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William Nicholls.

A Conference with a Theist : containing an answer to all the most usual objections of the infidels against the Christian religion ... (Volume 1) online

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fo all might receive fomething of the Expiation.

8. After fo many Ages from the firfi: \Jk of Temples, ^^f fy
it is a very difficult Matter exadly to afcertain the Ori- Tc???plei
ginal of them. , 'Tis true^ Herodotus fays^ the ^^gypti^
ms firft invented them, becaufe the Greeki derived mofl
of their Cuftoms from, that Nation ; and therefore the
Greeks Writers feldom fetch the Original of any Thing
any farther. I am apt to think that there was not a ge-
neral Ufe of Temples, till fuch Time as Idolatry fpread
over the World, and had dedicated the Tombs of He-
roes to a fuperftitious Ufe* But yet long before this,
and as ancient as the Noachicd Times, there were not
wanting Temples, or Houfe^ dedicated to a religious Ufei
For good Men in all Ages have ufed d religious Worihip
in Publickj even in £??w's Time^ whert Mm began to

X cat



3o6 A Conference

call upon the Name of the Lord in publick Congregations^
after Mankind was confiderably increafed ; and there-
fore in great Cities and fetled Polities, the Convenience
of Temples for appointed Places to meet together in,
and to defend from the Injuries of the Weather, could
not be long wanting. The ancienteft Places of religious
Woriliip I take to be Groves ; which w^ere ufed by the
Patriarchs, and were lawful Places of Woriliip till fuch
Time, as by Reafon of the idolatrous Superftition they
were applied to, they were taken away by the Mofaical
Law. So Lm'mn {vj% That Woods and Mountains were
firfl confecrated to the Godsy Lib. de Sacrif. And Pliny
fpeaking of Trees fays, Haccfuere Numinum Templa^ prip
coque ritujimplicia Rura etiam nunc Deo pnzcellentem Arho^
rem dicant, Thefe were formerly the Temples of the Gods,
and thofe rural Places which maintain the ancient andjimplc
Rites J are wont to dedicate an extraordinary Tree to fome
Cod. Thus Gen. xxi. 23. Abraham planted a Grozt
in Beerlheba, and called there on the Name of the Lord^ the
€verlafling God, And it probably was in a Grove, where
Ahrfihum deligned ro lacrifice Ifaac^ and where the Ram
was cauglit in ^Thicket by his Horns^ Gen. xxii. 15*
And fo probably was the Place where Jacob flept, Gen,
xxviii. 2 2. which he fays, fMll be called the Houfe of
God, Not that from hence it can be concluded, that there
were no Temples at that Time, becaufe the Patriarchs
did not ufe them. For they living a paftoral unfettled
Life, could not have Convenience to build them, and
were therefore contented with the more ancient Cuftom ^
but this very laft Text implies, there were at that Time
Temples or Houfes of God, becaufe Jacobs metaphori-
cally, calls that Stone or Place fo, which is an undoubt-*
ed Allufion to the Temples of thofe Times. And in
all Probability Noah built a Temple prefently after the
Flood, for the Convenience of religious Woriliip. He
is in Scripture exprefsly faid, to have built an Altar, Gen.
viii. 20. which is diredly contradictory to Herodotusy
who makes the by. And when thefe corporeal Terms were applied to
God, the People of that Nation knew as well what
\(Vas meant by them, as the Schools do by all their Quid-'
dities. Thus the Eje of God, is the fame as the Provi-
dence of God. So Jer. xxxix. 12. Cafl thine Eye up^
m him^ {i, e,) take Care of him. And 2 Chr, xvi. 5?.
The Eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole
Earthy (i, e,) God takes Care of all People in it. So
the Heart of God was as well underftood by the Jews,

* Author Halic;. 01, c. i . c[uoted ky Hottinger in his Diilertat.
Theolog. Phiiolog.

