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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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the greatefl Pattern of Virtue that ever was, v/hich is a
Thing I could never bring my Thoughts about to affenc
to. His Religion v/ould pretend to teach Men to mor-
tify all AfFcdions ; and therefore he fhould have been
the mofi eminent Example of this himfelf. But we find
he oftentimes could not gove^rn his PafTion; he feems
frequently to be outrageoufly angry with the- Pharifeesy
calling them many hard Names, Hypocrites^ and Generation
of l^^ipers. Sec, and liberally deals about his AialediEiions
among them, which is the ferfe^ Qhfira^cr of an angry



^lo A Conference

Man-i (as ^ Celfm fays in this IMatter) who when he 'can^
not convince 7ViH threaten, ^4 CharaBer not onlj unbecoming^
a God, btit umvorthj of a prudent Jidan,

Cred, You have not been fufficiently obferving of the
Vtndkatton Life of our blefled Saviour, when you tax him as an an-
of chrtfi's ^^y pgj-fon, who was the moft patient one in the World,
chrTfl' ct I^ T[m{\. not be faid, that our Saviour never had upon
Tfittern of him the PalTion of Anger; but this Paffion was never
the great eji criminal, either for the Caufe, or for the. Degree of it.
Tatiea,'. ^^^ J ^Q^i)^ j^Q^ bm- |-}^ja{- it ^as j-j^e DeCgn of Chrift to

fuffer himfilf to be feen in fome Degree of that Paffion,
to evince the Lawfulnefs of it upon fome Accounts, and
by his Example to confute the Dodrines of thofe Heathen
Stoicksy who would condemn the Ufe of all Paffions, and
fo make all thofe natural Tendencies, which God had
implanted in our Souls, altogether fuperfluous. But our
blelfed Saviour's Doctrine is contrary to thefe paradoxical
Notions, and forbids Anger, only when there is no juft
Caufe for it, Whofoevcr is angrj with his Brother 7mthoHt tt
C^uife, &c. And his Life was exadly anfwerable to this
Dodrine. He was angry, 'tis true, with the Buyers and
Sellers in the Temple; and there was jufl: Reafon for it,
to fee God's Houfe fo irreligioufly abufed. He fhew'd
a Refentment to the Pharifees, and upon very good
Grounds; becaufe they, by their Traditions, had made
void the moral Law of God; they excufed Men from
doing that vv^hich God had commanded, and laid upon
them other unnecelfary Burthens, wdiich God had faid
nothing of. Befides, the Pride and Arrogance of this
Sed, and their Contempt and Hatred of all that contra-
dided them, made it neceffary not to make ufe only of
mild R^atiocination to confute them, (for they fcorned all
Reafon in refped of their Tradition,) but to ufe fome
Smartnefs in the Reprehenfion, to make them fenfible of
their Errors. Thefe were fuch juft and generous Caufes
of this Paffion, as improved it into an extraordinary Vir-
^e; but we never find in the Life of Chrift, that he

* Cclfus apud Orig. Ed. Cantab, p. 1 07.

was



Part III. W^^^Theist. 4-11

ivas peeviilily angry upon fmall Occafions; and upon the
greateft, he ftilf kept his Paffion within the Bounds of
keafon, for he always argues as well, under thofe Emo-
tions of his Soul, as he did at other times. No one could
reafon better upon that Subjed than our Saviour, wh^n
he drove the Money-Changers out of the T'emple, My
Houfc jhail be called a Honfe ^of Prayer, hut joh have made •
tt a Den of Thieves, Bur, when there was no Caufe for
fome Degree of Anger, aixi where the Honour of God
was not immediately concerned, the Life of our Saviour .
was the moft perfect Pattern of Patience in the World.
He anfwers very mildly to all thofe captious Queftions,
which his Adverfaries brought to him to enfnare him :
When they faid he did his Miracles by the Power of »
the Devil,ihe very calmly dem.onftrates, that his Dofh'ine
is contrary to the Devil's Kingdom: When they perfe-
cuted him, he prayed for them, and was willing to the
mmoft, to extenuate their enormous Guilt, Father forgive
themy for they l^ow not what they do, Thefe are not tlie
Characters of an angiy Pcrfon, but of a Soul perfedly
fubjeded to Reafon,' and the Will of God.

