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Wherein is Inquired, Whether any Such Liberty of Will as Arminians Hold, be Necessary to Moral Agency, Virtue and Vice, Praise and Dispraise, etc.
GOD’S MORAL EXCELLENCY NECESSARY, YET VIRTUOUS AND PRAISEWORTHY.
HAVING considered the first thing that was proposed to be inquired into, relating, to that freedom of will which Arminians maintain; namely, whether any such thing does, ever did, or ever can exist, or be conceived of; I come now to the second thing proposed to be the subject of inquiry, viz. Whether any such kind of liberty be requisite to moral agency, virtue and vice, upraise and blame, reward and punishment, etc.
I shall begin with some consideration of the virtue and agency of the supreme moral Agent, and Fountain of all agency and virtue.
Dr. Whitby, in his discourse on the “Five Points,” p. 14, says, “If all human actions are necessary, virtue and vice must be empty names; we being capable oft nothing that is blame-worthy, or deserveth praise; for who can blame a person for doing only what he could not help, or judge that he deserveth praise only for what he could not avoid?” To the like purpose he speaks ifs places innumerable; especially in his discourse on the “Freedom of the Will;” constantly maintaining, that a freedom not only from coaction, but necessity, is absolutely requisite, in order to actions being either worthy of blame, or deserving of praise. And to this agrees, as is well known, the current doctrine of Arminian writers, who, in general, hold, that there is no virtue or vice, reward or punishment, nothing, to he commended or blamed, without this freedom. And yet Dr. Whitby, p. 300, allows, that God is without this freedom; and Arminians, so far as I have had opportunity to observe, generally acknowledge that God is necessarily holy, and his will necessarily determined to that which is good.
So that, putting these things together, the infinitely holy God, who always used to be esteemed by God’s people not only virtuous, but a Being in whom is all possible virtue, and every virtue in the most absolute purity and perfection, and in infinitely greater brightness and amiableness than in any creature: the most perfect pattern of virtue, and the fountain from whom all others, virtue is but as beams from the sun; and who has been supposed to be, on the account of his virtue and holiness, infinitely more worthy to be esteemed, loved, honored, admired, commended, extolled, and praised, than any creature: and he who is thus every where represented in Scripture; I say, this Being, according to this notion of Dr. Whithy, and other Arminians, has no virtue at all: virtue, when ascribed to him, is but an empty name; and he is deserving of no commendation or praise; because he is under necessity, he cannot avoid being holy and good as he is; therefore no thanks to him for it. It seems, the holiness, justice, faithfulness, etc. of the Most High, must not be accounted to be of the nature of that which is virtuous, and praiseworthy They will not deny, that these things in God are good; but then we must understand them, that they are no more virtuous, or of the nature of any thing commendable, than the good that is in any other being that is not a moral agent; as the brightness of the sun, and the fertility of the earth, are good, but not virtuous, because these properties are necessary to these bodies, and not the fruit of self-determining power.
There needs no other confutation of this notion of God’s not being virtuous or praiseworthy, to Christians acquainted with the Bible, but only stating and particularly representing of it. To bring texts of Scripture, wherein God is represented as in every respect in the highest manner virtuous and supremely praise-worthy, would be endless, and is altogether needless to such as have been brought up in the light of the Gospel.
It were to be wished that Dr. Whitby, and other divines of the same sort, had explained themselves, when they have asserted, that that which is necessary, is not deserving of praise; at the same time that they have owned God’s perfection to be necessary, and so in effect representing God as not deserving praise. Certainly, if their words have any meaning at all, by praise they must mean the exercise or testimony of some sorts of esteem, respect, or honorable regard And will they then say, that men are worthy of that esteem, respect, and lookout, for their virtue, small and imperfect as it is, which God is not worthy of, for his infinite righteousness, holiness, and goodness) If so, it must be because of some sort of peculiar excellency in the virtuous man, which is his prerogative, wherein he really has the preference; some dignity that is entirely distinguished from any excellency, amiableness, or honourableness in God; not in imperfection and dependence, but in pre-eminence; which therefore, he does not receive from God, nor is God the fountain or pattern of it; nor can God, in that respect, stand in competition with him as the object of honor and regard; but man may claim a peculiar esteem, commendation, and glory, that God can have no pretension to. Yea, God has no right, by virtue of his necessary holiness, to intermeddle with that grateful respect and praise due to the virtuous man, who chooses virtue in the exercise of a freedom ad utrumque, any more than a precious stone, which cannot avoid being, hard and beautiful.
And if it be so, let it be explained what that peculiar respect is that is due to the virtuous man, which differs in nature and kind, in some way of preeminence, from all that is due to God. What is the name or description of that peculiar affection? Is it esteem, love, admiration, honor, praise, or gratitude? The Scripture every where represents God as the highest object of all these: there we read of the soul’s magnifying the Lord, of loving him with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind, and with all the strength; admiring, him, and his righteous acts, or greatly regarding them as marvelous and wonderful; honoring, glorifying, exalting, extolling, blessing, thanking, and praising him; giving unto him all the glory of the good which is done or received, rather than unto men, that no flesh should glory in his presence; but that he should he regarded as the Being to whom all glory is due. What, then, is that respect? What passion, affection, or exercise, is it, that Arminians call praise, diverse from all these things which men are worthy of for their virtue, and which God is not worthy of in any degree?
If that necessity which attends God’s moral perfection’s and actions be as inconsistent with a being worthy of praise, as a necessity of co-action, as is plainly implied in, or inferred from, Dr. Whitby’s discourse; then why should we thank God for his goodness, any more than if he were forced to be good or any more than we should thank one of our fellow-creatures who did us good, not freely, and of good will, or from any kindness of heart, but from were compulsion or extrinsical necessity? Arminians suppose that God is necessarily a good and gracious being; for this they make the ground of some of their main arguments against many doctrines maintained by Calvinists; they say these are certainly false, and it is impossible they should be true, because they are not consistent with the goodness of God. This supposes, that it is impossible but that God should be good: for if it be possible that he should be otherwise, then that impossibility of the truth of these doctrines ceases, according to their own argument.
That virtue in God is not, in the most proper sense, rewardable, is not for want of merit in his moral perfection’s and actions, sufficient to deserve rewards from his creatures; but because he is infinitely above all capacity of receiving any reward or benefit from the creature; he is already infinitely and unchangeably happy, and we cannot be profitable unto him. But still he is worthy of our supreme benevolence for his virtue; and would be worthy of our beneficence, which is the fruit and expression of benevolence, if our goodness could extend to him. If God deserves to be thanked and praised for his goodness, he would, for the same reason, deserve that we should also requite his kindness, if that were possible. “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits?” is the natural language of thankfulness: and so far as in us lies, it is our duty to recompense God’s goodness, and render again accordions to benefits received. And that we might have opportunity for so natural an expression of our gratitude to God as beneficence, notwithstanding, his being infinitely above our reach, he has appointed others to be his receivers, and to stand in his stead as the objects of our beneficence; such are especially our indigent brethren.
SECTION THE ACTS OF THE WILL OF THE HUMAN SOUL OF JESUS CHRIST NECESSARILY HOLY, YET TRULY VIRTUOUS, PRAISEWORTHY, REWARDABLE, ETC.
IHAVE already considered how Dr. Whitby insists upon it, that a freedom, not only from co-action, but necessity, is “requisite either to virtue or vice, praise or dispraise, reward or punishment.” He also insists on the same freedom as absolutely requisite to a person’s being the subject of a law, of precepts, or prohibitions; in the book before mentioned, (pp. 301, 314, 328, 339), 340, 341, 349, 347, 361, 373, 410.) And of promises and threatenings, (pp. 298, 301, 305, 311, 339, 340, 363.) And as requisite to a state of trial, (p. 297, etc.)
Now, therefore, with an eye to these things, I would inquire into the moral conduct and practices of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he exhibited in his human nature here in his state of humiliation. And, first, I would show, that his holy behavior was necessary; or that it was impossible it should be otherwise than that he should behave himself polity, and that he should be perfectly holy in each individual act of his life. And, secondly, that his holy behavior was properly the nature of virtue, and mans worthy of praise; and that he was the subject of law, precepts, or commands, promises, and rewards; and that he was in a state of trial. 1. It was impossible that the acts of the will of the human soul of Christ should, in any instance, degree, or circumstance, be otherwise than holy, and agreeable to God’s nature and will. The following, things make this evident. 1. God had promised so effectually to preserve and uphold him by his Spirit, under all his temptations, that he could not fail of reaching the end for which he came into the world; which he would have failed of, had he fallen into sin. We have such a promise, Isaiah 42:1,2,3,4, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. — He shall bring, forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law.”
This promise, of Christ’s having God’s Spirit put upon him, and his not crying and lifting, up his voice, etc. relates to the time of Christ’s appearance on earth, as is manifest from the nature of the promise, and also the application of it in the New Testament, Matthew 12:18. And the words imply a promise of his being so upheld by God’s Spirit, that he should be preserved from sin; particularly from pride and vain-glory, and from being overcome by any of the temptations he should be under to affect the glory of this world, the pomp of an earthly prince, or the applause and praise of men: and that he should be so upheld, that he should by no means fail of obtaining the end of his coming into the world, of bringing forth judgment unto victory, and establishing his kingdom of grace in the earth, — and in the following verses this promise is confirmed, with the greatest imaginable solemnity: “Thus saith the Lord, HE that created the heavens and stretched than out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold shine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to brie,, out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. I amJEHOVAH, that is my name,” etc.
Very parallel with these promises is that, Isaiah 49:7,8,9, which also has an apparent respect to the time of Christ’s humiliation on earth: “Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, etc.
