FIFTH "VERILY, VERILY."
THE LIBERTY OF THE NEW MAN.
Our Lord next calls attention to the Liberty which follows our reception of the life of God. Life is a blessing, but without freedom it is hardly life. Willingly therefore in every age have men laid down their lives in efforts to obtain freedom. Our Lord here tells us what is true freedom. And we need His words, for, without the freedom of which He speaks, all other liberty, whether of body or mind, may only lead to worse bondage. And yet the innate craving in all for freedom is a true witness of man's end, and that he is created to be free indeed. Here in His fifth "Verily, Verily," our Lord shows us what is the liberty of the New Man; that it is the fruit or result of light, and only perfected in the spirit of sonship by Him who is the Son.
The place which this truth occupies in the series is instructive. This Gospel speaks of two great blessings, life and light, which come to man through the eternal Word. The first seven chapters deal with life; and the first four reiterated Amens are all occupied with particulars respecting this eternal life; first, its true home; then the secret of its quickening; then its characteristic way; and then its food. At the eighth chapter our Lord goes on to speak of light, saying, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). And then in immediate connection with this "light of life," He speaks of the liberty which this light gives, and then of the service which as freed men we can give to God and man. This is more than life. For light not only shows things as they are, and works unnumbered wonders both in heaven and earth, changing everything with which it comes in contact, but it also frees us from the bonds which darkness ever imposes on us. Therefore, as the wise man says, "Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to see the sun" (Eccl. 11:7); for "when the sun ariseth the beasts of the forest, which creep forth in darkness, lay themselves down, and man goeth forth to his work and to his labour" (Psalm 104:20-23). The light frees him to work. This is the teaching here: "Verily, Verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, then are ye free indeed" (John 8:34-36).
This truth is introduced by a declaration as to certain stages in the heavenly life, from faith to knowledge, and thence to liberty indeed. To this an objection is at once urged by some, that such teaching is derogatory to their calling as Abraham's sons, which necessarily includes, as they suppose, the full blessing. And then comes our Lord's answer to this objection, showing what the liberty of the New Man is, and what it is to be "free indeed."
1. Mark first the teaching of our Lord as to the stages of the heavenly life: "Then spake Jesus to those Jews who had believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31, 32). Here are several stages: first "faith;" then by "continuing in the word" becoming "disciples indeed;" then "knowing the truth," and by it being "made free." For it is with the heavenly and spiritual as with the earthly life. When first quickened it is in darkness. Even when at first it comes forth into light, for days or months it needs the swaddling-clothes which confine and yet strengthen it. And then for years it must know the discipline of childhood and of youth, while it is still bound by rules according to a Father's will. Then, as it continues in the word, it becomes a "learner," and so step by step knowing the truth, just in proportion as it knows it, is made free. But it does not know, nor is it free, at first. It is only as we "continue in the word" that we come, first to light, and then to liberty indeed.
Let us look more closely at these stages.
The path begins with "faith," that is with receiving the word which comes from God. Faith in the Son gives life. This faith is not believing this or that truth touching the Lord, but is rather believing and obeying Him, when He calls us. Therefore in the Gospel we are told rather whom than what to believe. The promise is to "him that believeth on the Son." "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36). "He that believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:26). "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (John 14:12). "He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). For He yet calls and speaks to men; to some by an inward voice; to others by some outward event, or prophet, or word of Holy Scripture: by one or all of these compelling us to feel, that "the Master is come, and calleth for us" (John 11:28). All have heard these voices. And it signifies little how apparently trivial or purely personal the matter may be, respecting which He speaks to us and we believe Him. If in the smallest matter we can trust His word, life and blessing come with the word. For, in so believing Him, the breach is healed which severs us from God.
