Twitter

The Liberty of Restraint

I was struck the familiarity of the following complaint, recorded by Philip Hone, New York City, 1837:

We have become the most careless, reckless, headlong people on the face of the earth. ‘Go ahead’ is our maxim and pass-word, and we do go ahead with a vengeance, regardless of consequences and indifferent to the value of human life.1

If there is one characteristic that most wholly encompasses the definition of worldliness, it is lack of restraint. Mankind has always strived to push past boundaries. Eve, in the garden of Eden, defied the sole restrain in the universe because she “saw that it was good to the eyes,”2 and the scoffers of the last days will “walk according to their own lusts.”3 We built towers up to heaven when God said to “fill the earth,” and we crucified the Holy One who came down from heaven, saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”4 Even as infants, we break rules merely because they restrict.

The world defies restrictions. They must be systematically and methodically eliminated, regardless of the ultimate cost. This is why those who live according to the example of Christ will be hated by the world. Life in Christ consists of servitude and restraint – the bending of our will away from ourselves and toward the will of God – anathema to a world enslaved to self.

A. T. Pierson, the famous 19th century abolitionists and urban preacher, wrote the following:

True freedom is found only in obedience to proper restraint. A river finds liberty to flow, only between banks: without these it would only spread out into a slimy, stagnant pool. Planets, uncontrolled by law, would only bring wreck to themselves and to the universe. The same law which fences us in, fences others out; the restraints which regulate our liberty also insure and protect it.5

So it is with followers of Christ. May we embrace the restraint of Christ and resist the prideful anarchy of the world, so that we can share in the life of true liberty from sin and self.6

 


  1. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848, by Daniel Walker Howe, p. 214 []
  2. Genesis 3:6 []
  3. 2 Peter 3:3 []
  4. Luke 19:14 []
  5. Taken from William MacDonald’s Believer’s Bible Commentary, excerpt from commentary on Galatians 5:2-15 []
  6. Weird footnote: I got the idea for this blog post while reading What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848, by Daniel Walker Howe. He quotes the “famous Christian businessmen and philanthropists Arthur and Lewis Tappan.” The quote led me to the Philip Hone passage, written in 1837. Then, in reading various other passages, I came across the last quote by A. T. Pierson, as recorded by William MacDonald. I looked up A. T. Pierson, and to my amazement, he was born in 1837 and was named after Arthur Tappan. Such a strange set of coincidences! []

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *