« הקודםהמשך »
Serm.measure, the privilege itself, and are in a kind II. of servitude j so the scripture represents it and
y-l'"~' 'very justly. A liberty to act against reason, and against the principal end of our being, is not worthy of the name, but is a real bondage.
This having been the wretched condition of mankind generally, so far that they were dead in trespasses and fins, overcome of their corruptions, and by them brought into bondage^ it was the glorious design of christianity to recover them to true freedom; so our Saviour himself expreslly declares in the 8th of St. fohn's gospel, 31st and 33d verses: Then said fesus to the yews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye Jhall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. This is the high privilege which by my religion ye mail obtain j if ye firmly believe the truths I have taught you, if you adhere to them constantly, and improve them faithfully, you shall be free. And when they misunderstood his words, apprehending that he referred to an outward servitude to men which they never had been under, he explains himself at the 34th ver. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth fin is the servant of fin; to be freed from that slavery is the truest freedom, which he intended to restore to men j and he adds 36th ver. If the
Son Son thereforeJhall make you free, ye Jhall be freeSEKM. indeed. Thus we are to understand the pro- «• phetic declaration of Isaiah, chap. lxi. which' W^*J our Lord applies to himself, Luke, iv. 18. The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he bath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of fight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Agreeably to which the apostle in my text gives the gospel the excellent character of the law of liberty, as he also doth in the 1st chap, of this epistle, and 25th ver. with the addition of this epithet, the perfect law of liberty j and as this is a very amiable representation and most worthy of our serious attention, I will endeavour in the following discourse, first, to explain it: zdly, I will consider the apostles direction to christians, that they should constantly endeavour to form their whole conduct, by a respect to the future judgment, which will be dispensed according to the gospel, the law of liberty. So speak ye, and so do, as they that Jhall be judged by the law of liberty.
First, To explain this character of the christian religion, that it is a law of liberty. It is evident that it is a law, that is, a reveyelatioa of the will of god to men for the
6erm. direction of their lives, enforced by the faneII. tion of rewards and punishments. Yet our
■""v^condition is not rendered servile by it j for we ought not to imagine that every kind of restraint, and whatever is intended to give a direction to the exercise of these powers, which are the subject of liberty, that I say, every thing of this kind is inconsistent with freedom. We can't in any cafe act without motives, but they do not make us slaves. The brutes are determined by the appearance of sensible good, in which proportionably to the degrees and kind of their perception, they have liberty. The human nature being rational, reason does npj: destroy its freedom, but establish it, and is the rule of it j then only are we indeed free when we conduct ourselves with understanding. Nay, the liberty of the Su-i preme Being, the most perfect of all, is al-• ways exercised with the exactest wisdom and rectitude. Perhaps some imagine that it is a high privilege to act without regard to any motive, and thaf the will mould determine itself with a kind of supremacy independant of reason; but it cannot be, the very frame of our nature does not allow it, that our minds should not be influenced by motives; and whether is he more free who is governed by those of sense merely, or of reason? It is true they are in this respect ahke free^ that they equally act with-?
but constraint j but surely it cannot be difficult Seriæ. to determine whether the liberty of a man or**• a beast be the most valuable, and whether the^^"^ real excellence of that privilege does not always depend oh, and is proportioned to the wisdom with which it is exercised. A man in a fever, or a disturbance of mind from any other outward cause, acts with all the appearance of freedom, and yet no one will fay that he is really freej which must rest on this principle as its foundation, that the exercise of true human liberty depends on the exercise os reason; and still the less reason, the less liberty.
Again, as the creator of all things is infinitely good, he must have bestowed this high prerogative on man, not to make him miserable, but to make him happy. But, if we consider the intire human constitution, it will appear that the use of liberty without reason or against it, tends to misery. We cannot be happy otherwise than in the harmony of our powers and affections $ and if there must be harmony there must be government, a subordination of some to others, because our affections have very different, nay, very opposite tendencies. The man who gives himself wholy up to the direction of his fenses and appetites, will find that the superior faculties
SeRm, make contrary demands; and if those demands «• be not complied with, they give him very
L ~w~"Jgreat uneasiness, the greatest often that the mind is capable of, so that he cannot enjoy his lower pleasures without controul. It is true, that by a customary indulgence to vicious ini clinations, that uneasiness abates j but the peace and the liberty then enjoyed is unnatural,'and rather a real stupidity. Besides, that it is of no certain continuance j when outward gratifications fail, when afflictive events press the mind, or any other inevitable occasions of selfreflection, it comes then with a greater force and more exasperated severity, because conscience has been so long laid asleep, and the tormenting presages of future misery as the penal consequences of sin, are a most painful ingredient in it. On the other hand, when reason and Conscience have their full force in the mind, when the inferior springs of action are subject to them, and controuled by their law, there is an inward security and peace, solids and lasting, and all the uneasiness which arises from the rebellion of the appetites and passions, is over-ballanc'd by the very pleasure of thwarting and denying them. Upon the whole, then, it appears, that the only true liberty suitable to the human nature, worthy to be desired by us, and which tends to our