Then "if we continue in the word" more light will come: we shall be "disciples indeed." This title marks a certain progress. In the Acts of the Apostles, Christians have four names,—"believers" (Acts 2:44; 4:32; 5:14; 1 Tim. 4:12; and compare 1 Cor. 6:6; 14:23; 2 Cor. 6:14), "brethren" (Acts 15:1, 3, 22, 23, 33; and see Matt. 23:8), "disciples" (Acts 9:1; 11:26; 19:1, 3; 20:7), "saints" (Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Col. 1:2); each name indicating some stage or aspect of the same one life. First we are "believers," no longer independent of God. This makes us "brethren," in our true relation to our fellow-men. Then we are "disciples," or "learners," in the school of God. Then we are "saints," or holy, that is, set apart for God's service. Here speaking to "believers," our Lord says, "If ye continue in my word, ye are learners indeed;" for a word may quicken faith, but learning only comes by waiting on the Master. Saints in every age, therefore, have said, "I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait; and in His word do I hope" (Psalm 130:5). "Oh, how I love thy law; it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandment hast made me wiser than mine enemies; because it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts" (Psalm 119:97-100). And so, writing to his beloved Timothy, Paul says, "Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:14, 15). Thus "continuing in the word" we daily "learn." But how many by their haste to teach before they know, lose the divine art of learning any more. How can such "know the truth," which is only learnt by abiding in the word, and by giving ourselves to it, that it may possess us more and more.
The fact is, that truth grows in us exactly like a tree. The seed is the word (Luke 8:11); and this produces in our hearts first faith, then knowledge, then liberty. At first, still bound in sense, we can only receive the symbolic form of truth, as yet incapable of understanding its true meaning. Yet even thus "faith cometh by hearing" (Rom. 10:17). And this faith, feeble as it seems, like a root without beauty, contains all that will in due time come forth from it. For this faith is the spring of life. And it is the life which gives us light. Only as we live any life do we really and truly understand it. Therefore as we live this life, by keeping this word, faith becomes experience with us. We prove what we have believed, and so proving it henceforth not only believe but surely know it. Whatever we have heard of Christ's life, or death, or resurrection, by obedience, which is communion with His life, becomes a part of our experience. Yet the seed and root of this understanding or illumination lies in the word received, which grows and develops itself in us exactly in proportion as we abide and live in it. Faith takes indeed beforehand the future as a present possession; (Note: Clement of Alexandria has a remarkable passage upon this connection of faith and knowledge, (Strom. lib. ii. cap. 2,) where, referring to the Apostle's words in Heb. 11:1, he calls faith πρόληψις, or a taking beforehand of the things which are yet unseen. See also Strom. lib. vii. cap. 10.) but we only know as we live the life. Thus only do we "add to faith knowledge, and to knowledge love" (2 Pet. 1:5). Thus this knowledge is no result of intellectual power, or of any self-willed searching into the things of God, which, so far from helping us to the truth, may make the possession of it almost an impossibility. Truth comes only to the meek and true (Psalm 25:9). All experience shows that the really enlightened man is, not he who desires to know God's secrets, but rather he who simply seeks to live and walk with God, and to do His will so far as it has been revealed to him. If we will do His will, we shall know the doctrine (John 7:17). Therefore, as St Paul says, "If any one will be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise" (1 Cor. 3:18). Without obedience souls are "ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7). Scripture, which to unbelief is always barren, brings forth and buds to him who pleases God. (Note: Clem. Alexandr. (Strom. lib. vii. cap. 16,) τοῖς γνωστικοῖς κεκυήκασιν αἱ γραφαί.)
