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LIBERTY ACCORDING TO CHRIST.
(Translated from the French of G.W-k.) We might be astonished to find the name of the Lord Jesus so often mixed up with certain movements of the day, if the Bible had not itself given to us the answer to the riddle—by teaching us that one of the constant wiles of the enemy consists in seducing man by means of the very words of God.
For what do we read in the early pages of the Bible. “ And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. ii. 15-17). • Now the serpenta was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And He said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. iii. 1-6). And thus it is that sin came into the world, and death by sin.
There is a remarkable passage found also in the Gospel of Luke, chapter iv. 16-20, which has furnished the
& The serpent called devil (or false accuser), and Satan (adversary or enemy). (See Rev. xii. 9).
adversary with the means of practising the same pass as that by which he was in Eden but too successful.
rs And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him" (Luke iv. 16—20).
Just as the serpent formerly used the word of the Creator to ruin man and to estrange him from God, so has Satan availed himself of and still does, in our times, avail himself of the words just cited, relative to the mission of Jesus, in order to mislead into error and to draw aside into evil. He does so by a gloss which substitutes a meaning altogether different from the true one. By this means, which is his common practice, he avails himself of these declarations of scripture to give a colouring to the thought that Jesus is the patron of certain attempts at emancipation, and thus he seeks to give the sanction of the adorable name of Jesus to overt rebellion.b Is not the name of Jesus very convenient for many
of those (whether in their speeches or their writings) who, while still the servants of sin, delude themselves with the fantasy that they are subject to no one; yet they resemble those Jews who pretended that they had never been in bondage, and sought to kill Jesus because He told them that the truth would make them free, and who were so little of one mind with Jesus that they said He had a devil.
The aim of Satan, I repeat, is to mislead men into error as to the true meaning of the liberty which Christ
Þ See the epistle to the Ephesians, chapter ii. ver. 2. • See St. John's Gospel, chapter viii. ver. 31 onward.
came to announce to the captive. I believe that the efforts of the enemy constantly tend to the confounding between that liberty and quite another thing, which the word of God calls lawlessness: in Greek the word is anomia, a word which describes “the state of him who has no law, who knows no law; licentiousness; independence of all authority”; it is often rendered by iniquity. This state of independence, this anomia, or lawlessness, is the sad spurious imitation of the liberty of the Gospel.
The mystery of iniquity was, even in the times of Paul, beginning to show its power, as he says in the second of his epistles to the Thessalonians, chapter ii. ver. 7. In other words, there are eighteen hundred years that, in mystery, iniquity has now been actively at work, and not without too sad success. This lawlessness will end in the manifestation of the wicked
man of sin or lawless one, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, as object of worship, so far as to take his place as God in the temple of God, exalting himself, and saying that he is God. Nevertheless God will again interpose, for the man of sin will be destroyed by the breath of His mouth, and be rendered impotent by the manifestation of the arrival presence
of the Lord. The man of sin, who will pass himself off for God, will be destroyed by the presence of God, whose will it was to become man; the perfect expression of human pride will meet its defeat from the perfect expression of Divine condescension.
The coming or presence of the man of sin “is according to the working of Satan (or adversary) with all power and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might
In Matthew, chapter xxiv. ver. 14, it is said, that the Gospel of the kingdom is to be preached as a witness unto all nations. This evidently does not import that all the nations will bow the knee before Jesus in consequence of the preaching of the Gospel of grace as now proclaimed. He, who expects such a result in this dispensation, makes no count of the wicked one, who will not be destroyed save by the personal coming of Jesus. The object in view is the drawing souls out from among the nations, which go onward not to confess Jesus but to their ruin.
be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusions that they may believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."e
Multitudinous in number, and various in nature, are the results of this lawlessness. Let us endeavour first to see, in some small degree, what it has wrought in that domain of things which pertain to religion; here, especially, has it produced its most subtle and sad fruits. Yet, however specious the form under which they meet us, they cannot remain altogether undiscovered as fruits of lawlessness, at least where there is a spiritual perception, however little it may be in exercise.
The word states that “ the true light” has given to all that receive Him, that is, to all that believe in His name, the power to become sons of God. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John i. 9—13). Many denominations of professing Christians hold the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
The word speaks of a worship in spirit and in truth, (see John iv. 24). Many denominations of professing Christians have liturgies and printed prayers.
e See 2 Thessalonians ii.
f I am far from holding that a prayer written in the spirit cannot be used in the spirit; but I judge that the spirit will not be tied down to the letter, and in order for there to be, in such case, real prayer, it is above all things necessary that he who uses such written prayer does so in the spirit. X child
be able to read words in Greek without understanding their sense ; and we may read poetry without being poets.
And (a question which I take the liberty of putting, en passant), has the child who desires to say something to his father need of a prompter? And, if a written petition were put into his hand would he not be in danger of substituting the form for the reality. If his spirit and heart suggest nothing, and he be silent, does not his very silence give proof of his sincerity and truth ?
The word states that the spirit distributes his gifts to every one severally as he will see 1 Corinthians xii. 2). Almost all denominations of professing Christians make the exercise of these gifts in their midst to depend upon certain conditions, e.g. on a presupposed university education, and they, in their wisdom, predestinate such and such individuals to the ministry.
• The word considers the saints and faithful in Christ (Ephesians i. 1) as having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, " Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Professing, Christians speak of building churches, substituting the shell for the kernel or lifeless stones for living stones (1 Peter iii. 5); of making churches, – now the Greek word ekklesia (church) means assembly - and the assembly of God (1 Thessalonians iii. 15), it is for God to form, and connected with this is one of the most characteristic marks of the lawlessness of which we speak, viz., professing Christians have carried their independency of God so far as to fix the age at which children may be admitted into communion with Jesus and the saints.
The effects of this lawlessness show themselves also as to temporal powers. Thus, for instance, there is no power but what is of God, as say the scriptures (see Romans xiii. 1). But do those who exercise that power always do so as holding it from God and for His glory; and are they always a terror to bad works.
The disciple of Jesus, though indeed in the world is not of the world (see John xvii. 14), consequently he belongs to no party in the politics of this world. While waiting for the kingdom of Christ, he is subject to the power that is, where he is, be it what it may; he honours and will always show respect to it; and he will also always yield it obedience, at least unless things contrary to his conscience and to his duty towards God be in question. On this account it was that when the authorities, temporal and ecclesiastical, at Jerusalem, had