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Natural Inability, arising from the want of natural capacity, or external hindrance (which alone is properly called Inability) without doubt wholly excuses, or makes a thing improperly the matter of Command. If men are excused from doing or acting any good thing, supposed to be commanded, it must be through some defect or obstacle that is not in the will itself, but either in the capacity of understanding, or body, or outward circumstances.- Here two or three things may be observed,
1. As to spiritual acts, or any good thing in the state or imminent acts of the will itself, or of the affections, (which are only certain modes of the exercise of the will) if persons are justly excused, it must be through want of capacity in the natural faculty or understanding. Thus the same spiritual duties, or holy affections and exercises of heart, cannot be required of men, as may be of angels; the capacity of understanding being so much inferior. So men cannot be required to love those amiable persons, whom they have had no opportunity to see, or hear of, or know in any way agreeable to the natural state and capacity of the human understanding. But the insufficiency of motives will not excuse; unless their being insufficient arises not from the moral state of the will or inclination itself, but from the state of the natural understand ing. The great kindness and generosity of another may be a motive insufficient to excite gratitude in the person that receives the kindness, through his vile and ungrateful temper: in this case, the insufficiency of the motive arises from the state of the will or inclination of heart, and does not at all excuse. But if this generosity is not sufficient to excite grati. tude, being unknown, there being no means of information adequate to the state and measure of the person's faculties, this insufficiency is attended with a natural Inability, which entirely excuses it.
2. As to such motions of body, or exercises and alterations of mind, which do not consist in the imminent acts or state of the will itself-but are supposed to be required as effects of the will, in cases wherein there is no want of a capacity of understanding-that Inability, and that only, excuses, which consists in want of connection between them and the will. If the will fully complies, and the proposed effect does not prove, according to the laws of nature, to be connected with his volition, the man is perfectly excused; he has a natural Inability to the thing required. For the will itself, as has been observed, is all that can be directly and immediately required by Command ; and other things only indirectly, as connected with the will. If therefore, there be a full compliance of will, the person has done his duty; and if other things do not prove
to be connected with his volition, that is not criminally owing to him.
3. Both these kinds of natural Inability, and all Inability that excuses, may be resolved into one thing; namely, want of natural capacity or strength ; either capacity of understanding, or external strength. For when there are external defects and obstacles, they would be no obstacles, were it not for the imperfection and limitations of understanding and strength.
Corol. If things for which men have a moral inability may properly be the matter of Precept or Command, then they inay also of invitation and counsel.Commands and invitations come very much to the same thing ; the difference is only circumstantial : Commands are as much a manifestation of the will of him that speaks, as invitations, and as much testimonies of expectation of compliance. The difference between them lies in nothing that touches the affair in hand. The main difference between Command and invitation consists in the enforcement of the will of him who commands or invites. In the latter it is his kindness, the goodness from which his will arises : in the former it is his authority. But whatever be the ground of will in him that speaks, or the enforcement of what he says, yet seeing neither his will nor his expectation is any more testified in the one case than the other; therefore, a person being directed by invitation, is no more an evidence of insincerity in him that directs—in manifesting either a will, or expectation which he has not—than a person being known to be morally unable to do what he is directed by command, is an evidence of insincerity. So that all this grand objection of Arminians against the Inability of fallen men to exert faith in Christ, or to perform other spiritual duties, from the sincerity of God's counsels and invitations, must be without force.*
* On the subject of Sincerity or Insincerity in prohibitions, commands, counsels, invitations, and the like, in cases where God foreknows that the event will not take place by the compliance of the moral agent addressed, we may remark a few particulars in addition to our author's reasoning:
1. The sincer ty of prohibitions and commands, counsels and invitations, and the like, is founded - not in the event of things as good or bad, or the knowledge of events, or the purpose that secures some, or the necessity of consequence from which others flow, nor in the moral ability of the agent, but—in the very nature and tendency of the things themselves which are prohibited, commanded, or proposed, as good or evil, either intrinsically, if of a moral nature, or else relatively, if of possitive appointment. Therefore,
2. Whether the event be compliance or non-compliance, the command, or invitation, &c. is perfectly sincere. For, in truth, these are neither more nor less than testimonies respecting the goodness or badness of the things in question, in the sense before mentioned, and the consequent obligations of the agent respecting them, under a forfeiture either declared or implied. Consequently,
3. Insincerity can attach to a command only on supposition that the goodness or badness of the event were the ground of the signified will, while at the same time another event, diverse from that which actually takes place, was purposed by the game will. But,
That Sincerity of Desires and Endeavours, which is supposed
to excuse in the Non-performance of Things in themselves good, particularly considered.
