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merely the infliction of such penalties as God himself prescribed against transgressors of his law. Should a bevy of constables attempt to imprison or execute a gang of sentenced criminals, and meet from them a desperate and bloody resistance, would the conflict deserve to be called war? Yet such were the wars of the Israelites. The idolaters of Canaan had committed high treason against Heaven; God denounced upon them the penalty of utter extermination ; the Israelites were commissioned to inflict this penalty; and all they did, resembles an execution far more than it does war.
God assumed the whole responsibility of the deed; the Israelites were mere executioners of his will.—But those wars were distinguished from all others by two peculiarities; they occured under a theocracy, a government of which God himself was the head; and they were expressly enjoined or permitted by him. Since the close of revelation, men cannot be placed in the same circumstances, and therefore can never apply to themselves this example of the Israelites.If applied, however, the example would prove too much. The chief wars of the Israelites were wars of aggression, conquest and utter extermination; and such an example, if it proves any thing, would justify the most horrid, wholesale butcheries ever committed in war. Does the objector aim to prove such wars consistent with the gospel ? If not, be should never quote those of the Israelites.
We will merely say further, how suspicious it is, that Christians, with God's last and best revelation in their hands, should leave this, and go back in search of apologies for war, to a dispensation acknowledged by all to have been comparatively imperfect and dark! Why plunge thus from the splendors of noon into the darkness of midnight, or the duskiness of early dawn? We ask what the gospel says; and why not let the gospel at once speak for itself? Go to its heaven-illuminated pages, and show the passage that sanctions war; then, and only then, can any honest mind be satisfied.
But we are sometimes told, that God, even before the birth of Abraham, proclaimed to the whole human race as a universal, irrevocable law," whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”—Now, admitting what is nevertheless denied by some of our ablest commentators, that the common interpretation of this passage is correct, it would still puzzle any one to tell what bearing it can have on the custom of war, except to condemn this blood-leech of the world. Taken literally, it would allow us to kill an assailant only after he had actually shed blood, and would moreover require all warriors, whose sole business is the shedding of blood, to be hung without mercy.
Passing to the New Testament, we are met first with the plea, that John the Baptist did not require the soldiers who came to him for instruction, to quit the army.-Now, we submit, that John, the forerunner of Christ, belonged not to the Christian, but to the Jewish dispensation; and hence his reply, whatever it might be, could not prove war to be consistent with Christianity, because it has no bearing on the point. Even if admitted, to what does it
amount? He did not bid the soldiers abandon their occupation; nor did Christ tell the woman of Samaria to cease from her adulteries, or any others to relinquish the business in which they had been engaged. The grossest idolatry formed a part of the Roman military service. Did John's answer justify that? “ Do violence to no man, and be content with your wages,” said the Baptist; and what sort of a soldier would he be who should “do violence to no
• But the New Testament nowhere condemns war by name.'—We deny the assertion; but, if true, what does it prove? The New Testament does not in this way condemn polygamy or concubinage, gambling or suicide, duelling, the slave-trade or piracy; but does the gospel allow such practices merely because it does not denounce them by name? It does condemn what constitutes them, every one of their moral elements; a mode of condemnation much less equivocal, and far more decisive.
Equally futile is the plea, that neither Christ nor his Apostles ever expressly censured the profession of arms.-Nor did they thus censure other professions or employments; and this argument, if it proves any thing, would justify almost every species of wickedness prevalent in their day. Because our Savior did not condemn the religion of the Syrophenician woman that came to him, Matt. xv. 21–28, does the gospel sanction idolatry? Because he did not reprove the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well, for the adultery and concubinage in which she had lived for years, John iv. 7–30, are we to regard his silence in the case as an approval of such things ? Because he did not expressly condemn the former profession even of the penitent Magdalene, Luke vii. 37–50, does the gospel connive at harlotry? Surely a cause must be hard pushed, that seeks refuge in such sophistries.
