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VIEWS OF WAR.*
BY ROBERT HALL.
REAL war is a very different thing from that painted image of it which you see on parade, or at a review. It is the most awful scourge that Providence employs for the chastisement of man. It is the garment of vengeance with which the Deity arrays himself, when he comes forth to punish the inhabitants of the earth. It is the day of the Lord, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger. Let us consider it in two views—as a source of misery, and as a source of crimes.
It is impossible for a humane mind to contemplate the rapid extinction of innumerable lives without concern. To perish in a moment, to be hurried instantaneously, without preparation and without warning, into the presence of the Supreme Judge, has something in it inexpressibly awful and affecting. In war death reigns without a rival, and without control. War is the work, the element, or rather the sport and triumph of death, who glories, not only in the extent of his conquest, but in the richness of his spoil. In the other methods of attack, in the other forms which death assumes, the feeble and the aged, who at the best can live but a. short time, are usually the victims; here it is the vigorous and the strong. It is remarked by an ancient historian, that in peace children bury their parents, in war parents bury their children; nor is the difference small. Children lament their parents, sincerely indeed, but with that moderate and tranquil sorrow which it is natural for those to feel who are conscious of retaining many tender ties, many animating prospects. Parents mourn for their children with the bitterness of despair; the aged parent, the widowed mother, loses, when she is deprived of her children, every thing but the capacity of suffering; her heart, withered and desolate, admits no other object, cherishes no other hope. It is Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are not.
But, to confine our attention to the number of the slain would give us a very inadequate idea of the ravages of the sword. The lot of those who perish instantaneously may be considered, apart from religious prospects, as comparatively happy, since they are exempt from those lingering diseases and slow torments to which others are liable. We cannot see an individual expire, though a stranger or an enemy, without being sensibly moved, and prompted by compassion to lend him every assistance in our power. Every trace of resentment vanishes in a moment; every other emotion gives way to pity and terror. In these last extremities we remem
* From Mr. Hall's Sermon entitled Reflections on War. P. T. NO. XXII.
ber nothing but the respect and tenderness due to our common nature. What a scene then must a field of battle present, where thousands are left without assistance and without pity, with their wounds exposed to the piercing air, while the blood, freezing as it flows, binds them to the earth, amid the trampling of horses, and the insults of an enraged foe! If they are spared by the humanity of the enemy, and carried from the field, it is but a prolongation of torment. Conveyed in uneasy vehicles, often to a remote distance, through roads almost impassable, they are lodged in illprepared receptacles for the wounded and the sick, where the variety of distress baffles all the efforts of humanity and skill, and renders it impossible to give to each the attention he demands. Far from their native home, no tender assiduities of friendship, no well-known voice, no wife, or mother, or sister is near to soothe their sorrows, relieve their thirst, or close their eyes in death. Unhappy man! and must you be swept into the grave unnoticed and unnumbered, and no friendly tear be shed for your sufferings, or mingled with your dust!
We must remember, however, that as a very small proportion of a military life is spent in actual combat, so it is a very small part of its miseries which must be ascribed to this source. More are consumed by the rust of inactivity than by the edge of the sword. Confined to a scanty or unwholesome diet, exposed in sickly climates, harassed with tiresome marches and perpetual alarms, their life is a continual scene of hardships and dangers. They grow familiar with hunger, cold and watchfulness. Crowded into hospitals and prisons, contagion spreads among their ranks, till the ravages of disease exceed those of the enemy.
We have hitherto adverted to the sufferings only of those who are engaged in the profession of arms, without taking into our account the situation of the countries which are the scene of hostilities. How dreadful to hold every thing at the mercy of an enemy, and to receive life itself as a boon dependent on the sword. How boundless the fears which such a situation must inspire, where the issues of life and death are determined by no known laws, principles or customs, and no conjecture can be formed of our destiny, except as far as it is dimly deciphered in characters of blood, in the dictates of revenge, and the caprices of power. Conceive but for a moment the consternation which the approach of an invading army would impress on the peaceful villages in this neighborhood. When you have placed yourselves for an instant in that situation, you will learn to sympathize with those unhappy countries which have sustained the ravages of arms. But how is it possible to give you an idea of these horrors? Here you behold rich harvests, the bounty of heaven and the reward of industry, consumed in a moment, or trampled under foot, while famine and pestilence follow the steps of desolation. There the cottages of peasants given up to the flames; mothers expiring through fear, not for themselves but their infants; the inhabitants flying with their helpless babes in all directions, miserable fugitives on their native soil ! In another part you witness opulent cities taken by storm; the streets, where no sounds were heard but those of peaceful industry, filled on a sudden with slaughter and blood, resounding with the cries of the pursuing and the pursued; the palaces of nobles demolished, the houses of the rich pillaged, the chastity of virgins and of matrons violated, and every age, sex and rank mingled in promiscuous massacre and ruin.
In contemplating the influence of war on public morals, it would be unpardonable not to remark the effects it never fails to produce in those parts of the world which are its immediate seat. The injury which the morals of a people sustain from an invading army is prodigious. The agitation and suspense universally prevalent are incompatible with every thing which requires calm thought, or serious reflection. In such a situation is it any wonder the duties of piety fall into neglect, the sanctuary of God is forsaken, and the gates of Zion mourn and are desolate ? Familiarized to the sight of rapine and slaughter, the people must acquire a hard and unfeeling character. The precarious tenure by which every thing is held during the absence of laws must impair confidence; the sudden revolutions of fortune must be infinitely favorable to fraud and injustice. He who reflects on these consequences will not think it too much to affirm, that the injury the virtue of a people sustains from invasion, is greater than that which affects their property or their lives. He will perceive that by such a calamity the seeds of order, virtue and piety, which it is the first care of education to implant and mature, are swept away as by a hurricane.
