"The Natural Manís Bondage to the Law, and the Christianís Liberty Under the Gospel"
by Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646)
"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36)
In this chapter we have Christ continuing His contest with the wrangling, peevish Jews, answering all that they said in spite of the fact that they snarled at nearly every word that passed. However it was with the multitude, though, there were still some who were taken with what He said; for in verse 30 it is said, "As He spake these words many believed on Him." At least there were some beginnings of faith, or some preparations for it, and Christ tells them, verse 31, that if they continued in His Word then they were indeed His disciples. It is as if He should say, "It is not enough that you are stirred for the present and profess that you believe in Me. I will not take you for My disciples unless you continue in My Word." How often the flashes that are upon the hearts and consciences of men vanish and come to nothing! They continue not in the Word of Christ, and therefore are not His disciples.
Christ tells them further that they must understand more concerning their condition than they then apprehended: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (v. 32). It is as if He should say, "Though you have some confused apprehensions of things for the present, you know only a little of your condition. But if you will go on in the way God is beginning with you in stirring your consciences, if you will continue, you shall come to know more than you now know. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." And then in verse 33 they say, "We are Abrahamís seed, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest Thou, ĎYe shall be made free?í "
See here, they begin to snarl again. Master Calvin, I remember, thinks that these are the words of some other Jews who were present, not those who are said to believe. But others think it may be understood even of those who are said to believe, for, though they began to assent to the doctrine of Christ, and were very much convinced, there was still an abundance of frowardness, perverseness, and crookedness in their spirits. They began to wrangle with Christ, especially when He but intimates something to them about their bondage.
It is normal for many people who have some stirrings of conscience and some beginnings of the working of Godís Spirit in them (and, it may be, saving ones, too) to continue a long time in their frowardness and perverseness of spirit if they are opposed in their way. Therefore they say, "Do you speak to us of bondage and tell us of freedom? Why, we were never in bondage to any" (v. 33)! What? Never in bondage to any? Were not the Jews in bondage to the Babylonians when in captivity to them? Were they not at this very time in bondage to the Romans? And yet, "we were never in bondage."
Thus carnal hearts, until grace fully subdues them, are very loath to know their wretched condition. They love to not hear of anything that reveals to them the misery they are in. They were never in bondage, they say, yet Christ pities them. He did not take advantage of the opportunity to fling away because He saw them continuing still in their perverseness and snarling at what He spoke, but He tells them what bondage He meant. It is as if He should say, "The truth is, though you think yourselves free, there is still a bondage you are in, and such bondage that no one can deliver you from it but the Son of God alone. If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." Thus we come to the words of the text.
These words, then, hold forth the blessed liberty of the gospel to us, thefreedom that believers have by Christ.
DOCTRINE: There is a blessed liberty that Chris-tians enjoy by Christ, and only by Him. This doctrine of Christian liberty that is enjoyed by Christ is a treasury of admirable consolation, and much of the mystery of the gospel is contained in this doctrine. I would enlarge my discourse too far, and seek to grip too much, should I think to give you even a view of this doctrine in all the points of it. If I were to handle it at large, I would have to show you (1) what it is that Christ sets believers free from; (2) the privileges of this freedom they have by Christ; (3) the subject of it, who it is that has this freedom; (4) by whom it comes, how it is by this Son, and only by Him; (5) the price and purchase of this freedom; (6) the interest that believers have in this freedom, how they come to be enfranchised and to have interest in it; and (7) the application of it. But if I go to work this way, I would only be able to do a little. Therefore I will not grasp so much. I intend, therefore, to handle just one thing in our freedom by Christ.
If you should ask what it is that we are freed from, there is the freedom from the law, the freedom from the power of sin, the freedom from the bondage of fear, the freedom from an accusing conscience, the freedom from slavishness in the performance of holy duties (we are set at liberty in holy duties), the freedom from death and the evil of that, the freedom from the slavery of the devil, and the freedom from the ceremonial law. But neither must we seek to seize upon all these particulars. To show you our freedom in these, I shall only pitch upon one, and that is our freedom from the law. "If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed."
