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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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Fame, but to do Good both to the Souls and Bodies of
Men ; who defpifed all profered Honours, and manifcfted
a perfed: Contempt of the World ; who was fo Kind and
Obliging, fo Meek and Patient, in all his Converfation ;
who prayed for, and laid down his Life, for his Enemies :
What Man can believe (I fiy) that a Perfon, of fuch w-on^
drous Goodnefsy would make ufe of fuch bafe Tricks, as
you fuggeft f This may be fuppofed of an ambitious
Man, or one of an ungodly Life, who had no Regard
to Virtue, or who would do any Thing to gain a popular
Applaufe; but can never be reafonably thought o£'iO good^
and innocent -i a Perfon. as our blelled Lord. You cannot
fuppofe, that he counterfeited this Goodnefs i for, fome
Time or other, fuch an hypocritical Vizor would have
dropped off, in his whole Courfe of Life. For fuch Men
cannot always itand upon their Guard, and, in Converfa-
tion, they will now and then difplay what they really are^
do what they can. And if this had been the Cafe of
Jesus Christ, he having fo many Enemies, fome of
them would have been fure to have catched hold of the
Slip. Or if we can fuppofe him to have been ever fuc-
cef^fully Cautious, after he fet up for his fuppofed Im^
pfiurej . yet how can we imagine him to have aded fuch
a Part for thirty Years before his Preaching ? There is no^
Ground for fuch a Sufpicion, and the plain Opennefs of
l^is Converfation, oftentimes with PHblicans and Simersy

E e I does



4-^ A Conference

does demon Rrate that he was not ading the Hjpocrite^s
Part, who would have induftrioufly avoided luch Ac-
quaintance to gain himfelf a better Reputation.
Becaufe hk 2. Men that kx. up for this Trade of Impoflure, take
iviiracies Care to have as few WitnefTes as ever they can in what

done fo of- ^^ ^ ^^j. ^ ]V|ul|-ifu
fuch Miracles^ which would coft a Aicin fo much Pains to ^^Ti^^
perform, and fo much Danger, if found out, muft needs -no'^hing by
exped fome temporal Advantage by it. No Body could />.
be fo fimple, to forfeit his Honefty, his Fame, and his
Neck for nothing. He would expect fome Recompence
or other, for fucli an hazardous Undertaking, and not
cheat for pure Cheating fake. But what Advantage did
our SiZviour make, or could he expe6i:, from that Im^ojiiirey
which you would fuppofe him to have carried on \ As
for iviwf, and Riches, and Hononry which are the great
Baits that fet all your Impoflors agog, it is plain he defpi-
fed,and undervalued all thefe Things. There is no Doubt
to be made, but that if his Eyes had been upon Gain, he
might have drawn con fiderable Wealth from fuch a Num-
ber of People, which every where followed him ; or at

E e 4 leaft



^n^ A Conference

leafl: he might have raifed himfelf above that Poverty, he
chofe to live in.

So many religious Men and Women^ and fome of them
of confiderable Forrune, would have been very proper
Subjedls, for a Mm of fuch Defigns to have worked
upon ; but this was never objecfled, or fufpeded of him ;
and he was fo little Mafter of Riches, that he was forced
to be at the Expence of a Aliracle^ to pay a fmall Tax.
if Fame or Honour had been his Aim, he would have cn-r
deavoured to have fpread and propagated the Glory of his
miraculous Works ; but he rather endeavoured :, upon all
Occafions, to ftifle them ; and, when the Multitude
would have made him a King, he conveyed himfelf away
from them. The other Mock-^^^^'s were fpurred on
to their Ir^^pofiures, by the Hopes of that Kingdom, which
our Saviour refufed ; but it does not appear, that our Sar
viour had any other Aim, but to do Good to Men's Souls i
and, when ever they talked to him of a temporal Kin^domy
he always told them His Kingdom 7vas not of this World.
If our Saviour had had any Spark of Ambition in him.
That favourable Opportunity would have tried him \ for
the Jews-i at that Time, were full of Expedation 'of a
temporal Meffioi^ and he might have carried the whole Na-
tion after him, if he had but fet up for a fecular Prince,
For that, which difgufred thtyews moft, and made many
of his FollovJcrs leave him, was his Crolling their Notions,.
with Hi fpiritual Kingdom^ which they had no Idea of.
'Tis plam, therefore, if our Saviour had defigned any fe-
cular Advantage to himfelf he v^ould have clofed with
their fond Opinions^ to have gained an Intereft among
them ; but contrariwife, he loft the Favour of many of
their great ones, by Reproving them for their Faults^ and,
at laft, flighted the Kingdom^ they would have conferred
upon him. Therefore (I fay) no Honour could be a
Bait to him to carry on an Impofiure^ who could fo
bravely defpife the greateft of Honours* All that you
can fay, is. That he looked upon it as the greateft Hor^
noHTy to be the Ring-leader of a Sed.