And Isaiah 50:5,6, we have the Messiah expressing, his assurance that God would help him, by so opening his ear, or inclining, his heart to God’s commandments, that he should not be rebellious, but should persevere, and not apostatize or turn his back: that through God’s help, he should be immovable, in a way of obedience, under the great trials of reproach and suffering he should meet with; setting his face like a flint: so that he may be sold not be ashamed, or frustrated in kits design; and finally should be approved and justified, as leaving, done his work faithfully: “The Lord hath opened mine ear; so that I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore leave I set my face as a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary?
Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.” 2. The same thing is evident from all the promises which God made to the Messiah, of his future glory, kingdom and success, in his office and character of a Mediator; which glory could not have been obtained it his holiness had failed, and he had been guilty of sin. God’s absolute promise of any things makes the things promised necessary and their failing to take place absolutely impossible: and in like manner it makes those things necessary in which the thing promised depends and without which it cannot take effect. Therefore it appears that it was utterly impossible that Christ’s holiness should fail, from such absolute promises as those, “The Lord hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.” ( <19B004> Psalm 110:4) And from every other promise in that psalm, contained in each verse of it.
And Psalm 2:7,8, “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,” etc. Psalm 45:3,4, etc. “gird thy sword on they thigh, I mist Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty and in thy majesty ride prosperously.” And so every thing that is said from thence to the end of the psalm. And those promises Isaiah 52:13,14,15; and 53:10, 11, 12. And all those promises which God makes to the Messiah, of success, dominion, and glory, in the character of a Redeemer, in Isaiah, chapter 49. 3. It was often promised to the church of God of old, for their comfort that God would five them a righteous, sinless Savior, Jeremiah 23:5,6, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous Branch, and King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days shall Judah be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is the name whereby he shall be called, the name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” So, Jeremiah 23:15. “I will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.” Isaiah 9:6,7. “For unto us a child is born; — upon the throne of David and of his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” Chapter 11 at the beginning: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. With righteousness shall be judge the poor, and reprove with equity. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.” Chapter 53:13, “My servant shall deal prudently.”
Chapter 53:9, “Because he had done no violence, neither was guile found in his mouth.” If it be impossible that these promises should fail, and if it be easier for heaven and earth to pass away, thank one not or little of these promises of God to pass away, then it was impossible that God should commit any sin. Christ himself signified, that it was impossible but that the things which revere spoken concerning him should be fulfilled. Luke 14:44, “That all things must be fulfills, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalm, concerning me.” Matthew 26:5,64, “But how then shall the Scripture be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” Mark 14:49, “But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
And so the Apostle, Acts 1:16 17, “This Scripture must needs have been fulfilled. 4. All the promises, which were made to the church of old, of the Messiah as a future Savior, from that made to our first parents in Paradise, to that which was delivered by the prophet Malachi, show it to be impossible that Christ should not have persevered in perfect holiness. The ancient predictions given to God’s church, of the Messiah as a Savior, were of the nature of promises, as is evident by the predictions themselves, and the manner of delivering them. But they are expressly, and very often, called promises in the New Testament; as in Luke 1:54,55,72,73; Acts 13:32,33; Romans 1:1,2,3; and chapter 15:8, Hebrews 6:13, etc. These promises were often made with great solemnity, and confirmed lavish an oath; as in Genesis 22:16,17, “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed a; the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Compare Luke 1:72,73; and Galatians 3:8,15,16. The apostle, in Hebrews 6:17,18, speaking, of this promise to Abraham, says: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two\parIMMUTABLE things, in which it wasIMPOSSIBLE for God to lie, we might have strong consolation.” In which words the necessity of the accomplishment, or (which is the same thing) the impossibility of the contrary, is fully declared. So God confirmed the promise of the great salvation of the Messiah, made to David, by an oath, “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant: Thy seed will I establish for ever; and build up thy throne to all generations.” ( Psalm 89:3,4) There is nothing that is so abundantly set forth in Scripture as sure and irrefragable, as this promise and oath to David. See Psalm. 89:34, 35, 36; 2 Samuel 23:5; Isaiah 55:4; Acts 2:29,30; and 13:34. The Scripture expressly speaks of it as utterly impossible that this promise and oath to David, concerning the everlasting dominion of the Messiah of his seed, should fail. Jeremiah 33:15, etc. “In those days, and at that time, I will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David. For thus saith the Lord, David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel.” verse 20, 21, “If you can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that should not have a son to reign upon his throne.” So in verse 25, 20.
Thus abundant is the Scripture in representing how impossible it was, that the promises made of old concerning the great salvation and kingdom of the Messiah should fail; which implies, that it was impossible that this Messiah, the second Adam, the promised seed of Abraham and of David should fall from his integrity, as the first Adam did. 5. All the promises that were made to the church of God under the Old Testament, of the great enlargement of the church, and advancement of her glory, in the class of the gospel, after the coming of the Messiah; the increase of her light, liberty, holiness, joy, triumph over her enemies, etc. of which so great a part of the Old Testament consists; which are repeated so often, are so variously exhibited, so frequently introduced with great pomp and solemnity, and are so abundantly sealed with typical and symbolical representations; I say, all these promises imply, that the Messiah should perfect the world of redemption; and this implies that he should persevere in the work which the Father had appointed him, being in all things conformed to his will. These promises were often confirmed by an oath. (See Isaiah 54 with the context; chapter 62:18.) And it is represented as utterly impossible that these promises should fail. ( Isaiah 49:15, with the context; chapter 54:10, with the context; chapter 54:4-8; chapter 40:8, with the context.) And therefore it was impossible that the Messiah should fail, or commit sin. 6. It was impossible that the Messiah should fail of persevering in integrity and holiness, as the first Adam did, because this would have been inconsistent with the promises which God made to the blessed virgin his mother, and to her husband, implying that “he should save his people from their sins;” that “God would give him the throne of his father David;” that “he should reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and that “of his kingdom there shall be no end.” These promises were sure, and it was impossible they should fail. And therefore the virgin Mary, in trusting fully to them, acted reasonably, having an immovable foundation of her faith; as Elisabeth observes, “And blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” ( Luke 1:45) 7. That it should leave been possible that Christ should sin, and so fail in the work of our redemption, does not consist with the eternal purpose and decree of God, revealed in the Scriptures, that he would provide salvation for fallen man in and by Jesus Christ, and that salvation should be offered to sinners through the preaching of the Gospel. Such an absolute decree as this Arminians do not deny. This much at least (out of all controversy) is implied in such Scriptures as 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4,5; and chapter 3:9, 10, 1 Peter 1:19,20. Such an absolute decree as this, Arminians allow to be signified in these texts. And the Arminians’ election of nations and societies, and general election of the Christian church, and conditional election of particular persons, imply this. God could not decree before the foundation of the world, to save all that should believe in, and obey Christ, unless he had absolutely decreed that salvation should be providers, and effectually wrought out by Christ. And since (as the Arminians themselves strenuously maintain) a decree of God infers necessity; hence it became necessary, that Christ should persevere, and actually work out salvation for us, and that he should not fail by the commission or sin. 8. That it should have been possible for Christ’s holiness to fail, is not consistent with what God promised to his Son, before all ages. For, that salvation should be offered to men, through Christ, and bestowed on all his faithful followers, is what is at least implied in that certain and infallible promise spoken of by the apostle, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” ( Titus 1:2) This does not seem to be controverted by Arminians. 9. That it should be possible for Christ to fail of doing his Father’s will, is inconsistent with the promise made to the Father by the Son, by the Logos that was with the Father from the beginning, before he took the human nature: as may be seen in Psalm 40:6,7,8, (compared with the apostle’s interpretation, Hebrews 10:5-9:) “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire: mine ears hast thou opened (or bored); burnt-offering and sin-offering thou hast not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God, and thy law is within my heart,” where is a manifest allusion to the covenant, which the willing servant, who loved his master’s service, made with his master, to be his servant for ever, on the day Herein he had his ear bored; which covenant was probably inserted in the public records, called the “volume of the book,” by the judges, who were called to take cognizance of the transaction, Exodus 21. If the Logos, who was with the Father before the world, and who made the world, thus engaged in covenant to do the will of the Father in the Herman nature, and the promise was as it were recorded, that it might be made sure, doubtless it was impossible that it should fail; and so it was impossible that Christ should fail of doing the will of the Father in the human nature. 10. If it was possible for Christ to have failed of doing the still of his Father, and so to have failed of effectually working out redemption for sinners, then the salvation of all the saints, who were saved from the beginning of the world to the death of Christ, was not built on a firm foundation. The Messiah, and the redemption which he was to work out by his obedience unto death, was the foundation of the salvation of all the posterity of fallen man that ever were saved. Therefore, if when the Old Testament saints had the pardon of their sins and the favor of God promised them, and salvation bestowed upon them, still it was possible that the Messiah, when he came, might commit sin, then all this was on a foundation that was not firm and stable, but liable to fail; something which it was possible might never be. God did as it were trust to what his Son had engaged and promised to do in future time; and depended so much upon it, that he proceeded actually to save men on the account of it, as though it had been already done. But this trust and dependence of God, on the supposition of Christ’s being liable to fail of doing his will, was leaning on a stay that was weak, and might possibly break. The saints of old trusted on the promises of a future redemption to be wrought out and completed by the Messiah, and built their comfort upon it: Abraham saw Christ’s day, and rejoiced; and he and the other patriarchs died in the faith of the promise of it, ( Hebrews 11:13.) But on this supposition, their faith, and their comfort, and their salvation, was built on a moveable, fallible foundation; Christ was not then a tried stone, a sure foundation, as in Isaiah 28:16. David entirely rested on the covenant of God with him, concerning the future glorious dominion and salvation of the Messiah, of his seed; says it was “all his salvation, and all his desire;” and comforts himself that this covenant was an “everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure,” 2 Samuel 23:5. But if Christ’s virtue might fail, he was mistaken: his great comfort was not built so sure as he thought it was, being founded entirely on the determinations of the free-will of Christ’s human soul, which Divas subject to no necessity, and might be determined either one way or the other. Also, the dependence of those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem, and waited for the consolation of Israel, ( Luke 2:25, 38,) and the confidence of the disciples of Jesus, who forsook all and followed him, that they might enjoy the benefits of his future kingdom, was built on a sandy foundation. 11. The man Christ Jesus, before he had finished his course of obedience, and while in the midst of temptations and trials, was abundant in positively predicting his own future glory in his kingdom, and the enlargement of his church, the salvation of the Gentiles through him, etc., and in promises of blessings he would bestow on his true disciples in his future kingdom; on which promises he required the full dependence of his (John 14.) But the disciples would have no ground for such dependence, if Christ had been liable to fail in his work: and Christ himself would have been guilty of presumption, in so abounding in peremptory promises of great things, which depended on a mere contingence, viz., the determinations of his free-will, consisting in a freedom ad utrumque, to either sin or holiness, standing. In indifference, and incident, in thousands of future instances, to go either one way or the other.
