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THE REVEALED IDEAL OF TRUE LIBERTY.
BY THE REV. JOHN STOCK.
Psalm cxix. 45. To the heart and ear of the Englishman there is music in the very word liberty. And yet how few among our vast population rise to the true conception of freedom. The word of God presents us in one short verse with an exhaustive definition of this blessing: it is seeking God's precepts. “ I will walk at liberty : for I seek thy precepts” (Ps. cxix. 45). Man's freedom is to be found in perfect subjection to God's will. In this paper we propose to illustrate the proposition, that OBEDIENCE TO THE DIVINE LAW IS TRUE LIBERTY.
1. Obedience to God is submission to a rightful and equitable authority. True liberty in a creature does not consist in freedom from all authority. The whole universe is governed by law. This is true of all material worlds and of all intelligent beings. God is a law unto himself, his infinite perfections being the primal types of all goodness. He is above every law except the law of his own holiness, love, and wisdom. But creatures must necessarily receive their laws from God, and find their highest freedom in obeying the Ruler of the universe. Hence the angels and perfected spirits recognise in every action the Divine authority. Heaven is the temple of perfect freedom; but it is also the abode of continuous obedience to God. The acknowledgment of Divine authority is our reasonable service. Our natural ignorance of the consequences of actions proximate and remote, and our inability to grasp all the relations of things, render us necessarily dependent upon Jehovah's guidance; while the infinite holiness, goodness, and wisdom of our God, fit him to be the Lawgiver of his creatures. Hence the power of the inspired appeal, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. xii. 1). See,'too, Rev. xxii. 3, 4; Rev. xxi. 3; Rev. vii. 15–17; Rev. iv. 8–11. Subjection to God, then, is the noblest freedom, because it is obedience to an authority which is infinitely reasonable.
2. Obedience to God frees us from the fatal tyranny of our spiritual enemies. He who does not serve God is the slave of the flesh, the world, and the devil. Now, all authority which is opposed to Jehovah's is hurtful. The man who yields himself up to the service of his depraved inclinations is heaping up to himself materials for future misery. The friendship of the world is enmity with God; and Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. What would be the result if fire were to master the other elements, and were no longer to be restrained by those laws which preserve the harmony of all ? This world would become a universal and all-devouring furnace. And when a man suffers the corrupt tendencies of his nature to rule over his understanding, and conscience, and heart, he becomes a living volcano! He is being self-consumed! He is serving a master whose wages are death. Lawless libertines are the greatest slaves on earth. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Pet. ii. 19). But he who serves God escapes the fatal yoke of iniquity. Sin shall not have the dominion over him, for he is under grace. The Son hath made him free, and he is free indeed. The Lord's own Anointed One hath proclaimed liberty to this captive, and the opening of the prison door to this bound one. In passing under the blessed yoke of Divine law and mercy he escapes the bondage of sin and death.
3. Obedience to God gives full and proper development to all our natural faculties. Liberty may be defined to be, in its subjective aspect, the opportunity for the full, legitimate exercise of all our faculties, both bodily, mental, and moral. Anything which infringes this impairs our liberty. Now, obedience to God affords scope for the proper exercise of all our natural powers. The laws of Heaven are suited to our nature, as much so as are the laws of instinct to the brute creation. They provide for the healthful exertion of all our bodily powers. They promote our physical well-being: " Length of days" is in wisdom's gift. Health is the righteousness of the body, as holiness is the righteousness of the soul. Obedience to God's will, in its application to the whole of our being, is the direct road to longevity. Moreover, it develops the intellect and quickens the reflective powers, " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Ps. cxi. 10). Submission to God's authority wisely regulates both the emotions and affections. It involves the possession of a new heart and a right spirit. It disciplines the conscience and the will. Thus all the energies both of body and of mind are healthfully exercised in obedience to the Divine law. The saint who walks closely with God upon earth, and the seraplı who worships before the throne, though filled with the profoundest reverence for the authority of God, are as much at liberty, as the leviathan when sporting in the mighty deep, or the eagle when nestling in the clefts of the rock !
