1 Peter 2:13
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to the king as the supreme authority,
Sermons
The Highest Motive for a Loyal LifeU.R. Thomas 1 Peter 2:13, 14
The Christian CitizenJ.R. Thomson 1 Peter 2:13-15
Any Kind of Government Better than NoneA. Burgess.1 Peter 2:13-16
Bad Riders to be ObeyedBp. Horne.1 Peter 2:13-16
Christian FreedomJ. Vaughan, M. A.1 Peter 2:13-16
Christian LibertyBp. Sanderson.1 Peter 2:13-16
Civil Authorities have Their Authority from GodC. Wordsworth.1 Peter 2:13-16
False Notions of Liberty in Religion and Government Destructive of BothH. Sacheverell, D. D.1 Peter 2:13-16
Free WillE. B. Pusey, D. D.1 Peter 2:13-16
Freedom and LawCanon Liddon.1 Peter 2:13-16
Freedom and ServitudeBp. Boyd Carpenter.1 Peter 2:13-16
God's ServantsH. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.1 Peter 2:13-16
Liberty, its Use and SafeguardsA. Boyd Carpenter, M. A.1 Peter 2:13-16
MaliciousnessJ. Vaughan, M. A.1 Peter 2:13-16
On Freedom of ThoughtA. Alison.1 Peter 2:13-16
On Silencing Objections Against ChristianityH. Hesketh.1 Peter 2:13-16
Subjection to AuthorityBp. E. Hopkins.1 Peter 2:13-16
Submission to GovernmentBp. Horne.1 Peter 2:13-16
Submission to RulersBp. E. Hopkins.1 Peter 2:13-16
The Duty of Submission to AuthorityJohn Tucker, B. D.1 Peter 2:13-16
The Limits of Subjection to Civil RulersJ. Lillie, D. D.1 Peter 2:13-16
The Vices of Christians Detrimental to the General Interests of ReligionJames Fawcett, B. D.1 Peter 2:13-16
Why it is So Hard to Cure Ignorance and Silence Ignorant MenN. Byfield.1 Peter 2:13-16
Relation of Christians to Civil AuthoritiesR. Finlayson 1 Peter 2:13-17
The Christian's Duty to the StateC. New 1 Peter 2:13-17
The religion of the Lord Jesus entered practically into all the relations and interests of human life. The condition of the world, politically regarded, when the Roman empire exercised universal sway, was indeed very different from that which obtains at the present time. But the principles inculcated in the first century of our era are adapted to guide and govern the conduct of Christ's people through all time.

I. THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.

1. Regarded in itself, it is a human institution, but it is nevertheless ordained by God. In this respect it is in the same case as the family. To believe in a Divine Ruler and a divinely appointed order, is to accept the state and its ordinances as appointed by the wisdom of God himself.

2. The Christian recognizes the Divine principle of government as personified in civil rulers. These are supreme-as kings; or persons commissioned, and exercising delegated power, as governors.

3. The Christian perceives the necessity of those functions which rulers are bound to discharge. There is no government worthy of the name which does not punish evil-doers, and protect, favor, and praise those who do well.

II. THE CHRISTIAN'S DUTY TOWARDS CIVIL GOVERNMENT.

1. Generally speaking, that duty is submission, loyalty, and cheerful obedience. When laws are promulgated, the Christian respects and observes them; when taxes are levied, the Christian pays them; when service is required, the Christian renders it.

2. He acknowledges that this course of conduct is supported alike by the example and by the teaching of Christ.

3. Yet this obedience is within certain limits, and is subject to certain reservations. No man is under obligation to obey an ordinance of the civil power which is contradictory to the express and unmistakable law of God. And when the ruler himself is disloyal, and violates the constitution to which ruler and subject alike are subject, there are cases in which even resistance is allowable, if not binding.

III. THE CHRISTIAN'S MOTIVES TO OBEY THE CIVIL GOVERNMENT. He does not act simply in his own interest, to avoid penalties, to secure place.

1. He obeys for the Lord's sake, i.e. with a Christian aim before him.

2. He obeys because such is the will of God himself.

3. He obeys in order to remove hindrances from the way of the progress of Christianity among men. Scandals are avoided, prejudices are overcome, good will is conciliated; and the path is made clear for the progress of the gospel. Loyalty to the state and to the sovereign is loyalty to Christ, to God. - J.R.T.







Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man.
What if the rulers themselves be wicked men, and the government itself a tyranny?

1. Let it be considered that there is probably no government, not even that of the worst slave plantation, that is not on the whole to be preferred to anarchy, or no government at all; and that, therefore, the argument from the uses of government never quite fails.

2. There is no question whatever that, when human government errs and transcends the limits prescribed by its very nature and the ends of its being, forbidding what God has commanded, or commanding what God has forbidden, our duty in every such case is to hearken unto God more than unto men. In the conflict of authorities the higher authority must rule.

3. The Christian law does not strip a man of whatever civil rights his country's law allows him, nor does it prohibit him from defending those rights in any lawful way (Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25; Acts 25:11).

4. These things being understood, the apostle's rule may safely be taken as absolute and universal in its application. Reverencing still the dark and distorted shadow of the Divine sovereignty, they will leave it to His all-controlling providence, and to outraged humanity, to redress the wrongs of nations.

(J. Lillie, D. D.)

I. ALL AUTHORITY OF EVERY KIND IS FROM GOD, AND IS TO BE REGARDED AS SUCH. The Word of God goes further, and says, "that there is no power but of God." Nor is this truth confined to the case of kings and their subjects; it applies to every authority whatever; all the relations in life, and our obedience, is due simply because it is the will and ordinance of God.

II. THE PERSONS WHO RECEIVE THIS THEIR AUTHORITY FROM GOD ARE BUT MEN. Now man in his natural state is full of corruption, pride, selfishness, unrighteousness, covetousness, maliciousness. It is therefore to be calculated upon, and God contemplated this when He gave the precept, that the persons who are in authority should abuse it in some way or another. And therefore it is nowhere written: Children, obey good parents; servants, obey kind masters; subjects, obey a good government; there is no such limitation, but quite the contrary, "not only the good and gentle, but also the froward." If those in authority abuse or neglect their trust, they will assuredly have to give account to God; but our duty is to submit, while using all lawful means to be delivered from unjust treatment.

(John Tucker, B. D.)

I. AN AUTHORITATIVE COMMAND of obedience, "Submit your selves."

II. THE OBJECT, to which this obedience must be yielded, "Every ordinance of man."

III. THE DIVISION OF THIS ORDINANCE OF MAN into supreme and subordinate. "Submit to the King, as supreme; and to governors" sent by Him, as subordinate.

IV. THE DUTY OF ALL GOVERNORS, and the end of all governments expressed, and that is, "The punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well."

V. THE MOTIVE, which enforceth this exhortation and command: submit to them "for the Lord's sake."

(Bp. E. Hopkins.)

I. NO SUBJECTION IS DUE TO AN UNLAWFUL AND USURPING POWER, UPON GOD'S COMMAND, AND FOR CONSCIENCE SAKE.

II. UPON PRUDENTIAL AND SELF PRESERVING PRINCIPLES, SUBMISSION MAY SOMETIMES BE YIELDED TO THE LAWFUL COMMANDS OF AN UNLAWFUL AND USURPING POWER.