This doctrine of freedom from the law is the subject that we are to handle at this time, and when I speak of freedom from the law I do not mean freedom from obedience to the law. It is erroneous to think we are freed from obedience to the law. It is a fanciful idea too low and absurd for us to spend time on now, since we have so little, and since we have to deal with a matter of such great consequence. What is the law but the image of God, the very beam of the wisdom and holiness of God Himself. For anyone to say that we should be freed from obedience to the law is as much as if they said that we should be freed from the image of God, from the beam of the wisdom and holiness of God Himself. Therefore, we will spend no more time on that; but when I speak of freedom from the law, I mean freedom from the rigor of the law, from the condemning sentence of the law in which all the rigor of it appears.
Wherefore, then, it is necessary to give you a view of the bondage that we are all in under the law, unless we are delivered by Christ. And then, second, I shall endeavor to open to you in what the liberty of the gospel consists that Christ has purchased for us. These two things, brethren, have in them the chief doctrine of divinity; and unless you are well instructed and settled in these two, you cannot know any point of doctrine correctly.
I will be brief in the first point, though there are many particulars in it; for it is the second point I chiefly intend to deal with. To prepare for the first, I will tell you beforehand that I shall name many things to you that will seem exceedingly hard. But take this consideration along, that though the things I name to you appear never so hard, they are still in order to that which I shall afterward deliver to you who shall have this much comfort and peace in it. If I tell you anything of your bondage, it is only to the end that you may know the blessedness of your freedom and liberty.
Wherefore, then, for the rigor of the law (that you may know what you are free from), you must know what this is and what you are all under by nature when you are out of Christ, for that is how the Holy Ghost expresses our subjection to the law. He says we are not under it. Romans 6:14: "Now ye are not under the law." There was a time when we were under the law.
The Severity of the Law
First, then, the rigor of the law is this: it requires hard things of those who were under it. I shall show you later how the things are not so to those who are set free by Christ; but to those who are under the law, it is a hard yoke. It requires hard things, things that are cross and contrary to the hearts and dispositions of all who are under it, things between which and their hearts there is enmity and antipathy. Now to require such things as one has no mind to, but are quite contrary to oneís nature and that oneís nature has an antipathy to, is very tedious. Yet such are all the duties of the law to those who are in bondage to it.
Second, the law requires not only hard, but impossible things, impossible to perform by those who are under it. The law is a yoke that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear (Acts 15:10). You may object that it is speaking of the ceremonial law; aye, but there is more in it, for just consider the occasion of that speech. There were some who came from the church of Jerusalem to the church of Antioch. There they troubled the disciples with two doctrines, the doctrine of the necessity of the ceremonial law and the doctrine of being justified by the law. Now the church of Antioch wrote to the church at Jerusalem to be satisfied about both these questions, and that which is spoken about them both. It was not only the ceremonial law they were looking to for justification, but the moral law, too. Both were a yoke that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear. It must also mean both because in the very next words we find it opposed to the grace of Christ.
Verse 11: "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved even as they." It is as if he should say, "You must not think to be saved by the law, but by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Now the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is opposed to our justification by obedience to the moral law as well as to the ceremonial, so that the moral law is a yoke that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear. It requires of us such things as are impossible to be done by those who are under it. We must not dispute now how this can be or the justice of it; that will come later.
Third, the law exacts all from us under the condition of perfection. The law accepts nothing but that which is complete and absolutely perfect in every way, both in regard to the principle from whence, the manner how, the rule by which, and the end to which it requires absolute perfection.
Fourth, the law accepts no surety. It must have it done in our own persons. It is like a severe creditor who will be paid the utmost farthing, and only by us. I say the law, in itself considered, looks for a perfect righteousness of our own or else it condemns us. This is the righteousness of the law. Romans 10:5: "That he that doth the things therein contained, shall live by them." He who does; there must be doing, and that by himself personally or not at all.
But it may be that, though there is much required, upon some endeavors there may be remission. In the fifth place, therefore, such is the rigor and severity of the law that, let us endeavor never so much to obey it, all our endeavors are rejected if they do not come up to perfect obedience. It is a vain plea of many people to say that they do what they can; they desire well and endeavor well. It is true, this is something to those who are children and have freedom by Christ, but to those who are under the law, endeavors to obey, though never so strong, are not accepted by God if the work is not done.
