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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5. Nci*

C*'-' -

478 y^ Conference

Apsiims ^. Neither is it true what you fay, Th^ Men's AfiSl'r
of Mar- ^^^ 'njs^r ojf as the matmer Age of their Wives comes on,
nantr'tlk ^'^^ ^^^ ^^^J ^^^ ^^"^ agreeable to them then. Indeed, there
tpenr ojf by is no Accountto be given for the luftful Fancies of lewd
•4i^- Men ; but generally fpeaking, Men are naturally moft plea-

fed with a Parity of Age; the Sobernefs and Difcretion,
and decent Comelinefs of thofe latter Years, in Women,
are more pleaGng to Men of a proportionate Age, than
the finer Charms of a blooming Beanty, Nay, OvicHiim-
felf, who mud be fuppofed to underftand thefe Matters
well enough, before he grew in Years, declares for the
ferior (Ztas^ the maturer Age of at lead: Thirty-five^ Otin
cito pofl feptem laftra venire filets

And thefe, perhaps, your Gentlem€n\jo\A6. begin to rec-
kon am^ong youv Vnagrecables, But, in fhort, if Men lead
good and fitber Lives, and behave themfelves with that Ten-
dernefs and AfFe6lion which they ought to do in a con-
jugal State, their Love would not decline with their Tears,
but thf y would carry on a Warmth of AfFedion, even to
the Extremities of Old Age. But as for the Affedions
of lewd Men, 'tis not Youth or Beauty, or any thing elfc,
can fix them; for we often find, that they flight and de-
fpife their virtuous and moft agreeable Conforts, for the
fake of filthy, and often-times unhandfome Proftitutes.
Nor by the ^* Neither is your Argument for Polygamy drawn from
y1); .^V Of'- the fpeedier Decay of feminine Beamy, and their Sterility
cxyoffn.!- i^gfoje xhat of Men, any ways concluding. For in moft
Maniages the Men are, or ought to be fo much fu-
perior in Age to the Women, as will make up this Dif-
proportion, fo that they may grow old together by equal
Degrees of Decleniion. That Women grow fterile fooner
than Men, is no Argument that Nature defign'd the Wo-
man fhou VJ be difmiffed, or another Wife taken in ; for
this may be a Thing purely accidental in Nature, and no
Defign of itj but owing to the more numerous Caufes
of feminine than maf: aline Sterility. But what Reafon
is there that a faithful and fruitful Wife fliould be caft
off for another, when fhe has already born her Husband
more Children than he perhaps can v/ell maintain and



Part III. '^^ith a Theist. 479

provide for ? And when Heaven has given her a ManU"
mijjion from the Pains and Dangers of Child- Birth, why
Tnoiild ilie be abridged then of any Comforts of Ma-
rriniony, which the Man has enjoy 'd liis whole Time
v/ichout Trouble?

7. But the Slavery of the Wives^ and the conflant Fa- o^jeBofja-
iTiily-Quarrels where Polygamy is pradiced, are unanfwe- •^'"' ^'^^*^^^'"
rable Ai-guments againft the Ufe of it. There is a Sort ^TLvery-
of Equality in Marriage, and the Man is as much behold- of/kch '
en to the Woman, as the Woman to the Man. But ^f'^'^^-
where Polygamy is pradiced, the Wife has no Right at

all, the v/hole Set of Wives being all their Husband's
Slaves, and encouraged or dilcountenanced , bed-
ded or turned out, according to his defpotick Will
and Pleafure. Which is fuch a perfed Enflaving one,/
half of God's Creation, that it can never be efteemed a
natural Law, or proceeding from the Eftablirnment of a
wife and jufl: God. Or, if we look into the Quarrels
and Animoliries, among the Mothers and Children in the
Families of Turkey; to obferve their conftant Scolding
and Fighting, the rending and tearing away their Hus-
band's Goods for their refpedive Children, their Jealou-
fies, Stabbings, and Poifonings ; if we have any Confide-
ration, we muft needs highly applaud the Inftitution rf
fingle Marriage in the Chriftian Religion, by which wife
Injundion, Families are freed from thefe miferable Fewds
and Diftradions infeparably attending the other State.

8. But Laftly, 'Tis to meaDemondration, that/'c-^- p^^;;,^^^
gamy has no ground in Nature, and that it does not at all Equality of
contribute to the Peopling the World, but that it rather ^'^letanA
hinders ir. If Nature deligned Polygamy, fhe would ^^^^^^^^
have made three or four Women for one Man; but Ex-
perience {hews, that more Males are born than Females.

In all Accounts of the Births of Children, there is one
in twenty born more of Boys than Girls; which feems
to be a prudent Defign of Nature for a Supply, for the
Confumption of Men in the Wars, and other difficult
Labours, which they are expofed to. Therefore the Num-
ber oi marriageable Men and Women are equal; fo that



if one Man was allowed to have four Wives, there mufi
three other Men go without any Wife at all; which
would be very great Injuftice to be forced to. Neither
would this contribute to the Peopling of the World;
for if all the Men and Women in the World were joined
in fingle MdYriage, they would have more Children, than
if they were fo forted5that fometimes one Man fhould have
half a dozen Wives, and a great many none at all. For
it is not to be doubted, but that fix Men and Hx Womeni
fhalL generally fpeaking, have more Children, than one
Man and fix Women, Therefore, I fay, that feeing there
are but an equal Number of -M";^ and Womenm^f^ Worlds
Polygamy has no Ground in Nature, nor would the World
be better peopled, if it were allow'd. And the fame
Reafon holds againft Plurality of Husbands, or Commu-
nity of Wives, or any other Way of Concubinage or
Matrimony, befides fingle Marriage, which 'tis plain
Nature dire6ls tofolely, by the producing an Equality of
Males with Females,

Phil, The next Do5lnne of Chrifliamty 1 excc\)t ^g^iinU^
is, its not allowing Divorce^ upon Difparity of Temper*
and Intolerablenefs of Converfation, There are fome
Wives of that hellifh Difpofition, that a Man had better
be coupled for Life with a Sucaibusy or She-devil ; their
intolerable Peevifhnefs, clamorous'and fpightful Behavi^
our, make a Man's Life a Sort of Damnation, and occa-
fions feveral to venture it in another World, to get rid
of it here. But what reafon is there, that a Man lliould
be forced his whole Life-time, to abide this Misfortune^
without Redrefs ^ Here was an Errour commited in the
very fundam.ental Contract of Matrimony, and therefore
cught in all Equity, to be redreft. A Man thought of
marrying a fweet-difpofition'd peaceable Wife^-and not
fuch an infernal Shrew ; he reckoned in his Bargain, to
have a meet Help^ as ycu call it, and not a Plague, for
Life. But if Adultery be afuiiicient Reafon for Divorce^
why not Intolerablenefs of Converfation ? For I had a
thoufand times rather be married to a good-natur'd
Whore, than fuch an eternal Scold.

Part III. "with ^Theist. 48 i

Cred. Pray, Sir, let us have no more of this Deck- 'U'^reufcm-
matibn. For if you ferioufly confider the Cafe, you '''^P.^ °^
mufi: needs allow of our Saviour's Determination, that oivones.
Divorce is not to be allowed upon Unagreeablenefs of
Temper. As you have flared the Cafe, you lay all
the Blame on the Woman's Side; but, upon View,
there might be as many Women likewife found, who
v/ould be as glad of a Divorce, upon Account of in-
tolerable Husbands. And I believe moft of your Friends>
who complain fo much of this Reftrainr, by their Lewd-
rtefs and Ill-treatment of their Wives have brought them
to that difcontented Humour. 'Tis true, there is fre-
quently a very uncomfortable Living together of fome,
in a married State^ either through the Fault of Husband
or Wife, or both; but why can't rhefe Faults be alte-
red, without difanulling the Marriage^ If a Man, or a
Woman, be of anangry, fretful, or pofitive Temper>
they muft fubdue their Nature, and redify thefe ill Ha-
bits, and bare with one another's Failures, and then they
may live as comfortably together, as other People : But
as long as they give the Reins to thefe exorbitant Paf-
fions, they may divorce and marrj^ and divorce again,
till Doomfday ^ and live never the more happy for it.
But granting, that there are fome married together, of
Tuch a Difparity of Tempei', that they can never live hap-
py ; it is better they fhould fuflPer a little, than the World
iliould be put in Diftradion by a Licence of Divorce,
upon Pretence of this. The bed Laws, that are in the
World, happen accidentally, fometimes, to lie hard upon
fomje, and yet fo univerfal is their Benefit, that no rea-
fonable Man would defire the repeal of them, becaufe
fome few Men may chance to fufer by them. Would
you be content, that the Nation Hiould'fufFer all the Mi-
feries which arbitrary Divorces would bring, only ta
have fome of your Friends rid of crofs Wives ? How
many wicked Pretences would there be to caft off ho-
neft and virtuous Wives, when the vitioifs Husbands
had feen fome Body G\k they liked better? Divorces,
upon fome fpecial Reafons, were allow'd to the Jews^

