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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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Air, as well to receive the pleafant Re^
frefhments of fo fine a Day, as to enjoy the Satisfadion
©fa folitary Walk, which would the better entertain his

ftudious




330 A CONFEKENCE

ftudious Thoughts. From the back Part of his Houfe
he had a Row of Trees, which led down diredly to
the River's Side, along which, for the Space of almoft
a Mile, Nature had thrown up a curious green Bank^
fomewhat refembling an artificial Terrace ; which adapt-
ing it felf to the natural Winding of the River, did af-
ford at the fame Time a very agreeable Profped, and a de-
licious Walk. Philologiu had no fooner come to the Ri-
ver's Side, but he efpies at a Diflance, upon the fame
Bank, Credemius^ with a Book in his Hand, walking
foftly and reading. Philologus with more tlian ordinary
Hafte makes up towards him, whom when he came pret-
ty near, he accofts in this manner.

Phil. O my dear Catechifi, good Morrow to you. I
find your Divinity is up before our Humanity. I am
afraid thefe ill-natured Fathers, Cndemius, will not let
you either eat or fleep.

Cred, Good Morrow to you, kind Sir. I find both-
Morning and Evening you are in a pleafant Vein, and
that you can make merry with your Friends as foon al-
moft as you are up. I afluie you, Sir, my Study fel-
dom fpoils my Stomach, or hinders my Repofe ; and
this Book I have in my Hand, is none of thofe formi-
dable Fathers you are fo feared at. It is a Book wrote
by a foreign Divine, a very ingenious and learned Man ;
it is Monfieur he Clerc's Caufes of Imredulitj ; wherein
he has handfomely Ihewn, that the Chriftian Religion is
no Ways to blame, as not affording fufEcient Reafons
of its Credibility ; but that the Gentlemen of your Way
are in the Fault, who carry fuch Vices or Prejudices
within your felves, as do eftrange you from that admi-
- rable Religion, which otherways you could have no Ex-
ception again ft. I will not trouble you with a parti-
cular Abftrad of that excellent Book ; I ihall only re-
commend it to your diligent Perufal, which I doubt nor,
will afford you confiderable Advantage, and will fave us
both fome Words in the Progrefs of our Conference, if
you think fit that we Ihall proceed therein. And if you
will be fo kind as to accept it, the Book is at your Service.

PhiL



Part III. "With ^ T H E I s T. 331

Phil, I thank you, Sir, for your Prefent, and for your
Sake I will give it a careful Reading. But in the mean
Time I muft beg a little more of Credentms% Tutorage,
if he has any Thoughts of making a ChrilHan of me ;
but truly, I think, I have got fuch weighty Arguments
to urge againft your Religion, that if you would but
lay afide your Prejudice and Bigotry, I Ihould not de-
fpair of making you an Inhdel. Hitherto we have had
only fomc little Skirmiilies with you, and have made
only Attacks upon the Out-works of Chriftianity, but
now you mufl: expect that we ifhall affault the very
Heart and Vitals of it. Though the World ihould not
be eternal, nor Mofess Hiflory of the Creation and Fall
ridiculous ; though natural Religion Ihould be a lefs per-
fed: Rule of Morals, and Prophefy not Enthuliafm, nor
Chrift's Satisfadion and Intercelfion fubjed to feem-
ing Abfurdities ; yet if there be Reafon to fufped the
Grounds of Chriftianity, and if I can make out, that the
Proofs which it pretends to, are weak and fhallow, that
the Sincerity of the firft Propagators of it is to be que-
ftioned, that the Body of its Dodrines is contrary to
Reafon and common Senfe, and thofe Books which are
faid to be of divine Infpiration, cannot be thought to
be wrote by Men of good Underftanding ; I fay, if I
can make out all this, I hope I may have the Liberty to
be an Unbeliever ftill ,* but if you have the Luck to
convince me, Credentim^ I mil ajfiire joh^ your Religi-
on fhall be mine. And indeed it will be my great Ho-
nour to fubfcribe to his Opinion, which in every Thing
elfe, befidcs Religion, I would blindly follow.

Cred, I pray God give that Iffue to our Endeavours ;
not that I am fond of the Honour of a Vidory over fo
great an Adverfary as Philologus, but that you may be
delivered from the Danger of thefe ill Opinions, and that
the Example of your Converfion may draw in (as I
doubt not but it will) a Swarm of other little retailing
Unbelievers, who do pin their Infidelity upon your
Sleeve.

Of



5 a A Conference



0/ the Authority of Scripture:

A N D F I R 5 T,

Of the FrediBions ^/CHRIST.

Thil. T3 U T to fpend no more Time in Preamble, that
Jj we may make an End of our Difpute this
Day, I will tell you in what Method I defign to range
the Objedions, which I fhall confront your Religion
with. I now come in Order to fpeak to the Authority
of the Scriptures ; and all that I fhall fay upon this
Subjed, I fhall reduce to thefe two general Heads :
Speaking firfl of the fubjed Matter contained in thefe
two Books : And fecondly, Of the Books themfelves,
their Stile, reputed Authors, and the like. Nor fhall I
go about, to take to Task all the Books of the Old Tefla-
ment, under the firft Head, but confine my felf only to
fome Particulars of the New ; As the ancient pretended
Predictions of the MeJJiasy the Hiflory of the Lives ofChriJi
and his ^poftles, the fuppofed Miracles done by them, and
the DoEirines they preached, I fhall begin with the Pre-
didions of the Meffias,

