In showing why this law is called the law of liberty, I remark, that liberty stands directly opposed to bondage, and that the gospel is a free proclamation of liberty, complete liberty, to poor, captive, insolvent debtors. By the gospel, poor sinners are made free, in spite of all opposition that can be raised against their freedom, by either sin, law, death, or hell; for the truth shall make them free. Such is the glory and importance of the liberty of the gospel, that, to be made a partaker of it, and to be employed in the important work of proclaiming or preaching it to others who are in distress, is the highest favour that can be conferred upon mortals. This divine employ has been considered a work of the greatest moment, by both the old and new testament saints; as it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” (Is 52:7; Rom 10:15) In fact, such is the importance of the work of proclaiming this liberty, that the author of it himself rejoiced in proclaiming it: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Is 61:1; Lk 4:18-19) The very heart of Christ was in this work, and it was delightful to him to do this part of the Father’s will, as well as it was to complete that salvation by which we are made free. Hear, beloved, with what endearing language this precious Christ addresses poor, sin-burdened, insolvent sinners, who have nothing but guilt and bondage to boast of at best: “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30) Precious language to a weary sinner! Welcome rest, indeed! To be brought to rest in Christ, and repose our weary minds upon him, and to have a hearty welcome to all the blessings of his sympathising heart without money or price, is to be blessed indeed! But, in speaking on this part of the subject, we will, as God shall assist,
1 st. Say a few words on the nature of this liberty.
2dly. Take a short view of the extent of this liberty.
1st. We are, then, to speak on the nature of this liberty. In doing which we will endeavour to show, in the first place, negatively, what the nature of this liberty is not.
You know well, beloved! that we are held up to public view as enemies to good works, and as maintaining a licentious liberty; and it is scarcely possible to find a young stripling in the neighbourhood, who has had the honour of being at some parson- manufactory a few months, but what can find a word, in season or out of season, against what he and his tutor call Antinomianism. If the youth is as fast as a thief when he attempts to describe the work of God in the soul of a sinner, or to set forth the beauty and glory of Christ; if he be at a complete loss here, he can make up the deficiency by throwing out a few darts at the supposed Antinomian, and so obtain the name of a very pious young man, though he has but very slender abilities; and it is truly lamentable that such meet with too much encouragement by men that ought to know better. I have often thought that, before men begin to degrade a sentiment, they ought to be well informed in that sentiment, and perfectly understand it; and if they are not certain of this, they ought to rest quiet till they are, lest they should degrade themselves, rather than the doctrine they oppose. But I feel persuaded, from the works I have read, and the sermons I have heard, on the subject in hand, that the greatest part of the opposers of this doctrine, either do not understand it, or else prostitute their judgment (not to say, do violence to their conscience,) in order to gain their point or popular applause, by holding up their opponent to contempt; a conduct unbecoming the professors of Christ, and which, though it may pass in this world, will not do to appear with before the judgment- seat of Christ. But we will leave them to their own master, and pass on.
The liberty of which we speak, and which the gospel contains, is not a licentious, unholy liberty. No! A liberty of this nature would be complete bondage to a saved sinner: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10) Were any person to say to a child of God, called by divine grace, “Well! you are not under the law, so you are at liberty to live in all the gratification of your fleshly desires, and to enjoy all the pleasures of sin; you are safe, nothing can damn you, for you are not under the law,” such language would fill the mind with a degree of horror, and the soul, fired with a holy zeal, would rise up in just indignation against such a blasphemous reflection cast upon the holy gospel, and the language of the better part would be, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Rom 6:15) Nay, so far is a deliverance from the law from opening a door for ungodliness, that it is the very reverse, and is the very reason the apostle assigns for the contrary. Hence says he, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,”—but why, Paul, shall not sin have dominion?—for “ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom 6:14) And again, “For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin which were by the law (mind that!) did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death; but now we are delivered from the law, that being dead (or being dead to that) wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom 7:5-6) A man who sins that grace may abound, and who lives in the love and practice of ungodliness under a pretence that he is called to liberty, ought to be shunned as you would shun the devil himself; for, be he who he may, he is living at an awful distance from God, and demonstrates himself to be an enemy to the truth. I am not going to say that a child of God cannot be tempted so to act. A temptation is one thing, and the desire of the soul is another. Nor will I pretend to say that there are no characters who live in such an ungodly way. It may be, for what I know, that some few such monsters may be found; but, God knows, I know of no such men, nor do I wish to know them; and if there are any, 1 dare be bold to say, that where you will find one of this class you will find fifty Pharisees who are wrapped up in a false garb by the great votaries of a superior holiness, and these are as far from the kingdom of God as the other. But what has the liberty of the gospel to do with either? God’s called sheep are not of this description, and it is they who are called to liberty, and who live under the influence of the truth. The truth has made them free, and they are free indeed. The language of their hearts is, “I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love.” The liberty of which they boast, is not an unholy liberty, but the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free.
1 have heard men preach, and from what they have said, the gospel might be the most unholy system in the world, calculated for nothing but ungodliness and mischief. “To talk,” say they, “of a believer being entirely dead to, and free from, the law, and under the gospel as a rule of life, is horrid licentiousness, and the broad road of ungodliness.” Now, do not suchlike remarks reflect the greatest dishonour upon the gospel? And is it not degrading Christ, the substance of that gospel, to a level with Satan, the father of lies? Surely it is!
“Blush, mortals, blush! nor let your pride
Prompt you the gospel to deride.”
But whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear, we faithfully declare, God being our witness, that the liberty for which we contend is not a licentious liberty; nor do we contend for it because we delight in sin. No, beloved; we have more dignified views of the holiness of Jehovah, and, through the riches of God’s grace, have higher motives in view than to spend our time in so low and disgraceful an employ as to contend for unholiness. At the same time, we do not consider ourselves accountable for the false constructions which Pharisees put upon the doctrine we preach. Indeed, we should be very sorry to please them, being well aware that the gospel and they stand directly opposed to each other: so that, if the gospel be faithfully preached, they must, of necessity, be offended. In this case we pretend not to bring peace, but a sword. (Matt 10:34) We are bound to declare that those who are no better taught than to believe that to be free from the law of works, and under the law of Christ, is to be at liberty to sin, are still out of “the secret of the Lord,” which is with them that fear him. An unholy liberty can, at the best, boast of no higher an author than Satan, and is not the liberty which the blessed gospel contains; therefore, it is no part of the liberty for which we contend.