4. Obedience to God confers true happiness. All creatures are happy in proportion as they obey the laws of their being, and thus legitimately exercise their natural powers. It is so with man. He is blessed only so far as he obeys the laws of his God. Those laws are framed with a view to his felicity. They are an expression of the benevolence of the infinite Jehovah. In summoning man to the proper exercise of his powers they point out to him the path of happiness. The cause of all the misery in the world is, that men violate the laws of their God: the secret of all the blessedness that exists in the universe is to be found in the obedience that is rendered to those laws. Every child of God can say, "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies." Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.' One chief source of the joy of heaven will be found in the perfect submission of all our powers to the guidance of God. There our obedience to the Divine law will be complete and everlasting; hence our felicity will know no interruption or end. When the Christian stands without fault before the throne the last tear will have been wiped away from his face! The 55th of Isaiah begins with a Divine expostulation with those who are seeking for true blessedness apart from God in Christ (ver. 1, 2), and it adds an invitation to hearken diligently unto God, that we may eat that which is good, and that our souls may delight themselves in fatness. Obedience to God is treading in ways of pleasantness and paths of peace. If true liberty is enjoying as much of bliss as our natures are capable of, then obedience to God is true liberty.
5. Obedience to God is cordially chosen by every upright mind. Liberty implies the possession of a power of choice. But every saint freely chooses the path of holy obedience. God worketh in him both to will and to do of his own good pleasure. The psalmist said, “I will walk at liberty : for I seek” (i.e., cordially approve) “ thy precepts." The believer freely obeys the laws of his Creator. He loves the Divine precepts. He would not escape from the yoke of Jehovah's authority if he could. He would not wish one precept blotted out from the statute-book of his Maker. The preferences of his renewed heart and the precepts of holy Scripture agree. He freely chooses what Heaven enjoins.
If the precepts of the Divine law clash with the prevalent dispositions of any man's heart, this proves the depravity of that man's heart. Hence he finds obedience irksome and wearisome. He secretly dislikes the authority which he outwardly respects. He does not walk at large in his obedience. The law is right, but his heart is wrong.
Behold, then, how complete is the freedom of believers in their obedience. The law which they obey, the constitution of their natures, the rule of happiness, and the preferences of their hearts, all agree. The yoke of Divine authority is so admirably adapted to the well-being of their renewed natures, that it is no more felt to be painful or burdensome than is the constant pressure of God's own beautiful atmosphere found to be oppressive to a healthy human body. 6. Obedience to God prepares us for every scene of life through which we have
It prepares us for whatever may befall us. It enables us to bear pros. perity, and keeps us from losing our balance on its giddy heights. It gives us a holy freedom of spirit in trials. Sin and guilt give an additional weight to affliction. If the voice of conscience is heard from within us uttering the hoarse accents of condemnation, while the storm of adversity is raging around us, the anguish of our spirits is increased tenfold. But how different when affliction finds us seeking God's precepts. Then we can walk at liberty, even in the valley of humiliation.
And, oh, how blessedly seeking God's precepts prepares us for the hour of death! The sting of death is sin; but the blood of Jesus, which cleanseth the believer from all sin, in doing so draws the sting of death. Sin gone, death has no sting left. When the conscience is sprinkled with atoning blood, and the life is moulded by a regard to the laws of heaven, death and the grave are stripped of all their horrors. Even amid the gloom of the dark valley the soul can walk at liberty, fearing no evil, but rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. With his dying breath the disciple can say,-
“ Cheerful where'er thy hand shall lead,
The darkest paths I'll tread;
And mingle with the dead.” Here, then, is true liberty, in a path which fits a man for whatever may arise in his mortal history, and for the solemn hour of death.
