“What are we by nature? Slaves and bondsmen; slaves to sin, to Satan, to the world, to pride, to prejudice, to presumption, to every thing hateful and horrible; and only so far as the Lord brings us out of our wretched serfdom, do we come in any measure into real spiritual freedom. But what freedom is this? ‘Oh!’ says one very trippingly upon the tongue-’Oh!’ answers another in a moment from some corner of the chapel-’Of course it is gospel liberty that the Lord is speaking of.’ I do not doubt it; but just as “the truth” may perhaps include a little more than is contained in your church articles, and embraces a wider range than what is wrapped up in most Established or Dissenting nutshells, so the freedom of which the Lord speaks, may possibly (I throw it out as a suggestion,) have a more extensive scope than some of you may dream of. There is a freedom from things, distinct from gospel liberty, though gospel freedom will produce it. Gospel freedom consists, we know, in a freedom from the curse and hard bondage of the law; in a freedom from the wrath of God; in a freedom from agonising doubts and fears. And God’s people, when they “know the truth,” and are blessed with a feeling reception of it, are favoured with this freedom. But is there not such a thing, think you, as being made free from the world? I am afraid, if we were to follow into their shops and counting-houses some who talk much of gospel liberty, we might find that the world’s fetter had not been struck off their heart. We might possibly find that some who could boast very largely, and talk very fluently of “standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free,” had a golden chain, though invisible to their own eyes, very closely wrapped round their heart-strings.
There is no use then talking about Christian freedom and gospel liberty, unless a man has liberty from something else; if he is not made free, for instance, from the power of covetousness, for the Scripture declares, that “a covetous man, who is an idolater, shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” To be made free, then, implies a liberty, not only from the curse of the law and so on, but also from the world, and the spirit of covetousness in the heart. There is a being made free also from the tyrannical empire of respectability; from the desire to rise in life; from the miserable system of outliving one’s income, in order to cut a respectable appearance in the eyes of neighbours. Many who talk about gospel liberty, and would scorn any thing like imputation of bondage, are under the dominion of this tyrant, Respectability. And there is a being made free from the power of sin. I greatly fear, if we could follow into their holes and corners, and secret chambers many who prattle about gospel liberty, we should find that sin had not yet lost its hold upon them, that there was some secret or open sin that entangled them, that there was some lust, some passion, some evil temper, some wretched pride or other, that wound its fetters very close round their heart. And there is a being made free from self also: from proud self, presumptuous self, self-exalting self, flesh-pleasing self, hypocritical self, self in all its various shapes and turns, self in all its crooked hypocrisy and windings. We should then very much understate what this freedom is if we said-’Oh! it is a freedom from the curse of the law, a freedom from eternal wrath and damnation,’ and left it there. No; we must extend the circle somewhat wider; and if we extend the circle, we may find that some, who boast much of gospel freedom, have not yet reached the bound of gospel liberty.” – Philpot