The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
by John Flavel
File 20
(... continued from file 19)

Sermon 18. 
The Liberty of Believers opened and stated. 
John 8: 36. 
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. 
    From the 30th verse of this chapter unto my text, you have an 
account of the different effects which the words of Christ had upon 
the hearts of his hearers: Some believed, ver. 30. These he 
encourageth to continue in his word, ver. 31. giving them this 
encouragement, ver. 32. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth 
shall make you free." Hereat the unbelieving Jews take offence, and 
commence a quarrel with him, ver. 33. "We be Abraham's seed, and 
were never in bondage to any man." We are of no slavish extraction; 
the blood of Abraham runs in our veins. This scornful boast of the 
proud Jews, Christ confutes, ver. 34. where he distinguisheth on a 
two fold bondage; one to men, another to sin; one civil, another 
spiritual: Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin, then 
tells them, ver. 36. "The servant abideth not in the house for ever, 
but the Son abideth for ever." Wherein he intimateth two great 
truths, viz. That the servants and slaves of sin may for a time 
enjoy the external privileges of the house or church of God; but it 
would not be long before the master of the house would turn them out 
of doors: But if they were once the adopted children of God, then 
they should abide in the house for ever. And this privilege is only 
to be had by their believing in, and union with the natural Son of 
God, Jesus Christ: which brings us fairly to the text; "If the Son 
therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." In which 
words we have two parts; viz. 
    1. A supposition. 
    2. A concession. 
    First, A supposition, "If the Son therefore shall make you 
free," q. d. The womb of nature cast you forth into the world in a 
state of bondage! in that state you have lived all your days; 
servants to sin; slaves to your lusts; yet freedom is to be 
obtained: And this freedom is the prerogative belonging to the Son 
of God to bestow: "If the Son shall make you free." 
    Secondly, Christ's concession upon this supposition, "Then 
shall ye be free indeed," i.e. you shall have a real freedom, an 
excellent and everlasting freedom: No conceit only, as that which 
you now boast of is: If ever therefore you will be free men indeed, 
believe in me. Hence note, 
    Doct. That interest in Christ sets the soul at liberty from all 
         that bondage whereunto it was subjected in its natural 
    Believers are the children of the new covenant, the denizens of 
Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of them all, 
Gal. 4: 26. The glorious liberty, viz. that which is spiritual and 
eternal, is the liberty of the children of God, Rom. 8: 21. Christ, 
and none but Christ, delivers his people out of the hand of their 
enemies, Luke 1: 74. 
    In the doctrinal part of this point, I must shew you, 
    First, What believers are not freed from by Jesus Christ in 
this world. 
    Secondly, What that bondage is from which every believer is 
freed by Christ. 
    Thirdly, What kind of freedom that is which commences upon 
    Fourthly, Open the excellency of this state of spiritual 
    First, what those things are from which believers are not made 
free in this world: We must not think that our spiritual liberty by 
Christ, presently brings us into an absolute liberty, in all 
respects, For, 
    First, Christ does not free believers from obedience to the 
moral law: It is true we are no more under it as a covenant for our 
justification; but we are, and must still be under it, as a rule for 
our direction. The matter of the moral law is unchangeable, as the 
nature of good and evil is, and cannot be abolished except that 
distinction could be destroyed, Mat. 5: 17,18. The precepts of the 
law are still urged under the gospel to enforce duties upon us, Eph. 
6: 12. It is therefore a vain distinction, invented by Libertines, 
to say it binds us as creatures, not as Christians: or that it binds 
the unregenerate part, but not the regenerate: but this is a sure 
truth, that they who are freed from its penalties are still under 
its precepts. Though believers are no more under its curse, yet they 
are still under its conduct: The law sends us to Christ to be 
justified, and Christ sends us to the law to be regulated. Let the 
heart of every Christian join therefore with David's in that holy 
wish, Psal. 119: 4, 5. "Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts 
diligently; O that my heart were directed to keep thy statutes." It 
is excellent when Christians begin to obey the law from life, which 
others obey for life; because they are justified, not that they may 
be justified. It is also excellent when duties are done in the 
strength, and for the honour of Christ, which is evangelical; and 
not in our own strength, and for our own ends, which is servile and 
legal obedience: Had Christ freed us from obedience, such a liberty 
had been to our loss. 
