In the United States, today is remembered as the day – two hundred and forty-five years ago – when our nation was born. This is a day when we celebrate God’s gift of liberty and freedom, and all the blessings which accompany it. Truly, we have much for which we may give Him thanks this morning!
Today is a good day to remember another kind of freedom, too – a freedom that can be celebrated by people everywhere, and not just Americans! All men, women, and children are naturally born into a state of sorrowful slavery; and in this state, we are compelled to serve a terrible tyrant. This is none other than the slavery of sin and the despotism of the devil.
But thanks be to God – we are not doomed to this horrible slavery forever! One day, two thousand years ago, a Man stood up in a little seaside synagogue to read the Scriptures before the people assembled to worship there. A scroll containing the writings of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. He purposely unrolled the scroll until He came almost to the very end; and then, in a clear voice, He read the following words of prophecy:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Silence reigned in the synagogue. The Scripture-reader rolled up the scroll once more and handed it back to the man who had given it to Him. All eyes were upon Him as He walked back to His seat and sat down. Then, once more, He opened His mouth and declared,
“This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
Yes, the Scripture-reader was none other than the Lord Jesus – the long-awaited Messiah, Whom the Lord had promised to send to be the Savior of fallen humanity, ever since that fateful day in Eden’s shattered Paradise! For four millennia, He had been looked for and longed for; and now, on this happy day in Nazareth, He publicly declared Himself to be that Great Liberator of the enslaved human race!
On another occasion during His earthly ministry, Jesus said these words about freedom to those who had gathered around Him in Jerusalem:
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free, indeed” (John 8:36).
The famous 19th century preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, once preached a sermon on this text. This morning I’d like to share with you some selections from that message, in which Mr. Spurgeon spoke of the true freedom that comes to us through “the Son” – the Great Liberator. Here are his words:
Blessed is that word “free,” and blessed is he who spends himself to make men so. You did well to crowd your streets, and to welcome with your joyous acclamations the man who has broken the yoke from off the neck of the oppressed. Many sons of Italy have done valiantly, but he excels them all, and deserves the love of all the good and brave. Political slavery is an intolerable evil. To live, to think, to act, to speak at the permission of another! Better to have no life at all! To depend for my existence upon a despot’s will is death itself. Craven spirits may wear the dog collar which their master puts upon them, and fawn at his feet for the bones of his table, but men who are worthy of the name had rather feed the vultures on the battlefield. The burden of civil bondage is too heavy for bold spirits to bear with patience, and therefore, they fret and murmur beneath it; this murmuring the tyrant loves not, and therefore, he throws the sufferers into his dungeons, and bids them wear out their days in captivity. Blessed is he who hurls down the despot, bursts the doors of his dungeons, and gives true men their rights. We have never felt, and therefore, we know not the bitterness of bondage. Our emancipators have gone to the world of spirits, bequeathing us an heirloom of liberty for which we should love their names and reverence their God. If they could have lived on till now, how we should honor them! But as they are gone, we do well to applaud our illustrious guest as if we saw in him the spirit of all our glorious liberators worthily enshrined. Political liberty allows scope for so much of all that is good and ennobling, and its opposite involves so much that is debasing, that the mightiest nation destitute of it is poor, indeed, and the poorest of all people, if they are but free, are truly rich.
But, my brethren, men may have political liberty to the very fullest extent and yet be slaves, for there is such a thing as religious bondage; he who cringes before a priest—he who dreads his denunciation, or who creeps at his feet to receive his blessing, is an abject slave! He may call himself a free man, but his soul is in vile bondage if superstition makes him wear the chain. To be afraid of the mutterings of a man like myself—to bow before a piece of wood or a yard of painted canvas—to reverence a morsel of bread or a rotten bone—this is mental slavery, indeed! … Men who prostrate their reason before the throne of superstition are slaves through and through. To yield obedience to our Lord, to offer prayer to God Most High, is perfect freedom; but to confess my heart out to a mortal with a shaved crown—to trust my family secrets and my wife’s character to the commands of a man, who may be all the while wallowing in debauchery, is worse than the worst form of serfdom! I would sooner serve the cruelest Sultan who ever crushed humanity beneath his iron heel than bow before the Pope or any other priest of man’s making! The tyranny of priest-craft is the worst of ills. You may cut through the bonds of despots with a sword, but the sword of the Lord Himself is needed here. The truth of God must file these fetters, and the Holy Spirit must open these dungeons. You may escape from prison, but superstition hangs round a man, and with its deadly influence keeps him always in its dark and gloomy cell. Skepticism, which proposes to snap the chains of superstition only, supplants a blind belief with an unhallowed credulity, and leaves the victim as oppressed as ever. Jesus the Son alone can make men truly free! Happy are they whom He has delivered from superstition! Blessed are our eyes that this day we see the light of gospel liberty, and are no longer confined in popish darkness! Let us remember our privileges and bless God with a loud voice, that the darkness is past and the true light shines, since the name of Jesus, the preaching of His Word, and the power of His truth have, in this respect, in a high degree, made our nation free!