AS



Part IL istjith .7. T h e i s T. 311

as if it had in more fcholaftick Language been called his
Decrecy or his Will, David was a iVlan after God's ov/n
Heart, that is, lived as he would have him, or accord-
ing to his Willi or Laws. By the Mouth of God they
eahly underftood his revealed Will-i by the Hand of
God's Power, By God his ariflng^ his Vengeance ; by his
hiding himfelfy his Derelicftion, or with-holding his Grace
and Providence, Vid, Adaim, More Nev, Lib, i. A-
■driani Ifagog, Lit, Sac, ^d, per David Hocfchelium, Nor
is there any Reafon to blame the facred Writers for thefe
metaphorical Ways of expreffing the Nature of God,
becaufe they are beft adapted to give the People an un-
derflanding of them, and to animate their AfFedions to-
wards God; whilftdry fcholaflical and abftraded Terms Hehi'ew
would lie flat upon their Minds, and ferve only to amufe -^^S^^^S^
and confound them. And after all, the moft precife py^rrg^ ^^^
^nd philofophick Way of fpeaking concerning the Deity Nature of
muft needs be very improper and altogether metaphori- ^^^^> ""^^/^^
cal. For Languages were not compofed to fpeak of the ^''^'^ ^/'^^**
Deity, but for Men to maintain an Intercourfe with one
another ; and therefore unlefs we would contrive a per-
fect Set of new Words, we cannot fpeak at all of God
if we ihould not ufe our old Terms in a tralatitious Senfe.
And thus the words Providence and Mercj^ dec, if we
refped their original Ufe, and do not take them in a me-
taphorical Senfe, are altogether as abfiird, when applied
to the Deity, as the Eye, or Hand, or Heart of God,
in the groffeft Senfe : For how improper is it, literally
Ipeaking, to fay, God looks before him like Men when
they ad cautioufly, or that God has that earning of
Bowels which pitiful Men have over a compallionate
Objed ? And truly if we fhould perfedly contrive new
Words to fpeak of thefe tranfcendent Truths, they are
fo far above the Reach of our Underftandings, and we
are acquainted fo little with them, that even then there
■would be a World of Improprieties in our Speech con^
cerning them. Therefore, I think, that we may fit
down very well contented with the Jewifh Forms of
Speech concerning the Nature of God j and that we have

X 4 rather



p%



'^ CONFEKENCE

rather great Reafon to blefs his Gocdnefs in ordering it
to be explained in fuch a Way as is intelligible to the
meaneft People, who would have been but amufed and
diftrad:ed at the abftrufe Niceties and Explications which
philofophick and fcholaftick Brains would have made
concerning it. This I take to be a very proper Expli-
cation of thofe human Partj and Affedions which are in
many Places of Scripture attributed to God.

But as concerning feme natural Adions v/hicli are ap-
plied to him, as his walking, coming, going, v/reftling,
^c. this is to be attributed to the Angel which did re.-
prefent the Deity in thofe Appearances. And I doubt
not but it was fuch a vicarious Angel which appeared
frequently before the Fall to Adam and Eve in Paradife.
And that it was the Voice.') or Sound of him ivhom they
heard tvdking in the Garden in the Cool of the Daj, That
is, they heard that Wind or Voice which uled to go
before the reprefenting Angel which they were fuf5cient«-
\y acquainted with. For with this Circumftance the
divine Appearance ufed to be attended. As the Lord
itnjwered Job om of the Whirlwind^ Job xxxviii. And
I Kings xix. And behold-, the Lord faffed by, and a great
md firong Wind rent the Mountains y and after that, an
Earthquake, and a Fire, and a ftill fmall Voice. Now
the guilty Couple under/landing by thefe Preludes, the
coming of the vicarious Angel, hid themfelves for Fear.
Nor did they pretend to make fimple Excufes to God
Almighty out of Ignorance of his Omnifcience, as you
falfely imagine. For they are fo far from that, that they
unhappy Creatures plainly confefs the Fad upon the firft
Charge, in all the naked Circumftances of it. The Wb^
man whom thou gaveji me^ to he with me-, gave me of the
TreC) and I did eat. The Serpent beguiled me-, and I did
tat. There is nothing in thefe Words which implies
any Thing like fuch abfurd Excufes, Only fome fan-
ciful Expoiitors will make Adam here to ihift oflF the
Crime upon his Wife, which God had given him., and
to caft a fevere Reflexion upon God's Ordinance of
We^locka which they fay he hfie flily infinuates to he



