And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.…
We do not know what we or other people are until the restraint is taken off. We call ourselves free, but there is not an absolutely free man in the universe. We have the liberty of law. We have the freedom of a theocracy. "The Lord reigneth," and He would reign to no purpose if He did not restrain every creature, and restrain with singular meaning and graciousness the creature who bears His own image.
I. Good RESTRAINTS.
1. Socially, in the lowest level. He is an ungallant and wholly undesirable man who is not restrained by the presence of ladies. But for that you could not tell what language he would have used. He could not be in his true self, not because there are ten great fiery commandments staring him in the face, but because of an all-pervading feeling of refinement. But if such men be let' go, and join their bad set, you see their quality.
2. Or take the limits of hospitality. A man says, "I cannot avenge this insult now, because I am bound to show hospitality; but being let go, I shall feel entitled to say or do things which at present I cannot."
3. Or, still keeping within the scope of the question, the occasion makes the man. Say it is a solemn occasion, a funeral, people weeping because of the dead and gone. The modest man, at all events, halts, he is silent if not complaisant. He dare not say what he would at other times; but being let go away from the grave and the cypress shadow, you will see what he is really.
4. Look at, the subject religiously. Here we have the subtlest restraints. The tender memories, the old, old long ago, somehow, to kill that ancient time would be like strangling an angel. The old home feeling, the childish sounds, the old family usages, seem to keep us back with "Beware I you had better not do it! Stand still!" Who can estimate the value of a religious education? First prayers, first little verses learned and sung by bird-like lips — who can tell how these things will go with the child when he becomes a man, full of care and tempted to sin? The little things which now are matters of amusement, may stand one day up and say to the man, "You used to be a pure-lipped child, a loved and loving creature; a thousand prayers were offered for your salvation." When you murder yourself, you murder a whole generation of mentors and suppliants.
II. BAD RESTRAINT.
1. A man is shut up in bad society, in a corrupt atmosphere. He never hears a word that touches his best nature; he longs for the higher and purer spaces; for moral liberty; he is a better man than he can be under his circumstances. God will make a difference, because He will have compassion upon some. He knows exactly what restraints are upon us, and what we would be if we could break the chain and fly upward into the blue heaven.
2. Others are crippled for want of means. We regard them as destitute of good deeds and high feeling, and we speak about them with our erring judgment. God will discriminate. He knows what the poor soul will be. There is a way out at the other end! Great moral freedom, liberty for giving the soul spaces to fly in, and temples to sing in not made with hands. God knows what munificence you would show if you had the liberty.
3. Many a man is misunderstood for want of liberty. He is waiting. I have known often splendid talents wait a long time for a chance. I have known men misjudged, contemned, spring up into their true selves when let, go. Their time has come; then you hear the music of their voice, and you know the length of their arm, and they were waiting — great men all the while.Conclusion:
1. We each belong to a company, and until we have found our company, we are restless. We speak of being "a fish out of water," as fully expressing the condition of men who are not in their own company. Some of us are only half in our right society. We were born for the gutter and were destined for low companionship, and b.y. a singular force of gravitation we turn to that which is unworthy. Others, again, are the contrary. They are forced to do the things they hate. They say, "It is not our nature; it is not the place I was born into. These are not the surroundings God meant me to enjoy." So by this discontent of soul God calls us to our own company.
2. But we may be converted! The lowest nature may be converted! The lowest nature may be made into the highest. The man who began with low desires may come to enjoy the desire for prayer. Conversion is the state which we are called upon personally to realise and represent. Mere restraint is not conversion. We are restrained from starting up in the midst of the service and going out. We seem to rise to the great spirit of the occasion, while we are in reality buying and selling, transacting our business. So we cannot tell what we are until the restraints are taken off, when we shall be left to our own company, and being let go, will only go downward. There are grades in devildom, and there is still a lower and lower, until we reach the pit that never ends.
3. Are we under the right influence? We cannot test it by mere laws, by mechanical arrangements and impositions. Only love can keep us, and love will keep us. And though we shall always have the liberty of doing wrong, we shall have within us the love which makes the use of that liberty an impossibility. Now ][ am about to let you go. Will you go to your own company? But, remember, young man, wisely trained at home, you have no business with that bad set.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.