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ought neither to be governed nor corrected by such a faith, nor by such maxims as those of Christianity. He therefore pleads for an unlimited liberty of thinking, and for a less limited liberty of acting, than it is fit to give him.
Perhaps we shall do some service to him, or at least to others, not altogether so overweening, if we, with a just eye to human nature, state the right notion of liberty, in respect both to thought and action; and afterward shew, that Christianity, truly such, tends directly, and more powerfully than any thing else, to promote and preserve this liberty.
When we speak of liberty, as a thing we either wish for, or would keep, we mean by it something that is good, nay, highly conducive to our own happiness. Liberty, therefore, of thought, must be the power or faculty of thinking in such a manner as may make us truly wise. Whatsoever helps us to do this, promotes the liberty; and whatsoever hinders us to do it, causes or increases the slavery of our minds. So likewise liberty of acting must be the power or privilege of carrying into execution that wisdom we have acquired by liberty of thinking, or, in other words, of acting in such a manner as may conduce to our real happiness. Whatsoever helps us to do this, befriends our liberty; whatsoever hinders, enslaves us.
These positions are, and for ever will be, true; although, in order to think wisely, we should be confined to a particular way of thinking; and, in order to act rightly, should be obliged to act by certain rules; nay, although that way of thinking should not square in all things with our previous judgment, nor those rules of action with our humour and inclination; because, of ourselves, we are neither so wise, nor so well inclined, as to need no direction. Who are we? Are we not, in respect to knowledge, 'born as the wild ass's colt,' that is, totally ignorant? And when afterward we set ourselves to the acquisition of religious knowledge, are we not liable to infinite errors, and those of the grossest kinds Do we not, therefore, stand in need of a teacher? Again, are we not subordinate beings? Are we not corrupt and sinful creatures? And do we not therefore stand in need of a governor?
Now, if God shall offer himself to be our teacher, surely the matter of his instructions must be true wisdom, and con
sequently conducive to our real liberty, although, in some instances, it should be mysterious. To believe it, therefore, on his word, can be no infringement on our liberty of thinking. And farther, if God shall vouchsafe to be our governor, his laws must undoubtedly be the best rules of action, the most conformable to true wisdom, the most productive of our real happiness, and consequently of our liberty, as well when they oppose, as when they fall in with our inclinations. True religion consists, no doubt, in the knowledge of God and his will, and also of such helps and motives to obedience in us, as he shall judge expedient. Now, as he is incomprehensible, the knowledge of him must be in some degree mysterious. And, as we are extremely inattentive to our duty, and perversely wicked, the institution of positive duties, and the proposal of future rewards and punishments, may be highly conducive, may be necessary, to our reformation. Who is to judge in this case? The infinitely wise Teacher, and the unerring Governor? Or the foolish disciple, the refractory subject?
The truth is, man, ignorant and ill-disposed, must be both taught and governed. He is not to stomach it, if, at the best, he was made for subjection as well as the angels; and if, now he is become corrupt and wicked, he is put under such rules as are morally coercive. His liberty at first was but that of a subject and dependant; but since he is turned a rebel, must be reduced to narrower bounds. With the liberty these allow him he must be content, until submission and obedience have fitted him for larger limits. If, dissatisfied with these, he seeks for greater liberty before he is reclaimed to a greater degree of virtue, let him know that he cannot elope from the service of his natural Lord, but into a licentious kind of slavery to things that have no right to rule over him, wherein he will have no other liberty, but to be wicked and miserable.
A being destitute of reason is fit only for absolute subjection and total restraint. But a being, not only foolish, but perversely wicked, is the proper subject of severity and correction, as well as of restraint; and if found incorrigible, must either be destroyed, or put under an endless incapacity of doing mischief. Although, in civil society, the madman, the robber, and the cut-throat, object to these
rules, and plead for immunity; yet the wisdom of all lawgivers in this world adheres invariably to them, and makes the objection of such men one reason for its so doing. Yet this is so far from being an encroachment on civil liberty, that without it, no shadow of such liberty can be secured to men of better minds, nor any prospect of reformation provided for the yet dissolute and lawless part of mankind. Now, why shall that be objected to in God's kingdom, which is found so necessary in all other kingdoms? Or, in what respect does the expectation of punishments and rewards abridge our liberty more in his community than in any other? Hath he not made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel?' Hath he not set before him good and evil, life and death,' and left it to himself to choose? What greater liberty would he desire than this? Would he have leave to choose the evil of sin, without the evil of punishment? If this is the liberty he aims at, the laws neither of God nor man will allow it. But if in his nature there should be an unhappy disposition to choose the evil, he ought not surely to think it an infringement of his liberty, if God, by the aids of religion, should balance that disposition, and qualify him for a free and rational choice.