Part II. "With ^ Th E I s T. 315

the Caufe of his Fall ; and will have Eve to lay all her
Blame upon the Devil. But the Words import no fuch^
Thing, here is only a juil: ConfejGTion of exad Matter
of Fad ; and I think there is no Reafon they fhould/
make their Cafe worfe than it was, and take the Blame f
of others upon them, when they had fufficient of their
own. Neither is it to be fuppofed, that Mofes defired
to fee the divine ElTence, but only to have the Glory
of the reprefenting Angel more particularly manifefted to
liim, which had hitherto been wrapt up in a Cloud ;
that That might be a more evident Token to the mur-
muring Jews of his Divine Miffion. And it pleafed
God to hearken to this Requeft, and to let the divine
Glory make fuch Imprcffion upon his Face, as dazled the
Eyes of his Beholders. And the Children of Ifiael faw
the Face of Mofesy that the Skin of Mofes's Face flione,
^c. And as for your Inftance in Jonasy which you
triumph fo much in, no Body can with any Reafon
think, that he (fhould be fo filly, as to imagine, that
That Great God whom he worfhiped as the Maker of
Heaven and Earth, fhould have no Power over him out
of the Land of yiidea ; or that he could fuppofe when
he got to TarJJjifi, he fhould be out of God's Prefence.
That was the leaft o£ Jonas s Thoughts ; and the Words
of the Text do not imply any Thing like it. It is
faid, Jonas arofe up to fly to Tarfh'tjloy notMippene, from
the Face or Prefence of God, but Mealpene^ from before
the Face or Prefence of God ; de ad Fades Jehov£ :
That is, he turned his Back upon God at that hazardous
and uncomfortable Revelation, and endeavoured by any
Ways to get off from the Appearance of God at that
Time. He mJght have thought of any other Place to
fly to, v/here his dejeded Fancy led him, as well as
Tarjloip 5 but only that Place lying jull: contrary to Ni-
nlvehy he contrivea to fly thither. He could not think
of avoiding God's univerfal Prefence, which he could
not but know was every where, but only by flying
fomewhere he might avoid God's prophetick^ Prefence at
jhat JimQ, which he W either Hopes he fhould not he

Crie4



ji^ A Conference

tried with again, or elfe fondly imagined, as moft of the
other Jews did, that no Revelation could be afforded in
a Gentile Country.

VhiL I defign to fpeak but one Word more concerning
your Prophets of the Old Teftament ; but that lh.all be
a home Thruft at laft. They feem to me to be either a
Parcel of whimfical crack-brain'd People , that play 'd a
hundred enthufiaftical Pranks to make the Rabble gape at
them ; or elfe were feditious Mutineers that fet them-
felves up, under the Umbrage of God's Authority, to be
faucy with their Princes. Gne of them you may find
pufhing with a great Pair of Horns upon his Head, ano-
ther lying 390 Days upon one Side, and a third marry-
ing a Whore in the midft of his prophetick Spirit. You
may fee Samuel carrying himfelf after that prefumptuous
Rate to King Sanl^ as if he was a School-Boy. And
Hmani the Prophet gives King Afa^ whom the Scripture
remarks for a good King, intolerable Language and Pro-
vocation, only for making a League with the King of
Syr'td, And I think the King did very well for futt'mg
the Seer into the Vrifon-Houfe for his Pains. Now are thefe
Men fit to be trufted with Revelation for the Govern-
ment of the Lives of all Mankind, that are not able to
|2;overn their own Adions or Paffions with common
Decency \

Cred, Your Prejudices, ?hilologus^ tranfport you too
far in cenfuring the Adions of the holy Prophets, with-*
out confidering the Cuftoms of thofe Times, and the ex-
traordinaiy Meffages they were fent about. There are
none of their prophetick Speeches which were delivered
to the Princes of thofe Times, but what are made with
all due Decency and Regard to their Charader; but yet
the Prophets having an immediate Commiflion from God
himfelf, they ought to have fpokcn with greater Boldnefs
to them than every ordinary Haranguer, who could only
pretend to fpeak by Way of Perfuafion. When they
were commanded by God, to reprimand wicked Princes,
and to denounce Judgments againfl: them, they had be-
trayed their Truft if they had not (poken tlie Truth with

