Page images

distant view, and with respect to future time; but also because evermore, not these things themselves, but something else, that is alien and foreign, is the object that terminates these volitions and desires.

A drunkard, who continues in his drunkenness, being under the power of a love, and violent appetite to strong drink, and without any love to virtue; but being also extremely covetous and close, and very much exercised and grieved at the diminution of his estate, and prospect of poverty, may in a sort desire the virtue of temperance; and though his present Will is to gratify his extravagant appetite, yet he may wish he had a heart to forbear future acts of intemperance, and forsake his excesses, through an unwillingness to part with his money: but still he goes on with his drunkenness; his wishes and endeavors are insufficient and ineffectual : such a man has no proper, direct, sincere willingness to forsake this vice, and the vicious deeds which belong to it: for he acts voluntarily in continuing to drink to excess : his desire is very improperly called a willingness to be temperate ; it is no true desire of that virtue ; for it is not that virtue, that terminates his wishes ; nor have they any direct respect to it. It is only the saving his money, and avoiding poverty, that terminates and exhausts the whole strength of his desire. The virture of temperance is regarded only very indirectly and improperly, even as a necessary means of gratifying the vice of covetousness.

So a man of an exceeding corrupt and wicked heart, who has no love to God and Jesus Christ, but, on the contrary, being very profanely and carnally inclined, has the greatest distaste of the things of religion, and enmity against them; yet being of a family, that from one generation to another, have most of them died, in youth, of an hereditary consumption; and so having little hope of living long ; and having been instructed in the necessity of a supreme love to Christ

, and gratitude for his death and sufferings, in order to his salvation from eternal misery ; if under these circumstances he should, through fear of eternal torments, wish he had such a disposition : but his profane and carnal heart remaining, he continues still in his habitual distaste of, and enmity to God and religion, and wholly without any exercise of that love and gratitude (as doubtless the very devils themselves, notwithstanding all the devilishness of their temper, would wish for a holy heart, if by that means they could get out of hell): in this case, there is no sincere willingness to love Christ and choose him as his chief good : these holy dispositions and exercises are not at all the direct object of the Will: they truly share no part of the inclination or desire of the soul ; but all is terminated on deliverance from torment : and these graces and pious volitions, notwithstanding this forced consent, are looked upon as undesirable ; as when a sich man desires a dose he greatly abhors, to save his life. From these things it appears,

3. That this indirect willingness which has been spoken of, is not that exercise of the Will which the command requires ; but is entirely a different one ; being a volition of a different nature, and terminated altogether on different objects ; wholly falling short of that virtue of Will, which the command has

4. This other volition, which has only some indirect concern with the duty required, cannot excuse for the want of that good will itself, which is commanded; being not the thing which answers and fulfils the command, and being wholly destitute of the virtue which the command seeks.

Further to illustrate this matter.-If a child has a most excellent father, that has ever treated him with fatherly kindness and tenderness, and has every way in the highest degree merited his love and dutiful regard, being withal very

[ocr errors]

respect to.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

sire the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

tore, in

wealthy ; but the son is of so vile a disposition, that he inveterately hates his the old eather; and yet, apprehending that his hatred of him is like to prove his ruin,

oy bringing him finally to poverty and abject circumstances, through his father's disinheriting him, or otherwise ; which is exceeding cross to his avarice and ambition ; he therefore wishes it were otherwise : but yet, remaining under the invincible power of his vile and malignant disposition, he continues still in his settled hatred of his father. Now, if such a son's indirect willingness to have love and honor towards his father, at all acquits or excuses before God, for his failing of actually exercising these dispositions towards him, which God requires, it must be on one of these accounts

. *(1.) Either that it answers and fulfils the command. But this it does not by the supposition ; because the thing com

manded is love and honor to his worthy parent. If the command be proper and nunta


, as is supposed, then it obliges to the thing commanded ; and so nothing else but that

can answer the obligation. Or, (2.) It must be at least, because there is De

is that virtue or goodness in his indirect willingness, that is equivalent to the virtue required ; and so balances or countervails it, and makes up for the want of it. But that also is contrary to the supposition. The willingness the son has merely from regard to money and honor, has no goodness in it, to countervail the want of the pious filial respect required.

Sincerity and reality, in that indirect willingness which has been spoken of, cd

dnes not make it the better. That which is real and hearty is often called sincere; whether it be in virtue or vice. Some persons are sincerely bad ; others are sincerely good ; and others may be sincere and hearty in things, which are in their own nature indifferent ; as a man may be sincerely desirous of eating when he is hungry. But a being sincere, hearty and in good earnest, is no virtue, unless it be in a thing that is virtuous. A man may be sincere and hearty in joining a crew of pirates, or a gang of robbers. When the devils cried out, and besought Christ not to torment them, it was no mere pretence; they were very hearty in their desires not to be tormented ; but this did not make their Will or desires virtuous.--And if men have sincere desires, which are in their kind and nature no better, it can be no excuse for the want of any required virtue.

