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for, did not our religion require us to be killed rather than to kill ?" The fact of Christians being in forts and camps, is no proof that they were there as soldiers; and the supposition is forbidden by the general tenor of Tertullian's language against war as unlawful for Christians. If they were soldiers, it only proves, what is true, that some Christians, even before the death of Tertullian, entered the army, or more probably, remained in it after their conversion.
Cyprian, in his Epistle to Donatus, speaks thus, “When thou reflectest upon thy condition, thy thoughts will rise in transports of gratitude and praise to God for having made thy escape from the pollutions of the world. The things thou wilt principally observe will be the highways beset with robbers, the seas with pirates ; encampments, marches, and all the terrible forms of war and bloodshed. When a single war is committed, it shall be deemed perhaps a crime; but that crime shall commence a virtue, when committed under the shelter of public authority; so that punishment is not rated by the measure of guilt; but the more enormous the size of the wickedness is, so much the greater is the chance of impunity."
LACTANTİUs, who lived some time after CYPRIAN, says, “it can never be lawful for a righteous man to go to war.” To these might be added ARCHELAUS, AMBROSE, CHRYSOSTOM, JEROME, and Cyril, all of whom were of opinion, that it is unlawful for Christians to engage in war.
II. With respect to the PRACTICE of the early Christians, there is no well authenticated instance upon record of their entering into the army for nearly the two first centuries, but they declined the military profession as one in which it was not lawful for them to engage.
i. The first species of evidence on this point may be found in the following facts, reaching from the year 170 to 195. Cassius had rebelled against the Emperor Verus, and was slain soon after. Clodius Albinus in one part of the
world, and Pescennius Niger in another, had rebelled against the Emperor Severus, and both were slain. Now, suspicion fell, as it always did in those times, if any thing went wrong, upon the Christians; but TERTULLIAN tells us that this suspicion was totally groundless. “ You defamed us," says he,“ by charging us with having been guilty of treason to our emperors; for not a Christian could be found in any of the rebel armies, whether commanded by Cassius, Albinus, or Niger." These are important facts; for the armies in question were very extensive. Cassius was master of all Syria with its four Legions ; Niger, of the Asiatic and Egyptian Legions, and Albinus, of those of Britain ; which Legions together contained between a third and a half of the standing Legions of Rome; and the circumstance, that no Christian was to be found in them, is the more remarkable, because, according to the same TERTULLIAN, Christianity had then spread over almost the whole of the known world.
2. A second species of evidence may be collected from expressions and declarations in certain authors of those times. Justin MAR'TYR and TATIAN make distinctions between soldiers and Christians; and CLEMENS, of Alexandria, gives the Christians, who were contemporary with him, the appellation of the Peaceable, thus distinguishing them from others of the world; and he says expressly, the Peaceable never use sword or bow, meaning by these the instruments of war.
3. A third species of evidence may be found in the belief, which the writers of these times had, that the prophecy of Isaiah, that men should turn their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, was then in the act of completion IREN£Us, about the year 180, affirms that this famous prophecy had been completed in his time; "for the Christians,” says he, “ have changed their swords and lances into instruments of peace, and they know not how to fight.” Justin MARTYR, contemporary with IRENÆUS, asserts the same thing. “ That the prophecy,”. says he, “ is fulfilled, you have good reason to believe; for we who in times past killed one another, do not now fight with our enemies.” And here it is observable, that the Greek word fight means to fight as in war; and the Greek word enemy means an enemy of the State. TERTULLIAN, who lived after both, speaks in these remarkable words, “ Deny that these (meaning the turning of swords into plough-shares) are the things prophesied of, when you see what you see, or that they are the things fulfilled, when you read what you read; but if you deny neither of these positions, then you must confess that the prophecy has been accomplished, as far as the practice of every individual is concerned, to whom it is applicable.” We might go from TERTULLIAN even as far as TAEODORET, if it were necessary, to show that the prophecy in question was considered as then in the act of completion.
4. The fourth and last species of evidence may be found in the charges of Celsus, and the reply of ORIGEN. Celsus, at the end of the second century, attacked the Christian Religion, and made it one of his charges, that Christians refused to bear arms for the Emperor, even in cases of necessity, and when their services would have been accepted. He told them further, that if the rest of the Empire were of their opinion, it would soon be overrun by the barbarians. Now, Celsus dared not have brought this charge, if the fact had not been publicly known; but let us see whether it was denied by those who thought his work demanded a reply. ORIGEN, in the third century, answered him; but, in his answer, he admits the facts as stated by Celsus, that the Christians would not bear arms, and justifies them on the ground, that war is unlawful for Christians.
As the early Christians would not enter the armies, so, when they became converted there, they relinquished their profession. We find from TERTULLIAN, that many in his time, immediately on their conversion to Christianity, quitted the military service. are told, also, by ARCHELAUS, 278, that many Roman soldiers who had embraced Christianity after having witnessed the piety and
generosity of Marcellus, immediately forsook the profession of arms. We are told, also, by EUSEBIUS, that about the same time numbers laid aside a military life, and became private persons rather than abjure their religion."
Even Gibbon bears his sneering testimony to the pacific scruples of the early Christians. “ 'The defence of our persons and property, they knew not how to reconcile with the patient doctrine which enjoined an unlimited forgiveness of past injuries ; nor could their humane ignorance be convinced, that it was lawful, on any occasion, to shed the blood of our fellow-creatures by the sword either of justice or of war, though their criminal or hostile attempts should threaten the peace or safety of the whole community. The Christians felt and confessed, that such institutions might be necessary for the present system of the world, and they cheerfully submitted to the authority of their pagan governors ; but, while they inculcated the maxims of passive obedience,” submission, a very different thing," they refused to take any active part in the civil administration or military defence of the empire.”
Here then are facts to show, that for nearly the first two centuries, no Christians would either take upon themselves, or continue the profession of soldiers. But it may be said, that the military oath, taken in the Roman armies, and repeated annually, was full of idolatry; that the Roman standards were all considered as gods, and had divine honors paid them by the soldiery ; and that images of the Emperors were to be worshipped in the same manner. Now, these impious customs were interwoven with the military service; nor was any soldier exempted from them. It will be urged, then, that no Christian could submit to such services. Indeed, when a person was suspected of being a Christian in those times, he was instantly taken to the altar to sacrifice, it being notorious that, if he were a Christian, he would not sacrifice, though the loss of his life was the certain consequence of his refusal.
An objector may say, that these idolatrous tests and customs operated as the great cause, why Christians refused to enter the army, or why they left it when converted. True; these tests did operate as one cause. So TERTULLIAN states, and makes this one of his arguments against the lawfulness of serving in the army. He
says, “the military oath and the baptismal vow are inconsistent with each other, the one being the sign of Christ, the other of the Devil;" and he calls the military standard " the Rival, or Enemy of Christ.” All history confirms the fact. Take the following instance. Marinus, according to EUSEBIUS, was a man of family and fortune, and an officer in a legion which in 260 was stationed at Cæsarea, Palestine. One of the centurion's rods happened to become vacant in this legion, and Marinus was appointed to it; but just at this moment another, next in rank, accused him before the tribunal of being a Christian, stating, “ that the laws did not allow a Christian who refused to sacrifice to the Emperors,
to hold any dignity in the army.” Achæus, the judge, asked Marinus if it was true that he had become a Christian? He acknowledged it; and three hours were allowed him to consider whether he would sacrifice or die. When the time expired, he chose the latter. The history of those times is full of such instances; and so desirous were the early Christians of keeping clear of idolatry in every shape, that they avoided every custom which appeared in the least degree connected with it. Thus when a largess was given in honor of the Emperors, L. Septimus Severus and his son, a solitary soldier, as we learn from TERTULLIAN, carried the garland given him on that occasion, in his hand, while the rest wore it on their heads. The Church then held it unlawful to wear the garland, because it belonged to the dress of the heathen priests, when sacrificing to their gods. On being interrogated by his commander why he refused wearing it, he replied, that he had become a Christian. He was immediately punished before the army, and sent into prison. But, while such idolatrous services hindered Christians from entering, and compelled them to leave the army, nothing is more true, than that the belief of its being unlawful for Christians to fight, occasioned an equal abhorrence of military life.
There were three notions upon which this belief was grounded. 1. That it was their duty to love their enemies. The world was then full of divisions and bitterness. The Jews looked upon the Gentiles as dogs and outcasts, so as not even to tell them their road when asked, or give them a draught of water; and the Gentiles, in turn, considered the Jews as the enemies of all nations, and haters of mankind. Nations, too, were set against each other on account of former and existing wars. Justin Martyr says, who once hated each other, and delighted in mutual quarrels and slaughter, and, according to custom, refused to sit at the same fire with those who were not of our own tribe and party, now since the appearance of Christ in the world, live familiarly with them, pray for our enemies, and endeavor to persuade them who hate us unjustly, to order their lives according to the excellent precepts of Christ.” Such was the practice of the early Christians,
as founded on this tenet. TERTULLIAN says, “it was their peculiar character to love their enemies ;” and ATHENAGORAS, JULIAN and LACTANTIUS, make “this their character to have been a proof of the divinity of their religion.” It was impossible for them, while embracing this heavenly tenet, even had the idolatrous services been dispensed with, to appear in the shape of warriors.
2. That it became them as Christians, to abstain from all manner of violence, and become distinguishable as the followers of peace. “ The great King of Heaven,” says ISIDORE of PELUSIUM,
came down from above to deliver rules for an heavenly conduct, which he has placed in a certain mode of contending quite contrary to that in the Olympic Games. There, he that fights, and gets the better, receives the Crown; here, he that is struck, and bears it meekly, has the honor and applause. There, he that returns blow
for blow; here, he that turns the other cheek, is celebrated in the theatre of Angels; for the victory is measured not by revenge, but by a wise
and generous patience. This is the new law of Crowns, the new way of contending for the mastery.” We find, accordingly, from ATHENAGORAS and other early writers, that the Christians of their time abstained, when they were struck, from striking again, and carried their principles so far as even to refuse going to law with those who injured them. It was impossible for them, while interpreting the Scriptures in this manner, " to have used the sword or the bow in war."
3. That the slaughter of men in war was neither more nor less than direct murder. They had such an abhorrence of murder, and of being thought to be implicated at all in so atrocious a crime, that they refused to be present where the life of a fellow-creature was taken away, whatever was the occasion. ATHENAGORAS, TATIAN, THEOPHILUS ANTIOCHENUS, and MINUTIUS FELIX, all agree in asserting this.
On these three grounds, independently of idolatrous practices in the army, the belief of the unlawfulness of war appears to have been universal among Christians of those times. Every Christian writer of the second century, who notices the subject, makes it unlawful for Christians to bear arms; and, as this belief seems to have been universal, so it operated as an impediment to a military life, quite as much as the idolatry connected with it, of which the following instances may suffice for illustration:
Let us first take a case on this principle alone. Maximilian having been brought before the tribunal to be enrolled as a soldier, Dion, the Proconsul, asked him his name. Maximilian, turning to him, replied, " why wouldst thou know my name? Í am a Christian, and cannot fight." Then Dion ordered him to be enrolled, and bade the officer mark him ; but Maximilian refused to be marked, still asserting that he was a Christian; upon which Dion instantly replied, “ bear arms, or thou shalt die.” To this Maximilian answered, “I cannot fight, if I die; I am not a soldier of this world, but a soldier of God." Dion then said, “ who has persuaded thee to behave thus ?" Maximilian answered, “ my own mind, and he who called me.” Dion then spoke to his father, and bade him persuade his son; but his father observed, that his son knew his own mind, and what it was best for him to do. After this had passed, Dion addressed Maximilian again in these words, “take thy arms, and receive the mark.” “I can receive," says Maximilian, “ no such mark. I have already the mark of Christ;" upon which Dion said, “I will send thee quickly to thy Christ.” “Thou mayst do so,” says Maximilian; “but the glory will be mine." Dion then bade the officer mark him; but Maximilian still persisted in refusing, and spoke thus, “I cannot receive the mark of this world; and, if thou shouldst give me the mark, I will destroy it. It will avail nothing. I am a Christian; and it is not lawful for me to wear such a mark about my neck, when I have received the saving mark of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the