III. WE OUGHT TO OBEY THE COMMANDS OF THE LAWFUL MAGISTRATE, IN THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE IN THEMSELVES NECESSARY TO BE DONE AND OUR INDISPENSABLE DUTY, AND THAT, NOT ONLY OUT OF CONSCIENCE TO GOD, BUT ALSO OUT OF CONSCIENCE TO MAN.

IV. IF THE THING COMMANDED BE INDIFFERENTLY LAWFUL, AND APPEAR SO TO US; that is, if it be in its own nature such as we may either do it, or not to do it without sin; THEN ARE WE TO BE DETERMINED BY THE MAGISTRATE'S COMMANDS TO DO WHAT HE REQUIRES, AND TO ABSTAIN FROM WHAT HE FORBIDS.

V. IF THE THING BE INDIFFERENTLY LAWFUL IN ITSELF, BUT APPEARS DOUBTFUL UNTO US, AND WE CANNOT RESOLVE OURSELVES WHETHER IT BE LAWFUL OR EVIL, I THINK WE ARE OBLIGED, till we receive clearer light and information, TO TAKE THAT PART OF THE DOUBT WHICH THE MAGISTRATE COMMANDS US, AS BEING THE SAFEST AND MOST SATISFACTORY TO CONSCIENCE.

VI. IF THE THING ENJOINED BE IN ITSELF SINFUL AND UNLAWFUL, OR AT LEAST APPEAR SO UNTO US, THEN TAKE THESE TWO FOLLOWING RULES —

1. We ought not, upon any pretences or inducements whatsoever, to yield active obedience to such a command.

2. Though we may not yield active obedience to the unlawful commands of our superiors, yet we are bound to yield passive obedience to them. VII. WE OUGHT, IN NO CASE WHATSOEVER, TO RESIST AND REBEL AGAINST THE LAWFUL POWERS WHICH GOD HATH SET OVER US; yea, though they should use their power unlawfully; for whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

(Bp. E. Hopkins.)

1. The reasonableness of this apostolical precept is suggested by the terms used to convey it; for why "rulers and governors," unless it be indeed their office to rule and govern, our duty to submit and obey?

2. But that there should be government, and that men should obey it, is the will and appointment of God.

3. A third reason assigned for obedience to government is the benefit derived from it to the community. It is instituted for the protection of good men by the punishment of evil ones.

4. A fourth reason for the precept inculcated is the honour of Christianity.

(Bp. Horne.)

You will say the doctrine is unreasonable, and of tyranny there can be no end if it be unlawful to resist it. Perhaps, if we only lay aside for a moment our passions and prejudices, we shall see how much better God has provided for our happiness than we ourselves should do.

1. For, if you allow to subjects a power of taking arms and deposing their princes, who is to be judge when there is a sufficient reason for exerting such power? Men will never judge fairly and impartially in their own cause.

2. It should be considered that, although government may sometimes be bad, rebellion will generally be worse. "The wrath of a king," says the Scripture, "is as the roaring of a lion," he may destroy some; but "the madness of the people" is as the raging of a tempestuous sea when it has burst its bounds; it overwhelms all. Compare the mischief said to be done, or designed, by our unfortunate Charles I with the bloodshed, the devastations of the great rebellion, from the horrors of which the nation was at length obliged to seek protection by reestablishing the government that had been east off.

3. But respecting the principle of obedience, and the inconveniences to which it may sometimes subject us, we do not sufficiently rely upon the providence or the promises of God. The Scriptures teach us that as He setteth a righteous prince over a people that fear and serve Him, so He often sendeth an unrighteous one to punish a wicked nation.

(Bp. Horne.)

Water may be made to assume different forms, in fountains and cascades, and be made to flow in different channels or aqueducts by the hand of man; but the element itself, which flows in them, is from God. So again, marble may be hewn by man's hand into different shapes; under the sculptor's chisel it may become a statue, a frieze, or sarcophagus, but the marble itself is from the quarry, it is from the creative hand of God. So it is with the civil power. The form which power may assume, and the person who may be appointed to exercise it, may be ordinances of man, but the authority itself is from God.

(C. Wordsworth.)

There was a law amongst the Persians that when their governor was dead there should be a lawlessness for five days after, that every man should do what he list; now for those five days there was such killing and robbing, and such destroying one another, that by the time the five days were over, they were glad of government again. So that any kind of government is better than no government; but happy is that people that live under a good government, where justice flows from the Supreme as head, and is conveyed by subordinate ministers unto the people.

(A. Burgess.)

That with well doing ye may put to silence
I. WHAT WAS THAT CAVIL AND OBJECTION AGAINST CHRISTIAN RELIGION WHICH THE APOSTLE HERE HATH RESPECT UNTO, AND WOULD HAVE SILENCED? From vers. 13, 14 we learn that it was that old clamour, that Christian religion was an enemy to government, and the professors of it seditious persons. This was indeed the very masterpiece of Satan's policy; by this he wrought the condemnation of the blessed Jesus, and even constrained Pilate to give sentence against Him (John 19:12-13). And by the same artifice he hoped also to destroy His religion, and to root the profession of it out of the world.

II. BY WHAT MEANS THE APOSTLE WOULD HAVE THIS DONE. There is not a more excellent way to take off all scandals against religion than the exemplary lives of those that profess it. But the notion of well-doing here is that honest and regular, that ready and conscientious subjection to government, that he had pressed in the preceding verses. And it is certainly the most effectual way.

1. All men have not parts to examine what the principles of a religion are, or to understand what the natural consequences from them be; and many that can do this are idle, or cannot spare time to do it, and all these will go that near way of judging a religion to be such, as they behold the professors of it to be.

2. Actions are commonly more convictive, then principles and professions.

III. THE GREAT REASON AND ARGUMENT UPON WHICH HE PRESSES IT.

1. This is God's will, because He knows this to be so very much for the good and happiness of the world.

2. The maintaining His own appointment and institution.

3. For the credit of His holy religion.

(H. Hesketh.)

1. Because it is natural to them to be hateful and hating others, and it is a hard task to overcome a natural disposition in man (Titus 3:3).

2. Because the unregenerate mind of man is full of objections, and the devil supplies them with cavils.

3. Because many withhold the truth in un righteousness; they love darkness and lies, and therefore resist the power of the truth.

4. Because they encourage one another in an evil way; they observe that the great men of the world, and many that are in reputation for wisdom, are scorners as well as they; they think they may revile securely.

5. Because many ignorant persons, when they are confuted, yet are so foolish that they will wilfully persist in their objections, though they cannot reply against the answer, yet they think if such and such were there, that have more experience and learning, they would make good what they say.

6. Because malice hath no ears; they hate the truth and godly men. If it be not as they say, yet their malice would fain have it so, and if it may disgrace the godly, they care not whether it be true or no.

