5 What Is Intended By Looking Into The Perfect Law Of Liberty
We live in a day when speculative and superficial religion abounds to a great degree. It would be considered an insult to call any one an irreligious man. Almost all hands are engaged in holding up what they call religion; but among the vast crowds that are engaged in this work, it is to be feared the number is but small who are able to give an answer to any one that should ask them of the reason of their hope, or, in other words, who have looked into the perfect law of liberty. I have often observed, that even ministers, whose abilities are far from being contemptible as men, and who are considered preachers of the first rank, are fully satisfied with looking round the gospel rather than into it. You may hear them preach, and not be able to say they have uttered falsehoods, but, at the same time, the truths they have delivered have been in such a superficial way, as to be calculated to lead the mind to suppose they are but mere circumstantial matters, and of no importance whatever. In fact, you may find the sublimest doctrines of the gospel treated with contempt even by men who profess to believe them, not only from the pulpit but from the press; and in so doing, I consider that it is left on record as a lasting badge of disgrace to their characters.
But, our text speaks of looking into the law of liberty. Paul says, it is a good thing to have the heart established with grace; and the Master of the house says, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, Lo here, or Lo there; for the kingdom of God is within you. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But if the truth is to make Zion free, what an insult must it be to call the glorious doctrines of the truth mere circumstantials and metaphysical speculations’. I repeat it again, that whoever can treat the truths of God with such irreverence and contempt, give a sad evidence that they have never been brought, by the power of the Holy Ghost, to look into it.
There is no branch of the truth of the gospel but what, in some way or other, is suited to the cases of the saints, at one time or other; and just as we are brought to feel the necessity, and to enjoy the suitableness and sweetness of the truth in our own minds, so we are enabled to look into the truth, and just in such proportion shall we delight in it, and firmly abide by it; for we do not, in this case, receive the truths as a matter of option or speculation, but as a matter of necessity: and we feel ourselves as much necessitated to receive the gospel as Paul was to preach it; for we are brought to know, by heart-felt experience, that it must be so, or “woe be unto us.” We have no ground for hope, if the case be any way else than just as it is. Thus our experience is brought to the test of God’s word, and we are enabled to see and to feel that the truths which the gospel contains are put into our hearts, and just suit our case, so that we are witnesses for God, and can testify, not of what we have merely heard from others, but the things we have known, tasted, handled, and felt, of the word of life. We can witness to its suitableness, power, sweetness, stability, beauty, majesty, and glory. The Christian does not, cannot, rest upon an humbly-conceived gospel. No, Sirs! humble conceptions are but poor cordials to a broken and contrite spirit. The soul that is thirsting for the living God, will never be satisfied with anything short of the truth being brought home to the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost: for the gospel comes to the elect, “not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” (1 Thess 1:5)
But, let us just state in a particular or two, what it is to look into the gospel. Christ is declared to be the propitiation for our sins, and we are said to have redemption through his blood even the forgiveness of sins. But, when may it be said that a poor sinner looks into such a divine truth? When he is brought to know he is a poor, lost, ruined, guilty sinner, and that if his salvation depend on anything he must do, he shall be entirely lost; and when the Holy Ghost applies the blood of Christ to his guilty conscience, and gives him faith in Christ, as the propitiation for his sins, whereby he is enabled to say, “‘He loved me, and gave himself for me,” such a soul is at no loss to know the ground of his peace of mind, nor is he undecided about the possibility or impossibility of a sinner being saved in any other way but through the redemption of Christ. No, he can with the greatest firmness declare, “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” This truth he has proved by experience, and, therefore, he is at a point in the matter; and he can recommend Christ to others who are labouring under bondage and distress, and freely declare that he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him. With David he is ready to say, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul.”
There may be a physician of note, and a man may be afflicted with a dangerous complaint, and some friend may advise him to apply to such a physician, but he can only recommend the physician by report; but another friend comes forward, and, on due inspection, he finds the case of the afflicted to be exactly similar to one that he was once tormented with, and when all hopes of recovery were past, and all others had given him up, and pronounced his case desperate, such a physician took him in hand, and in a very short time perfected a cure. He, therefore, can recommend the physician, not from mere report (like the other), but from experience, for he has proved him and found him skilful; therefore he is at a point in the business. And so it is with the gospel.
