Human Responsibility As Related To Divine Agency In Conversion -- By: Austin Phelps

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 023:92 (Oct 1866)
Article: Human Responsibility As Related To Divine Agency In Conversion
Author: Austin Phelps

Human Responsibility As Related To Divine Agency In Conversion1

Rev. Austin Phelps

The most serious difficulties of religion cluster around certain points of union of doctrines which are opposites, but not contraries, in the system of truth. They stand over against each other for a double purpose: by their differences each defines the outline and reflects the excellence of the other, and by their harmony both magnify the honor of the Author of truth, as neither could do alone.

Such correlative truths are numerous around the point of junction of Divine with human agencies. The difficulties of our faith therefore grow dense around the doctrines of Providence, of Prayer, of Predestination, and perhaps most of all around that of Regeneration. The power of such difficulties depends very much .upon the spirit with which they are approached. Three principles, especially, should govern inquiry on such a theme.

First, that inquiry should be conducted with reverence for the prerogatives of God. It is as much the dictate of sober judgment as of a pure conscience to preserve that jealousy in behalf of the divine honor which the apostle expressed when he said: “Let God be true, though every man a liar.” Again, in such an inquiry we should expect to come upon insoluble mystery; not absurdity, but mystery; not contradictions, but mystery. Who knoweth the spirit of a man? A child propounds questions concerning it which no man can answer. To whom then will ye liken God? Canst thou by searching find him out to perfection? When therefore from two such fountains the streams emanate which are

commingled in human destiny, shall we expect to find nothing that appeals to faith? In the confluence of two such powers, is it marvellous that to our vision the waters are troubled?

Furthermore, in such an inquiry we should be content with the removal of practical difficulties. It is a principle which the wisest of men have acknowledged in respect of other things than religion, that perplexities which start out of metaphysical science should never be allowed to confuse us in the practical affairs of life. Men who have believed in the non-existence of matter have yet eaten and drunk and slept and walked like their neighbors. Men who have been unable to see the evidence of their existence have yet been very sensitive if other men were as ignorant. Yet, in religious inquiry the human mind exhibits a proneness to disregard this principle of the common sense, by wandering away from plain matters of fact, and, as Isaac Taylor has expressed it, “to beat up and down through regions of night, from which their only escape must be, by a buoyant e...

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