I now proceed, in the second place, to show, positively, what the nature of this liberty is.
I rejoice to say, and to feel, that it is a spiritual, holy liberty. It springs from a holy fountain, Jehovah himself; produces holy effects, true godliness; and leads to a holy end, eternal felicity. We have sold ourselves for nought, but Christ, by his own precious blood, has procured our liberty. Hence says the Father, “As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.” (Zech 9:11) Nor is this liberty left upon any uncertain grounds, for “The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Is 35:10) This text is a short description of this liberty; but there is not so much as one unholy shape in all its appearances. Here are, first, the characters who shall be made partakers of this liberty, viz., “the ransomed of the Lord.” Next, we have a declaration made, which is, they “shall return,” that is, from the power of sin, Satan, death, and the law, “and come with songs unto Zion,” the city of the great King, where Jehovah dwells and in which he delights. But they shall come with songs, as prisoners set at liberty, or as insolvent debtors released from their debts. They shall be glad in the Lord, and rejoice in the God of their salvation. They shall hold holy converse with the King of kings, and rejoice in his free favour. Nor is their joy the joy of a hypocrite, which soon perisheth; for “everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness;” but how shall they obtain it? By faith in the finished work of the dear Redeemer, and it shall issue in the complete destruction of every thing painful and distressing; for “sorrow and sighing shall flee away!” Bondage and sorrow stand opposed to this liberty, and, of course, this liberty stands opposed to them; and when it is completed, the whole church will unite in giving glory and honour to Christ, the Author thereof; and with one voice, shall they sing, “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9-10) Every particle of this liberty flows from that fulness which it hath pleased the Father to treasure up in Christ; and wherever it is enjoyed, the soul is humbled in the dust of self-abasement, and wonders at the discriminating grace of the eternal THREE; nor can such a soul ever be entertained or satisfied with anything short of Christ, and him crucified.
“The treasures of which worldlings boast.
Of what kind soever they be.
With Jesus compared, are but dross,
To souls blest with true liberty.”
Holiness is the element in which such a soul lives, and the fountain at which it drinks. If there were no hell, this man would love holiness and pursue it; and the more liberty he enjoys, the more he is in love with the beauties of holiness; beauties, that worldlings are total strangers to. The practice of holiness is not a slave-trade to such a sinner. No, Sirs! It is his delight to be found doing the word of the Lord; nor will he ever be completely satisfied till he awakes up in God’s likeness; for the more he enjoys of God and truth, the more he wants to enjoy. Every fresh glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Christ, which the Lord is pleased to reveal unto him, sharpens his appetite, and makes him long for more. The fact is, he finds no real delight in, nor thirst for, creature goodness or a spurious holiness, which are one and the same thing. It is true holiness in which he delights; for his liberty is the liberty wherewith Christ has made him free. It is no manufacture of his own, nor any other mere man’s. No; it is the liberty of the gospel of God our Saviour; and till it can be proved that Christ has procured an unholy liberty; that the Holy Ghost reveals an unholy liberty in the souls of the elect; that God the Father is delighted with an unholy liberty; that the gospel and the treasures which it contains are an unholy treasure; that unholiness is the joy and boast of the “chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and peculiar people;” and that to live in the practice of ungodliness is the best way of showing forth God’s praises; till this, 1 say, can be proved, we will venture to maintain that the liberty of the gospel is a holy liberty; and proceed,
2dly. To say a few words upon the extent of this liberty. In doing which we will, in the first place, endeavour to show what it is a liberty or freedom from.
It is a liberty from the bondage of sin and Satan. While in a state of nature, we are led captive by the devil, and. fools-like, do his drudgery with a fleshly and sensual delight. Sin is our element, and, in some shape or other, we serve and obey the lusts of the flesh, every breath we draw; for the imaginations of the heart of man are evil, and not only so, but they are only evil, and that continually. It is admitted that some men go to greater lengths in external iniquity and ungodliness than others, but there are no thanks due to self, even for that; for there are no bounds to sin but what the eternal God has fixed; and however fair the outside may be, the carnal mind is enmity against God, and as destitute of holiness as the infernal den. The whole race of man, by nature, is in complete bondage to sin and Satan. It is a solemn truth that ‘”the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14) Observe, it is not the open profligate only, but the natural man, however wise, prudent, and circumspect he may be: for “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they are vain.” (1 Cor 3:20) I say, let the natural man be as externally righteous as he may, though it were Saul of Tarsus, he receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. Nay, he. in his very heart esteems them foolishness; and his not knowing or believing this to be the case, only tends to demonstrate the fact, and proves that he is in such complete bondage to sin, and takes such pleasure in his bondage, that he is not aware that his heart is at enmity against God. In fact, sin can boast of a greater conquest than all the earthy monarchs that ever lived; for, she has conquered not only kingdoms, but every soul in every nation under the heavens; and so complete are her conquests, that she has gained their will and affections, so that they are, to a man, delighted with her service and yield willing obedience to her, till divine grace breaks the yoke and sets the captive free: as it is written, “Wherein, in time past, ye walked according to the course of this word, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in time past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind: and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (See Eph 2:2-3)
It may be asked what the wages of this tyrant are, that all ranks of men, from the king on the throne to the beggar on the dunghill, while in a state of nature, unite in yielding willing obedience thereunto, and this in direct opposition to the law of their Creator and Preserver. Surely, something the most transcendently glorious must be the result of such a practice? No, Sirs! No; strange to tell! the very best wages these dupes can have is, a carnal, sensual (not to say, a devilish) pleasure upon earth; a pleasure accompanied with pains, afflictions, and miseries innumerable; and death, eternal death and damnation in the world to come: for “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23) “The Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (2 Thess 1:1-9) What! and is man so bewitched as to yield obedience to sin, when this is the wage he is to expect?