Now thefe, which many of you Chriftians take to be
flrong Proofs of your Religion, I look upon to be the
greateft Weakneffes in Chriflianity. For there are ma-
ny Places of the Old Teflament, which you quote for
Prophefies of Chrifl, which bear no more Relation to
him, than if you capped as many Verfes out of Hmter
or VirgiL You make a mighty Stir with God's threatning
the Serpent, in the third of Genefis ; and yet that does
r^ot feem to me to be more a Prophefy of the Mefjias,
than the Story of Cadmns ^ the plain Senfe of it feems only
to be, that when the Serpent was doomed to creep on the
Ground, Men Ihould tread upon it j which is all can

reafonably



I^art IIL "with ^Theist. 533

reafonably be meant, by bruifing its Head ; it was only
the falfe GlofTes of fanciful Commentators, that would
underftand the MeJJias's triumphing over the Devil by
his Crofs, from this PafTage. That mighty Prophecy
of Balaam, concerning the Stars coming out of Jacob, and
the Scepter s rijtng out of IJrael^ Numb. xxiv. 17. relates
not at all to Chrift, but to the People of the Jews "^y
whom the Seer, for fome Reafons beft known to him-
felf, had a Well-wifhing to, and faid that, notwith-
ftanding Balakj Oppofition, they were like to be a very
flouriihing People. And as for the Scepter's not departing
from Judah till Shilo corns, 'tis hard to make that a Pre-
didion of Chrift, till we are able to underftand what is
underftood by that obfcure Word ; and befides, *tis
plain that there never was a Scepter in the Tribe o^Jh^
dah fince ZedeJ^ah ; fo that, if this be a Prophefy of
Chrift, you muft make him to have come at the Time
of the Jewifti Captivity, which is a little too foon for
your Purpo{e.

But as for the Prophefies quoted in the New Tefta-
mentj they are ten Times lefs to the Purpofe than the
other ; for they all relate to fuch different Matters from
what they are brought to fpeak for, that it lliocks the
ftrongeft Chriftian Faith to confider; and ftiews, that the
Allegers of thofe Paftages are fo far from being infpired
Authors, that they do not feem to underftand the com-
mon Senfe of Words. St. Matthew, who feems to have
the moft unlucky Hand at thefe Quotations, has two or
three of thefe Paflages all together at the beginning of his
Gofpel. He quotes the 14th of Ifaiah, for a Prophefy
of Chrift's being born of a Virgin f, and yet there is
nothing of the Matter to be found there. For the word
Gnalamah, in that Place, fignifies only a young Woman ;
and fo it is ufed in other places, as Proverbs xxx. 18, ip»
where the wife Man reckons, among the Things not to
be ifcovered, or which leave no Footfteps behind, Tl7e

* Jul. in Cyrill. Ed. Span. i6z, f Cclfus in Orig. Lib. i,
Julian in Cyr. Lib. 8.



534 -^ Conference

fFay of an Eagle in the Air^ 8cc. and the Wa^ of a Man
'ivith a Maid, Now fuch a Kind of Maid as this is, does
not make much for your Purpofe. Befides, if theref' be
any Truth in this Prophefy, it muft relate to feme young
Woman of that Time, probably the Prophet's Wife,
ivvho fhortly was to have a Child, before which Child
fhould be of Years of Difcretion, the Jeim fhould be
delivered from their OpprefTors. And then there is fome
Senfe in this Sign. But to make Ahax. have a Sign gi-
ven him to be accomplilhed at the Birth of Chrift:, fb
many hundred Years after his Death, is a Jeft, and
which a Man muft not only have a great deal of Faith,
but a good Stock of Fancy, to make out. And fo juft
after, when he quotes that Text of Jeremj. Jer. xxxi.
15. Matt. ii. 17. where Rachel^ the Mother of the
Benjamitesy who dwelt in Ramah, is defcribed weeping
for her Children the Inhabitants, which were deftroyed
by God's Judgments ; he applies it, without any Dif»
cretion, to Herod's Murther of the young Children.
So the Words of Hofiay Out of you will talk fo much of Types and Propjie"^
lies, that you will be running, by and by, into an En-
thufiaftical Comment upon Daniel or the Revelations, But
by the Way, Credentiu^^ if we fhould once allow this
typical or allegorical Way of explaining Scripture ^^ one
might prove the Hiflory of Guy ofWknmk^out of the
firfi: chapter o^GeneJts. Nay, the moft E?7thu/iafiical Pha-*
naticks would be the beft Expofitors ; for they are for a
World of myftical Expofitions, and have pretended to
findProphefies of 01diVo//and-^^^^/^^o;^,almon: in every
Book of the Bible. Nay, the principal Fathers of the
Church have perfe(5lly balderdafh'd the Scripture, by thefe
Types and Allegories ; by making whatever they have a
]\lind to, out of any Part of Scripture, and giving us ra-
ther a fine Exercife of their Fancy, than a true Explica-
tion of the Text. And, indeed, fome of your foberer
Interpreters Jtliew fo little a Liking to this Way, that they
do not look upon thofe Texts ofScripture^ which are quo-
ted * as Prophefies in the Neii^ Teflament^ to be ai/y folid
Proof of the Chrifiian Religion ; and Grotius himielf owns,
that the Apoftles did not prove thatChrifl was tht Meffias
by thefe prophetick Teftimonies, but rather appealed to
his Miracles ; allowing thefs only to be brought in for
Ornament fike, and as Arguments which were of no
Force to co.lvince Infidels f, but were only fitted a little
to ftrengthen thofe, who were good Chriftians al-
ready.

* Socin. Leed ; but let us adapt
a proper and convenient Senfe to both. But if the Prophejy be
fuch) that it may be properly interpreted according to theHiJlory^



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 30 of 47)