But this is not the whole of our being. There is an eternity beyond the grave, a heaven and a hell. In seeking God's precepts we are preparing for the life eternal which is in Christ Jesus. The service of Jehovah on earth is the vesti. bule of heaven. It fits us for glory. It is being made meet for the inheritance of saints in light. “The way of the wise is upwards [ever upwards, even in the future state]; to depart from Sheol,[which is downwards[ever downwards, in perdition]” (Prov. xv. 24). In heaven we shall realize the perfection of our Christian liberty in attaining to a spotless and eternal subjection to the Divine will. Every act of obedience on earth is another step in the direction of the pearly gates, and the assembly which has washed its robes and made them white in the blood of the Lanıb !
The subject of this paper affords us a satisfactory test of our characters before God. Do we walk at liberty when we observe Divine commands ? Does the yoke of God sit pleasantly upon our spirits ? In which are we most at home, the service of God or the service of the devil ? Where do we realize our greatest happiness ? That man to whom religion is a burden and a drudgery has no religion of a right kind. If our hearts are right the service of God will be our choice, and in it we shall realize our highest enjoyment. Thus shall we be declared to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and fitted for the enjoyments of heaven, where they rest not day nor night, serving God.
THE STRUGGLE OF THE GREAT HEART.
BY THE REV. W. P. BALFERN. " And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem."-Luke ix. 51.
EVERY phase of human experience is in- Christ, that they often appear to produce teresting, how much more that which is their treasures unconsciously, and the very spiritual and Divine! It is interesting to glory of the whole frequently causes us to see the mind turned towards natural per- overlook the beauty of each part. God's sops and things, and to mark the influence words, however, like his works, must be they exert upon each other, but it is much full of meaning ; and there is a larger more interesting to behold the mind turned page of that golden biography of Divine toward God, and blossoming before him like love wrapped up in this little word steda living tree. The mind then in itself is fastly than we shall ever fully read. We interesting ; beneath Divine culture and are sometimes permitted to see the heart turned towards Christ still more so. How of Christ under the influence of peace, a interesting therefore must the Prince of peace which nothing could disturb; we minds be, the human experience of Him who behold it lying before us like a calm and never sinned! Of the spiritual life of Jesus placid lake, reflecting upon its clear pellucid Christ, his experience as a man, we are not bosom the very peace of infinite and etertold much directly; but its golden veins run nal love; but here we see it heaving bethrough and more or less permeate the neath deep and intense emotion, struggling entire continent of truth, and with instruc- like some great athlete as in mortal comtive beauty and fragrance springs forth bat. What can be the cause of that holy in all the fields of Divine revelation. In- heart's disturbance ? wherefore does it seek cidentally often in the temple of truth, we so to gather up its strength and look upwards have gleams and flashes of it, transient with such ardency of desire ? It is not a glimpses of the perfection of beauty. The slight thing that moves him whose heart curtain of this most holy place is never ever reposed in God, who was so immovable drawn entirely aside : sufficient is told us in love. In the experience of Jesus we to instruct, comfort, correct, cheer, and never witness any mock spiritual heroics ; elevate us, but not enough to enable the we never behold him starting back at a most favoured and gifted to say that the shadow. He never moves under the influentire human glory of the Prince of Peace ence of false perceptions, nor is he disis known. A full and perfect sight of the turbed by ignorant emotions. His experiinterior glory of that" Tabernacle which ence was indeed the offspring of light, the God pitched and not man, is the privi- child of unerring intelligence; a perfect lege of ONE only, to whom it could never knowledge of the work given him to dobecome a common thing.