Yet, a man may be delivered from the bond of superstition and still be a serf, for he who is not ruled by a priest may still be controlled by the devil or by his own lusts, which are much the same. Our carnal desires and inclinations are domineering lords enough, as those know who follow out their commands. A man may say, “I feel not supernatural terrors; I know no superstitious horrors,” and then, folding his arms, he may boast that he is free; but he may all the while be a slave to his own evil heart; he may be grinding at the mill of avarice, rotting in the reeking dungeon of sensuality, dragged along by the chains of maddened anger, or borne down by the yoke of fashionable custom. He is the free man who is master of himself through the grace of God. He who serves his own passions is the slave of the worst of despots! Talk to me not of dark dungeons beneath the sea level; speak not to me of pits in which men have been entombed and forgotten; tell me not of heavy chains, nor even of racks and the consuming fire; the slave of sin and Satan, sooner or later, knows greater horrors than these—his doom is more terrible because it is eternal, and his slavery more hopeless because it is one into which he willingly commits himself.
Perhaps there are those present who claim liberty for themselves and say that they are able to control their passions and have never given away to impure desires. Yes, a man may get as far as that in a modified sense, and yet not be free. Perhaps I address those who, knowing the right, have struggled for it against the wrong. You have reformed yourselves from follies into which you had fallen; you have, by diligence, brought the flesh somewhat under control in its outward manifestations of sin, and now your life is moral, your conduct is respectable, your reputation high; still, for all that, it may be that you are conscious that you are not free. Your old sins haunt you, your former corruptions perplex you; you have not found peace, for you have not obtained forgiveness. You have buried your sins beneath the earth for years, but conscience has given them a resurrection, and the ghosts of your past transgressions haunt you; you can scarcely sleep at night because of the recollection of the wrath of God which you deserve; and by day, there is a gall put into your sweetest draughts because you know that you have sinned against heaven and that heaven must visit with vengeance your transgression. You have not yet come to the full liberty of the children of God, as you will do, if you cast yourselves into the hands of Jesus who looses the captives. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free, indeed”—free as the mere political liberator cannot make you—free as he cannot make you who merely delivers you from superstition; free as reformation cannot make you; free as God alone can make you by His free Spirit. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free, indeed.” …
True freedom comes to us through Him who is, in the highest sense, “the Son.” No man gets free except as he comes to Christ and takes Him to be his all in all. You may rivet on your fetters by going to the law, to your own good works, to your willings, and your praying, and your doings, but you will never be free until you come to Christ! Mark you, man, if you will come to Christ, you shall be free this moment from every sort of bondage, but if you will go here and there, and try this, and that, and the other, you shall find all your trying will end in disappointment, and you shall lie down in sorrow and in shame—for none but Jesus—none but Jesus—can make us free, indeed! Real liberty comes from Him only. Let us think awhile of this real liberty. Remember it is a liberty righteously bestowed. Christ has a right to make men free. If I should set a slave free who belongs to his master, he might run for a time—but since I had not the power to give him a legal emancipation—he would be dragged back again. But the Son, who is heir of all things, has a right to make him free whom He wills to make free. The law is on Christ’s side. Christ has such power in heaven and earth committed to Him, that if He says to the sinner, “You are free,” free he is before high heaven. Before God’s great bar you can plead the word of Jesus and you shall be delivered! …
Are we free then, this morning? Are we free? I will not answer it for you, nor need I just now answer for myself, but I would beseech you to make a searching inquiry into it. If you are free, then remember that you have changed your lodging place, for the slave and the son sleep not in the same room of the house. The things which satisfied you, when a slave, will not satisfy you now. You wear a garment which a slave may never wear, and you feel an instinct within which the slave can never feel. There is an Abba, Father, cry in you which was not there once. Is it so? Is it so? If you are free you lie not as you used to do. You go not to the slave’s work—you have not now to toil and sweat to earn the wages of sin which is death, but now, as a son serves his father, you do a son’s work, and you expect to receive a son’s reward—for the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord! One thing I know, if you are free, then you are thinking about setting others free; and if you have no zeal for the emancipation of other men, you are a slave yourself. If you are free, you hate all sorts of chains, all sorts of sin, and you will never willingly put on the fetters again. You live each day crying unto Him who made you free at first, to hold you up that you fall not into the snare. If you are free, this is not the world for you; this is the land of slaves; this is the world of bondage. If you are free, your heart has gone to heaven, the land of the free. If you are free today, your spirit is longing for the time when you shall see the great Liberator face to face! If you are free, you will bide your time until He calls you; but when He says, “Friend, come up here,” you will fearlessly mount to the upper spheres, and death and sin shall be no hindrance to your advent to His glory!
I wish we were all free; but if we are not, the next best thing I wish is, that those of us who are not free would fret under the fetter—for when the fetters are felt, they shall be broken; when the iron enters into the soul, it shall be snapped; when you long for liberty you shall have it; when you seek for it as for hidden treasure, and pant for it as the stag for the water brook, God will not deny you! “Seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened; ask, and it shall be given you.” God lead you to seek, and knock, and ask now, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Happy Independence Day to my readers in the United States! Spend some time today giving thanks to God for the blessing of liberty and freedom, but don’t forget to express gratitude to Him also for the glorious gift of spiritual freedom and redemption – a gift that we share with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, whether or not they live within the same geographical boundary as ourselves!
Are you free in the liberty that Christ Jesus has purchased for us with His own blood? Feel free to share your thoughts on freedom – both political and spiritual – with all of our readers in the comments section below!
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for the King’s glory,
This sermon was preached by Charles H. Spurgeon on April 17, 1864. You can read this particular sermon in its entirety, for free, by clicking here; and you can read other Spurgeon sermons and learn more by visiting the source website: www.spurgeongems.org.