Truly awful will the day be, when the world shall be in a blaze, and the skies rolled together like a scroll: when showers of almighty wrath will hurry the ungodly down to black despair, to be for ever tormented with the devil and his angels! O gloomy regions! sad state. Who can describe it? And, who can dwell with everlasting burnings? Well, beloved! dismal as the case is, it is what we all deserve; but thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! Adored be grace of a dear Redeemer! for he, even Jesus, has obtained for all his dear people a complete victory over the monster, sin: and the liberty which the gospel contains is a liberty from this malicious and destructive tyrant; and whoever receives the gospel, not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, is sweetly delivered from the bondage of sin and Satan. But then, observe, we are not to expect in this vale of tears to be delivered from the in-being of sin; for this life is a warfare, and the war must be at an end if we had no sin about us. Paul, the greatest champion in divine things that ever adorned the doctrine of God our Saviour, found the flesh lusting against the spirit, and a law in his members warring against the law in his mind (Rom 7:23; Gal 5:17); and David had seen an end of all perfection. I believe, in my very soul, that such men who declare they are perfect in the flesh, and that they have no sin either in or about them, are the greatest enemies to God and truth that the world has in it; and are farther from the kingdom of God than the vilest prostitute in the nation, being raised up of the devil to distress the children of God, and to bolster up Pharisees in a delusive hope. Job says, “If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse” (Job 9:20); and so it will every one whose conscience is sufficiently seared so as to affirm he is perfect. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 4:1; 1:8) Nor are we, while in this vale of tears, completely free from actual transgressions; for, God’s people may, and do fall into sins, which give them grief of soul and pain of mind, under which they often go to God with broken bones, saying, with David, “Heal the bones which thou hast broken; hold thou me up, and 1 shall be safe.” But, say you, if this be the case, what kind of liberty is this? To which I reply.
It is a liberty from the damning consequences of sin: for ‘”Christ was made sin for us, though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor 5:21) All the vengeance of the law of God, due to the elect, fell in tremendous showers upon Christ as the Surety of the better testament: the curse fell upon him that the blessing might fall upon all that believe. (Gal 3:13-14) So that there is no fury in Jehovah against the objects of his everlasting love. (Is 27:4) He is perfectly satisfied with the ransom-price laid down for his sheep, and for ever rests in his love: though all hell should unite to condemn the heir of promise, it will be in vain; for, Jesus has for ever perfected them that were sanctified, or set apart, in eternal love, and that by his once offering up himself, the just for the unjust, sin has lost its prey, and the captive is delivered; God is just, and the justifier of them which believe in Christ.
It is a liberty also from the guilt of sin. A man may sustain his infirmities, but a wounded conscience who can bear? A galled conscience, heavy laden with guilt, and filled with the curse, is the most tremendous burden that can be laid upon a sinner, except black despair; nor is there any cure or relief from this burden, but in the gospel. It is the blood of Christ, and the blood of Christ alone, that can remove guilt from the conscience of a sinner made alive unto God; and there is sufficient efficacy in his precious blood to purge the conscience from guilt and dead works: “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:13-14) When the blood of Christ is applied to the conscience by the power of the Holy Ghost, it is sure to remove guilt, and bring a solid peace, and the sinner will rejoice to sing, “In whom I have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Salvation, brought home to the heart, removes wrath, guilt, and slavish fear, producing a holy calm and a heavenly joy; and the man who was before filled with distraction is now blest with a tender conscience and a joyful heart. The glory of God is revealed, and divine love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us; and this love, like an immortal stream, flows back in holy gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving, to the fountain from whence it came. The fountain is constantly upon the play, and plays immortal peace and love into the soul, and, by faith, the soul plays it back again to its fountain head: so that there is a sweet employ for that soul who lives under the influence of this precious liberty. God, in the riches of his grace, fills the soul with true light; and, in infinite compassion, thus he addresses it: “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” (Is 60:1-2) And this light and glory shine into the soul with such immortal brilliancy, that it is impossible for all the clouds of sin, guilt, and unbelief, to obscure its divine rays, or keep the soul in darkness and distress a moment longer. All delighted with Jesus and his glory, the sinner breaks forth into a song, and thus he sings: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness; as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Is 61:10) But this liberty and freedom from guilt with the beauty and glory connected therewith, can never be obtained by works of righteousness which we can do: it is the free gift of a covenant God, made known unto us by the Holy Ghost; and the blessed gospel is the precious law in which it is revealed, and the heirs of promise, brought to Zion by the Holy Ghost, are the happy recipients thereof: for a stranger intermeddleth not with their joys.
Again. This liberty is a freedom from the love of sin. The monster has lost its once supposed charms, or the soul is sweetly delivered from a relish for them. The new man, the new creature, or the divine nature, abhors sin in all its shapes: the very garments spotted by the flesh are a stench in its nostrils. And though sin may adorn herself in all the beauty of free-will holiness, faith is sure, sooner or later, to detect her pride and hypocrisy, and expose her wretchedness to view: and, with a holy indignation against her hateful nature, the Christian will cry, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24) Such a soul can, in reality, say, “What I hate, that do I.” (verse 15) But the believer is not always able to say, “Now if I do that which I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (verse 20), though this is his privilege; nor is it in the least calculated to make him love sin any the better, but to hate it the more, as a lurking thief which is always upon the watch to rob him of his rest and peace, and to take away his precious jewels; so that he feels an immortal hatred to the old man and all his knavish tricks and deeds. But this springs not from self, but from the law of liberty: “For when ye were the servants of sin ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.” “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom 6:20-22) Observe, the passage does not read, having made yourselves free, but “being made free;” and it is Christ which makes us free. Paul could say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” There is not a particle of liberty from the love of sin, as sin in its own nature, but by the grace of God: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Tit 2:11-13) Wherever sin appears delicious, and the soul is in love with it, that soul is a stranger to the enjoyment of gospel liberty.
Again. This liberty is a freedom from the reigning power of sin: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Wherever sin reigns, that man is the servant of sin: for “his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.” (Rom 6:16) In vain we talk of a living faith, while we are slaves to our lusts: for, “faith without works is dead.” There is not a man in the world but what can give proof of the existence of the old man of sin; but the believer has “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:10), and, as such, he is to let his light shine before men; and to show, out of a good conversation, his works with meekness and fear; and his conversation is to be such as becometh the gospel of Christ. (Js 3:13; Phil 1:27) But if we are slaves to sin, and are fulfilling the desires of our fleshly mind, what evidence do we give of our Christianity? Truly, none at all! We may deceive ourselves, but be assured of this, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor 13:5) And, to a certainty, if Christ be in you, sin does not reign: for he has dethroned this haughty tyrant; and, in rich mercy, has taken possession of the throne himself. His kingdom is set up within you, and there he sways his righteous sceptre.