Thus do we come to "know the truth," which is more than knowledge about the truth. For there are more ways than one of knowing anything. For we may know a thing on the testimony of others, or by seeing it ourselves, or by reasoning it out, or by intuition, all of which are different ways by which we gain knowledge. But we do not know anything perfectly until we have it. Fully to know pain, we must have pain. Fully to know gladness, we must have gladness. So we do not really know the truth, till we have it in our very life, till in this divine conjunction the life understanding and the light understood become one. Then we know indeed, for then we have Him who is the truth and wisdom of God, He in us, and we in Him. Even in this knowing there are stages. Like the Bride we may first say, "My beloved is mine;" our first thought being that the truth is ours, and that we have it, rather than that it now has hold of and possesses us. But the perfection of this possessing is not reached, until, like the same Bride at a later stage, we say, "I am my beloved's," in the greater joy that neither we nor anything we have are now our own, but that all is wholly His. (Note: The three sayings of the Bride in the Canticles are, first, "My beloved is mine, and I am His;" (Song 2:16;) then, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine;" (Song 6:3;) and then lastly, "I am my beloved's, and His desire is towards me." (Song 7:10.) At first the ruling thought is, "Christ is mine." That "I am His" is yet secondary. For at this stage we think chiefly of Christ as ours, and so in some way for our pleasure. Then we come to, "I am His, and He is mine." Christ's ownership and possession of us now takes the first place in our thoughts, and our possession of Him, truly blessed as it is, becomes subordinate. At last we come to, "I am His, and His desire is towards me;" where the word "mine" is altogether dropped, in the perfect assurance of love, that to be His indeed involves all. See on this Ambrose, De Isaac, c. 8, quoted by Littledale in his Commentary on the Song of Songs, p. 332.) For, indeed, even as respects truth, so long as our thought is to have something of our own, the blessing is never perfectly known; for in all such desire to have something of our own, something of bondage also remains with it. It is only when we feel, that, even as to the truth, we have nothing of our own, and that all we have and are is of the Lord, that the fulness of the blessing takes possession of the soul.
And then "the truth frees us." By it the false word is cast out, which separated us from God, and brought us into bondage. By it God is revealed. And this revelation frees us from our bonds, as the earth is freed from its wintry chain by the growing light and warmth of spring and summer. By it the creature is renewed. For as the sun makes the seed to shoot, and to come forth out of its grave, into a liberty which it could not know in darkness, and even transmutes, through a gradual dissolution, all that seems to shut in the germ of life, into suited nourishment for its growth and further development; so does the truth, working within, use our very bonds for good, turning them into means of greater grace and larger increase. We are made new creatures by the truth. Let us only keep the word, and "the truth shall make us free."
2. To all this an objection is at once urged by some to whom Christ speaks these words. "They answered Him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man. How sayest thou, ye shall be made free?" (John 8:33). Self in them is offended at the suggestion that they are not yet free. Some truth therefore as to their calling is set against their state. They contend that as Abraham's seed they must be free, and that there is little, if any, further liberty to be gained by obedient discipleship. So instead of "learning" they "answer;" and their answer is half-true, half-false. First, "We be Abraham's seed," which was quite true. Then, "We were never in bondage to any man," which was as false. They were Abraham's seed: our Lord allows it (John 8:37): they were still the favoured of the Lord, chosen by His grace to be His sons and first-born (Exod. 4:22; Deut. 14:1); but, not to speak of their bondage to sin, and to the letter of the law, they and their fathers had again and again been carried captive, and, even while they spoke, they were under the iron yoke of Rome. Yet they say, "We were never in bondage." Absurd as their answer is, it is still too often the reply of some to exhortations to look for more freedom. Not young converts only, but even old Christians, assume, that, because they are believers, they are free. So they "answer Him." Oh, that, instead of answering, we could be still and treasure up His words, and ask for grace more perfectly to understand Him. Think of the miserable self-justifying answers, which we are all so ready to make, when Christ speaks of intelligent discipleship, and of a growth from faith to knowledge, and from knowledge to liberty indeed. Only a few years ago these very words, "We were never in bondage to any man," were taken, at a gathering of professing Christians, as descriptive, in the preacher's judgment at least, of the state of those he was addressing. (Note: Stier, in his note upon this passage, (Words of the Lord Jesus, vol. v. p. 358,) mentions, that the German Catholic, Dowiat, took these words for his text at the meeting at Offenbach, Oct. 3, 1845.) And every day one sees believers, bound by opinions, habits, or forms, which, however useful in their place, are far enough from the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free, ready to assert that they are not and cannot be in bondage, because those who believe in Christ must needs be free. Such is not the language of God's saints. Scripture is full of the cries of those, who, though they walked with God, yet openly confessed, that, spite of the calling wherewith they had been called, through their own or others' sins they often were in bondage; and all this while they never doubted of God's purpose toward them, or that they were chosen and beloved, though in their experience they yet came short of that for which they had been apprehended. It is left for those who do not know themselves to boast that they are free.
