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On the right treatment of infidels.

Leighton and Coleridge.

A regardless contempt of infidel writings is usually the fittest answer; Spreta vilescerent. But where the holy profession of Christians is likely to receive either the main or the indirect blow, and a word of defence may do any thing to ward it off, there we ought not to spare to do it.

Christian prudence goes a great way in the regulating of this. Some are not capable of receiving rational answers, especially in divine things; they were not only lost upon them, but religion dishonoured by the contest.

Of this sort are the vulgar railers at religion, the foulmouthed beliers of the Christian faith and history. Impudently false and slanderous assertions can be met only by assertions of their impudent and slanderous falsehood: and Christians will not, must not, condescend to this. How can mere railing be answered by them who are forbidden to return a railing answer? Whether, or on what provocations, such offenders may be punished or coerced on the score of incivility, and ill-neighbourhood, and for abatement of a nuisance, as in the case of other scolds and endangerers of the public peace, must be trusted to the discretion of the civil magistrate. Even then, there is danger of giving them importance, and flattering their vanity, by attracting attention to their works, if the punishment be slight; and if severe, of spreading far and wide their reputation as martyrs, as the smell of a dead dog at a distance is said to change 87 into that of musk. Experience hitherto seems to favour the plan of treating these betes puantes and enfans de Diable, as their four-footed brethren, the skink and squash, are treated** by the American woodmen, who turn their backs upon the fetid intruder, and make appear not to see him, even at the cost of suffering him to regale on the favourite viand of these animals, the brains of a stray goose or crested thraso of the dunghill. At all events, it is degrading to the majesty, and injurious to the character of religion, to make its safety the plea for their punishment, or at all to connect the name of Christianity with the castigation of indecencies that properly belong to the beadle, and the perpetrators of which would have equally deserved his lash, though the religion of their fellow-citizens, thus assailed by them, had been that of Fo or of Juggernaut.

On the other hand, we are to answer every one that inquires a reason, or an account; which supposes something receptive of it. We ought to judge ourselves engaged to give it, be it an enemy, if he will hear; if it gain him not, it may in part convince and cool him; much more, should it be one who ingenuously inquires for satisfaction, and possibly inclines to receive the truth, but has been prejudiced by misrepresentations of it.

**About the end of the same year (says Kalm) another of these animals (Mephitis Americana) crept into our cellar; but did not exhale the smallest scent, because it was not disturbed. A foolish old woman, however, who perceived it at night, by the shining, and thought, I suppose, that it would set the world on fire, killed it; and at that moment its stench began to spread.

We recommend this anecdote to the consideration of sundry old women, on this side of the Atlantic, who, though they do not wear the appropriate garment, are worthy to sit in their committee-room, like Bickerstaff in the Tatler, under the canopy of their grandam's hoop-petticoat.

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