    Secondly, Christ has not freed believers, in this world, from 
the temptations and assaults of Satan: even those that are freed 
from his dominion are not free from his molestation. It is said 
indeed, Rom. 16: 20. "God shall shortly bruise Satan under your 
feet:" But mean time he has power to bruise and buffet us by his 
injections, 2 Cor. 12: 7. He now bruiseth Christ's heel, Gen. 3: 10. 
i. e. bruiseth him in his tempted and afflicted members: Though he 
cannot kill them, yet he can and doth afflict and fright them, by 
shooting his fiery darts of temptation among them, Eph. 6: 16. It is 
true, when the saints are got safe into heaven they are out of 
gunshot; there is perfect freedom from all temptation. A believer 
may then say, O thou enemy, temptations are come to a perpetual end. 
I am now arrived there, where none of thy fiery darts can reach me: 
But this freedom is not yet. 
    Thirdly, Christ has not yet freed believers, in this world, 
from the motions of indwelling sin; these are continually acting, 
and infesting the holiest of men, Rom. 7:. 21, 23,24. Corruptions, 
like Canaanites, are still left in the land to be thorns in your 
eyes, and goads in your sides. Those that boast most of freedom from 
the motions of sin, have most cause to suspect themselves still 
under the dominion of sin. All Christ's freemen are troubled with 
the same complaint: who among them complains not as the apostle did, 
Rom. 7: 24. "Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from 
the body of this death?" 
    Fourthly, Jesus Christ doth not free believers, in this world, 
from inward troubles and exercises of soul, upon the account of sin. 
God may let loose Satan, and conscience too, in the way of terrible 
accusations, which may greatly distress the soul of a believer, and 
woefully eclipse the light of God's countenance, and break the peace 
of their souls. Job, Heman, and David were all made free by Christ, 
yet each of them has left upon record his bitter complaint upon this 
account, Job 7: 19, 20. Psal. 88: 14, 15,16. Psal. 38 unto ver. 11. 
    Fifthly, Christ has not freed believers, in this world, from 
the rods of affliction. God, in giving us our liberty, does not 
abridge his own liberty, Psal. 89: 32. All the children of God are 
made free, yet what son is there whom the father chasteneth not? 
Heb. 12: 8. Exemption from affliction is so far from being the mark 
of a free man, that the apostle there makes it the mark of a slave. 
Bastards, not sons, want the discipline and blessing of the rod: To 
be free from affliction would be no benefit to believers, who 
receive so many benefits by it. 
    Sixthly, No believer is freed by Christ from the stroke of 
death, though they are all freed from the sting of death, Rom. 8: 
10. The bodies of believers are under the same law of mortality with 
other men, Heb. 9: 27. We must come to the grave as well as others; 
yea, we must come to it through the same agonies, pangs, and dolours 
that other men do: The foot of death treads as heavy upon the bodies 
of the redeemed, as of other men. Believers, indeed, are 
distinguished by mercy from others, but the distinguishing mercy 
lies not here. Thus you see what believers are not freed from in 
this world: If you shall now say, what advantage then has a 
believer, or what profit is there in regeneration? I answer, 
    Secondly, That believers are freed from many great and sad 
miseries and evils by Jesus Christ, notwithstanding all that has 
been said. For, 
    First, All believers are freed from the rigour and curse of the 
law: The rigorous yoke of the law is broken off from their necks, 
and the sweet and easy yoke of Jesus Christ put on, Matth. 9: 28. 
The law required perfect working, under the pain of a curse, Gal. 
3:10. accepted of no short endeavours; admitted no repentance; gave 
no strength: It is not so now; proportionable strength is given, 
Phil. 4: 13. Evangelical sincerity is reckoned perfection, Job 1: 1. 
Transgression brings not under condemnation, Rom. 8: 1. 0 blessed 
freedom! when duty becomes light, and failings hinder not 
acceptance! This is one part of the blessed freedom of believers. 
    Secondly, All believers are freed from the guilt of sin; it may 
trouble, but it cannot condemn them, Rom. 8: 33. The hand writing 
which was against us is cancelled by Christ, nailed to his cross, 
Col. 2: 14. When the seal and hand-writing are torn off from the 
bond, the debtor is made free thereby: Believers are totally freed, 
Acts 13: 89. "Justified from all things:" And finally freed, John 5: 
24. "They shall never come into condemnation." O blessed freedom! 
How sweet is it to lie down in our beds, yea, in our graves, when 
guilt shall neither be our bed-fellow, nor grave-fellow! 
