« PreviousContinue »
the results of Christianity. The two systems conflict in every point, irreconcilably and eternally.
2. War sets at nought the example of Jesus.
One of Christ's laws is, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly." His conduct was always pacific. He became invisible when the Nazarites sought to cast him down from their precipice. When a troop came to arrest him, he struck them down, but not dead. His constant declaration was, that he came not to destroy men's lives, but to save.'
True, he once instructed his disciples to buy swords, telling them that they were going forth into a world of enemies. But the whole passage shows he meant to speak by parable. They answer, “ Here are two swords." replies instantly, “It is enough." How could two swords have been enough for twelve apostles, if he had spoken literally? Nay, when Peter used one of these, it was too much; Christ bade him, “ Put up thy sword,” and healed the wound. He meant to show the apostles their danger, not their remedy; for they were going as “sheep among wolves.” His metaphor was indeed misunderstood, as it was when he said, “ Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees," and they thought he meant to reprove them for having no bread.
Once he drove men from the temple ; but it was with a scourge of small cords,” and a gentle doom it was, compared to their deserts. He expressly said his servants would not fight, because his kingdom was not of this world. We find in his example no instances of true severity. His whole life was benevolence personified. He was the PRINCE of Peace.
Do we forget that Christ is our example? Whatever is right for us to do, would, in general, have been right for him. Imagine the Redeemer robed in the trappings of a man of blood, leading on columns to slaughter, laying a country waste, setting fire to cities, storming fortresses, and consigning tens of thousands to wounds and anguish, death and damnation, just to define some point of policy, to decide some kingly quarrel, to enlarge some boundary, or avenge some insult. Could “meekness and lowliness” be learned from him thus engaged ?
There is no rank or position in an army compatible with the character of Christ. It is most certain that we gather no army lessons from him who
came to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to comfort all that mourn." It is most certain that no man, who makes fighting his profession, can find authority in the example of our Lord.
It is not necessary to enlarge on this point. It will be conceded. No warrior thinks of making Christ his pattern. How then can a follower of Christ overlook the inconsistency between the profession of religion, and the profession of arms ?
3. War is not only inconsistent with the general structure and nature of Christianity, and the example of Jesus ; but it violates all the express precepts of the New Testament.
Even the Old Testament does not sanction war as a custom. In each case of lawful war, it was entered on by express command. If such authority were now given, we might worthily take up arms. But without it, how can we violate both the genius and precepts of our religion, and set at nought the example of a Divine guide? It should be remembered, that in no case, even under the Old Testament, was war appointed to decide doubtful questions, or to settle quarrels, but to inflict national punishment. They were intended, as are pestilence and famine, to chastise nations guilty of provoking God. Such is never the pretext of modern war; and if it were, it would require Divine authority, which, as has just been said, would induce even members of the Peace Society to fight.
As to the New Testament, a multitude of precepts might be quoted. “Ye have heard, an eye for an eye; but I say unto you, RESIST NOT EVIL.–Follow peace with all men.Love one another.—Do justice, love mercy.—Love your enemies.-Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace.Return good for evil.—Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one toward another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you.-If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.-—Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
It is unnecessary to adduce more of these passages. All know how much they abound in the New Testament. There they stand! No interpretation can nullify their force, or pervert their application. In any sense the words will bear, they forbid war. If language have any force, they equally forbid retaliation. Yet this is always advanced as the very best pretext for war, and is more frequently the avowed reason than any other !
The preceding quotations relate to the single point of fighting. But contending nations and armies violate every precept of the gospel. Rehearse all the catalogue of graces, and mark how we are enjoined to be meek, lowly, peaceable, easy to be entreated, gentle, thinking no evil, merciful, slow to anger, given to quietness, knowledge, patience, temperance, prayer. War sets them all at nought!
Of the sermon on the mount; five benedictions are upon the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers. Two others are upon the persecuted and reviled. These include all but two of the entire list, and the others regard those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and the pure in heart. The professed warrior, therefore, shuts himself out from all these benedictions! The discourse then declares that not only killing, but anger, is murder. It expressly revokes the law of retaliation, and, exploding the traditionary rule of loving our neighbor, and hating our enemy, requires us to love our enemies, and do good to them which despitefully use us. Afterwards, in presenting a form of prayer, it not only teaches us to say, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us, but, “if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.” What a peace sermon is here! What modern peace society goes farther than this?
