THE sixth enemy the Holy Ghost triumphs over is slavery. Liberty triumphs over slavery, and this liberty the Holy Spirit brings into the soul in his triumph. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty." (2 Cor. 3:17) Liberty is the privilege of adoption, and a principal one. When God intends to make manifest to his children their adoption into his family, he sends forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, enabling them to claim their sonship by crying, Abba Father, Gal. 4:6. "Then are the children free," said Christ, "made free by himself; if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free, indeed." (John 8:36) And as it is the Son that makes free, they are sons only who are made free. Freedom follows sonship, "Wherefore thou art no more a servant but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." (Gal. 4:7) Sonship and slavery are opposed to each other; a Son and a servant, are very different beings, and a spirit of adoption and a spirit of bondage are very different things; where the one is, the other is not. (John 8:35; Rom. 8:15) Hence this liberty is called "the glorious liberty of the children of God," (Rom. 8:21) it being proper and peculiar to them. It is twofold, it is a liberty of grace, and a liberty of glory. The one is enjoyed in this life and the other in that which is to come.
The liberty of grace consists--1st, in the liberty from the wrath of God. There is a paternal anger from which the children of God are not freed: "in a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." (Isa. 54:8) And there is a judicial anger or wrath which is manifested in the resolution by no means to clear the wicked or to acquit and pass by offences; in a pouring forth of the vials of his just vengeance upon transgressors, according to the demerit of their sin and wickedness. "There is a cup in the hand of the Lord and the wine is red, it is full of mixture, and he poureth out of the same, but the dregs thereof all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out and drink them." (Ps. 75:8) This judicial wrath of God is declared against sinners in this life and felt in the dreadful terrors of conscience, a foretaste of those in the life to come, which is called God's "reserved" wrath, and his "prepared" wrath, and "the day of wrath." "Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. 25:41) From this judicial wrath of God, whether present or future, the people of God are delivered by Christ, who is their atonement and propitiation. "Much more being now justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him," (Rom. 5:9) (Jesus who delivered us from the wrath to come. 1 Thess. 1:10) "God hath not appointed us unto wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess. 5:9) This is the blessed liberty the recipients of divine grace enjoy; they shall never taste one drop of that judicial wrath either in this life of that to come. Whatever troubles, sorrows, afflictions, bereavements, poverty, losses, persecutions, temptations from sin and Satan, the hidings of God's face, the frownings of heaven, the absence of a precious Christ, and the withdrawal for a time of all sensible spiritual comforts they may experience, they will never feel the horrors of judicial wrath. Christ having fully drank the cup of judicial wrath for his people, satisfied divine justice, and reconciled them to God, God is well pleased with them.
2nd. The liberty of grace consists in liberty from the dominion of sin. (Rom. 6:14) Having grace in the heart it reigns in them, so that sin no longer can lord it over them. Though sin dwells in them and rebels against them, though there is a law in their members warring against the law of their minds, yet they are entirely delivered from its rule, command, and sovereign strength.
The liberty of grace consists--3rdly, in liberty from eternal death. As salvation depends upon the merits of Christ, so eternal separation from God depends on the desert of sin. There is so much in sin as to render man obnoxious not only to temporal destruction, but also to eternal; for "the wages of sin is death," even that death which stands in opposition to eternal life. (Rom. 6:23) But from this also the Holy Spirit, in his triumph, delivers them; for "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," and "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life." What an infinite mercy it is to be eternally rescued from hell, to be delivered from the power of sin, to be freed from condemnation, to enjoy pardon, and to be saved with an everlasting salvation!
The liberty of grace consists--4th, in deliverance from the law as a covenant of works. We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law: no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, for the just shall live by faith: and in him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. The justification of the saints depends on the obedience and righteousness of Christ.
The liberty of grace consists--5th, in deliverance from the rigor of the law. Its rigor exacts of man an absolute and perfect obedience, it admits of no abatement either in matter, manner, or measure, but when we are delivered from it, the works and services of the people of God are not judged according to the law but by the sincerity of their hearts; though their obedience is imperfect, yet their heavenly Father is well pleased with it, true sincerity and love being the root of it. The sighs, groans, tears, and desires of the saints are accepted, instead of perfect obedience; hence the Apostle said, "if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not;" (2 Cor. 8:12) "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise:" (Ps. 51:17) "Who hath despised the day of small things?" Man may, but God will not.
The liberty of grace consists--6th, in release from the terror and punishment of the law, and from slavish fear, from the spirit of bondage and fear. The saints have the spirit of adoption and love, and worship God from a principle of love and filial fear, even if there were no threatenings to terrify them, or chastisement for disobedience, yet they would serve, love, and obey him.
The liberty of grace consists--7th, in deliverance from the curse of the law. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." (Gal. 3:13) They may be chastised and afflicted in this life, but no curse attends them; their cup may be very bitter, yet there is no poison in it; though it is a cross, yet not a curse; their wounds are healings, their afflictions instructions, and their losses gain.
Finally, they are delivered from all evil in this life, and in that which is to come. They are delivered from an evil conscience--from the present evil world and the corruptions thereof, from every evil work and way, and from evil men. Oh, what comforts there are in these things! What cause for confidence, what encouragement, and what soul support! Why, then, should the dear family of heaven fear, or their hearts be troubled? They may say, "I am encompassed with many fears," yes, poor souls, so you may be; there are many apparent causes to make you fear, no doubt, notwithstanding there are no real causes. Sometimes the dear children of God fear the wrath of God, but he is their God and Father, who is full of love and compassion. He will not deal with them as an avenging Judge, but as a merciful Father. They fear the condemnation and curse belonging to sin, but Christ has died for it. They fear the rebellion of sin within, but sin shall not have dominion. Sometimes the cause of their fears is the weakness of grace, and the imperfection of their holiness; but Christ is their perfect righteousness, and sanctification. They fear because of the imperfection of their spiritual performances, but God has promised to work in them all his works, to own their persons, and to accept the weakest offering of an upright heart in, and for the sake of, a crucified Redeemer. Sometimes they fear the strong temptations of Satan; but there is no real cause for that, sufficient grace shall be given, and God will shortly bruise Satan under their feet. Sometimes they fear men because of their malice and power, but God will restrain their rage, frustrate their counsels, and break the arms of the ungodly. Sometimes they fear death, but there is no real cause for this fear; death is the last stile they have to get over, and then they are at their Father's house! Death, to the children of God, is the end of all sin and misery, and only a quick passage to their eternal happiness.