3. But this boast as to their freedom, because they are elect, only draws from the living Word more of the truth as to the liberty wherewith He makes us free. "Jesus answered them, Verily, Verily, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, then are ye free indeed" (John 8:34-36). Here our Lord declares, first, what bondage is; then, that the spirit of bondage must be cast out; and lastly, who it is that gives, and what constitutes indeed, the true freedom.
(i) First, what is not freedom, but bondage:—"Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." Privileges are no proof that we are free. Be our gifts or calling what they may, sin makes us slaves to that which we seem to indulge in, but which rather holds us captive. And our very gifts may serve to blind us to our state, for, in this sense also, "a gift blindeth the eyes of the wise" (Deut. 16:19). Let none think therefore that gifts involve freedom. If we sin, we are not free. "Know ye not," says Paul, "that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (Rom. 6:16). And though false teachers may "allure through the lusts of the flesh those who are just escaping from them that live in error, by promising them liberty, while they are servants of corruption," such words are vanity, "for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage" (2 Pet. 2:18, 19). Sin and freedom cannot coexist. "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."
What then is sin? Scripture gives us two answers: "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23), and "Sin is lawlessness" or self-will (1 John 3:4). On the one hand, following our own will, instead of acting up to light, is sin: on the other hand, going beyond our light, through the same self-will, is sin also. Both in not acting up to, and in going beyond, our light, we act in independence of God, and this independence is separation from Him. The fall was simply this, that some creature, that is something which is not God, took His place with man; and man, trusting the creature more than God, walked in its light or darkness rather than in fellowship with God. Righteousness comes back when man by faith is brought to walk with God again, and to give Him His true place by acting or being acted upon in all things according to His will. Anything therefore not of faith is sin. And all such sin is bondage. Self-will is bondage, for to the soul of man, which is formed for God, and cannot stand alone, self-will or independence of God means dependence on a creature; and we cannot be dependent upon a creature, be it what it may, without more or less becoming subject to it. What has not been given up for money, or for some creature's love. But who has ever thus served the creature more than the Creator without awaking at last to feel he is a bondman? I say nothing of the worse bondage which comes from our self-will, in the indulgence of our own thoughts, or passions, or affections. Even the very energies of faith, while, as yet unchastened, it acts from self, like Abraham with Hagar, may only bring forth more bondage. Who knows not something of the bondage into which men come, as to days, and times, and meats, and drinks, only because that which in itself is pure to them through lack of faith is impure? Who but God can set them free? And He sets them free as they walk with Him. All independence of Him is only darkness.
But there is another bondage which also indirectly comes through sin. Sin not only itself enslaves, but for its temporary restraint, and to make us conscious of its presence, it requires law (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 3:20); and this law, holy as it is, acting upon a fallen nature, itself produces fresh bondage (Rom. 7:9; Gal. 4:24). The old covenant and the history of Israel are proofs of this. But any of us who have sought to be free from sin by law well know, that, until the spirit of sonship comes, mere law and our best attempts to keep it still leave the soul in bondage. It is indeed true that the extremest bondage of law is as perfect freedom compared with the worse slavery, to which self-will and self-indulgence ever lead us. And I doubt not that the rules and discipline of varied kinds, under which some have been bound or have bound themselves, with the desire thereby to please God, have really helped, for a time at least, those who have been under such discipline, just as bandages are useful for a broken limb, and that therefore such rules have had their place in leading on to true freedom. Of course the heir, whilst he is a child, needs all these things; but while he needs them, as the Apostle says, he differs nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all (Gal. 4:1-3). Even so, while we are children, we are in bondage under the elements of the world. Yet such bonds, good in their place, are not freedom; and to put them in the place of, or to exalt them above, the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free, is to mistake a permitted means for the appointed end, and to stay in childhood when we are called to full age. God has sent His Son, to redeem them that are under law, that they may receive the adoption of sons. And because they are sons, He sends forth the spirit of His Son into their hearts. Therefore they are no more servants but sons; and if sons, then heirs of God through Christ.