A true Christian is the temple of the Holy Ghost; God dwells in him and he dwells in God; and it is his delight to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, whose service is sweet indeed! But whosoever is under the reigning power of sin, and flatters himself that he is an heir of glory, he is deceiving his own soul, and reproaching the cause of Christ. Though he may boast of liberty, he is still a slave in bondage and chains, and shut up in unbelief. However orthodox he may be, orthodoxy will do him no good in the tempest of God’s displeasure.
I am well aware that some poor tempted child of God will be ready to say, “If this be the case, it is all over with me, for I am such a poor, bewildered, tossed-about creature, almost overcome with every trifle, unable to withstand the least temptation, and too often fall into some snare, that though I may appear to others to walk very circumspectly, God only knows what I feel within; and it is these internal falls that distress my mind, and lead me to conclude that sin does reign in me; for if grace reigned, surely I should never feel as I do.” But stop, beloved! do not make up your mind too hastily. There is a material difference between sin reigning and wanting to reign. It is no uncommon matter for a conquered enemy to rage, and even to swear what he will do: but this is no proof that he reigns. It is only a proof that he wishes so to do. You know that it is the opinion of many that Bonaparte wanted to reign over Great Britain; and they suppose that, in order to accomplish this end, he kept the world in confusion many years. Now, admitting this to be his motive, you may easily perceive that wanting to reign and reigning are very different things; for, with all the confusion that is on the earth, he is not upon the British throne, nor ever will be. ‘True!” say you, “but then I have often fallen by the power of sin, and that gives full proof that sin reigns in me, does it not?” Not it, indeed! Suppose that you had been an apprentice, and that, when your time was out, you claimed your liberty, and your master was unwilling to part with you; nevertheless, your liberty you demanded, and your liberty you took. Well! this stirred up the enmity of your old master, and he was determined to watch every opportunity to do you an injury: and, of course, on some dark night, when you were not aware of either him or his designs, the rascal came up to you, gave you a dreadful blow and knocked you down, and very evilly treated you. Would this prove he reigned over you? Surely not! It is true that it would prove him a villain, and show that he wanted to reign! And so it is with sin. Once ye were the servants of sin, but now, through the riches of God’s grace, ye are made free: but sin will often try for the throne again, and the father of it is always on the watch to catch poor pilgrims off their guard, and never loses time nor pains to bring them into bondage; and often in a dark night, ere they are aware, he knocks them down; but this does not prove that either sin or Satan reigns, but it proves them both to be right-down vicious and infernal thieves, enemies to the government of Christ and the peace and liberty of the saints, and should teach us to be on our watch-tower, and to watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation. Nor should we cast away our confidence on such occasions; for if Satan can once persuade us to call in question our interest in Christ, and so get us into Doubling- Castle, he will send forth his arrows like hailstones, and threatens to devour us every moment. But, beloved! let us not despair, for, though the battle seems hard, sin and Satan are conquered enemies: and, when they have done their best and worst, we shall sing “Victory,” through him that hath loved us: for more are they that are in us and for us, than they that are against us. Come, poor tempted souls! trust in the Lord, and ye shall never be confounded. God help you to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and in the power of his might; that ye may be able to stand, and having done all to stand. May you never dare to face the enemy in your own strength, for if you do, you are sure to smart for your folly. But, with Jesus in view, you have no cause to fear all that hell and sin can do: for reign they do not, reign they cannot; though fight they do, and fight they will.
It is the Christian’s privilege to look unto Jesus, and to trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass. Deliverance is sure to all that call upon the name of the Lord. (Joel 2:32) Jesus hath led captivity captive. Though sin and Satan rage, they can but rage, for they are conquered and dethroned; and grace reigns through righteousness. But a conquered enemy has strength sufficient to make such poor sinners as you and I smart and fear too, when we turn our back on our Captain, or run away from our strongholds; for we have neither wisdom, strength, nor safety, but in Christ. Our help is entirely in the Lord, and, with Christ in view, we, by faith, may venture to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me;” or with David, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall he be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have 1 desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me.” (Ps 27:1-5) Here rests our safety; and as long as Jehovah is the Prince of Peace, the King of the saints, and the Captain of his people’s salvation, sin shall not have dominion over them: for ‘”as sin hath reigned unto death, even so shall grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 5:21) But, there is no destruction to the dominion of sin, only through the gospel: for, it is the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation; and just in proportion as we are enabled, by the good Spirit, to live in the sweet enjoyment of this divine gospel, so we shall find sin defeated in all its base attempts to bring us into captivity and bondage; and so, in proportion, will the soul rise superior to all the beggarly things of time and sense, and live unto him who loved us and gave himself for us.
Again. This liberty shall, in the issue, be a complete freedom from the in-being of sin, and from sin in all its shapes and forms. For sentence of death is already passed upon it; and, in the strictest sense, it is crucified with Christ, that the whole body of it might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Its complete destruction is sure. (Rom 6:6-23) For “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.” In this vale of tears we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. The blessed Spirit, by his divine influence, assures the heirs of glory of their everlasting salvation, bearing witness with their spirits that they are the sons of God: and this Spirit, and his sealing power, is given to the saints as the sure pledge or earnest of their everlasting inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession. (Eph 1:13-14) By and by the whole elect shall be completely delivered from the bondage of corruption. Sin shall have completely lost its prey, and the whole family of heaven be for ever with the Lord. And as sure as the Spirit is given as an earnest of the inheritance, so sure shall we possess the inheritance itself; for the Lord will not, he cannot, deceive us; his love is too great, and his faithfulness too dear to himself, ever to suffer the word which is gone out of his mouth to fail. A few more struggles with sin and Satan, and the warfare is over! sin shall no more annoy our peace or produce one sigh in the breast. We shall be free, everlastingly free, from all its power and influence: and I am sure we shall feel a divine pleasure in attributing all the glory to the riches of Jehovah’s unmerited grace and free favour, as revealed in the gospel, or law of liberty.
