« PreviousContinue »
trary ; because so far as the Mind is biassed and pre-possessed, so much Hinderance is there of the contrary. And therefore if moral Inability be inconsistent with moral Agency, or the Nature of Virtue and Vice, then fo far as there is any such Thing as evil Disposition of Heart, or habitual Depravity of Inclination; whether Covetousness, Pride, Malice, Cruelty, or whatever else ; fo much the more excusable Persons are ; so much the less have their evil Acts of this Kind, the Nature of Vice. And on the contrary, whatever excellent Dispositions and Inclinations they have, so much are they the less virtuous.
'Tis evident, that no habitual Disposition of Heart, whether it be to a greater or less Degree, can be in any Degree virtuous or vicious ; or the · Actions which proceed from them at all Praise of Blame-worthy. Because, though we should suppose the Habit not to be of such Strength as wholly to take away all moral Ability and felfe determining Power; or hinder but that, although the Act be partly from Bias, yet it may be in Part from Self-determination ; yet in this Case, all that is from antecedent Bias must be set aside, as of no Consideration, and in estimating the Degree of Virtue or Vice, no more must be considered than what arises from self-determining Power, without any Influence of that Bias, because Liberty is exercised in no more : So that all that is the Exercise of habitual Inclination, is thrown away, as not belonging to the Morality of the Action. By which it appears, that no Exer- · cise of these Habits, let 'em be stronger or weaker, can ever have any Thing of the Nature of either Virtue or Vice.
Here if any one should say, that notwithstanding all these Things, there may be the Nature of Virtue and Vice in Habits of the Mind; because chese Habits may be the Effects of those Acts wherein the Mind exercised Liberty ; that however the forementioned Reasons will prove that no Habits which are natural, or that are born or created with us, can be either virtuous or vicious; yet they will not prove this of Habits, which have been acquired and establish'd by repeated free Acts.
To such an Objector I would say, that this E vasion will not at all help the Matter. For if Freedom of Will be essential to the very Nature of Virtue and Vice, then there is no Virtue or Vice but only in that very Thing, wherein this Liberty is exercised. If a Man in one or more Things that he does, exercises Liberty, and then by those Acts is brought into such Circumstances, that his Liberty ceases, and there follows a long Series of Acts or Events that come to pass necessarily; those consequent Acts are not virtuous or vicious, rewardable or punishable ; but only the free Acts that establish'd this Necessity; for in them alone was the Man free. The following Effects that are necessary, have no more of the Nature of Virtue or Vice, than Health ör Sickness of Body have properly the Nature of Virtue or Vice, being the Effects of a course of free Acts of Temperance or Intemperance; or than the good Qualities of a Clock are of the Nature of Virtue, which are the Effects of free Acts of the Artificer; or the Goodness and Sweetness of the Fruits of a Garden are moral Virtues, being the Effects of the free and faithful Acts of the Gardener: If Liberty be absolutely requisite to the Morality of Actions, and Necessity wholly inconsistent with it, as Arminians greatly insist; then .no necesary Effeets whatsoever, let the Cause be ever so good or bad, can be virtuous or vicious; but the Virtue or Vice must be only in the free Cause. Agreeably to this, Dr. Whitby supposes, the Necessity that attends the good and evil Habits of the Saints in Heaven, and Damned in Hell, which are the Consequence of their free Acts in their State of Probation, are not rewardable or punishable.
On the whole, it appears, that if the Notions of Arminians concerning Liberty and moral Agency be true, it will follow that there is no Virtue in any such Habits or Qualities as Humility, Meekness, Patience, Mercy, Gratitude, Genero. sity, Heavenly-mindedness; Nothing at all Praiseworthy in loving Christ above Father and Mother, Wife and Children, or our own Lives; or in Delight in Holiness, hungering and thirsting after Righteousness, Love to Enemies, universal Benevolence to Mankind : And on the other Hand, there is nothing at all vicious, or worthy of Difpraise, in the most sordid, beastly, malignant devilish Dispositions; in being ungrateful, profane, habitually hating God, and Things facred and holy; or in being most treacherous, envious and cruel towards Men. For all these Things are Dispositions and Inclinations of the Heart. And in 1hort, there is no such Thing as any virtuous or vicious Quality of Mind; no such Thing as inherent Virtue and Holiness, or Vice and Sin: And the stronger those Habits or Dispositions are, which used to be called virtuous and vicious, the further they are from being so indeed ; the more violent Men's Lufts are, the more fix'd their Pride, Enyy, Ingratitude and Maliciousness, still the further are they from being blame-worthy. If there be a Man that by his own repeated Acts, or
by any other Means, is come to be of the most hellish Disposition, desperately inclined to treat his Neighbours with Injuriousness, Contempt and Malignity; the further they should be from any Disposition to be angry with Him, or in the least to blame Him. So on the other Hand, if there be a Person, who is of a most excellent Spirit, strongly inclining him to the most amiable Actions, admirably meek, benevolent, &c. so much is he further from any Thing rewardable or commendable. . On which Principles, the Man Jesus Christ was very far from being Praise-worthy for those Acts of Holiness and Kindness which He performed, these Propensities being so strong in his Heart. And above all, the infinitely holy and gracious God, is infinitely remote from any Thing commendable, his good Inclinations being infinitely strong, and He therefore at the utmost poffible Distance from being at Liberty. And in all Cafes, the stronger the Inclinations of any are to Virtue, and the more they love it, the less virtuous they are ; and the more they love Wickedness, the less vicious. — Whether these Things are agreeable to Scripture, let every Christian, and every Man who has read the Bible, judge : and whether they are agreeable to common Sense, let every one judge, that hath huinan Understanding in Exercise.
and gracommendable, He therefore av. And in
And if we pursue these Principles, we shall find that Virtue and Vice are wholly excluded out of the World ; and that there never was, nor ever can be any such Thing as one or the other ; either in God, Angels or Men. No Propensity, Difposition or Habit can be virtuous or vicious, as has been shewn ; because they, so far as they take Place, destroy the Freedom of the Will, the Foundation of all moral Agency, and exclude all
Capacity Capacity of either Virtue or Vice. — And if Habits and Dispositions themselves be not virtuous nor vicious, neither can the Exercise of these Dispositions be so: For the Exercise of Bias is not the Exercise of free self-determining Will, and so there is no Exercise of Liberty in it. Consequently no Man is virtuous or vicious, either in being well or ill disposed, nor in acting from a good or bad Disposition. And whether this Bias or Disposition be habitual or not, if it exists but a Moment before the Act of Will, which is the Effect of it, it alters not the Case, as to the Necessity of the Effect. Or if there be no previous Disposition at all, either habitual or occasional, that determines the Act, then it is not Choice that determines it : It is therefore a Contingence, that happens to the Man, arising from Nothing in him ; and is necessary, as to any Inclination or Choice of his; and therefore can't make Him either the better or worse, any more than a Tree is better than other Trees, because it oftener hap. pens to be lit upon by a Swan or Nightingale : or a Rock more vicious than other Rocks, because Rattle-Snakes have happen'd oftener to crawl over it. So that there is no Virtue nor Vice in good or bad Dispositions, either fix'd or transient; nor any Virtue or Vice in acting from any good or bad previous Inclination; nor yet any Virtue or Vice in acting wholly without any previous Inclination. Where then shall we find Room for Virtue or Vice ?