Thus it is evident, that it was impossible that the acts of the will of the human soul of Christ should be otherwise than holy, and conformed to the will of the Father; or, in other words, they were necessarily so conformed.
I have been the longer in the proof of this matter, it being a thing denied by some of the greatest Arminians by Episcopius in particular; and because I look upon it as a point clearly and absolutely determining the controversy between Calvinists and Arminians, concerning the necessity of such a freedom of will as is insisted on by the latter, in order to moral agency, virtue, command or prohibition, promise or threatening, reward or punishment, praise or dispraise, merit or demerit. I now therefore proceed, II. To consider whether Christ, in his holy behavior on earth, was not thus a moral agent, subject to commands, promises, etc.
Dr. Whitby very often speaks of what he calls a freedom ad utrumlibet, without necessity, as requisite to law and commands; and speaks of necessity as entirely inconsistent with injunctions and prohibitions. But yet we read of Christens being the subject of the commands of his Father, John 10:18, and 15:10. And Christ tells us, that every thing that he said or did was in compliance with “commandments he had received of the Father,” John 12:48,50, and 14:31. And we often read of Christ’s obedience to his Father’s commands, Romans 5:19; Philippians 2:18; Hebrews 5:8.
The fore-mentioned writer represents “promises offered as motives” to persons to do their duty, or “a being moved and induced by promises,” as utterly inconsistent with a state wherein persons has not a liberty and utrumlibet, but are necessarily determined to one. (See particularly, pp and 311.) But the thing, which this writer asserts, is demonstrably false, if the Christian religion be true. If there be any truth in Christianity or the Holy Scriptures, the man Christ Jesus had his will infallibly, unalterably, and unfrustrably determined to good, and that alone; but yet he had promises of glorious rewards made to him, on condition of his persevering in, and perfecting, the work which God had appointed him; Isaiah 52:10,11,12; Psalm 2 and 110; Isaiah 49:7,8,9. In Luke 22:28,29, Christ says to his disciples, “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations; and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.” The word most properly signifies to appoint by covenant or promise. The plain meaning of Christ’s words is this: “As you have partook of my temptations and trials, and have been steadfast, and have overcome, I promise to make you partakers of my reward, and to give you a kingdom; as the Father hath promised me a kingdom for continuing steadfast, and overcoming in those trials.” And the words are well explained by those in Revelation 3:21, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne; even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
And Christ hath not only promises of glorious success, and rewards made to his obedience and sufferings, but the Scriptures plainly represent him as using these promises for motives and inducements to obey and suffer; and particularly that promise of a kingdom which the Father had appointed him, or sitting with the Father on his throne; as in Hebrews 12:1,2 “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God.”
And how strange would it be to hear any Christian assert, that the holy and excellent temper and behavior of Jesus Christ, and that obedience which he performed under such great trials, was not virtuous or praiseworthy, because his will was not free ad utrumque, to either holiness or sin, but was unalterably determined to one; that, upon this account, there is no virtue at all in all Christ’s humility, meekness, patience, charity, forgiveness of enemies, contempt of the world, heavenly-mindedness, submission to the will of God, perfect obedience to his commands, (though he was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,) his great compassion to the afflicted, his unparalleled love to mankind, his faithfulness to God and man under such great trills, his praying for his enemies, even when nailing him to the cross; that virtue, when applied to these things, is but an empty name; that there was no merit in any of these things; that is, that Christ was worthy of nothing at all on account of them, worthy of no reward, no praise, no honor or respect from God or man, because his will was not indifferent, and free either to these things or the contrary; but under such a strong inclination or bias to the things that were excellent, as made it impossible that he should choose the contrary, that, upon this account, (to use Dr. Whitby’s language,) “it would be sensibly unreasonable” that the human nature should be rewarded for any of these things.
According to this doctrine, that creature who is evidently set forth in Scripture as the “first-born of every creature,” as having “in all things the pre-eminence,” and as the highest of all creatures in virtue, honor, and worthiness of esteem, praise, and glory, on the account of his virtue, is less worthy of reward or praise than the very least of saints; yea, no more worthy than a clock or mere machine, that is purely passive, and moved by natural necessity.
If we judge by Scriptural representations of things, we have reason to suppose that Christ took on him our nature, and dwelt lavish us in this world, in a suffering state, not only to satisfy for our sins but that he, being in our nature and circumstances, and under our trials, might be our most fit and proper example, leader, and captain, in the exercise of glorious and victorious virtue, and might be a visible instance of the glorious end and reward of it; that we might see in him the beauty, amiableness, and true honor and glory, and exceeding benefit, of that virtue which it is proper for us human beings to practice; and might thereby learn, and be animated, to seek the like glory and honor, and to obtain the like glorious reward. See Hebrews 2:9-14; with 5:8, 9; and <431201> 12:1, 2, 3. John 15:10. Romans 8:17. 2 Timothy 2:11,12. 1 Peter 2:19,20; and 4:13.
But if there was nothing of any virtue or merit, or worthiness of any reward, glory, praise, or commendation at all, in all that he did, because it was all necessary, and he could not help it, then how is there any thing so proper to animate and incite us, free creatures, by patient continuance in well-doing, to seek for honor, glory, and virtue?
God speaks of himself as peculiarly well pleased with the righteousness of this servant of his. “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake.” ( Isaiah 42:21) The sacrifices of old are spoken of as a sweet savor to God, but the obedience of Christ as far more acceptable than they. Psalm 40:6,7, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ear hast thou opened (as thy servant performing willing obedience): burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come (as a servant that cheerfully answers the calls of his master): I delight to do thy will, O my God, and thy law is within my heart.” Matthew 17:5, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And Christ tells us expressly, that the Father loves him for that wonderful instance of his obedience, his voluntary yielding himself to death, in compliance with the Father’s command; John 10:17,18, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life. No man taketh it from me; but I lay it down of myself. This commandment received I of my Father.”
And if there was no merit in Christ’s obedience unto death, if it was not worthy of praise and of the most glorious regards, the heavenly hosts were exceedingly mistaken, by the account that is given of them in Revelation 5:8-12: “The four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou artWORTHY to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice,WORTHY is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.”
Christ speaks of the eternal life which he was to receive as the reward of his obedience to the Father’s commandments; John 12:49,50, “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak, therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” God promises to divide him a portion with the great, etc. for his being his righteous servant, for his glorious virtue under such great trials and afflictions; Isaiah 53:11,12, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death. “The Scriptures represent God as rewarding him far above all his other servants; Philippians 2:7,8,9, “He took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name.” Psalm 14:7, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
There is no room to pretend that the glorious benefits bestowed in consequence of Christ’s obedience are not properly of the nature of a reward. What is a reward, in the most proper sense, but a benefit bestowed in consequence of something morally excellent in quality or behavior, in testimony of well-pleasedness in that moral excellency, and respect and favor on that account? If we consider the nature of a reward most strictly, and make the utmost of it, and add to the things contained in this description proper merit or worthiness, and the bestowment of the benefit in consequence of a promise; still it will be found there is nothing belonging to it, but that the Scripture is most express as to its belonging to the glory bestowed on Christ after his sufferings, as appears from what has been already observed; there was a glorious benefit bestowed in consequence of something morally excellent, being called righteousness and obedience; there was great favor, love, and well-pleasedness, for this righteousness and obedience, in the bestowed; there was proper merit, or worthiness of the benefit, in the obedience; it was bestowed in fulfillment of promises made to that obedience; and was bestowed therefore, or because he had performed that obedience.
I may add to all these things, that Jesus Christ, while here in the flesh, was manifestly in a state of trial. The last Adam, as Christ is called, Corinthians 15:45; Romans 5:14, taking, on him the human nature, and so the form of a servant, and being under the law, to stand and act for us, was put into a state of trial, as the first Adam was. Dr. Whitby mentions these three things as evidences of persons being in a state of trial (on the Five Points, pp. 298, 299): namely, their afflictions being spoken of as their trials or temptations, their being the subjects of promises, and their being exposed to Satan’s temptations. But Christ was apparently the subject of each of these. Concerning promises made to him, I have spoken already.
The difficulties and afflictions he met with in the course of his obedience, are called his temptations or trials; Luke 22:28, “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations, (or trials.)” Hebrews 2:18, “For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted (or tried), he is able to succor them that are tempted.” And chapter 4:15, “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” And as to his being tempted by Satan, it is what none will dispute.
