Page images

course of years, they become so numerous as to form distinct governments. In any stage of their progress, unfortunate disputes might arise by the imprudence, the avarice, or the ambition of individuals.

Now, at what period would it be proper to introduce the custom of deciding controversies by the edge of the sword, or an appeal to arms ? Might this be done when the families had increased to ten ? Who would not be shocked at the madness of introducing such a custom under such circumstances ? Might it then with more propriety be done when the families had multiplied to fifty, or to a hundred, or a thousand, or ten thousand ? The greater the number, the greater the danger, the carnage and calamity. Besides, what reason can be given, why this mode of deciding controversies would not be as proper when there were but ten families, as when there were ten thousand ?

And why might not two individuals thus decide disputes, as well as two nations ?

Perhaps all will admit that the custom could not be honorably introduced, until they separated, and formed two or more distinct governments. But would this change of circumstances dissolve their ties as brethren, and their obligations as accountable beings? Would the organization of distinct governments confer a right on rulers to appeal to arms for the settlement of controversies ? Is it not manifest, that no period can be assigned, at which the introduction of such a custom would not be absolute murder ? And shall a custom which must have been murderous at its commencement, be now upheld as necessary and honorable ?

But, we must consider what mankind are, and not what they would have been, had wars never been introduced.—True, we should consider both; and by what ought to have been the state of society, we may discover the present delusion. If it would have been to the honor of the human race, had the custom of war never commenced, it must be desirable to dispel the present darkness, and exterminate the desolating scourge. The same objection might have been made to the proposition in the British Parliament for the abolition of the slave-trade ; the same may now be made against any attempt to abolish the custom of human sacrifices among the Hindoos; yea, the same may be urged against every attempt to root out pernicious and immoral customs of long standing.

Let it then be seriously considered, how abominably murderous the custom must have been in its origin; how precarious the mode of obtaining redress; how often the aggressor is successful; how small a part even of the successful nation is ever benefited by tlre war; how a nation is almost uniformly impoverished by the contest; how many individuals are absolutely ruined as to property, or morals, or both; and what a multitude of fellow-creatures are hurried into eternity in an untimely manner, and an unprepared state; and who can hesitate a moment to denounce war as the effect of popular delusion?

Let every Christian seriously consider the malignant nature of that spirit which war-makers evidently wish to excite, and compare it with the temper of Jesus; and where is the Christian who would not shudder at the thought of dying in the exercise of the cominon war-spirit, and also at the thought of being the instrument of exciting such a spirit in his fellow-men? Any custom which cannot be supported but by exciting in men the very temper of the devil, ought surely to be banished from the Christian world.

The impression that aggressive war is murderous, is general among Christians, if not universal. The justness of the impression seems to be admitted by almost every governinent in going to war. For this reason, each of two governments endeavors to fix on the other the charge of aggression, and to assume to itself the ground of defending some right, or avenging, some wrong: Thus each excuses itself, and charges the other with all the blood and misery which result from the contest. But these facts, so far from affording a plea in favor of war, afford a weighty reason for its abolition. If the aggressor is a murderer, and answerable for the blood shed in war; if one or the other must be viewed by God as the aggressor; and if such is the delusion attending war, that each party is liable to consider the other as the aggressor; surely there must be serious danger of a nation's being involved in the guilt of murder, while they imagine they have a cause which may be justified.

So prone are men to be blinded by their passions, their prejudices, and their interests, that in most private quarrels, each of two individuals persuades himself that he is in the right, and his neighbor in the wrong. Hence the propriety of arbitrations, references, and appeals to courts of justice, that persons more disinterested may judge, and prevent that injustice and desolation which would result from deciding private disputes by single combats, or acts of violence.

But rulers of nations are as liable to be misled by their passions and interests as other inen; and, when misled, they are very sure to mislead those of their subjects who have confidence in their wisdom and integrity. Hence it is bighly important that the custom of war should be abolished, and sone other mode adopted to settle disputes between nations. In private disputes there may be cause of complaint on each side, while neither has reason to shed the blood of the other, much less to shed the blood of innocent family connections, neighbors and friends. So of two nations, each may have cause of complaint, while neither can be justified in making war, and much less in shedding the blood of innocent people who have had no hand in giving the offence.

It is an awful feature in the character of war, and a strong reason why it should not be countenanced, that it involves the innocent with the guilty in the calamities it inflicts, and often falls with the greatest vengeance on those who have had no concern in the management of national affairs. It surely is not a crime to be born in a country which is afterwards invaded ; yet in bow

many instances do war-makers punish, or destroy, for no other crime than being a native or resident of an invaded territory! A mode of revenge or redress which makes no distinction between the innocent and the guilty, ought to be discountenanced by every friend to justice and humanity. Besides, as the rulers of a nation are as liable as other people to be governed by passion and prejudice, there is as little prospect of justice in permitting war for the decision of national disputes, as there would be in permitting an incensed individual to be, in his own cause, complainant, witness, judge, jury and executioner. In what point of view then is war not to be regarded with horror?

That wars have been so overruled by God as to be the occasion of some benefits to mankind, will not be denied ; for the same may be said of every custom that ever was popular among men. War may have been the occasion of advancing useful arts and sciences, and even of spreading the gospel; but we are not to do evil that good may come, nor to countenance evil because God may overrule it for good.

* But war gives opportunity for the display of extraordinary talents—of daring enterprise and intrepidity.–True; but let robbery and piracy become as popular as war has been; and will not these customs give as great opportunity for the display of the same talents and qualities of mind ? Shall we therefore encourage robbery and piracy? Indeed it may be asked, do we not encourage these crimes? For what is modern warfare but a popular, refined and legalized mode of robbery, piracy and murder, preceded by a proclamation giving notice of the purpose of the war-maker? The answer of a pirate to Alexander the Great, was as just as it was severe :-“ By what right,” said the king, “ do you infest the seas ? " The pirate replied, “By the same that you infest the universe. But because I do it in a small ship, I am called a robber; and because you do the same acts with a great fleet, you are called a conqueror!” Equally just was the language of the Scythian ambassadors to the same deluded monarch, “ Thou boastest, that the only design of thy marches is to extirpate robbers.

Thou thyself art the greatest robber in the world.”

Is it not, then, time for Christians to learn not to attach glory to guilt, or to praise actions which God will condemn? That Alexander possessed talents worthy of admiration, will be admitted; but when such talents are prostituted to the vile purposes of military fame by spreading destruction and misery through the world, a character is formed which should be branded with everlasting infamy. And nothing, perhaps, short of the commission of such atrocious deeds, can more endanger the welfare of a community, than the applause given to successful military desperadoes. Murder and robbery are not the less criminal for being perpetrated by a king, or a mighty warrior.

Shall the Christian world, then, remain silent in regard to the , enormity of this custom, and even applaud the deeds of men who were a curse to the age in which they lived ? On the same prin

ciple we may applaud the chief of a band of robbers and pirates in proportion to his ingenuity, intrepidity and address in doing mischief. But if we attach glory to such exploits, do we not encourage others to adopt the same road to fame? Besides, would not such applause betray a most depraved taste; a taste which makes no proper distinction between virtue and vice, or doing good,and doing mischief; a taste to be captivated with the glare of bold exploits, but regardless of their end, or the means by which they were accomplished, of the misery they occasion to others, or the light in which they must be viewed by a benevolent God ?

An important question now occurs. Is it not possible to produce such a change in the state of society, and the views of Christian nations, that every ruler shall feel his honor, safety and happiness, to depend on his displaying a pacific spirit, and forbearing to engage in war? Cannot peace societies be extended through Christendom, to support its government, and secure the nation from war? In these societies we may hope to engage every true minister of the Prince of Peace, and every Christian who possesses his temper. Let the contributions be liberal, corresponding in some measure with the importance of the object, and be judiciously appropriated in diffusing light on the subject in every direction, and exciting a just abhorrence of war in every breast. Let every land be filled with newspapers, tracts and periodical works, adapted to the same purpose. The object so perfectly harmonious with the gospel, might be frequently the subject of discussion in the pulpit, of Sabbath and every day conversation, and of our daily prayers to God.

Especially should early education in families, common schools, academies and universities, be made every where subservient to this object. “ Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he his old, he will not depart from it." The power of education has been tried to make children of a ferocious, bloodthirsty character; let it now have a fair chance to see what it will do towards making mild, friendly and peaceful citizens.

As there is an aversion to war in a large majority of every civilized people, and as its evils have been felt in every Christian nation, will it not be as easy to excite a disposition for peace, as for war? If then such means should be put in operation, as have been suggested, would not the most beneficial effects result? Would they not gradually produce an important change in the views of society, and give a new character to Christian nations ? What institution or project would more naturally unite all pious and virtuous men ? On what effort could we more reasonably hope for the blessing of the God of Peace ?

Bible Societies in various parts of the world, must naturally and even necessarily aid our object. Indeed the two objects are so congenial, that whatever promotes the one, will aid the other. The same may be said of all Societies for Propagating the Gospel ; and, should these all cordially co-operate, they must form a most powerful association. The societies of Friends and Shakers will

also come in of course, and cordially contribute to the glorious object. May we not also expect a ready acquiescence and cooperation from the particular churches of every denomination in the land?

True; there are obstacles, but none insurmountable, because God will aid, and the time is at hand when his promise of universal peace shall be fulfilled. Nor is the object of a party nature. The delusion in respect to war, is confined to no nation, sect or party; and our remarks are designed not to cast reproach on any class, but to benefit all who have not examined the subject, and arouse Christians to united and vigorous efforts for the peace of the world.

Here Christians of every sect may find an object worthy of their attention, in which they may cordially unite. For this object they may with propriety leave behind all party zeal and party distinctions, and bury their animosities in one united effort to give peace to the world. Let lawyers, politicians and divines, men of every class who can write or speak, consecrate their talents to the diffusion of light, and love, and peace.

Should there be an effort, such as the object demands, God will grant his blessing, posterity will be grateful, heaven will be filled with joy and praise, and " the sword shall not devour forever."

If war is ever to be set aside, an effort must some time be made; and why not now, as well as at any future day? What objection can now be stated, which may not be brought forward at any after period? If men must have objects for the display of heroism, let their intrepidity be shown in firmly meeting the formidable prejudices of a world in favor of war. Here is an opportunity for the display of such heroism as will occasion no remorse on a dying bed, such as God will approve at the final reckoning. In this cause, ardent zeal, genuine patriotism, undaunted fortitude, the spirit of enterprise, and every quality of mind worthy of a hero, may be gloriously displayed.

There is nothing in the nature of mankind, which renders war necessary and unavoidable. The Quakers, Shakers and Moravians are of the same nature with other people. All the difference between them and others results from education and habit. The principles of their teachers are impressed on the minds of old and young; and an aversion to war and violence is excited, which becomes habitual, and has a governing influence over their hearts, their passions and their lives. If then it has been found possible, by the force of education, to produce such an aversion to war, that people will not even defend their own lives by acts of violence, shall it be thought impossible to destroy the popularity of war, and exclude this deadly custom from the abodes of men?

It will be generally admitted, that the Christian religion has abolished the practice of enslaving captives, and mitigated the evils of war; that, if the temper of our Savior should universally prevail, wars must cease; and that the Scriptures give reason to hope for such a time of peace as the result of our religion. If so, does it not follow, that the custom of war is directly opposed to the

« PreviousContinue »