« PreviousContinue »
CAUSE OF PEACE.
The cause of peace is as old as Christianity. Ancient prophets, in foretelling the Messiah's reign, caught a distant glimpse of its glory; and its principles, embodied by our Šavior in his Sermon on the Mount, and thickly scattered throughout the New Testament, were so strictly put in practice by the early Christians, that not a few of them went to the stake rather than bear arms, on the supposition of its being inconsistent with their profession as disciples of the Prince of Peace. But the church, even before her union with the state under Constantine in the fourth century, had sadly degenerated in this as in other respects; and, ever since that fatal era, she has lent her sanction to the custom of war, with little thought of its being incompatible with her religion of peace. Erasmus, the morningstar of the Reformation, wrote in behalf of this cause with an eloquence worthy of the first scholar in Christendom; and, though his voice was little heeded by the warring Christians of that age, the seed sown by his hand has begun, in the present century, to spring up more or less among Christians of every name, and to promise in the end a rich and glorious harvest. — Specific efforts in this cause are of recent date. The first effectual appeal was made in a pamphlet published in December, 1814; and the first Peace Society in modern times was organized in the city of New York, during the summer of 1815, and followed, in eight or ten months, by one in Massachusetts, another in Ohio, and a still more important one in London, all without any knowledge of each other's existence; a striking proof that God had himself prepared the way. Similar societies have since been multiplied in England and America. Kindred efforts have been made to some extent in France, in Switzerland, and other parts of Christendom; and their influence has reached the extremities of the civilized world, and been felt in some degree by nations never blest with the light of the gospel. The American Peace Society, organized in 1828 as a
bond of union among all the friends of peace throughout our country, and soliciting coöperation without regard to sect or pårty, has been cordially espoused by some among all the religious denominations in the land, and the pulpits of almost every sect have actually been occupied more or less by its agents in pleading the claims of this great evangelical enterprise.
I. How Much ACCOMPLISHED ALREADY. — Success in this cause has been much beyond the means used, comparatively greater than in any kindred enterprise. Few are fully aware how much has already been gained. In little more than twenty years preceding the commencement of our efforts, the wars of Christendom are supposed to have wasted more than $30,000,000,000, and sacrificed no less than nine millions of lives; but its general peace has been preserved since 1815 by the various agencies and influences which constitute the cause of peace. The sentiments of the civilized world on this subject are very different now from what they were fifty years ago; and difficulties, which would then have involved nations in conflict, have frequently been settled with scarce a thought of shedding each other's blood for the purpose. Leading cabinets have become far more pacific than formerly; their services have generously been tendered, in a variety of instances, to avert the threatened horrors of war; and other expedients than a resort to the sword for the adjustment of international difficulties, are fast coming to form the established policy of Christendom. Let this process continue fifty years longer, and it will be well-nigh impossible to involve civilized nations in war.
II. THE SOLE OBJECT OF THE PEACE CAUSE. — All the social relations of mankind may be reduced to three classes; the relation of individuals to one another; the relation of individuals to society, of citizens to government; and the relation of one society or government to another. The principles of peace are applicable to all these relations, but the cause of peace is concerned only with the intercourse of governments, and aims merely to prevent war between nations.
Nor is such a restriction peculiar; for it forms the very basis of united action among the friends of temperance. The principles of that reform are applicable to all kinds of drink and food; but, in the cause of temperance, they are restricted to the use of alcoholic or intoxicating liquors. Its friends may, each for himself, extend its principles as far as they please ; but the cause itself does not meddle with tea or coffee, tobacco, or opium, or animal food. It may be said, for it has been, that its principles, if carried out, would lead to the utter exclusion of such articles; but for such a conclusion, whether right or wrong, the friends of temperance do not, in their associated capacity, make themselves responsible. They go merely for the prevention of drunkenness; and, however extensive or important may be the legitimate application of their principles, their cause is concerned with applying them solely to the use of such drinks as will intoxicate.
It is thus with the cause of peace. However extensively applicable its principles may be, we aim, as a society of peacemakers, at the application of them only to the con.duct of one nation towards another, and shall accomplish our whole object by persuading them to regulate their intercourse on the pacific principles of the gospel. If it be said, that wars can never cease so long as capital punishments disgrace the statute-books of Christendom, and strife continues among individuals, families, and churches, we reply, that tea, and coffee, and tobacco, and theatres, and gaming-houses, are all so many incentives to intemperance, yet no one deems it any part of the temperance cause to meddle with such things.