5. Bui



Part III. njinth ^ T H E I s T. 415

5. But then we muft confiden that though this has Becaufe of
been the Inducement for feveral Impoftors, to deceive if ^^ ^/^^
the People, yet this has been, when they thought they irabo/on,
were able to do it without any great hazard, efpecially of

their Lives. Every one, who lived in the Jcwijl:) Com-
mon-wealth, muft needs know what a capital Punifhment
was to be inflided upon Falfe Prophets^ or Impoftors^ an4
therefore no one in his Senfes would venture his Life, for
the fake of fuch a Cheat, where there was not an extra-
ordinary Advantage attending. As for thofe that fet up
for TerA7poral Meffias's, the Cafe is widely different ; they
gathered after them a Number of Men iu a hoftile Way,
who could defend them from the Power of the Law ;
but thofe who propagated a fal/e Religion, in a peaceable
Method, were left naked to the Sword of Juflice, and
therefore they could no otherwife but expe^l, to {acrifice
their Lives for their DoEirme : And, according to your
Suppofi tion, this muft be our Saviours Cafe ; and there-
fore, how can you fuppofe him to be fo fimple, as to
expofe his Life for the fake of a wild Impofturej and for
the Honour of being a Ring-leader to fome few giddy
Followers ? Indeed, in thofe Places, where Liberty of Opt"
nion is tolerated. Men may venture upon fuch an impur
dent Defign ; but this is not to be fuppofed in a Nation,
where the Laws were fo fevere upon Innovators,

Every one, who reads our Saviour s Sermons, muft
allow him to be a Man of common Senfe ; but he muft
have been a Man out of his Wits, to have gone about
to carry on an Impoflure-^ which he muft have been cer-
tain to be executed for. Or, if he had any Hopes to e-
vade the Rigor of the Lcnvs, it muft be by foothing the
Men in Authority; but our Saviour did not in the leaft
attempt this, when by his daily Reproof, he provo-
ked the Scribes and Pharifies, who only were able to
fupport him ; and therefore you muft make him down-
right mad;, to have managed an Impojiure after that Rate.

6. If all thefe Miracles were Cheats andDelufions, tho* SuchNum^
they had the good Luck to pafs upon the People at firft^ ^-^' could
yet fome Time or other the Fr^md muft be difcovered, ^^qIH^^^