SECTION THE CASE OF SUCH AS ARE GIVEN UP OF GOD TO SIN, AND OF FALLEN MAN IN GENERAL, PROVES MORAL NECESSITY AND INABILITY TO BE CONSISTENT WITH BLAME-WORTHINESS.
DR.WHITBY asserts freedom, not only from co-action, but necessity, to be essential to any thing deserving the name of sin, and to an action’s being culpable, in these words (Discourse on the Five Points, edit. 3, p. 348): “If they be thus necessitated, then neither their sins of omission or commission could deserve that name; it being essential to the nature of sin, according to St. Austin’s definition, that it be an action ‘a quo liberum est abstinere’.
Three things seem plainly necessary to make an action or omission culpable: 1. That it be in our power to perform or forbear it; for, as Origen and all the fathers say, no man is blameworthy for not doing what he could not do.” And elsewhere the Doctor insists, that “when any do evil of necessity, what they do is no vice, that they are guilty of no fault, are worthy of no blame, dispraise, or dishonor, but are unblameable.
If these things are true, in Dr. Whitby’s sense of necessity, they will prove all such to be blameless who are given up of God to sin, in That they commit after they are thus given up. That there is such a thing, as men’s being judicially given up to sin, is certain, if the Scripture rightly informs us, such a thing beings often there spoken of; as in Psalm 81:12, “So I gave them up to their own hearts’ lust, and they walked in their own counsels.” 7:42, “Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven.” Romans 1:24, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.” Verse 26, “For this cause God gave them up to vile affections.” Verse 28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave then over to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient.”
It is needless to stand particularly to inquire what God’s “giving men up to their own hearts’ lusts” signifies; it is sufficient to observe, that hereby is certainly meant God’s so ordering or disposing things, in some respect or other, either by doing or forbearing to do, as that the consequence should be men’s continuing in their sins. So much as men are given up to, so much is the consequence of their being given up, whether that be less or more. If God does not order things so, by action or permission, that sin will be the consequence, then the event proves that they are not given up to that consequence. If good be the consequence, instead of evil, then God’s mercy is to be acknowledged in that good; which mercy must be contrary to God’s judgment in giving ups to evil. If the event must prove that they are given up to evil as the consequence, then the persons who are the subjects of his judgment must be the subjects of such an event, and so the event is necessary.
If not only co-action, but all necessity, will prove men blameless, then Judas was blameless, after Christ had given him over, and had already declared his certain damnation, and that he should verily betray him. He was guilty of no sin in betraying his Master, on this supposition; though his so doing is spoken of by Christ as the most aggravated sin, more heinous than the sin of Pilate in crucifying him. And the Jews in Egypt in Jeremiah’s time, were guilty of no sin, in their not worshipping the true God, after God had “SWORN by his great names that his name should be no more named in the mouth of any man of Judah, in all the land of Egypt,” Jeremiah 44:26.
Dr. Whitby (Disc. on the Five Points, pp. 302, 303) denies that men, in this world, are ever so given up by God to sin, that their wills should be necessarily determined to evil; though he owns, that hereby it may become exceeding difficult for men to do good, having a strong bent and powerful inclination to what is evil. — But if we should allow the case to be just as he represents, the judgment of giving up to sin will no better agree with his notions of that liberty which is essential to praise or blame, than if we should suppose it to render the avoiding of sin impossible. For if an impossibility of avoiding sin wholly excuses a man, then, for the same reason, its being difficult to avoid it excuses him in part, and this just in proportion to the degree of difficulty. If the influence of moral impossibility or inability be the same, to excuse persons in not doing, or not avoiding any thing, as that of natural inability, (which is supposed,) then undoubtedly, in like manner, moral difficulty has the same influence to excuse with natural difficulty. But all allow that natural impossibility wholly excuses, and also that natural difficulty excuses in part, and makes the act or omission less blameable in proportion to the difficulty. All natural difficulty, according to the plainest dictates of the light of nature, excuses in some degree, so that the neglect is not so blameable, as if there had been no difficulty in the case: and so the greater the difficulty is, still the more excusable, in proportion to the increase of the difficulty. And as natural impossibility wholly excuses and excludes all blame, so the nearer the difficulty approaches to impossibility, still the nearer a person is to blamelessness in proportion to that approach. And if the case of moral impossibility or necessity be just the same with natural necessity or coaction, as to influence to excuse a neglect, then also, for the same reason, the case of natural difficulty does not differ in influence, to excuse a neglect, from moral difficulty, arising from a strong bias or bent to evil, such as Dr. Whitby owns in the case of those that are given up to their own hearts lusts. So that the fault of such persons must be lessened, in proportion to the difficulty, and approach to impossibility. If ten degrees of moral difficulty make the action quite impossible, and so wholly excuse, then if there be nine degrees of difficulty, the person is in great part excused, and is nine degrees in ten less blameworthy than if there had been no difficulty at all; and he has but one degree of blameworthiness. The reason is plain, on Arminian principles, viz. because as difficulty, by antecedent bent and bias on the will, is increased, liberty of indifference, and self-determination in the will, is diminished: so much hindrance and impediment is there in the way of the will’s acting freely, by mere selfdetermination.
And if ten degrees of such hindrance take away all such liberty, then nine degrees take away nine parts in ten, and leave but one degree of liberty. And therefore there is but one degree of blameableness, cateris paribas, in the neglect; the man being no further blameable in what he does or neglects than he has liberty in that affair: for blame or praise (say they) arises wholly frown a good use or abuse of liberty.
From all which it follows, that a strong bent and bias one way, and difficulty of going the contrary, never cause a person to be at all more exposed to sin, or any thing blameable: because, as the difficulty is increased, so much the less is required and expected. Though in one respect exposedness to sin or fault is increased, viz. by an increase of exposedness to the evil action or omission, yet it is diminished in another respect to balance it, namely, as the sinfulness or blameableness of the action or omission is diminished in the same proportion So that, on the whole, the affair, as to exposedness to guilt or blame, is left just as it was.
To illustrate this, let us suppose a scale of a balance to he intelligent, and a free agent, and indued with a self-moving power, by virtue of which it could act and produce effects to a certain degree, ex. gr. to move itself up or down with a force equal to a weight of ten pounds; and that it might therefore be required of it, in ordinary circumstances, to move itself down with that force, for which it has power and full liberty, and therefore would be blameworthy if it failed of it. But then let us suppose a weight of ten pounds to be put in the opposite scale, which in force entirely counterbalances its self: moving power, and so renders it impossible for it to move down at all; and therefore wholly excuses it from any such motion.
But if we suppose there be only nine pounds in the opposite scale, this renders its motion not impossible, but yet more difficult; so that it can now only move down with the force of one pound; but, however, this is all that is required of it under these circumstances; it is wholly excused from nine parts of its motion: and if the scale, under these circumstances, neglects to move, and remains at rest, all that it will be blamed for, will be its neglect of that one-tenth part of its motion; which it had as much liberty and advantage for, as in usual circumstances it has for the greater motion which in such a case would be required. So that this new difficulty does not at all increase its exposedness to any thing blameworthy.
And thus the very supposition of difficulty in the way of a man’s duty, or proclivity to sin, through a being, given up to hardness of heart, or indeed by any other means whatsoever, is an inconsistence, according to Dr.
Whitby’s notions of liberty, virtue and vice, blame and praise. The avoiding sin and blame, and the doing want is virtuous and praisewrorthy, must be always equally easy.
Dr. Whitby’s notions of liberty, obligation, virtue, sin, etc. lead him into another inconsistence. He abundantly insists that necessity is inconsistent with the nature of sin or fault. He says, in the fore-mentioned treatise, p. 14, “Who can blame a person for doing what he could not helps?” And page 15, “It being sensibly unjust to punish any man for doing that which it was never in his power to avoid?” And in p. 341, to confirm his opinion, he quotes one of the fathers, saying, “Why doth God command, if man hath not free will and power to obey?” And again, in the same and the next page, “Who will not cry out, that it is folly to command him that hath not liberty, to do what is commanded; and that it is unjust to condemn him that has it not in his power to do what is required?” And in p. 373, he cites another, saying, “A law is given to him that can turn to both parts; i.e. obey or transgress it; but no law can be against him who is bound by nature.”
And yet the same Dr. Whitby asserts, that fallen man is not able to perform perfect obedience. In p. 165, he has these words: “The nature of Adam had power to continue innocent and without sin; whereas it is certain our nature never had so.” But if we have not power to continue innocent and without sin, then sin is inconsistent faith necessity, and we may be sinful in that which we have not power to avoid; and those things cannot be true, which he asserts elsewhere, namely, “That if we be necessitated, neither sins of omission nor commission would deserve that name,”(p. 348.) If we have it not in our power to be innocent, then we have it not in our power to be blameless; and if so, we are under a necessity of being blameworthy.
And how does this consist with what he so often asserts that necessity is inconsistent with blame or praise? If we have it not in our power to perform perfect obedience to all the commands of God, then we are under a necessity of breaking some commands, in some degree; having no power to perform so much as is commanded. And if so, why does he cry out of the unreasonableness and folly of commanding beyond what men have power to do?
And Arminians in general are very inconsistent with themselves in what they say of the inability of fallen man in this respect. They strenuously maintain, that it would be unjust in God to require any thing of us beyond our present power and ability to perform; and also hold, that we are now unable to perform perfect obedience, and that Christ died to satisfy for the imperfections of our obedience, and has made way, that our imperfect obedience might be accepted instead of perfect; wherein they seem insensibly to run themselves into the grossest inconsistence. For (as I have observed elsewhere) “they hold, that God, in mercy to mankind, has abolished that rigorous constitution or law that they were under originally; and instead of it, has introduced a more mild constitution, and put us under a new law, which requires no more than imperfect sincere obedience, in compliance with our poor, infirm, impotent circumstances since the fall.”
