Not only perseverance but liberty, is the fruit of the Lord's mercy to our souls—not the liberty of sin—to do what we please—but of holiness—to do what we ought; the one, the iron bondage of our own will; the other, the easy yoke of a God of love. It was a fine expression of a heathen, "To serve God is to reign." Certainly in this service David found the liberty of a king. The precepts of God were not forced upon him; for he sought them. "More to be desired than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb." The way of the Lord, which to the ungodly is beset with thorns and briers, is the king's highway of liberty. The child of God walks here in the gladness of his heart and the rejoicing of his conscience. Even in "seeking these precepts," there is "liberty" and enlargement of heart; a natural motion, like that of the sun in its course, "going forth as a bridegroom, and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race." What must it be then, to walk in the full enjoyment of the precepts! "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." "They shall sing in the ways of the Lord,"—for "how great is His goodness; how great is His beauty!"
Are we then obeying the precepts as our duty, or "seeking" them as our privilege? Do we complain of the strictness of the law, or of the corruption of the flesh? Are the precepts of our own hearts our burden? Is sin or holiness our bondage? The only way to make religion easy, is to be always in it. The glow of spiritual activity, and the healthfulness of Christian liberty, are only to be found in the persevering and self-denying pursuit of every track of the ways of God, "If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed: and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." To have the whole stream of all our thoughts, actions, motives, desires, affections, carried in one undivided current towards God, is the complete and unrestrained influence of His love upon our hearts.
Let but our eyes be opened, our judgments clearly exercised, our consciences suffered to speak; and this point is clear—Sin is slavery—Holiness is liberty. The sinner may live in bonds with as much delight as if he was in his element. He may seem even to himself to be at large, while in fact he is "shut up, and cannot come forth." For such is the tyranny under which he is bound, that he cannot help himself; and (to use the confession of a heathen) while 'he sees and approves better things, he follows the worse.' Every sin is a fresh chain of bondage, under the check of a cruel master. On the other hand—the Lord's commands—as He Himself declares, and all His servants testify—are "for our good always." His 'service is perfect freedom.' (Liturgy.) The life of liberty is to be under the bonds of holy love and duty. Let the trial be made of two Masters; conviction must follow.
True it is, that the corrupt and rebellious inclinations will "lust" to the end. But as long as indulgence is denied, conflict excited, and the constant endeavor maintained to "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," our liberty is established, even where it is not always enjoyed. Every fresh chain, by which we bind ourselves to the Lord, makes us more free. While, then, those who "promise us liberty are themselves the servants of corruption," let us live as the children of God—the heirs of the kingdom—grateful—free—blood-bought souls—remembering the infinite cost at which our liberty was purchased, and the moment of extreme peril when we were saved. When the flesh was weak, and the "law weak through the flesh," and no resolution of ours could break us from the yoke of sin—then it was that "Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and living," "delivering us from the hand of our enemies, that we might serve Him without fear." And then indeed do we "walk at liberty," when we "break the bands" of all other lords "asunder," and consecrate ourselves entirely to His precepts. "O Lord our God, other lords beside You have had dominion over us; but by You only will we make mention of Your name."
Saints find no bondage in sanctity. The Spirit of holiness is a free spirit; he sets men at liberty and enables them to resist every effort to bring them under subjection. The way of holiness is not a track for slaves, but the King's highway for freemen, who are joyfully journeying from the Egypt of bondage to the Canaan of rest God's mercies and his salvation, by teaching us to love the precepts of the word, set us at a happy rest; and the more we seek after the perfection of our obedience, the more shall we enjoy complete emancipation from every form of spiritual slavery. David at one time of his life was in great bondage through having followed a crooked policy. He deceived Achish so persistently that he was driven to acts of ferocity to conceal it, and he must have felt very unhappy in his unnatural position as an ally of Philistines, and captain of the bodyguard of their king. He must have feared lest through his falling into the crooked ways of falsehood the truth would no longer be on his tongue, and he therefore prayed God in some way to work his deliverance, and set him at liberty from such slavery. By terrible things in righteousness did the Lord answer him at Ziklag: the snare was broken, and he escaped.
The verse is united to that which goes before; for it begins with the word "And," which acts as a hook to attach it to the preceding verses. It mentions another of the benefits expected from the coming of mercies from God. The man of God had mentioned the silencing of his enemies (42), power to proceed in testimony (43), and perseverance in holiness; now he dwells upon liberty, which next to life is dearest to all brave men. He says, "I shall walk," indicating his daily progress through life; "at liberty," as one who is out of prison, unimpeded by adversaries, unencumbered by burdens, unshackled, allowed a wide range, and roaming without fear. Such liberty would be dangerous if a man were seeking himself or his own lusts; but when the one object sought after is the will of God, there can be no need to restrain the searcher. We need not circumscribe the man who can say, "I seek your precepts." Observe, in the preceding verse he said he would keep the law; but here he speaks of seeking it. Does he not mean that he will obey what he knows, and endeavor to know more? Is not this the way to the highest form of liberty—to be always laboring to know the mind of God, and to be conformed to it? Those who keep the law are sure to seek it, and bestir themselves to keep it more and more.