4'^6 A Conference

efpecially, fince, if they were Cheats, they muft be ma-
naged by a Combination of feveral People. Suppofe, that
'twas agreed between Ldz^arm and Chrift^ that he fhould
appear only to be dead, and to be raifed by him again ;
that the Widow's Son plaid the fame Trick; that the blind
Men could fee before ; that the lame Men pretended only
to halt; and that the FiveThoufand Men gave only out a
falfe Story, that they had their Bellies full out of fuch a
fmall Provifion^ &c. Nov/ if thefe Miracles were only
pretended, and there being fo many Men confcious to the
Cheats, how fhould it come to pafs, that none of all thofe
fhould ever difcover them ? When a Number of Men are
concerned in a Secrecy, even where the Caufe is moft
juft, fome Tray tor or other betrays the Intriegue; and
therefore you cannot think, there would be more Fide-
lity in fuch a vile Impoflnrey as you fuppofe this to be.
Chrift had one falfe Difiiple among the Twelve ; and
therefore, to be fure, all thofe Five Thoufand Men could
never agree to be Vouchers for fuch a lying Miracle. Or
if they kept his Counfel in his more prosperous Eftate;
yet when he fell into Trouble, if they had any Infince-
rity to accufe him of, to be fure fome or other would
have been brought to his Trial to accufe him ; which
would have given in more material Evidence, than any
thing his Adverfaries then objedled againft him. There
is hardly one fingle Impofinre advanced, but that fome-
thing or other is ftarted up in a httle Time, which, by
comparing of Circumftances together, difcovers the
Cheat: But for fuch a Multitude of /wyo/?«rf;, (which
our Sav'war muft upon your Account be guilty of) car-
ried on by a Confederacy of fo many People^ and in the
fpace of fo many Years never to be difcovered; and for
want of this, that the Jews fhould be forced to take up
with (\xc\\ poor Evidence 2iQpSx\{)i our Saviour; and that all
the Infidels, down fern iht ^poflolick^k^^ to this Time,
fhould have never been able to make any fuch unfair Deal-
ings appear ; this is perfectly incredible, and more mira-*
culoHs-i let me tell you, than any thing that we fay h^

did.

7. But



Part III. "uoith ^ T H E I s T. 417

7. But is it not a little unreafonable, Philologm^ that Allchrifi\
you fhould queftion the Truth of our Saviour'^ Mira- f^^^y'^^y^
cles, which have been owned for fo many Ages, and Miracles,
which the greatefl Enemies of the Chrifti^ Religion never
could be fo hardy as to queftion ? ThtVnbelieversy'm the
Time of Chrifi and his ^poflles^ and in the next folio-wing
Generations^ were the beil able to examine into the Truth
of thefe Matters; but they> after all the Inquifition their
Wit or Malice could make, could not find but that our
Saviour did thefe m'traculom Works, which are attributed
to him; and therefore they fet themfelves only to give an
Account, how he came to do them otherways, than by
the Po7ver of God, which they were unwilling to own he
was aflifted with. The yews, who were conte?ftporary
with our Saviour, attributed them to a diabolical Powers
faying, He cafi out Devils by Beelzebub the Prince of the
Devils* The Heathen Infidels, as Hierocles, Celfm, Ju"
lian, &c. do contend, that they were done by Magickj
and the modern ]t\vs never pretend to difown the Matters
of Fad:, but only fay, thefe extraordinary Things were done
by a right Pronunciation of the Shem Hamphoras, or the in-
expreilible Name o^ God, which Chrift having, by Cun-
ning got out of the Temple, enabled him, (as they tell
us) to do all the Miracles which he did. And befides,
the modern Jews are fo far from difowning the miracu-
lous Pffwer of Chrift, that they have feveral Stories of it
in their Talmud ; as Mahomet himfelf, in his Alcoran, has
the fame. Therefore, methinks, it has a little too much
the Air of Confidence, for the Vnbelievers only of this
Age, to deny his miraculous Power, which has conftantly
been allowed, by the moft inveterate Enemies of Chri-
flianity, for fo many hundred Years ; fome of which li-
ved fo nigh the Time, when thefe Matters were tranA
aded, and were fo fharp-fighted withal, and ow*d fuch
a Spight to Chriftianity, that they would have deteded
the Juggle, if there had been any, altogether as well as,
our Eagle-eyed Wits now a-days pretend 59 do.