Now, how can these things, be made consistent? I would ask, what law these imperfections of our obedience are a breach of? If they are a breach of no law that we were ever under, then they are not sins. And if they be not sins, what need of Christ’s dying to satisfy for them? But if they are sins, and the breach of some law, what law is it? They cannot be a breach of their new law; for that requires no other than imperfect obedience, or obedience with imperfections: and therefore to have obedience attended with imperfections, is no breach of it; for it is as much as it requires. And they cannot be a breach of their old law; for that, they say, is entirely abolished; and we never were under it. They say it would not be just in God to require of us perfect obedience, because it would not be just to require more than we can perform, or to punish us for failing of it. And, therefore, by their own scheme, the imperfections of our obedience do not deserve to be punished. What need, therefore of Christ’s dying, to satisfy for them? What need of his suffering, to satisfy for that which is no fault, and in its own nature deserves no suffering?
What need of Christ’s dying to purchase, that our imperfect obedience should be accepted, when, according to their scheme, it would be unjust in itself, that any other obedience than imperfect should be required? What need of Christ’s dying to make way for God’s accepting such an obedience, as it would be unjust in him not to accept? Is there any need of Christ’s dying to prevail with God not to do unrighteously? If it be said, that Christ died to satisfy that old law for us, that so we might not be under it, but that there might be room for our being under a more mild law; still I would inquire, what need of Christ’s dying, that we might not be under a law, which (by their principles) it would be in itself unjust that we should be under, whether Christ had died or no, because, in our present state, we are not able to keep it? So the Arminians are inconsistent with themselves, not only in what they say of the need of Christ’s satisfaction to atone for those imperfections which we cannot avoid, but also in what they say of the grace of God, granted to enable men to perform the sincere obedience of the new law. “I grant, says Dr. Stebbing, “indeed, that by reason of original sin, we are utterly disabled for the performance of the condition, without new grace from God. But I say, then, that he gives such a grace to all of us, by which the performance of the condition is truly possible: and upon this ground he may and doth most righteously require it.” If Dr.
Stebbing intends to speak properly, by grace he must mean, that assistance which is of grace, or of free favor and kindness. But yet in the same place he speaks of it as very unreasonable, unjust, and cruel, for God to require that as the condition of pardon, that is become impossible by original sin. If it be so, what grace is there in giving assistance and ability to perform the condition of pardons? Or why is that called by the name of grace, that is an absolute debt, which God is bound to bestow, and which it would be unjust and cruel in him to withhold, seeing he requires that, as the condition of pardon, which he cannot perform without it?
SECTION COMMAND AND OBLIGATION TO OBEDIENCE CONSISTENT WITH MORAL INABILITY TO OBEY.
IT being so much insisted on by Arminian writers, that necessity is inconsistent with law or command, and particularly, that it is absurd to suppose God by his command should require that of men which they are unable to do — not allowing in this case for any difference that there is between natural and moral inability — I would therefore now particularly consider this matter.
And, for the greater clearness, I would distinctly lay down the following things.
I. The will itself, and not only those actions, which are the effects of the will, is the proper object of precept or command. This is, such or such a state or act of men’s wills is in many cases properly required of them by commands; and not only those alterations in the state of their bodies or minds that are the consequences of volition. This is most manifest; for it is the soul only that is properly and directly the subject of precepts or commands; that only being capable of receiving, or perceiving commands.
The motions or state of the body are matter of command, only as they are subject to the soul, and connected with its acts. But now the soul has no other faculty whereby it can, in the most direct and proper sense, consent, yield to, or comply with, any command, but the faculty of the wills; and it is by this faculty only that the soul can directly disobey, or refuse compliance; for the very notions of consenting, yielding, accepting, complying, refusing, rejecting, etc. are, according to the meaning of the terms, nothing but certain acts of the will. Obedience, in the primary nature of it, is the submitting and yielding of the will of one to the will of another.
Disobedience is the not consenting, not complying of the will of the commanded to the manifested will of the commander. Other acts that are not the acts of the will, as certain motions of the body and alterations in the soul, are obedience or disobedience only indirectly as they are connected with the state or actions of the will, according to an established law of nature. So that it is manifest, the will itself may be required: and the being, of a good will is the most proper, direct, and immediate subject of command; and, if this cannot be prescribed or required by command or precept, nothing can; for other things can be required no otherwise than as they depend upon, and are the fruits of, a good will.
Corol. 1. If there be several acts of the wild, or a series of acts, one following another, and one the effect of another, the first and determining act is properly the subject of command, and not only the consequent acts, which are dependent upon it. Yea, it is this more especially which is that which command or precept has a proper respect to; because it is this act that determines the whole affair: in this act the obedience or disobedience lies, in a peculiar manner; the consequent acts being all subject to it, and governed and determined by it. This determining governing act must be the proper object of precept, or none.
Corol. 2. It also follows, from what has been observed, that if there be any sort of act or exertion of the soul, prior to all free acts of the will or acts of choice in the case, directing and determining what the acts of the will shall be, — that act or exertion of the soul cannot properly he subject to any command or precept, in any respect whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, immediately or remotely Such acts cannot be subject to commands directly, because they are no acts of the will; being by the supposition prior to all acts of the will, determining and giving rise to all its acts: they not being acts of the will, there can be in them no consent to, or compliance with, any command. Neither can they he subject to command or precept indirectly or remotely; for they are not so much as the effects or consequences of the will, being prior to all its acts. So that if there be any obedience in that original act of the soul, determining all volitions, it is an act of obedience wherein the will has no concern at all; it preceding every act of will. And, therefore, if the soul either obeys or disobeys in this act, it is wholly involuntarily; there is no willing obedience or rebellion, no compliance or opposition of the will in the affair: and what sort of obedience or rebellion is this?
And thus the Arminian notion of the freedom of the will consisting in the soul’s determining its own acts of will, instead of being essential to moral agency, and to men’s being the subjects of moral government, is utterly inconsistent with it. For if the soul determines all its acts of will, it is therein subject to no command or moral government, as has been now observed; because its original determining, act is no act of still or choice, it being prior, by the supposition, to every act of will. And the soul cannot be the subject of command in the act of the will itself, which depends on the foregoing determining act, and is determined by it; inasmuch as this is necessary, being the necessary consequence and effect of that prior determining act, which is not voluntary. Nor can the man be the subject of command or government in his external actions; because these are all necessary, being the necessary effects of the acts of the will themselves. So that mankind, according to this scheme, are subjects of command or moral government in nothing at all; and all their moral agency is entirely excluded, and no room for virtue or vice in the world.
So that it is the Arminian scheme, and not the scheme of the Calvinists, that is utterly inconsistent with moral government, and with all use of laws, precepts, prohibitions, promises, or threatenings. Neither is there any way whatsoever to make their principles consist with these things. For if it be said, that there is no prior determining act of the soul, preceding the acts of the will, but that volitions are events that come to pass by pure accident without any determining cause, this is most palpably inconsistent with all use of laws and precepts; for nothing is more plain than that laws can be of no use to direct and regulate perfect accident; which by the supposition of its being pure accident, is in no case regulated by any thing preceding; but happens, this way or that, perfectly by chance, without any cause or rule.
The perfect uselessness of laws and precepts also follows from the Arminian notion of indifference, as essential to that liberty which is requisite to virtue or vice. For the end of laws is to bind to one side: and the end of commands is to turn the will one way: and therefore they are of no use unless they turn or bias the will that way. But if liberty consists in indifference, then their biasing the will one way only destroys liberty, as it puts the will out of equilibrium. So that the will, having a bias, through the influence of binding law, laid upon it, is not wholly left to itself, to determine itself which way it will, without influence from without.
II. Having shown that the will itself, especially in those acts which are original, leading and determining in any case, is the proper subject of precept and command, and not only those alterations in the body, etc. which are the effects of the will; I now proceed, in the second place, to observe, that the very opposition or defect of the will itself, in that act which is its original and determining act in the case; I say, the will’s opposition in this act to a thing proposed or commanded, or its failing of compliance, implies a moral inability to that thing: or in other words, whenever a command requires a certain state or act of the will, and the person commanded, notwithstanding, the command and the circumstances under which it is exhibited, still finds his will opposite or wanting, in that, belong, to its state or acts, which is original and determining in the affair, that man is morally unable to obey that command.
This is manifest from what was observed in the first part concerning the nature of moral inability, as distinguished from natural: where it was observed, that a man may then be said to be morally unable to do a thing, when he is under the influence or prevalence of a contrary inclination; or has a want of inclination, under such circumstances and views. It is also evident, from what has been before proved, that the will is always, and in every individual act, necessarily determined by the strongest motive; and so is always unable to go against the motive, which, all things considered, has now the greatest strength and advantage to move the will. But no further to insist on these things, the truth of the position now laid down, viz. that when the will is opposite to, or failing of a compliance with a thing in its original determining inclination or act, it is not able to comply, appears by the consideration of these two things. 1. The will in the time of that diverse or opposite leading act or inclination, and when actually under the influence of it, is not able to exert itself to the contrary, to make an alteration, in order to a compliance. The inclination is unable to change itself; and that for this plain reason, that it is unable to incline to change itself: Present choice cannot at present choose to be otherwise: for that would be at present to choose something diverse from what is at present chosen. If the will, all things now considered, inclines or chooses to go that way; then it cannot choose, all things now considered, to go the other way, and so cannot choose to be made to go the other way.
