Concerning Christian Liberty HTML version

Concerning Christian Liberty
Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it
among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not
made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it
is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is
rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of
tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never
write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing
up into eternal life, as Christ calls it in John iv.
Now, though I cannot boast of my abundance, and though I know how poorly I
am furnished, yet I hope that, after having been vexed by various temptations, I
have attained some little drop of faith, and that I can speak of this matter, if not
with more elegance, certainly with more solidity, than those literal and too subtle
disputants who have hitherto discoursed upon it without understanding their own
words. That I may open then an easier way for the ignorant--for these alone I am
trying to serve--I first lay down these two propositions, concerning spiritual liberty
and servitude:--
A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man
is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.
Although these statements appear contradictory, yet, when they are found to
agree together, they will make excellently for my purpose. They are both the
statements of Paul himself, who says, "Though I be free from all men, yet have I
made myself servant unto all" (1 Cor. ix. 19), and "Owe no man anything, but to
love one another" (Rom. xiii. 8). Now love is by its own nature dutiful and
obedient to the beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things, was
yet made of a woman; made under the law; at once free and a servant; at once in
the form of God and in the form of a servant.
Let us examine the subject on a deeper and less simple principle. Man is
composed of a twofold nature, a spiritual and a bodily. As regards the spiritual
nature, which they name the soul, he is called the spiritual, inward, new man; as
regards the bodily nature, which they name the flesh, he is called the fleshly,
outward, old man. The Apostle speaks of this: "Though our outward man perish,
yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. iv. 16). The result of this
diversity is that in the Scriptures opposing statements are made concerning the
same man, the fact being that in the same man these two men are opposed to
one another; the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh
(Gal. v. 17).
We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we may see by what
means a man becomes justified, free, and a true Christian; that is, a spiritual,