Sixth, the law requires constancy in all these. Suppose we could obey the law or go very far in many things. Yet such are the terms between God and us (as we are under the law) that if we were able to obey the law in everything as long as we live until the very last moment, and should offend only in one particular at the very last moment, were it not for this freedom we have by the Son we would be utterly undone forever. You may see of what infinite concern is our freedom in Christ. You must look to yourselves how you get deliverance by Christ, for certainly this is your condition as long as you are under the law.
Seventh, the law exacts the obedience it requires in a violent way upon all who are under it. It comes as roughly upon them as Pharaohís taskmasters. It re-quires the work and does not look at the strength. Strength or no strength, the work is required with dreadful threatenings if it is not performed. Therefore, it is the law that was delivered in such a dreadful manner with thundering, lightning, earthquakes, and fire that it made even Moses to shake and tremble at the manner of delivering it. In Deuteronomy 33:2 it is called a fiery law; it came with mighty rigor.
Eighth, there is such rigor in the law that upon any breach of the least thing it breaks the soul by its severity. It utterly disenables it to ever perform any obedience again. There is such a hardness in the covenant of the law. The law is like an iron or brass wall that, upon any breach of it, the soul is as an earthen vessel that dashes against it and is broken in pieces. There must be a creating power to make it whole again.
Consider, I beseech you, this is the condition of the covenant of works which was made with us in Adam (which is now the covenant of the law), that upon any one breach it breaks the soul by its severity so that it utterly disenables it to keep it again. It roots out all the principles whereby the soul should be enabled to obey again. Sins against the gospel do not do so, as you shall hear later. And this is the very ground why, upon the very first sin of Adam, all were gone. So were the angels upon their sin, because they had to deal with God only in a covenant of works. But if, upon the breach of the law, we come to have all principles rooted out by which we should keep it, later (we hope) it will pity us and not exact obedience.
Therefore, in the ninth place, notwithstanding this, the law goes on in its curse and requires as perfect an obedience to every part of it as if we had all the prin-ciples that might enable us to keep it still, and that upon pain of eternal death. This is the severity of the law: it does not at all remit the threatening, punishment, or exactness of obedience, notwithstanding the fact that we have lost all power to obey it.
In the tenth place, it requires this of us, but gives us no strength at all to do what it requires. It finds us di-vested of those principles that we once had to yield obedience, and it affords us no new principles. There-fore, some have compared the severity of it to Pharaohís taskmasters. It requires brick, but gives no strength at all to perform the task.
In the eleventh place, it strikes at our life in all that it does. The law is satisfied with no affliction. Let it be transgressed in the least degree, all the afflictions that can possibly be in the world will not satisfy it. Such is the severity of it that it strikes at life, and at eternal life. It pursues us to temporal and eternal death. And here I might open the condemning sentence of the law, but that would require a subject by itself. Therefore I only name what is in this heading, that it strikes at our lives upon every transgression of it.
Twelfth, the severity of it is in this: that upon any breach it binds the soul to eternal death by the strongest bonds that possibly can be, though it does not execute it immediately. It suspends execution, but the bond is immediately sealed upon the breach of it, so that all men, upon every breach of it, have chains clapped upon their souls, which is the guilt of sin whereby they stand bound to eternal death by such bounds as all created power in heaven and earth is unable to loose. In the next place, such is the severity of the law that once it is offended,
amends can never be made by anything we are able to do. Suppose we have offended the law in some one thing, and that only once. If after this we should endeavor to do what we can for our lives, swelter our heartís blood to obey the law, and think to make up the breach we have made, yet we can never make amends again. It is true that some, though they are offended, may be pleased again by double diligence, but we must never think to do so with God. Being under the law, when we have broken it once, we cannot make amends with all our care and diligence. That is a great part of the severity of the law.
QUESTION. Aye, but what do we have to do except to mourn and cry and rent our hearts because of this distressed condition we are in?