To suppose that the mind is now sincerely inclined to change itself to a different inclination, is to suppose the mind is now truly inclined otherwise than it is now inclined. The will may oppose some future remote not that it is exposed to, but not its own present act. 2. As it is impossible that the will should comply with the thing commanded, with respect to its leading act, by an act of its own in the time of that diverse or opposite leading and original act, or after it has actually come under the influence of that determining choice or inclination; so it is impossible it should he determined to a compliance by any foregoing act; for, by the very supposition, there is no foregoing act; the opposite or noncomplying act being that act which is original and determining in the case.
Therefore it must be so, that if this first determining act be found noncomplying, on the proposal of the command, the mind is morally unable to obey. For, to suppose it to be able to obey, is to suppose it to be able to determine and cause its first determining act to be otherwise, and that it has power better to govern and regulate its first governing and regulating act, which is absurd; for it is to suppose a prior act of the will, determining its first determining act; that is, an act prior to the first, and leading and governing the original and governing act of all; which is a contradiction.
Here, if it should be said, that although the mind has not any ability to will contrary to what it does will, in the original and leading act of the will, because there is supposed to be no prior act to determine and order it otherwise, and the will cannot immediately change itself, because it cannot at present incline to a change; yet, the mind has an ability for the present to forbear to proceed to action, and taking time for deliberation; which may be an occasion of the change of the inclination.
I answer, (1.) In this objection, that seems to be forgotten which was observed before, viz. that the determining to take the matter into consideration, is itself an act of the will; and if this be all the act wherein the mind exercises ability and freedom, then this, by the supposition, must be all that can be commanded or required by precept. And if this act be the commanding act, then all that has been observed concerning the commanding act of the will remains true, that the very want of it is a moral inability to exert it, etc. (2.) We are speaking concerning the first and leading act of the will in the case, or about the affair; and if a determining to deliberate, or, on the contrary, to proceed immediately without deliberating, be the first and leading act; or whether it be or no, if there be another act before it, which determines that; or whatever be the original and leading act; still, the foregoing proof stands good, that the non-compliance of the leading act implies moral inability to comply.
If it should be objected, that these things make all moral inability equal, and suppose men morally unable to will otherwise than they actually do will, in all cases, and equally so in every instance; In answer to this objection, I desire two things may be observed. First, That if by being equally unable be meant as really unable; then so far as the inability is merely moral, it is true, the will, in every instance, acts by moral necessity, and is morally unable to act otherwise, as truly and properly in one case as another; as, I humbly conceive, has been perfectly and abundantly demonstrated by what has been said in the preceding part of this Essay. But yet, in some respect, the inability may be said to be greater in some instances than others: though the man may be truly unable, (if moral inability can truly be called inability,) yet he may be further from being able to do some things than others; as it is in things which men are naturally unable to do. A person, whose strength is no more than sufficient to lift the weight of one hundred pounds, is as truly and really unable to lift one hundred and one pounds, as ten thousand pounds; hut yet he is further from being able to lift the latter weight than the former; and so, according to common use of speech, has a greater inability for it. So it is in moral inability. A man is truly morally unable to choose contrary to a present inclination, which in the least degree prevails; or, contrary to that motive which, all things considered, has strength and advantage now to move the will, in the least degree, superior to all other motives in view: but yet he is further from ability to resist a very strong habit, and a violent and deeplyrooted inclination, or a motive lastly exceeding all others in strength. And again, the inability may, in some reselects, be called greater in some instances than others, as it may be more general and extensive to all acts of that kind. So, men may be said to be unable in a different sense, and to be further from moral ability, who have that moral inability which in general and habitual, than they who have only that inability which is occasional and particular. Thus, in cases of natural inability; he that is born blind may be said to be unable to see, in a different manner, and is, in some respects, further from being able to see, than he whose sight is hindered by a transient cloud or mist.
And besides, that which was observed in the first part of this discourse, concerning the inability which attends a strong and settled habit, should be here remembered; viz. that fixed habit is attended with this peculiar moral inability by which it is distinguished from occasional volition, namely, that endeavors to avoid future volitions of that kind, which are agreeable to such a habit, much more frequently and commonly prove vain and insufficient. For though it is impossible there should be any true sincere desires and endeavors against a present volition or choice, yet there may be against volitions of that kind, when viewed at a distance. A person may desire and use means to prevent future exercises of a certain inclination; and, in order to it, may wish the habit might be removed; but his desires and endeavors may he ineffectual The man may be said in some sense to be unable; yea, even as the word unable is a relative term, and has relation to ineffectual endeavors; yet not with regard to present, but remote endeavors.
Secondly, It must be borne in mind, according to what was observed before, that indeed no inability whatsoever, which is merely moral, is properly called by the name of inability; and that, in the strictest propriety of speech, a man may he said to have a thing in his power, if he has it at his election; and he cannot be said to be unable to do a thing, when he can, if he now pleases, or whenever he has a proper, direct, and immediate desire for it. As to those desires and endeavors that may be against the exercises of a strong habit, with regard to which men may be said to be unable to avoid those exercises, they are remote desires and endeavors in two respects. First, as to time: they are never against present volitions, but only against volitions of such a kind, when viewed at a distance. Secondly, as to their nature: these opposite desires are not directly and properly against the habit and inclination itself, or the volitions in which it is exercised; for these, in themselves considered, are agreeable; but against something else that attends them, or is their consequence: the opposition of the mind is leveled entirely against this; the inclination or volitions themselves are not at all opposed directly, and for their own sake; but only indirectly and remotely, on the account of something alien and foreign.
III. Though the opposition of the will itself, or the very want of will, to a thing commanded, implies a moral inability to that thing; yet, if it be, as has been already shown, that the being of a good state or act of will, is a thing most properly required by command; then, in some cases, such a state or act of will may properly be required, which at present is not, and which may also be wanting after it is commanded. And therefore those things may properly be commanded, which men have a moral inability for.
Such a state, or act of the will may be required by command as does not already exist. For if that volition only may be commanded to be which already is, there could be no use of precept; commands in all cases would be perfectly vain and impertinent. And not only may such a will be required, as is wanting before the command is given, but also such as may possibly be wanting afterwards, — such as the exhibition of the command may not be effectual to produce or excite. Otherwise, no such thing as disobedience to a proper and rightful command is possible in any case: and there is no case supposable or possible wherein there can be an inexcusable or faulty disobedience, — which Arminians cannot affirm, consistently with their principles: for this makes obedience to just and proper commands always necessary, and disobedience impossible. And so the Arminian would overthrow himself, yielding the very point we are upon, which he so strenuously denies, viz. that law and command are consistent with necessity.
If merely that inability will excuse disobedience, which is implied in the opposition or defect of inclination remaining after the command is exhibited, then wickedness always carries that in it which excuses it. It is evermore so, that by how much the more wickedness there is in a man’s heart, by so much is his inclination to evil the stronger, and by so much the more, therefore, has he of moral inability to the good required. His moral inability, consisting in the strength of his evil inclination, is the very thing wherein his wickedness consists; and yet, according to Arminian principles, it must be a thing inconsistent with wickedness; and by how much the more he has of it, by so much is he the further frown wickedness.
Therefore, on the whole, it is manifest, that moral inability alone (which consists in disinclination) never renders any thing improperly the subject matter of precept or command, and never can excuse any person in disobedience or want of conformity to a command. Natural inability, arising from the want of natural capacity, or external hinderance, (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 intrinsic to it; either in the capacity of understanding, or body, or outward circumstances.
Here two or three things may be observed: 1. As to spiritual duties or 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 of 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 leave had no opportunity to see, or hear, or come to the knowledge of, 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 understanding. 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 gratitude, 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. 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; I say, in such supposed 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 owing to him. 3. Both these kinds of natural inability that have been mentioned, and so 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 may 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 which his will arises from: in the former it is his authority. But whatever be the ground of the will of him that speaks, or the enforcement of what he says, yet seeing neither his will nor expectation is any more testified in the ore case than the other, therefore a person’s 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 his being known to be morally unable to do what he is directed to by command. So that all this grand objection of Arminians against the inability of fallen men to exert faith in Christ, or to perform other spiritual gospel duties, front the sincerity of God’s counsels and invitations, must be without force.
SECTION THAT SINCERITY OF DESIRES AND ENDEAVORS, WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO EXCUSE IN THE NON-PERFORMANCE OF THINGS IN THEMSELVES GOOD PARTICULARLY CONSIDERED.
IT is what 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, etc., yet they may sincerely desire and endeavor these things, and therefore must be excused; it being unreasonable to blame them for the omission of those things which they sincerely desire and endeavor to do, but cannot do.