7. Because many times God gives them over to such a reprobate sense, that through custom and evil surmises, they think verily they do not much amiss to oppose and hate such persons. This was the case of such as reviled and persecuted the apostles, they thought they did God good service. Uses —(1) Therefore we should not wonder if we see this daily come to pass that men of all sorts should reproach the good way of God so unjustly, so pertinaciously.(2) It shows that godly men had need to be circumspect, and that they which will confute ignorant men must strive to be thoroughly furnished with wisdom of words and abundance of good works.(3) It shows that ignorant persons are in a lamentable case, that so wilfully run towards the gates of death and ruin, that are so hardly cured of this spiritual blindness.(4) It imports that self-willed Christians that cannot be advised are to be reckoned in the rank of these fools, what show soever they make of a better estate.(5) It does comfortably import that when one is teachable, and hates reproaching, and will do or say nothing against the truth, and uses the means to get the knowledge and love of the truth, that such a person is escaped from the congregation of these fools, and is in some measure enlightened with true wisdom from above.(6) It may warn all that love their own souls, hereafter to take heed, to avoid wilfulness and self-conceitedness.

(N. Byfield.)

I. THE VICES OF BELIEVERS AFFORD AN ARGUMENT TO INFIDELITY. The vices of believers are not the consequences of religion, but of its abuse or neglect; the corruption of Christian manners cannot be at all compared with the enormous wickedness of the heathen nations; those excesses, which seem more peculiarly the offspring of Christianity, were the real production of ignorance and superstition. Unbelievers are not the only persons whom our misconduct may fatally mislead.

II. EVEN IN PROFESSED CHRISTIANS THERE IS A COLD OR CONTEMPTUOUS NEGLECT OF PUBLIC WORSHIP, AND OF REVEALED DOCTRINES, WHICH IS OFTEN DEFENDED ON THE SAME PRETENCE: that it does not appear that they have either of them any actual influence on the conduct of those who regard them most scrupulously. Belief in the doctrines of religion, and attendance on its solemnities, have plainly a natural tendency to awaken our sense of those duties which the Being, whom we adore, has commanded, and to quicken our pursuit of those virtues, which it is the end of revelation to promote. And though it must be acknowledged that these means, however wisely adopted, partake in the imperfection of everything relating to man, and often fail of their ends; yet is it far from being certain that they fail so frequently, or so considerably, as the objection supposes. Religious observances, it is true, cannot divest us of our natural frailty; but they certainly give us awful ideas of the moral Governor of the world, and have a peculiar tendency to encourage that serious disposition of mind which will best secure us from great or frequent excesses.

III. THE VICES OF BELIEVERS not only furnish a pretence to the infidelity of some, and the irreligion of others, but SPREAD ALSO A VERY DANGEROUS SNARE IN THE PLAINER PATHS OF MORAL VIRTUE. The force of example on the minds and manners of mankind is universally acknowledged. Interest, inclination, and duty, the laws of man, the laws of nature, and the laws of God, are in vain united to resist its progress: every principle of action is perverted by the magic influence of prevailing fashion. As therefore the consequences of our conduct on the belief and manners of those around us are thus important in themselves; as they cannot be prevented by any prudence, nor averted by the sincerest repentance; they surely form a motive to goodness, which no thinking man can overlook, and no generous man will disregard.

(James Fawcett, B. D.)

As free, and not using
Freedom is one of those words which need no recommendation: it belongs to the same category as light, order, progress, law. It is one of the ideas which, in some sense or other, mankind accepts as an axiom; as a landmark or principle of healthful life which is beyond discussion. What do we mean by freedom? We mean the power of a living being to act without hindrance to the true law of its life.

I. Christ has given men POLITICAL OR SOCIAL FREEDOM. He has not indeed drawn out a scheme of government, and stamped it with His Divine authority as guaranteeing freedom. Yet with our Lord there came the germs of political liberty. When individual men had learnt to feel the greatness and the interest of life; the real horizon which stretches out before the soul's eye beyond the grave; the depths of being within the soul; its unexhausted capacities for happiness and for suffering; the reality and nearness of God, of His Divine Son, of our fellow citizens the blessed angels; the awful, inexpressible distinction of being redeemed from death by the blood of the Most Holy, and sanctified by the Eternal Spirit; it was impossible not to feel also that each man had, in the highest sense, rights to assert and a bearing to maintain. Thus a Christian was a free man, simply because he was a Christian. It has often been alleged that, as a matter of fact, our Lord left the great despotisms of the world for a while untouched. Jesus Christ taught, He was crucified, He rose, He ascended. But the Caesar Tiberius still sat upon the throne of the Roman world. There never was a more odious system of personal government than that of the Roman Emperors; the surviving forms of the extinct republic did but make the actual tyranny which had succeeded it more hard to bear. Yet it was of such an Emperor as Nero that St. Paul wrote (Romans 13:1); and St. Peter (1 Peter 2:13, 14). And in the same way apostles advise Christian slaves to give obedience to their masters as unto the Lord; to obey, not with eye service, as if they had only to do as much as might be insisted on by a jealous owner, but with singleness of heart, as men who throw every energy into their work. It may be asked, How are such precepts compatible with the assertion that Christ gave us political freedom? The answer is that He gave us a moral force which did two things. First, it made every Christian independent of outward political circumstances; and, secondly, it made the creation of new civil institutions only a question of time.

II. Christ gave men also INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM. He enfranchised them by the gift of truth. He gave truth in its fulness; truth not merely relative and provisional, but absolute and final. Until He came the human intellect was enslaved. It was enslaved either to degrading superstition, or to false and one-sided philosophies. When Christ, in all the glory of His Godhead and His Manhood, had enthroned Himself in the soul, He taught men to think worthily of the greatness of God and of the greatness of man, notwithstanding man's weakness and corruption. He freed men from all the cramping influences of local philosophies, of local teachers, of petty schemes and theories for classes and races. He led men out into the great highways of thought, where, if they would, they might know the universal Father, manifested in His Blessed Son, as the Author of all existence, as its object, and as its end. Certainly our Lord has given us a body of Truth, which we can, if we like, reject, but which it is our happiness to believe. What He did for men in this way is embodied in His own teaching, in the writings of His apostles, and in the creeds of the universal Church. These are to intellectual liberty what law is to social liberty. They protect, they do not cramp it. They furnish a fixed point, from which thought may take wing.

III. Christ has made men MORALLY FREE. He has broken the chains which fettered the human will, and has restored to it its buoyancy and its power. What had been lost was more than regained in Christ. Not merely was the penalty of old transgressions paid, so that man was redeemed from a real captivity: but the will was reinvigorated by a Heaven-sent force or grace, once more placing it in true harmony with the law of man's life (Romans 6:18). Here it is objected that moral freedom is not worth having if it be only a service after all. "You talk of freedom," men say, "but you mean rule. You mean restrictions upon action; restrictions upon inclination; restrictions upon speech. You mean obligations: obligations to work; obligations to self-discipline; obligations to sacrifice self to others; obligations to all the details of Christian duty." You are right: certainly we do. A Christian lives under a system of restrictions and obligations; and yet he is free. Those obligations and restrictions only prescribe for him what his own new heaven-sent nature would wish to be and to do. Whatever a Christian may be outwardly, he is inwardly a free man. In obeying Christ's law he acts as he desires to act: he acts according to this, the highest law of his life, because he rejoices to do so. He obeys law; the Law of God. But then he has no inclination to disobey it. He is, as St. Peter says, a servant of God; but then, as he would not for all the world be anything else, his service is perfect freedom.

(Canon Liddon.)

