Note 11. So often has Duty-faith been shown to be unscriptural, so plainly have its tendencies been pointed out, that it is marvellous that honest and earnest students of the Word of God do not abandon it.

Reasons may, however, be assigned for its retention. Such are:

1. The prevalence and popularity of interpretations which have no authority but tradition. Dead lips used certain texts in a wrong sense. Living lips repeat the ancient errors. Dead hands wrote false expositions. Living hands endorse these. Thus Christ is still said to stand knocking at the door of unregenerate hearts, (Rev. 3:20.) Paul is still asserted to have persuaded Agrippa to become a Christian, (Acts 26:28.) The Spirit is said to strive with men in order, if possible, to make them pious, (Gen. 6:3.) God is represented as intreating sinners to give Him their hearts, (Prov. 23:26.). Our Lord is accredited with having commended men for being violent in their creature efforts to obtain salvation, (Matt. 11:12.)[1] The Apostle’s assertion that he and his colleagues were “a savour of death uuto death,” (2 Cor. 2:16,) is tortured to mean that the Gospel which saves some, occasions augmented torment to others. These and many other portions which are explained in this book, and in the Author’s Manual of Faith, continue to be misquoted and misapplied, and in support of ideas which are not only unscriptural, but positively anti-scriptural.

2. Many ministers maintain the doctrine of Duty-faith because of the opportunities it gives them of effective oratorical display. It is pleasing to a speaker’s vanity to present pictorial representations of Christ’s weeping over the hardness of men’s hearts; of His patience in endeavouring to woo and win them; the anger with which He will shortly abandon them; and the bitterness of their ultimate reflections in Hell that they would not let Him save them. Mediocre preachers can easily terrify their congregations into transient religious feeling by dwelling on such startling themes. A reputation for earnestness attends their enforcement, and brethren who “love the praise of men more than the praise of God,” will not abandon what so cheaply secures popularity.

3. Many uphold Duty-faith because it is so generally main­tained, and because, never having gone closely into the question, they are vaguely persuaded that it is somewhere taught in the Bible, though they cannot say where. The doctrines of Grace they (as they assert) believe and preach,—but they also hold that the Gospel is a bond fide offer of Sal­vation to all who hear it, and that sinners are responsible for accepting or rejecting it.

That Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility contra­dict each other they all admit—though the difficulty is met in different ways.

Some, like the earlier Fullerites, attempt by ingenious arguments to harmonise them, though this is rarely now done. Others, like the late C. H. Spurgeon, evade the tremendous difficulty by a joke, and refuse to try to “reconcile” the conflicting testimonies, on the ground that they “never quarrelled.” Many are content to plead that it is a mystery, inexplicable indeed, but so amply revealed that it must be believed.

A few—for want of Scriptural proof—employ natural similitudes, forgetting that an illustration is not a demonstration. The contradictory doctrines, they allege, resemble the two pictures which, when viewed in a stereoscope, appear as one,—or the two ends of one vast chain, the middle of which is submerged in the ocean,—or two discordant notes in music, which a third will resolve into harmony.

Of this, however, all claim to be persuaded: that both have equal support in the Word of God. This was, twenty-six years ago, the conviction of the writer; but he was brought to reflect “that truth must be evermore consistent with itself,” and that, since Human Responsibility and Divine Sovereignty do not simply involve a paradox, but are destructive to each other, one must be untrue. He remembered that the meaning of the word “mystery” in the Bible has a wholly different meaning from that in which it is often employed in reference to this subject.[2] He saw that a poor jest, or a few fancied analogies, were by no means, proofs, and he subjected all the texts pleaded in favour of Human Responsibility to close and careful consideration. He was at length convinced that the doctrine is destitute of Divine authority; and that the Gospel, so far from being a contradictory system, is one in which harmony and consistency are apparent from first to last. His Manual of Faith and this little book are largely the results of those labours.

4. Perhaps the real reason of the all but universal maintenance of Duty-faith among evangelical Christians is a subtle mistrust in the power of the Gospel to effect the work for which God has given it.

There is an unquiet feeling that the full and faithful declaration of the gracious message, and a simple statement of the relation of Repentance and Faith to salvation, are not sufficient. True, that God’s chosen and redeemed people “who are or­ dained unto eternal life will believe,” (Acts 13:48,) but surely the unregenerate ought to be told to do something? To assure them they will continue spiritually dead till it pleases God to quicken them, and legally doomed unless He deliver them, does not suffice. Should not some effort be pressed on them, though it is admitted that they can do nothing? Hence the easy duty of only just believing is urged on dead sinners as a concession to the restlessness of the fleshly energy of such natural men as do these preachers the honour of coming to hear them.

[1] This is simply an historical statement, that, during a speci­fied period—“from the days of John until now,”—unwonted interest had been evinced by earnest persons in the solemn matters of salvation. The verse is difficult to translate—many different renderings being proposed by scholars of equal reliability.
[2] The word “mystery,” in its ordinary use, conveys the notion of something which we oanuot understand; and into which it were fruitless to inquire. Thus our dictionaries tell us that it means (1) “anything which is very obscure; or, (2) beyond human comprehension.” But, if we so interpret the word when it occurs in the Bible, we shall be misled.
The heathen had certain rites, which expressed secrets which were carefully concealed from the uninitiated, but were privately made known to a seleot few. Each of these was called, in Greek, a mysterion, and the Apostle Paul, in employing the word, naturally used it in this sense. With him, therefore, it denotes those designs of God’s providence, and those doctrinal truths which had been conoealed from mankind “till the fulness of time” was come, but were now made manifest to regenerated and believing men.
Thus we employ the term in reference to those from whom the cause, occasion, or explanation of a fact is withheld, and therefore unknown. Paul uses it in reference to those to whom such things are revealed, and therefore known on Divine authority.
Thus we say, “who the man in the iron mask was”—or “who was the author of the letters of Junius,”—“will be mysteries to the end of time,” meaning that no one will ever discover and disclose the full truth concerning these singular historical facts.
But when Paul speaks of “the mystery of the Christ,” (Eph. 3:3-5,) he means something which had been kept secret in the Divine mind “in other ages,” but had then been revealed to the Apostles and New Testament prophets, (or in­ spired teachers,) and through them to all Christians, who were therefore called upon to contemplate and study it.
Thus when a Fullerite—with pretended humility and piety— tolls us that ho holds the lie of Human Responsibility and the truth of Divine Sovereignty, but how these can be harmo­ nised “is a mystery,” he employs this word, not in its Scriptural sense (as he appears to dol but its popular sense, in order to delude the simple-minded. The Gospel presents many mysteries, but this is not one of them. See Archbishop Whateley’s “Essays on the Writings of the Apostle Paul ” Seventh Edition, pages 163 and 176. Also The Gospel Pulpit, by J. C. Philpot, No. 151, Sermon on Spiritual Mysteries, (1 Cor. 14:2.)


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