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THE BELIEVER'S FREEDOM FROM SIN
REV. S. ROBINS, A M.
CHRIST CHAPEL, NORTH BANK, REGENT'S PARK, FEBRUARY 21, 1836.
"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."-ROMANS, vi. 22.
THE Apostle in this text brings to our view two subjects which are of universal concern; the two great hinges of Gospel truth-sin and salvation. Wheresoever it might have been his lot to labour, and amongst whatsoever people he might be cast, they never could be inappropriate subjects; for there were none who were not groaning under the consequences of sin, and none unto whom salvation would not be a most precious boon. And so now the minister of Christ exercising his office after the lapse of so many centuries, has still to take the same subject matter, and to deal amongst his people the same great truths. Wheresoever his ministry may be exercised, as long as he keeps closely and faithfully to the records of God's word, he finds that when treating of these great essential matters, he is most profiting the souls of his people, and best promoting the glory of that Master, to serve whom he hath consecrated himself.
Now there are two points of consideration which we derive from the text before us; and upon these we earnestly crave the blessing of the Lord. We would speak to you, in the first place, concerning the change which takes place in the spiritual condition of the believer: and, in the second place, of its results.
Now under the first of these heads we have to speak to you concerning THE
CHANGE WHICH TAKES PLACE IN THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE BELIEVER.
He is "made free from sin ;" and hath" become the servant of God."
Now he is in various ways "free from sin." In the first and most obvious sense he is free from its dominion. There are several statements in the word of God which at first sight would appear inconsistent with each other, to be contradictory or irreconcilable. But we must explain Scripture by Scripture, and look for satisfaction and consistency in the declarations of the Lord. We have no manner of question that a pains-taking and a prayerful examination of his recorded will, shall not fail to direct us finally to this issue. The believer is free from the dominion of sin. In other places it is said, that "the man of God is perfect;" that "whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin," that he cannot commit sin; as in the present place he "is made free from sin ;" or as in another place it is said, "sin hath no more dominion over him, because
he is not under the law but under grace." Now the meaning of this is, not that the child of God on this side eternity attains unto that perfection which knows of no failing; not that he attains to such completeness of holy and sanctifying influences, as that he shall not say one word, nor do one work, in contravention of the law of God; for then there would not be a believer on the face of the earth, not one unto whom might attach this most glorious epithet. "There is none that doeth good, no not one :"" the imaginations of men's hearts are only evil continually:" "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Out of this lost condition he is truly brought by the operation of divine grace. But there will remain so much of his first sin, so much of wickedness to be borne as a burden with him to his grave, that he can lay no claim to the perfection of character which some in the blindness and pride of their heart, have arrogated to themselves, and which we think is one of the subtle devices of the enemy to cause us to descend from our watch-tower, and to remain unwary and unprayerful, believing ourselves perfect when we are on the brink of spiritual danger.
But the child of God is free from the dominion of sin, inasmuch as he is no longer its subject, as he no longer renders allegiance to it; as he no longer submits himself to it with the faculties of his mind, and the affections of his heart, to go on its errands and to do its bidding; but there hath arisen within him sturdy contention against sin. So far from owning its dominion over him, he sets himself on all occasions to resist and to overcome it.
But not only is he free from the dominion of sin as paramount in his heart, but he is free also from the defilement of sin. None knows so well as the child of God how defiling a thing sin is; how it taints and pollutes all the sources of creature endowments, and spoils all the services he can render; and how it hath blighted the world of man's heart. He is not so proud, he is not so arrogant, as to believe that he can stand in his own uprightness before God. He does not think that even the best and holiest deed that he can perform is so removed from its taint that he can depend on it for acceptance. He knows that in such cases he must lay his hand on his lips, and say, " Unclean, unclean!" and in the very dust of humility, lying on the earth before his God, he hath cause to ask pardon for the iniquity of his holy things. And yet in spite of this he is free from the defilement of sin. There hath been a fountain opened for him wherein to wash and be clean, and the leprosy cleaves to him no more. Though his sins have been as scarlet, yet, washing in the blood of Jesus, he shall become white as wool. Though in himself he be a polluted creature, and all the springs of thought and feeling are nothing but defilement-though in every purpose he hath formed sin hath had a place, and in every course of action to which he hath devoted himself sin hath been attached; though every word he hath spoken hath been the conveyance of sin-yet, standing before his God, wrapped in the pure white robe of the righteousness of Jesus, the Lord sees no sin in him; but he can come boldly unto the throne of grace, and just because he wears that robe he knows he shall not be sent away. He shall come by and by as a welcome guest, and he shall sit down at the marriage supper; and the warrant of his coming, and the assurance of his reception shall be thisthat he wears the marriage garment, and therefore is he free from the defilement, as well as the dominion of sin.
Moreover God hath given unto him freedom from its condemnation. There
hath gone forth an awful sentence, promulgated in the very early days of this world's history. It was declared unto the first parent of human kind, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die :" and the stern attribute of God's justice is involved, his truth and his faithfulness are banded together, for the execution of the sentence, which hath been registered in heaven's courts; and there is no appeal. The sinner stands self-convicted, he hath not a syllable to utter in arrest of judgment. He can plead no word why sentence should not go forth against him, why the arm of the executive should not lay hold of him, and give him up to the punishment which hath been enacted. And yet, in spite of the miserableness of his condition, though he stands a speechless prisoner at the bar of the Eternal, hope is not quenched, all the sources of restoration are not shut up against him, but there is a way by which he may escape; and, believing in Jesus, he is free from condemnation. Christ hath set him free from "the curse of the law, having been made a curse for him; as it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Just because the Lord Jesus hath bound to himself the case and the condition of every one of his elect people, and looking forward through all the ages and untold centuries of coming time, marketh them for his, taking the burden of all their sins upon himself, bindeth the crushing weight upon his own shoulders, he hath set them free-this is the plea that they may offer in the court; that one hath paid the debt; that their surety and representative hath taken on himself the penalty; and thereon may God's wrath spend itself, and therefrom may God's wrath exact the very uttermost farthing: but the original debtor goes free; the original malefactor escapes; and mercy and justice are herein reconciled, the one to the other, and all the great and glorious attributes of God have their entire vindication. And while justice is the most awful, and wears the most frowning aspect, and vengeance speaks in a voice of thunder, and sends forth its scathing lightnings as Christ dies on the cross, so his mercy speaks in tones of such gentle tenderness as seraph never used, while he tells us, that there is opened a way by which God may be approached by his people as a God of love, dealing out his compassionate kindness even to those who once lay in the dungeon of condemnation.
The believer is set free, moreover, from the remorse of sin. It is not that he thinks lightly of it: it is not that with him it is a small matter to contravene the law of God. There is nothing within the whole compass of the world's contingencies that so troubles and so burthens him. It is not that he can deceive his heart, so as to believe that days, and weeks, and months, and years pass on, and no sin is borne with him. His memory goes back to past years, and even from the days of his childhood, even from the period of his earliest recollection, there hath been sin; and the aggregate is a mighty amount, and the catalogue of his transgressions hath been lengthened out, so that he crouches beneath its weight, and has the sharpest sting of remorse turned in his own heart. Yes; he knows that "if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sanctify to the purifying of the flesh; much more the blood of Jesus, who, through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without spot unto God, shall purge the conscience." And therefore it is that remorse is passed away. He remembers his sins, indeed, but it is for humility on the one hand, that there may be no pride or high-minded thought—and thankfulness, on the other hand, or God's chief mercy to his soul.
He is set free, moreover, from the consequences of sin; strange as it may sound. Disease we know is one of those consequences. He hath no exemption from that; but it lays hold upon him, fastens upon the springs of life, and takes away all the freshness, and the health, and the vigour of his body, and his frame becomes shattered and broken. Yet, in spite of all this, the disease that cometh to him is not a thing of punishment, but a thing of blessing. It is the message-bearer from his Father; it is part of that great plan, the ultimate issue of which is nothing but good to the believer. The brother of sin is death; and he escapes not death; it crosses his threshold and comes into his house; it takes away one and another out of his family circle, until at last its cold hand is laid on his own beating heart.
He is free from the punishment of sin. Its sting hath been extracted, and the bitterness taken away. His dying chamber becomes to him the vestibule of heaven, filled with angel forms waiting to bear away the spirit of their brother to the mansions of the blessed. Death is to him but the servant that his Father sends to fetch him home. He has been away too long: he has been in a strange land, till his spirit is weary and his heart is sick and now he is to go to his Father's house, and dwell in his immediate presence, and have the light of his countenance ever shining on him, with no veil of mortality to intervene at all.