ANSWER. Fourteenth, the law accepts no repentance. It will not discharge the guilt of any one sin for all the sorrow in the world. And here lies a great mistake of people: when they have offended they think they will be careful to make amends, and they will mourn and repent, and so on. It is true, if you are under the covenant of grace this is something, but if you are in your natural condition, you can weep your eyes out and send streams of blood from your eyes in mourning for just one sin, a sin in thought, that which you count as a little matter. Should you resolve to cry out and mourn for that sin all your life, it will not be accepted unless you come under the blessed liberty purchased by Christ. Therefore, know the difference of being under the law and under the gospel.
Fifteenth, such is the rigor of the law that, when it has opened our wounds and miseries, it goes no fur-ther; it shows no means of deliverance. It is like a surgeon who opens the wound, but applies no remedy. Certainly, were it not for a Mediator, we would find the law only to open our wound and there leave us.
Sixteenth, such is our bondage to the law that, instead of mortifying any of our sins, it rather stirs them up and makes them more. It threatens grievous things against its transgressors, but it does not mortify sin. It stirs up lust, though accidentally, and makes our sin sinful beyond measure.
Seventeenth, if we should keep the law, its promises are mean and low in comparison to the promises of the gospel. I do not say they are just temporal, though before the gospel was revealed there was only a little of spiritual promises; yet we know what the apostle says in 2 Timothy 1:10, "That life and immortality is brought to light through the gospel." And though I do not say there are none, yet there are very few Old Testament scriptures that speak of eternal life.
Thus you see your bondage under the law, and surely you will now think it a blessed condition to be freed from the law. It is one argument that a soul is delivered from the bondage of the law when it can hear all this and yield to Godís justice in it, and can have the heart raised to God in hearing it. But if the soul, upon hearing these things, thinks them so hard and unreasonable that it is ready to rise against them, it is a sign that the spirit is not acquainted with them. And although these things may seem hard to us, if we con-sider just three or four particulars they will not seem so hard.
First, consider that you have to deal with a God of infinite justice and worth. Indeed, if we look on God as we look upon a creature like ourselves, we would think it mighty hard; but now, when we have to deal with a God of infinite worth, we should not think it hard.
Second, we shall not think it hard if we consider that state of perfection in which God made man at first. However it is with us now, God at first gave us a stock to trade in the way of obedience, and to enable us to do what the law required.
Third, if you rightly understood what sin is, you would not think it hard that, upon sin, we should be given up to such a woeful condition as we have spoken of. If you look upon sin as that which strikes at an infinite Deity, at the very being of God Himself as much as in us lies, then you will not wonder that one sin should bring us into such a hard condition.
Fourth, if we consider those things that we all take for granted that are as hard as these, and lay them next to each other, they will not seem so hard. God cast the angels into eternal torments and did not even parley with them about any terms of peace. God, for one sin in Adam, condemned all mankind. You all grant this in general. God the Father dealt with His own Son, the Son of His love, in such a way that He made Him a curse for man and laid the weight of His wrath upon Him so as to make Him sweat drops of blood and cry out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" If you never heard of such a thing, this would seem as hard as anything we have spoken of.
Now before we come to speak of the other, let that which has been said teach that surely, then, all men in their natural condition are in a hard case. It is with them as it was with the Israelites when the bondage they were in under Pharaoh increased. The text says that they saw themselves in an evil case. Oh, that upon hearing these things, you would learn to see what you are out of Christ, that you would see yourselves in an evil case, in a sad and dangerous condition!
Second, if it is the case that every soul is naturally under such a bondage to the law, then the saving of a soul is a great and mighty work, yea, such a work that God must move heaven and earth to save a soul and deliver it from the bondage of sin. The reason why people so slight this great work of salvation and mediation by Christ is because they do not know their bondage. Understand this bondage rightly, what it is to be under the law (I have not told you of the condemnation or the curse of the law, I have only set out to you the bondage of the law), and you will see by this that it is a great work to save a soul.
Third, you may see by this how that vain plea of carnal hearts comes to nothing. What will you trust now to your good meanings, good desires, and good intentions? You will mourn and grieve because yours are no better. You will do what you can for God. It is true these are good things, but are these the things you rest in for standing before God? If they are, certainly you do not know the terms you stand in to God or what your bondage is.