Again. This liberty is a liberty from the law of works. There are many fine distinctions made by men of wit and learning, and I believe by some godly men too, between the law as a covenant of works and as a rule of life; but as I am not able to make such distinctions, nor yet to comprehend them when made ready to my hand, I shall content myself in this place, and upon this subject, with the plain declaration of God’s word, and leave fine-spun and far-fetched distinctions to those who are better able to understand them than myself. Nor shall I take up much time on this part of the subject, it being my design to do little more than mention a few passages of holy writ, which relate directly to the point; and the first I shall bring forward is in Rom 7:4-6: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead,” or being dead to that, ‘”wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Now, from this part of God’s word, we learn that the believer is delivered from, and dead to, the law, and that the law hath no dominion over him. The whole of this deliverance is by the body of Christ, who is the substance of the blessed gospel; and, of course, the blessed gospel contains a complete deliverance from the law. In what sense we can be under a law to which we are dead, and from which we are free, it having no dominion over us, I am not able to say. In Romans 8:1-2, the apostle declares, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” From this we learn that the believer is not under condemnation; and the reason assigned for it is, that ”the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, hath made him free from the law of sin and death.” By the law of sin and death, I understand the law of works: not that the law is sin, nor does the text say. the law, sin, but the law of sin—the law under which sinners are, and which was made for them: “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners.” &c. (1 Tim 1:9) This law condemns for sin, and cannot clear the guilty; and, through the corruption of the carnal mind, it makes sin abound, and works in the mind all manner of concupiscence. (Rom. 7:8-13.) It is called the law of death, because the letter killeth; for, when the commandment comes, sin revives, and the sinner dies. From this law the Christian is made free, which is the reason he is not under condemnation; and the gospel, which is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, being revealed in his soul by the Holy Ghost, is that which makes him free: therefore this liberty is a liberty from the law. Again: “But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” (Gal 5:18) If ye be led by the Spirit to Christ, the substance and glory of the gospel; for the Spirit’s work is to lead to Christ, and glorify him; and he who is led by the Spirit to Christ for life and salvation, for righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, is not under the law. In fact, such a man is a righteous man, and the law is not made for a righteous man. (1 Tim 1:9) Many more passages might be produced to prove that the believer is delivered from the law; but these shall suffice for the present; for from them we learn that the law is not made for a righteous man, that he is free from, and dead to it, and not under it; that it hath no dominion over him; and that this liberty is through Christ the sum and substance of the gospel.
I have lately seen a three-shilling pamphlet, designed to prove the believer to be under the law, as a perfect rule of life; in which the author (like a many more beside him) lays as a foundation for this wonderful edifice, 1 Jn 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
But whether the good man has consulted the connection or not, I am unable to say: or whether he would consider it ”bungling wit” so to do, is not for me to determine; but whatever view he may entertain of me, I will just try the connection by the very rule which he himself has laid down, and leave him, and such who have the same views as himself, to make the matter straight. His argument is, ‘if whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, and all saints be sinners, then all saints must be in some sense under the authority of the law; but whosoever committeth sin does transgress the law, and all saints are sinners; therefore all saints must be under the authority of the law.”
Now, at first view, this seems vastly straight, but when we try the connection by the same rule, we shall make very queer creatures of the saints. Let us try verse 6 by the same rule: If whosoever abideth in him sinneth not, and all saints abide in him. then all saints do not sin; but whosoever abideth in him sinneth not, and all saints do abide in him, therefore, all saints do not sin.
Thus you see that, by this rule of reasoning, we have got the saints to sinless perfection; and, of course, this author’s argument defeats itself, seeing that, by this rule, saints are not sinners. But, sad to relate! the next part of the verse puts things quite in a different channel again: If whosoever sinneth hath not seen him (Christ), neither known him, and all saints sin; then, all saints have neither seen him, nor known him; but whosoever sinneth hath not seen him nor known him; and all saints do sin, therefore all saints have neither seen him nor known him.
Wonderful indeed! By this rule of reasoning the saints have, in the twinkling of an eye, stepped from sinless perfection to characters that are strangers to Christ. But, let us not despair, beloved! for, by this rule, we shall find them upon their sinless legs again, in verse 7: If he that doeth righteousness is righteous even as he (Christ) is righteous, and all saints do righteousness, then all saints are righteous, even as he is righteous; but he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous, therefore all saints are righteous, even as he is righteous.
Well! now let us try verse 8: If he that committeth sin is of the devil, and all saints commit sin, then, all saints are of the devil; but he that committeth sin is of the devil, and all saints do sin, (Mr S. … himself being witness,) therefore, all saints are of the devil.
Now, you see that the saints, by this rule of arguing, are brought from being like Christ to be of the devil. A sad state, indeed, for a saint to be in! But verse 9 will raise them up to sinless perfection again: If whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, and all saints are born of God, then all saints do not commit sin; but whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, and all saints are born of God, therefore all saints do not commit sin.
Now, is it possible to suppose that a man with his eyes in his head, or one who is aware of what he is about, should argue thus? But into such labyrinths men plunge themselves, when they are determined to maintain a bad cause. But we will leave the subject for the present.
