« AnteriorContinuar »
In the latter kind of sincerity only, is there any thing true ly valuable or acceptable in the sight of God. And this is the thing, which in scripture is called sincerity, usirightness, integrity, truth in the inward farts, and a being of a fiersect 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, or grace, or any saving assistance, or any spiritual benefit whatsoever, to any desires, frayers, 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 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 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 reason 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,
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 Motions of Liberty and moral Agency.
TO suppose such a freedom of Will, as Mrminians 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; 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 so 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 not proceeding to action after the scale is turned by consideration. So that it will follow, from these principles, that all that is done after the mind, by any means, is once out of its equilibrium and already possessed by an inclination, and arising from that inclination, has nothing of the nature of virtue or vice, and is worthy of neither blame nor praise. But how plainly contrary is this to the universal sense of mankind, and to the notion they have of sincerely virtuous actions? Which is, that they are actions, which proceed from a heart well disflosed and inclined ; and the stronger, and the more fired and determined the good disposition of the heart, the greater the sincerity of virtue, and so the more of the truth and reality of it. But if there be any acts, which are done in a state of equilibrium, or spring immediately from perfect indifference and coldness of heart, they cannot arise from any good principle or disposition in the heart ; and, consequently, according to common sense, have no sincere goodness in them, having no virtue of heart in them. To have a virtuous heart, is to have a heart that favors virtue, and is friendly to it, and not one perfectly cold and indifferent about it. And besides, the actions that are done in a state of indifference, or that arise immediately out of such a state, cannot be virtuous, because, by the supposition, they are not determined by any preceding choice. For if there be preceding choice, then choice intervenes between the act and the state of indifference; which is contrary to the supposition of the act’s arising immediately out of indifference. But those acts, which are not determined by preceding choice, cannot be vir. tuous or vicious by Arminian principles, because they are not determined by the Will. So that neither one way, nor the other, can any actions be virtuous or vicious, according to Arminian principles. If the action be determined by a preceding act of choice, it cannot be virtuous; because the action is not done in a state of indifference, nor does immediately arise from such a state ; and so is not done in a state of liberty. Is the action be not determined by a preceding act of choice, then it cannot be virtuous; because then the Will is not selfdetermined in it. So that it is made certain, that neither virtue nor vice can ever find any place in the universe. Moreover, that it is necessary to a virtuous action, that it be performed in a state of indifference, under a notion of that being a state of liberty, is contrary to common sense ; as it is a dictate of common sense, that indifference itself, in many cases, is vicious, and so to a high degree. As if when I see my neighbor or near friend, and one who has in the highest degree merited of me, in extreme distress, and ready to perish, I find an indifference in my heart with respect to any thing proposed to be done, which I can easily do, for his relies. So if it should be proposed to me to blaspheme God, or kill my father, or do numberless other things, which might be mentioned, the being indifferent, for a moment, would be highly vicious and vile. And it may be further observed, that to suppose this liberty of indifference is essential to virtue and vice, destroys the great difference of degrees of the guilt of different crimes, and takes away the heinousness of the most flagitious, horrid iniquities ; such as adultery, bestiality, murder, perjury, blasphemy, &c. For, according to these principles, there is no harma at all in having the mind in a state of perfect indifference with respcct to these crimes: Nay, it is absolutely necessary in order to any virtue in avoiding them, or vice in doing them. But for the mind to be in a state of indifference with respect to them, is to be next door to doing them : It is then infinitely near to choosing, and so committing the fact: For equilibrium is the next step to a degree of prepondera