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ever should be members of God's true church, she was no longer to participate in the warfare of the world. The chariot was to be cut off from Ephraim, and the war-horse from Jerusalem. For the full accomplishment of these prophecies, we must, indeed, look forward to a period yet to come; but the inspired writers describe this complete, uninterrupted peaceableness, as a distinguishing feature of the Christian dispensation, as the result of obedience to its law; and we may therefore infer that, if its true nature were fully understood, and its laws exactly obeyed, a conversion to our holy religion would be uniformly accompanied with entire abstinence from war,
thus become exactly co-extensive with Christianity itself.
In accordance with the prophecies I have quoted, Christianity promulgates certain moral rules which would, if faithfully obeyed, lead to the results predicted. I allude not exclusively to those divine laws which condemn aggressive warfare; for these laws are far from being powerful enough to produce the effect in question. They were, indeed, commonly admitted in the world long before the Christian dispensation ; but never have they been found sufficient to convert swords into plough-shares, and spears into pruning-hooks. In point of fact, the distinction drawn between just and unjust warfare, is in most cases entirely nugatory; for there are few wars which are not defended, and not many perhaps which the persons waging them do not believe to be justified, by some plea of self-preservation or honorable retribution. Some stronger and more comprehensive principles, then, were obviously needed in order to the accomplishment of this great end; and these principles are unfolded in the pure, exalted code of morality revealed in the gospel. They are the non-resistance of injuries, the return of good for evil, and the love of our enemies.
The Lord Jesus himself promulgated these principles as distinguishing his own dispensation from that of the law “ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth ; but I
resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” So also Peter commands the believers not to render “evil for evil, nor railing for railing ; but contrariwise, blessing.” Paul holds up the very same standard:
you, That ye
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves; but rather give place unto wrath ; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink ; for, in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good.”
In this fundamental law of the gospel, our Lord has laid his axe to the root, by establishing certain principles which, honestly observed, must put an end to every evil practice. Of this nature precisely are the principles we are now considering ; and, if followed up with true consistency, they cannot fail to abolish every species of warfare. The great law of Christ is the law of love ; and, since no kind of war can ever consist with this love, it is indisputable that, where the latter prevails as it ought, the former must entirely cease.
I grant that the above precepts of our Lord are addressed to individuals; and hence the clear duty of individual Christians to obey them on every occasion. If attacked, insulted, injured, persecuted, they ought to suffer wrong, to revenge no injury, to return good for evil, and to love their enemies. So also, if exposed to the calamities of war, their duty remains unaltered. If the sword of the invader be lifted up
against them, the precept is still, Resist not evil. If the , insults and injuries of the carnal warrior be heaped upon
them, they are still forbidden to avenge themselves, and still commanded to pray for their persecutors.
If surrounded by a host of enemies the most violent and malicious, Christian love must still be unbroken, still universal. The law of Christ then requires individuals to abstain from all warfare. So the early Christians did. When Julian was bestowing upon his troops a largess with a view to some approaching battle, his bounty was refused by Martin, a soldier previously converted to Christianity. “ Hitherto,” said he, " I have fought for thee; permit me now to fight for my God. I am the soldier of Christ; for me, the combat is unlawful.”
The soldier retains his private responsibility, and can
never dispossess himself of his individual obligation to obey God. But the unlawfulness of war in any form, is equally evident when regarded as the affair of nations. Doubtless there may be found in the Scriptures a variety of injunctions applicable to men only as individuals; but it is one of the excellent characteristics of the Bible, that its principles are of universal application to mankind, whether acting singly as individuals, or collectively as nations. If not thus applicable, national crimes might be committed without entailing any national guilt, and without any real infraction of the revealed will of God.
Now, among these eternal, unchangeable principles of the Bible, is that of universal love. The law of God, addressed alike to all men, plainly says, Resist not evil; revenge not injuries ; LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. Individuals, and nations consisting of individuals, are all unquestionably bound to obey this law; and, whether it is the act of an individual, or a nation, the transgression of the law is sin. tions transgress the Christian law of love, and commit sin, when they declare or carry on war, precisely as does the private duellist, when he sends or accepts a challenge, and deliberately endeavors to destroy his neighbor. The man who takes any part in national warfare, takes a part also in the national sin. He aids and abets his nation in breaking the law of Christ. So far then is the authority of his legislature, or his monarch, from justifying his engagement in warfare, that he cannot obey either, without adding to his private transgression, the further criminality of actively promoting the transgression of the state.
It is evident, then, that total abstinence from warfare would be the necessary result of strict adherence to the law of Christ. But one of the precepts already cited, bears a specific, peculiar allusion to the subject of war : “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy; but I say
your enemies." Here is a direct, avowed contrast between the law and the gospel. In calling the attention of his hearers to the sayings" by them of old time,” Christ quoted from the law of Moses itself; and it was with that law, as understood by the Jews, that he compared his own holier system. Now the precepts of ancient times to which he refers,the precepts respecting love and hatred, -probably formed a part of those divine edicts which were delivered to the Israelites by Moses. That which related to the love of
their neighbor, is recognized at once:
“ Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Lev. xix. 18. The love here enjoined, was to the children of the people of Israel. The neighbor to be loved was a fellow-countryman, or, if a stranger, a proselyte; and the precept in fact commanded no more than that the Israelites should love one another. So also the injunction of old, that the Israelites should hate their enemies, was exclusively national. They were not permitted to hate their private enemies in the same favored community, but were enjoined to do them good: “If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.” But they were to hate their national enemies, and make no covenant with them: “Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them.”
On another occasion, a similar injunction was delivered respecting the Amalekites : “ Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven."
Such was the hatred enjoined upon ancient Israel, and thus was it to be applied. Now, it is to these edicts, that the law of Christ is placed in opposition : “ But I say unto you, Love your cnemies." True, this law is applicable to private life; but it was principally intended to discountenance national enmities, and prevent the practice of war. The Israelites were commanded to combat and destroy the nations who were enemies alike to themselves and to God. Christians are introduced to a purer, more lovely system; their law commands them to be the friends of all mankind. If sent forth among idolatrous nations, it is as the ministers of their restoration, not as the instruments of their punishment; and, as they may not contend with the sword against God's enemies, much less may they wield it for any purpose of their own. Armed with submission, forbearance and longsuffering, they must secede from the warfare of a wrathful and corrupt world, and, whatever the aggravations to which they are exposed, must evince themselves to be the meek, harmless, benevolent followers of the PRINCE OF PEACE.
I know of nothing in the New Testament which has any appearance of contravening these precepts, but a single passage in the gospel of Luke. After our Lord's paschal supper, and immediately before he was betrayed, he said to his disciples, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” These words, superficially con
sidered, may be deemed to inculcate the notion, that his followers were to defend themselves and their religion with the sword; but the context, and the circumstances which followed, evidently decide otherwise. The disciples, apparently understanding their Lord literally, answered, * Here are two swords;" and Jesus replied, “ It is enough.” In declaring that two swords were enough under such circumstances, he offered them an intelligible hint, that he had been misunderstood ; but the opportunity was at hand on which they were to be completely undeceived. The enemies of Jesus approached, armed; whereupon the disciples said, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” and Peter, without waiting for a reply, smote the servant of the High Priest, and cut off his ear. Then were they clearly instructed, that it was their duty not to fight, but to suffer wrong. “Suffer ye thus far," said he to Peter; and immediately afterwards he confirmed his doctrine by actionhe touched the wounded man, and healed him. Then he cried out to Peter, “ Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? All they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword” When carried before Pilate, he plainly declared, that his kingdom was such as neither to require nor allow the defence of carnal weapons. "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”
When our Lord, therefore, exhorted his disciples to sell their garments, and buy swords, his precept was evidently not to be understood literally. Such, indeed, is the explicit judgment of most commentators; and we may therefore conclude either with Erasmus, that the sword of which our Lord here spake, was the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, or with critics in general, that the words of Jesus imported only a general warning to the disciples, that their situation was about to be greatly changed; that, deprived of his presence, they would be exposed to every species of difficulty, become the objects of hatred and persecution, and thus be driven to a variety of expedients in providing for their own maintenance and security.
The absolute inconsistency of war with the gospel, was the prevalent belief of the early Christians. Justin Martyr, A. D. 140, quoting the prophecy of Isaiah already cited, says, “ That these things have come to pass, you may be readily convinced; for we who were once slayers of one another, do not now fight against our enemies." Irenæus, Bishop