    Thirdly, Jesus Christ frees all believers from the dominion as 
well as the guilt of sin. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for 
ye are not under the law, but under grace," Rom. 6: 14. "The law of 
the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus, has made me free from 
the law of sin and death," Rom. 8: 2. Now, who can estimate such a 
liberty as this? What slavery, what an intolerable drudgery is the 
service of divers lusts, from all which believers are freed by 
Christ; not from the residence, but from the reign of sin. It is 
with sin in believers as it was with those beasts mentioned Dan. 7: 
12. "They had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were 
prolonged for a season and a time." 
    Fourthly, Jesus Christ sets all believers free from the power 
of Satan, in whose right they were by nature, Col. 1: 13. they are 
translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of Christ. 
Satan had the possession of them, as a man of his own goods; but 
Christ dispossesseth that strong man armed, alters the property, and 
recovers them out of his hand, Luke 11: 21, 22. There are two ways 
by which Christ frees believers out of Satan's power and possession; 
    1. By price. 
    2. By power. 
    First, By price. The blood of Christ purchaseth believers out 
of the hands of justice, by satisfying the law for them, which being 
done, Satan's authority over them falls of course, as the power of a 
gaoler over the prisoner does, when he has a legal discharge, Heb. 
2: 14. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and 
blood; he also himself took part of the same, that through death he 
might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." 
The cruel tyrant beats and burdens the poor captive no more after 
the ransom is once paid, and he actually freed; and therefore Christ 
delivers his, 
    Secondly, By power. Satan is exceeding unwilling to let go his 
prey: He is a strong, and malicious enemy; every rescue and 
deliverance out of his hand is a glorious effect of the Almighty 
Power of Christ, Acts 26: 18. 2 Cor. 10: 5. How did our Lord Jesus 
Christ grapple with Satan at his death, and triumph over him, Col. 
2: 15. 0 glorious salvation! blessed liberty of the children of God! 
    Fifthly, Christ frees believers from the poisonous sting and 
hurt of death: Kill us it can, but hurt us it cannot, 1 Cor. 15: 55, 
56. "O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory? The 
sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law: but 
thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus 
Christ." If there be no hurt, there should be no horror in death: It 
is guilt that arms death, both with its hurting and terrifying 
power. To die in our sins, John 8: 24. To have our bones full of the 
sins of our youth, which shall lie down with us in the dust, Job 20: 
11. To have death, like a dragon, pulling a poor guilty creature as 
a prey into its dreadful den, Psal. 49: 14. In this lies the danger 
and horror of death: But from death, as a curse, and from the grave, 
as a prison, Christ has set believers at liberty, by submitting to 
death in their room; and by his victorious resurrection from the 
grave, as the firstborn of the dead, death is disarmed of its 
hurting power. The death of believers is but a sleep in Jesus. 
    Thirdly, The nest thing to be briefly spoken to, is the kind 
and nature of that freedom and liberty purchased and procured by 
Christ for believers. 
    Now liberty may be considered two ways; viz. 
    1. As civil. 
    2. As sacred. 
    As to civil freedom, or liberty, it belongs not to our present 
business: Believers, as to their civil capacity, are not freed from, 
the duties they owe to their superiors. Servants, though believers, 
are still to be subject to their masters, according to the flesh, 
with fear and trembling, Eph. 6: 5. nor from obedience to lawful 
magistrates, whom we are to obey in the Lord, Rom. 12: 1, 4. 
Religion dissolves not the bonds of civil relations; nor is it to be 
used as an occasion to the flesh, 1 Pet. 2: 16. It is not a carnal, 
but a spiritual freedom Christ has purchased for us: And this 
spiritual freedom is again to be considered, either as, 
    1. Inchoate. 
    2. Consummate. 
    The liberty believers have at present is but a beginning 
liberty; they are freed but in part from their spiritual enemies; 
but it is a growing liberty every day, and will be consummate and 
complete at last. 
    To conclude, Christian liberty is either; 
    1. Privative, or, 
    2. Positive. 
    The liberty believers are invested with is of both kinds: They 
are not only freed from many miseries, burdens and dangers, but also 
invested by Jesus Christ with many royal privileges and invaluable 
    Fourthly, And this brings us to the fourth and last thing, 
namely, the properties of this blessed freedom which the saints 
enjoy by Jesus Christ; and, if we consider it duly, it will be found 
to be, 
    First, A wonderful liberty, never enough to be admired. How 
could it be imagined that ever those who owed unto God more than 
ever they could pay by their own eternal sufferings; those that were 
under the dreadful curse and condemnation of the law, in the power 
and possession of Satan the strong man armed; those that were bound 
with so many chains in their spiritual prison; their understanding 
bound with ignorance, their wills with obstinacy, their hearts with 
impenetrable hardness, their affections with a thousand bewitching 
vanities, that slight their state of slavery so much, as 
industriously to oppose all instruments and means of deliverance; 
for such persons to be set at liberty, notwithstanding all this, is 
the wonder of wonders, and will be deservedly marvellous in the eyes 
of believers for ever. 
