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Pharisees. Those " chief rulers” were not free, whom we find mentioned afterwards, (xii. 42,) who, though perceiving that Jesus was the Christ, “ did not confess him, because of the Pharisees, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. Pilate was not free, when he would gladly have done justice, and released Jesus, but dared not, lest he should offend the people, and be accused before Cæsar. Freedom, is to do what we see it best to do, what we desire to do. But all these desired to declare themselves on the side of Jesus : which yet they could not do, because they were bound by their love of this world, and enslaved by the fear of man.
Well then might the Lord say to these, and such as these, The truth shall make you free. The Gospel affords reasons and motives which both deliver a man from the shackles of worldly care, and raise him above the paltry dread of his fellow creatures. It enables him to act according to the dictates of his own conscience and his reason, to choose the real good, and reject the real evil. The martyr was free even at the stake, when he replied to his executioners, You offer me present ease and present life; but my object is life and happiness eternal : and I can brave a present evil for the sake of an everlasting gain. And so it is in all things. When the truth of the gospel is received into the heart, and made the principle of action, the man becomes free indeed : free to seek his highest good, his real interest, his everlasting advantage. For “ this is the victory which overcometh the world,
even our faith,” our Christian faith ; which enables a man to say, I fear my God, and have no other fear : I serve my God, and own no other master.
Another yoke, by which men are commonly weighed down, and from which the truth as it is in Jesus delivers them, is the FEAR OF DEATH. St. Paul speaks of this as an important result of the Redeemer's mercy : it delivers them, who “through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." It is a bondage, perhaps, which men are unwilling to own, and are hardly conscious of themselves. But it is bondage, to keep out of sight an enemy which must be at last encountered : to know that an event is certain, and yet use every art to exclude it from our thoughts. And how seldom is the fact steadily contemplated, that in a few years, at farthest, we shall be in the grave! Even in illness, how seldom will friends, or nurses, or physicians, acknowledge what yet they believe to be the case; this “ sickness is unto death !” They know that the truth would be unwelcome, and therefore they conceal it.
From this bondage, the truth relieves the Christian. Not by deceiving him, and closing his eyes to what is really formidable; but by opening his eyes to the way of safety. Not by making him careless and indifferent, which in such a case is want of reason ; but by giving him a ground, a solid ground of confidence. The truth is, that “there is no
1 Heb. ii. 15.
condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus:"that he has made a full, perfect, and complete satisfaction for the sins of all that trust in him : that God has covenanted to receive all such, as the “righteous, for whom his “ kingdom is prepared.” The heart of the Christian testifies within him, that this is his trust: he knows “in whom he has believed :" and his life bears outward witness to what his heart thus testifies within ; he walks “ not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Therefore death and judgment, and the world to come, are not strange things to one who knows the truth : things which he never loves to think of, never admits into his mind from choice : but they make, as it were, a constituent part of this present life: and this world, and that which is to come, are as much united in his daily contemplations, as they are in fact connected by the will of the Almighty. And thus THE TRUTH has delivered him from that fear, to which others are continually in bondage. “For the sting of death is sin.” " And the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.'
This is the freedom which the Lord had in view when he said to those Jews which believed in him, Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. This is part of “the glorious liberty of the sons of God;" and accompanies that deliverance from the dominion of sin which is the first achievement and effect of Christian faith.
And how encouraging the promise, ye shall know the truth! Ye shall seek it, and ye shall find it, if ye seek it with your whole heart.
whole heart. Ye shall not
be left to yourselves, but the Spirit shall attend, assist, and direct your inquiry. You may not indeed immediately realize the promise. You may not at once perceive either the extent of your bondage by nature, or the completeness of that deliverance which Christ Jesus has effected for you. But in the end ye shall know it, if ye continue in his word : ye shall know that truth, which he who cannot deceive, selects from other truths which are in the world, and other truths which are in scripture, and describes as THE TRUTH, the one important truth : and that shall make you free.
DISCOURSE CONTINUED. FREEDOM FROM THE YOKE OF SIN CONFERRED UPON THE CHRISTIAN.
John viii. 33–36.
The Jews with whom our Lord was discoursing, and to whom he had given the promise that the truth should make them free, were like all other persons whom Satan holds under his power. They would not acknowledge their state of bondage. They did not feel it. As St. Peter describes them, (2 Ep. ii. 19,)“While they promise liberty to others,
they themselves are the servants of corruption : for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.”
So when they heard the Lord say to those Jews who believed in him, If ye continue in my word, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,
33. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
34. Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
And it is a just saying. Who can be farther from freedom, who more completely in bondage, than the man who despising the laws of God, laws mercifully given to protect us from ruin, indulges his evil passions, and yields to the desires of the flesh and of the mind ? Satan “ leads him captive at his will.” This is often felt and acknowledged: there are seasons when the sensual, and the covetous, and the profane, and the intemperate, confess their misery, and would gladly escape from the net in which they are entangled. But it is impossible : "impossible with man :" the ungodly cannot imitate the faith which they reverence : the covetous cannot forego their opportunity and neglect their treasure : the passionate are overcome with anger : the impure hurried away by temptation : the intemperate must swallow their poison. And is this freedom? or is it the yoke of a most galling bondage ?
“ His servants ye are,