1 Corinthians 7:17-24
But as God has distributed to every man, as the Lord has called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.…
Freedom! What a word! It has in it the music of the trumpet and psaltery, the harp, the loud cymbals and the high sounding cymbals of heaven and earth!
I. AMBITION SPEAKS OUT BOLDLY. Feeling fettered by our present lot, our poverty, hard toil, obscure position and such like, we indulge the animus of discontent, pine to rise above penury, grinding toil and isolation. Independence affirms that freedom is her legitimate offspring. The boy at home, curbed in many ways, feels under restraint and dreams of liberty. And this spirit of reckless independence belongs to us all. One of our ruling passions is a desire to be our own master — to do as we like — set up on our own account — throw off all Divine control.
II. But some will say, TO BE FREE IS TO BE EDUCATED. There is but one thing needed, we are told, to roll back the dark cloud of bondage from the race and cause the stars of liberty to stud every man's blue vault, viz., intelligence. Give the people a profound learning, a broad culture, and you give them freedom. All will concede the great blessing of education and the utter impossibility of lifting men up without it. But it must be borne in mind that never yet have a people been made free, m any true sense, by mere intellectual culture, however profound. I appeal to Greece of old, with her high scholarship represented by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and to France in modern history with her Voltaire, Diderot, Beaumarchais, and Rousseau. After all their learning, Greece ended in corruption, and France in the horrors of revolution. Examples we have of men, bound in hand and foot and heart by chains of vice and ill-formed habits, bearing the most crushing yoke of bondage, yet highly educated in the sense in which the term is here used. Julius Caesar was a great scholar, but he borrowed money, which he never paid back, to bribe the people in election times, and he made common traffic of female virtues. Aristotle was profoundly educated, but he classed working men with brutes, and made lewdness in woman excusable so long as she thereby accumulated wealth. Cardinal de Richelieu was one of the brightest intellectual stars of his age, yet he lived an immoral life, being a helpless slave to intemperance and uncleanness. And what are we to say of the defaulters, rogues, impostors, and backsliders from integrity so numerous in our midst and all over the country? Looking at the facts of the case, is it not the wildest absurdity to speak of education as the ultimate source of freedom?
III. Once more, GOVERNMENT ASPIRES TO BE THE TRUE LIBERATOR OF THE RACE. Now it is an absolute monarchy for which the high claim is made, now limited monarchy, now an oligarchy, now a republic. In the name of freedom has every government of earth been set up. From the capitals of all the States and the seats of power of all nations has floated the silken banner of freedom. But oh, how often the breezes that have carried out these folds from the flag-staff have brought to the people themselves a pestilence of corruption, self-seeking, intrigue, and imperialism — bondage in its worst forms!
IV. Over against government, education, ambition, vaunting independence, and every other such thing, I PLACE THE DECLARATION OF THE OLD SAGE OF TARSUS AS THE ONLY REAL SOURCE OF TRUE FREEDOM: "For he that is called of the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman." When a man is called of Jesus Christ into His kingdom as a regenerated soul through the power of the Holy Spirit, such an one is free, has come into possession of that liberty which knows no trammels save what his duty to God and to man puts upon him. "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." But what is the freedom here taught? First of all, it is from sin. The essential element of all servitude and degradation and bone and heart crushing forces is sin. Here, then, is the first thing from which Jesus Christ gives freedom. But Christ in the soul not only emancipates from the polluting and condemning power of sin, but secures for us the joy and exercise of the highest freedom, notwithstanding the most hampering earthly circumstances. Paul had in mind this thought. He was thinking about what the gospel did even for slaves. In short, Paul says: "It makes no difference what your calling is or what your circumstances are; if Christ is in you, you are a free man, and your duty is to serve Him." How this argument rebuts what many affirm, that they cannot be Christians because of their peculiar lot in life; or they cannot serve the Lord because the state of their affairs will not permit them. Some plead poverty as an excuse for not being Christians, or for taking no part in the service of Christ and the work of the Church. Not a few say they have no time for these things. Others again parade the wrong-doing of others, the hindrances placed in their way, it may be, by domestic infelicities. Over against this, the Scriptures declare that the grace of God is sufficient to save us, no matter what our lot or fortune may be, and being saved, we are, therefore, free men in Christ, and hence His servants. Art thou called being a slave — a poor person, a man crushed with cares and toil, a heart-broken husband or wife, mother or father — care nothing for it. Remember that God is greater than adverse circumstances, and He can straighten every one of them and make you free to enjoy and serve Him. Nothing is any more a thraldom when the soul has been born into the light and liberty of the gospel. With this liberty comes the duty of serving the Lord — a duty which is never irksome, but always a glorious delight, as all obligations springing out of a sense of true freedom ever are. "He that is called, being free, is Christ's servant." My text also involves freedom from all ecclesiastical trammels and sectarian and denominational rigidities. Not that we are to condemn Church forms and laws and observances, but these are not to hamper us in our service of Christ or, in any way, keep us from the largest possible usefulness. Then, too, political freedom is found in Christ. "Of one thing I am convinced," remarked a Brahmin, "do what we will, oppose it as we may, it is the Christian's Bible that will work the regeneration of India. Wise indeed is this confession of the learned Oriental. Applicable to every nation is the thing he says. The Bible is the world's emancipator.
(A. H. Moment.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.