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Xenophon, who commanded the retreat of the 10,000, and Plutarch, the biographer, allowed that war was not to be undertaken for trivial causes ;-remarkable instances of moderation, in ages, when military glory was the only object of ambition, and murder, havoc and desolation the only path to fame, excepting, perhaps, the celebration of such crimes, by the beauties of language and the charms of poetry.
After the advent of our blessed Saviour, a change took place in the opinions of mankind respecting war, especially among his professed followers; who, (as I have shown in a former number) considered the practice of war to be incompatible with the christian religion ;-so that, for about the three first centuries of the christian era, no christian was found in the profession of arms, and many' suffered martyrdom, rather than stain their hands with the blood of their fellow creatures.
Seneca, the Roman moralist, lived in the reign of the bloody Nero, the cruel persecutor of the christians—was his tutor, and was put to death by his orders, A. D, 65. From
the preaching of Paul at Rome and the public execution of the christians, it is not improbable, that Seneca was acquainted with their principles, and that the light of the gospel, thus reflected, had an effect on his mind. Yet he appears to be the only heathen author who has condemned the moral evils attendant on war;—80 true it is, that war is a pagan custom, and can only be upheld on heathenish principles.
Seneca thus writes in one of his epistles :
“ We punish murders and massacres committed among private persons; what do we respecting wars, and the glorious crime of murdering whole nations ?-Here avarice and cruelty knows no bounds. Barbarities are authorized by decrees of the Senate and the votes of the people; and enormities, forbidden in private persons, are ordered and sanctioned by public legislatures.”
Things, which, if men had done them in their private capacity, they would have paid 'for with their livesthe very same things we extol to the skies, when they do them in their war accoutrements.”
" Another question arises: How are we to
behave toward our fellow creatures? How must we answer for it? What rules shall we lay down ? Shall we say that we ought to spare the effusion of human blood ? How small a matter is it, not to hurt him, whom we are bound by every obligation to do all the good to in our power! A prodigious merit indeed, if a man is mild and gentle to his
fellow man! We are all limbs of one great - body. Nature produced us all as relations one to another. She inspired us with mutual love, and made us social. According to her laws, it is a more wretched thing to do an injury than to suffer death."
“What can one call it but madness, to carry mischief about us wherever we go; to fall violently upon people of whom we know nothing; to destroy every thing that comes in our way, and, like so many wild beasts, to murder men we have no sort of dislike to!",
Hów much nearer to the spirit of the gospel of peace, are these sentiments expressed by a heathen, than those we hear from the great men of the world, who have been idolized in proportion to the murders they have
committed! How many christian moralists, and christian ministers too, does this heathen sage put to the blush !
Since the above appeared in the Mirror, the following quotations have fallen in my way:
“ It is far better, nay, more useful, to conquer enemies by virtuous acts and by justice, than to subdue them by 'arms. For in the one case, they submit, because they are compelled by necessity, in the other, of their own accord. The latter kind of victory recalls the ill-disposed to their duty with great loss: but the former brings back the disaffected into the right way, without detriment. Besides, where the business is managed by arms, the principal part of the victory is the work of the soldier ; but where justice is the medium, the whole glory belongs to the rulers.. (Polybius.)
“ There are two kinds of contention ; the one by argument, the other by violence; the one belongs to man, the other properly to the brutes. (Cicero.)
“When a certain man was praising the saying of Cloemenes, who being asked,
what was the duty of a good' king, answered, To do good to his friends, and evil to his enemies: How much more correct, says Socrates, would it be, To do good to his friends, and to make friends of his enemies !
“Pythagoras observes, that men should live together in such a state of mind, that instead of making enemies of their friends, they should make friends of their enemies.
“When the Cumanians had delivered up to Pittacus a man in bonds by whom his son had been slain, he dismissed the man unpunished, with this remark: Forgiveness is better than revenge: for that belongs to a benevolent nature; this to a savage.
“Musonius the philosopher uttered a similar sentiment. “It is the part of a wild beast, said he, not of man, to seek how bite may be returned for bite, and evil for evil."