There can be no doubt that government is necessary and that the nations of the earth value one that is wise, equitable, and considerate. We feel the need of control and accept it freely. Order and rule are admittedly essential in every department of life, whether in the home, the business, or in the nation. Apart from this there would be disorder and confusion. It is only when control becomes unreasonable and despotic, causing annoyance and friction, that it is resented. Even then it is wonderful how patient man is, and how long he endures that state of friction.
A despotic government, whatever its form, whether that of an absolute monarchy, or one shaded down to the tastes of the day, is resented. Freedom is more or less curtailed; rights are invaded; the liberty of the subject is touched; and, as this extends, the yoke becomes heavier, until measures are taken to lighten it, or else to throw it off altogether. Then a state of anarchy ensues, when every one does that which is right in his own eyes, to the injury of others, and of the State itself.
What need of truly wise government in each separate department, and, may I say, primarily in the home! It is against a military despotism that the nations of the world have arisen, in the greatest confederacy of arms ever known, in order to make its domination over the earth impossible, and to maintain their own national liberty as they fondly hope. They conceive that that liberty is in danger, and are therefore straining every nerve, regardless of life or substance, in their frenzied effort to retain immunity from the dreaded incubus. They deem the stake worthy of the sacrifice, and are hazarding their all on the enterprise.
Lives, the dearest, the noblest, the most cherished are laid on the altar. Sorrows the deepest are borne; tears the hottest flow; hearts the tenderest, most devoted, are well-nigh crushed and broken, until the groan of six thousand years of earth’s travail seems to be concentrated in one prolonged wail today. Yet the agony must continue in the weary struggle for liberty as its goal. That struggle is doubtless unprecedented in the history of the world; and yet it is only forming a precedent for a yet more dreadful cataclysm. The horrors of 1915, great though they are, will hardly bear a comparison with those of—(the year cannot be given), but when the rightly called “Beast” of Revelation 13 shall have “power given him, over all kindreds, tongues, and nations” for forty and two months, and who can only be described as “he that leads into captivity” and as “he that kills with the sword,” and whose awfully guilty coadjutor “causes that no man might buy or sell save he that had the mark, or the name of the Beast or the number of his name,” then the military despotism will be intolerable. Resistance to this despotism will be impossible. Humanity will be ground under the heel of this Despot.
Things have not, as yet, reached this crisis, but principles are in operation which will make the despotism of that day possible—a tyranny without relief.
Is today, then, free of all such domination; is there no form of despotism to cause discomfort? Is humanity in liberty?
It is not! A power dominates the race which is the productive source of every form of despotism, whether in the person, the family, or the State. The whole fabric is permeated by that power, and the revolution of its wheel is thrown out of gear thereby. Let him who attempts to deny it do so, whether scientifically or ignorantly; he will but prove his folly.
The disturbing and dislocating power is SIN—the will of man in opposition to that of God—that is the source of all the mischief in the world. “By one man,” we read, “sin entered into the world” (Rom. 5:12).
Sin is the despot! It may be that his chains are not felt, nor his complete and universal mastery owned. He may steel the heart and blind the eye, but his control is none the less absolute. Thus, when the Jews of old made the boast that they never were in bondage to any man, the Lord Jesus, to whom they addressed themselves, did not charge them with being the subjects of Caesar, as indeed they were, but quietly, and in divine power, He simply told them that “whoso commits sin is the servant of sin”; and right well they knew, from the eldest to the youngest of them (John 8), that each was guilty of some sin.
Nay, “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), and therefore all are the servants of sin. He is our master, our tyrant and despot. Very humbling, no doubt, and hence the silly attempts that are made by the infidel to try and dissipate the existence of such a thing. But, just as the seeds of death are in the body from infancy onward, so the poison of sin is in the nature all through—ineradicably and incurably—and makes itself only too evident in ten thousand shapes and forms of conduct both Godward and manward.
To deny it is absolute folly. In the struggle for liberty it may be possible to overpower the despot. A vast confederacy, skilfully handled, may accomplish great things, but how is the tyranny of sin to be overthrown; how can true soul-liberty be won and enjoyed?
To the company of Jews, already referred to, and who knew not the awful despotism by which they were held, the Lord also said: “If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
He proposes liberty “indeed” from the domination of the common despot; only He, the Son of God, must give it.
He alone can liberate, for He alone can save.
What were the forces He had to overcome?
They were sin, death, the grave, and Satan. Four powers far beyond the help of man; but mark:
1. “He who knew no sin was made sin for us.”
2. “Christ died.”
3. “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
4. “He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil.”
Every opposing power is overcome by the now risen and glorified Lord. He is victorious and so, through Him, are His people. “Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
Oh, what ecstasy fills the soul as it stands by Christ’s empty tomb and sees the despot, silenced, annulled, and crushed for ever! His resuscitation is, thank God, impossible. That Pharaoh, at any rate, is drowned in the depths of the sea. The foe and his hostile ranks are utterly discomfited. Faith rejoices in a divinely effected emancipation. Our day of liberty has dawned.
And therefore we may sit down, with our open Bibles, and learn, from Romans 6, how we are made free from sin; from Romans 7, free from the law; in Romans 8, from the law of sin and death; and, farther in the same golden chapter, we await “the liberty of glory,” which we shall gladly share with a now fettered, groaning, travailing, pained creation, and it with us.
“The liberty of the glory of the children of God” (as the words should be read) thrill the soul. The liberty of grace is unspeakably sweet, now that we have the Spirit, and can cry: “Abba, Father” in all the holy delight of this precious relationship, but that of the glory! No tear, no sorrow, no death, no war, no bereavement, no penury—but God the Father, Son, and Spirit, and enjoyment of this liberty be marred? our souls and bodies fitted for the glory. It may.
How glorious is the prospect!
That will be sweeter and it will be eternal, “You have been called unto liberty” (Gal. 5:13). What a calling! It is one of grace today and of glory tomorrow. It is a holy and spiritual liberty outside the range of material forces and the clash of arms. It has been secured for us, in view of the supremely despotic and superhuman powers of sin and death and Satan, by the atoning death and glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose grateful debtors we are, and whom now we love in return for the infinite love which He has first shown to us.
Sin, the despot, is vanquished by Him, on behalf of all His people. They are free! But may not their present enjoyment of this liberty be marred? It may.
See how (in Galatians) the Spirit of God warns against legality whereby the cry of “Abba, Father” gives place to a sense of servitude. But the situation of a “hired servant” ill becomes the relationship of a son, once lost, but now found, kissed, clothed, and feasted. Or again see (in 1 Cor.) how liberty had been treated as licence; and grace turned into lasciviousness (as in Jude), and how such perversions incurred the sternest rebuke of the Holy Spirit of God, for God is not mocked. Hence the command to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free” (Gal. 5:13). A firm, determined “stand” for this blood-bought liberty is the duty and privilege of every child of God.
The hearty acknowledgment of His government and of His will is truest liberty for all His people.