But I have farther to urge, upon this Head, That
fome of our Saviour's Expreffions have not that Keennefs
in them, which at firft fight they feem to carry j and
that there was more Reafon for his ufing them, than there
can be for ours. He calls them Generation of pipers,
which looks now like a very hard Word, but it was
much mollified by common Ufe among the Jews, who
meant no more by it than /// Men, or the Seed of the Ser-
pent, Gen. iii. in Oppofition to good Men, or the Chil-
dren of God. And when he calls them Hypocrites, (tho'
that is a Name we ought to be very cautious in giving
to any Men, becaufeVe cannot pofi lively tell whether
they be fo or no ;) yet our bleffed Saviour could fee into
all their clancular Thoughts, and behold that little inward
Reverence they bore to God Almighty, though their
outward Adions pretended to fo much of it ; and there-
fore, having the exadeft Grounds for the Truth of what
be faid, he could not apply that Name wrongfully to

them,*



^I'i A Conference

tliem; nor could that be accounted a pafTionate Woi-d
dropt from him at random, which he was fure he had
the jufteft Reafon to call them by. But it is a fhameful
Calumny to fay, that our Saviour made ufe of PafTion
for want of Reafon, fince his Difcourfes are full of the
mo ft exalted Reafon in the World. Indeed he does not
always make ufe of it, to the obftinate and captious fha.-^
rifees^ becaufe he knew it would be to no purpofe, fre-
quently fending them away with fome fevere Rebuke :
But whenever he had any Auditors of a docible Temper,
as he had, for Inftance, when he preached his Sermon
upon the Mount ; he then teaches Morality upon fuch
excellent Grounds, as the exadeft of the heathen Philo-
fophy falls fhort of.

PhiL Pray, Sir, excufe me if I think there is nothing
fo excellent in the Sermons of Jefus Chrift, as youChri-
ftians imagine. For I take them, for the moft part, to
be poor vulgar Matters, which any ordinary Man may
fay, and * Socrates and Plato have faid much better. They
are only a few mean Parables of a Sower of Seed, of a La^
bourer in a Vinejard-i or a Wedding Feafiy which when the
Moral is made out after the moft fanciful Way, is but
poor dull Morality at the beft, and nothing comparable
to thofe noble Ratiocinations among the Ethnick^Philofi-
fhers. And in the Sermon upon the Mount, which is
the beft of the Performances, there is no rational Account
given of thofe moral Duties he recommends, but he
would have all thofe Rules to be taken upon his Word :
For he gives not a Tittle of Proof of thofe Obligations>
inftead of that, only putting us off with an f IJaj unto
you. Then how can you exped any fenfible Man ftiould
be taken with fuch Ledures, which were fit only for
the poor filly People, which he chofe to have his Fol-
lowers \

Cred, Thofe Parables, which you fo much defpife,
were the moft ancient and moft ufeful Way of conveying

* Celfus apud Orig. Ed. Cant. p. 557. ib. />. 282.
f Julian apud Cyril. Ed. Sfanh. p. \o6.



Part III. "With a The [ sT. ' 4.1 5

Knowledge to the Minds of Men, and they often flick ch-ijl's
with them, when the Impreflions, made by other rational ^l^^'?,^ '^
Difcourfes, are obliterated and forgotten. Hence Phcedms yinjicated.
{ays of the
which do very much difguft me^ as particularly the Ci-
valcade he made upon his Afmege, as one of ouiT friends
^ has expreffed it. To ride upon fuch an odd Sort o£*
Beaft at the Head of a Mob^ is an AUion not becoming
a wife or grave Man, more efpecially the Meffias or Son
vfGod. And does it not look like an Ajf elation ofPopu-^
larity, to fuffer the Rabble to hofannah him all along upon
the Road, and to throw their Cloaths in the Way to grace
the Triumph ? If you and I were to fee the fame Thing
done, by one whom we were not prejudiced by a previ-r
ous Refped to, we could not but think it to be great
Vanity, or Enthufiafm*

^ Oracl. of ReaC p. i6x,

E e Crd.



