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struggle only for the glorious privilege of continuing slaves to those vices. Their present principles have granted them a charter to be wicked. Religion and government would revoke or annul this grant; and consequently every thing they prescribe must be regarded as an encroachment
liberty, if it hath ever so remote a tendency to this end. Thus it appears, that Atheism and anarchy, although they all do not know it, constitute the very essence of that liberty they contend for.
Having thus seen, that such men only are truly free, whom nothing hinders to think and act for their own good; let us now examine whether Christianity, truly such, is not better fitted, than any thing else, to promote and preserve this liberty.
In order to arrive at satisfaction, in this inquiry, it will be necessary to lay aside our vanity and self-conceit, that we may the more clearly see how miserably our minds are enslaved, both by nature and corruption, and an habitual indulgence of our passions, to a wrong bias of thinking, and a still more depraved disposition in acting. Having by this method found, as we certainly shall, that we are the slaves of such prejudices and passions, as tend only to undo us; we are then to consider, what the force of that engine must be, which is able to break and throw off a yoke, tied on us both by nature and habit. This duly considered, we shall quickly perceive, that nothing, but the power of God, working by the spirit of true religion, is equal to so arduous an undertaking. Convinced of this, it will then be our business candidly to examine, whether Christianity, as set forth in the Scriptures, is not the only religion, that can prove itself the gift of God; whether its institutions, its sanctions, and its internal aids of grace, do not bespeak the presence and power of God; and whether, therefore, it is not through this alone, that we can reasonably hope for his assistance, in order to the recovery of true liberty. The time will not permit me at present to shew, how, in every step of this inquiry, if fairly made, the conclusion must always result in favour of Christianity. All I can do, on this occasion, is to press for the inquiry, in full assurance, that, once it is made, it must terminate in a clear conviction of the doctrine I would urge under this head. Let a man who finds, with Socrates and
Plato, the necessity of divine assistance, bring his reason alone to this examination, and he will be so far from meeting with any thing at the entrance, which may seem to require too easy assent, or afterward too great submissions, that we may venture to assure him, he will find every thing calculated to satisfy his judgment, while he inquires, and every thing, once he hath embraced this religion, wisely adapted to the great end of promoting his liberty. He will find, in short, that true Christianity, and true freedom, are but one and the same thing. His Christian faith will bring him under no other governor but God, whom, if we believe Seneca, and a greater than Seneca, right reason, it is liberty to obey. It will give him no other law, than such as he would enact for himself, if he consulted with reason and nature. It will set eternal happiness and misery before him ; and, if neither the love of the former, nor the terror of the latter, can fix his choice, it will promote his liberty of election by the power of the Holy Spirit, balancing the depravity of bis sinful inclinations. And even when all this fails, and he transgresses, it will offer him the benefit of an atonement and pardon, on a sincere repentance. These, and other the like important notices, or gracious overtures, will dilate and enlarge his heart, will rectify and exalt his understanding, and teach him to look up from the wretched vanities that have misled the one, and the detestable pleasures that have enslaved the other, to infinitely greater and better things above. His fears, having taken this upward turn, will be such as true wisdom approves of. His love, and other affections, will acquire a purity and grandeur, suitable to the infinite dignity of the objects they aspire to. Thus, instead of being the despic ble slave of a degenerate nature, miserably imposed on and insulted by every contemptible trifle, he will find himself, not only delivered from servitude, but ennobled, and exalted into a rank of beings superior to that his nature, even when innocent, could have placed him in. »To conclude; he will find himself that happy man, of whom St. Ambrose, with equal propriety and beauty, observes, that, Place him in what circumstances of worldly servitude you will, he is always free; for he it is who is not captivated by lust, who is not bound with the chains of avarice, who is not imprisoned under the dread of accusation, who is not ruftled with things present, nor terrified with things to come.' Philosophy, I own, may speculate in this strain, as well as religion; but let such, as are acquainted with both, judge, whether of the two hath the better grounds whereon to found the prospect of practice. We do not (saith one of the fathers, speaking of his fellow-christians) talk great things, but live them.' This most sensible expression states the real difference, on a fair comparison, between the exemplification of Christian and philosophical principles, when tried in practice. The spirit of the first is a substantial and powerful morality, which rises on the mind, in size and strength, the more it is considered; whereas that of the latter lies in a pretty turn of words, and a certain pomp of expression, which evaporates into nothing, on a close inquiry into its foundation : the philosophical morality being unenforced by proper authority and motives.
