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any other gospel than that which he had preached. He tells them that this persuasion came not from him that called them; that a little of that legal leaven would leaven the whole lump; and that they had been called to liberty; but that their liberty was not to be used as an occasion to the flesh, either in seeking fleshly perfection by the works of the law, which is a ground of pride and boasting, or in gratifying the evil desires of the flesh by using liberty as a cloak.
“Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” In handling these words, I will treat,
1. Of bondage.
Christ to be entangled with it a se
cond time. I have no call to say much to the children of God about our natural bondage, for they have all felt it. We are all of us by nature in bondage to sin. Every besetting sin, while in a state of nature, lords it over us; and, whether willing or unwilling, we are slaves and drudges to it. “He that committeth sin is the servant of sin." And none, but God who kept Abimelech from touching Sarah, and Jabez from the grief of evil, can ever deliver us from this tyrant.
We are in bondage under the guilt that we have contracted by sin; which, with shame and confusion, like a chain, binds the soul over to punishment. “He bringeth out those that are bound with chains, but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.”
We are in bondage to the king of terrors. The guilty sinner dreads death because of a future reckoning; he does not care to come to books, to take his trial, or to come to judgment; he knows that death leads to all these, and, therefore, through the fear of death, he is subject to bondage.
He is in bondage to Satan; he rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience; he has possession of them, and takes them captive at his will. And none can deliver from this strong man armed but he that came to destroy the works of the devil.
We are in bondage to the precepts of the moral law; bound to perform perfect obedience to it, under pain of double death: and, knowing that we are sinners, the spirit of legal bondage to fear holds us fast bound to the dread of death, hell, and damnation; and in this state we are shut up under the law until faith comes.
Thus we are prisoners for infinite debts; sin is our strong hold, wrath our dreadful meditation; Satan our accuser and jailer; and justice will never, but by the blood of the covenant, send one prisoner out of the pit, Zech. ix. 11.
Secondly, But God has ordained a release, and proclaimed it; the jubilee trump is sounded; and a surety for debtors is provided. Faith is bestowed by a gracious God, and by the Spirit it is wrought in the soul. Faith eyes the surety and the satisfaction, and sweetly applies the atonement. Release from guilt, and enlargement from the dismal cell and dark regions, are the blessed effects of it; while a feeling sense of God's eternal love in Christ shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, removes all the awful apprehensions of vindictive wrath, casts out fear and torment, and leads and attracts the affections even to the right hand of God himself, where Christ sitteth; which is the soul's freedom of access to God. The conscience is freed from her guilt, the mind is freed from her fear, the heart freed from its native hardness, our thoughts are in harmony, and sweetly satisfied with a Redeemer's fulness, and the tongue is loosed to celebrate the high praises of God; the yoke of a Redeemer becomes easy, his service perfect freedom, his ways pleasantness, and all his paths peace. The root of this glorious matter, the spring of this blessed felicity, is the everlasting love of God the Father, the dying love of the Lord Jesus, and the sweet operations of the Spirit of love felt and enjoyed in the soul. Which leads me,
Thirdly, To consider the fruits of this liberty, which, in a freeborn citizen, in a son of the freewoman, are conspicuous enough. Such an one cannot send away a distressed neighbour, saying,
Come again to morrow, and I will give thee,' when he has plenty by him. The love of God casts out the love of money, the love of the world, and the friendship of it. But he that sees a brother in need, and shuts up his bowels against him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? Not as it did in Zaccheus, when salvation came his house.
This liberty never leads men to countenance or vindicate the propagators of error, nor to undermine the reputation and labours of the faithful. Paul tells the Galatians that this persuasion came not from him that called them, they were bewitched into this. In the eyes of a true-born citizen of Zion a vile person is contemned, but he honours them that fear the Lord.
A person in liberty must be at a certainty about his state; and be sound, settled, and at a point, in the great and fundamental doctrines of the gospel. If his thoughts are not in harmony here, he cannot make straight paths for his feet; there is no judgment in his goings; he stumbles at the word, and is far enough from having his feet in a large
The liberty that springs from divine love does not lead men to pride, to lord it over the sheep, much less over the under shepherds; Charity vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up; nor behaveth itself unseemly. Nor does it lead to licentiousness, nor yet to presumption, much less to be wise above what is written, and to cavil at what they cannot disprove. For unhumbled men, unbroken spirits, unexperienced, and unsavory souls to talk of liberty, is like a whore with a brazen brow contending for modesty.
The liberty of a saint is guarded with a filial fear; which has God's goodness in Christ for its object, keeps the soul from using liberty as a cloak of maliciousness, and from abusing it as an occasion to the flesh.
Liberty, that springs from the oil of joy, will make a man's face to shine. If the saving health of all nations is made known to the sinner, God will be the health of his countenance. A fallen countenance, which is the common index of a guilty conscience, ill becomes an advocate for gospel liberty. Unexperienced and self-condemned men should never sound the jubilee trump of the gospel. Their sound is uncertain, and they themselves are living contradictions. I come now,
Fourthly, To the yoke. Yearly servitude is sometimes in scripture called a yoke. “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour.” The servant is under the master. The master's will is the servant's rule. He works by the command of his master, and expects his hire for his labour; and to this the allusion is in my text. The Galatians were not servants, but sons, and therefore should not take this yoke on their necks. This yoke is the moral law, that the judaizing teachers had