Fourth, if God reveals Himself to a man only by the law, it is impossible but that the soul must fly from Him and look upon God and His law as enemies unless it is revealed together with the gospel. That is what I am now to tell you, that liberty we have by the gospel.
The liberty of the gospel is a precious liberty wherein the treasury of the mystery of grace is laid up. It is the only ground of support to our souls, and St. Paul, who was the great instrument of God in opening the doctrine of the liberty of the gospel, sets it down in all his epistles, and in many places elegantly. One text which contains some difficulty is Galatians 4, from verse 21 on:
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman: but he who was of the bond-woman was born after the flesh, but he of the free woman was by promise: which things are an allegory; for these are the two covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage which is Agar; for this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children: but Jerusalem which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all: for it is written, "Rejoice thou barren that bearest not, break forth and cry thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband."
The text seems to be somewhat obscure, and yet most excellently sets out this doctrine I am now on of bondage under the law and liberty under the gospel. The allegory, you see, is from the two sons. Abraham had one son by a bondmaid, another by a free woman. It is an allegory, says the apostle, and it signifies the two covenants, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The covenant of works was from Mount Sinai. There the law was revealed, which is Agar, for this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia. I remember Luther saying that Agar, in the Arabian tongue, is as much as Mount Sinai. They call it so in the Arabian tongue, and so the apostle alludes to it. Therefore, the law that is of Agar tends only to bondage. Agarís posterity were Gentiles and were in bondage, and were not to have the privilege of the sons of the free woman. Therefore, all those who have to deal with God in the covenant of works are bondmen, and are not to have the privilege of the children of the free woman, of the children of God.
Well, "this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem," which now is, and is in bondage with her children. He sets out the state of the church of the Jews, the Jerusalem that now is, to be in a state of bondage compared to the church of the gospel because they had so little knowledge of the gospel. They were in bondage to the law and knew little else but the law, but Jerusalem which is above, is the state of the church under the New Testament. It is above in regard to the gospel, which is free and is the mother of us all. The church of God under the gospel is the Jerusalem which is above, "but now it is written, rejoice thou barren that bearest not, break forth and cry out thou that travailest not; for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband." That is, those who acknowledge the doctrine of the liberty of the gospel at first are just as desolate as the barren woman before it is revealed. Sarah was barren for awhile, but later had a child; and so the doctrine of the liberty of the gospel is just a barren thing for awhile until people are acquainted with it.
We who are ministers of the gospel, it is our work to beget children to Christ. If we are legal and only preach the law, we would beget people to bondage, to Agar: but it is our chief work to beget children to the free woman, to beget children to the free grace of God in Christ. And, oh, that there may be many here who are children of Agar, who may have had terrors and fears in their consciences and are still just children of the bond-woman! It is the gospel that proclaims the trumpet of jubilee to those that are under bondage. Therefore, it is observable at what time the trumpet of jubilee was to be blown. Leviticus 25:9: "Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of jubilee to sound, on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the Day of Atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land."
What was this day of atonement? It was the day of public humiliation for all the people for their sins. The day of fasting and prayer appointed by God to afflict their souls is called a day of atonement, and the trumpet to proclaim the jubilee must be blown upon that very day wherein the people had been afflicting their souls for their sins. Therefore, now, if there is any soul that has been humbled before the Lord, and has been afflicted for sin, behold, this is the work that is now to be done: blow the trumpet of jubilee to such a soul, proclaim liberty in the name of Christ to him and, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 89:15, "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound." It is translated by some, "They are blessed who know the sound of the jubilee." This jubilee has reference to our jubilee by Christ. Blessed are they who hear this joyful sound that we have here in the gospel!
The Liberty of the Gospel
Now the first joyful sound of the jubilee and liberty we have proclaimed by Christ from the law is this: your eternal state shall not be determined by the law. The law may terrify you, but it shall not determine your eternal state. It must do that for the children who are in bondage to it; but if you are a believer in Christ, if you are a child of the free woman, this is your liberty: the law shall not determine your eternal state. We do not love to have any business of great concern determined by those who are rigid and severe, so be of good comfort, O believer. You have heard of much severity in the law, but the great business concerning your soul and eternal estate is above the law. It has nothing to do with you. You hear, many times, dreadful threats of the law, and these threats may often terrify you. You may be ready to say, "Who can stand before this holy God?" But peace be to you, you believing soul, for you are set at liberty from the law by Christ. This is the first joyful sound.