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, etc., consisting in the exercise of the will itself, or in the disposition and inclination of the heart; and yet not be able to perform 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 contrary 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, does properly and directly fall 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 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 to move in that direction 2. That which is called a desire and willingness for those inward duties, in such as do not perform, has respect to these duties only indirectly and remotely, and is improperly represented as a willingness for them; 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 alien and foreign, is the object that terminates these volitions and desires. A drunkard, who continues in his drunkenness, being under the power of a love and violent appetite to strong drink, and without 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 feature acts of intemperance, and forsake his excesses, through an unwillingness to part with his money: but still he goes on with his drunkenness; his lavishes and endeavors are insufficient and ineffectual: such a man has no proper, direct, sincere willingness 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 his money, and avoiding poverty, that terminates 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 exceeding, 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 them; 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 undesirable; as when a sick man desires a dose he greatly abhors, to save his life. From these things it appears: 3. That this indirect willingness, which has been spoken of, 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 which the command has respect to. 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 fulfill 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 kindness and tenderness, and has every way, in the highest degree, merited his love and dutiful regard, being withal very wealthy; but the son is of so vile a disposition, that he inveterately hates his father, and yet, apprehending that his hatred him is like to prove his ruin, by bringing him finally to poverty and abject circumstances, through his father’s disinheriting him, or otherwise — which is exceeding cross to his avarice and ambition — he therefore wishes it were otherwise; but yet remaining under the invincible lower 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 have love and honor towards his father at all acquits or excuses before God, for his failing of actually exercising those 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 honor to his worthy parent. If the command be proper and just, as is supposed, 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 to money and honor, 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 a 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 pretense; they were very hearty in their desires not to be tormented: but this did not make their will or desires virtues. And if men have sincere desires, virtue in their kind and nature no better, it can be no excuse for the want of any required virtue. And as a man’s being sincere 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 endeavors arising from such a willingness. The endeavors can have no more goodness in them than the will which they are the effect and expression of. And, therefore, however sincere and read, and however great a person’s endeavors are, yea, though they should be to the utmost of his ability, unless the will which they proceed from be truly good and virtuous, they can be of no avail, influence, or weight, to any purpose whatsoever, in a moral sense or respect. That which is not truly virtuous in God’s sight, is looked upon by him as good for nothing; and so can be of no value, weight, or influence in his account, to recommend, satisfy, excuse, or 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, sincere and earnest desires, and many and great endeavors; 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 the subtracting a thousand noughts from before a real number, which leaves the sum just as it was. Indeed, such endeavors may have a negatively good influence. 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 neighbor that he had ill-will to, who could not swim, holding him up by his hand; which neighbor was much in debt to him; and shout I be tempted to let him sink and drown, but should refuse to comply with the temptation, not from love to his neighbor, but from the love of money, and because by his drowning he should lose his debt, that which he does in preserving his neighbor from drowning is nothing, good in the sight of God: yet hereby be avoids the greater guilt that would have been contracted if he had designedly let his neighbor sink and perish. But when Arminians, in their disputes with Calvinists, insist so much on sincere desires and endeavors, as what must excuse men, must be accepted of God, etc., it is manifest they have respect to borne positive moral weight or influence of those desires and endeavors. Accepting, justifying, or excusing, on the account of sincere honest endeavors (as they are called,) and men’s doing what they can, etc., 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 endeavors. 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 endeavors, this suggests to men’s minds as much as that his heart and will is good, that there is no defect of duty as to virtuous inclination; he honestly and uprightly desires and endeavors 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 endeavors, the thing endeavored 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 endeavor, 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 endeavor arises. If a man has some real desire to obtain a thing, either direct or indirect, or does really endeavor after a thing, he is said sincerely to desire or endeavor 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 who is kind to his neighbour’s wife who is sick and languishing, and very helpful in her case, makes a show of desiring and endeavoring her restoration to health and vigor; and not only makes such a show, but there is a reality in his presence — he does heartily and earnestly desire to have her health restored, and uses his true and utmost endeavors for it; he is said sincerely to desire and endeavor 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 vigor restored, that he may return to his criminal pleasures with her. Or, 2. By sincerity is meant, not merely a reality of will and endeavor of some sort or other, 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, or by-ends: 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 pretense and show of the particular thing to be done or exhibited, without any real desire or endeavor at all. In the latter sense, a man is said to be sincere, in opposition to that show of virtue there is in merely doing the matter of duty, without the reality of the virtue itself in the soul, and the essence of it, which there is a show of. 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 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 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 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 whatsoeverse 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, prayers, 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, etc.; 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 he 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’s doing, what he can, than in the wind-mill’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, there is nothings 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 ease him, according to their light, that they may escape his future displeasure and wrath, and obtain happiness in the future state, through his favor.
SECTION 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 freedoms of will as Arminians 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 inclinations, 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 all 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, 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 disposed and inclined; and the stronger and the more fixed 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 virtuous 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 preceding act of choice, it cannot be virtuous; because the action is not dole in a state of indifference, nor does immediately rise front such a state; and so is not done in a state of liberty. If the action be not determined by a preceding act of choice, then it cannot be virtuous; because then the will is not self-determined 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 perforce 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 Excise, 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 really 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 relief. 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, etc. For according to these principles, there is no harm at all in having the mind in a state of perfect indifference with respect 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 preponderation; and one, even the least degree of preponderation (all things considered) is choice. And not only so, but for the will to be in a state of perfect equilibrium with respect to such crimes, is for the mind to be in such a state as to be full as likely to choose them as to refuse them, to do them as to omit them. And if our minds must be in such a state, wherein it is as near to choosing as refusing, and wherein it must of necessity, according to the nature of things, be as likely to commit them as to refrain from them, where is the exceeding heinousness of choosing and committing them? If there be no harm in often being in such a state wherein the probability of doing and forbearing are exactly equal, there being an equilibrium, and no more tendency to one than the other, then, according to the nature and laws of such a contingence, it may be expected as an inevitable consequence of such a disposition of things, that we should choose them as often as we reject them; that it should generally so fall out, is necessary, as equality in the effect is the natural consequence of the equal tendency of the cause, or of the antecedent state of things from which the effect arises. Why then should we he so exceedingly to blame if it does so fall out?
It is many ways apparent, that the Arminian scheme of liberty is utterly inconsistent with the being of any such things as either virtuous or vicious habits or dispositions. If liberty of indifference be essential to moral agency, then there can be no virtue in any habitual inclinations of the heart; which are contrary to indifference, and imply in their nature the very destruction and exclusion of it. They suppose nothing can be virtuous in which no liberty is exercised; but how absurd is it to talk of exercising indifference under bias and preponderation!
And if self-determining power in the will be necessary to moral agency, praise, blame, etc., then nothing done by the will can be any further praise or blame-worthy, than so far as the will is moved, swayed, and determined by itself, and the scales turned by the sovereign power the will has over itself. And therefore the will must not be put out of its balance already, the preponderation must not be determined and effected before-hand, and so the self-determining act anticipated. Thus it appears another way, that habitual bias is insistent with that liberty which Arminians suppose to be necessary to virtue or vice; and so it follows, that habitual bias itself cannot be either virtuous or vicious.
The same thing follows from their doctrine concerning the inconsistence of necessity with liberty, praise, dispraise, etc. None will deny, that bias and inclinations may-be so strong as to be invincible, and leave no possibility of the will’s determining contrary to it; and so be attended with necessity.
This Dr Whitby allows concerning the will of God, angels, and glorified saints, with respect to good; and the will of devils with respect to evil.
Therefore, if necessity be inconsistent with liberty; then, when fixed inclination is to such a degree of strength, it utterly excludes all virtue, vice, praise, or blame. And if so, then the nearer habits are to this strength, the more do they impede liberty, and so diminish praise and blame. If very strong habits destroy liberty, the lesser ones proportionately hinder it, according to their degree of strength. And therefore it will follows that then is the act most virtuous or vicious when performed without any inclination or habitual bias at all, because it is then performed with most liberty.
Every prepossessing fixed bias on the mind brings a degree of moral inability for the contrary; because, so far as the minding is biased and prepossessed 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, so 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, so 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.
It is 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 or blame-worthy. Because, though we should suppose the habit not to be of such strength as wholly to take away all moral ability and self-determining power; or hinder but that, although the act be partly from bias, yet it may be in part from selfdetermination; yet in this case, all that is from antecedent bias must he 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 exercise of these habits, let them 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 the habits of the mind, because these habits may be the effects of those acts wherein the mind exercised liberty; that however the fore-mentioned 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 established by repeated free acts.
To such an objector I would says that this evasion 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 arc not virtuous or vicious, rewardable or punishable; but only the free acts that established 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 or 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 necessary effects whatsoever, let the cause be never 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, generosity, 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 dispraise, in the most sordid, beastly, malignant, devilish dispositions; in being ungrateful, profane, habitually hating God and things sacred 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 short, 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 lusts are, the more fixed their pride, envy, ingratitude, and maliciousness, still the further are they from being blameworthy. 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 neighbors 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, etc. so much is he further from any thing rewardable or commendable. On which principles, the man Jesus Christ was very far from being praiseworthy for those acts of holiness and kindness which he performed, these propensities being 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 possible distance from being at liberty. And in all cases, 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 has human understanding in exercise.
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, disposition, or habit, can be virtuous or vicious, as has been shown: because they, so far as they take place, destroy the freedom of the will, the foundation of all moral agency, and exclude all 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, cannot make him either the better or worse, any more than a tree is better than other trees, because it oftener happens to be lit upon by a swan or nightingale: or a rock more vicious than other rocks, because rattlesnakes have happened oftener to crawl over it. So that there is no virtue nor vice in good or bad dispositions, either fixed 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?
SECTION ARMINIAN NOTIONS OF MORAL AGENCY INCONSISTENT WITH ALL INFLUENCE OF MOTIVE AND INDUCEMENT, IN EITHER VIRTUOUS OR VICIOUS ACTIONS.
As Arminian notions of that liberty, which is essential to virtue or vice, are inconsistent with common sense, in their being inconsistent with all virtuous or vicious habits and dispositions; so they are no less so in their inconsistency with all influence of motives in moral actions.
It is equally against those notions of liberty of will, whether there Be, previous to the act of choice, a preponderancy of the inclination, or a preponderancy of those circumstances which have a tendency to move the inclination. And, indeed, it comes to just the same thing: to say, the circumstances of the mind are such as to tend to sway and turn its inclination one way, is the same thing as to say, the inclination of the mind, as, under such circumstances, tends that way.
Or if any think it most proper to say, that motives do alter the inclination, and give a new bias to the mind, it will not alter the case, as to the present argument. For if motives operate by giving the mind an inclination, then they operate by destroying the mind’s indifference, and laying, it under a bias. But to do this, is to destroy the Arminian freedom: it is not to leave the will to its own self-determination, but to bring it into subjection to the power of something extrinsic, which operates upon it, sways and determines it, previous to its own determination. So that what is done from motive, cannot be either virtuous or vicious. And besides, if the acts of the will are excited by motives, those motives are the causes of those acts of the will; which makes the acts of the will necessary as effects necessarily follow the efficiency of the cause. And if the influence and power of the motive causes the volition, then the influence of the motive determines volitions, and volition does not determine itself; and so is not free, in the sense of Arminians, (as has been largely shown already,) and consequently can be neither virtuous nor vicious.