    Secondly, The freedom of believers is a peculiar freedom; a 
liberty which few obtain; the generality abiding still in bondage to 
Satan, who, from the multitude of his subjects, is stiled the god of 
this world, 2 Cor. 4: 4. Believers in scripture are often called a 
remnant, which is but a small part of the whole piece: The more 
cause have the people of God to admire distinguishing mercy. How 
many nobles and great ones of the world are but royal slaves to 
Satan, and their own lusts! Thirdly, The liberty of believers is a 
liberty dearly purchased by the blood of Christ. What that captain 
said, Acts 22: 28. "With a great sum obtained I this freedom," may 
be much more said of the believers' freedom: It was not silver or 
gold, but the precious blood of Christ that purchased it, 1 Pet. 1: 
    Fourthly, The freedom and liberty of believers is a growing and 
increasing liberty; they get more and more out of the power of sin, 
and nearer still to their complete salvation every day, Rom. 13: 11. 
The body of sin dies daily in them: they are said to be crucified 
with Christ: the strength of sin abates continually in them, after 
the manner of crucified persons, who die a slow, but sure death: And 
look in what degree the power of sin abates, proportionably their 
spiritual liberty increases upon them. 
    Fifthly, The freedom of believers is a comfortable freedom: the 
apostle comforts Christians of the lowest rank, poor servants, with 
this consideration, 1 Cor. 7: 25!. "He that is called in the Lord, 
being a servant, is the Lord's freeman," q. d. Let not the meanness 
of your outward condition, which is a state of subjection and 
dependence, a state of poverty and contempt, at all trouble you: you 
are the Lord's freemen, of precious account in his eyes. O it is a 
comfortable liberty! 
    Sixthly, and Lastly, It is a perpetual and final freedom; they 
that are once freed by Christ, have their manumission and final 
discharge from that state of bondage they were in before: sin shall 
never have dominion over them any more: it may tempt them and 
trouble them, but shall never more rule and govern them, Acts 26: 
18. And thus you see what a glorious liberty the liberty of 
believers is. 
    The improvement whereof will be in the following inferences. 
    Inf. 1. How rational is the joy of Christians, above the joy of 
all others in the world? Shall not the captive rejoice in his 
recovered liberty? the very birds of the air (as one observes) had 
rather be at liberty in the woods, though lean and hungry, than in a 
golden cage with the richest fare: every creature naturally prizes 
it; none more than believers, who have felt the burden and bondage 
of corruption, who in the days of their first illumination and 
conviction have poured out many groans and tears for this mercy. 
What was said of the captive people of God in Babylon, excellently 
shadows forth the state of God's people under spiritual bondage, 
with the way and manner of their deliverance from it, Zech. 9: 11. 
"By the blood of the covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of 
the pit, wherein is no water." Believers are delivered by the blood 
of Christ, out of a worse pit than that of Babylon; and look, as the 
tribes in their return from thence were overwhelmed with joy and 
astonishment, Psal 126: 1, 2. "When the Lord turned again the 
captivity of Sion, we are like them that dream: then was our mouth 
filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing." 
    They were overwhelmed with the sense of the mercy: So should it 
be with the people of God. It is said, Luke 15: 24. when the 
prodigal son (there made the emblem of a returning, converting 
sinner) was returned again to his father's house, that there was 
heard music and dancing, mirth and feasting in that house. The 
angels in heaven rejoice when a soul is recovered out of the power 
of Satan: And shall not the recovered soul, immediately concerned in 
the mercy, greatly rejoice? Yea, let them rejoice in the Lord, and 
let no earthly trouble or affliction ever have power to interrupt 
their joy for a moment, after such a deliverance as this. 