And as a man's being sincere in such an indirect desire or willingness to do

his duty, as has been mentioned, cannot excuse for the want of performance ; nd:

so it is with endeavors arising from such a willingness. The endeavors can have no more goodness in them, than the Will which they are the effect and expression of. And, therefore, however sincere and real, and however great a person's endeavors are ; yea, though they should be to the utmost of his ability ; unless the Will which they proceed from be truly good and virtuous, they can be of no avail, influence or weight to any purpose whatsoever, in a moral sense or respect. That which is not truly virtuous, in God's sight, is looked upon, by him, as good for nothing; and so can be of no value, weight or influence in his

account, to recommend, satisfy, excuse or make up for any moral defect. For be

nothing can counterbalance evil, but good. If evil be in one scale, and we put a great deal into the other, sincere and earnest desires, and many and great en

deavors ; yet, if there be no real goodness in all, there is no weight in it; and t

so it does nothing towards balancing the real weight, which is in the opposite de


. It is only like the subtracting a thousand noughts from before a real number, which leaves the sum just as it was.

Indeed such endeavors may have a negatively good influence. Those things,

which have no positive virtue have no positive moral influence; yet they may be an I occasion of persons avoiding some positive evils. As if a man were in the water

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

with a neighbor, that he had ill will to, who could not swim, holding him by his hand; which neighbor was much in debt to him ; and should be tempted to let him sink and drown; but should refuse to comply with the temptation ; not from love to his neighbor, but from the love of money, and because by his drowning he should lose his debt; that which he does in preserving his neighbor from drowning, is nothing good in the sight of God; yet hereby he avoids the greater guilt that would have been contracted, if he had designedly let his neighbor sink and perish. But when Arminians, in their disputes with Calvinists, insist so much on sincere desires and endeavors, as what must excuse men, must be accepted of God, &c., it is manifest they have respect to some positive moral weight or influence of those desires and endeavors. Accepting, justifying or excusing on the account of sincere honest endeavors (as they are called), and men's doing what they can, &c., has relation to some moral value, something that is accepted as good, and as such, countervailing some defect.

But there is a great and unknown deceit arising from the ambiguity of the phrase, sincere endeavors. Indeed there is a vast indistinctness and unfixedness in most, or at least very many of the terms used to express things pertaining to moral and spiritual matters. Whence arise innumerable mistakes, strong prejudices, inextricable confusion, and endless controversy.

The word sincere, is most commonly used to signify something that is good: men are habituated to understand by it the same as honest and upright ; which terms excite an idea of some good thing in the strictest and highest sense; good in the sight of him, who sees not only the outward appearance, but the heart

. And, therefore, men think that if a person be sincere

, he will certainly be accepted. If it be said that any one is sincere in his endeavors, this suggests to men's minds as much, as that his heart and Will is good, that there is no desect of duty, as to virtuous inclination ; he honestly and uprightly desires and endeavors to do as he is required ; and this leads them to suppose, that it would be very hard and unreasonable to punish him, only because he is unsuccessful in his endeavors, the thing endeavored being beyond his power.- Whereas it ought to be observed, that the word sincere has these different significations :

1. Sincerity, as the word is sometimes used, signifies no more than reality of Will and endeavor, with respect to any thing that is professed or pretended; without any consideration of the nature of the principle or aim, whence this real Will and true endeavor arises. If a man has some real desire to obtain a thing, either direct or indirect, or does really endeavor after a thing, he is said sincerely to desire or endeavor it; without any consideration of the goodness or virtuousness of the principle he acts from, or any excellency or worthiness of the end he acts for. Thus a man who is kind to his neighbor's wife, who is sick and languishing, and very helpful in her case, makes a show of desiring and endeavoring her restoration to health and vigor ; and not only makes such a show, but there is a reality in his pretence, he does heartily and earnestly desire to have her health restored, and uses his true and utmost endeavors for it; he is said sincerely to desire and endeavor it; because he does so truly or really ; though perhaps the principle he acts from, is no other than a vile and scandalous passion ; having lived in adultery with her, he earnestly desires to have her health and vigor restored, that he may return to his criminal pleasures with her. Or,

2. By sincerity is meant, not merely a reality of Will and endeavor of some sort or other, and from some consideration or other, but a virtuous sincerity. That is, that in the performance of those particular acts, that are the matter of virtue or duty, there be not only the matter, but the form and essence of virtue, consisting in the aim that governs the act, and the principle exercised in it.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

good whic

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

There is not only the reality of the act, that is as it were the body of the duty; donde but also the soul, which should properly belong to such a body. In this sense,

a man is said to be sincere, when he acts with a pure intention ; not from sinister views, or by-ends: he not only in reality desires and seeks the thing to be done, or qualification to be obtained, for some end or other; but he wills

the thing directly and properly, as neither forced nor bribed; thé virtue of the Forsit thing is properly' the object of the Will.

in the former sense, a man is said to be sincere, in opposition to a mere pretence, and show of the particular thing to be done or exhibited, without any real desire or endeavor at all. In the latter sense, a man is said to be sincere, in opposition to that show of virtue there is in merely doing the matter of duty, without the reality of the virtue itself in the soul, and the

essence of it, which there is a show of

. A man may be sincere in the former sense, and yet in the latter be in the sight of God, who searches the heart, a vile hypocrite.