The supposition which has already been taken notice of, as an insufficient evasion in other cases, would be, in like manner, impertinently alleged in this case; namely, the supposition that liberty consists in a power of suspending action for the present, in order to deliberation. If it should be said, though it be true that the will is under a necessity of finally following the strongest motive, yet it may, for the present, forbear to act upon the motive presented, till there has been opportunity thoroughly to consider it, and compare its real weight with the merit of other motives: I answer as follows:
Here, again, it must be remembered, that if determining thus to suspend and consider, be that act of the will, wherein alone liberty is exercised, then in this all virtue and vice must consist; and the acts that follow this consideration, and are the effects of it, being necessary, are no more virtuous or vicious than some good or bad events, which happen when they are fast asleep, and are the consequence of what they did when they revere awake. Therefore, I would here observe too things: 1. To suppose that all virtue and vice, in every case, consists in determining, whether to take time for consideration or not, is not agreeable to common sense. For according to such a supposition, the most horrid crimes, adultery, murder, sodomy, blasphemy, etc. do not at all consist in the horrid nature of the things themselves, but only in the neglect of thorough consideration before they were perpetrated; which brings their viciousness to a small matter, and makes all crimes equal. If it be said, that neglect of consideration, when such heinous evils are proposed to choice, is worse than in other cases: I answer, this is inconsistent, as it supposes the very thing to be, which at the same time, is supposed not to be; it supposes all moral evil, all viciousness and heinousness, does not consist merely in the want of consideration. It supposes some crimes in themselves, in their own nature, to be more heinous than others, antecedent to consideration or inconsideration which lays the person under a previous obligation to consider in some cases more than others. 2. If it were so, that all virtue and vice, in every case, consisted only in the act of the will, whereby it determines whether to consider or no, it would not alter the case in the least, as to the present argument. For still in this act of the will on this determination, it is induced by some motive, and necessarily follows the strongest motive; and so is necessarily, even in that act wherein alone it is either virtuous or vicious.
One thing more I would observe, concerning the inconsistence of Arminian notions of moral agency with influence of motives. I suppose, none will deny, that it is possible for motives to be set before the mind so powerful, and exhibited in so strong a light, and under so advantageous circumstances, as to he invincible; and such as the mind cannot but yield to.
In this case, Arminians will doubtless say, liberty is destroyed. And if so, then if motives are exhibited with half so much power, they hinder liberty in proportion to their strength, and go half-way towards destroying it. If a thousand degrees of motive abolish all liberty, then five hundred take it half away. If one degree of the influence of motive does not at all infringe or diminish liberty, then no more do two degrees; for nothing doubled, is still nothing. And if two degrees do not diminish the will’s liberty, no more do four, eight, sixteen, or six thousand. For nothing, multiplied never so much, comes to but nothing. If there be nothing in the nature of motive or moral suasion, that is at all opposite to liberty, shell the greatest degree of it cannot hurt liberty. But if there be any thing in the nature of the thing that is against liberty, then the least degree of it hurts it in some degree, and consequently hurts and diminishes virtue. If invincible motives to that action which is good, talk away all the freedom of the act, and so all the virtue of it; then the more forcible the motives are, so much the worse, so much the less virtue; and the weaker the motives are, the better for the cause of virtue; and none is best of all.
Now, let it be considered, whether these things are agreeable to common sense. If it should be allowed, that there are some instances wherein the soul chooses without any motive, what virtue can there be in such a choice? I am sure there is no prudence or wisdom in it. Such a choice is made for no good end; for it is for no end at all. If it were for any end, the view of the end would be the motive exciting to the act; and if the act be for no good end, and so from no good aim, then there is no good intention in it: and, therefore according, to all our natural notions of virtue, no more virtue in it than in the motion of the smoke, which is driven to and fro by the winds without any aim or end in the thing moved, and which knows not whither, nor why and wherefore, it is moved.
Corol. 1. By these things it appears, that the argument against the Calvinists, taken from the use of counsels, exhortations, invitations, expostulations, etc. so much insisted on by Arminians, is truly against themselves. For these things can operate no other way to any good effect, than as in them is exhibited motive and inducement, tending, to excite and determine the acts of the will. But it follows, on their principles, that the acts of will excited by such causes, cannot be virtuous; because, so far as they are front these, they are not from the will’s self-determining power. Hence it will follow, that it is not worth the while to offer any arguments to persuade men to any virtuous volition or voluntary action; it is in vain to set before them the wisdom and amiableness of ways of virtue, or the odiousness and folly of ways of vice. This notion of liberty and moral agency frustrates all endeavors to draw men to virtue by instruction or persuasion, precept, or example: for though these things may induce men to what is materially virtuous, yet at the same time they take away the form of virtue, because they destroy liberty; as they, by their own power, put the will out of its equilibrium, determine and turn the scale, and take the work of self-determining power out of its hands. And the clearer the instructions that are given, the more powerful the arguments that are used, and the more moving the persuasions or examples, the more likely they are to frustrate their own design; because they have so much the greater tendency to put the will out of its balance, to hinder its freedom of self-determination; and so to exclude the very form of virtue, and the essence of whatsoever is praiseworthy.
So, it clearly follows, from these principles, that God has no hand in any man’s virtue, nor does at all promote it, either by a physical or moral influence; that none of the moral methods he uses with men to promote virtue in the world, have tendency to the attainment of that end; that all the instructions which he has given to men, from the beginning of the world to this day, by prophets or apostles, or by his Son Jesus Christ, that all his counsels, invitations, promises, threatenings, warnings, and expostulations; that all means he has used with men, in ordinances or providences; yea, all influences of his Spirit, ordinary and extraordinary, have had no tendency at all to excite any one virtuous act of the mind, or to promote any thing morally good and commendable, in any respect. For there is no way that these, or any other means, can promote virtue, but one of these three.
Either, (1.) by a physical operation on the heart. But all effects that are wrought in men in this way, have no virtue in them, by the concurring voice of all Arminians. Or, (2.) morally, by exhibiting motives to the understanding, to excite good acts in the will. But it has been demonstrated, that volitions, which are excited by motives, are necessary, and not excited by a self-moving power; and therefore, by their principles, there is on virtue in them. Or, (3.) by merely giving the will an opportunity to determine itself concerning the objects proposed, either to choose or reject, by its own uncaused, unmoved, uninfluenced self-determination. And if this be all, then all those means do no more to promote virtue than vice: for they do nothing but give the will opportunity to determine itself either way, either to good or bad, without laying it under any bias to either; and so there is really as much of an opportunity given to determine in favor of evil as of good.
Thus, that horrid blasphemous consequence will certainly follow from the Arminian doctrine which they charge on others; namely, that God acts an inconsistent part in using so many counsels, warnings, invitations, entreaties, etc. with sinners, to induce them to forsake sin, and turn to the ways of virtue; and that all are insincere and fallacious. It will follow, from their doctrine, that God does these things when he knows, at the same time, that they have no manner of tendency to promote the effect he seems to aim at; yea, knows that if they have any influence, this very influence will be inconsistent with such an effect, and will prevent it. But what an imputation of insincerity would this fix on Him who is infinitely holy and true! So that their’s is the doctrine which, if pursued in its consequences, does horribly reflect on the Most High, and fix on him the charge of hypocrisy; and not the doctrine of the Calvinist, according, to their frequent and vehement exclamations and invectives.
Corol. 2. From what has been observed in this section, it again appears, that Arminian principles and notions, when fairly examined and pursued in their demonstrable consequences, do evidently shut all virtue out of the world, and make it impossible that there should ever be any such thing in any case, or that any such thing should ever be conceived of. For, by these principles, the very notion of virtue or vice implies absurdity and contradiction. For it is absurd in itself and contrary to common sense, to suppose a virtuous act of mind without any good intention or aim; and by their principles, it is absurd to suppose a virtuous act with a good intention or aim; for to act for an end, is to act from a motive. So that if we rely on these principles, there can be no virtuous act with a good design and end; and it is selfevident, there can be none without: consequently there can he no virtuous act at all.
Corol. 3. It is manifest, that Arminian notions of moral agency, and the being of a faculty of will, cannot consist together: and that if there be any such thing as either a virtuous or vicious act, it cannot be an act of the will; no will can be at all concerned in it. For that act which is performed without inclination, without motive, without end, must be performed without any concern of the will. To suppose an act of the will without these, implies a contradiction. If the soul in its act has no motive or end; then, in that act (as was observed before,) it seeks nothing, goes after nothing, exerts no inclination to any thing; and this implies, that in that act it desires nothing, and chooses nothing; so that there is no act of choice in the case: and that is as much as to say, there is no act of will in the case; — Which very effectually shuts all vicious and virtuous acts out of the universe; inasmuch as, according to this, there can be no virtuous or vicious act wherein the will is concerned; and according to the plainest dictates of reason, and the light of nature, and also the principles of Arminians themselves, there can be no virtuous or vicious act wherein the will is not concerned. And therefore there is no room for any virtuous or vicious acts at all.
Corol. 4. If none of the moral actions of intelligent beings are influenced by either previous inclination or motive, another strange thing will follow; and this is, that God not only cannot foreknow any of the future moral actions of his creatures, but he can make no conjecture, can give no probable guess, concerning them. For, all conjecture in things of this nature must depend on some discerning or apprehension of these two things, previous disposition and motive, which, as has been observed, Arminian notions of moral agency, in their real consequence, altogether exclude.