It often happens that apparent contradictions disappear when we reach a purer and higher range of life. Many of the things which perplex us when children, and seem to our eyes to be inconsistencies on the part of our parents, now appear, when we look back on them with the clearer vision of later years, to be not only consistent, but perfectly justifiable. And may that not be the same in all the regions of life? Of course it might be said on a superficial view, that servitude and freedom were inconsistent with one another. But in the larger life I gather that it is not so. The apostle at all events speaks as though a man might be perfectly free, and at the same time be living a life of servitude.

I. The first law almost of existence is that which expresses itself in THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM. Would you not say that the child that was born but yesterday is very much like a man that has just been drawn out of the water after drowning? All the struggle, all the painful symptoms you notice in that drowned man are the efforts of life, so to speak, to recover itself, and to take possession of those conditions under which its existence alone can continue. The child, in the same way, is not yet, as it were, adjusted to the conditions by which it is surrounded, and the earlier stages of life are the struggle to lay hold of the conditions in which it finds itself. Thus I should say the struggle of all early life is the struggle to get possession of the right of life. And this will become more apparent if we ask ourselves what we mean by freedom. Freedom is the educated capacity to live according to the capacity of our being. The least reflection will show us that this is true. Take, for example, what we know perfectly well, that our struggle as a child turns upon the conception that that is the meaning of freedom. When you take your child and say, "It is now time that it began to learn those little physical exercises, whether you call them calisthenics or dancing classes." You say to yourself: "The child is not yet in possession of its full power. These exercises are to give it mastery over itself with regard to its physical organisation, and we are trying to give it such a mastery that it may be able to use all its physical power according to the order, law, and condition of that physical framework." It is the same when you come to the mental region. The man who thinks freely thinks truly, and a man only thinks freely according to the law and order of thought; and when you take your lad and say, "It is time you were educated," and send him to school, you do so because you know that exactly as physical training is to make him master of his own frame, so the mental training is to make him master of his own intelligence. It is the same thing in social life. The awkwardness which you see in your children is just that which arise out of the fact that they are not self-possessed. But when they go into society and are trained they become, by the education of mixing with their fellow men, possessors of themselves, and what you call ease, manner, grace, is only that the man is master of himself, that the self-consciousness which disturbs his own happiness has vanished in entering into his rightful heritage of being a self-possessed individual. Look at it from the religious point of view. It is also true that religion comes to set a man free. Religion is the great coordinating power of the moral and physical forces of life. It is that which gives us power over ourselves. It sets us free from false conceptions. "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free," means, "Stand fast in the possession of principles which clear your mind from false conceptions." The bulk of men are not to be charged with being slaves of the grosser or more vulgar passions, but they are very much the slaves of false conceptions of life. The competition for wealth, the desire to achieve physical ease, free from the anxieties of life — these things rise up in men's minds, and are fostered by the conditions of society, and man is the victim of a false idea of life. Christianity is sent surely to emancipate men from that, to show men what the real significance of life is, that those are little weaknesses in us which betray us into conditions and surroundings which make us less and lower than we ought to be. Therefore Christianity would not be a complete or valuable system if its only idea were that we should negative the positive sins in the world. No, we must reorganise humanity upon noble lines, make man master of himself and give him a true conception of life, that conception of life which God intends him to take.

II. The second stage is THE STAGE OF SERVICE. As truly as the earlier stage is the stage of struggle, so it is true equally that the second stage is a stage of service. It is true in our ordinary life. There is no difference, as I take it, between the religious point of view and the purely natural point of view. The man who is educated to freedom only reaches that freedom in serving. It is true in the fields of nature: you only bring a thing to maturity in making it of service. the corn shall grow by slow degrees. That is the process by which it struggles into its freedom. It struggles first for bare existence and then for conditions under which it may reach its maturity; but the moment that maturity is reached the harvest is come, it has reached the condition of life in which service is absolutely imperative to it. This wheat grain means the law of service; therefore the moment its maturity is acquired it is acquired in order that it may be utilised. This is true with regard to human life. How we dreamed of what we would do when we were twenty-one! And yet, now that the twenty-one years are passed, the man's only freedom is service. He is not content to be a free man. Set him free and he is miserable. It comes in the gentle dawn of new emotions, which lead him to form his own little home nest. tie has parted with freedom to dream of domestic life, a life in which he has pledged himself to service in the great citizenship of the world. Perhaps you are going to make your son a surgeon; you send him to his long training, in which his eye is skilled to perceive the symptom and meaning of every disease, to keep his nerve steady. The very moment the seven years of training are past, what is it that is springing up in his soul? The consciousness of power. But what does that lead him to? The necessity of service. Trained, we must use our powers. Make a man free in his whole nature, and you will make him thirst to lay down those powers for the service of his fellow men. Christ was free, but look at that life of our Lord: precisely because it was free, the whole of it was consecrated to service — so much so that to Him the only idea of human existence was this, that the powers of it should be used in the service of men. "I am among you as one that doth serve."

III. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THESE TWO PRINCIPLES IS THE IMPORTANT THING. It is not simply that we are to live a life of service, nor that we are to seek to be free men. It is because we do not see that there is an indissoluble connection between the two that we sometimes blunder in many of the matters submitted to us. It is the free man who can yield the true service. That is what we want to get hold of. It is not that we want to make men serve one another by compulsion. That would be of no value at all. You do not want the enforced service of your wife or child. What you ask is free service. You speak of a man's freedom because all his actions are free; he is a free man in the use of his powers. You speak also of the charm and the graciousness wherewith a thing is done. The meaning of it is that it is the homage of a free man. There is a difference between the attitude of the slave and the splendid homage of a free man. Make men conscious of their freedom, let them feel that what they do is the free homage of the free men, and you will have from them what is worth more than all the tyranny of law.

(Bp. Boyd Carpenter.)

I. STATE THE TRUE NOTION OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY.

1. A. freedom from the power and dominion of sin and the devil, and the curse of the moral law.

2. A freedom from the ritual ceremonies of the Mosaic law and the spirit of bondage to fear, abrogated by our Saviour.

3. A free use of all things that are in their nature indifferent; that is, things concerning which the law has made no determination; leaving us at our own choice, either to act or not to act.

II. INSTANCE SOME OF THE ABUSES OF THIS LIBERTY, wherein it may be so perverted as to be made a cloak of maliciousness.

1. As to principles. It would be endless to recount all the blasphemies, heresies, and errors maintained under this specious pretence.

2. Secondly, to their practice. Which we shall find to be a true transcript of their principles. For such a freethinker, if he be consistent with himself, must be a free actor too. He is equally without guide or governor, owes as little allegiance to his prince, as faith to his God; he is a rebel against both; sets up his own will as the supreme measure of his actions, for which he is answerable to nobody but himself.

III. PROVE THE ABSURDITY, AS WELL AS WICKEDNESS, OF SUCH ABUSES OF OUR LIBERTY. Upon what bottom would these lawless men found their liberty? By what authority do they these things? Or who gave them this authority? Whence was it? From heaven or of men? They own the authority of neither. But they still insist, it is their natural right, as free-born men; whereby none is subject any further than compact and content obliges him. What do they mean by this so much talked of natural right? Is it essentially, and independently inherent in themselves, or communicated by another? If they say the former, can anything belonging to a dependent being be itself independent? If the latter, who is that other who so communicated this right? Who can communicate a natural right, but the author of nature? To speak strictly, no being has any natural right but God; who by virtue of creation has a natural essential right to the obedience of His creatures. But those creatures themselves have naturally no right to anything, unless it can be proved that they had a natural right to be created.

