« PreviousContinue »
Nature of the Principle or Aim, whence this real Will and true Endeavour arises. If a Man has some real Desire to obtain a Thing, either direct or indirect, or does really endeavour after a Thing, he is said sincerely to defire or endeavour 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 that is kind to his Neighbour's Wite, who is sick and languishing, and very helpful in her Case, makes a Shew of desiring and endea-' vouring 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 carnestly desire to have her Health restored, and uses his true and utmoft Endeavours for it ; He is said sincerely to desire and endeavour it, because he does so truly or really ; tho' 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 his criminal Plea.. sures with her. Or,
2. By Sincerity is meant, not merely a Reality of Will and Endeavour of some Sort or other, and from some Confideration 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 fincere, when he acts with a pure Intention; not from finister Views, or bye-Ends : He not only
in Reality desires and seeks the Thing to be done, or Qualification to be obtain’d, 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, and the Ellence of it, which there is a Shew of. A Man may be sincere in the former Sense, and yet in the latter be in the Sighe 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 perfeet 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 don't 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, it having no Virtue in it, (as was observed before) can be of no Avail before God, in any Cafe, to recommend,
fatisfy, or excuse, and has no positive moral Weight or Influence whatsoever.
Corol. 1. Hence it may be inferr'd, 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 suppole, 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.
any bence of
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 fake, &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 Men's being received as the Objects of his Favour, 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 fincere, and do as well as they can, there is evidently a Supposition of some Virtue, fome Degree of that which is truly Good; though it don't go so far as were to be with’d. For if Men do what they can, unless their so doing be from some good Principle, Disposition, or Exerç cise of Heart, some virtuous Inclination or Act of the Will; their so doing what they can, is in fome Respects 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's doing what he can, than in a Wind-mill's 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 proper or 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, 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 thofe Heathen, 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, thaç they may escape his future Displeasure and Wrath, and obtain Happiness in their future State, through his Favour.
Liberty of Indifference, not only not necessary
to Virtue, but utterly inconhstent with it; And all, either virtuous or vicious Habits or Inclinations, inconsistent with Arminian Notions of Liberty and moral Agency.
o suppose such a Freedom of Will, as Ar1 minians talk of, to be requisite to Virtue and Vice, is many Ways contrary to coinmon Sense.
If Indifference belongs to Liberty of Will, as Arminians suppose, and it be effential 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