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gives the adorable personage, of whom he writes. In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made, that was made. In him was life, and the , life was the light of men. The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, John i. 1, &c. Remark these words, dwelt among us, the phrase alludes to the Shekinah, which many Jewish Rabbies say, was the Messiah.
What Jesus Christ affirms being granted, that is, that he was THE LIGHT by excellence, no apology is needful; for he had a right to absolve a woman, whom Moses, by the order of God, had condemned to die. The authority of inferior judges is limited to the execution of those laws, which the supreme legislator appoints. Sovereign princes have reserved the prerogative of shewing mercy. The Pharisees foresaw the consequences of admitting the title, that he claimed, and therefore they disputed his right to claim it ; Thou bearest record of thyself, say they, thy record is not true, chap. viii. 12.
This objection would naturally arise in the mind. It seems to be founded on this incontestible principle, No envoy from heaven, the Messiah himself not excepted, has a right to require submission to his decisions, unless he give proofs of his mission. All implicit faith in men, who have not received divine credentials, or who refuse to produce them, is not faith, but puerile credulity, gross superstition.
But the Pharisees, who made this objection, did not make it for the sake of obtaining evidence, and Jesus Christ reproves them for this duplicity. If you continue in doubt of my mission, said he te them, it is your own fault, your infidelity can only
proceed from your criminal passions, ye judge after the flesh, ver. 15. If you would suspend these passions, you would soon perceive, that the holiness of my life gives me a right to bear witness in my own cause ; for which of you convinceth me of sin ? ver. 46.
You would soon see, that my testimony is confirmed by that of my Father, who, when he sent me into the world, armed me with his omnipotence, which displays itself in my miracles, He, that sent me is with me, the Father hath not left me alone, ver. 29. But the hatred you bear to me prevents your seeing the attributes of my Father in me, ye neither know me, nor my Father, ver. 19. However, I will not yet justify my mission by inflicting those punishments on you, which your obstinacy deserves, I judge no man; nor will I perform the office of a judge, till I have finished that of a Redeemer. When you have filled up the measure of your sins, by obtaining a decree for my crucifixion, you shall be forced to acknowledge under that iron rod, which the Father hath given me to destroy my enemies, the divinity of a mission, that your wilful obstinacy now disputes, when you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, ver. 28.
Arguments so powerful, threatenings so terrible, made deep impressions on the minds of some of our Lord's hearers, and to them, who felt the force of what was said, Jesus Christ added, 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, ver. 13.
I suppose, among the people, to whom these words were addressed, were some of the disciples of Judas of Gaulon, a city of Galilee, who, for this reason, was called Judas the Gaulonite. These seditious people supposed that in order to be a good Jew, it was necessary to be a bad subject of the emperor. They were always ripe for rebellion against the Romans, and they reproached those of their countrymen, who quietly submitted to these tyrants of mankind, with degenerating from the noble spirit of their ancestors. This opinion, I think, places their answer to Jesus Christ in the clearest light. We are, say they, Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest thou, ye shall be made free? ver. 33. Had they spoken of the whole nation, how durst they have affirmed, after the well known subjection of their country to so many different conquerors, we were never in bondage to any man?
Jesus turned their attention from the literal to the spiritual meaning of his promise. He told them there were bonds more shameful than those, which Pharoah and Nebuchadnezzar had formerly put on their fathers, more humiliating than those, to which the Romans obliged the nation at the time of his speaking to submit; bonds, with which sin loaded its slaves, chains, which they themselves actually wore, while they imagined they were free; Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin, ver. 34. Jesus Christ intended to inform them, that, although God had patiently treated them to that time as his children in his church, he would shortly expel them as slaves, and deal with them not as the legitimate children of Abraham; but as the sons of Hagar, of whom it had been said, as St. Paul remarks, Cast out the bond-woman and her son ; for the son of the bondwoman, shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman, Gal. iv. 30.
But while he undeceived them concerning that imaginary liberty, which, they flattered themselves, they enjoyed, he announced real liberty to them.
and after he had given them most mortifying ideas of their condition, he declared, that he alone could free them from it ; this is the sense of my text. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. Some interpreters think, there is in these words an allusion to a custom among the Greeks, with whom a presumptive heir had a right of adopting brethren, and of freeing slaves.
I will neither undertake to prove the fact, nor the consequence inferred from it: but it is clear, that the title of Son by excellence, which Jesus Christ claims in this place, entirely corresponds with the end, that I have assigned to this whole discourse, that is, to justify that pre-eminence. over. Moses, which he had assumed; and to prove that he might without usurpation, or, as St. Paul expresses it; without thinking it robbery, Phil. ii. 6. act as supreme legislator, and pardon a woman whom the law of Moses condemned to die. A passage in the epistle to the Hebrews will confirm this sense of our text. Jesus Christ was counted worthy of more than Moses, inasmuch as he, who hath builded the house, hath more honor than the house. He, that built all things, is God. Moses was faithful in all his house as a servazt.
But Christ as a son. over his own house, Heb. iii. 3, 4, &c. This is the Son by excellence, the Son, of whom it was said, when he came into the world, Let all the angels of God worship him, chap. i. 6. This Son, this God, who built the house; this Son, this God, who is the maker and Lord of all things: this is he, to whom alone it appertains to free us from the dominion of sin, and to put us into the possession of trụe and: real liberty. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Here let us finish this analysis, and let me hope, that its utility, will sufficiently apologize for its
length, and let us employ our remaining time in attending to reflections of another kind, by which we shall more fully enter into the views of our blessed Saviour.
I. I will endeavor to give you a distinct idea of liberty.
II. I shall prove that liberty is incompatible with sin, and that a sinner is a real slave.
III. I shall lead you to the great Redeemer of sinners, and I shall prove the proposition, which I have chosen for my text, If the son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
I. What is Liberty ? Liberty, I think, may be considered in five different points of view. The first regards the understanding.
The second respects the will. The third relates to the conscience. The fourth belongs to the conduct, and the fifth to the condition.
1. The liberty of man in regard to his understanding consists in a power of suspending his judgment, till he has considered any object in contemplation on every side, so that he may yield only to evidence. A suspension of judgment is a power adapted to the limited sphere, in which finite creatures are confined. God, who is an infinite Spirit, hath not this kind of liberty ; it is incompatible with the eminence of his perfections; the ideas which he had of creatures before their existence, were the models, according to which they were created. He perceives at once all objects in every point of view. He sees the whole with evidence, and as evidence carries consent along with it, he is gloriously incapable of doubt, and of suspending his judgment.
It is not so with finite minds, particularly with