Some men talk about Christ, the great Physician, being able to save sinners, because they have heard it so said: but the man who has, through the teachings of the Spirit, looked into the perfect law of liberty, is brought to say with Job, “1 have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.” Such a soul can recommend the Lamb of God to guilty sinners, from a sweet experience of the divine efficacy of his precious blood. Balaam could say, “1 shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh:” and he spake many wonderful things concerning him, but they were all at a distance from himself: but Job could say, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth … whom 1 shall see for myself.”
Real godliness is a personal matter, nor can a vessel of mercy, called by divine grace, be satisfied with anything short of a personal enjoyment of it for himself; or, in other words, nothing short of looking into the perfect law of liberty will satisfy an heir of glory. Servants may be satisfied with being admitted into the court-yard, but the real heir can never be satisfied unless he has admittance into the King’s palace, and into the King’s presence. Formalists may content themselves with knowing the good Shepherd feeds his flock, but sheep will never be satisfied nor content without feeding and resting with them. (Cant 1:7) Hearers of the word only may content themselves with hearing that Christ has provided a rich repast for his spouse, but the spouse will never rest until he takes her to his banqueting-house, and spreads his love as a banner over her, and gives her her fill of the delicious fare, and so stays her with flagons, and comforts her with apples. (Cant 2:4-5) A speculator may gratify his mind with looking over the wall of the King’s garden, and viewing something of the size of the nuts, but nothing less than being in the garden of nuts, and seeing how all goes on, and eating of the fruit, will do for the spouse. (Cant 6:11- 12) So that one looks into, and the other round, the law of liberty.
A real Christian, in his right mind, will never call the sublime doctrine of Election a metaphysical speculation. He has looked into it, seen something of its beauty, and knows that, if this be not a truth, he must inevitably perish; for if God’s love to him is not unconditional, without the least eye to anything done by him, he never would have loved him at all; and if this love can be removed from him by sin, Satan, or the world, it must of necessity be taken away. But when he is enabled to see that Jehovah did, in everlasting love, elect him as a vessel of mercy to eternal glory, and that without the least eye to his worth or worthiness, but merely as an act of his own sovereign grace and good pleasure, he is enabled to rejoice, knowing that his eternal felicity is sure, and that nothing shall be able to separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Such a soul will not say, “God loved me, because I first loved him,” but, “I love him, because he first loved me.”
The righteousness of Christ imputed to the sinner is one precious branch of the perfect law of liberty, and can never be esteemed by a Christian, in his right mind, imputed nonsense: for every real believer is led to see himself as an unclean thing, and all his own righteousnesses as filthy rags; and he could as soon trust Satan for justification as trust his own righteousness. But in this he rejoices, that Christ is the Lord his righteousness; so that, in him he has righteousness and strength. As such, he can draw nigh unto God with a solemn pleasure, knowing that the Father is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; and I am sure the poor believer is well pleased too; for here we have all the righteousness that law or justice can require, or that the sinner can possibly need: nor can it ever be tarnished or lost. And when faith receives this immortal robe, the soul knows something of the meaning of Jehovah, when he says, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”
It is possible for a man to talk of this robe, and never feel the need of it, nor experience its divine glory and power; and such a one may certainly call it a mere circumstantial doctrine; but this will only prove that the most he knows about it is nominal; and that the greatest views he has had of it have only been looking round it. But whosoever is blessed with a faith’s view into it, knows, and is sure, it is a divine truth—a truth of the greatest moment; for it is his only ground of justification before God. And be he who he may that dies at enmity against it, or is not clothed in it, he must of necessity be damned! Hence, it is no trifling matter with the Christian: it is one of the strongholds of his soul, and give it up he cannot. To be found in Christ, and clothed with his righteousness, is the joy and boast of his heart.
In a word, the beauty and glory of the gospel, in all its branches, are only known by experience, and the truth appears increasingly precious as the good Spirit leads us into the spirit of the truth, and as we feel the power of it. There is not a character that Christ sustains, an office he fills, a relationship in which he stands, a blessing that in him dwells, a doctrine of his grace, a promise of his love, an invitation he has given, a precept he enforces on Zion, an ordinance he has instituted, nor a blessing included, in his personal glory and finished work, but what all unite in reflecting the glory of God. And to call any branch thereof a mere circumstantial, must be a high insult to his Majesty; nor can a Christian, in his right mind, who is looking into these things, treat them with such contempt. And if ever, through the power of sin, Satan, and unbelief, the child of God is left so to act, when God is pleased to lead him into the spirit of the truth he has been left to treat with such contempt, he is sure to abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes before the Lord.