4i8



A Conference



chrif^s ri' Cred, There is a Complication of Miftakes P/^/to^^/,

aing upon upon which vou ground this Calumny a^ainft our bleffed

r'tdmlouA ^^"" ^^^ 7^^^ thmk it an odd T hmir to ride upon an

^fst becatife Men don't ufually do fo in our Wcfflcrn Cowi^

tries y and the Eaftcrn People, in thofe Times, perhaps,

would have laughed as much at our being fuch Cavaliers

in the Time of Peace, as to mount Horfes upon all Oc-

cafions, which they did very rarely, but in order to Battle.

It was no comical Things as you Wits would make it, to

fee a Man in thofe Ages^ and in that Country^ to ride

upon an Afs ; for Balaam^ who was a great Courtier to

one of the Kings of thofe Countries', rode upon one*

Numb, xxii. 28.

A Tohen of Neither was it any AjfeEiation o^ Popularity which moved

^''^mlN'' ^"^ ^^^^ ^^ ^^^"^ Adion, for that was a Thing which he
iure of his i^pon all Occafions avoided, forbidding the Miracles which
Kingdom, he did to be divulged, and hiding himfclf from the Peo-
ple, when they would have made him a King. But he
was pleafed to make ufe of this mean Sort of Triumph,
as a kind of Hieroglyphical Reprefentation of the Humility
which his Religion taught, and which, by this, he recom-
mended to them. For this was the ufual Way of the
Oriental People to reprefent Things by, as Micajah's pulli-
ing with Horns, and Ez,eklel's boiling the Pot. By this,
he likewife reprefented the Jpiritual Nature of his Kingdom,
which was not of this World; for when the yews ex-
pefted, that their temporal Mefjlas fliould have rode in all
jthe triumphal Glories of a Roman Proceflion, with a Cha-
riot drawn by Horfes of the nobleft Breed, and captive
Princes chained to it ; He, to fhew them their great Mif-
take in this Matter, made a Triumph of another Kindi,
upon a common Beail, borrowed of an ordinary Man, and
not plundered from a dethroned King ; he did not tram-
ple, like the Roman ViUorSy upon Scarlet and Gold, but
only upon the mean Garments of the common People; and
chofe the weak Attendance of his poor unarmed Difciplesy
rather than the armed Guards, which furrounded the im-
perial Perfon. He might, if he pleafed, have commanded
to himfelf thefe> and a thoufmd Tifnes greater Glories :

But,



Part III. "isoith a Theist. 419

Bur, when he fuffered Honours to be paid him, he chofe
even at that Time to teach Humilitj^ and a Contempt of
the Glories of this Worlc^*

Befides, He permitted this Honour to be paid him, to To^jewhhi
demonftrate his Kingly Office^ which it was neceffary the ^^ J^^/^f^
People iliould be informed of ; and he having now, by Fnphet,
Preachinj? a confiderable Time, almoft perfeded his pro- &.c.
fhetickOfficey by his fubmitting to this Triumph, Provi*
dence made Way for his entring upon his Sacerdotal, or
his being a Sacrifice for the Sins of the World, If Chrift
had fuffered the People to have proclaimed him a King
before, the Jews would have laid hold of him, an^d hin -
dered his Preaching ; and if he had not once fubmitted,
though in the humbled Manner, to accept the Honours
of that Dignity, they would not have known him to be
a King as well as a Prophet, which the Mejfias was to be.
And now his Preaching being finifhed, he acknowledged
his Kingdom, not out of any ambitious Defign, ( for
what Pleafure could fo wife a Perfon take in fuch poor .
Honours ? ) but to fulfill the Will of God, and the great
eternal Defigns o^ Providence ; and thereby to give an Oc-
cafion now at laft to rhtyews to murder him, that his inno^



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 37 of 47)