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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

. (page 44 of 47)
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Synagogue-^ now this fad unregenerate Wretch having
no Ho^es o^ Immortality ^ could not fubdue his Nature
fo as to forgive his Enemies^ but was refolved to Murder
his Nephew, who was the Informer, of his at heifiicai
Principles, and his Contempt of the Mofaical Law^ to the
Synagogue , and therefore in this Treatife-, which he calls
Exemplar Humanh,n. 8, ii. Being con-
fident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good
tVorkJnyoH, will perform it untill the Bay of Jefus Chrifi,
Phil. i. 6. / can do all Things through Chrifi which firength-
tns me, Phil. iv. i ^. The God of Peace, &c. make you per-
feci in every good Wbrkjo do his Will, workmg in you that
which is pleafing in his Sight, 'Tis plain then, that this
is the Dodnne of our Religion, and *tis as reafonable it
fhould be fo. For when we live in a World of Senfe,
where our AlFedions are all biafTed to carnal Objeds,
when we iiave ftrong Paffions towards Pleafure, and but
weak Inclinations to Good, unlefs God Almighty did
vouchfafe us confiderable Meafures of his Grace, we
ihould be able to do nothing as we ought to do. So
wonderful is the Corrupcion of hun;an Nature, and it has

' fuch



49^ /^Conference

fuch a Propenfity to do Evil, that I believe the worft
Men do enjoy a Share of God's reftraining Gracgj v/hkh
does not let them be fo very wicked, as otherwife they
would be. But in good and regenerate Men, the Point
is out of all doubt; Let a good Man, who has formerly
lived an ungodly Life:, remember how irkfome and impof^
iible (almofl:) it looked to him then, to refift a Temftamnj
which now he can do with Facility and Pleafure. This
is not to be attributed only to an hahitud Cuflom of
Goodnefs ; for oftentimes fincere Penitents experience \t
in themfelves, of a fudden, upon their firft turning to
God ; they feel a totd Renovation of their Alinds, and fuch
a new Principle within them, as gives them a perfect
abhorrence of all Evil', and a Difgnji of their formerly mofi
beloved Pleafures. Nor can you account for this by Fear
or Fancy^ for how ihould thefe filly Paffions he able to
make fuch noble Conquefts over Men's Natures ? The
beft and wifeft Chriftians know and experience this to be
true and it rather fliews a Degree of Spleen or Humour,
to deny fo manifeft a Truth, which good Men are as
fure of, as that they fee or walk.

But you do hot fairly conclude, that it argues any
Injuftice in God to punilli Men for their Sins, though
God does not afford them his Grace. For all Men may
have as great a Share of God's Grace, as is neceffary to
their Salvation, if they fincerely ask it by Prayer j but
there is no Reafon why God fhould be obliged to force
the Influence of his FIolj Spirit upon them, whether they
will or no. Nay, fuch is the Goodnefs of God, that he
puts good Thoughts very often into the Minds of wicked
Men, in order to reclaim them, tho' they as often ungraci^
ouflj flight and defpife them. If they would take care to
encourage and cherifJy rhofe good A4otions, God would go
further v irh them, and give them Grace fufficlent to
conquer rS-ir evil Habits; but when they refufe Gods
gracious Offers at firfl, and lliew no manner of Willing-
nefs to am. nd their Live;, but induflrioufly ftlfle every
good Thought which is fugoefled to them ; it is unreafona*
pie to think, that God ought to force their Wills to Re-*

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Part III. with ^ T h E i s t. 497

pemanccy and to deal with them, as if they were mere
A. That they confer Graccy as your Divines
fpeak. Now, tho' we grant that Grace is given by the
Holy Ghofiy yet it is not to be imagined that it lliould
come by eating Breads or by he'mg dipt in Water. This,
the 'Socinians are Men of too good Reafon to be unjenjible oK
And one of them argues thus : * The IVord and Sacraments
^:ire a fort of Adeans that a5i not by any natural Tendency of
their own^ nor hj any Harmony y Suitahlencjs, orAqreeable^
nefs to our Powers, Faculties^ or Naturcsy but by a Theur-
gical, Teleftick, and My flical Operation ; 7vhich is to fay^
they jvork^upon our Mindsy as Spells, Chaims, and Incan-
tations. Let a Man in Black^fprinl^e you with fome of the
Churches Watery or give you a Bit of Bread, or a Sup ofWine^
over which he has pronounced the wonder-working Words
prefcribed in Mother-Churches Ritualy though by Nature
you are as bad as the Devily you JJjall be qualified for Heaven^
And this no lefs certainly, than by tying the Norman Knoty
you may gain the Love of the Per Jon you dejire i or by other
Devicesy recorded in the learned Books of Aiagick^ you may
caufe Hatred, raife Wmdsy and do a thoufand other Feats*
Therefore, when St, Auftin defined a Sacrament to be the
otmvard vifible Sign of an inward fpiritual Grace ; the good
Father fliould have confideredy that this is the Definition of
a Charmy and not of a GofpelSacrament,

Cred, I am heartily forry that any w^ho pretend Re-
fpect to our bleffed Lord, as the Vnitarians do, ihould
endeavour toexpofe any Part o£h\s Holy Infiitutiony which
can do no Service to any but the Infidels ; for no Body
that believes the Orthodox Do5lrinesy will ever be brought
over to the Vnitarian Principles by fuch fhocking Raile-
ry ,• which makes all^W Men but hate and abhor their
Principles the more. But let us look a little into this Jefl
of a Comparifon, between Sacraments and Charms^

♦ Trinit. Scheme of Religion, p. 24,

t Kk Joq



49S A Conference

Sncr:tmmt You find Fault that a Sacrament is defined to be an ouu
^'^n'l'''' I r '-^^^^ ^"^ viji'jle Sign of- an imvard and fpiritttal Grace.
ouf^-ri ^"^' I pray, for what Reafon ? Thefe Things in our
and'vijibU Religion, which we call Sacraments, are holy Rites in-
Stm, £cc. fliriited b}^ our Lord Jefus Chrifl^ the Founder of our
Religion. They were called by the Latin Church iS'^cr^-
ryientay fi"om the Roman Sacramentum^ the Soldier's Oath
or Engagement to his General. Now, becaufe in thefe
two Rites, vizj, Baptifin and the Lord's- Supper^ there was
a mutual Er:gage?nent^ or Covenant, between Chrifl: and
his faithful People; therefore the Ancients thought it
^wt improper to call thdt Sacraments^ or Engagements, The
Sacrament of Baptifin was a Covenant> by which we firfl
enter into the Service of ChriO:, and agree with him to
obey his Commands^ upon condition we may be Partakers
of the Rewards his Religion promifes ; and in the Sacra-
7n'ent of the Lord' s- Supper ^^ we not only commemorate his
Benefits, but receive frefli AfTurances of his Promifes,
and new A (li fiances of his Grace to perform the Condi-
tions required for them. Now this being the Nature of
thefe fivo Performances^ where is tht Impropriety ofefta-
bliiliing a viiible Sign ? Is not there fomething like this
in all Sorts of Covenants ? When the Romans made an
Agreement with their Enemies, the Fecialis made ufe of
fuch an outward Sign, and throw'd a Stone violently out
of his Hands, wifbing, Tjf /?^ a^ed treacheroufly ^ that the
(jods 7V0Hld deal with him as 'with that Stone, So Gen. xv.
10. Abraham rf^akes a Covenant with Gody by dividing the
Body of an Heifer-, a She-goat, and Ram, into two Parts,
And to this Day, we fl:ill find the like Ceremonies ufed
in private Contrads ; as in the Selling of Eflates, the De-
livery of Writings ; in Matrimony, the Delivery of a
Ring, or the Joining of Hands. Now what Reafon is
there, why our Saviour might not ordain thefe outward
vifible Signs, in thefe two federal Ordinances, as well as
any civil State does the like? Thefe outward vifible Signs
ufiially carry fuch a decent Solemnity with them, as very
much engages Men's Attention ^na Refie5i, and helps to
piaJ^ a greater Jmpreffion ttpon their Memory, than when

there



Arms*



Part III. isotth ^ T H E I s T. 499

there is only a hare verbal Agreement in a Covenaiit. Be-
lides, theie outward vijible Signs are abfolutely necefTary
in divine Covenants, or in Scipubtions between God and
Men ; for unlefs God did ordinarily and immi^iately
converfe with Men himfelf, there muft be fach an outward
and vifihle Sign to reprefent the Stimulation of God on his
i^art. From all which, I conclude, that you have no
Reafon to find Fault with the outward vifible Signs in
the Sacraments, but rather to admire the Fitnefs and Ex-
cellency of their Inftitution.

Nor is the Infiitution in thefe Covenants of outward D'ference
and vifible Signs more reafonable than your Comparifin of of Sacra-
them, with Spells and Charms^ is void of Reafon, For ^|'J^^ ^^
Spells or Charms are Diabolical, or at leaft fkperftitious
Pra^ices ', but neither of thefe can be charged upon the
two Sacraments inflituted by our blejfed Lord, He had
a Power from Heaven to found the Chriftian Religion^
and had Authority from thence to ordain what Methods
\vere fitting for the Propagating or Practicing it. Now
when the Sacraments are founded onfuch divine Authority y
it is not very decent or civil, to compare this pious Co-
venant with God, v/ith the Contracl of V/itches, or o-
ther deluded People, with the Devil. Or if it becomes
an Infidel to do fo, the Socinian did a little forget him-
felf, to talk after this Rate, before he had declar'd himfelf
openly to have come over into the Camp of the Unbe-
lievers. Befides, is there any thing in cur Chriftian
Sacraments, like thofe idle Superflitionsy by which the
Devil beguiles Witches, and other fimple People ? Bap-
tifm is difobtr and ancient Rite, v/hich in all Ages out of
rnind, has been ufed, either for Lujiration^ or in Token
o^ Purgation from Sin ; or elfe to inftitute Profelytes into
a new Religion, The Sacrament of the Lord' s-S upper, is
but a kind of Commemoration Feaft, which was ufed
among the Jew's ; and before the Inftitution of their Re^
iigioh, there was fomething like it, among the Eucha-
riftical Sacrifices of the Patriarchs. Now when our
Chiiftian Religion retains no more than thefe two very an-
cient and very fobsr Rites, they are very improperly cal-

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500



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A Conference

led by you, and the Socimans, Spells ^nd Charms: For
they do, in my Mind, bear very little Analogy to the
boiling together the Hair of a Wolf, and the Juice of
Hemlock, and flich other diabolicd Fooleries, which
/Witches, or fuperftitious People ufe.

Well ! But you may think them to be like Charms^
becaufe they are faid to confer Grace to the Partakers of
them.. But you are under a Miftake, if you think that
the Generality of Chriftians do own, that the Sacraments
do confer Grace by a phyfical Power of their own, as
,the Heat of the Sun produces Plants, or warms us j ot
that Grace is okamed, as the Papifis pretend, by the pure
'Opus- Oneramm of the Sacraments, by the bare external
Yeceivmq them^ without due Refped had to the Worthi-
nefs^ or other Otialifications of the Receivers, For thefe



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 44 of 47)