(ii) This leads us to the next point noticed by our Lord, namely that this spirit of bondage shall be cast out. "The servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever" (John 8:35). Bondage and the bondman have their day; but they shall not abide for ever. Bondage is not eternal, for sin is not eternal. Abraham's history foreshadowed this to Abraham's sons, in telling how the bondman came into the house, and how, when the true heir had come, both the bondmaid and her son were cast out. Our Lord only refers here to the story, as though its lesson ought to have been understood by Abraham's sons. St Paul does more. Once and again he goes into the typical meaning of the fact to which our Lord alludes in this saying. "My little children," he says to the Galatians, "of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you, and to change my voice, for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman; and he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, but he of the freewoman was by promise; which things are an allegory, for these are the two covenants; the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, is Agar, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; but Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman" (Gal. 4:19-30). And to the Romans he thus again refers to the same event: "Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children, but, (it is written,) In Isaac shall thy seed be called; that is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:7, 8). All showing how there may be bondage in Abraham's house, and even in his sons, and that this bondman must be cast out.
Now this truth has two fulfilments: an inward one, fulfilled in all, for our bodies are a house (1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 5:1-4), wherein God works by law and gospel; and an outward one, which is accomplished both in the "great house" (2 Tim. 2:20) of the professing Church, and also in that still greater house of this outward world (Heb. 3:4), in the ages or dispensations of which we see the outworking of the same purpose. The dispensational fulfilment is familiar to all. We know how, when the true Son came, the Jew, the son of the bondmaid, was cast out; not that he should be for ever lost, but as a sign that the spirit of bondage, and those whose life is in this spirit, must depart from God's people. The visible Church witnesses the same. There are still some in the elect house, whose life is the fruit of law rather than of promise, who, though like Ishmael and the Jew of old, called to be sons, yet show that they are the bondmaid's seed, in that they do not abide unto the end, but are cast out, like the unfruitful branch, and men gather them, and they are burnt. These, however, are but the temporary and therefore partial and shadowy fulfilments of our Lord's words, that "the servant abideth not in the house for ever;" and, like shadows, they may distort, and even seem to contradict, the blessed truth of which they are the figure. For the eternal truth and will of God here revealed is, that the life of bondage shall not always remain, but that both that which brings it forth, and that which is so brought forth, shall be for ever done away. A life shall be begotten, not of law, but grace; which is not the fruit of man's energy, but of God's power; begotten in man when the creature-will, like Abraham, has become as good as dead; and which, because it is so begotten, is free; the son, not of the bondwoman, but of the free; and which therefore, as a son and heir, without a doubt can say, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever" (Psalm 23:6).
And yet the first and outward fulfilment of this truth, as seen in the rejection of Ishmael and the Jew, seems to speak of judgment rather than of freedom. And so it must appear to us whilst we are in the selfhood of our fall. At such a stage the fullest gospel will only be another law. Let the spirit of sonship come, and then the very law becomes the promise, with its assurance of eternal liberty and joy. I speak that which I know. And I know how even the law, which says, "Thou shalt have none other gods but me, Thou shalt rest the seventh day, Thou shalt not covet,"—which always at first speaks to man as a demand upon him, requiring what in his weakness he finds it hard, if not impossible, to give, and which in this aspect therefore only condemns him,—to sons of God becomes His promise, declaring that some day, because God says it, we shall have none other gods but one, that after the days of labour we shall surely rest, yea, that we shall neither steal, nor murder, nor covet, nor do any other of the wretched things, which only bring us into bondage. Yet all this for years is only read as law, and not as promise, and will always so be read, until the bondman by grace is cast out. So even our Lord's word here may seem to some a threat of judgment. Blessed be God, even if they come as judgment, that judgment is for good. Blessed be His name, that, though His children misunderstand Him, His purpose cannot fail, and He has said, "The servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever. If therefore the Son shall make you free, then are ye free indeed."
