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

. (page 41 of 47)
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he was caught up into Heaven, Thefe were Matters of
TaEi, which required no great Capacities to be [udges of
the Truth of; and if Men had but their Senfes and com-
mon VnderflmdingSs it was enoughs


Part III. "With ^ T K E r s T. 455

3 i JVeither had the ^pofiles Learning and Cunning enough^ 'Becaufe not
to earn on fuch an intricate Lnpofiure of'fi many PartSy as , ''f'''''/^^ ^'
this mtifl conjift of. It required a greater Compafs of Un- c.zrij on
derftandinf? to frame fuch an excellent: Syflcm of Mora- f^ich a,
litj'^ to give fuch an exrrnordinary A'Toanr of the Satis- ^"^^•^'
fdiionfor the ^V/^jand of the Nature and Office o^2i Aiediator ;
to feign the Life and Actions of a AJj/ias. which ihould
io exadly correfpond with the old Prophecies, and the
Types, and Prefigurations of the Adofaical Law\ to fuit
fuch Rewards and Punifhmcnts in another Life^ which
ihould be fo agreeable to Reafon, and fo worthy of God.
Such poor illiterate Men, were no more able to contrive
fuch a wife and noble Inflitution, than they wTre to
frame a World. The Adi^-ns of our Saviour are fo va-
rious, and fo depending one upon another ', there is
fuch a Correfpondrnce between iiis ProphcticI^ Pricfily
and Kingly Office^ that it is not in the Power of the Wit
and Learning o\ Man, to draw up fuch a rational Scheme
of a Mediatorftiip ; much lefs could it be d.- Mie by thofe
unlettered Men, who firfl: preached and attefted thefe

/^, There mi^ht be fome Exception againfl the Tejtimonj of Beecaufe
the Apoflles, // there had been but one or two Witncffs of "'''!:'' ^^'/"^J
7vhat they declard. Suppofe a cunning M^n mi^ht d'^-i^'^^.J^J
ceive one or two iimple ones, oi- their ov/n Fancy miqhc
impofe upon them ; and that the fame might pollibly lay
their Heads together to atteft a Fa!{iry,and make the Parts
of it hang pretty well together. Yet this is impoiTible to
be fuppofed in fuch a Number, as attefted the Miracles
and Doflrine of Chrift. He had Twelve chofn Difci-
ples, who preached -the Gofpel throughout all the World,
in the fame uniform Way ; fo that all thefe could never
have agreed upon a Cheat, and have carried it on cifrer the
fame Manner. 'Tis hard to get fo many into fuch an ill
Dejtgn; but 'tis yet ha'-der to fuppofe, that none of them
all ihould vary in the Relation of the Fallity. Some of
them woitld certainly have been found clafhing in their
telling fuch a long Iham Story, which the cunninged Mm
could hardly have told twice the fame way. But thefe

G g 4 were


A Conference

were not all the Wuneffes of the Trmh of the Go/pel: Thei'C
were many Thoufands of his u4uditors which heard him
preachy and faw his AUracles, and five hundred Men at once
iaw him alive after his Crticifixion, Now 'tis impoffible
that fo many Men fliould all be deceived, or that they
fliould combine together in a Cheats to impofe upon the
Becaufe 5 . Whe?2 a Witnefs has am Interefl to carry onj by aflrange

they got Jlelatiofty there maj he fame Grotmds to fufpe^ his Feracity ;
notrjtng y y^^^ r^^hen Men could get nothing by it, as was the Cafe of
the u4poflles-i what Reajon is there why they ffjould not he be-'
lievedf Indeed, if they could have got more Money by
Preaching than by Piping , there was then fome Ground
to fufped the Truth of what they faid r, but they, poor
Men ! got nothing by all their Trouble and Fatigue of
their Miniflry^ and lived in as mean a Condition, as they
did before. If they had confider'd their Interefl and Eafiy
they would have followed their Manual Occupations IHll,
which had more Profit attending them, and lefs Trouble
and Danger. If they had a Mind to be Rich or Great,
they would have curried Favour with the ^^^2^'; or Ro-
mansi who had the Command of the Wealth and Honour
of that Place ; but they would never have applied them-
felves to the common People, who were fo far from be-
ing able to better the Condition of the Apoflles^, that, for
the mxofl part , they were hardly able to fubfift them-
'Bfcaufe the 6, If a Witnefs, who told a ftrange Story, had laid the
Truth of Scene of the u4^iion many Hundreds of Miles off, in fome
tphat the-: u^fi^equented Part of the World, as Philoflratus does many
elfdy exa- of his Stories in the Eafl-Indies ; or if he had told a hear-
mined. fay Tale done out of the Memory of Man, there would
hzgood Reafon to diftrufl: his Evidence. But when the
u4poflles attefl Matters of Fatiy done in the fame City,
wherein they gave their Evidence, and fome of which
(as pai ticularly Chrifl's ReJurreEiion) they fay happen'd but
a few Months before, this looks natural and free ; efpeci-
ally when the Men they declared it to, had the Opportu^
wtj of examining into, and fatisfying themfelves concerning



Part IlL ipjith ^Theist. 457

it. But if they had made the Story, they would have
been Mad-men to have laid the Scene of it fo nigh home,
and, faid it was fo lately done, or ailign'd fo fmall a Space of
Time fince it was done ; thereby manifeftly expofing the
Cheat to unavoidable Difcovery, and themfelves to the
Difgrace and PunilTiment fo bold an Tmpofture deferv'd.

7. There are mdced f )me Men in the World, v/ho will fl^y fuf-
not (lick to tell a ftrange Lie, it may be feveral Times fcred and
over, as long as they are to lofe nothing by it ; but if this ^^^^{ fr^
be like ro bi ing them into any Trouble, they then fall to ^j'"^ ^^^'
mincini^ ^^nd palliating the Matter ; or, if they can get off ^
no other Way, will ov/n they did not fpeak True. For
it cannot be fiippofed, that any Liar has that Regard to
the Reputation of fpeaking Truth, as to venture any Ha-
zard for it. Then how can it ever be fuppofed, that the
^poftles fhould lay dov^n their Lives, in Defence of an
idle Story they had made ? They might tell indeed fuch
a (Irange Tale, of a Man that rofe from the Dead, and
afcended into Heaven, out of Vanity, when they faw Peo-
ple pleafed with the Strangenefs of the Relation, and ad-
mired them for it ; but this could la ft no longer than they
could do it with Impumty, The Ba^^ter would be fpoiled
when they came before the Sayihedrin or jHdges-^ where
nothing but Death was to be expeded from thole, who
perfifted in a religious Impofiure, Well, but you may fay,
that thej^ having often told a Lie, rather than undergo the
jhame of Retracting it-, would fuffer any Thing for it. This
is altogether as miraculous^ if it were true, as thofe AUra"
cles they vouched , for fuch a thing was never known in
Nature. A Man that has thtBaJenefs to tell a folemn Lie,
can never have the Courage to die for it. We have a Mul-
titude of Inftances of C^^^x, when they have been brought
into Danger, difcovering themfelves, and flying to Mercy;
but I defy you to give an Inftance of any Man who died
for a Frauds when he might have been fav*d for dete^ing
it. Or if it was podible, that fuch a vain-glorious CoX"
comb could be found once in an Age, you cannot fuppofe,
that all the fir(l Propagators of Chriflianity were fuch. Put
your fdfj Philologus^ in the j^pofiles Places, or any other


45^ A Conference

Gentlemen, if you. v/iW, of a generous Education, v/ho hav^
a greater Senfe cf Honour than thefe poor Men could b^
fuppofed to have, and fit Death before you on one Side>
and the Recantation of an \^'\q Story on the otlier, and think,
if you could think fir to die to carjy on the Banter, and
wt)u]d not chufe rather to be laughed at, than to be a
Martyr for 2ifoolip Talc, Now if Men of Honour would
do a thing, which would be fuch a Mortification to them,
rather than lofe their Lives ; what unheard-of Spark of
Honour can you fuppofe to find in the Breads of thofe
plain Fifber-meny that fhould make them rather die, than
to fay any Thing contrary to what they had preached \

