St. Paul has ranked even personal liberty, liberty opposed to the condition of a slave, among other temporal blessings, as an object, comparatively speaking, below the serious concern of a redeemed immortal being. “Art thou called being a slave? care not for it: but even if thou mayest be made free, put up with it rather.” That is, “make the best of your condition as it is, rather than grasp, with eager anxiety, at every chance of emancipation.” And what he says of personal liberty, is true, I suppose, a fortiori, of civil liberty as opposed to subjection. “Care not for it,” says the inspired Voice: “let it be your tendency, in this as in all things, rather to improve existing opportunities, than to be always craving after a change of condition.”
But what says the Christian world to this? Do not men, somehow, think of liberty, as of something unlike other outward blessings, such as health, riches, domestic comfort? something, the mere pursuing of which, for its own sake, is a part of virtue? Contented slavery in either kind, are they not apt to pronounce it meanness?
All this being calmly considered, and compared with what our Lord and His Apostles have said; or rather, with what they have left unsaid, (for there is a silence more significant than words;) I think one must own, that civil liberty, high as it may stand among earthly blessings, is usually allowed to fill a space in our thoughts, out of all proportion to that which it fills in the plan of happiness drawn out in the Bible. Though men commit things worthy of death, yet if they be done for freedom’s sake, the world finds pleasure in them that do them.
Sermon V. Danger of Sympathizing with Rebellion. Preached by John Keble before the University of Oxford, 30 January 1831.