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man and the christian. Difpell by thy holy spirit every prejudice that may weaken these good effects of truth; and hear our prayer, through Jesus Christ, by whom thou hast called us to the glorious liberty of the sons of thee, our God. With filial confidence we implore it of thee, as his disciples, and address thee farther in his name: Our father, &c.
"HE spirit of christianity is a spirit of liberty.
Of this its doctrines, its precepts, as well as the character of its founder, and the whole teinper it communicates to its true professors, allow us no room to doubt.
Where the spirit of the Lord is, says the apostle, there is liberty. Christianity promotes liberty of each kind, civil as well as religious, among mankind. - If it any where is not so apparently favourable to it; if any where it seems to require of its followers an unlimited and implicit obedience towards magistrates and governors; this was extremely necessary in the primitive times for the confirmation and extension of it. The christian doctrine must have been clear of every thing that might
excite suspicion of worldly airns, or fear of civil como motion. It must first disseminate more instruction and morality among mankind, before it had need to give incitement and encouragement to the vindication of their rights. A vigorous and lively sentimért of liberty in men, who are but little cultivated, and have no firm principles, is often, generally speaking, more prejudicial than useful. But the spirit of christianity, the whole system of thought and temper it inculcates, has indisputably the advancement of both kinds, of liberty in view. No doctrine whatever causes a man to feel more forcibly his natural equa. lity with all others ; none more expressly preaches to him humanity and brotherly love, universal kindness and beneficence and generosity; none inspires him with a livelier sentiment of his dignity as a man; none is more fertile in great, generous, and elevated thoughts and sentiments of mind and heart; none teaches a man to consider death with greater composure, and to meet it with more firmness; none makes him readier to die for his brethren and for the public good, as Jesus died for mankind : and who fees not that no difpofitions can be more manifestly at variance with flavery and bondage, and none more favourable to freedom than these?
Oh were they but more general among christians, and that even rulers and governors would but learn to think in a more christian manner !
How much advantage would accrue to the cause of freedom, and confe. quently of Luman happiness! Far be it from me to
preach disorder in the state, or disunion and schisin in the church! But to preach and to promote liberty, and to render the greater or the finaller proportion of it you enjoy the dearer to you, is a duty of mankind, a christian duty! and to contribute something to the discharge of this duty is the scope of
my present discourse. In it I shall inquire into the value of liberty, civil and religious, and its influence on human happiness, and therein lay before
the importance of the apostolical admonition in our text: “Be not ye the servants of men.” In this design, I shall, first, make a few observations for ascertaining the true notion of liberty and its real value; then examine into the peculiar value of the two kinds; and lastly fubjoin some suggestions in regard of our behaviour towards it.
Civil liberty is there in its greatest perfection where "We are only subject to the laws, and chuse our own representatives in enacting those laws. In other conftitutions of government there exists always so much the greater or less degree of freedom as the laws more or less bear sway, and as even the arbitrary will and power of the ruler is circumscribed by them. So likewise religious liberty is there in its greatest perfection where a man is subject in religious matters, to no other laws than the precepts of reason and his own conscience, and unimpededly may follow their impulses and injunctions. And when likewise here limitations are set, then does so much more or less liberty of this kind obtain as such limitations are more
extensive or confined, as they relate to effential or unefsential matters.
That we may rightly estimate the value of this liberty, it is necessary to make several remarks, and accurately to distinguish it from what is often called, but is not, liberty.
Liberty, in the first place, is not licentiousness, not anarchy To be free, does not imply, to act without principles, without views, according to the dictates of unbridled inclination ; not to break through and despise all restraints ; not to reckon every law as a violent imposition and burden, and to reject it as soon as we think or feel it in the least degree inconvenient to us; not to set aside all that is fit, and to get over all that is decent; not to exist and live barely for oneself, without regard to others. No, laws; accurately defined, inviolable, obligatory on all states and conditions of men, on princes and magistrates as well as on subjects, are the first and firmest foundation of liberty. Wouldst thou enjoy a liberty controuled by no law, limited by no authority, in the full power of doing merely what thou art pleased to do; then get thee from the society of men ; return to the woods, to the pretended state of nature; live among the animals thy relations, the beasts of the field; or lead the life of a hermit, divest thyself of all the privileges, and renounce all the comforts of social life. For, where men live together, and would live securely and happily together, there must be law, there must law bear sway, there must every
one facrifice a part of his natural liberty to the peaceful possession of what he retains. No, the greater the freedom of the citizen; so much the more sacred should all the laws of the state, the first as well as the last, be to him. The more freely the worshiper of God may think, the less he is tied to forms and confessions ; so much the stricter and more conscientiously should he conform to the eternal and unchangeable laws of reason, and be guided by the precepts of a revelation which he confesses to be divine.
Farther, The love of liberty is not a querulous disposition, is not a spirit of opposition to all laws and ordinances, to all received notions and doctrines, a repugnance to all institutions, establishments, and usages, introduced into civil life and the public worship. No, the more sensible a person is to the value of his own liberty; the less will he be disposed authoritatively to set bounds to the liberty of others. The more unmolestedly he may follow the dictates of his own conscience ; fo much the more does he respect the conscience, even the erroneous conscience, of his brother. The less he is tied down to opinions and formularies of doctrine himself, and the more sensibly he is hurt when his faith and his persuasions are made the objects of derision; fo much the more indulgent is he to the opinions and persuasions of others, and the less will he allow himself to controvert or to rectify them otherwise than by argument, and in the spirit of humility and meekness.
reprover, the biting scoffer in this way,