's welcome to eternal honours be ours: "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

May not I fitly conclude with the words of the old Jewish prophet, read in your hearing in the first lesson for this morning * – words uttered 2,600 years ago – words which have a message for us to-day: "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein."
[ FootnoteHosea xiv, 9. ]

AUTHOR'S NOTE. – This Sermon, prepared at short notice, and published at the request of several who heard it, is printed in the form in which it was preached, without any attempt at revision. A kind critic has suggested that the preacher might have said more as to the duties of workmen and servants. Whilst allowing this, due regard must be had to the constitution of the congregation before whom the sermon was preached. It is unhappily true that wilful neglect of duty and heartless ingratitude on the part of servants to kind-hearted employers are not uncommon. Brighter days would speedily dawn were it better understood that the interests of masters and servants are identical; and happier homes be far more common did the working classes generally possess nobler and purer conceptions of work and pleasure. The Gospel of the grace of God, acting upon motive and conduct alike, is the one great power which makes good masters and good servants, and so is an unfailing factor in promoting the increased happiness and prosperity of the nation.

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Beginning of this chapter

or browse the chapter contents and illustrations below

Full Contents


Sheffield in the 'Sixties
The author's reminiscences of 'Old Sheffield' and its inhabitants.


The Church in Sheffield, 1866-1916
Brief history of the church in Sheffield and its development, timetable of subjects and tutors from an Educational Institute Class List of 1866, clergy names, benefactors, details of churches/parishes, etc — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.


Memories of St. Simon's, 1877-1888
Details of this parish in one of the most densely-populated areas of Sheffield, anecdotes, names, etc.


Christ Church, Heeley, 1888-1916
History, descriptions and anecdotes of Heeley before it became developed, names of residents, and a comprehensive account of the author's incumbency, including details of the church extensions, building of the Sunday Schools, fundraising, collections and expenditure, a little about Nonconformists, names of curates/scripture readers/deaconesses/churchwardens etc, and the author's eventual retirement — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.


Heeley and the War
Names of congregation members fallen in the Great War, including one VC (Sgt-Maj J C Raynes, Royal Artillery, with citation given), together with extracts from letters written by servicemen giving accounts of conditions at the front (France, Belgium, Egypt), their experiences in battle, and thoughts of home; also an account from a survivor of the sinking of the hospital ship 'Anglia' in the Channel.


Recollections – Men and Things
Many names and anecdotes of clergy, laymen and others known and befriended during the author's ministry — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.


Books and Travel
Author's favourite reading, details and a bibliography of other published work, and travel.


In Memoriam – Mary Odom
A very personal tribute from the author to his wife, Mary, who died in 1913.


THIS PAGE: "God and Caesar." - a sermon preached at Sheffield, 1887.


"Public Worship – its Methods." A Paper read at the Islington Clerical Meeting, London, 1903.
Text includes the author's observations on the principles established at the time of the Reformation, the dangers of a return to 'mediaevalism', and public worship as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer.

Names of Subscribers
(the names of over 250 subscribers listed alphabetically by surname, of interest to those who may be "ancestor hunting" (in many cases only initials are given, not christian names).
Please note these are only the names of pre-publication subscribers as printed in the book, but many more individuals are mentioned in the text whose names have not been indexed. Throughout this transcript most names have been highlighted in bold at least once (not necessarily if they are repeated). If searching for specific surnames, place names or any other information through the various chapters, make use of the Find or Search facility in your browser while on each page.

Illustrations from the book — click thumbnails for enlargement in a new window
(for chapters and contents, see list above)

Interior of Sheffield Cathedral - click for enlargement

Interior of Sheffield Cathedral Church
(St Peter & St Paul)

Leonard Hedley Burrows, Bishop of Sheffield - click for enlargement

The Bishop of Sheffield, Leonard Hedley Burrows, D.D.,
to whom the book is dedicated

St Simon's Church, Sheffield - click for enlargement

St. Simon's Church, Sheffield (covered in Chapter III)

Exterior of Christ Church, Heeley - click for enlargement

Christ Church, Heeley: exterior
(the author's time at Heeley is covered in Chapter IV)

Interior of Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Heeley Church: Interior

Floor plan of Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Floor plan of Heeley Church,
dating the various extensions

Whit-Monday at Heeley - click for enlargement

Whit-Monday at Heeley
(no date given, but possibly ca. 1916/1917)

Heeley Vicarage - click for enlargement

Heeley Vicarage
The individuals are not named, but could well be Rev and Mrs Odom

Rev. Canon William Odom - click for enlargement

The author,
Rev. Canon William Odom

Memorial Cross, Heeley Churchyard - click for enlargement

Memorial Cross for Mary Odom,
Heeley Churchyard (see Chapter VIII)

Memorial Window, Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Memorial and Commemoration Window, Heeley Church

Dedication - click for enlargement

This copy of the book includes a handwritten dedication
from the author to the Bishop of Sheffield, 1917

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