So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
St. Paul claims as one of the distinguished blessings of the gospel that by it "the creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." It needs but little knowledge of ourselves to perceive that we have a biassed will, a strong natural tendency towards evil rather than good. No effort is needed for the indulgence of our natural appetites in ways forbidden by God's law: conscience may whisper to us that such indulgence is wrong, but the effort is needed not for their gratification, but for their restraint. And what is thus felt to be the law of nature is confirmed by the unconscious testimony of mankind. Transgressions of God's law are often spoken of as pleasures; acts of obedience to that law are never so described. It is this natural tendency which is spoken of in the New Testament as a state of bondage; from it Christ would deliver us; but it is obvious that we cannot be said to be completely delivered so long as it demands effort, a struggle, self-denial on our part to obey this higher law. For the very idea of liberty is the ability to do that which we wish or prefer; it is the carrying out our own plans and pursuits without interference on the part of any other, and without constraint; it is the being able to manifest our whole nature in the way we ourselves desire. It is because we are so tied and bound that we are spoken of in Holy Scripture as being "in bondage under the elements of the world." From this state we are delivered by our incorporation into Christ, by our receiving His Holy Spirit, by our being made members of His body, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. But without our co-operation such Divine gift will profit us nothing-nay, rather it will increase our guilt, because it will make us more willing instruments in the transgressions to which we are tempted. This gift from God, then, gives us the power of a free choice — of a free choice between two powers struggling for the mastery of our souls. On the one side are the influences of our corrupt nature; and, on the other hand, the moral powers left by the Fall, conscience aided by the inspirations of God's Holy Spirit. But in the warfare between these opposing powers of good and evil there are secondary influences which often seem to play a most important part in deciding the issue of the contest. We are all greatly affected by our surroundings. Education, the example of those we love, the maxims we are accustomed to hear, cannot fail to exert an influence upon our judgments of right and wrong. Sometimes these influences may cause good men to consent to actions which under other circumstances they would denounce as evil. But much more frequently the effect of these influences is seen in men professing a deference and regard for the principles and practices of religion which, in their hearts, they do not feel. It is quite clear that such a state of mind is not reconcilable with the thought of the happiness of heaven. Even upon earth there can be no real happiness in the discharge of religious duties or obligations with which we have no true hearty sympathy. We have sometimes heard of a temple of truth, in which men were compelled to speak exactly what they thought, in which, whilst they imagined that they were uttering the usual courtesies of life, the customary expressions of civility, or decorous agreement with the friend with whom they were conversing, they really gave vent to their inward feelings, to those thoughts which we are accustomed to keep secret, and which are sometimes far from being in harmony with what we say. To be compelled to say all that we feel, to show to their fullest extent the inclinations of our mind, the hidden preferences of which we are ashamed, and which we labour to keep secret, would be a grievous burden to us, and would sometimes present us in a very different light before others from that we should wish. But when we are in God's presence this must be our lot. And, moreover, we shall feel that He who knows all is our Judge, that His power is irresistible whilst His knowledge is universal, that He is omnipotent as well as omniscient. And so we shall be compelled to set aside all seeming. We shall then be judged by the law of liberty, for our words and actions will be the true expression of what we are and what we feel — no disguise will be possible. And as we shall be judged at last by this law of liberty, it would be well for us all to test ourselves by it now in this our day of probation. We must have regard to both words and actions; for both are the expression of what we really are. Both with tongue and actions we may play a part for a time, but in spite of ourselves in time we show our true selves. And it is to this that the apostle would incite us. Let us so speak and so do as Christ has bidden us speak and do in His gospel. Let us place it before us as the one great end and aim of our life to do His will, to give effect to the promptings of His grace, to live for the next world and not for this, to copy the life of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. By His help this can be done; by depending upon Him this can be accomplished, but in no other way.
Parallel VersesKJV: So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.