IV. THE HAPPY CONSEQUENCES OF TRUE LIBERTY, AND THE MISERY AND SLAVERY OF THE MISTAKEN NOTIONS ABOUT IT. Having shown the absurdity and wickedness of this false principle in itself, as utterly inconsistent with reason and religion, gospel and law, the contrary position must be irrefragably true, and entirely agreeable to the laws of God and man; and there needs not much argument to prove that the effects must resemble the causes, and that happiness and prosperity, peace, and freedom must be the natural product of subjection to certain laws; and shame and misery, confusion and slavery, of their immunity from all.

(H. Sacheverell, D. D.)

1. The great purpose for which the powers and the liberty of thought were bestowed was for the discovery of truth; for the discovery of those speculative truths which conduct us to the love of God, and of those practical truths which enable us to be the ministers of good to man. When, therefore, freedom of thought is employed as means to these its destined ends, it is a virtuous principle, and he who feels it is acting from some of the most respectable motives of his nature. He is acting, in the first place, in conformity to the laws of his constitution, and has the secret voice of conscience applauding him amid every difficulty of his progress. He is acting, in the second place, with the dignity that belongs to the character of man; and, while the world around him is swayed either by the prejudices of antiquity, or by the idler prejudices of novelty, he stands as the superior to all the prejudices which influence lower minds.

2. When freedom of thought is employed as an end in itself, it is a principle which arises from very different causes, and is productive of very different effects. There is naturally much admiration due to that strength and independence of mind which can detect error, or which can discover truth; and there is accordingly, much sincere admiration paid to it. It is in this admiration that the danger and the snare consist. Because freedom of thought has been the great instrument of the discovery of truth, it is hastily concluded that all this is due to the freedom of thought itself rather than to the effects produced. If you feel that opinions are valuable in your estimation, not because they are free but because they are true, then go on, in the sight of God and of man, to the true honours of your moral and intellectual being. It is in this discipline you can acquire for yourselves permanent fame. But if in the employment of the powers of thought you look only to your own distinction, and care. not for the ends for which they were given, pause, I beseech you, before you advance farther.

(A. Alison.)

Liberty, freedom! The young heart bounds at the thought. It speaks of the unloosing of chains, the free roaming of the uncaged soul. the full freedom of the will. Man was born, created to be free; full freedom is his original endowment, the condition of his nobility of soul, his distinction from the irrational creatures, the image of God in which he was created. As contrasted with necessity, it is as indestructible as in Almighty God who created it. What then is the freedom which the prophets foretold, which Jesus said that He would give the glorious liberty of the sons of God? Christ freed us from the yoke of sin by the freedom of righteousness: He freed us from the dominion of concupiscence by the freedom of the Spirit and the dominion of love and grace. "Tell me," says Socrates to a disciple, "thinkest thou that freedom is a great and glorious possession alike to a man and a state?" "Most exceedingly." "Whoso then is ruled by bodily pleasures and on account of them cannot do what is best, thinkest thou that he is free?" "Not at all." "For to do what is best seemeth to them to be free; and so then, to have those who should hinder so doing to be unfree?" "Certainly." "The incontinent seem then to you to be unfree?" "Assuredly." "And they seem to you not only to be hindered from doing the best things, but to be constrained to do the foulest?" "Both alike." "But what sort of masters deemest thou those to be, who hinder what is best, constrain to what is worst?" "The worst." "And what slavery thinkest thou the worst?" "That to the worst masters." "The incontinent then are enslaved to the worst slavery?" concludes . "I think so." You know how with one consent heathen philosophers said, "The wise man alone is free." "He alone is indeed free," says Philo, "who taketh God alone for his commander." "The good man alone is free; for the evil man, though he deny it, is the slave of as many lords as he has vices." "Lust cometh, and saith, 'Thou art mine, for thou covetest the things of the body. In such or such a passion thou soldest thyself to me; I counted down the price for thee.' Avarice cometh and saith, 'Thou art mine; the gold and the silver which thou hast is the price of thy slavery.' Luxury cometh and saith, 'Thou art mine; amid the wine cups I purchased thee; amid the feasts I gained thee.' Ambition cometh and said to thee, 'Thou art surely mine. Knowest thou not, that to that end I gave thee command over others, that thou thyself mightest serve me? Knowest thou not, that to that end I bestowed power on thee, that I might bring thee under mine own?' All vices come, and one by one they chant, 'Thou art mine.' He whom so many claim, how vile a slave is he!" From this slavery Christ came to set us free. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." But then are we not still under a law? and, if we are under a law, how have we that freedom which youth especially longs for? Is then lawlessness the only freedom? Men admire what is called "the reign of law," throughout the boundless realms of God's creation. So did they idolise the beauty of the conception, that they are jealous even of Almighty God Himself, and would not have Him, by any higher law of His love, suspend His usual modes of His operation, Law then is some thing beautiful. Even in human things, what in sights and sounds so thrills through us, as when many voices or minds through obedience to a law become as one? What are all these deeds of united heroism, when all lay "with their back to the field and their feet to the foe," or that inscription, "To Lacedaemon tell, that here, obeying her behests, we fell," but the wills of many, obeying, to the death, minds without them whose will they reverenced? And cannot Almighty God make us love a law, which is the transcript of His perfections, the law of love; a law which responds to the law of our better nature within; which brings our whole being into harmony with itself, with our fellow beings and with Him.

(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

I. LIBERTY.

1. Earliest references. No doubt the reference, in the first place, is to that liberty of the gospel which distinguished it from Judaism or the old Mosaic law. Then came the gospel, that more spiritual and manly dispensation, with its great rush of liberty. Law gave way to principle, pupilage to manhood, contracted interests to worldwide fellowship. But with that freedom came danger: the danger of excess, of self-assertion, of even licence.

2. But this early application and experience was no uncommon or exceptional one. It was an example and an illustration of a very common danger and a very common experience. The early Christians were tempted to excess, not because they had been Jews and had become Christians, but because they were men of like passions with the rest of mankind.(1) There is a great freedom open to man, but a freedom which does not belong to man completely nor at once. Within certain wide limits, man has a great area of freedom. Physically, socially, providentially, man cannot do all he likes, but within a wide area he has a liberty so great that few of us in our daily life are ever brought up sharply by obstacles and reminded that we are hedged about by hindrances. It is only when we attempt the impossible or the extraordinary.(2) Now, this liberty, great as it is, is not attainable at once; we enter upon it gradually, often slowly. There is childhood turning to manhood, the wider area of liberty becomes at the man's disposal; but this is reached only after the lapse of the years of childhood, and boyhood, and youth. Or again, look at what is called success in life, when the man becomes more and more his own master, and the resources of life become more and more his; but this, too, is gained in the vast majority of cases, after years of toil. Or, once more, take political freedom. But here, too, liberty is gained not so much at once or by leaps and bounds.(3) Thus we have seen that a great freedom is open to man, and that this freedom is not attainable at once, but rather gradually. The question now presents itself as to the extent of that liberty. As regards the individual. He has liberty, even when he treads upon forbidden ground. It is true that sooner or later the violated law will vindicate itself. Nevertheless, he is free to violate these laws. So with regard to the rights and interests of others. Beyond a certain point, his fellow men will step in and restrain his liberty of action, and by pains and penalties contract his freedom. But up to this point the individual has a wide field for the exercise of even his selfishness. Once more, with regard to God. It is true man cannot thwart the great sweep of God's providence. Yet, right or wrong, good or evil, wisdom or folly: these he can choose. And the great patience of God in allowing man to disregard Him is one of the great solemn facts of life. Man's liberty is great, and the wonder is not at man's lack of freedom; it is rather the other way: how fully and to what an extent he can act as if he were his own master.