The believer, then, is set free from these things-the dominion of sin, its defilement, its condemnation, its remorseful feeling, and its bitter consequences. From all these he enjoys the liberty wherewith Christ endows his people.
But there is only one way for the attainment of this; but one way in which this blessed and glorious emancipation can be achieved. Strange as it may sound, he is set free only by being brought into another service: he becomes "the servant of God." The field of the heart can never remain unoccupied. man's heart is too fair a dwelling-place to be without a tenant. When Satan leaves him, through the expulsion which is wrought by the Spirit of God, then doth the Lord take possession of it as his own fair temple: and surely there was never reared for the honour of the Creator, so lovely and so worthy a dwelling-place as the regenerate heart. Then the believer, enjoying this privilege of freedom, is brought into new service; is brought into the service of Him whom to obey is an ennobling, and an honourable, and an elevating thing. We can conceive something of this even upon earth. We can conceive in the intercourse of men with each other, that there can be a rendering of service which brings nothing but honour to him. We can conceive of that loyalty of heart which has nothing to do in the rendering of duty, with the earning of wages, or the terrors of personal fear; which is not the service of the mercenary, on the one hand, nor of the slave on the other hand. We can conceive of the nobleness which belongs to the character of him to whom gratitude is the impelling motive which makes him seek his benefactor's dwelling-place, and watch his steps, and see how, in the intercourse of daily life, he may gladden him, and what he may do to give pleasure to that heart that hath poured its kindness upon him: and who shall say, but that this service is an elevating thing? Even so is it with the believer: he has felt what God hath done for him; he hath seen how the Lord hath interposed for him: and then he knows, that it is not only his duty, but his highest and most glorious privilege, to consecrate himself, body, soul, and spirit, to his heavenly Benefactor: not that he can requite what he hath received at his hand, but that he may testify to others,
and to his own heart, that he is not unthankful for the bestowal of these blessings.
But ere this can take place, there must be a mighty change. He must be brought out of his original condition, which is one of slavery. He was born in the most debasing servitude: and just as it is in those countries on which the plague spot of slavery still lies, the mother who is herself a slave can give birth only to a slave, she can bestow upon her offspring no other inheritance than that which hath come down to her, an inheritance of galling fetters and the terrors of the lash; and she looks upon her little one, and knows that it must be a slave: even so man, who inherits from his first progenitor the slavery of sin, hath nothing else to bequeath to his child. He is born in sin, and therefore born a slave; and the circumstances of his bondage are so much the worse because he doth not feel them. The devil hath wrapped so much of the softness and the inducements of sin around the manacles, that they do not clank; and he hath so adorned the walls of his prison-house with what the carnal mind loves, that he is willing to stay in the dungeon a captive.
But Jesus comes, and he hath pity on the poor willing slave, and he breaks his chains, and unbars the doors of his prison-house, and brings him into light and liberty, makes him to be at his own disposal, and to look up as a freeman, and be no longer a slave. The state into which he is brought, the state of service to his Lord, is one which Christ himself hath consecrated; for you remember that he hath called his dear Son by this very name, "servant;" “Behold my servant whom I uphold." No marvel, then, that it was the name by which Moses loved to be called; that it was the title, the highest distinction unto which Paul's ambition soared; that it is the name by which angels delight to be distinguished, and which shall be borne by the glorified and the redeemed for ever and ever.
But mark you, beloved, the servant of God is not the mere formalist. You remember how, in the eighth chapter of John, our Lord opens this matter. He shews that the Pharisees, satisfied as they were with their own external forms, in spite of their boasted freedom, were slaves. They contended, that they had never been in bondage to any man; that they were Abraham's seed, and that all the rich and large amount of privileges belonged to them. But our Lord shewed them, and he sheweth us too, that whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. He shews, that whosoever the Son maketh free, he is free indeed. O, be sure of this, there is no other freedom. It is when He who bound our nature to him, and became our brother, our kinsman, for the redemption of the inheritance, when he introduced us into the new family, and brings us, by adoption, to be the sons and daughters of God, then, and not until then, that we enjoy liberty and we may say, in the glowing language of the Apostle, "We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." And thus it is, that the condition and the circumstances of the believer are, in all respects, changed from what they were.
And now we go on, as we proposed, in the second place, to consider THE "Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the en. everlasting life." There are two consequences-the proximate, and the
RESULTS OF THIS CHANGE.