That I may not seem to have spoken without authority, give me leave now to remind you, that the imperfect sketch, both of our natural slavery, and Christian liberty, here laid before you, is drawn from the holy Scriptures themselves. The Scripture, saith St. Paul, ‘hath concluded all under sin.' It represents us all as sold under sin, before baptism; as the servants, or slaves, of sin. And, as sin is the transgression of God's law, it tells us, we are liable to death, the wages, or punishment, of sin. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and so death passed upon all ipen, for that all have sinned.' In this deplorable condition did the gospel find us, when Christ was sent to proclaim liberty to the captives, to preach the perfect law of liberty.' whereby we are to be reformed and set free from the yoke of sin itself; and to 'offer up his life a sacrifice for sin,' whereby we are exempted from death, the punishment of sin, and entitled to eternal life, as the free subjects and children of God.' We, being thus ' delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God,' are exhorted to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ bath made us free,' as the most exalted privilege of our new birth-right.
What then? Shall we sin, because we are redeemed both from the rigour and curse of the law ? God forbid. We are so far from being called to a liberty of sinning, that we are made the servants of God, and called to a freedom from sin, in a thorough reformation. We are no longer to be the servants of sin, but of God;' and being now made free from sin, and become the servants of God,' we are 'to have our fruit unto holiness, that the end may be everlasting life.' Although we are free, we are to remember, that our freedom is only that of creatures and subordinate beings. We are to look upon ourselves as free indeed, yet not so as to use our liberty for a cloak of maliciousness; but as the servants of God,' as still dependent on him, who cannot look on iniquity without indignation. We have been called, it is true, unto liberty; only we are not to use our liberty for an occasion to the flesh; for whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. Our Christian liberty is so far from rendering obedience needless, or countenancing sin, that it puts us under infinitely stronger obligations to holiness, than we were before, and that in order to preserve us free ; for what is our freedom, but a freedom from the slavery of sin ? We are to know, that, “ if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth' (that truth, which my text says should make us free from sin) there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing; and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace ?'
Although our liberty is the highest excellence our nature, in its best state, or utmost improvement, can boast of; yet we are never to forget, that we owe all our sin and misery to an abuse of this excellence. We are, therefore, with all possible diligence, to guard against new instances of a like misapplication, now that the restoration of our liberty hath cost so much. And this we are to do the rather, on account of that too natural ambition, which is ever prompting us to wish for greater degrees of liberty, without teaching us to pursue it through the purification of our nature; but, on the contrary, tempting us to extend it, with a view to the gratification of our pride and other lawless passions, with impunity. This is that dangerous lust of liberty, or rather licence, to which we owe the present dissolute cry for freedom of thought and action. There are many
who can brook no restraint, although it is ever so apparently necessary to the recovery or preservation of their true liberty. The winds of their doctrines, or opinions, must for a time, have leave to blow which way they will, and as high as they please, that the waves of their passions may toss and swell. The Divine wisdom, which hath taught us to think more soberly of liberty, tells us, that these men while they promise themselves, and such as listen to them, “liberty, are themselves the servants or slaves of sin.' Although we claim the privilege of thinking freely, as well as them, yet we do it with due deference and submission to God's infinitely better judgment, and are ready to employ his word, his sacraments, and other spiritual weapons of our warfare,'in'casting down'our own. vain imaginations,' or reasonings, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and in bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' Such is our free-thinking, free and unlimited, but by the rules of reason, as to every thing not prejudged by God; but as to such things as he hath pronounced on, absolutely determined by his sentence; and yet not the less free for this; for surely he who thinks freely must think justly, that infinite wisdom cannot err, and that human reason may. And as we thus submit our thoughts, so we make a like voluntary tender of actions, looking only for such a liberty as is consistent with duty, that God's commandments and our freedom may both have scope. Nay, we think, we cannot act freely, if we do not obey his injunctions; for, as we think with David on this subject, so, as far as in us lies, we resolve with him, ' to walk at liberty ; because we seek the precepts of God,' the due observation whereof being necessary to free us from the tyranny of sin, and consequently the most powerful ally of that liberty we aspire to. And whereas, on the other hand, no heart is fit for a thorough active service of God, but such as is free, disengaged, and greatly resolved, so we beseech him to dilate and enlarge our hearts, that we may run the way of his commandments. Thus it is, that we, as Christians, judge of that