From “The Law of Liberty,” Sermons Preached in Country Churches, 286-287 (1866)
What does the apostle mean by saying that we shall be judged by the law of liberty? He means that God will not say this to a man, “Why did you have such and such a bad desire,” but, “Why did you not ask me to set you free from the desire, to give you power over it? That is what I promised when I told you not to do this thing and that thing. I know what evil tempers and inclinations are in you.
“I know you cannot prevail against them by any strength which is in you. But I wanted you to trust in me; to seek my strength when you were weakest; to hope in my power of raising you when you were most utterly down. I did not give you my law to frighten you away from me, but to draw you to me, that you might find out what need my children have of me, that you might understand how near I am to them all.”
Then you will cry, as David cries in the Psalms, “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against my enemies.” “You see how these bad desires press upon me, how this evil spirit tempts me. You understand my dangers much better than I understand them. But I belong to you. You have created me; you have redeemed me by your Son; You love me for his sake. Support me then against those that rise up against me. Be on my side, you Judge of the whole earth, when I am ready to yield to those oppressors of mine. They are not my lords; you are my Lord. O, put them down!”
If we pray in this way, and believe this, we shall find that we are under a law of liberty; we shall find that it is a great and blessed thing to have One who sees into the depths of our hearts, and judges righteously.
Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) was an Anglican priest and theologian, a prolific author who was professor of theology at Kings College, London, and Cambridge. An early leader of the Christian Socialist movement, he founded several educational institutions for working people. Sermons Preached in Country Churches, a collection of sermons Maurice preached during his summer travels, was published posthumously by his wife. “The Law of Liberty” was preached on the 11th Sunday after Trinity, 1866 at St. Peter’s Church, Burnham, in Buckinghamshire. He is commemorated on the Episcopal Church’ liturgical calendar on April 1. The text is slightly adapted for contemporary readers.