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 42 of 47)
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 42 of 47)
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H h to


A Conference

to entitle their Cabbalci to Aiam^ or Mofes^ or Efdras^ it
feems to be only the Fooleries of Modern Jews^ of which
there is no Trace to be found in Antiquity. And the
two Learned Men Johannes Fkm MiranduU^ and Reuch-*
liniis^ will have the Pythagorean Docflrine of Numbers to
proceed from That, yet they bring nothing but bare Con*
jedure for that Opinion. Nay, *cis plain, that their
Genmtria is a modern Name made from the Greek rw&'/^g7?iot,
and was coined probably by the Jewsoi
dsrjiand^Qtlmg bm what is told th^m an hundred Times over.

Hh 2 Thefg


Thefe wer£ ridiculous Notions of Prayer, which our
Saviour has commanded his Followers to avoid ; and more-
over not to be pofitive in their Petitions, but to refer all
to the good Pleafure and VVifdom of God, defiring after
all, that hh Will he done,
. 2. Neither do Chriflians with Malepartnefs, or Sau-
"^.'efstopray ^^^^^^ P^t up their Prayers to God, but with that Mode-
to Gcd. fly and Humility which becomes Creatures toward their
Creator. 'Tis no Want of refped to ask my Sovereign
a Requeft, when he has commanded me to ask him : But
God Almighty has commanded us to pray to him, and
to come with Boldnefs to the Throne of Grace; and
therefore *tis our Duty to do fo. And whereas you tax
our Notion of Prayer with attributing a Weaknefs to the
Deity to be importun*d or praifed, I think your Notion
does the fame much more. For you judge God Almigh-
ty to be like an earthly Prince, that is not to be addrefl
toby every one, by Reafon of the Multiplicity of Affairs
of a higher Nature, v/hich take up moft of his Time,
and fo is not to be diiluibed by the Applications of little
People, whofe Suits are therefore deem'd impertinent.
^ But, fincc we are fure there can be no Diftradion of

Thoughts, or Streightnefs of Time in God, we know he
is as open and free to receive at all Times, a Suit from the
meaneft of Mankind, as from the mod exalted of the
FrMer ?* ^^^^^^^ ^^ Chriftians in their Prayers to God for

for Rain Rain, Fair-weather, or any other Benefit, exped that
not for a God fhould miraculoufly difturb the Powers of Nature.
Miracle. Qod is the God of Nature, as well as of Mankind,
and has promifed to give us the Fruits of the Earth in
their due Seafon, and all other needful Things to thofe
that ask him. He fends Rains, and Droughts, and Floods,
or Fair-weather, either for the Benefit or Punifliment of
Mankind. I grant that in the ordinary Courfe of Na-
ture, fuch a Qiiantity of Water is evaporated every Day
from the Sea; which Vapoiirs when they grow fo nume-
rous and weighty, that they can no longer be fufpendei
in the Air, M down upon the Earth in JFLains and Show-


Part III. with ^' T h e i s T. 47 1

ers : But then God Almighty, by his Providence, fre-
quently interpofes, that more of them fliall fall in one
Place than in another, to piinifh Mankind for their Faults,
and this is a Jurifdidion, which God continually keeps
over Nature, for the Government of the World; or elfe
Nature would be God, and not he, and Men would
not have that Dependence upon him which they ought.
Now the Exercife of this Jurifdiftion cannot be called
properly a Miracle. For a Miracle is a violent Pertur-
bation of the Laws of Nature, a wonderful and uncom-
mon Superfeding of them, as when Fire is made not to
burnj or Iron to fwim in the Water; but this provi-
dential Interpofition is a gentle leading and diredion of
Nature, in a Courfe not much different from her fettled
Laws, is ordinary and frequent, and fo not generally ad-
mired. Nature it felf is all originally miraculous, and
owing to a Divine Power, but by bein,^ frequently vi-
fible, is not fo furprifing; and this Law of providential
Interpofition is as much God's Natural Law in govern-
ing the World, as the others are in preferving it. *Tis
to this Interpofition of Divine Providence, that Chrifli-
ans in their Prayers appeal ; and this is miore rational and
agreeable to the Wifdom and Goodnefs of God, and the
humble Dependence of a Creature, than any other fanci-
ful Schemes of a Phyfical Predetermination, oran Athe-
iftical Fatality.

4. Nor do v/e pray to God, as thinking thereby ro chrijllam
weary him out by importunate Solicitations, or to give think 7iot to
him a Knowledge of our Wants, afrc. but we ask, becaufe '^''^^^y ^^^^
he has commanded us, and upon our fo doing, has told - ^''-V^^'
us we jlp^tll receive^ And there is the fame Reafon, why
God fnould require Prajer of us, as he fhould do any
other Moral Duty ; becaufe this makes us better Men.
The frequent Returns of this Duty calls us off from
the Confideration of worldly Things, and put us upon
the Meditation of the Divine Nature, his Wifdom, Juftice
and Goodnefs ; to the end, that by frequently contepi-
plating them, we may imitate thofe adorable Perfections.
And the doing this every Day, will much more influence

H h 4 a Man*s



a Man's Mind, than now and then a little philofophick
Taik about them. This will give Men a firm Reliance
upon God's Goodnefs, which the flucftuating Thoughts
of all Soj:ts-T>f Infidels, do in vain wifh for ; this will
excite in our Souls fuch a new Principle of Grace, as fhall
enable us to conquer a corrupt Nature, and to defpife the
World ; this will enable us to love God with the moft
ardent Affection, and by Degrees will fit and prepare us
'"^or to flat- for another more fpiritual Life.

'I^T/-'^^ 5. Befides, you are guilty of another Mi ftake, when
%^bih ! dear Friend^ never let your ill Principles fead yoii to


Part III. "isDtth ^ T H E I s T. 47^

run down thefe Duties of Prayer and T^jankigiving^ which
are the only Stay of Happinefs which Man^^md has in this
World-y without thefe he is an elated Fool in Profperity,
and a miferable dejeded Wretch in Adverfityo he has
no Hope of Pardon, and no Expedation of Reward : Quit
not this Hold, whatever you do, and pray to God for
his Grace and Favour to enlighten your Mind, even whilft. ^
you are an Unbeliever; and if to this you join your ear- "^
neil Endeavours to be fatisfied in your Doubts, God may
give you Grace to believe and pradice that Holy Religi-
on, which you now fo much defpife. But have a care
of totally abandoning the Worfhip of God, for then
you can have no pretence to his Favour; and, tho' you
were willing, I am afraid, you will never be able to
be a Believer.

Phil, Your warm Difcourfe makes me a little ferious,
and I muft needs own that I very much envy the Hap-
pinefs which good Chriftians receive, in their Devotions
and Dependence upon God ; but I have long been ufed
to a more rational and philofophick Way. However
your Arguments feem to carry Weight with them, and
your Advice is good ; and I'll aifure you I will ^iyq them
both a juft Confideration. But in the mean while, I
will proceed to fome other Duty, which Chriftianity en-
joins; and which I have Exceptions to.

Now you Chriftians profefs a Virtue, which you call
Mortification, thereby pretending to abridge your felves
of fome very innocent Pleafures : But methinks this is
perfed fuperftitious Folly. For God Almighty gave us
thefe good Things to enjoy them, and I think we are
Coxcombs if we do not. Indeed we ought not to pro-
fecute our Satisfa6tions by Injuftice, or to pur chafe our
Pleafure, at the Expence of another Man's Grief; but
what reajfbn is there, why a Man lliould not be as happy
as he can, when he does no Body any harm ? I do not
contend, that a Man Ihould become a Beaft for Pleafure;
but, when God lias provided fox us like Gentlemen, why
Ihould w.^ live lik^ Monks f


474- ^ Conference


Mortified' Cred, You very much miflake the Chridian Duty
tionare.^.- qC Mortification, in thinking it to bean unreafonable
rwv^ Injundion. For there is nothing commanded of this
Nature in the Golpel^ but what is agreeable to the jufteft
Reafon : For, when we are commanded by our Saviour,
in the JewijJo Phrafe, toplucJ^ottt our Eje^ and cut off our
Hand that offends us; that is, to tear away from pur Souls
the moft darling AfiFed:ion which may occafion us \o fin ;
or when the ApofHes tells us, 'tis our Duty to crHcif'i the
Flefh with the affections and Lufls; there is nothing in thefe
Injundions, but what unprejudiced Reafon will agree to.
Every one muft own, that 'tis our Duty, to arrive at as
great a Pitch of Virtue as we can, or however to avoid
every known Sin ; now, without Mortification and Self-
denial, to do this is hardly poffible. Our Paflions are
head-ftrong Things, and are not to be governed, by only
denying them unlawful Enjoyments ; if we gratify them
to the height, in all they may innocently enjoy, they
will quickly crave what is noxious. A Man, that never
denies himfelf an indifferent thing, when Temptations
are flrong, knows not how to deny himfelf a bad one.
Therefore all the Parts of Mortification and Self-denial,
are very reafonable and ufeful, to make a Habit of Vir-
tue more eafy to us, and to arrive to a more exalted Degree
of it. Do you your felf be Judge, if a Man fhall not be
more perfecft in the Duty of Temperance, that is very
{paring in the ufe of ftrong Drinks, than one that takes
care only not to drink them quite fo long, till his Rea-
fon be infatuated by them. The firft keeps fuch a wide
Diftance from Intemperance, that there is no fear offal-
ling into it, but the other walks fo near the Brink of the
Precipice, that a thoufand Accidents may make him
mifcarry. Is not a Man farther removed from the Sin of
Gluttony, lefs liable to impure Thoughts, and better
qualified for ferious Study, religious Exercifes and De-
votion, that eats always fparingly and frequently inter-
mits his ordinary Meals, than one that eats every Day to
Repletion? Is not a Man lefs liable to fall into unlawful
Angera that checks this Paflion upon the jufteft Occca-


Part III. "istiith a T H E I s T. 47 5

fions, that accuftoms himfelf to a calm and fober Way of
Converfarion, and has learn 'd to bear the ercateft Indiff-
nities.with a Spirit of Meeknefs^ than one, that fiifFers
his Mind to be ruffled with this Padion, upon every lit-^
tie petty Offence f Nay, even corporal Seventies, if
they be not cruel or fanciful, or done with a Defign of
Satisfaftion, or fuperftitioufly, may have their ufe to
wean and deter Men from Sin, and ihengthen them in ^
Habit of Virtue.

PhiL Another Fault I find with the Chridisn Religion,
is for forbidding Polygamy or Concubinage. For what rea-
fon is there, that this Religion Aiould deny Mankind
that Right, which they claimed in the Patriarchal Times^
and under the Law? If it was unlawful or Inconvenient
then, why did God allow it ? Or if he faw any Incon-
venience in it in latter Times, he might as well have fore-
feen it many Ages before. So that 'tis plain, by God's
allowing it to the Patriarchs, and by the general Pradice
of the World, Mankind has a Right to this Privilege ;
and therefore 'tis an unjufl: Ufurpation upon their Li-
berties, in your new Religion, to abridge them of it.
Befides, Nature it felf condemns this Prohibition, by
making Men more prolifick than Women ; for a Man
may have an hundred , but a Woman can feldom have
above a dozen Children ; a Woman is flerile before fhe
is fifty Years old, whilft Men retain their Fecundity,
oftentimes, to the Extremity of old Age. To fay no-
thing of the Decay of the Beamy and Graccfidnefs of the
other Sex fooner than of ours ; by which Nature does,
as it were, fhew, that it is Time they iliould be laid afide,
when they become unagreeable. Therefore for a Man
to be clogged for his whole \Ji^Q

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 42 of 47)