Lastly. This liberty is a liberty from the bondage of death. “Nay,” say you, “that cannot be; for we must all die, except those who are alive when the last trump shall sound, and they shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:52); therefore, believers cannot be delivered from death.” Well! be it so, that believers do die: what of that? Death has lost its sting! and though some of God’s people are, through fear of death, all their life-time subject to bondage, it does not follow that death to them is so tremendous in its own nature as to be the real cause of this fear. No, beloved! nor is it because the gospel does not contain a complete deliverance from the bondage of death. This fear is the offspring of our fleshly mind, and is not derived from the blessed gospel, nor is it any branch of the gospel. Our fallen nature often shudders at death, but the soul, by faith in Jesus and his finished work, can even long for its approach, and embrace it in its arms, triumphing over its power, knowing it has lost its sting; and that, though an enemy, it shall be completely destroyed: for, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:26) Death viewed, in this sense, by faith, can never be seen armed with terror, Christ having endured the whole of that: so that, in the strictest sense, death, to a child of God. can be viewed in no worse a light than a nurse sent by a loving parent to rock a peevish child to sleep; for it certainly puts an end to all the Christian’s carking care and concern. But, in the issue, we shall be raised from this sleep, not with a poor, peevish, corruptible body; for, though this vile body be sown in corruption, it shall be raised in incorruption; though it be sown in dishonour, it shall be raised in glory; though it be sown in weakness, it shall be raised in power; and though it be sown a natural body, it shall be raised a spiritual body. (1 Cor 15:42-44) This very vile body shall be changed and fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ, our living Head. O glorious state! blessed change! Then shall we see as we are seen, and know as we are known; then will our liberty be fully consummated. But from whence doth this liberty flow, and by whom is it brought about? By our dear, immortally dear, God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: “For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil 3:20-21) Ye dear saints of the Most High God! what immortal glory is in reserve for you! In this vale of tears ye live in a poor shattered tabernacle! a weak, disordered body, exposed to evils almost without number! a poor cold clog of clay, which often starves the mind! a vehicle of pains and afflictions, constantly claiming your attention, and drawing your mind to the earth! but, God be praised, immortal liberty is before you, and a faithful God will most assuredly put you in possession of it. O blessed God and Saviour! what hast thou wrought? Fill us with thy blessed self, that we may live more to thee and have our affections more intensely set upon things above, that, with longing expectations, we may be waiting for that blessed period, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, knowing assuredly that then our liberty will be completed; for then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ”Death is swallowed up in victory.” And, O how sweet, how solemn, and how divine will be the song, when the whole church, with one harmonious voice, without one jarring note, will in blazing glory sing, “O Death! where is thy sting? O Grave! where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:54-57) Thus, we see that this liberty is a freedom from the bondage of death: and, in fact, the last passage quoted confirms the whole that has been said upon this head; viz., that this liberty is a freedom from sin, the law, and death; for, observe, “the sting of death is sin;” but this liberty is a freedom from both death and its sting. “And the strength of sin is the law;” but this liberty is a freedom from sin and its strength, viz., the law. So that, through Christ, the blessed substance of the gospel, we obtain a complete victory over, or deliverance from, the whole.
We now come to show, in the second place, what this liberty is a freedom to.
It is an awful truth that sin hath plunged us to a sad distance from God; nor is it in the power of man, by all the human piety he can muster together, to open a way of acceptance with, or access unto, God. Were it possible for one sinner to possess all the piety, meekness, and goodness, that the whole of the fallen race ever had or ever will have (separate from Christ,) it would fall infinitely short of bringing him to God; or of opening a way whereby he could hold holy communion with the eternal Jehovah. Indeed, beloved! I would not give a single farthing for all the goodness that the fallen sons of Adam ever had, have now, or ever will have (separate from Christ,) as a ground of acceptance with, or access unto the Lord; for I am persuaded that we must have a better foundation to stand upon than fallen creatures’ goodness, or we shall be for ever excluded from the smiling presence of the eternal God. You, perhaps, may think that this is saying too much; but, if all the goodness of man be as the flower of the field, which fadeth away (Is 40:6-7); if every man, at his best estate, is altogether vanity (Ps 39:5); if the best of them is as a brier, and the most upright sharper than a thorn hedge (Mic 7:4); if they are all as an unclean thing, and all their righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Is 64:6); if they are all gone out of the way, and are together become unprofitable (Rom 3:12); I say, if this be the case with man and the best of his goodness, what will it avail any poor sinner, supposing he could call it all his own? It could never bring him one step nearer to God, nor even lead him in the way wherein God is accessible. In fact, it would rather clog than clear the guilty conscience; it would rather bar than open a door of access: for, just in proportion as creature-goodness is looked unto or rested upon, so is Christ crucified set at nought, and his finished work trampled under foot.
This leads me to observe, that it is upon gospel-grounds, and gospel-grounds alone, that a sinner can enjoy the liberty of acceptance with, and access unto God, independently of any creature-goodness whatever, as the cause thereof; and upon this ground the vilest sinner may have boldness of access. Thousands and tens of thousands have proved this to be true, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. Come, poor, sin-burdened conscience, hearken diligently to this divine truth, for it is pregnant with true liberty. You are ready to conclude that God must abhor you, because you are so vile, utterly unable to bring one good work to God, or to produce one particle of real holiness: but observe, that to be made accepted is the work of God and not yours: “Wherein he (God) hath made us accepted.” And, ever blessed be his holy name! this is not all; for our acceptance is not in self, but in Christ; for “‘He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. ” It is Jesus, the substance of the gospel, that is the ground of our acceptance; and here we have a firm footing, and a good ground to stand upon; for the Father is always well-pleased with Christ, and the moment the blessed Spirit reveals this precious truth to the conscience, the sinner is well-pleased with him too, and finds a sweet liberty and solid rest; but all rest short of this, is a poor, precarious, and uncertain rest, and is sure to let the soul sink in a storm. But this acceptance is so pure! so sure! so stable! and so divine in its own nature! that it is to the praise of the glory of God’s grace (Eph 1:6); and of course, to seek acceptance any other way, must be insulting the grace of God, and pouring the utmost contempt upon the liberty of the gospel. “And ye are complete in him,” (Christ,) is the language of eternal truth. (Col 2:10) Ye poor, disconsolate souls! what can ye want, what can ye need more? Is there not enough in Christ to satisfy your mind? can completion in him be deficient? And. can a poor puny worm make up the deficiency? God forbid! Here is a completion which can never be marred by all the powers of earth and hell! Come, then, beloved! lift up the hands that hang down; for with Christ in view, by faith, ye are free to all the blessings of the gospel of peace, and ye may venture to draw near to the Father of mercies, without fear or distraction, and cry, ‘”Abba, Father;” nor will he disown the relationship or hide his face from you, but will, with divine pleasure, embrace you, and cause you to embrace him with a solemn delight and a holy joy.