This singleness of aim excludes a variety of objects which have sometimes been attributed to the cause of peace. If our only province is the intercourse of nations, and our sole object the prevention of international wars, then we have, as friends of peace, nothing to do with capital punishments, or the right of personal self-defence, or the question of discarding all physical force from the government of states, schools, and families. We go merely against war; and war is “a contest by force between nations.” It is not only conflict unto death, but conflict between governments alone;' and neither a parent or teacher chastising his child or his pupil, nor a father defending his family against the midnight assassin, nor a traveller resisting the highway robber, nor a ruler inflicting the penalties of law upon a criminal, can properly be called war, both because in most of these cases there is really no conflict, and because the parties in them all are either individuals, or government and individuals, not nations alone. The cause of peace is not encumbered with such cases, but confines itself to the single object of abolishing the custom of international war.
III. COMMON PRINCIPLES, OR BASIS OF UNION AMONG THE FRIENDS OF PEACE. — If perfect identity of views were necessary to concert of action, there could be no such concert in any cause. Such identity does not exist in the cause of temperance or anti-slavery, of Bibles, tracts, or education, in any enterprise of benevolence or reform. There is all the similarity of views requisite to union of efforts; and it would be easy to find among the friends of peace, a platform of common principles sufficiently broad for them all to stand upon, and work together in consistent, harmonious, effective coöperation.
1. We all regard war as a mass of evils; as one of the worst scourges, if not the very worst, that ever smote our world; as extremely pernicious in all its appropriate influences on the temporal and the spiritual interests of . -mankind. — 2. We hold war to be morally wrong ; wrong in its origin, in its principles, in its motives, in its means, and all its legitimate results; as a crying offence against God, and the chief sin of all ages and climes. The whole war-system we regard as a tissue of folly, guilt, and mischief. – 3. We all think war impossible without deep criminality on one side, if not on both, and sure in its progress to involve both parties in a series of the worst crimes ;. for every war, however begun, is prosecuted on each side with essentially the same feelings, and by the very same deeds. — 4. We agree in our views concerning the moral character of nearly all the wars that have ever occurred. We unite in condemning every war of pride or jealousy, of avarice or ambition, of revenge, prevention, or redress; and few, if any other wars can be found on the pages of secular history. —5. Even wars called defensive, not a few of us regard as in all cases contrary to the gospel, and none of us allow them except as a last resort for the preservation of life; for, if any other expedient, any amount of injury short of our own destruction, will suffice, the lowest views of peace would not justify a resort to the sword. — 6. We think, also, that nations ought, like individuals, to regulate their intercourse by the gospel ; and we have only to ascertain and apply its principles. — 7. Such an application of the gospel to international intercourse constitutes the sum of all the means we would employ in the cause of peace. - 8. We believe, too, that war can be banished entirely from Christian nations ; but we think specific means indispensable for the purpose, and the use of them incumbent on all
the inhabitants of Christendom, especially on the prosessed disciples of the Prince of Peace.
We differ, then, only on a single point of this great cause the moral character of wars strictly defensive. Even this difference is mainly theoretical; for we unite in condemning most of the wars called defensive, and can find very few that any friend of peace would attempt to justify. We may disagree concerning the strict inviolability of human life, on the subject of capital punishments, respecting the right of the magistrate to use the sword in suppressing mobs and insurrections; but these points form no part of our cause, and it is no more responsible for the views of its friends concerning them, than the cause of temperance is for the religious or political creed of its supporters. We are concerned solely with the intercourse of one government with another; and these questions belong not to the cause of peace, but to the internal operations of government, to its treatment of its own subjects.
IV. SPHERE AND MODE OF ACTION. — Christendom is our only field. Our efforts are restricted to countries blest with the light of revelation, and our hopes will be fully realized, when wars shall cease wherever Christianity pre
• All our means for the accomplishment of this object are included in a right application of the gospel to the intercourse of nations. But communities are composed of individuals; and the pacific influences of the gospel must be brought to bear first upon individuals, in rectifying their views on this subject, and in forming such a public sentiment as shall discard the war-system, and introduce pacific expedients for the adjustment of all international disputes. Public opinion is the grand instrument; it does more to control Christendom than all her bayonets; and, could it through the civilized world be arrayed against this custom as it is now in New England against the kindred practice of duelling, rulers would soon find means enough to settle their differences without the sword.
We would take the best measures thus to change the war-sentiments of mankind; but we decline, for many reasons, the use of tests and pledges for this purpose. 1. The pulpit we would place in the van of our auxiliaries; for it is in the power of ministers alone to revolutionize on this subject the views of all Christendom. To this duty we urge them by the strongest motives; for the living