3. But with this liberty comes the temptation to misuse it, to abuse it, to make it an occasion of evil rather than of good; and this individually, socially, religiously. Individually, by giving rein to the passions, turning liberty into licence. Socially, by defying the opinions and claims of others. Religiously — or rather, irreligiously — by ignoring God and His claim to our obedience, setting up self as the one great object of worship. And so liberty becomes a cloak of maliciousness and an occasion of evil.

II. THE USE AND SAFEGUARD OF LIBERTY.

1. The conditions of the problem are two fold. There must be respect for freedom and the recognition of liberty on the one hand; and on the other, reckless and malicious use of freedom must be counteracted. These are the two sides of the problem which must be kept in view. Extreme methods violate both these. On the one hand, if mere restraint be adopted, the result must be a reduction of liberty. If, on the other hand, the absence of all restraint be allowed, the result will be the destruction of all true freedom.

2. What, then, is to be done if liberty is to be preserved, and yet not abused? Three conditions must be fulfilled:(1) There must be respect for freedom, not the depreciation of it, if anything the enhancing of it.(2) But that freedom needs to be guided towards noble ends to become a great spontaneous power which of itself will influence the life aright, and direct it towards what is high, and generous, and good. This is the more necessary the more freedom is granted. Side by side with freedom, if it is not to be abused, must be developed the spirit of voluntary acquiescence in what is right and a conscientious desire for what is best.(3) The third condition is the sense of responsibility; that as each gift, power, opportunity has its corresponding responsibility, so has this freedom; that the greater the freedom, the greater will be the responsibility for its use.

3. Now, this is just what Christianity has done. At a critical period in human history, when the old order of tyranny and corruption was crumbling, and the ground was being prepared for the growth of liberty, Christianity came, implanting great principles, awakening the consciousness of wrong, and stirring up the love of what is right, and true, and good. Thus, as the old restraint of the law passed away, the new spirit of personal responsibility, that great spiritual force, came to men; and just because Christianity was this spiritual force, it could do what no other power did. It could do without the old Jewish economy, it could sap the foundations of tyranny, it could be the promoter of liberty. It is this action of Christianity which is illustrated in St. Peter's words. See how naturally, instinctively, and comprehensively he deals with the question of liberty. "As free" — as if he said, "You are free, you have been made free, you have a right to be free. The old bondage of the law is gone, gone forever, and the freedom which is yours has been brought to you by Christ. It is nothing less than a God-given possession." But every possession has its accompanying responsibility; the free man is not the same as the irresponsible man, In fact, our responsibility increases with our powers, our possessions, our gifts, our opportunities. What, then, is the great principle and power which is to direct each one in the use of this liberty? It is the great sense that while you are free, you are yet not free. You are to act "as the servants of God." Liberty is recognised, but a service is presented as well; but one which is not enforced, it can be given or refused. But these two, liberty and service, are connected by a sense of responsibility: and that a responsibility which recognises the claims of God upon them. It is just that which imparts dignity, and power, and great gladness to duty, when it is thus seen in the light of the great and glorious service of God. For it is only as we use our liberty and all our powers in obedience to God that we can hope and accomplish much. While we stand, or try to stand, alone, while we reject God as the great end of our service, our powers are feeble, and our acts work little good, great evil, and weariness or dissatisfaction takes the heart out of our labour. But when we bring our liberty and all our powers into the service of God, all we have and all we are and all we do become connected with what is best, and, falling in with the great work of God, we become not only doubly free, but doubly useful and doubly strong.

(A. Boyd Carpenter, M. A.)

Liberty is the essence of Christianity. No one knows what it is to be quite "free" till he is a real Christian.

1. A converted man, by the fact, at once is "free" from his past. It is "cast into the depths of the sea." It is gone "away into a land not inhabited," to be mentioned no more! That is "liberty!" O how large, and how sweet. To know that the entail of the past is all cut off. Therefore the converted man is "free," too, from thousands of chains which bind other men. He is "free" from death. To him death is only a liberator. All it can do is to unshackle his spirit from the thraldom of his body. The grave cannot hold him. Satan himself — the great captivator — is a captive.

2. He is in freedom from his present self. Sin does not rule in him any more; the world no longer fascinates, the flesh no longer drags him down. He has gone up far above those things. He walks his higher path, a path where the whole man can expand itself; a path worthy of his immortality, at large, satisfying, infinite! And beyond all this, that "man in Christ" has now "free" access to God. He can go up any moment, under any circumstances of life, and he can tell his Father. All this must go to make freedom. Who, then, is the "free" man, but he whom the Lord makes free?

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

There is not anything in the world more generally desired than liberty, nor scarce anything more generally abused. The apostles, therefore, especially St. Peter and St. Paul, the two chiefest planters of the Churches, endeavoured early to instruct believers in the true doctrine, and to direct them in the right use of their Christian liberty so often in their several epistles as fit occasion was offered thereunto. And we may further observe concerning these two apostles that St. Paul usually toucheth upon this argument of liberty as it is to be exercised in the case of scandal; but St. Peter oftener, as in the case of obedience. From which words I gather three observations, all concerning our Christian liberty, in that branch of it especially which respecteth human ordinances, and the use of the creatures and of all indifferent things. Either

