The foundation of every form of free government—whether in the family, or in civil affairs, or in the government of the church—is self-government. If the people do not have self-control, then you may depend upon it that they will be controlled by outside forces.
It is easy to lament despotism when it pinches, when the taxes are due, when the regulations are onerous. When Pharaoh demands the bricks but supplies no straw, all the slaves lament their slavery. Whenever the bills come due, the whole world is libertarian.
So we need to place two teachings from Scripture side by side. The first is that liberty is the work of the Spirit of God. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). And the second passage is this: “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). One of the central instruments the Holy Spirit uses to bring about true liberty is by freeing the slaves of immorality from their immorality. He strikes off their chains. But the hymn writer knows what necessarily results from that. I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
A generation of slaves to sin cannot be free. They don’t know what liberty is. It frightens them. If they were to be given it, they would have no idea how to preserve it. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28, ESV). And so this is why drunkenness is a political issue. This is why pornography is such a problem. A generation of pot smokers cannot be free.
If some despot offered to chain you to a dungeon wall, but promise to implant an electrode in the pleasure center of your brain such that you would have constant euphoria until the day of your death, would you even think about it? But if you wouldn’t take that massive bribe, why are you fooling about with the little bribes? If you wouldn’t take great pleasure in exchange for your freedom, why are you settling for the petty pleasures in exchange for it?
There is only one way for men and women to be free, and that is if they are upright.