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will not be disappointed. It is true, he hath made angels and men free; but, free as they are, and wicked as they may be, he will, as their Maker and Governor, be served by them, one way or another. If they will not serve him willingly, and be happy, they must serve him against their wills, and be miserable ; for he did not make them altogether for their own sakes, much less for the service of his enemy. Accordingly, Herod may persecute or despise; the Jewish chiefs may plot and bribe ; Judas may sell and betray; Pilate may compliment the mob with the life of a man whom he found innocent; and the devil may, by his power over their hearts, inspire and manage this whole scheme of iniquity and murder; but still there is one higher than the highest that regardeth. There is one higher than them all, that shall control and overrule the whole transaction, although the blackest hell ever contrived, and turn it to the most glorious exemplification of goodness; to the happiest of all events; to the retrieval of a lost, and to the salvation of a desperate, world.
How ought we to admire the goodness, and adore the wisdom, and revere the power of God, in this most important, this most amazing, piece of history! Can any thing give such a rock for faith to build on, or ground for such a battery against sin ? If Judas, without speaking or writing, demonstrates the truth of a religion he did all he could to suppress, who will not believe it to be true? If our infidels will not listen to the arguments of Peter or Paul, upon a supposition that they were deceivers, surely they will admit Judas, who acted a contrary part, and was of a spirit truly modern, to be their apostle. Whoever considers attentively his whole story, must go away either a fool, or a Christian
Nor does this history furnish stronger arguments for faith, than it does against sin. To the man whose conviction it hath already wrought, it will set the sins of covetousness, dissimulation, treachery, and murder, in a stronger light, and paint them in fouler colours, than they can otherwise be possibly seen in. It will shew him what conscience, enraged to the highest, can do, even in the most hardened minds. It will give him a most sensible and awful proof of speedy vengeance, executed by the devil, in a mortal fit of despair, on the wretch he had so lately seduced. To con
clude; it will lead his eyes forward to the cross of Christ, and shew him what sin is, by the infinite value and dignity of the atonement made for it; and, while he beholds the blood streaming from his Saviour's wounds, it will remind him, that he too must be a traitor, and a Judas, if, by his sins, he again puts Christ to open shame, and crucifies him afresh. We are all the disciples, and some of us the apostles, of Christ, enlisted into his service, as well as the twelve, by a solemn vow or covenant. The honour of him and his holy religion, and the well-being of his spiritual body the church, are intrusted with us. If, therefore, we grossly or perseveringly sin, we are traitors and Judases, as well as he whose treachery gave occasion to this Discourse; for do we not expose the name of Christ, and the credit of his religion, to the contempt and ridicule of infidels, for the pleasure or profit accruing from our sins? Do we not sell and betray our Master to a severer cross than that on mount Calvary? I say severer; for surely such it was in the estimation of Christ himself, who willingly suffered death in his natural, that he might give life to his mystical, body, which we by our sins corrupt, deface, and do all we can to destroy. But, whatever the debauched, or the ambitious, may say, to clear himself of a copartnership in sin with Iscariot, let not the covetous, or the treacherous, who postpone the honour and service of Christ to the peculiar vices of that traitor, deny that he is a Judas. What can so strongly demonstrate the force of that unhappy prejudice, wherewith the minds of people, otherwise of the clearest understandings, are blinded by a too close conversation with the seducing world, as that they cannot see their sins in this just and affecting light, in which both reason and Scripture represent them!
God grant, however, that we may at length lay these things to heart, as we ought to do; and to him be the praise, and the honour, and the glory, of our faith and obedience, now, and for evermore. Amen.
HUMAN LIBERTY, WHAT; AND HOW TO BE OBTAINED.
JOHN VIII. 31, 32.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Our Saviour here calls such as believe in his word, and always continue steadfast in that belief, his real disciples; who, in consequence of their faith, steadily adhered to have his promise, that they “shall know the truth,' the great truth, that is, the true religion; and that 'this truth' so known,
shall make them free.' The Jews, who heard him, looking on themselves as free already, took this amiss, and said, •We be Abraham's children, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest thou then, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever ommitteth sin is the servant of sin ;' by which he delicately intimates, that, although they were not servants to any particular man, yet they were the slaves of sin; and promises, that the truths of his word shall deliver them from this worst sort of bondage, by reforming their future lives, and discharging them from the punishment of past sins.
