Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;…
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.