Bold-



Part II. 'With ^Theist, 515

Boldnefs ; and had incurred the Penalty of thofe who
feared Gdd lefs than Man. And as for fome unufual Ani-
ons which they did, ^tsAficaiah^s making him Horns of Iron,
that was the iifual Way of thofe Times to prophefy by
Signs ; for under (\.k\\ Hierogljphicd Reprefentations, moft
of the Morality and Divinity of the Eaftern Nations was
couched. Neither were all thofe Signs^ which ai*e re-
lated in the prophetick Writings really aded, but fbme
of them only in Vifion ; and this, in all Probability, was
the Cafe of Hofea^ when he tool^the Wife of Whoredoms^
and Q^ Jeremy when he is faid to have lain fo many Days
on one Side. As for your Inftances in the Prophets Sa-
muel and Hanani ; Samuel had the Adminiftration of
the Jewilh Theocracy immediately under God, before
Saul, and was a Prince when he was but a Peafant, had
fingled him out and anointed him -King, and befides
had the Command of God to rebuke that headftrong
King ; this will bear him out in all his Severity of
Expre (lions he ufed towards him. And as fc«- Hananiy
he did yery juftly reprove King u4fay for his relying on
the King ofu^JJjriay and not on the Lord his God. 'Tis
not his bare making a League with the King of^Jfjriay
which he is reprovea for, but for his putting more Con-
fidence in this than in God's Providence. Befides, to
compafs this he had ufed very indired Means; for he pur-
chafed that King's Favour, by facrilegioufly taking the
Treafures of the Houfe of the Lord, z Chron, xvi. 7. to.
make a Prefent to him. And though the Scripture does
affirm of this King ^Ja^ That his Heart was perfe5l allhii
Days, yet this is to be underftood only of his Zeal againft
Idolatry ; yet feveral grievous Faults he was guilty of, as
particularly the Imprifoning this holy Prophet, and his
Oppr effing the People at the fame Time ^ v. 10. and even in
his h{\iDifeafe it is recorded, that he fought not to the Lord^
hmtothePhjJicians^ v. 12.

Phil, We ai'e arrived now at laft to a Leifure to talk
more particularly of a Mediatorfhip, and a Satisfadion to
be made for Sins. Now your whole Religion is bottomed
upon the Suppolition of that which is all falfe and erro-



3i6 ^Conference

neous, and inconfiflent with the Nature and Goodnefs of
God. For this fuppofes God a rough implacable Being>
that is eafy to be offended, and hard to be pleafed ,' when,
on the contrary, nothing is fo good and kind, and willing
to be reconciled to his Creatures. Indeed the Wicked-
nefs of Men, who have been apt to think every one as
bad as themfelves, has inclined them to have fuch hard
Thoughts of God Almighty, and made many of them
think, for many Ages ago, the Deity to be a fevere Sort
of Being, and the fubtle Priefls found it for their Ad-
vantage to encourage the Notion ; and hence the Pradice
of Sacrificing got into the World. For when Men found
they had done fomething which was difpleafing to God
Almighty, they thought to make him amends another
,Way, and fo would facrifice a good fat Bullock or Ram,
at his Altar. Thi's was the firft filly Logick in early and
barbarous Ages, and the Priefts for their Profit have been
improving it ever fince ; till at laft they have vamped it
up into that Mediatorfhip and Satisfadion which the Chri-
flian Religion is grounded upon. But in the firft and
purer Ages of the World, thefe idle Worfhips were un-
known, when they worftiiped God with Prayers only,
and Praife, and never thought of appeafing the Deity with
thefe foolifh Briberies, which muft be fo far from being
grateful to him, that they muft needs be his Averfation,

What Alan isfnch ajilly Wight,

To thinkjhat Godsfiould e*er delight A

In nafiy Bits of broiled Aieat,

Which hungry Dogs 7V0Hld hardly eat ;

Jind to be fleas' d in fuch a Sort

^ togrm Mm their BleJJings for[t f

r 1^



Part IL 'whhaTn'Eist. ^ij

And this the Scripture-Writers themfelves are forced to
own, although they were bred up under Sacrifices. I^
Bumt'offerings and Sacrifices for Sin thou hafi no Pleafitrem
pral. xl. 7. To vjhat Purpofi is the Mnltimde of your Sacri"
fees unto me^ faith the Lord-^ I am full of the Fat of the
Burnt-offerings of Rams, and the Fat of fed Beajis, and I de-^
lifrht not in the Blood ofBullocksy or of Lambs, or of He-goats i
and the Conclufion from all which the Prophet makes is>
that they fhould lay afide this expiatory Trumpery, and
take up with good honeft Deifm and natural Religion :
Put away the Evil of your Doings from before mine Eyes, ceafh
to do Evil, learn to do Well, feekjjudgment, relieve the Op^



Online LibraryWilliam NichollsA Conference with a Theist : containing an answer to all the most usual objections of the infidels against the Christian religion ... (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 47)