Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;…
It is impossible to mistake the charm and power which attach to the word "liberty." There is something in our nature which at once responds to it. It appeals to sympathies which are universal and profound. Liberty is itself, in one particular sense, the excellence of man as man, i.e., of man as endowed with a free will. As man compares himself with the inanimate creation and the lower animals he knows that he is what they are not. The sense of this prerogative is the ground of human self-respect. To attempt to crush the exercise of this endowment is regarded, as a crime against human nature, while the undertaking to strengthen its vigour and enlarge its scope appeals to man's profound desire to make the best of that which is his central self. But when in this connection we use the word two different things are often intended. The liberty to choose between good and evil, with an existing inclination in the direction of evil is one thing; the true moral liberty of man is another. Man's true liberty may be described as the unimpeded movement of his will towards God; but the only liberty with which many speakers and writers trouble themselves is a liberty to choose between good and evil, as though we could not conceive of a liberty which did not include the choice of evil — as though the power of choosing evil was an integral element of real human liberty. Let us rid ourselves of this miserable misconception. True liberty is secured when the will moves freely within its true element, which is moral good. Moral good is to the human will what the air is to the bird, what water is to the fish. Bird and fish have freedom enough in their respective elements. Water is death to the bird as air is death to the fish. A bird can sometimes drown itself; a fish can leap out of the water and die upon the bank; but the liberty of fish and bird is sufficiently complete without this added capacity for self-destruction. And so it is with man. Moral good, the moral law of God, is the element within which the human will may safely find room for its utmost capacities of healthful exercise and invigoration; and when a man takes it into his head that his freedom is incomplete if it does not include a license to do wrong, he is in a fair way to precipitate himself out of his true vital element, to the enslavement and ruin of his will. Every Christian will understand this. He knows that he would gain nothing in the way of moral freedom by a murder or a lie. He knows that our Lord, who did no sin, was not, therefore, other than morally free, since it was His freedom in giving Himself to death, which is the essence of His self-sacrifice for the sins of the world. Nay, a Christian knows, too, that God could not choose evil without doing violence to His essential nature. But is God, therefore, without moral freedom? And does it not follow that the more closely man approaches the holiness of God, the more closely does he approach to the true idea of liberty.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;