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§ 10. It is a doctrine mightily in vogue, that God has promised his saving grace to men's sincere endeavours in praying for it, and using proper means to obtain it; and so, that it is not God's mere will that determines the matter, whether we have saving grace or not; but that the matter is left with us, to be determined by the sincerity of our endeavours.
But there is vast confusion in all talk of this kind, for want of its being well explained what is meant by sincerity of endeavour, and through men's deceiving themselves by using words without a meaning. I think the scripture knows of but one sort of sincerity in religion, and that is a truly pious or holy sincerity. The Bible suggests no notion of any other sort of sincere obedience, or any other sincerity of endeavours, or any doings whatsoever in religion, than doing from love to God and true love to our duty. As to those who endeavour and take pains, (let them do ever so much,) but yet do nothing freely, or from any true love to, or delight in God, or free inclination to virtue, but wholly for by-ends, and from sinister and mercenary views, as being driven and forced against their inclination, or induced by regard to things foreign ; I say, respecting such as these, I find nothing in scripture that should lead us to call them honest and sincere in their endeavours. I doubt not but that the scripture promises supernatural, truly divine and saving blessings, to such a sincerity of endeavour as arises from true love to our duty. But then, as I apprehend, this is only to promise more saving grace to him that seeks it in the exercise of saving grace, agreeable to that repeated saying of our Saviour, " to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.” Persons, in seeking grace with sincerity, ask in faith; they seek these blessings in the exercise of a saving faith. And, I suppose, promises are made to no sincerity, but what implies this.
§ 11. On the supposition that the promises of saving grace are made to some other sincerity of endeavour than that which implies true saving piety of heart, they must be made to an undetermined condition, and so be in effect no promises at all. If there be any thing else worthy to be called sincerity, in endeavouring after holiness, but a free, pious inclination, or true regard and love to holiness, nothing better can be mentioned than this, viz. endeavours after holiness, from a real willingness of heart to put forth those endeavours for the agent's own sake, for such ends as prudence and self-love would propose ; such as, his own eternal interest, salvation from everlasting misery, &c. But the thing that truly in this case denominates the endeavour sincere, is the reality of the will or disposition of heart to endeavour, and not the goodness of the will or disposition. Now, if this be the sincerity of endeavour which is meant, when men talk of its being the condition of peremptory and decisive promises of saving grace, then it never has yet been told, and I suppose, never will or can be told, what the condition of the promise is.
The thing that needs to be determined, in order to know this condition, is, how great a degree of this sort of sincerity or real willingness of heart to endeavour, a man must have, to be entitled to the promise. For there can be no question, but that the multitudes who live in gross wickedness, and are men of a very debauched flagitious behaviour, have some degree of it; and every man whatsoever, that uses any endeavour at all for his salvation, or ever performs any religious duty, to the end that he may go to heaven, and not to hell, has this sincerity. For whatever men do voluntarily for this end, they do from a real willingness and disposition of heart to do it; for if they were not willing to do it, they would not do it. There surely are no voluntary actions performed without men's being willing to perform them. And is there any man that will assert, that God has absolutely or peremptorily promised his saving grace to any man that ever stirs hand or foot, or thinks one thought in order to his salvation ?
$ 12. And, on the other hand, as to those that go furthest in their endeavours, still they fail, in numberless instances, of exercising this kind of sincerity, consisting in reality of will. For such are guilty of innumerable sins; and every man that. commits sin, by so doing, instead of being sincerely willing to do his duty, sincerely wills the contrary. For so far as any actions of his are his sin, so far his will is in what he does. No action is imputed to us any further than it is voluntary, and involves the real disposition of the heart. The man, in this painful endeavour, fails continually of his duty, or (which is the same thing) of perfect obedience. And so far as he does so, he fails of sincerity of endeavour. No man is any further defective in his obedience, than as he is defective in sincerity ; for there the defect lies, viz. in his will, and the disposition of his heart. If men were perfect in these, that would be the same thing as to be perfect in obedience, or complete in holiness. Nothing, either of omission or commission, is sin, any further than it includes the real disposition and will; and therefore, no men are any further sinful, than as they are sincere in sinning; and so far as they are sincere in sinning, so far they are deficient of sincerely endeavouring their duty. Now, therefore, where are the bounds to which men must come, in order to be entitled to the promise? Some have a faint sincerity of endeavour, who none do suppose are entitled to the promise. And those that have most sincerity of endeavour, do greatly fail of that degree of sincerity that they ought to have, or fall short of that which God requires. And there are infinite degrees between these
two classes. And if every degree or strength of endeavour is not sufficient, and yet some certain degree of it, greatly short of that which God requires, is sufficient, then let it be determined, what that degree is.
§ 13. Some have determined thus, that if men sincerely endeavour to do what they can, God has promised to help them to do more, &c. But this question remains to be resolved, whether the condition of the promise be, that he shall sincerely endeavour to do what he can, constantly, or only sometimes. For there is no man that sincerely endeavours to do his duty to the utmost constantly, with this sort of sincerity consisting in reality of will so to do. If he did, he would perfectly do his duty at all times. For, as was observed before, nothing else is required but the will ; and men never fail of their duty, or commit sin, but when their real will is to sin. But, if the condition of the promise, be sincerely doing what they can sometimes, then it should be declared how often, or how great a part of the time of man's life, he must exercise this sincerity. It is manifest, that men fail of their duty every day, yea, continually; and, therefore, that there is a continual defect of sincerity of endeavour in the practice of duty.