^ 8. As



4^8 A Conference

^^f'fi^^h 8. As for your ObjeUiony of Chrifl's not king able to do
fo few Mi- ^^^^^^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^'^^^ Country -i That is grounded on a Mif-;'
rccki in f^ke. For in that Place it is not faid, that Chriji could
hu own not, or did not do any Miracles ; but He did not many
Country, Miracles becaufe of their Vnbelief, And to ufe theWords
of the learned Grotius upon the Place. Chrifl did Mira-
cks round the Country ^ that they who knew nothing ofhimy
might believe in him. For the?n that bega^n to believe'^ he
added new Adiracles-, by which they might be confirmed in
their new Faith, But to thofe, who dejpijed the firfi Mi-
racks, he repeated no more, leafl the Liberality of Godfljould
grow cheap. And indeed for fuch People that flighted ^
Jnis Miracles, what Reafon had God to afford them more,
to trample upon ftill \ But your Argument, which makes
an antecedent Faith, or good Opinion of Chrift, neceifary
for his working Miracles y has no Foundation at all. - For
wherever Ghrift firfl worked Miracles y\\iQ People were incre-
dulous before they faw his Workl^ fo that the firft Miracle
he wrought muft carry its own Evidence with it, and be
truly miraculous. And then what Reafon is there to
think, that he fhould work true Miracles to convert the-
Infidels, and fham ones to beguile the Believers ? If your
Suggeftion be true, that he was afraid of his lmpofiure*s
being difcovered where he was known ; why would he
venture to do any Miracles at all ? For the Hifiory allows>
he did fome, though not many; and one or two fuch
falfe Tricks plaid among a prejudiced People, would have
endangered his Reputation, as much as an hundred.

PhiL But unlefs Chrift had fome foul Game to play^
what was the Reafon that he pick'd up fuch a Number
orAy oi illiterate ftupid Auditors^ y a V^vcAo^ poor Fifl^ermen
and dijfolute Publicans, and a wretched Tribe of Mob, who
were wont to run after him f If he had t defigned to teach
Morality ferioufly, without any By-ends, and had done
real Miracles, he would have had Men of a better Figure
to have been his Difciples; which would have much con-?
tributed to the fpreading of the Gofpel, when it was

* Celfus apud Orig. lib. i. f Julian apud Cyril lib. 6.

con-



Part III. "With a The [ ST. 409

confirmed by the Tefiimony of rhofe, who had a better
judgment and Refutation^ than thofe firft Propagators of
it. But why did he fort out fuch poor ignorant People^
that in (lead of iSf^y?, were qualified only with Credulity^
unlefs he had defigned to make a Property of them. ^ If he
had ,defigned really to inftrud them, he would rationally
have taught them their Duty ; but inflead of this, as '^
Celfus fays, he bids them only believe^ and they JImU be fa-
'ved; he does not cry out on them, to confider the Reafon
of what he fajs-i but only to believe him. Which is a Way
of proceeding which feems to carry much Sufpicion with it.

Cred, The Reafon why fo many poor and unlettered
People were fir ft called to Chriftianity, was, not becaufe
their Simplicity might be more eafily impofed upon, but
becaufe fuch Perfons had better Difpofiions towards it.
Neither our ^S^w^j^r, nor his ^pofllesy did rduk Difiiples
of any Rank whatfoever ; nor were they ablblutely de-
ftitute of wife and rich Men ; for JVicodemusy Jofeph of
^rimathea, and Sergius Paulus^ were Men of a confide-
rable Figure ; but their greateft Harveft was among the
Poor mdVnlearned, becaufe they were better qualified for
the Reception of the GofpeL

For rich Men were fo elated by the Grandeur of their p^^^. i,etter
Condition^ they had fuch a Refped o^PerfonSy and fuch a oiudifiedto
Love for the Honours and Gaieties of this World, that they receive the
rarely could be perfwaded to attend to the Reafons which ^^fP^^^^^^^
were offered by Perfons of fuch a mean Charader and *^ '
Equipage, as our Saviour and hisu^pojlles were. They
might have liften'd to a Word or two, which was fpoken
by fome great DoEior of the Sanhedrim; but they would
not vouchfafe to hear what was faid, by fuch poor Itine-
rant Preachers, Befides, the Do&rine which they taught,
was all Gall and Worrmvood to fuch Perfons ; that Contempt
of the World \w\nch. Chrift's Religion did recommend, that
extraordinary Charity to the Poor, that Patience, Humility^
Rejignation to God*sWill, and Forgivenefs, and loving ofE-
nemiesy which he preached, feem'd perfedly inconiiftent