The irresponsible feelings of a regular soldier are necessarily wrong. He makes war a trade, and is ready to fight any nation, or any part of his own nation, as he is sent. He must have no mind of his own. He is to wheel, march, load, fire, advance or flee, just as he is bidden, and because he is bidden. In the language of Thomas Jefferson, “the breaking of men to military discipline, is breaking their spirits to passive obedience.' The nearer a soldier comes to a mere machine, the better soldier he makes. Is this right for a Christian? Is it compatible with his duty to “examine all things, and hold fast that which is good ?”
The contempt of life, which is necessary to a brave soldier, is sin. Life is our probation,—our period of preliminary service to the great God. No man should despise it. He who masters the fear of death, must do it either by religious influence, or by rejecting the fear of God, and all concern for the future state of his soul. That there are religious soldiers, is true ; but they are far too few to give character to an army. They are mere exceptions to the general military character. The contempt of life, which distinguishes the veteran, is itself a great sin, and is induced by the preceding great sin of casting off the fear of God, and concern for the soul.
What gospel precept is there, which he who makes war a profession, is not at times compelled to violate? What Christian grace is there, which would not depreciate him for his trade of death?
Some graces, it is confessed, are convenient in camp; as when a soldier acts as a servant or a laborer. If he have charge of a horse, or a wardrobe, it is desired that he possess honesty, meekness, and faithfulness. But these qualities spoil him for the field. He must then cast away meekness, and fight. He must cast away honesty, and forage. He must cast away forgiveness, and revenge his country. He must not return good for evil, but blow for blow, wound for wound. Thus, when we take the common soldier individually, we find him compelled to violate every precept of his religion.
The whole structure of an army is in violation of New Testament precepts. What absolute despotism! What division of rank by nice gradations ! “ Condescending to men of low estate” would spoil discipline. “ Esteeming others better than ourselves” would degrade the officers. Instead of humility, must be gay trappings. Instead of Christ's law of love, must be man's rule of honor. Instead of examining all things, the soldier must be like a trained blood-hound, ready to be let loose against any foe. Instead of returning good for evil, the army is organized expressly to return injuries with interest.
Survey an army prepared for battle. See the cannons, musquets, mortars, swords, drums, trumpets and flags. Do these men look like Christians? Do they talk like followers of the meek and lowly Son of God? Are they prepared to act like the friends of the human race, and-like followers of God, as dear children seeking to bring all men to the knowledge of him? Are their feelings toward the opposite host like those which are produced by “fervent love” out of “a pure heart ?"
Observe an army in the hour of battle. See attacks and retreats, battalions annihilated, commanders falling, shouts of onset, groans of death, horses trampling the fallen, limbs flying in the air, suffocating smoke, thundering artillery, thousands smarting in the agony of death, and none to administer a cup of water. Do the precepts of Christianity
authorize such a scene? Would such an exhibition ever grow out of its legitimate effects ?
Inspect the field when all is over. The harvest trampled and destroyed, houses smoking in ruin, the mangled and slain strewed among dead horses, and broken gun-carriages! Prowlers stripping booty even from the warm bodies of the dying! Jackals lurking around, and birds of prey wheeling above! Here and there a wretched widow, or an anxious wife, seeking her loved one among the dead and dying! Does all this look as if Christians had there been serving their Master, the God of mercy?
Let us turn our eyes to the ocean. A huge ship, bristling with implements of death, glides quietly along. Presently“ a sail !” is echoed from sentinel to sentinel. All on board catch the sound, and gaze at the faint outline. At length, she is discerned to be a ship of war, and all strive to discern her flag. On that hangs the important issue ! For no feud, no jealousy, no enmity exists between the
At last the signal is discerned to be that of a foe. Immediately what a scene ! Decks cleared and sanded, ports opened, tompions out, guns arranged, matches lighted, and every preparation made for a work of death. While waiting the moment to engage, every word is indication of pride, or revenge, or daring, or wrath, or ambition.
The fight begins! Death flies with every shot. Blood and carnage cover the decks. The rigging is cut to pieces, and the hull is bored with hot shot. Officers are picked off by sharp-shooters, and scores of common men perish at their posts. At length, one party strikes, and the strife is stayed. Perhaps, ere all the wounded can be removed, the noble and costly ship sinks into the deep. The victorious, herself almost a wreck, commits her slain to the deep, and bears on towards her country the agonized, the crippled and the dying of both ships. What a scene to gratify malignant demons! What distracting tidings does she bear to the bereaved at home! What pain and misery does she carry within her! In all this, there was no personal malice, no private offence given; nothing was known of one another, except from the respective flags. Could enormity be more diabolical and cold blooded ?
But no where does war wear such horrors as in a siege. The inhabitants are straitly shut up. Business, pleasure, education and intercourse are checked; and sorrow, poverty, terror and distress are spread abroad. The bombardment