(iii) Thus are we shown who it is that gives, and what is, true freedom. "The Son shall make you free" (John 8:36). The liberty here promised is the Son's free gift, who being heir of all things can make us free indeed. He is specially anointed to this end. "Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and I will give thee for a covenant of the people, that thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth, and to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves" (Isa. 49:8, 9). And He says Himself, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to preach glad tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted: to preach deliverance to the captives, and to set at liberty them that are bound" (Luke 4:18). Therefore, "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive" (Eph. 4:8). And He shall not fail nor be discouraged until He hath set judgment in the earth, and sent forth His prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water (Zech. 9:11). The elect are but "the first-fruits to God" (James 1:18; Rev. 14:4). "The creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption" (Rom. 8:21).
But how does He make free? Does He give us something separate from Himself, in which we may boast, as some have done, of being above all forms, and law, and conscience; or does He free us by the communication of Himself? Not by anything separate from Himself, but by giving us Himself, who is the Heir, and thus casting out our selfhood, which is indeed the bondman; so that henceforth we may say with Paul, "It is not I that live, but Christ liveth in me." The free life is Christ's own life in us, and the deliverance in us, even as for us, is wrought by Christ Himself. He wrought it for us by coming into our nature, and taking that nature upon Himself; and thus by the eternal Word man was united to God, and made a new creature. He works it in us in the self-same way, by the coming into us of the self-same Word, that as many as receive Him may become sons, and freemen, and heirs of God with Him. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. The whole mystery is shown in type in Abraham's house. When Isaac comes and is weaned, the bondman is cast out; not without trial to the man of faith; for the dismissal of Ishmael, like the casting out of selfhood in us, is a parting with that which is nothing less than a portion of the elect's self, and therefore for a season "very grievous" (Gen. 21:11). But it must be done. And difficult as it is to speak of all this change from self to Christ,—for we have not words to utter, and very few have eyes to see, the stages of this wondrous transmutation,—it is being accomplished every day. Wherever any have attained to be "free indeed," it is because the bondman is cast out, and the Son has made them free. All is His work. He first brings forth, and then manifests in man, the virtues of His own eternal life. Thus is man delivered. And henceforth freed from the sense of guilt, which weighs upon the heart, and from all the errors and illusions of sense, which darken and deceive the mind; from the fear of death; from the bondage of the letter; from words and names of men; free in thought and action and desire; free from mutability and corruption; free as the Lord was free; he can become a servant to all, as a later "Verily, Verily," teaches (see the Seventh "Verily, Verily"), by his service to free others as he has himself been made free.
Here then is the conclusion of this matter. We are brought to liberty by truth, and to know the truth by continuing in the word, which we first receive on testimony. Knowledge of the truth is the fruit of faith; not faith the fruit of knowing. For at first we are, and must be, babes; and babes, whether in the flesh or in the spirit, must believe before they know; for it is not possible for them at first in their own experience to understand a thousand things, which yet will open to them as they grow up through youth to manhood. So, first believing, they will know the truth. And then the truth will make them free. Let none forget this order: first faith, then truth; first truth, and then in due time freedom. In every age there have been souls, who have thought to be first free, and do as they please, and then in self-will to choose and find the truth. I do not say that truth is never to be so found at last, for men may learn it through judgments. But the way of the New Man is by faith to come to truth, and then by truth to reach to liberty indeed. Self-will can never rest. To live in self-love is to live in bonds: to be free indeed we must live in love, and God is love. The Son is the image of the invisible God. In giving Himself to us He gives us God, and makes us partakers of the divine nature, which is not self-love, but love. The perfect law of liberty is love. He that looketh into this law and continueth therein is blessed; for so beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord he is changed into the same image. Well then might Augustine say, "Love, and do as you will." (Note: "Dilige, et quod vis fac." In Epistol. Johannis, cap. iv. Tractat. vii. 8.) Love, and love only, is the perfect freedom.
Such is the liberty which the Son bestows, the liberty of the sons of God, yea the very liberty of God, for the Son who makes us free, and who is our life, is very God. Every such freeman is a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), because a partaker of Christ (Heb. 3:14). This is a great deep. Yet a glimpse into it is given in the next "Verily, Verily," which opens, not the liberty only, but even the divinity, of the New Man, who is the Son of God.
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