The second joyful sound of liberty you have by the gospel is this: your Lawgiver is none other than He who is your Husband. You have to deal with none other, now, in the matters of your soul, but with Him who is your Husband and your Advocate, by whom all is ruled. I John 2:11: "If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father." That is, you now have to deal with Christ your Lawgiver, who, upon every transgression, is your Advocate with the Father, who stands up to plead for you and to answer all accusations against you. He who undertakes for you, and engages all the interest He has in His Father for you, is the One with whom you have to deal regarding your soul and eternal estate. This is the second joyful sound you have of the trumpet of the jubilee of the gospel, of the liberty you have by Christ.
Third, being delivered from the bondage of the law, this is now your liberty, you are now made a law to yourself. I mean this: there is nothing now required of you that is not written on your heart. God writes His law on tablets of stone, and all that is required of you in obedience to it is written on your heart. So that you do not now yield obedience to the law because of the condemning power of it and punishment due unto it as you do from a principle of love to it. We must know that we are not set free by Christ from obedience to the law. We are bound to obey the law still, but here is the difference: we are not servile to the law. We keep it freely. You keep the law now by being a law unto yourself and having all that God requires of you in His law written in your heart by the law of sanctity He has given you. This is the third joyful sound.
The fourth joyful sound is this: by the liberty you now have in Christ, this is your condition: whatever you do, though there are never so many imperfections in it, if God can spy out the least good thing in you, He will take notice of that and cast away all evil. If God sees anything of His own Spirit in you He will be sure to take notice of that. If there is just one dust of gold, though it is mixed with an abundance of dross, God will not lose it, but will find it. God is not strict to mark what is done amiss by His children, but He is strict to mark what is done well by them. Indeed, the law tells us, nay, even a moral man will tell us, that to make an action good all circumstances must concur. But the liberty of the gospel tells us that where there is any good, any grace in action, God observes and takes notice of that.
To give an instance of this, and it is an excellent one for this purpose, in 1 Peter 3:6 the apostle pro-pounds Sarah as a pattern for good women: "Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord." She never called him lord except when she did it unbelievingly; but God takes notice of that word and never mentions her unbelief. Now Sarah was a free woman, and this is the gracious dealing of God with the free woman. If you are a child of the free woman, this is your privilege: God will take notice of every good action that you do. Isaiah 42:3: "A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench." The word signifies that as soon as the flax begins to be black, God will not reject it. So that if there is the least degree of good, it is accepted; and that is the fourth joyful sound.
The fifth joyful sound is this: suppose you cannot do anything. If there is even a will, a desire in you, God accepts the will for the deed. Many carnal hearts please themselves with this; but this is the case of those that are set at liberty by Christ. Perhaps you cannot pray, but present yourself before God as the apostle says and that shall be accepted by God. Know this, that if there is any excuse to be made for you, Christ will find it and make it before God for you. That is the fifth joyful sound.
The sixth thing in which the liberty we have by Christ consists is that though the gospel calls for obedience, it does it in such a sweet and loving way that it would make any heart in the world fall in love with it. It draws by the cords of love. 2 Corinthians 5:20: "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though Christ did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christís stead, be ye reconciled to God." And Philippians 2:1: "If there be therefore any consolation of Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy." The gospel does not come as the law upon Mount Sinai with thunder, lightning, and darkness, but it comes in a mild and gentle way, and by that allures and draws the soul unto itself. And that is the sixth joyful sound.
The seventh joyful sound of the gospel is that the gospel and its liberty come gently with an abundance of life and strength. It comes as the Spirit is; and where the Spirit is there is power, as the apostle says. I remember Luther had this note on Romans 8. He said that the law is a spiritual law because it is the law of God, but it is not the law of the spirit of life. It is the law of the gospel that brings the spirit of power and life along with it. A virtue goes together with the demands of the gospel to strengthen the soul to obedience, and the gospel gives grace and strength beyond what Adam had in two ways. The grace that Adam had was only a power to do, but the will and the deed were not given. The grace of the gospel, though, gives the power, the will, and the deed.