Essentially the same answer may be given to the case of the “ centurion having soldiers under him,” who besought that his servant might be healed, and of whom our Savior said, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel,” Matt. viii. 5—13; and to the still more striking case of "Cornelius, a centurion, a devout man, one that feared God, gave much alms, and prayed to God always,” Acts x. 1–35. Make the most of these cases; and what do they prove? Merely that men, under the Jewish dispensation to which they both belonged at the time, might be devout, and still remain soldiers; a position which nobody disputes. Neither Christ nor Peter says a word respecting their profession, but they leave us to determine in other ways whether it is consistent with the gospel; their usual mode of treating the former profession or employment of converts to Christianity. Idolatry was an essential part of the profession of those centurions; and, if the notice taken of them as devout men, proves the military part to be right, it equally proves the idolatrous part to be so. The truth is, those men were first soldiers, then Christians; nor have we the slightest proof that they remained in the profession of arms, but strong presumptive evidence that they relinquished it, both from the idolatrous rites
which it enjoined, and from the fact that there is no authentic record, for the two or three first centuries, of a single Christian continuing in the trade of blood.
But we are gravely told, that our Savior, with a scourge of small cords, drove the dealers in cattle from the temple, John ii. 14—17.—But what has this case to do with war? Before it can touch the present question, you must prove, not only that Christ drove out the cattle with the cords, but actually killed their owners, since this alone resembles war; and that his example, thus explained, he left on record expressly for the guidance of governments in settling their disputes!!
We are reminded, however, of our duty to obey civil government as “an ordinance of God;" and hence the alleged right and even obligation of Christians to engage in war at the call of their rulers.—Now, there is not in all the New Testament a syllable that requires or permits us to disobey God at the bidding of our rulers; and both Christ, his Apostles, and all his early disciples, uniformly refused, at the hazard of their lives, to obey any requisition of civil government that involved disobedience to God. The question then returns, does the gospel allow war? If so, then we may wage it at the command of our rulers; but, if not, no human authority can make it right for us to do so.
• But our Savior himself bade his disciples procure swords even by selling their garments.' Luke xxii. 35–38; Matt. xxvi. 51–53.We will not here attempt a full explanation of this vexed passage; it is enough for our present purpose to say, that no interpretation can make it sanction any use of the sword even in self-defence. When one of his disciples said, “ Lord, here are two swords,” he replied, “it is enough.” Two swords enough to arm twelve men against the whole power of the government arrayed against them!! When one of them, at the crisis of danger, asked, “ Lord, shall we smite with the sword ?” he gave no answer that is recorded; but his influence in restraining the disciples from violence, proves again that he did not design the effusion of blood. Nor did he need the sword for his protection, since he might, at will have brought to his rescue more than twelve legions of angels.” When Peter, mistaking his Master's design, or yielding to his own passions, drew his sword, and smote the servant's ear, Christ performed a miracle to heal the wound, and added this decisive rebuke of violent self-defence,“ put up thy sword; for all they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.” When brought before Pilate, and taunted for his easy surrender by his disciples, he states the reason why they did not fight in his defence : “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." John xviii. 35, 36. Can any thing be plainer than that our Savior did not, in this whole transaction, countenance any use of the sword ?
But war is occasionally expedient, even indispensable to our liberties, and our very existence as a nation.'--These points we are not now arguing. We simply inquire whether the gospel
sanctions war; and the moment you begin to plead its expediency or necessity, you abandon the Bible, and virtually concede that you cannot justify the custom from its pages. Does the gospel any where permit us to wage war when we deem it expedient or even necessary? If so, we may; but, if not, then no degree of expediency or necessity can prove it consistent with the gospel.
• The Bible, however, allows to government what it forbids to individuals.'-True, in some cases it does; but in such cases there is a clear exception in favor of government. Government, as the representative of associated individuals, is regarded by all writers on international law, and by the common sense of the world, as a moral person, subject to the same obligations with individuals in all cases not excepted by God himself; and, unless he has expressly exempted government, the general principles of the gospel are just as binding upon rulers as upon subjects. Every precept of his word, unless an exception is made in their favor expressly, or from the nature of the case, is as applicable to nations as to individuals, and bind the former as truly as they do the latter. God has no where prescribed one set of moral principles for individuals, and another for nations or governments; and, unless the general principles of his word are obligatory alike on them both, the latter have no obligations to bind them, and no rules to guide them.
The apologists for war are very fond of representing it as a judicial trial, a process of justice, a mode of condign punishment.'—This plea is quite plausible; but will facts justify it? In every judicial trial, we see first a law common to the parties; next a judge and jury as umpires between them; then the accuser in presence of the culprit, stating his charges, and bringing witnesses to prove them; and finally, the sentence delivered and executed according to law. Is war like this? Where is the law common to both parties ? Where the umpires to whose decision they refer the points in dispute ? Where the process of proving the charges by fair testimony ? Where the verdict of the jury, or the sentence of the judge? Where the penalty inflicted on the guilty alone after legal conviction? There is not in war even the shadow of any thing like this; the plea is as sheer a fiction as was ever conceived ; and we might as well speak of a duel, a street brawl, or a fight between two madmen or a dozen tigers, as a process of justice.
But we are confidently referred to the passage which speaks of civil government as ordained of God, and of the magistrate as a minister of God, armed with the sword to execute wrath upon evildoers, Rom. xiii. 1–7.-Now, the whole aim of this passage is to enforce the duty of implicit submission to government, though it be as bad as that of Nero himself then on the throne ;-a principle which cuts up by the roots the assumed right of armed resistance and revolution, which all advocates of defensive war take for granted. The Apostle is prescribing the duty, not of rulers, but of subjects alone, and authorizes only by implication, if at all, merely the sword of the magistrate, not the sword of the warrior; the sword being used here, not as an instrument of death, but only
as an emblem of authority. He is looking, not at the intercourse of one nation with another, but solely at the relation and duties of subjects to their own governments. Not a word does he say about international wars; nor does the passage express or involve a solitary principle that would, in our opinion, justify any species of war. The most it can possibly mean, is that government may enforce its laws upon its own subjects, and punish them at discretion for disobedience.
Yet it may be said, for it has been, that this right of government to punish or restrain its own subjects by force, involves the right of war. Here is the pivot of the whole controversy; and on this point we join issue, and contend, that the right, if admitted, to inflict capital punishment, and to use the sword in suppressing mobs and insurrections, does not include in itself the right of one nation to wage war with another nation under any circumstances whatever. If individuals come from a foreign country, and commit robbery, murder, or any other crimes, they become of course amenable to our laws as transient citizens, and the government clearly has a right to punish them in the same way it would offenders from its own subjects. But war is not an affair between individuals and governments ; it is a conflict between GOVERNMENTS THEMSELVES; and the agents employed in carrying it on, are treated, not as individuals, but as representatives of their respective governments. What then is the sole point of inquiry ? Not how government may treat its own subjects, but how one NATION may treat ANOTHER nation. The former is the government question, the latter the peace question; points entirely distinct, and ought never to be confounded.
Take an illustration. As the head of a family, I will suppose I have a right from God to punish my children; but this right does not authorize me to punish my neighbor's children, much less will it justify bloody contention between the two families. My authority is restricted to my own household; and from what I may lawfully do there, you cannot argue to what I may do to any other family. They are distinct, independent domestic communities under the protection of a government common to them both; if one injures the other, redress must be sought in the way which that government prescribes ; and their duties and rights in respect to one another must be determined, not by what the father of each family may do in his own sphere, but by the laws under which they live. If these laws permit families to fight each other, then have they such a right, so far as the government over them can give it ; and on the same principle, if the government of God, the only one over nations, allows them to war against each other, then, and only then, have they a right from God to do so.
Such is the application of our argument. From what a government may properly do to its own subjects, we cannot infer what it may rightly do to another government. Like families under a civil government, they are placed under the common jurisdiction of Jehovah, and must consult his will to learn by what means they may lawfully protect their rights, and redress their wrongs; and thus