Saved sinners know, by blessed experience, something of that freedom which subsists between God and their souls. And, O! how heavenly! how sweet is the employ to unbosom the whole soul to the Lord, to commune with him, and to plead with him as a man pleadeth with his friend! There is, indeed there is, a solid reality in Christian communion with the Father, and in fellowship with the dear Redeemer! Who can describe the liberty and pleasure that are enjoyed, when the soul can take a sweet view of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? The better part is swallowed up in God; and, in such moments, the child of God can sweetly recline his head in the bosom of his dear Lord and Saviour, in whom he views all the perfections of God harmonise in the salvation of his soul. Fie looks, he admires, he loves, he adores, he prays, he praises, yea, he enjoys more than he can express. But one thing he can say, “It is good to be here;” for, here is no mountain of guilt, no fiery law, between the Father and him, to stop his mouth on the one hand, and to cover Jehovah’s face with fury on the other. No; this is done away in Christ, and there is liberty, free liberty, of access unto God. But, from whence comes this liberty? from self? No, no. It is the Son that makes us free. This freedom comes through Christ, and him alone: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom (Christ) we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:1-2) And again: “For through him (Christ) we both (Jew and Gentile believers) have access by one Spirit unto the Father … In whom (Christ) we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (Eph 2:18; 3:12) Now, from these passages of holy writ, it evidently appears that Christ is the way of access to the Father, and that when the Spirit leads the sinner to this dear Saviour, by faith, the sinner can approach with confidence and hold holy communion with the Father of mercies and God of grace. This is a liberty worth prizing; for, here we have a sympathising, divinely rich, infinitely glorious, eternally loving, immutable, and faithful friend! a friend that sticketh closer than a brother; to whom we may venture to unbosom our whole souls: yea, a friend who knoweth the inmost thoughts of our hearts, and never upbraids us for coming too often, making too free, or asking too much. But when, through fear and bondage, the soul is contracted, and scarcely dare ask anything at his hands, for this he doth upbraid, and, at the same time, giveth encourage- ment to be bold and unreserved: “Ye have asked nothing as yet. Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ask, and ye shall receive; open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” As though he had said, “Poor souls! your wants are many, but ye are so slow in asking. Know ye not that I delight in mercy, and delight in the company of souls who need much, and ask much, and expect much? Come, be not so afraid; it is I, a God of truth and grace; yea, your God of truth and grace. Fear ye not, for 1 am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you, I will help you, yea, I wall uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.” Thus does the Lord endear himself to his children by the kindness of his heart: nay, he filleth their mouths with arguments, and their souls with boldness. “Put me in remembrance; and let us plead together” (Is. 43:26), is the language of Jehovah. He draws, and the soul runs; he comforteth, and the soul rejoices; and he applies peace, and the soul experiences a sweet calm.
Secluded from the world and all its charms, the believer, at times, finds a heaven upon earth in pleading with God and in unbosoming the whole heart unto him. Indeed, beloved! to commune with God, is the sweetest employ that a sinner can be engaged in upon earth; and to be blessed with this liberty, is the greatest honour that mortals can possess. But the whole of the nearness unto, and freedom with, the eternal God, that a sinner can possibly enjoy, must be upon gospel ground, for no man can approach absolute Deity and live. Out of Christ his fury must burn, and his indignation must be displayed. Christ is the throne of grace, upon which Jehovah can meet sinners with complacency and delight. The mercy-seat, under the Old Testament dispensation, sets forth this truth in a conspicuous way: “And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee; and there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat.” (Ex 25:21-22) Among the various blessings set forth by this mercy-seat, this is one, viz., it was a meeting-place where Jehovah could meet and commune with sinners, and herein was Jesus, our precious meeting-place, set forth; for all the grace, mercy, love, compassion, and consolation, that flow from the eternal God to Zion, flow from the mercy-seat. Here God unveils his lovely face, and shows himself propitious: here mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other; every perfection of Jehovah goes hand in hand, and all unite to impart real consolation to the troubled breast. But there is no peace for the sinner, no pardon for the guilty, no reconciliation for rebels, but from Jesus the mercy-seat; nor is there any getting near to God and enjoying his lovely presence, but through Christ the way, and the only way, of access; for, no man cometh unto the Father but by him; and whosoever cometh by him, however lost and ruined they may be, he will in nowise cast them out. Here will Jehovah meet with thee, and commune with them. Hence says the Father, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him;” as though he had said, “All grace and truth are by him; for it has pleased me to treasure all the fulness in him.”
Are the Lord’s love and grace towards his people eternal in their nature? where do they shine? In Christ! who hath “saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.” (2 Tim 1:9) Hath he predestinated us to the adoption of children? It is “by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph 1:5) Are we chosen before the foundation of the world? This choice is in Christ: “According as he hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world.” (verse 4) Are we blessed with all spiritual blessings? It is in Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (verse 3) “We are quickened together with Christ, and are raised up together, and are made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ; that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 2:5-7) So, from the whole it appears, that whatever liberty of acceptance with, or access unto God, a believer is blessed with, it must be upon gospel grounds, or through Christ the substance of the gospel. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens; Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16) O beloved! what a foundation for encouragement have poor sinners to approach unto the living God, and to commune with him! God help us to enjoy more of this liberty; and, being blessed with this hope, may our hearts be enlarged, and our mouths be opened, and may we use great plainness of speech (2 Cor 3:12), knowing that the only ground of our access is Christ, in whom the Father is always well pleased.
Again. This liberty is also a freedom to all the precious promises. Does the blessed Bible abound with exceeding great and precious promises? The heirs of promise, called by divine grace, are free to them all. They are a part of the Christian’s portion on earth, and it is the believer’s privilege to live upon them, for they are given unto him. (2 Pet 1:4) The promises of God may well be said to be exceeding great, and exceeding precious; for it is not possible for a vessel of mercy to be brought into any circumstance, however dreadful in its nature, that exceeds the bounds of the promise of God. “I will never leave nor forsake thee” (Heb 13:5), is a promise too boundless in its nature to be out-lived; and the Bible abounds with promises equally as extensive and precious; and they are all Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God the Father. (2 Cor 1:20) “He that spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Indeed, beloved, he has freely given us all things; for “all things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (Rom 8:32; 1 Cor 3:21-23) And “faithful is he who hath promised, who also will do it.” But, we shall speak more largely on the promises of the gospel in the next general head.
