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Grounds and Limitations of Human Responsibility.

Grounds and Limitations of Human Responsibility.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY WILLIAM B. 0. PEABODY, D. D.



THE LOT IS CAST INTO THE LAP ; BUT THE WHOLE DISPOSING THEREOF IS OF THE LORD. Proverbs XvL 33.
BY WILLIAM B. 0. PEABODY, D. D.



THE LOT IS CAST INTO THE LAP ; BUT THE WHOLE DISPOSING THEREOF IS OF THE LORD. Proverbs XvL 33.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 26, 2014
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GROUDS AD LIMITATIOS OF HUMA RESPOSIBILITY. BY WILLIAM B. 0. PEABODY, D. D. THE LOT IS CAST ITO THE LAP ; BUT THE WHOLE DISPOSIG THEREOF IS OF THE LORD. Proverbs XvL 33. There were cases occasionally in the Old Testa- ment history, when the Hebrews were permitted to resort to the lot ; as, for example, in dividing the promised land among the tribes. The lots were thrown into the bosom of one present, who hid them in the fold of his garment, from which they were afterwards drawn. In this, they considered them- selves as leaving it to chance to determine ; but not so the sacred writer ; it was Divine Providence which determined. "The whole disposing thereof is of the Lord" ; there is no such thing as chance. Since, then, there is no such power as chance, since it is a mistake to say that any thing ever happens, or to speak of any thing as accidental, — language which, however common, gives wrong impressions of our * This discourse was occasioned by a "shocking accident," as it was called in the newspapers, which occurred on the Western Railroad, December 18, 1840, by which four lives were lost. LIMITATIOS OF RESPOSIBILITY. 169 condition in this world. — it follows that all things
 
which take place must be owing either to God or man, are brought about by Divine or human agency. We will begin by attempting to define the prov- inces of human and Divine agency. Our duty is commensurate with our power. We are responsible for the moral character of what is done, just so far as it depends on ourselves. God does not deal with mankind as with other animals. They have action, but no moral action : because they have not power to foresee the consequences of what they do, nor a power to discern between right and wrong. The few cases in which they betray fear after having done wrong are to be explained by supposing that they have associated such actions with suffering, the fear of being punished, thus occasioned, leading to that manner which is sometimes thought to express penitence and shame. But with man it is not so. who not only has a moral and a spiritual nature by which he can understand his God and his duty, but also a power to do or not to do, to choose or to re- fuse, which is not given to other created things. Within that circle, then, where man has this power to will and to do of his own pleasure, is the field of human agency. Here man is held responsible ; he is bound to look about him and before him, to reflect seriously on the motives and consequences of his actions, to hold his thoughts, feelings, and actions in the light of conscience, that he may see how his acting or his neglecting to act will affect the beings around him, how it will appear in the sight of God. 15 170 LIMITATIOS OF RESPOSIBILITY. to whom he must answer, and what bearing it will
 
have on his own character and destiny. All beyond this province of human responsibility is done by the power of God. Since he is every- where present, with a never-sleeping providence, guiding the operation of all created things, we know that every thing, except what he has intrusted man with power to do, is done by him. When we speak of the strange and mysterious instinct of animals, of the sureness and certainty of its operation, — of the bird finding its path over untravelled shores and oceans, or the beast, when transported to a distance, returning straightway to his home, and thus doing what transcends the power of man, — we need not wonder ; for it is all done by the agency of God. It directs and manages all things which man's intel- ligence and power cannot reach, and over the actions of man himself it exerts a superintending care, never interfering with the freedom of his agency, never preventing the consequences of his neglect or his action, so far as respects the agent himself, but pre- venting the injury which his action or neglect might occasion to others, and thus bringing good in the end out of that chaos and confusion of evil which men are constantly doing, so as to make them all blessings in the result to the human race. Mean- while the individual agent is held fast to his, respon- sibility, obliged to eat the fruit of his own doings, and suffered, if he will, to abuse his privilege of free- dom, which otherwise would not be either a privi- lege or freedom, to the injury and ruin of his soul. LIMITATIOS OF RESPOSIBILITY. 171

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