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bours, their companions. Can such be called free? Nicodemus was not free; when, though convinced that Jesus came from God by the mighty works He did, he dared not openly consult Him, but sought Him at night, that he might not offend his brethren the Pharisees. Those 6 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 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.”
i Heb. ii. 15.
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. Ye shall not be left to yourselves, but the Spirit shall attend, assist, and direct your inquiry. You may not, indeed, immediately realise 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.
THE CHILDREN OF GOD DISTINGUISHED FROM THE CHILDREN
JOHN viii. 47.
47. “ He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear
them not, because ye are not of God.”
An awful consideration is involved in these words. There are those who are of God, and those who are not of God: “ children of light,” and “ children of darkness :" “ children of the kingdom,” and “ children of the wicked one." These “ grow up together until the harvest ;" and then each is gathered into his own place : the children of the wicked one are cast into outer darkness, “the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father.”
Of which family do we form a part? This is the truly important question. And two proofs are given in this chapter, by which the truth may be ascertained. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me : for I proceeded and came forth from God. This is the first sign. To see Jesus Christ as the object of reverence and affection, is the first proof of a child of God. The Apostles make it so. Whosoever loveth the Father, loveth also the Son. “ If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha." To the children of this world, He is the object of scorn or enmity. Of scorn, because He bids them renounce things temporal for thing eternal : and of enmity, because He “reproves them of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” But “ to them that believe He is precious,” because He gives them a hope on which they can depend, a foundation on which they may stand secure.
His 11 John v. 1.
2 1 Cor. xvi. 22.
person is precious ; for He was wounded for their transgressions, and bruised for their iniquities. His promises are precious; for He has declared himself à refuge to all the weary and heavy laden : and has engaged that whosoever cometh unto Him, He“ will in no wise cast out.” Let men be once taught of God to see their own weakness, sinfulness, nothingness, and Jesus receives all the love which is due to a deliverer, a protector, a friend, a brother.
The second sign of belonging to God's family is, that we receive his words. He that is of God, heareth God's words. The son does not reject the absent father's message; he studies it, prizes it, desires to fulfil it. “ The words of God are verity and judgment ; all His commandments are true.” But those do not hearken to them, who are not of God. He requires sincerity, purity, integrity, charity, temperance. He declares that without these qualities no one can enter into his kingdom. This must be distasteful to “ the children of disobedience :" they are of their father the devil, and the lusts of that father they wiil do. But they that are of God hear these words with reverence, and their hearts answer to them. They respond to them with their reason and conscience ; they “ delight in the law of God after the inner man :" and if flesh and blood, if the natural and corrupt elements rebel against it, this attaches them still more closely to Him on whose grace they depend, and who " is able to save unto the uttermost.
Inquire then of yourselves, according to these two tests. Do you unite with the Psalmist, when he says, “ How dear are thy counsels unto me, O God ! More to be desired are they than gold ; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.' Do you agree with the Apostle, when he describes the feeling of the Christian towards his Saviour ? " Whom having not seen, ye love ; and in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable.”