A.8i A Conference

^ but then, as appears by their Rabbies^ they were incouraged

by this, to take any Occafion to do it. Malmonides allows
it a juft Caufe for Divorce, That the Wife is not Well-bred,
others, that floe does not fait ^ or drefs her Hmband's Meat
well, and R» Akiba fays the Caufe is Jufl-, If he can Marry
a Womafi handfomerthan his Wife y becaufe it isfai'd, if pe does
not fnd Favour in his Eyes, And if Divorces fliould
once come to be tolerated ; fuch fort of Cafuifls as thefe,
would be mightily in Requefl:. But put the Cafe home
to your felf : If you had a civil virtuous Daughter, Mar-
ried to a lewd Gentleman, would you be willing, that,
when he had given her all the Prov^ocations imaginable to
provoke her Paflion, by an alienating of his Affedion ;
and by a Converfation with lewd Women, I fay, would
you be willing after all this, that hefhouldhave the Power
of branding her Vv^ith the Name of an untameable Shrew
and turning her Home again. If this was tolerated, it
would bring an unknown Train of Wickednefs into
the World , in an Age which is but too wicked alrea-
dy. Husbands would throw off their Wives for their
Waiting- Women ; Wives would often leave their anti-
enter Husbands for young fpruce Gallants; the Chil-
dren of the divorced Wife would often be turned out,
with their Mother, or Difinherited of their lawful In-
heritance, to gratify the new Spoufe; Law-Suits would
continually arife am^ong the different Children, for their
.Share of the Patrimony, or when they were Young,
•would be cruelly abufed by the latter Wife, or by their
Father, who would be influenced by her; and thebeft
Familifs, in little tim.e, would be reduced to Beggary,
by Contentions, or a multitude of Children. Now thefe
are fach miferabk Inconveniencies^ that a little uncom-
fortable LJvini^ with a froward Wife, is much rather to
be chcfen, than ro be forced to undergo them. Ther€-
ion: you Unbelievers have no Reafon to find Fault with
this ' ajunction, or Determination of our Bleffed Saviour
in ^his Cafe'; but have rather great Reafon to admire his
Vv^ifd'-^ra, in forbidding a Cuflom, which tends fo much to
the Bane of the Common-wealthy and of all humane So-
ciety. - - pigii^ Ano-^

Part ni. "with ^ T H E I s T. 48^

PhiL Another Objedion, which I have againfl the
doftrinal Part of Chriflianity, is, becaufe it teaches Meek-
nefs and Humility; which in my Mind, are Qiialifi ca-
tions for a Sheep, and not for a Man, Thefe are ^ De-
fpondencies of Mind-, for a Mans not being fo conlide-
rable as he ought to be, but then he ought to arrive to
that Pitch , and not to be creeping in a lower Clafs of
Virtue, when he ought to have advanced himfelf to an
higher. And therefore I like Machlaijd's Notion very
well, who fays the Chriflian Religion is not a proper Re-
ligion for a brave Prince, for if it have any InHuence-
upon him, it will infed his Soul with fuch a poor Pu-
fillanimity, as will render him unfit for any great or
glorious Actions. Thefe are Virtues unheard of by the
Greekl snd Romans ^ who ftudied thefe Matters the befl:,
for their Philofophers read noble Leflures upon Magnani-
mity, and a Generoufnefs of Soul but never thought of
twofuchriarrow-fpirited Habits, :i^A'iceknefs :\ndH^imility, ,

Cred» I very much wonder, you lliould go about ^^li'^i'Ilty
to undervalue and expofe that modeft and humble Tern- "'^^^^^^^^^^
per of Mind, which our Religion recommends, under '/'irmei,
the Names of Meehn^fs and Humility, 1 fliould think
you rtiould rather look upon it, as the great Glory of
our Saviour's Inftitution, to recommend a Virtue, which
js fo ufeful to Society, and which yet the mod: learned
Sages of the World have pcifTsd over unregarded, iti
their Ethicks. The Heathen Philofophers m.ake a mighty
Stir, with their Magnanimity^ or Bravery of Soul ^ and
yet all this, at the bottom, is nothing but unrej^enei ate
Pride. A Man perhaps had enjoy'd the Honour of a
confiderable Vidlory, was born in the famous Ciry of
Athens, had ftudied fome Years in the Porch or Academjy
had gotten fome Fallacies together, to prove that Nothmg
could be made out of Nothing, that there could be no
Motion, that a ^vife Aian was happy in Pain, or that
Virtue was an Animal, &c. and the vain Man was fo
plated with one or two of thefe Trifles, that he delpi"

