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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody


John viii.32.

|The truth shall make you free;| -- that is one of the greatest announcements of a universal principle which even Jesus Christ ever made.

But the Jews began to ask of him: |How can one be a disciple of your truth and yet be free? Is not that discipleship only another name for bondage? We are free already. We are in bondage to no man. Why then should we enter into the servitude of obedience to your truth?| And to this Jesus seems to answer: |That depends upon what it is to be free. It is a question of your definition of liberty. You seem to believe that to be free one must have no authority or leadership or master. But I say unto you that there is no such liberty. You must be the servant of something. You must be under the authority of your law, or your superstition, or your God, or yourself. Freedom on any other terms is not freedom, it is lawlessness. {196} Indeed it may be more like slavery than freedom.|

What is a free country? Not a country without law, -- a country of the anarchist, -- but a country where the law encourages each citizen to be and to do his best. A free country gives every man a chance. It opens life at the top. It invites one's allegiance from the things which enslave to the things which enlarge. And that is the only liberty, -- a transfer of allegiance, a higher attachment, which sets free from the lower enslavements of life. Suppose a man is the slave of a sin, how does he get free? He frees himself from his sin by attaching himself to some better interest. Sin is not driven out of one's life; it is crowded out. Suppose a man is the slave of himself, sunk in the self-absorbed and ungenerous life, how does he get free? He gets free by finding an end in life which is larger than himself. He becomes the servant of the truth, and the truth makes him free. Suppose a man asks himself, |What can religion do for me? It does not solve all my problems, or satisfy all my needs. What then does religion do?| Well, first of all, it gives one liberty. It detaches one's life from {197} the things which shut it in, and attaches it to those ideal ends which give enlargement, emancipation, range to life. God speaks to you of duty, of self-control, of power in your prayers, and then you go out into the world again, not as if all were plain before you, but at least with a free heart, and a mind not in bondage to the world of circumstance or of trivial cares. The truth of God, so far as it has been revealed to you, has made you free. You have found the perfect law, the law of liberty.

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