In the latter kind of sincerity only, is there any thing truly valuable or acceptable in the sight of God.' And this is the thing, which in Scripture is

called sincerity, uprightness, integrity, truth in the inward parts, and a being ! of a perfect heart. And if there be such a sincerity, and such a degree of it as

there ought to be, and there be any thing further that the man is not able to perform, or which does not prove to be connected with his sincere desires and endeavors

, the man is wholly excused and acquitted in the sight of God; his Will shall surely be accepted for his deed; and such a sincere Will and endeavor is all that in strictness is required of him, by any command of God. But as to the other kind of sincerity of desires and endeavors, it having no virtue in it (as was observed before), can be of no avail before God, in any case, to recommend, satisfy, or excuse, and has no positive moral weight or influence whatsoever. Corol

. 1. Hence it may be inferred, that nothing in the reason and nature of things appears, from the consideration of any moral weight of that former kind of sincerity, which has been spoken of, at all obliging us to believe, or leading us to suppose, that God has made any positive promises of salvation,

grace, or any saving assistance, or any spiritual benefit whatsoever, to any desires

, prayers, endeavors, striving or obedience of those, who hitherto have no true virtue or holiness in their hearts; though we should suppose all the sincerity, and the utmost degree of endeavor, that is possible to be in a person without holiness.

Some object against God's requiring, as the condition of salvation, those holy exercises, which are the result of a supernatural renovation : such as a supreme respect to Christ, love to God, loving holiness for its own sake, &c.,

that these inward dispositions and exercises are above men's power, as they lity

are by nature; and therefore that we may conclude, that when men are brought to be sincere in their endeavors, and do as well as they can, they are accepted; and that this must be all that God requires, in order to men's being received as the objects of his favor, and must be what God has appointed as the condition of salvation. Concerning which, I would observe, that in such a manner of speaking of men's being accepted, because they are sincere, and do as well as they can, there is evidently a supposition of some virtue, some degree of that which is truly good; though it does not go so far as were to be wished. For if men do what they can, unless their so doing be from some good principle, disposition, or exercise of heart, some virtuous inclination or act of the Will; their so doing what they can, is in some respects not a whit better than if they did nothing. In such a case, there is no more positive moral goodness in a

[ocr errors]


S the

[ocr errors]


sd for

. and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

man's doing what he can, than in a windmill's doing what it can; because the action does no more proceed from virtue; and there is nothing in such sincerity of endeavor, or doing what we can, that should render it any more a proper or fit recommendation to positive favor and acceptance, or the condition of any reward or actual benefit, than doing nothing; for both the one and the other are alike nothing, as to any true moral weight or value.

Corol. 2. Hence also it follows, that there is nothing that appears in the eason and nature of things, which can justly lead us to determine, that God will certainly give the necessary means of salvation, or some way or other bestow true holiness and eternal life on those Heathen, who are sincere (in the sense above explained) in their endeavors to find out the Will of the Deity, and to please him, according to their light, that they may escape his future displeasure and wrath, and obtain happiness in the future state through his favor.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Liberty of Indifference, not only not necessary to Virtue, but utterly inconsistent

with it; and all, either virtuous or vicious Habits or Inclinations, inconsistent with Arminian Notions of Liberty and moral Agency.

[ocr errors]

To suppose such a freedom of Will, as Arminians talk of, to be requisite to virtue and vice, is many ways contrary to common sense. If indifference belongs to liberty of Will

, as Arminians suppose, and it be essential to a virtuous action, that it be performed in a state of liberty, as they also suppose; it will follow, that it is essential to a virtuous action, that it be performed in a state of indifference; and if it be performed in a state of indifference, then doubtless it must be performed in the time of indifference. And so it will follow, that in order to the virtuousness of an act, the heart must be indifferent in the time of the performance of that act, and the more indifferent and cold the heart is with relation to the act which is performed, so much the better; e because the act is performed with so much the greater liberty. But is this agreeable to the light of nature ? Is it agreeable to the notions, which mankind, in all ages, have of virtue, that it lies in that, which is contrary to indifference, even in the tendency and inclination of the heart to virtuous action; and that the stronger the inclination, and so the further from indifference, the more virtuous the heart, and so much more praiseworthy the act which proceeds from it?

If we should suppose (contrary to what has been before demonstrated) that there may be an act of Will in a state of indifference; for instance, this act, viz., the Will's determining to put itself out of a state of indifference, and give itself a preponderation one way, then it would follow, on Arminian principles, that this act or determination of the Will is that alone wherein virtue consists, because this only is performed, while the mind remains in a state of indifference, and so in a state of liberty : for when once the mind is put out of its equilibrium, it is no longer in such a state; and therefore all the acts, which follow afterwards, proceeding from bias, can have the nature neither of virtue nor vice. Or if the thing, which the Will can do, while yet in a state of indifference, and 80 of liberty, be only to suspend acting, and determine to take the matter into consideration, then this determination is that alone wherein virtue consists, and

« PreviousContinue »