By Stuart Briscoe
Thursday, May 01, 2003
Hard days, difficult days, many young men who left these shores went because they believed there were certain tyrannies in the world. They felt that these tyrannies would rob people of their freedom, and they decided something had to be done about it, and they did it at phenomenal cost. The result of that is that we enjoy remarkable freedoms in this country! Subsequently, of course, there was a new tyranny that followed on from Nazism, a tyranny that followed the tyranny of the right, and it became the tyranny of the left, and the tyranny of Communism and Marxism. We've been delivered from that, and we are an incredibly blest people, but the big question is: What are we doing with our freedom? What are we doing with our liberty? There are limits to liberty! The general idea, of course, is that liberty is all about absence of restraints. If I can just get rid of the restraints I can just be what I want to be, and I can just do what I want to do. What ever feels good, I'll do it! There's a fundamental confusion at that point. That is not liberty, that is anarchy. It leads to total chaos!
You see, right from the very beginning of the American experiment, they began to realize that whilst they were rejoicing in their liberty they had to be very careful with this liberty. I mean those old pilgrims who showed up in Massachusetts, they kind of got a little bit adrift and didn't intend to finish up in Massachusetts, but that's okay. Under the leadership of John Winthrop, of course they, as the pilgrims, were excited that now they had gotten away from what they regarded as "religious bondage" and now they were free.
But immediately some people began to abuse their freedom. So John Winthrop began to put some limits in place, and some of the people didn't like that, led by a man called Roger Williams. Roger Williams and John Winthrop didn't exactly see eye to eye, in fact, they butted heads. There's no meeting of the minds there, and so in the end John Winthrop took Massachusetts, and Roger Williams went off to Rhode Island and founded the City of Providence.
What was the issue? The issue was what do we do with liberty? What do we do with our freedom? Because freedom isn't simply living with an absence of restraints. You remember that the Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes came down with a very interesting ruling on one occasion. He said, "Certainly, we have freedom of speech, but your freedom of speech has limits. You are not free to shout fire in a crowded cinema, you can't say anything you want."
You say, "Well sure, we have freedom of speech, and freedom of speech has its limits." You can wave your arms around, you can shake a fist in the air, you can even swing your fist, but your freedom to swing your fist stops where my nose begins and that's quite a long way in front of my face. Freedom has limits! What are we going to do with our freedoms? We rejoice, of course, that we have what we call "civic freedoms," those are the freedoms that have been bought for us at phenomenal cost, and we salute those who paid the price. What are we doing as far as our own self-discipline? What are we doing as far as the way we conduct ourselves in what we now fondly imagine to be our wonderful freedom?