If it should be said, that the condition of the promise of saving grace is, that, take one time with another, and one duty with another, the sincerity of their will should be chiefly in favour of their duty; or, in other words, that they should be sincere in endeavours to do more than half their duty, though they sincerely neglect the rest : I would inquire, where they find such promises as these in the Bible ? Besides, I think it can be demonstrated, that there is not a man on earth, that ever comes up half way to what the law of God requires of him; and, consequently, that there is in all more want of sin. cerity, than any actual possession of it. But, whether it be so or no, how does it appear, that if men are sincere in endeavours, with respect to more than half their duty, God has promised them saving mercy and grace, though, through a defect of their sincerity, the rest be neglected ?
$ 14. But if we suppose the sincerity to which divine promises are made, implies a true freedom of the heart in religious endeavours and performances, consisting in love to God and holiness, inclining our hearts to our duty for its own sake, here is something determinate and precise ; as a title to the benefit promised, does not depend on any particular degree of sincerity to be found out by difficult and unsearchable rules of mathematical calculation, but on the nature of it; this sincerity being a thing of an entirely distinct nature and kind from any thing that is to be found in those men who have no interest in the promises. If men know they have this sincerity, they may know the promises are theirs, though they may be sensible. they have very much of a contrary principle in their hearts, the operations of which are as real as of this. This is the only sincerity in religion that the scripture makes any account of According to the word of God, then, and then only, is there a sincere universal obedience, when persons love all God's commands, and love all those things wherein holiness consists, and endeavour after obedience to every divine precept, from love and of free choice. Otherwise, in scripture account, there is nothing but sincere disobedience and rebellion, without any sincerity of the contrary. For their disobedience is of free choice, from sincere love to sin, and delight in wickedness. But their refraining from some sins, and performing some external duties, is without the least degree of free choice and sincere love.
If here it should be said, that men who have no piety of heart in a saving degree, yet may have some degree of love to virtue; and it should be insisted, that mankind are born with a moral sense, which implies a natural approbation of, and love to virtue; and, therefore, men that have not the principle of love to God, and virtue, established to that degree as to be truly pious men, and entitled to heaven, yet may have such degrees as to engage them, with ingenuous sincerity, and free inclination, to seek after further degrees of virtue, and so with a sincerity above that which has been mentioned, viz. a real willingness to use endeavours from fear and self-interest :-It may be replied, if this be allowed, it will not at all help the matter. For still the same question returns, viz. what degree of this sincerity is it that constitutes the precise condition of the promise? It is supposed, that all mankind have this moral sense; but yet it is not supposed that all mankind are entitled to the promises of saving mercy. Therefore, the promises depend, as above noticed, on the degree of sincerity, under the same difficulties, and with the same intricacies, and all the forementioned unfixedness and uncertainty. And other things concerning this sincerity, besides the degree of it, are undetermined, viz. how constant this degree of sincerity of endeavour must be ; how long it must be continued, and how early it must be begun. Thus, it appears that, on the supposition of God's having made any promises of saving grace to the sincere endeavours of ungodly men, it will follow, that such promises are made to an undetermined condition. But a supposed promise to an undetermined condition, is truly no promise at all. It is absurd to talk of positive determinate promises made to something not determined, or to a condition that is not fixed in the promise. If the condition be not decided, there is nothing decisive in the affair. If the master of a family should give forth such a pretended promise as this to his servants, “I promise, that if any of you will do something, though I tell
you not what, I will surely give him an inheritance among my children:" would this be truly any promise at all?
§ 15. On the supposition that the promises of saving grace are made to some other sincerity of endeavour, than that which implies truly pious sincerity, the sovereign grace and will of God must determine the existence of the condition of the promises ; and that in which some are distinguished from others; none supposing that all mankind, without exception, have this sincerity which is the condition of the promises. Therefore, this sincerity must be a distinguishing attainment. And how is it that some attain to it, and not others? It must be in one of these two ways; either by the sovereign gift of God's will, or by their endeavours. To say the former, is to give up the point, and to own that the sovereign grace and will of God determines the existence of the condition of the promises. But if it be said, that this distinguishing sincerity is obtained by men's own endeavour, then I ask, what sort of endeavour? Sincere endeavour, or insincere? None will be so absurd, as to say, that this great condition of saving promises is attained to by insincere endeavours. But if it be said, that distinguishing sincerity of endeavour is attained to by distinguishing sincere endeavour, this is to run round in a ridiculous circle ; and still the difficulty remains, and the question returns, how the distinguishing sincerity that first of all took place in the affair came to have existence, otherwise than by the determining grace of God?
§ 16. If we suppose that distinguishing sincerity of endeavour, by which some men are interested in the promises of saving grace, and not others, to be some certain degree of love to virtue, or any thing else in the disposition or exercise of the heart, yet it must be owned, that all men either are alike by nature, as to love to virtue, or they are not. If they are not, but some have naturally a greater love to virtue than others, and this determines some, rather than others, to the requisite sincerity of endeavour after saving grace; then God determines the affair by his sovereign will; for he, and not men themselves, determines all distinguishing qualifications or advantages that men are born with. Or, if there be no difference naturally, but one man is born with the same love to virtue as another, then, how do some men first attain to more of this love to virtue than others, and so possess that distinguishing sincerity of endeavour which consists in it? To say it arises from a previous distinguishing sincerity of endeavour, attempt, desire, or will, is a contradiction. Therefore, it must proceed from the determining grace of God; which being allowed, the great point in dispute is allowed.
§ 17. The assistance by which God assists a drunkard that goes to the tavern, and there drinks excessively, or by which VOL. VII.