* spinoff Op. Poftuma. p. loj*.
I i %

.84. ^Conference

fed all the World befides , as barbarous Fools , and an
unthinking Mob, Others laid down for themfelves-
fome Principles of Honour which were in Repute with
the common People, and they chofe clofely to follow
thefe, becaufe they found they fhould be applauded for
it, and mightily admired. Now this Sort of Pride they
gave a good Name to, and fliled Magnammitj-i or Great-
nefs of SouU and m.ade this pafs too for another venerable
Quality amcngft the People, who were fo well managed
as to admire the Philofophers the more for their defpi-
iing them. But I wonder you fliould fo abandon your
Heafbn, as to find Fault with our Chr'tftim Humilitj^ and
extol this fhilofophicl^ Pride for a famous Virtue. Do
you your felf be Judge; which is the mofl; commenda-
ble Quality, for a Mm humbly to acknowledge his
own Imperfedions and Failures, and to own how far
he falls lliort of the Meafares of the exadeft Vertue,
or arrogantly to pretend that he is arrived to a Pitch
of Virtue, by v/hich he is equal to the God's? Is it not
more modeft Gnd renfonable, to atrribute the Succefs of
our beR" ^^iom to the Grace of God; than to afcribe it to,
I know not what infallible Rules of Virtue, and to pre-
tend we are a Sort of Gods to onr felves? What Reafon
v/as there, that thofe old Sages fliould ht fo elated u^on
their natural Stock of Parts, upon the Advantage of their
Education J 2nd. zhdr philofiphicl^ Studies? Is not a CAr/-
Jiia^ much the better AfaK, who tho' he ftands pojfeffed
of thefe Omlifications, does refle6t no Glory upon him-
felf for them, but humbly coniiders, that thefe are all
the Gift of a gracious God^ to whom all the Praife of
them belongs ? There is no way to excufe the Philo-
fophers for their arrogant Contempt of the common People-^
becaufe they wanted the Education they enjoy'd; and
for their refullng them the Knowledge of thofe virtu-
• ous Rules, they kept under Lock and Key among them-
felves. How much more is the Chriflian Religion to be
admired that teaches an Humility, to be kind and obli-
ging to all, and to lool^^ upon the whole Race of Mankindy
as our Fellow-Cnmirss and Brethren i to defpife no one's

Part III. "with a T hei ST, 485

ImperfiBiom, when we confider our oivn-^ to undervcilue
none for their. Wants and Failures, but rather to pity
-them, and when 'tis in our ?owcr to relieve them; to
think no Body fit to be dcfpired, that God has given an
immortal Soul to , and that we can never be too great to
do good to our Fellow-Creatures ^ who have received a-ll
that we have from an mfinite God, But if our Religion
inftead of H^imiliij taught, your Heathen Aiagnayiimity^
what a conceited fVorld lliould we in a little while fec^
Tho' Men are daily taught to have as humble and mean
Thoughts as they can of themfelves; yet notwithdand-
ing this, many will be meddling with Matters out of
their Sphere, and negled; their ProfcJJion to be menders
of Church and State] but if all Aden iliould once get in
their Heads yom- Motion of philofophicl^ Bravery or Jkfag-
nanimitj^ we fhould have ail mean People defpife their
Callings, and leave the Fields, and their Shops, to turn
Philofophers-i Statefmen^ and Politicians*

But is it a Fault to be humble, becaufe Hnmilitj is a Spinofa's
Sorroiv for not having that juft Perfeclion a Man fhould -"^^^^'"^^^t
have ? If it be a Virtue to defire to be as j^ood as one '^^'^'^- .,
car. It IS feme Degree of Virtue to be forry one is no a.fwend '
better. But your Philofipker Spinofa miftakes the Mat-
ter J when he makes Humility a Sorroii> of Mind^ for
want of that virtmus Perfe^ion we would have : This
is properly that Pafflon of the Mind^ we generally call
(L/^mulation, But Humility is quite another Thing, it
is a fix'd Temper of Mind^ whereby, after a ferious Con-
fideration of human ImperfeAion, and the Divine Bounty^
we attribute no Glory to our felves for any thing valuable
we poffefs, nor undervalue others for want of them.
And if by God's Grace, the whole World was brought
to this Chriflian. Temper^ we fhould find that Manl^nd
would be more peaceable and good, m.ore kind and cha-
ritable, than when they are led by their own Paffionsy
nay, than if they v/ere all infhrufted, by the fwaggering
Principle of your Philofiphicl^ Magnanimitj^

Nor is there any Weight in your Machiavelian Rea- ^nd Ma-
foni that a good Chrij%m c^n't be a brave Prince. It chiavdV. .4

I i 3 is

4-86 A Conference

is a hoYYthle Reflexion upon the Ro^d Dignitj , to think
that it cannot be difcharged, by an honeft Man, Foir
Chrifiiamty really forbids nothing, but what is wicked.
Indeed, if Cruelty and Oppreffion, Fraud and Perfidi-
oufnefs. Plundering and Ravaging the Cp;^»mf jo/ /7

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 43 of 47)