The Perfect Law of Liberty
James 1:25
But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work…

I. What is "THE LAW — THE PERFECT LAW OF LIBERTY"? This question I have no hesitation in answering. It is the gospel. And, as a designation of the gospel, it is full of encouragement.

1. In the first place, the gospel is a law. Let none be alarmed. Instead of there being anything fearful in this view of it, there is everything that is fitted to impart the surest confidence to our souls. Were it not a law, no such confidence could be ours. It is as much the law, or revealed will of God, that man the sinner should be justified by faith, as it was that man the innocent should be justified by works. The way of deliverance from the law's curse has the same authority as the law itself, and the law's sanction.

2. In the second place, the gospel is a law, as coming with the full force of a Divine command. And strange that sinners should refuse submission to it! — strange that they should not embrace it with gratitude and joy! — for it is "the law of liberty." Now, in the terms of prophetic intimation, the gospel proclaims, with the full authority of the Supreme Lawgiver, "liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound": and various are the descriptions of liberty which it imparts. And it is "the perfect law of liberty." All that is Divine is perfect. All God's doings, in creation, in providence, and in redemption, are "perfect."This "law of liberty" is "perfect," in two senses: —

1. It is perfect, in regard to the ground of freedom which it reveals. That ground is perfect, as it perfectly provides for the unsullied glory of all the attributes of God; as it perfectly answers the demands of His pure and holy law; and as it perfectly secures the principles of His moral government, and the stability of His throne.

2. It is perfect also in its effect on the conscience and on the heart. In this respect, it stands in contrast with the institutes of the Mosaic dispensation; which is termed "a yoke of bondage," "a yoke," says Peter, "which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear."

II. THE DUTY OF LOOKING INTO THIS LAW: "Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth." — that is, I apprehend, continueth looking. There is apparently an intended contrast between the transient and careless "beholding of the natural face in a glass" referred to in the preceding verses. The "looking" is not, in this case, cursory and forgetful, but steady, and constant, and mindful. The full contents of "the law of liberty' — "the glorious gospel of the blessed God" — are full of sublimity and interest, in all the manifestations they make of the Divine Being, and of His relations to His creatures. They are inexhaustible. The duty incumbent upon us, then, is that of close, constant, unwearied contemplation.

III. THE INFLUENCE OF THIS LOOKING UPON THE CHARACTER: "Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work." How is this? Mere looking is not doing. Contemplation is not action. No; but doing is the result of looking; action of contemplation. The contemplation will increase faith: and the faith will "work by love"; producing, by the efficacy of what God reveals, a growing conformity to what God enjoins. The effect, indeed, may be traced to two principles — that of fear, as well as that of love. The more we contemplate the wonders of Christ's work in the gospel, the more must we see of the purity, the perfection, and the irrepealable sanction of the Divine law — of which the transgression by men mingled for Him the inexplicably bitter cup of mediatorial suffering; and, as inseparable from this, the holiness, the justice, the truth, and the avenging judicial jealousy of the Lawgiver: and the more must we be filled with a salutary fear of offending, and so of incurring His displeasure, who has thus testified how infinitely hateful in His sight all sin is. Then, on the other hand, "the love of God," and "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," so marvellously discovered in the gospel — "in the law of liberty" — cannot fail, the more closely they are contemplated, to animate the great principle of all godly practice — the principle of love — of love at once complacential and grateful — love for what God is, and love for what God hath done, delightfully harmonising, and blending into one irresistible impulsive affection — the moving power of active and devoted service.

IV. THE HAPPINESS THENCE RESULTING: "This man shall be blessed in his deed." In holy obedience to God's will — in the filial and free service of this Divine Master — there is true happiness; happiness with which "a stranger cannot intermeddle"; which no man can take from its blessed possessor. He is "blessed in his deed." Whatever enjoyment he might have in the contemplation, there could be no blessing upon him from God, without the result of the contemplation the holy practice. He enjoys subdued and regulated desires and affections; and has thus peace within. He has the inward consciousness of love to God and love to men; and thus a participation in the blessedness of the Divine benevolence.

(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

WEB: But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.

The Perfect Law of Liberty
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