Regeneration—the work of God -- By: Austin Phelps

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 023:90 (Apr 1866)
Article: Regeneration—the work of God
Author: Austin Phelps


Regeneration—the work of God1

Rev. Austin Phelps

An unperverted mind will approach reverently any revelation of God in the destiny of man. The conception of an invisible Power, has itself a fascination for a finite mind. It is not strange that the Wind should have been deified in pagan theology. Little as a human mind can know of a power which the eye has never seen, yet when dependence upon such a power reaches out to cover everything in the future which renders immortality attractive, a sense of mingled grandeur and suspense is awakened, which holds the mind fast, in the attitude of a subdued and anxious learner. Metaphysical relations of truth in such connections are often unwelcome. Sometimes, indeed, they seem unnatural. The instinct of a docile spirit is to approach such truths as objects of faith, rather than as subjects of analysis.

To no theme is such a spirit more becoming than to the doctrine of Regeneration. In inviting your attention with such a spirit, to a single branch of this doctrine, it is my wish to contemplate by itself, as far as possible aloof from metaphysical debate, the revealed fact that

The Change Of A Human Heart Is The Work Of God

I. We shall reach the most vital aspects of this subject most directly by first defining to ourselves, briefly, what we mean when we ascribe the change of a man’s heart to Divine Power. This doctrine may be considered as affirming several truths.

In the first place, it affirms that a human soul never changes its own character from sin to holiness through the involuntary development of its own sensibilities. Holiness cannot so exist in emotive forms as to spring up impul-

sively in a heart which is unconscious of will to produce it. Holiness is not an instinct. It does not grow automatically out of the make of the soul, as with proper incitements, compassion, gratitude, reverence, may do. The heart of man, in relation to the causes of rectitude within it, is not like a harp, which to utter its voices needs only to be hung in the wind.

The doctrine we are to consider further affirms that man never turns from sin to holiness by an effort of his own will, independent of supernatural Power. This is something more than the assertion often made, “that man cannot change his own affections by direct volition.” The inability involved in this latter assertion is not the fruit of depravity. The grace of God does not remove it. It lies in the constitution of mind, regenerate or unregenerate. A saint cannot, more than a sinner, love God by resolving “I will love God.” Either might as reasonably resolve: “I will see ...

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