I have frequently heard men say. “Though such a doctrine is a truth, I can see but little utility in preaching it. It is rather calculated to settle the mind on the lees, and is not likely to make the believer active in the ways of God.’- But none can be fit judges who have never looked into the truths they thus treat with disdain. A knowledge in the theory puffeth up. God never calls on such speculative gentlemen to witness to the power and the glory of the truth; and yet he has not left himself without witnesses: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.” You know, beloved—I mean you who have experienced the truth of God in your hearts—you know that all your strength to fight against and to conquer the world, flesh, and the devil, is in the cross of Christ; and, as far as the Holy Ghost has led you into the truth, you can testify of its power and glory; nor will you ever father your sins on God’s truth, for you are well aware, that just in proportion as you are enabled to look into the perfect law of liberty, so you sit loose to the world and live unto God. The Lord grant that we may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; and may the blessed Spirit lead us more and more into the truth, that we may not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2), and that we may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things (Tit 2:10), thereby giving proof that there is a sweet reality in looking into the perfect law of liberty; and may we hold fast the faithful word as we have been taught, that we may be able, by sound doctrine, to both exhort and convince the gainsayers: “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision”—or free-willers— “whose mouths must be stopped; who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” (Tit 1:9-11) But, shall Zion be deterred from glorying in the truth, because the world abounds with speculative deceivers? God forbid!
Speculative religion is soon acquired, and soon lost; but the truth which is made manifest in the conscience by the Holy Ghost, is like a nail fastened in a sure place, and is certain to endure to the end. O. Sirs! examine yourselves upon what ground you stand. Do you know anything of the worth of the truth, from a feeling sense of the necessity, suitability, and glory of it? or, is your acquaintance with it only superficial? Recollect, it is not every one that heareth the word, but it is those who look into it, or, in other words, who receive it in the love of it, who are blessed. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. If we are strangers to an experimental acquaintance with the truth, our religion is vain, nor have we ever yet looked into the perfect law of liberty.
We proceed, in the next general head,
 I have lately seen a Circular Letter, written by a Mr. L …. of Leeds, and sanctioned by an Association of Ministers, purely of this cast. The professed intention of this letter is, to treat on the important doctrine of Election. We are there informed, that though this doctrine is a truth, it is only a “metaphysical speculative truth.” Good God! What is man!
I doubt not but my mentioning this will incur the displeasure of the wise and prudent: but I consider a conscience of greater worth than their approbation and applause: and I have a good conscience in declaring that I consider such remarks as the above to be insulting God, and a sad evidence that the author does not believe in the doctrine he professes to vindicate. I am much mistaken, were he to deal honestly, if he would not unite with his brother Lyons, in denying the whole system of divine truth; for I am persuaded Mr. L… never yet looked into the perfect law of liberty, unless men can gather grapes of thorns and figs of thistles. His religion appears to be all on the surface, and he seems, by this cluster of fruits, to be out of “the secret of the Lord, which is with them that fear him.” 1 am not going to say that all the minsister of the said Association are dear brethren to Mr L…; on the contrary, I believe some of them to be men of God, and ministers of Christ. Some of the ministers belonging to this Association, told me with their own lips, that they considered the above letter to be a shameful, miserable piece, and that they were quite ashamed of it: and when I asked them why they did not oppose it, they said they had no opportunity, for the moment it was by one of them proposed to be printed, another Don rose and said. “I second the motion,'” and it was immediately settled, without ever being put to the vote, or allowing anyone to given his thoughts upon it. Something else was instantly brought forward; and so they wrapped it up! But what is it that great men cannot do? This Circular Letter is a specimen of what I call looking round the gospel
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist. John Hazelton wrote of him—
“[Gadsby’s] labours extended to well-nigh every part of the country, and who by his sermons, hymns, and other writings, exerted a wide spiritual influence, and his interest in the poor and needy in Lancashire and elsewhere rendered his public advocacy of their cause of great value. In him we have a man of eminent public spirit, as well as of originality and spiritual force…The first time he preached was in 1798, in an upper room in a yard at Bedworth, from the words, "Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious." His Hymn Book, now so widely known, was first published in 1814, his desire being "to have a selection of hymns free from Arminianism and sound in the faith, that the Church might be edified and God glorified.” He removed to Manchester in 1805, and while over the Church there he travelled over 60,000 miles and preached nearly 12,000 sermons.”