The eighth joyful sound is that tender pity and compassion that is in God to those who are made free by it. This is the difference between the sins of those who are under the law and those under the gospel: the sins of those under the law make them hated by God, but the sins of those under the gospel make them pitied by God.
The ninth joyful sound is this: the gospel has a mighty efficacy to melt the heart and to resolve it into sorrow and mourning, such mourning that is one of the most acceptable things in the world to God. The law, I told you, does not accept repentance; but the gospel does. The tears of repentance that come from believers, next to the blood of Jesus Christ, are the most precious things in the world. I say this, next to the drops of the blood of Christ, the drops of your tears, coming from evangelical repentance, are most acceptable to God. This is the ninth joyful sound.
Tenth, the gospel comes with healing. As it has a melting power, so it has a healing power. Christ is described as coming with healing in His wings. Water makes the lime burn more, but oil, which provokes other things to burn, quenches that. So it is with the oil of the gospel. Christ was anointed for this purpose: to heal you and to quench your lusts and corruptions. In Isaiah 57:17Ė18 we have an excellent promise. Verse 17 says, "He went on frowardly in the way of his heart." Now mark what follows, "I have seen his ways, and I will heal him."
The eleventh joyful sound is that now, being set at liberty by Christ, though you sin not only against the law but against the gospel, your sins against the gospel shall not have power to root out any habits of grace, but the grace of the gospel will still uphold the habits of grace in your soul. It is otherwise with the law; for one offense against the law not only roots out the habit that is contrary to the offense, but all other habits also. The grace of the gospel, though, is such that the habits of grace within us are not touched.
The twelfth joyful sound is this: the gospel is so full of grace that it takes advantage of our misery. This is a good argument of the tenor of the gospel. Pardon my sin, O Lord, for it is great. Strange argument of the child of the bond-woman, but a good argument of a child of the free woman. And it is Godís argument in Genesis 8:21: "I will not destroy the world again, for the imagination of manís heart is evil from his youth."
Thirteenth, another joyful sound of the gospel is this: the gospel proclaims such liberty to us that all that is required of us may be done, accepted by, and from another, Jesus Christ.
Fourteenth, the grace of the gospel shows wherein God shall have all the wrong done to Him by your sins made up. Suppose the gospel had proclaimed that God was willing to pardon. This would not be enough as long as God stood wronged. But now the gospel not only proclaims to you that God is content to forgive all your sins, but it tells you of a way how God shall have all the wrong that you have done to Him made up. His Son, who has set you at liberty, has undertaken it and has done it.
Fifteenth, another joyful sound of the gospel is this: that there is a most absolute, perfect righteousness made over to us. The righteousness of the Son of God is yours, made over to you, to be presented before the Father for you.
Sixteenth, there is this joyful sound of the gospel. It proclaims admirable promises, glorious and high things, even the infinite treasures of Godís grace. The Son is come from the bosom of the Father, has opened the treasures of the grace of God, and has revealed those things which were kept secret from the foundations of the world.
Seventeenth, there is still one more thing that is necessary for the full consolation of the liberty of the gospel and this blessed jubilee, that it may make a jubilee indeed in your heart, and that is this: such is the covenant of the gospel, and Christ has so undertaken it for you, that it shall never be forfeited. This is the full, rich, and glorious grace of the gospel, that now Christ has undertaken and engaged Himself to the Father, and the Father has promised and engaged His own truth, mercy, and faithfulness that this covenant shall never be forfeited. Yea, the very condition of the covenant that is required of you is that which Christ has undertaken to the Father to perform in you. If persevering is a spiritual blessing, it is part of the purchase of Christ and must stand; and, therefore, peace be unto you. You are in such a condition that you cannot forfeit and break your covenant.
The marriage covenant between you and your Savior can never be dissolved.
I should have shown you a little more of the blessedness of this liberty, that all this grace comes in and by the Son, not from the bounty of God in general, but in a higher way. We are set at liberty by the Son of God, being made one with Him who is God and man, the Heir of all things, and so we are made co-heirs with Him.