* Celfus apud Orlg. Ed. Cant. p. zSi. 8c p. 303.

with



45^ A Conference:

with a great Fortune. And therefore *tis no great Won-
der, that but few of them became Converts to fuch unpa-
latable Do^irineSi
The Jgno' And, as for the Wife and Learned of that Time, they
rant than were as much prejudiced again ft the Religion^ which our
the Learn- Saviour taught. The literate JewSi v/ho had been bred
up under the great Rabbins of the Sanhedrin^ had their
Thoughts fo wholly bent upon the ancient Traditions of
their Church, and the celebrated Books and Sajings of
their Mafters, that they looked down with Contempt
upon this new DoEirine^ preached by Men of fo mean
Education as Jefus Chrift and his illiterate Followers;
and thought no one could teach any thing worth attend-
ing to, but who had come out of one of their Rabbinical
Schools* The Greeks had their Heads full of Pagan Phi-
lofophy, and could relifh nothing but what favoured of
their faflnonable Eloc^icncey and fo defpifed the Propaga*
tors of Chrijlianitp as a Parcel of limple, prating, Enthufi*
afiical Mechanicki* And therefore it was very natural^
that our blefTed Lord> and his Apoftles, jfhould make
very few Profelytes out of this fort of Men, when the
Pride of their Learning, and their Opinion of their vain
Philofophy^ was fo great a Bar again ft the Reception of the
plain DoBrines of Chrijiianity,
Thli Choke But our Saviour had another Reafon, befides the natu-»
made the ral Tendency of the Thing, why he chofe to have his
•^l^^^^J^Y followers o^ tho, poorer and illiterate Sort of Men, viz..
more Intra- ^^ ftiew the miraculous Affiflance of God in the propaga-
culotis, ting the Gofpel, and the mighty Force of Chriftianity,
to make its Way through the greateft Obfiacles, There
would be one material Argument loft, for the Proof of
the Divinity of the Chrifiian Religion^ if our Sofviour had
taught it firft to the greateft Clerks among the Jews or
Greeki, or made his Difciples out of Men of great Fami-
lies and Fortunes. It might then be obje(5led> that it
was no Wonder that this Religion throve fo well in the
World, when it was carried on by the united Force of
the Eloquence znd Reafon of fuch celebiated Scholars, and
when it was furthered by Men of fuch Intereft and Re-
putation.



Part III. i^ith a T h E i s T. 4^ i

putation. You Unbelievers, then, would have fallen very
hard upon us with this Argument, that Chriftianity was
only a PolitickSontrivance^ and that it might be very well
carried on with that Succefs it was, when it had all human
Advantages poflible to aflift it. And therefore our blef-
fed Lord^ in his infinite Wifdom, mull forefee the Incon -
lenience of this OhjeElion; and upon that Account, chofe
his firft Difciples to be illiterate Men, who, by the Aflif-
tance of God's Holy Spirit.^ fliould carry on a new Reli-
gion againft all human Probability, and bear down the
Jewifh Ceremonies, and Heathen Idolatry, although
fupported by all the Arts and Diligence of the learned
RMim and Philofophers* And this is the Sum of the
Apofl:le*s Argument. JVot many Wife nor many Noble are
called : But God hath chofen the foolijlo Things of the World,
to confound the wife ; and God hath chofen the iveakfThings
of the World to confound the Things which are mighty. And
hafe Things of the Worlds and Things which are defpifed hath
God chofen; yea-, and Things which are not^ to bring ta
nought Things that are : That no FleJJ^ JJjould glory in his
Pre fence, i Cor. i. i6, &c.

And fo you talk a little too faft, when you fay, that ^hy cLriJi
our Saviour required nothing of his Difciples but only ^^^^'f'



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 38 of 47)