Page images

to money and honour, 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, does 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 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 desire 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 sincerity in such an indirect desire or willingness to do his duty as has been mentioned, cannot excuse for the want of performance: so it is with Endeavours arising from such a willingness. The Endeavours can have no more goodness in them than the will of which they are the effect and expression. And therefore, however sincere and real, and however great a person's Endeavours are ; yea, though they should be to the utmost of his ability : unless the will from which they proceed be truly good and virtuous, they can be of no avail or weight whatsoever in a moral respect. That which is not truly virtuous is, in God's sight, good for nothing : and so can be of no value, or influence, in his account, to make up for any moral defect. For nothing can counterbalance evil, but good. If evil be in one scale, and we put a great deal into the other of sincere and earnest Desires, and many and great Endeavours ; yet, if there be no real goodness in all, there is no weight in it; and so it does nothing towards balancing the real weight, which is in the opposite scale. It is only like subtracting a thousand noughts from before a real number, which leaves the sum just as it was.

Indeed such Endeavours may have a negatively good inAuence. Those things which have no positive virtue, have no positive moral influence ; yet they may be an occasion of persons avoiding some positive evils. As if a man were in the water with a neighbour to whom he had ill will, and who could not swim, holding him by his hand ; this neighbour was much in debt to him,--the man is tempted to let him sink and drown

- but refuses to comply with the temptation ; not from love to his neighbour, but from the love of money, and because by his drowning he should lose his debt; that which he does VOL. II.


in preserving his neighbour 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 neighbour sink and perish. But when Arminians, in their disputes with Calvinists, insist so much on sincere Desires and Endeavours, 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 Endeavours. Accepting, justifying, or excusing on the account of sincere Endeavours (as they are called) and men 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 Endeavours. 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 something good 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 Endeavours, this sug: gests, that his heart is good, that there is no defect of duty, as to virtuous inclination; he honestly and uprightly desires and endeavours 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 Endeavours, the thing endeavoured after 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 Endeavour, 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 Endeavour arises. If a man has some real desire either direct or indirect to obtain a thing, or does really endeavour after it, he is said sincerely to desire or endeavour, without any consideration of the goodness of the principle from which he acts, or any excellency or worthiness of the end for which he acts. Thus a man who is kind to his neighbour's wife who is sick and languishing, and very helpful in her case, makes a shew of desiring and endeavouring her restoration to health and vigour ; and not only makes such a shew, 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 Endeavours for it; he is said sincerely to desire and endeavour after 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 vigour restored, that he may return to kis criminal pleasures. Or,

2. By sincerity is meant, not merely a reality of Will and Endeavour of some sort, 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. There is not only the reality of the act, that is, as it were, the body of the duty ; 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 : 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 ; the virtue of the 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 shew of the particular thing to be done or exhibited, without any real desire or endeavour at all. In the latter sense, a man is said to be sincere, in opposition to that shew of virtue there is in merely doing the matter of duty, without the reality of the virtue itself in the soul. 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 hypo: crite.

In the latter kind of sincerity, only, is there any thing truly valuable or acceptable in the sight of God. And this is what in scripture is called sincerity, uprightness, integrity, “ truth in the inward parts,” and “ 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 endeavours, 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 endeavour 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 endeavours, having no virtue in it, (as was observed before) it 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 in the former kind of sincerity, 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, Prayers, Endeavours, 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 Endeavour, that is possible to be in a person without holiness.

Some object against God 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 Endeavours, and do as well as they can, they are accepted ; and that this must be all that God requires, in order to their being received as the objects of his favour, and must be what God has appointed as the condition of salvation. Concerning this, I would observe, that in such manner of speaking as “ men 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 respect not a whit better than if they did nothing at all. In such a case, there is no more positive moral goodness in a man doing what he can, than in a windmill doing what it can ; because the action does no more proceed from virtue : and there is nothing in such sincerity of Endeavour, or doing what we can, that should render it any more a fit recommendation to positive favour 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, 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 Heathens, who are sincere, (in the sense above explained) in their Endeavours 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 favour.


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.

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 belong 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 virtue 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 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 what 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 the 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 determining to put itself out of a state of Indifference, and to 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

« PreviousContinue »