It is much insisted on by many, that some men, though they are not able to perform spiritual duties, such as repentance of sin, love to God, a cordial acceptance of Christ as exhibited and offered in the gospel, &c. yet may sincerely desire and andeavour after these things; and therefore must be excused; it being unreasonable to blame them for the omission of those things, which they sincerely desire and endeavour to do but cannot. Concerning this matter the following things may be observed.
1. What is here supposed, is a great mistake and gross absurdity; even that men may sincerely choose and desire those spiritual duties of love, acceptance, choice, rejection, &c. consisting in the exercise of the will itself, or in the disposition and inclination of the heart; and yet not be able to per. form or exert them. This is absurd, because it is absurd to suppose that a man should directly, properly and sincerely incline to have an inclination, which at the same time is con. trary to his inclination : for that is to suppose him not to be inclined to that which he is inclined to. If a man, in the state and acts of his will and inclination, properly and directly falls in with those duties, he therein performs them: for the duties themselves consist in that very thing; they consist in the state and acts of the will being so formed and directed. If the
4. Strictly speaking, no events, as such, are the objects of purpose ; but rather, the purpose respects the good antecedents
, whereby good events, following by necessity of consequence, are infallibly secured. Besides,
5. It is highly absurd, as must appear from the nature of law and obligation, to suppose that the sincerity of legislative or inviting will should depend on the event of compliance or non-compliance. Surely the sincerity of a lawgiver is not affected, whether all obey, or only some, or even none. Legislation is a testimony with sanctions, that the thing prohibited is evil, or the thing commanded is good, to the party. Hence,
6. The consequent, whether good or bad, is objectively established, or hypothetically proposed, by the legislator; and the antecedent is supposed to be within the reach, or, physically considered, placed within the power, of the agent. Therefore,
7. The agent's abuse of his physical power, in reference to the antecedent, constitutes the criminality, and the right use of it constitutes the virtue of an action. And then alone is physical power, in fact, used aright when it is the instrument of moral rectitude, or a right state of mind. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringoth forth evil fruit. Å good tree (as such) cannot bring forth evil frint ; neither can a corrupt tree (as such) bring forth good fruit.-W.
soul properly and sincerely falls in with a certain proposed act of will or choice, the soul therein makes that choice its own. Even as when a moving body falls in with a proposed direction of its motion, that is the same thing as lo move in that direction.
2. That which is called a desire and willingness for those inward duties, in such as do not perform them, has respect to these duties only indirectly and remotely, and is improperly so called ; not only because (as was observed before) it respects those good volitions only in a distant view, and with respect to future time; but also because evermore, not these things themselves, but something else that is foreign, is the object that terminates these volitions and desires.
A drunkard who continues in his drunkenness, being under the power of a violent appetite to strong drink, and with out 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 endeavours are insufficient and ineffectual; such a man has no proper, direct, sincere willingnesss 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 at all to it. It is only the saving of his money, or the avoiding of poverty, that termi. nates and exhausts the whole strength of his desire. The virtue 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 exceedingly 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 theme; 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 in themselves undesirable ; as when a sick inan desires a dose he greatly abhors, in order to save his life. From these things it appears,
3. That this indirect Willingness 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 to which the command has respect.
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 kind. ness and tenderness, and has every way, in the highest degree, merited his love and dutiful regard, and is withal very wealthy; but the son is of so vile a disposition, that he inveterately hates his father ; and yet, apprehending that his hatred of him is like to prove his ruin, by bringing him finally to those abject circumstances, which are exceedingly adverse 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 love and honour 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 commanded is love and honour to his worthy parent. If the command be proper and just, 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 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 a regard