Phil. Good ^ir, you run on a little too faft in behalf
of the Apoflles ; for give me leave to tell you, that
their Preaching was not fo void of Gain, nor fo full of
Hazard, as you pretend. If they got nothing by their
vew DoElrine, they had nothing to lofe. And it was an
ample Reward to poor Fifier-men, to be look'd on as in-
fpired Men, and to have all their Followers fubmit them-
felves to them. ^ Peter, 'tis true, left his torn Nets, his
leakj Boat, ^vAfimple Companions', but by being an Apoflle-)
his Words were admired as Oracles-: and he fat at the Helm
in religious Matters, And to be fure, where-ever x\iQu4poflles
went) there was good Chear provided for them. Belides,
there were Gatherings in the new-planted Churches, i Cor.
viii. and there is no Doubt to be made, but the Apoftles
had their Share in thefe ; and St. Paul feems to put in plain-
ly for it, alleging that Paflage of the Law, Thoufialt not
mtiz^'zle the Mouth of the Ox that treadeth out the Corn, Nay,
there mufl be confiderable Sums of Money at the Apo files
difpofing ; for in the AEls of the ^pojiles it is faid, That
the Believers fold all that they had, and laid the Price at the
^poflles Feet, Now all this was Honour and Profit enough
for fuch Men as thefe : It was no great Riches indeed,
but it was a comfortable Maintenance. And how many
Men are there, that venture their Necks every Day for as
little f Befides, I don't fee what great Danger they in-

* Judxus apud Limb, p, 133, 5c 134.


Part III. 'With ^Theist. 459

rurred, by their Preaching, The greatefl: Danger was from
the Jews^ who had Laws agrjnft fuch rmpofmres^ and
rliereiore they very wifely turned to the Gentiles. And
among them there was lirtle Danger, as they ordered Mat-
ters; for they only prcacliecl Jefiis Chrift to be the Son of
God^ and that there was a RefptrreEiion, and th.e like, which
were Things that mi^ht ^o down well enough with the

o Or) O

Heathen World ; but 1 don't find them any-where in the
NvivTeflament preaching again il: /^oZa/rK, which if they
had done, tiie zealous Heathens would jiave immediately
CrLicified them. And 'twas upon this Account, that the
Apoftles inveigh fo much againft the fdfe Brethren, who
were thofe that betray 'd them to the Heathens, that they
run down IdoUtrj in private. Befides, i: does not ap-
pear, but that they did avoid Sujfering as much as they
could; for v/hen Sz.Paulw^iS calied in queftion for teach-
ing contrary to th.e Law of Mofes, he with a great Deal
of Dexterity avoids the Charge, pretending only that for
the RefurnBion of the Dead, and for feeing a Vifion he was
called in qneflion^ Vvhich, though they were not the Points
he was charged with, yet they ferved to fer the Pharifees
and Saddncees a quarrelling, and fo freed him from Danger,
that Time, by that ingenious Prevarication.

Cred. I will fpeak in order to the Obje^ions you have Apoftks
here raifed. You fay the Apoflles haa nothing to lofe^ and rentured
therefore they might venture upon x\\z Preaching theGofpel. their Uves
What though they had no Riches to venture, they had ^^^^
the Reputation of honeft Men^ which lew People will care
to lofe for the fake of an Impofinre ; for an honefi Man^ if
ever fo poor, would not care to be counted a Cheat, And
l{ they had no Reputation^ they had their Liberty and
hives to lofe, and no one, of any Senfe, v/ould care to
venture thefe^ upon no better a Prr»fpe(!l: than you can fup-
pofe the Apoflles fo l^ave ha.-*, for CV^als and Ga'lows.