Again. This liberty is a freedom to all the names, titles, and characters, by which the eternal God has been pleased to make himself known as the God of his people.
Is he a hiding-place from the wind? Well! it is the privilege of the Christian to say, “Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” (Ps 32:7) Is he a refuge and strength? It is the believer’s privilege not only to say, “God is a refuge in time of trouble,” but, “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore will not I fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea,” &c. (Ps 46:1-3) Is he a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a buckler, the horn of salvation, and a high tower? These things are not recorded in vain, nor for mere speculation; no, but to strengthen the Christian’s faith, and to fire his zeal; for it is his to say, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Ps 18:2) There is a vast difference between saying God is such a glorious Being, and being enabled, by his good Spirit, to lay claim to him as ours. Real religion is a personal matter, and the privileges of the gospel are personally enjoyed; nor can a Christian be satisfied with knowing such things are, but he wants to know them for himself, and not for another. Speculative religion may serve the turn of a dead professor, but the living soul wants food suited to its nature; and such a soul will never be satisfied with hearing that the King has prepared a rich repast, but it is sure to pant for the living streams and immortal food of which it consists; and nothing short of being at the King’s palace, and feasting with the King’s nobles, will satisfy the mind. (Ps 27:4; 84:1-10; 45)
Such is God to his children that, in him, they have all they can possibly need, and they are free to all the blessings contained in, and connected with, the blessed Saviour as Prophet, Priest, and King. In fact, there is not a blessing in God’s house but what is freely given, without money and without price. Jehovah has freely given himself as the portion of his chosen, and what can he withhold? for there can be no blessings but what centre in, and come from him; so that, those who are free to the eternal God himself, must of necessity have a hearty welcome to all the rest. To mention all the blessings to which the church is free, would far exceed the abilities of an angel; but by whatever name, title, or character, Jehovah has been pleased to make himself known, as the God of his people, it is the privilege of a believer, by faith, to claim. Suffice it, therefore, under this head to say, ”The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” (Prov 18:10) He is the portion of his people’s inheritance (Ps 16:5); nor is it arrogance, presumption, or pride, but a privilege, for a believer to say, “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lam 3:24) “Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord, and who know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” (Ps 89:15) And till infinity can be exhausted, their treasure must abide, and their freedom thereunto must for ever endure; for, the Son hath made them free, and they are free indeed: nor will they ever be fully satisfied, till they awake with his likeness. (Ps 17:15)
Lastly. This liberty is a freedom to heaven itself. The child of God does not escape hell, and obtain immortal glory, as a thief that has broken out of prison escapes the gallows, viz., by evading the force of the law: no, beloved! the church enters into the celestial city in holy triumph, and is welcomed in by all the perfections of the eternal Jehovah, with a “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Law and justice have sustained no injury, but quite the reverse; for Christ has, on the behalf of his people, magnified the law and made it honourable; and justice will shine, in all the immortal glory of its infinite nature, in their everlasting glorification.
In this vale of tears we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come; nor shall we be disappointed; for. ”When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” even then he will “come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” (2 Thess 1:7-10) In the Father’s house are many mansions; he is gone to prepare a place for his people; and as sure as he is gone to prepare a place for them, he will come again, and receive them unto himself, that where he is, there they may be also. (Jn 14:2-3) Then shall we see as we are seen, and know as we are known; and, in the issue, these vile bodies shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body, and soul and body be in the full fruition of joy: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we be ever with the Lord.” (l Thess 4:16-17) Sin, guilt, fear, and wrath, can never more molest our peace, nor clouds obstruct our light; for this immortal city unto which we are hastening, and unto which we are free, has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof; and the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it. (Rev 21:23-24) Then shall the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, appear in all her immortal glory and grandeur, be for ever swallowed up in God, and be eternally filled with all the solid pleasures and delights that Infinity can bestow; yet the whole is free, and flows from the everlasting love of God in Christ Jesus. It has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom, and every real believer is a lawful heir unto it; for “if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise;” not heirs merely to an earthy inheritance, but “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”
Come, ye poor, tempted, tried, and tossed children of God! Look forward to the end of your journey! At the most, your time here will be but short. God grant that you may be enabled to live as if this were not your rest! May your affections be in heaven, and set upon things which are above: for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God: When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:2-4) O blessed state! An eternity of immortal felicity, where holiness, unsullied holiness, will for ever dwell, and for ever shine, in all its infinite brilliancy and delights; and where all the inhabitants will, with one divine song, chant forth the praises of God and the Lamb; each one in full possession of indescribable glory, who will find it an eternity of bliss for ever to enjoy and adore the Triune God; not as intruders or transient visitors; no, beloved! but as free-born sons, as heirs to all the boundless felicity that Jehovah can unfold, and immortal spirits can enjoy! What reason have we to blush, and take shame to ourselves, that the poor, paltry things of time and sense should gain so much of our attention, when immortal glory is before us, and the earnest of it is in us! May the good Spirit cause us to live more in the blessed enjoyment of our high privileges, that we may show forth the praises of him who hath called us to glory and virtue. (2 Pet 1:3) A few more disappointments, and we arrive safe at Zion above, where there is immortal light, without the shadow of darkness; eternal life, without even the appearance of death; love, without one spark of ingratitude; joy, without a moment’s sadness; unsullied holiness, without the least spot of sin; and communion with the adorable Jehovah and each other, without a moment’s intermission!
“We now believe, but soon shall view,
The greatest glories God can shew.”
Inbred corruptions, death, guilt, fear, disappointments, sorrow, sadness, coldness, formality, and unbelief, with every other evil, are fled, for ever fled; nor can they once enter the gates of this transparent city. All is immortal glory! There we shall bathe in the full ocean of immutable love, drink full draughts of endless bliss, and live, for ever live, in the full blaze of Jehovah’s glory. There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. And I am sure we shall feel an indescribable pleasure in ascribing all the glory to God and the Lamb, who has made us free, for ever free, to such unmolested and undeserved delights.
O the bliss of endless glory!
May I gaze with longing eyes;
Mount and tell the pleasing story,
With the saints beyond the skies!
Full enjoyment, without sadness!
God’s own glory in a blaze!
Saints and angels view with gladness,
And shall view to endless days.
We now come to the next general head, to show,
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.