    Inf. 2. How unreasonable and wholly inexcusable is the sin of 
apostasy from Jesus Christ? What is it but for a delivered captive 
to put his feet again into the shackles; his hands into the 
manacles; his neck into the iron yoke, from which he has been 
delivered? It is said, Mat. 12: 44, 45. "When the unclean spirit is 
gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest and 
findeth none: Then he saith, I will return into mine house from 
whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, 
and garnished; then goes he, and taketh with him seven other spirits 
more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there, and the 
last state of that man is worse than the first." Even as a prisoner 
that has escaped, and is again recovered, is loaded with double 
irons. Let the people of God be content to run any hazard, endure 
any difficulties in the way of religion, rather than return again 
into their former bondage, to sin and Satan. O Christian! if ever 
God gave thee a sight and a sense of the misery and danger of thy 
natural state, if ever thou hast felt the pangs of labouring and 
distressed conscience, and, after all this, tasted the unspeakable 
sweetness of the peace and rest that are in Christ, thou wilt rather 
chuse to die ten thousand deaths, shall to forsake Christ, and go 
back again into that sad condition. 
    Inf. 3. How suitable and well-becoming is a free spirit in 
believers to their state of liberty and freedom? Christ has made 
your condition free, O let the temper and frame of your hearts be 
free also; do all that you do for God with a spirit of freedom; not 
by constraint, but willingly. Methinks, Christians, the new nature 
that is in you should stand for a command, and be instead of all 
arguments that use to work upon the hopes and fears of other men. 
See how all creatures work according to the principle of their 
natures. You need not command a mother to draw forth her breasts to 
a sucking child; nature itself teaches and prompts to that. You need 
not bid the sea ebb and flow at the stated hours. O Christian! why 
should thy heart need any other argument, than its own spiritual 
inclination, to keep its stated times and seasons of communion with 
God? Let none of God's commandments be grievous to you: let not 
thine heart need dragging and forcing to its own benefit and 
advantage. Whatever you do for God, do it cheerfully; and whatever 
you suffer for God suffer it cheerfully. It was a brave spirit which 
actuated holy Paul, "I am ready (saith he) not only to be bound, but 
also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus," Acts 21: 
    Inf. 4. Let no man wonder at the enmity and opposition of Satan 
to the preaching of the gospel: for by the gospel it is that souls 
are recovered out of his power, Acts 26: 18. It is the express work 
of ministers "to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power 
of Satan unto God." Satan (as one saith) is a great and jealous 
prince: he will never endure to have liberty proclaimed by the 
ministers of Christ within his dominions. And, indeed, what is it 
less, when the gospel is preached in power, but as it were by beat 
of drum, and sound of trumpet, to proclaim liberty, spiritual, 
sweet, and everlasting liberty, to every soul sensible of the 
bondage of corruption and the cruel servitude of Satan, and will now 
come over to Jesus Christ? And O what numbers and multitudes of 
prisoners have broken loose from Satan at one proclamation of 
Christ, Acts 2: 41. But Satan owes the servants of Christ a spite 
for this, and will be sure to pay them if ever they come within his 
reach; persecution is the evil genius of the gospel, and follows it 
as the shadow does the body. 
    Inf. 5. How careful should Christians be to maintain their 
spiritual liberty in all and every point thereof! "Stand fast (saith 
Paul) in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not 
again entangled in the yoke of bondage," Gal. 5: 1. And again, Ye 
are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men." It is 
Christ's prerogative to prescribe the rules of his own house; he has 
given no man dominion over your faith, 2 Cor. 1: 24. One man is no 
rule to another, but the word of Christ is a rule to all: follow not 
the holiest of men one step farther than they follow Christ, 1 Cor. 
11: 4. Man is an ambitious creature, naturally affecting dominion; 
and dominion over the mind rather than over the body. To give law to 
others, feeds pride in himself; so far as any man brings the word of 
Christ to warrant his injunctions, so far we are to obey, and no 
farther; Christ is your Lord and Lawgiver. 
    Inf. 6. Lastly, Let this encourage and persuade sinners to come 
to Christ; for with him is sweet liberty to poor captives. Oh that 
you did but know what a blessed state Jesus Christ would bring you 
into! "Come unto me (saith he) ye that labour and are heavy laden:" 
and what encouragement does he give to comers? Why this, "My yoke is 
easy, and my burden is light." The devil persuades you, that the 
ways of obedience and strict godliness are a perfect bondage; but if 
ever God regenerate you, you will find his ways, "ways of 
pleasantness, and all his paths peace: you will rejoice in the way 
of his commandments as much as in all riches:" you will find the 
worst work Christ puts you about, even suffering work, sweeter than 
all the pleasures that ever you found in sin. O therefore open your 
hearts at the call of the gospel: Come unto Christ, then shall you 
be free indeed. 

The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
(continued in file 21...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: flamt-20.txt