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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Infidels and Infidelity

Infidels and Infidelity.

Sir,—" When Jupiter hurls a thunderbolt, it may be mercy in the God to veil his glory with a cloud; but we can only view with contemptuous lenity, the mischievous varlet who pelts us with mud as we are riding by, and then hides behind a dusthole." Such was the reply of an author, still living, to an attack made upon his character and creed by a political opponent, and some such reply, I felt to be due to the Rev. Dr. Beg, after reading his brilliant effusion in reply to your comment upon the Pharisaical spirit displayed by him in the pulpit upon a late occasion, when he is reported to have thanked the Lord that his congregation did not contain a sceptic, or an unbeliever, or a Secularist, or one of that worst form of infidelity, a Unitarian.

In your neat and telling note of thirty-four lines published in April, you very properly condemn (as Christ himself would, were he now among us, though assuredly in much stronger terms) the bigoted and unchristian spirit page 186 thus displayed; and in reply to that note, you are treated to an epistle containing one hundred and forty-five lines, six texts of Scripture, twenty-nine interrogations, and thirteen repetitions of the words "Christian of the pattern of the Nazarene," either ignorantly or wilfully quoted as referring to yourself.

How you could have allowed a correspondent, whether an M.D., LL.D., or D.D, to occupy so much of your valuable space with such unmitigated balder-dash, I cannot understand, unless, indeed, you thought it desirable that your numerous readers should know how completely a Christian minister, and a servant of the Lord, with all the distinctive honours of a University at the end of his name, may, when he likes, make a never-mind-what of himself, and so work out, not his own salvation, but his own punishment.

Either Dr. Beg did use some such expressions as those referred to, or he did not. If he did not use the exact words imputed to him, but other words conveying the same impressions to his flock with regard to Unitarians, why does he not honestly admit that he did say so, and, if he can, defend his statement? If he did not by word or implication, convey any such impression to his hearers, then why does he not manfully deny the charge, and not disgust your readers with his contemptible quibbling?

I do not know whether you intend replying to his twenty-nine questions, and his six texts of Scripture. I will, at any rate, Mr. Editor, with your permission, take upon myself to state what I conceive to be the answer to some of them, and the sense in which they are used by you.

(1.) The word "Unctuous" I take to be used in the sense of "oily" or "slippery," and when used in a personal sense, to mean that the individual referred to, if charged with making unchristian or false statements, would, by quibbling or some other disreputable artifice, try to slip out of it. (2.) As for "Presbyterian Priest," I understand you to apply these words not ignorantly, but contemptuously to any person calling himself "ordained Pastor," but who may notwithstanding be wholly unworthy of the position. (3.) The word "Cant," Dr. Beg informs us "is used in many senses," although he supplies but a portion of one of Webster's meanings, viz., "a whining or singing manner of speech"—a characteristic which he disowns. Your would-be castigator, however, has managed to overlook Webster's definition of "cant" as "The whining speech [why not in the pulpit as elsewhere?] of beggars, as in asking alms, or in making complaints of their distresses." The "lexicographer" again identifies cant with "whining pretentions to goodness,"—your own use of the word, Mr. Editor, if I mistake not. Lastly, "Unchristian spirit." Dr. Beg, beat the bush as he may, knows well enough what you mean by these words. His "lexicographer" will, at any rate, inform him that they imply something "contrary to the laws of Christianity, as an unchristian reflection; unchristian temper or conduct." Surely Dr. Beg's temper or conduct cannot be so very Christian, when we find him describing and denouncing Unitarians and others—persons every bit as good as, and, as a rule, much better than, himself—as infidels of the worst kind.

Dr. Beg complains of the absence of "Intellectual arguments and Reason" in your cutting note of April last, from the effects of which he is evidently still suffering. As a learned doctor, however, he should not be ignorant of the treatment prescribed by King Solomon for a particular class of persons, to which I am not at all sure Dr. Beg does not belong.—Prov. xxvi. 5.

"In conclusion" (to use Dr. Beg's own words), "the length of this correspondence debars me from entering on particulars" . . . "but suffice it to say that on the authority" of some Parsons of modern times, I could readily show—"from their opinions and lives"—that a Parson can be as bad a husband, as bad a father, as bad a citizen, etc., as the worst infidel of Dr. Beg's acquaintance. Says one of our poets:

"For Forms of Faith let graceless zealots fight,

He can't be wrong, whose life is in the right."

Is Dr. Wazir Beg prepared to question the truth of this noble couplet? If so, I "pity" him.

A Unitarian.