But yo'^ fiv, They got f^iclt'^.ls by it^ and the Honour of ^^'^ ^^^^ ^'O*
being the Heads of a rdigicus Parn^ and the Dfpofal of the ^^^^qi
Peoples ^Ims An •, irnL'-d, wondrous Matters are 2i\\ orAi>pl{mfe.
^hele, ro make Men 7-nture their Necks for them. It
does not appear, but cLac they lived as well upon their
' . Trade^

4^0 A Conference

Trade, as this comes to. But fuppofing they preached
only for a Livelihood^ yet, was it worth While, for them
to undergo fb much Pains and Danger, for a little Victu-
als \ See the great Comforts of the Apoftlelliip, which
did, as you fay, invite Men to it upon Account of Gain.
They endured Tribulation, Diflrejs^ Perfecmion^ Famine and
Nakedne/sy Peril and Sivord-, Rom. viii. 35. They were
made a SpeElacle to the TForld, to Angels and Men^ and were
Fools for Chriik' s fake ; they were Hungry andThirJij, Na-
ked and Buffet ed-i and had no certain Dwelling-place, St» Paul
Ti^Oifive Times whipped by thejews, three Times beaten with
Rodsy once fioned, and frequent in Prifons, &cc» 2 Cor. xi,
and got his own Livelihood by his own Hands, though
he had a more liberal Education. But fuppofe, they had
got their Yiduals gratis , what Proportion do all thefe
Troubles and Torments bear, to fuch a fmall Conveni-
ency ?
jiad no- But it is an uncharitable Faljity to fay, The Apoftles
thing by gained any Thing by the Colledions which were made.
^IHl-^^ The Contributions, which were firft made, were laid
down before the Apoflles ; but what Advantage did they
make of them, but only to relieve the Poor? If the Apo-
ftles indiredly had reaped any Profit from thefe, they
would have kept them ftill in their own Hands ; but they
inftituted the Office of Deacons to difcharge that Truft,
which they would never have done, if they had preached
the Gofpel for the Sake of the Advantage they made by
fuch Contributions* And the Colledions mention'd by St.
Paul, 1 Cor. viii. were only for Relieving the Poor at Hie^
rufalem in a great Famine, wliich were entirely fent thither
without the Apoftles participating of any Part of them.
And St. Paul was fo far from asking any Share of them,
that he declares that he was burthenfome to none ; that he
got his Living by his own Hands ; and that he preached
the Gofpel gratis , though , if he pleafed, he might in
Juftice demand a Livelihood for it. They that wait at the
jiltar-i are Partakers 7mth the Altar ; even fo hath the Lord
ordained, that the) which preach the Gofpel-, fjjould live of
the GofpeL Bm I havs ufed mm of thefe Things. Neither



Part III. "With ^ The [ ST. 461

have I written thefe Things that it fionld be fo done unto me:
For it were better for me to die^ than thai any Man JJjould
make my Glorying void. And fo again, What is my Reward
then ? Verily that when I preach the Gofpel, I may mal^ the
Gojpel of Chrifi 7vithotit Charge, that I abnfe not my Power in
the Gofpely i Cor. ix. 14. And again, When 1 7vas pre -
fcnt with yoK^ and WiUited^ I was chargeable to no Alan^
2 Cor. xi. 9. And Acfls vii. 14. Te jour [elves know-^ thai
thefe Hands have miniflred unto my Necejfities,

Neither is it true what you fay, that they were in no Vcrfecuted
Danger by Preaching to the Gentiles, - The Reafon, why 4)'G^""^^^»
fo many of the Apoftles left the Jews to preach to the f Tetst'
Gentiles, ^ was not to avoid Peifecuticn, but not to lofe
their Time and Preaching among the ftubborn and hard-
ned Jeivs, who undervalued their Dodrine, and trampled
upon the holy Things. Nay, the Apoftles were fo far
from being willing, upon this Account , to go to preach
among the Gentiles, that they were brought with great
Reluftancy to leave the perfecuting Jeyvs, to preach to
the Heathens. And as for Perfecution, they had as large
Share of it in the Heathen Countries, as in Jud

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 41 of 47)