1. In the existence of it, as free.

2. In the exercise of it, "and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness."

3. In the end of it, "but as the servants of God." The first observation: We must so submit ourselves to superior authority, as that we do not thereby impeach our Christian liberty, "as free." The second this: We must so maintain our liberty, as that we do not under that colour either commit any sin or omit any requisite office, either of charity or duty, "and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness." The third this: In the whole exercise, both of the liberty we have in Christ and of the respect we owe unto men, we must evermore remember ourselves to be, and accordingly behave ourselves as those that are God's servants, "but as the servants of God." The sum of the whole three points in brief this: We must be careful without either infringing or abusing our liberty at all times, and in all things to serve God. Now then to the several, points as they lie in the text. "As free." Which words have manifest reference to the exhortation delivered three verses before the text. Submit yourselves to public governors, both supreme and subordinate, be subject to your own particular masters, honour all men with those proper respects that belong to them in their several stations; but look you, do all this, not as slaves but as free, do it without impeachment of the liberty you have in Christ. First, this liberty is purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and is therefore usually Called by the name of Christian liberty (John 8:36; Galatians 5:1). Secondly, is revealed unto us outwardly in the preaching of the gospel of God and of Christ, which is therefore called the law of liberty (James 1:25; James 2:12). And thirdly, is conveyed unto us inwardly and effectually by the operation of the Spirit of God and of Christ, which is therefore called a free spirit (Psalm 51:12; 2 Corinthians 3:17). Now this liberty, so dearly purchased, so clearly revealed, so firmly conveyed, it is our duty to maintain (Galatians 5:1). A thing whereof it behoveth us to have a special care, and that for weighty respects. First, in regard of the trust reposed in us in this behalf. Every honest man taketh himself bound to discharge with faithfulness the trust reposed in him. Now these two, the Christian faith and the Christian liberty, are of all other the choicest jewels whereof the Lord Jesus Christ hath made His Church the depository. Especially since we cannot so do, secondly, without manifest wrong to Christ; nor, thirdly, without great dishonour to God. Not without wrong to Christ. St. Paul therefore disputeth it as upon a ground of right. "Ye are bought with a price, be ye not the servants of men" (1 Corinthians 7:22). You cannot dispose yourselves in any other service without apparent wrong to Him. Neither only do we injure Christ by making ourselves the servants of men, but we dishonour God also, which is a third reason. For to whom we make ourselves servants him we make our Lord and God. The covetous worldling therefore, by serving mammon, maketh mammon his god. Yea, and our own too, which may stand for a fourth reason. "Ye see your calling, brethren," saith the apostle (1 Corinthians 1:26). He would have men take notice of their Christian calling, that so they might walk worthy of it. Now by our calling we are free men (Galatians 5:13). And being so, we infinitely abase ourselves and disparage our calling, when of free men we become slaves. Leo the Emperor, therefore, by special and severe constitution, forbade all free men within the empire sale of their liberties, calling it facinus in those that were so presumptuous as to buy them, and no less than folly, yea, madness in those that were so base as to sell them; not without some indignation at the former laws for suffering such an indignity to be so long practised without either chastisement or restraint. And if he justly censured them as men of abject minds, that would for any consideration in the world willingly forego their civil and Roman liberty, what flatness of spirit possesseth us if we wilfully betray our Christian and spiritual liberty? Whereby, besides the dishonour, we do also, with our own hands, pull upon our own heads a great deal of unnecessary cumber. For whereas we might draw an easy yoke, carry a light burden, observe commandments that are not grievous in the service of God and of Christ, by putting ourselves into the service of men we thrust our necks into a hard yoke of bondage. Besides these, that do it thus by open assault, I would there were not others also that did by secret underminings go about to deprive us of that liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, even then when they most pretend the maintenance of it. We oftentimes betray away our own liberty when we might maintain it, and so become servants unto men, when we both might and ought to keep ourselves free. Which fault we shall be the better able to avoid when we shall know the true causes, whence it springeth; which are evermore one of these two, an unsound head or an unsound heart. Sometimes we esteem too highly of others, so far as either to envassal our judgments to their opinions, or to enthral our consciences to their precepts, and that is our weakness; there the fault is in the head. Sometimes we apply ourselves to the wills of others, with an eye to our own benefit or satisfaction in some other carnal or worldly respect, and that is our fleshliness; there the fault is in the heart. This latter is the worst, and therefore in the first place to be avoided. The most and worse sort, unconscionable men, do often transgress this way. There is, I confess, much reverence to be given to the writings of the godly ancient fathers, more to the canons and decrees of general and provincial councils, and not a little to the judgment of learned, sober, and godly divines of later and present times. But we may not build our faith upon them as upon a sure foundation. What is Calvin or Luther, nay, what is Paul or Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed? That is to say, instruments, but not lords of your belief. To do God and ourselves right, it is necessary we should with our utmost strength maintain the doctrine and power of that liberty wherewith Christ hath endowed His Church, without either usurping the mastery over others, or subjecting ourselves to their servitude, so as to surrender either our judgments or consciences to be wholly disposed according to the opinions or wills of men, though of never so excellent piety or parts. We must so maintain our liberty that we abuse it not, as we shall, if, under the pretence of Christian liberty, we either adventure the doing of some unlawful thing, or omit the performance of any requisite duty. "As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness." The apostle's intention in the whole clause will the better appear when we know what is meant by cloak and what by maliciousness. The Greek word ἐπικάλυμμα, which is nowhere else found in the whole New Testament but in this verse only, signifieth properly any covering, as the covering of badgers' skins that was spread over the tabernacle is in the Septuagint's translation called ἐπικάλυμμα. And it is very fitly translated a cloak, in respect of that notion wherein the word in our English tongue is commonly used, to note some fair and colourable pretence, wherewith we conceal from the knowledge of others the dishonesty and faultiness of our intentions in some things practised by us. It is a corruption very common among us; whatsoever we are within, yet we desire to make a fair show outwardly. We are loth to forbear those sins which we are ashamed to profess, and therefore we colour them and cloak them that we may both do the thing we desire and- yet miss the shame we deserve. You see what the cloak is; see now what is maliciousness. Κακία is the word, which is properly rendered by malice or maliciousness. And as these English words, and the Latin word malicia whence these are borrowed, so likewise κακία in Greek is many times used to signify one special kind of sin, which is directly opposite to brotherly love and charity, and the word is usually so taken, wheresoever it is either set in opposition to such charity or else ranked with other special sins of the same kind, such as are anger, envy, hatred, and the like. And if we should so understand it here, the sense were good; for it is a very common thing in the world to offend against brotherly charity under the colour of Christian liberty, and doubtless our apostle here intendeth the remedy of that abuse also. Yet I rather conceive that the word maliciousness in this place is to be taken in a larger comprehension for all manner of evil and of naughtiness. To use liberty for an occasion to the flesh, and to use liberty for a cloak of maliciousness is the very same thing, and it is a very great sin. For the proof whereof I shall need to use no other arguments than the words of the text will afford. First, every act of maliciousness is a sin; and, secondly, to cloak it with a fair pretence, maketh it a greater sin; but then, thirdly, to use Christian liberty for the cloak giveth a farther addition to it and maketh it a greater sin. First, it is a sin to do any act of maliciousness. Nor so only, but it is a hurtful thing, and of a noxious and malignant quality, as leaven souring the whole lump of our services to God. But if men will need be hypocrites, and must have a cloak for their maliciousness, they might yet at least bethink themselves of somewhat else of lighter price to make a cloak of, and not to use to so base a purpose so rich a stuff, as is this blessed liberty which the Son of God hath purchased with His most precious blood. As in nature, so in morality, by how much better anything is in the right use of it, by so much is it worse in the abuse. Now we see how great a sin it is thus to abuse our liberty it will be needful in the next place to inquire more particularly wherein this abuse consisteth, that so we may be the better able to avoid it. We are therefore to know that Christian liberty may be abused for a cloak of maliciousness these four ways following: First, we may make it a cloak of maliciousness if we hold ourselves by virtue thereof discharged from our obedience, either to the whole moral law of God or to any part of it. Great offenders this way are the libertines, who quite cancel the whole law of God under the pretence of Christian liberty, as if they that were in Christ were no longer tied to yield obedience to the moral law, which is a pestilent error and of very dangerous consequence. The law considered as a rule can no more be abolished or changed than can the nature of good and evil be abolished or changed. It is our singular comfort then, and the happiest fruit of our Christian liberty, that we are freed by Christ, and through faith in Him from the covenant and curse of the law; but we must know that it is our duty, notwithstanding the liberty that we have in Christ, to frame our lives and conversations according to the rule of the law. The second way whereby our liberty may be used for a cloak of maliciousness is when we stretch it in the use of things that are indeed indifferent beyond the just bounds of sobriety. It belongeth to every sober Christian advisedly to consider, not only what in itself may lawfully be done or left undone, but also what in godly wisdom and discretion is fittest for him to do, or not to do, upon all occasions, as the exigence of present circumstances shall require. He that without such due consideration will do all he may do at all times, under colour of Christian liberty, he shall undoubtedly sometime use his liberty for a cloak of maliciousness. It may be done a third way, and that is by using it uncharitably, which is the case whereon I told you St. Paul beateth so often. When we use our liberty so as to stumble the weak consciences of our brethren thereby. He that will have his own way in everything he hath a liberty unto, whosoever shall take offence at it maketh his liberty but a cloak of maliciousness by using it uncharitably. The fourth and last way, whereby we may use our liberty for a cloak of maliciousness is by using it undutifully, pretending it unto our disobedience to lawful authority. And so I pass to my last observation. The observation was this: In the whole exercise both of the liberty we have in Christ and of those respects we owe unto men, we must evermore remember ourselves to be, and accordingly behave ourselves as those that are God's servants; in these last words, "But as the servants of God," containing our condition and our carriage. For the first, We cannot imagine any consideration, that may be found in any service in the world, to render it desirable, which is not to be found, and that in a far more eminent degree, in this service of God. If justice may provoke us, or necessity enforce us, or easiness hearten us, or honour allure us, or profit draw us to any service, behold here they all concur. First, It is the most just service, whether we look at the title of right on His part or reasons of equity on ours. It is, secondly, the most necessary service. Necessary, first, because we are born to serve. We have not the liberty to choose whether we will serve or no; all the liberty we have is to choose our master. It is necessary, secondly, for our safety and security, lest, if we withdraw our service from him, we perish justly in our rebellion. It is necessary, thirdly, by our own voluntary act, when we bound ourselves by solemn vow and promise in the face of the open congregation at our baptism. It is, thirdly (which at the first hearing may seem a paradox, yet will appear upon further consideration to be a most certain truth), of all other the most easy service, in regard both of the certainty of the employment and of the help we have towards the performance of it. He that serveth many masters, or even but one, if he be a fickle man, he never knoweth the end of his work. It is some ease to know certainly what we must do; but much more to be assured of sufficient help for the doing of it. It is, fourthly, the most honourable service. He goeth for the better man that serveth the better master. It is, fifthly and lastly, the most profitable service. We are indeed unprofitable servants to Him, but sure we have a very profitable service under Him. These things among others the servant of God may certainly reckon upon as the certain benefits of his service wherein his Master will not fail him if he fail not in his service — protection, maintenance, reward. And he that will be God's servant in truth, and not only in title, must perform all these to his heavenly Master. Reverence is the first, which ever ariseth from a deliberate apprehension of some worthiness in another more than in a man's self, and is ever accompanied with a fear to offend and a care to please the person reverenced; and so it hath three branches, whereof the first is humility. From which fear of offending a care and desire of pleasing cannot be severed. Obedience is the next general duty. Servants be obedient to your masters. We are to show our obedience to our heavenly Master yet further by submitting to His wholesome discipline when at any time He shall see cause to give us correction. The third and last general duty is fidelity. "Who is a faithful and wise servant?" "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," as if the wisdom and goodness of a servant consisted in his faithfulness. The first whereof is heartiness in His service. There are many servants in the world that will work hard and bustle at it lustily for a fit and so long as their master's eye is upon them, but when his back is turned can be content to go on fair and softly and fellow like. Secondly, We must show our faithfulness to our Master by our zeal in His behalf. A faithful servant will not endure an evil word spoken of his master behind his back, but he will be ready upon every occasion to vindicate his credit and to magnify him unto the opinion of others. He will make much of those that love his master, and set the less by those that ce not for him. And as to his credit principally, so he hath an eye also, in the second plce, to the profit of his master. Thirdly, If we be His faithful servants, we should let it appear by our diligence in doing His business. No man would willingly entertain an idle servant. We see now what we are to do if we will approve ourselves and our services unto the Lord our heavenly Master.