Here it is to be observed in general, that liberty is connected with truth, and slavery with error, in the very nature of things. He who knows the truth in any branch of knowledge, knows how to direct and govern himself in that re-spect, and therefore is so far free; whereas he who is ignorant of it, or what is worse, who holds errors opposite to it, must, in every thought or action relative to that part of knowledge, either think and act absurdly, or be led and governed by others, which is so far an instance of servitude, as it implies subjection and dependance. If a close observer of things will be at the pains to trace this doctrine upward, he will find every being possessed of so much liberty, or self-government, as he is possessed of wisdom, till he arrives at that Being, who is infinitely free, because he is infinitely wise. And if he pursues the same doctrine down
ward, he will find every being so far necessarily subject, that is, either governed or enslaved, as he hath less reason and wisdom, till he comes to the fool and madman, who are wholly deprived of liberty. Hence it appears, that liberty, and even power, are the prerogative of wisdom; and subjection, nay, slavery, are the consequence of folly. It sometimes happens indeed, that in the communities of this world wisdom must truckle to folly; but this is nevertheless against the nature of things, and falls out only either by accident, or by the curse of God, who sets a fool to rule over such as are wiser than himself, for the punishment of a guilty nation.
It is evident, that our Saviour, in the passage from whence my text is taken, sets forth virtue or goodness as freedom, and vice as slavery; assigning to the former, as its principle, the knowledge of true religion; and to the latter, as its cause and source, the ignorance of that religion. It is also evident, that he points to his word, as the treasury from whence this knowledge is to be drawn. Hence it follows, that faith and freedom, that true Christianity and true liberty, are but different names for the same thing.
The libertine finds it hard to digest this doctrine. To believe in mysteries, to submit to positive institutions, and to regulate his life by an expectation of rewards and punishments, appear to him as instances of a too mean compliance in us; and the expectation of such compliance, as a proof of a too arbitrary will in its Author. Now, this proceeds from his entertaining a wrong notion both of human nature, and of human liberty.
In the first place, He does not consider, that man is, not only by his original nature, a subordinate and dependant, but also by his present nature, a corrupt and vicious creature; and that, while common sense vouches for the truth of the former observation, universal experience forces us to confess that of the latter.
Neither does he, in the second place, consider, as he ought to do, that a being, so subordinate, must be governed; nor that a being, so corrupt, requires correction; or, if he should admit the necessity both of government and correction, yet, having too slight notions of our dependance and corruption, and too airy an idea of liberty, he thinks he
ought neither to be governed nor corrected by such a faith, nor by such maxims as those of Christianity. He therefore pleads for an unlimited liberty of thinking, and for a less limited liberty of acting, than it is fit to give him.
Perhaps we shall do some service to him, or at least to others, not altogether so overweening, if we, with a just eye to human nature, state the right notion of liberty, in respect both to thought and action; and afterwardshew, that Christianity, truly such, tends directly, and more powerfully than any thing else, to promote and preserve this liberty.
When we speak of liberty, as a thing we either wish for, or would keep, we mean by it something that is good, nay, highly conducive to our own happiness. Liberty, therefore, of thought, must be the power or faculty of thinking in such a manner as may make us truly wise. Whatsoever helps us to do this, promotes the liberty; and whatsoever hinders us to do it, causes or increases the slavery of our minds. So likewise liberty of acting must be the power or privilege of carrying into execution that wisdom we have acquired by liberty of thinking, or, in other words, of acting in such a manner as may conduce to our real happiness. Whatsoever helps us to do this, befriends our liberty; whatsoever hinders, enslaves us.
These positions are, and for ever will be, true; although, in order to think wisely, we should be confined to a particular way of thinking; and, in order to act rightly, should be obliged to act by certain rules; nay, although that way of thinking should not square in all things with our previous judgment, nor those rules of action with our humour and inclination ; because, of ourselves, we are neither so wise, nor so well inclined, as to need no direction. Who are we? Are we not, in respect to knowledge, 'born as the wild ass's colt,' that is, totally ignorant? And when afterward we set ourselves to the acquisition of religious knowledge, are we not liable to infinite errors, and those of the grossest kinds? Do we not, therefore, stand in need of a teacher? Again, are we not subordinate beings ? Are we not corrupt and sinful creatures ? And do we not therefore stand in need of a governor?
Now, if God shall offer himself to be our teacher, surely the matter of his instructions must be true wisdom, and con