of his Father's will and of all truth--formed There is something deeply affecting in its vital root. Let us look, therefore, at the perfectly natural, pure, artless, and in- some of the principles which must underlie cidental way in which the evangelist this coniict of Christ, and the stedfastness brings before us this phase of the great sor- of his purpose to go to Jerusalem. row, and uncovers to our view the strug- These words certainly carry the idea gling heart, of our exalted Lord. No parti- ofcalar emphasis is given to it, for, doubt- 1. A purpose-not only in the mind less, his heart ever struggled ; and it steals of Christ, but in the mind of God. The upon us gentle as the dew, with all the entire life of Christ is, indeed, but the unquiet grandeur, magnanimity, and strength folding of a Divine intention--the developof unconscious truth and incorruptible sin- ment and consummation of a Divine decree cerity. Where the whole of a life is great, originating in the mind of the Trinity in no particular part can be selected for espe- unity, having for its object the glory of the cial notice ; where truth and beauty are Divine perfections, and the salvation of a universally diffused, we stay not to examine chosen people. To the extent that a man each distinctive ray; where all the mem- is a wise man, to that extent all that he bers of a family are alike interesting, the does will be the result of purpose and deindividual is lost in the whole. The apos- sign; such a one will not act under the tles were so enriched by the riches of influence of passion or impulse, but will
be guided by a purpose wisely conceived and matured. And this is pre-eminently true of God. Whatever he does he purposed to do. The work especially which he intended to accomplish in Christ, and which had for its object the salvation of his people, was a pre-ordained work, clearly defined in the ancient covenant, and so minute and accurate in all its details, that of our blessed Redeemer it could be written, “and it came to pass, that when he should be listed up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
2. The clear perception which Christ had of the work given him to do. He knew the exact moment when he was to suffer; and what a solemnity this fact, must have given to the life of Christ in bis own apprehension! He knew that each pulse which beat, each step which he took, cach breath which he breathed, were bring. ing him nearer and nearer, not simply to decay, old age, and death, but to the accursed death of the cross, to wrath, shame, suffering, and sorrow, which no mind but his own could ever grasp or fully comprehend. And yet of him, all through his life, it might be said, that calmly and patiently, and with undeviating constancy, “ he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem."
The place, too, where Christ was to be lifted up was well known to him. Jerusalem; not Babylon, not Egypt, not Samaria, but Jerusalem! Not by altogether strange hands was Jesus to die, not by the children of the alien was he to perish, but by the agency of that people who were his own, and of whom he was the lawful king; that people whose fathers he had loved, and visited, and blessed ; that people which he had brought out of Egypt, in whose afflictions he had been afflicted, and whom he had tenderly carried and borne all the days of old; that people whom he liad set apart as his own peculiar treasure, whom he had preserved, and instructed, and chastened, and blessed, through whose prophets he had breathed the sweet music of hope upon an expiring world, given a Divine portraiture of himself, earnests and pledges of his coming advent and faithful and undying love to his redeemed; that people of whom it is written that, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, and who in a certain sense were then his brethren, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, children of Abraham, Can we wonder that it is written that he stedfastly set his face
to go to Jerusalem,--that it is said of him that when he beheld the city he wept, or that when, fainting beneath the weight of his great sorrow, he saw the daughters of Jerusalem weeping, he should say, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children"?
But not only did Chriet know when and where he was to suffer, but also knew what no one but God only could know what he was to suffer. It had been written of Christ that he should bruise the serpent's head, but that the serpent should bruise his heel; that he was to be made a curse ; that he was to be "wounded for our transgressions," to be “ bruised for our iniquities; that "the chastisement of our peace was to be upon him," and that “with his stripes we were to be healed ;
" that "it pleased the Lord to bruise him," to make his soul "an offering for sin.”
In the Pealms, too, his experience in his great sorrow had been portrayed. “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones : they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” Now Christ knew the meaning of all these and kindred declarations; and he knew also his own capacity to endure and suffer in body and soul all that they did mean; he knew that the waters were deep, but he also knew that he could and must find a bottom; that the fire would be heated with a sevenfold fury, but he knew also that he would absorb all its heat in hinself; that his cup would be an unutterably full and bitter one, but he also knew that he could and would drain it dry, and that not a drop of wrath should remain for his people. And hence it is written--and oh the love, oh the pathos of the words!—"And it cameto pass, that wben he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem." And yet “ It came to pass, that when he sbould be received up." In a life of such grandeur it was quite an ordinary affair ; scarcely any knew it, few noticed it, none applauded it; but let us beware ; let us take heed that neither the ignorance