(Bp. Sanderson.)

A cloak of maliciousness
The word translated "maliciousness" is a large word. Sometimes it means "cowardice"; sometimes "baseness," It is elsewhere rendered "evil," and (James 1:21) "naughtiness" — which perhaps best conveys the whole sense. "As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of anything that is wrong." For instance, there are those who, having found forgiveness, are now walking very carelessly, and do not hold sin in sufficient abhorrence. Still more, there are those who, because they have escaped from one sin, allow themselves in another. As when a man only changes worldly pride for spiritual pride, or gives up carnal indulgence for some religious selfishness, or, worse still, when a man deliberately commits a sin, with a thought: "God will forgive it, as He has forgiven other of my sins. When I have done it I shall pray, and I shall repent, and hear no more about it." Or, more dreadful yet, "I am elect. It does not matter what I do. God does not see sin in His saints." Awful delusion! Or — if "evil" do not go to such a length as that — it may be your religious freedom has made you very severe in your judgment of others. You are "free," but you are not sympathising with those who are doing the very thing which once bound you. You have still almost a "malicious" pleasure in hearing or speaking of somebody's faults! A "free" one should be always so humble in the recollection of his past bondage that he should be tender and gentle to the sin which he once did! But say you have "liberty," how are you using it? All your powers, privileges, hopes; are you consecrating them to do all the good you can to the Lord's "free" men? That serenity of mind that you have now learnt, that ease of heart, that sense of safety, that peace that God has given you, are they held as talents to use for others? All your former experience of the wickedness of the world, is it now being turned to good account? or are you content with your own exemptions, sitting, as indifferent to what may befall your fellow creatures? And is not all that "using liberty as a cloak of maliciousness"? Surely every "free" one should be a liberator!

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

As the servants of God
The good old word servant is going out of fashion. In a mission held lately, some services for domestic servants were advertised, and it was discovered that the notice gave offence. The servants were ashamed of their name. There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact of being a servant, but there is a great deal to be ashamed of in the fact of being a bad servant. Liberty does not mean licence. We are not free to do wrong. Let us look at ourselves, then, "as free, but as the servants of God," and learn some of the marks of a good servant.

I. A GOOD SERVANT SHOULD be HUMBLE. There is a great want of humility amongst us. We live in an age of advancement. Education is making gigantic strides, all classes are being put on the same political level, and all this has a tendency to make people less humble.

II. A GOOD SERVANT SHOULD BE INDUSTRIOUS. Dr. Livingstone took as his motto, "Fear God, and work hard." It is a good motto for every Christian now. We are to be workers together with God. He is always working in us, and for us, and we must do our part. You know the Prince of Wales has for his motto — "Ich Dien I serve.

III. A GOOD SERVANT LOVES HIS MASTER. The best work is always done where the heart goes along with the hands. We shall not find any work too hard, or any self-sacrifice too great, if we love our Master.

IV. A GOOD SERVANT WILL BE GOOD TO HIS FELLOW SERVANTS. Jesus came to clasp all hands together, and make the whole world kin. We who are working God's work should lend a helping hand to others. In God's great house of this world we have our different stations and labours. Let the strong help the weak; let those who have learnt most of the service of God our Master teach the beginners.

(H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)

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