On the whole, then, who is free? Not he who can think of every thing just as he pleases; not he whose thoughts move like the wind, without any path or track; not he who, against the sense and reason of all other men, and the very nature of things, can take light or darkness, truth or falsehood, right or wrong, indifferently for each other; not the sceptic, to whom nothing is either self-evident or conclusive; not the brute, disguised in the figure of a man, whose affections and appetites go foremost, and force his head to follow. Neither is he free, who is subject to no laws of God or man, but is driven at random, as whim or passion dictate, into endless inconsistencies and excesses, in almost all the transactions of his life. If irregularity or vice are proofs of freedom, the madman and the murderer must be more at liberty than other men. He only is free, who, having wisely united into one his real interest or chief good, and his pleasure, is enabled, by the assistance of true religion, to pursue that steadily, in spite of all obstructions. This man is happy, both in pursuits and events; because success attends the
one, and pleasure the other. He therefore is free; because he thinks rightly, acts wisely, and enjoys fully, without either disappointment or repentance. He cannot be disappointed; for God hath so constituted the nature of things, and, by his providence, so directs the current of events, as to give success to the endeavours of such a man. The world itself was made, and is governed, for men like this. Again, as he cannot be disappointed of the happy ends he pursues, he hath no room for regret or repentance. God is the guardian of his liberty, and a sponsor for his happiness.
And who now, on the other hand, is the slave? It is not he who is imprisoned or in chains; nor he who is sold by one master to another, for a sum of money; for such restraints and hardships lie only on the body, and cannot last. Nor is he a slave who is taught to think justly, and act regularly, by the laws of God and man; nay, and hindered by both from so thinking and acting as to hurt himself. But he is a slave, who by ignorance, or prejudice, or passion, is tied down to a wrong way of thinking, and in consequence of that, to such a foolish or wicked way of acting, as tends only to his own misery or destruction. This man is not only a slave, but a blind brute, fit only to be led or driven by one who sees the way. What is liberty,' says Cicero ? 'It is the power of living as we please. Who, therefore, lives as he pleases, but he that follows that which is right? It happens to the wise man only to do nothing unwillingly, nothing with grief or compulsion. Who can deny that all the trivial, all the covetous, all the wicked and dissolute part of mankind are slaves? Shall I esteem him free whom a woman governs and gives laws to; whom she orders, commands, forbids, as she pleases? Who can decline nothing she imposes; who dare refuse nothing she asks? She demands, and he must give; she calls, and he must come; she turns him out, and he must be gone; she threatens, and he must tremble. Now I think we ought to call this man not only a slave, but the very worst of slaves, although ever so highly dignified in point of family and fortune.' He who will not take this doctrine from our Saviour, may perhaps pay it some respect, when he sees it issue from the pen of a philosopher. But what does his own experience tell him? Does it not speak the same language? Hath he not himself
sometimes groaned under this very species of slavery? Or if free from this, hath no other tyrant used him as scurvily? Perhaps when the bottle calls him, he cannot hinder his hand from raising that liquor to his mouth, which he knows will degrade him to the condition of a brute. Or perhaps his imperious money, although he hath purchased it with his conscience and his soul, will not suffer the covetous wretch to touch it, when he is perishing for want of food and raiment. With what assurance can one, subject to these or the like passions, call himself a free man, when his whole conduct, with an infinite train of sufferings are prescribed to him by an internal tyrant, that employs its absolute power over him to no other end, but to make him despicable and miserable.
But there are a sort of men who cannot be persuaded, that any thing from within themselves can possibly enslave them; whereas the truth is, if they can guard against slavery from this quarter, we may venture to ensure their liberty against all attacks from without. God hath bestowed this happy, this glorious, privilege on man, that nothing, but himself, can enslave him; that nothing outward can bring him into subjection, who is master of his own passions and desires. Whosoever is his own,' as Seneca expresses it, 'cannot possibly be the property of another.' It is owing to a gross mistake on this head, that a libertine jealousy about freedom is always carried outward. It suspects reports, authorities, injunctions; but it is in no pain about its own prejudices or passions. The civil libertine is apprehensive only of the magistrate; the theological, of revelation. Against these they watch; the one with his polemical, the other with his political, eye, turned always outward, while self-inspection is wholly neglected, as if there were nothing within that could possibly endanger their liberty. Hence it is, that we see so many of those abject slaves, I just now described, disputing and fighting for freedom with a zeal utterly preposterous in every one, but him who is already free within. If we look a little deeper into these men, we shall find, that, notwithstanding all their pretences, they only contend for slavery against liberty. The laws of God and of civil society would correct their vices, and give them liberty; but they are enslaved to their vices, and therefore