If statesmen, if Christian statesmen at least, had a proper feeling on this subject, and would open their hearts to the reflections which such scenes must inspire, instead of rushing eagerly to arms, would they not hesitate long, would they not try every expedient, every lenient art consistent with national honor, before they ventured on this desperate remedy, or rather, before they plunged into this gulf of horror ?
The contests of nations are both the offspring and the parent of injustice. The word of God ascribes the existence of war to the disorderly passions of men. Whence come wars and fightings among you? saith the apostle James ; come they not from your lusts that war in your members ? It is certain two nations cannot engage in hostilities but one party must be guilty of injustice; and if the magnitude of crimes is to be estimated by a regard to their consequences, it is difficult to conceive an action of equal guilt with the wanton violation of peace. It sinks every other crime into insignificance. If the existence of war always implies injustice in one at least of the parties concerned, it is also the fruitful parent of crimes. It reverses, with respect to its objects, all the rules of morality. It is nothing less than a temporary repeal of the principles of virtue. It is a system out of which almost all the virtues are excluded, and in which nearly all the vices are incorporated. Whatever renders human nature amiable or respectable, whatever engages love or confidence, is sacrificed at its shrine. In instructing us to consider a portion of our fellow-creatures as the proper objects of enmity, it removes, as far as they are concerned, the basis of all society, of all civilization and virtue; for the basis of these is the good will due to every individual of the species, as being a part of ourselves. From this principle all the rules of social virtue emanate. Justice and humanity, in their utmost extent, are nothing more than the practical application of this great law. The sword, and that alone, cuts asunder the bond of consanguinity which unites man to man. As it immediately aims at the extinction of life, it is next to impossible, upon the principle that every thing may be lawfully done to him whom we have a right to kill, to set limits to military license; for when men pass from the dominion of reason to that of force, whatever restraints are attempted to be laid on the passions, will be feeble and fluctuating. Though we must applaud, therefore, the attempts of the humane Grotius to blend maxims of humanity with military operations, it is to be feared they will never coalesce, since the former imply the subsistence of those ties which the latter suppose to be dissolved. Hence the morality of peaceful times is directly opposite to the maxims of war. The fundamental rule of the first is to do good ; of the latter, to inflict injuries. The former commands us to succor the oppressed; the latter, to overwhelm the defenceless. The former teaches men to love their enemies; the latter, to make themselves terrible even to strangers. The rules of morality will not suffer us to promote the dearest interest by falsehood; the maxims of war applaud it when employed in the destruction of others. That a familiarity with such maxims must tend to harden the heart, as well as to pervert the moral sentiments, is too obvious to need illustration. The natural consequence of their prevalence is an unfeeling and unprincipled ambition, with an idolatry of talents, and a contempt of virtue; whence the esteem of mankind is turned from the huinble, the beneficent, and the good, to men who are qualified by a genius fertile in expedients, a courage that is never appalled, and a heart that never pities, to become the destroyers of the earth. While the philanthropist is devising means to mitigate the evils and augment the happiness of the world, a fellow-worker together with God in exploring and giving effect to the benevolent tendencies of nature, the warrior is revolving, in the gloomy recesses of his capacious mind, plans of future devastation and ruin. Prisons crowded with captives, cities emptied of their inhabitants, fields desolate and waste, are among his proudest trophies. The fabric of his fame is cemented with tears and blood; and if his name is wafted to the ends of the earth, it is in the shrill cry of suffering humanity; in the curses and imprecations of those whom his sword has reduced to despair.
THE EARLY CHRISTIANS ON WAR.
BY THOMAS CLARKSON, THE PHILANTHROPIST.*
The Bible, rather than any human authority, should be our guide; but, since the early Christians learned its meaning from the Apostles themselves, or their immediate successors, we naturally wish to ascertain how they regarded the custom of war, and shall endeavor to prove, that so long as the lamp of Christianity burnt pure and bright, Christians held it unlawful to bear arms, and actually abstained from the use of them at the hazard of their lives ; nor was it till Christianity became corrupted, that its followers became soldiers.
I. The opinions of the first Christian writers after the Apostles relative to war, were alike for nearly three hundred years, if not longer. Justin MARTYR, one of the earliest in the second century, considers war as unlawful, and makes the devil its author. TATIAN, the disciple of Justin, speaks in the same terms on the subject; and CLEMENS, of Alexandria, a contemporary of the latter, is equally decisive against the lawfulness of war.
TERTULLIAN, the next in order of time, strongly condemns the practice of bearing arms. In his Worship of Idols, he says,
though the soldiers came to John, and received a certain form to be observed, and though the centurion believed, yet Jesus Christ, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier afterward; for custom never sanctions an unlawful act.” In his Soldier's Garland, he says, “can a soldier's life be lawful, when Christ has pronounced, that he who lives by the sword, shall perish by the sword? Can one who professes the peaceable doctrines of the Gospel, be a soldier, when it is his duty not so much as to go to law? And shall he who is not to revenge his own wrongs, be instrumental in bringing others into chains, imprisonment, torment, death?”_"In all this .conspiracy of evils against us," he asks, in his Apology, “what one evil have you observed to have been returned by Christians ? We could in a night's time have made ourselves ample satisfaction, had we not thought it unlawful to repay one injury with another ; but God forbid, that any of this divine sect should seek revenge. If we would not revenge ourselves in the dark, but chose to engage you in the open day, do you think we could want forces? We are but of yesterday, and by to-day we overspread your empire. Your cities, your islands, your forts, towns, assemblies, and very camps, wards, companies, palaces, senate, forum, all swarm with Christians. What war can we now be unprepared
* This tract, though abridged, retains all the original facts and arguments, with a few additions.-AM ED.
P. T. NO. XXIII.