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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 68 - John 8:31, 32 - Truth and Liberty Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




Truth And Liberty.


     "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."-John 8:31, 32.



     "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"; accordingly we read in verse thirtieth, "As he spake these words many believed on him." So He taught, and so they believed; as the apostle puts it "So we preached, and so ye believed." It is always in connection with the word of truth that the Holy Spirit works in us. Christ's voice and the Spirit's hand go together. We find this in our text; but we find more than this.

     I. The reception of Christ's word begins discipleship. There may be many an anxious thought before this; many a tear; many a bitter groan. There may be alarm, and disquietude, and inquiry. But these are not discipleship. They are but as so many gropings after teaching; so many inquiries after a school and a teacher which will meet the soul's capacities and longings.  All the world is, in its poor, dark way, stretching out its hands after something which can only be realized in Christ. But this is not discipleship. All men are saying, Who will shew us any good; but this is not discipleship. That begins with receiving His word; not with doing some great thing; but with receiving His word; receiving it as the scholar receives the master's teaching. He is the Word; and He speaks the word. What is this word which He speaks? It is a word (1.) concerning the Father; (2.) concerning Himself. He comes as the revealer of the Father, and as the declarer of Himself and His work. From the moment that we receive what He tells us concerning the Father and Himself, we become His disciples, His scholars. Thus we are taught, not of man, but of God. This is the true, the authentic beginning of discipleship.

     II. Continuance in that word is the test of true discipleship. Our Lord evidently lays great stress on this point, continuance in His word. It is not continuance in general adherence to His cause, but continuance in His word,-in that word, by the reception of which we became disciples. As it is by holding the beginning of our confidence that we are made partakers of Christ, so it is by continuing in the word, that we make good the genuineness of our discipleship. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly," says Paul; and it is this word that contains everything we need.

     (1.) It is an expansive word; ever widening its dimensions; growing upon us; never old, ever new; in which we make continual discoveries; the same tree, but ever putting forth new branches and leaves; the same river, but ever swelling and widening; losing none of its old water, yet ever receiving accessions.

     (2.) It is a quickening word; maintaining old life, yet producing new; "Thy word hath quickened me."

     (3.) It is a strengthening word; nerving us and invigorating us; lifting us up when bowed down; imparting health, and courage, and resolution, and persistency.

     (4.) It is a sanctifying word. It purifies; it detects the evil, and purges it away; it pours in holiness into the soul. It works a blessed work within. Let us continue in it; not weary of it; not losing relish for it; but abiding in it.

     III. Knowledge of the truth is the result of discipleship. We have seen the properties and virtues of the word in itself; mark the impartation of these to the disciple. All that enter this school, and that put themselves under the teaching of this instructor, are taught of God; as it is written, "They shall be all taught of God." He shall know the truth; not a truth, nor part of it, but the truth, the whole of it,-the truth, and not error,-Him who is the truth. He shall be wise; wise in Christ; in Him who is our wisdom. He shall know it; not guess at it, nor speculate on it; nor get a glimpse of it; but know it; realize it; make choice of it; appreciate it. The truth is Christ himself; the teacher of the truth is Christ; He is both teacher and lesson. The knowledge of Christ is the knowledge of the truth; ever growing, both in extent and in depth. Christ's promise to the disciple is, "Thou shalt know the truth." Blessed promise in a day of doubt and error.

     IV. This truth is liberty. All truth is, so far, liberty, and all error bondage; some truth is greater liberty, and some error greater bondage. Blessed are these words of the Master: "The truth shall make you free." Bondage, with many, is simply associated with tyranny, bad government,-civil or ecclesiastical despotism. Christ's words go far deeper. They go to the root of the evil. The real chains, the real prison, the real bondage, are within, not without; so the true liberty is within, not without. It springs from what a man knows of God and of his Christ. Seldom do men realize this. Error, bondage! How can that be, they say, if the error be the man's own voluntary doing; if it be the result of his own intellectual effort; if it be not connected with prison-walls or the oppression of power? But the master is very explicit. The truth shall make you free! There is no other freedom, worthy of the name, of which this is not the root. "He is the freeman whom the truth makes free; and all are slaves besides."

     Be free, says the Son of God to the Sons of men! How? By becoming my disciples; knowing the truth which I shall teach; and following me, If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed!