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It is not more strange than true, that war has been treated very much as a religious affair. It has claimed the special favor of heaven; and even Christians, scarcely less than ancient pagans, modern savages, or the terrible war-men of the North, the bloodthirsty devotees of Thor and Odin, have engaged in it as a sacred work. They still accompany it with forms of devotion. It is preceded by a season of general fasting and prayer; chaplains are sent to its camps and its battle-fields, with forms of supplication to the God of Peace; the whole Christian community are expected continually to remember before his throne its tented or embattled hosts; and after every important victory, they have been wont to return thanks to the Father of all for success in the butchery of his children.
Such is the practice; but is it right? We put it to the test of no extreme or radical views; but is it consistent with the lowest principles of peace, with any possible construction of the gospel ? Every body now condemns war as wrong, as coming only from lusts, or sinful passions; and will such admissions allow us still to sanction the whole custom by imploring the smiles of heaven on its deeds of vengeance, and returning solemn thanks for such atrocities and horrors as are crowded into every considerable victory?
Let us see how it strikes most men. When the influence of Napoleon led to a proclamation of war between Sweden and England, an additional prayer was introduced, as usual, into the churchservice of Sweden, to call down wrath and ruin on her enemies ; but some Christians in Dalecarlin, on finding this war-prayer thrust into their devotions, very naturally asked, “Who are our enemies? Against whom are we thus to pray ? " "The English.' “ The English !” exclaimed those simple-hearted people; "the English! Impossible! They sent us Bibles ; it cannot be that they have become our enemies; we cannot pray against them.” Nor did they, but successfully petitioned the government to discontinue the warprayer in their section of Sweden.
Nor have these inconsistencies escaped the notice even of aliens or enemies to Christianity. Voltaire ridicules and denounces them with the bitterest sarcasm ; Napoleon, who used in his fits of momentary candor to call war “the trade of barbarians,” and to say that soldiers, if not already vicious, should be made so in order to qualify them fully for their work, sternly excluded chaplains and public prayers from his armies ; Wellington himself once said, that men of nice scruples about religion, have no business in the army or navy ;' and statesmen of our own, though at the hazard of being branded as infidels, have objected to the employment of
P. T. NO. XLI.
chaplains among our soldiers, on the ground that the religion they teach is incompatible with the duties of war. Ought the Christian religion, they ask, “to be encouraged in our army or navy ? Does it afford incentives to vigilance and energy in the discharge of their engagements to the government? If we were living under the Jewish dispensation, where the law was “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” with some propriety might we employ Jewish priests ; ay, if we were followers of the later Prophet who enforced his religion by fire and sword, we might very properly have chaplains of that persuasion. But what does the Christian religion teach? Humble, entire submission to every species of indignity and wrong. What does its very Founder say ? “Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Such is the gospel; but the doctrine is incompatible with a military establishment. What is the duty of a chaplain? To imbue the soldiers and sailors with the spirit of the Christian religion. What would be the result ? Instead of firing them with zeal, with energy, with revenge, it is to tell them, "humbly submit; receive whatever indignity may be offered, and, though tripled upon you, make no resistance.'
War-prayers, if they mean any thing, must certainly give to war our sanction and support; but can we consistently do this? Is the war-system compatible with the gospel ? If not, is it right for Christians to countenance and uphold it by their prayers in its favor? If war, as Edmund Burke says, “ suspends the rules of moral obligation;" if, as Robert Hall declares, 'it includes every vice, and excludes almost every virtue ;' if, according to Dr. Scott, “it is in every case the triumph of the first great murderer, the devil;" if it is, according to Jeremy Taylor, as contrary to the Christian religion as cruelty is to mercy, tyranny to charity ; can it be right for disciples of the Prince of Peace to lend such a custom their sanction?
Let us examine this subject for ourselves. What does the gospel require of us? To lay aside all anger, malice and revenge; to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us ; to do good unto all men, and love even our enemies; to feed them when hungry, and give them drink when thirsty ; to turn the other cheek to the smiter, and overcome evil only with good.' Thus the gospel bids us do; but every one of these principles war contradicts both in theory and practice. Can we consistently pray for such a custom ? Our prayers, if made in accordance with the pacific principles of the gospel, would oppose war, and be discarded by all war-makers as hostile to their designs.
Let us imagine a chaplain, just before a battle, weaving this part of the gospel into his prayer. "O Lord, whose tender mercies are over all they creatures, teach us now to imitate thine own example, who givest thy sunshine and showers alike to the evil and the good. Restrain us from anger, from malice, from the slightest degree of ill-will towards any of our fellow-men; but may we love them all as we do ourselves, and do unto our worst enemies all the good in our power. 'If hungry, may we feed them; if thirsty, may we give them drink; may we ever do unto others what we would fain have them do to us; nor ever may we forget thy commands to follow peace with all men, not to kill, to forgive as we would wish ourselves to be forgiven, to recompense to no man evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.' Are such the prayers that war-makers want of their chaplains ? Would not the spirit of such a prayer, if breathed into a whole army before battle, keep every sword in its scabbard, and unnerve every arm for the work of blood ?
Conceive a prayer in the spirit of war. “Push hard with the bayonet !” says the Soldier's Catechism. “ Stab once; and off with your foe from the bayonet! Stab the second! Stab the third !" Lord Nelson bade his midshipmen, as the climax of his instructions,
obey promptly all orders from their superiors without inquiring whether they were right or wrong, and hate a Frenchman as they would the devil!' An American general once said, 'a battle is the veriest hell upon earth ;' and there will you find the worst passions in fiercest rage, thousands hating, cursing and butchering one another, and then proceeding to plunder, and burn, and commit every species of violence and outrage. For all this, if for any thing, must the chaplain pray on the eve of battle:- 0 Lord of hosts, smile upon thy servants now marshalled before thee for the work of death. Breathe into them, O God of war, the spirit of their profession. Let them for the time forget thy prohibition of old, thou shalt not kill, and also those commands of thy gospel which bid them do good unto all men, to love even their enemies, and turn the other cheek to the smiter. Thou knowest, Omniscient Father of all, this is no time for the application of such principles; and we pray thee to animate them with sentiments more appropriate to the awful duties of this hour, and thus prepare them for a signal and glorious triumph over their enemies. Fill them with the spirit of war, and enable them, in humble reliance on thee, to shoot, and stab, and trample down their foes. Nerve every arm; direct every blow; guide every sword, every bayonet, every bullet to the seat of life, that we may soon reap a glorious harvest of death. Thou knowest, O God most holy, that our enemies, murderers in heart, if not in deed, all deserve the damnation of hell; and we beseech thee to aid us in sending as many of them as possible to the place “ where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Fight thou for us, and give thy servants a great victory, for which all the people shall praise thee.'
Do you say, that such prayers are found in the Old Testament? If so, still it would not follow that they are right for Christians, Jewish wars were expressly enjoined or permitted by Jehovah; the enemies of the state were regarded as the enemies of God, the real King of the Jews; those who uttered the war-prayers recorded in the Bible, were inspired men, and lived under a dispensation which allowed many things now forbidden in the gospel. Our case is in all these respects different from theirs; and this difference entirely neutralizes the argument.
• But are chaplains of no use in the army and navy ?'—They certainly may, if they will, do good by preaching other parts of the gospel ; we merely say they cannot, consistently with their office, enforce its pacific principles. If exempted from all responsibility for the war-system, and allowed freely to preach the whole truth of God, it would be perfectly proper for any minister to do this on board a man-of-war, in a camp, or on a field of battle. He might, if he would, carry the gospel to the very gates of pandemonium ; but, when there, he should not shake hands with the devil, or any of his imps.
Would you, then, have warriors without the means of grace ? Do they not need the gospel ? '-Most certainly; but it may be carried to them without encouraging any of their evil deeds. A gang of pirates need the gospel ; but would you send a minister to countenance their piracy, and pray for their success? The gospel is needed in the grog-shop and the brothel; but would Paul have acted as a chaplain to either? If war is wrong, its chaplain, employed for its support, must countenance what the gospel condemns; and hence his very office is unchristian. For the most part, too, it is a mere farce; for the chaplain, sworn to obey his superior, and compelled to do so, or quit the service, is seldom allowed to pursue his own course. He can neither preach, nor pray, nor converse with the soldiers, except by permission from his commander, generally an irreligious man. One sermon fifteen minutes long on the Sabbath, a short burial service over the dead, now and then a prayer-how much good can this do? Yet such, for the most part, are war-chaplaincies, little better than mockeries, a stealing of heaven's mantle to cover or sanctify deeds of hell.
How, then, shall we treat war?'—Just as you would the twin practice of duelling. Should two duellists meet to blow out each other's brains, would you appoint chaplains on each side to encourage them, and ask their common God to take part in the bloody affray ? Yet might you pray about it. Do you ask how ? Pray against the whole thing as utterly wrong, and beseech God to hold the combatants back from blood, and bring them to a fraternal adjustment, and the custom itself to a speedy end. Thus, and only thus, can we pray aright on the subject of war.
Far be it from us to sit in judgment on chaplains or soldiers. We doubt not there have been, and still are, real Christians among them. We judge not the men; we merely condemn their business as unchristian. So the gospel itself does; so common sense is fast coming to do; and posterity will yet look back, and wonder how any ambassador or disciple of the Prince of Peace could ever have lent himself to such a libel of blood on his peaceful religion. Would you have war cease? It never can so long as Christians support it by their prayers.
AMERICAN - PEACE SOCIETY, BOSTON, MASS.
CLAIMS OF PEACE ON WOMEN.
WOMEN are so much inclined to excuse themselves from the cause of peace, that I would fain expostulate with them on the subject. I know too well how they reason; for I once had the same views myself, and used to say, as most of my sex still do,
women have little or no concern with this matter. We are peaceable enough ourselves, we never go forth to battle ; nor can we, by any personal share in the government, by our votes at the ballot-box, or our voice before the public, affect the question of peace or war in any case. It belongs entirely to men; and we leave it in their hands. They alone make war; it is theirs, if they will, to secure peace. "
This reasoning is quite plausible; but, having myself seen its fallacy, I must entreat my sisters to pause and reflect before they turn their backs upon a cause so important to the whole human race. Are your sympathies in their behalf less tender, less generous than those of the sterner sex? Care you not for their weal or their wo? War has ever been their direst scourge; and are you willing to fold your hands, and let it still roll its deluge of crime, and blood, and tears over myriads after myriads of future victims? Feel you no interest in the race to which you belong; none in the country where you dwell; none in the friends endeared to your hearts, in your husbands and your children, your parents, brothers and sisters, all of whom are exposed to the evils of war? Tell me not you deplore the continuance of this custom, but can do nothing to restrain its ravages. Woman do nothing! Does she exert no influence with God or man? Have you no access by prayer to the mercy-seat of Him who hath the hearts of all entirely in his hand ? Have you no influence over the men around you; none over your father or your brothers, your husband or your sons ? Have you no pen to write, no tongue to speak, no example to set, no spirit of your own to infuse into those around you? Have you not contributed, do you not still contribute, your full share of influence to form and continue the wrong public sentiment which alone sustains the anti-christian, barbarous custom of war even under the full blaze of the gospel ? Can you not change this influence, and throw it into the scale of peace ?
But let us see how we reason on kindred topics. Men alone carried on the slave-trade; but did that fact hold the women of England back from efforts for the abolition of that accursed traffic in the bodies and souls of men ? Did the wives, the mothers, the daughters of our father-land say, 'men, not women, are engaged in this nefarious business, and they alone should put a stop to it? We have no control over it, no responsibility for it; and, though we
P. T. NO, XXXVII.