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There are, bowever, testimonies delivered in the calm of reflection by acute and enlightened men, which may reasonably be allowed at least so much weight as to free the present inquiry from the charge of being wild or visionary. Christianity indeed needs no such auxiliaries; but, if they induce an examination of her duties, a wise man will not wish them to be disregarded.
- They who defend war," says Erasmus, “ must defend the dispositions which lead to war; and these dispositions are absolutely forbidden by the gospel. Since the time that Jesus Christ said, Put up thy sword into its scabbard, Christians ought not to go to war. Christ suffered Peter to fall into an error in this matter, on purpose that, when he had put up Peter's sword, it might remain no longer a doubt that war was prohibited, which, before that order, had been considered as allowable.” Wickliffe seems to have thought it wrong to take away the life of a man on any account, and that war is utterly unlawful. “I am persuaded,” says Bishop Watson, “ that when the spirit of Christianity shall exert its proper influence, war will cease throughout the whole Christian world. War has practices and principles peculiar to itself, which but ill quadrate with the rules of moral rectitude, and are quite abhorrent from the benignity of Christianity.” “ There is," says Souther, “ but one community of Christians in the world, and that, unhappily, of all communities one of the smallest, enlightened enough to understand the prohibition of war by our Divine Master in its plain, literal and undeniable sense, and conscientious enough to obey it, subduing the very instinct of nature to obedience.” Dr. Vicessimus Knox speaks in language equally specific:-“ Morality and religion forbid war in its motives, conduct and consequences.” The Paterines of Gazaria in Italy in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, “beld that it was not lawful to bear arms, or to kill mankind.”
Those who have attended to the mode in which the moral law is instituted in the expressions of the will of God, will have no difficulty in supposing it contains no specific prohibition of war. Accordingly, if we be asked for such a prohibition in the manner in which Thou shalt not kill is directed against murder, we willingly answer that no such prohibition exists; nor is it necessary to the argument. Even those who would require such a prohibition, are themselves satisfied respecting the obligation of many negative duties on which there has been no specific decision in the New Testament. They believe that suicide is not lawful; yet Christianity never forbade it. It can be shown, indeed, by implication and inference, that suicide could not have been allowed; and with this they are satisfied. Yet there is probably in the Christian Scriptures not a twentieth part of as much indirect evidence against the lawfulness of suicide, as there is against the lawfulness of war. To those who require such a command as “Thou shalt not engage in war, it is therefore sufficient to reply, that they require that which, upon this and many other subjects, Christianity has not seen fit to give.
In this discussion, we have to refer to the general tendency of the Christian revelation ;-—to the individual declarations of jesus Christ ;-to his practice ;—to the sentiments and practices of his commissioned followers ;—to the opinions respecting its lawfulness which were held by their immediate converts; and to some other species of Christian evidence.
The moral law is a law of benevolence. This benevolence is good-will and kind affections towards one another, and is placed at the basis of practical morality; it is “the fulfilling of the law;" it is the test of the validity of our pretensions to the Christian character. This law of benevolence is universally applicable to public affairs as well as to private, to the intercourse of nations as well as of individuals.
Let us refer, then, to some of those requisitions of this law which appear peculiarly to respect the moral character of war.' “Have peace one with another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.—Walk with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.-Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing.–Be at peace among yourselves. See that none render evil for evil unto any man.
God hath called us to peace. Follow after love, patience, meekness. Be gentle, showing all meekness unto all
Live in peace.-Lay aside all malice. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.-Avenge not yourselves. If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Overcome evil with good.”
Now, what evidence do these passages convey respecting the lawfulness of war? Could any approval or allowance of it have been subjoined to these instructions, without obvious and most gross inconsistency? But, if war is obviously inconsistent with the general character of Christianity; if war could not have been permitted by its teachers, without an egregious violation of their own precepts, we think that the evidence of its unlawfulness, arising from this general character alone, is as clear, as absolute, and as exclusive, as could have been contained in any form of prohibition whatever.
But it is not from general principles alone, that the law of Christianity respecting war may be deduced. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Ye have heard that it hath been said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy;' but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; for if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?
Of the precepts from the Mount the most obvious characteristic is greater moral excellence and superior purity. They are
directed not so immediately to the external regulation of the conduct, as to the restraint and purification of the affections. In another precept it is not enough that an unlawful passion be just so far restrained as to produce no open immorality—the passion itself is forbidden. The tendency of the discourse is to attach guilt not to action only, but also to thought. It has been said, * Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.”” Mat. v. 21, 22. Our Lawgiver attaches guilt to some of the violent feelings, such as resentment, hatred, revenge; and by doing this, we contend that he attaches guilt to war. War cannot be carried on without those passions which he prohibits. Our argument, therefore, is syllogistical :—War cannot be allowed, if that which is necessary to war is probibited. This, indeed, is precisely the argument of Erasmus :“ They who defend war, must defend the dispositions which lead to war; and these dispositions are absolutely forbidden.”
Whatever might have been allowed under the Mosaic institution as to retaliation or resentment, Christianity says, “ If ye love them only which love you, what reward have ye?—Love your enemies. Now, what sort of love does that man bear towards his enemy, who runs him through with a bayonet ? We repeat, that the distinguishing duties of Christianity must be sacrificed when war is carried on. The question is between the abandonment of these duties, and the abandonment of war, for both cannot be retained; although a late writer of some distinction gravely recommends soldiers, whilst shooting and stabbing their enemies, to maintain towards them a feeling of good-will! Gisborne, in his Duties of Men, advises the soldier “never to forget the common ties of human nature by which he is inseparably united to his enemy!”
It is however objected, that the prohibitions, “ Resist not evil,” &c. are figurative; that they do not mean that no injury is to be punished, and no outrage to be repelled. It has been asked with complacent exultation, What would these advocates of peace say to him who struck them on the right cheek? Would they turn to him the other? What would these patient moralists say to him who robbed them of a coat ? Would they give a cloak also ? What would these philanthropists say to him who asked them to lend a hundred pounds? Would they not turn away?
This is argumentum ad hominem ; one example, among many, of that low and dishonest mode of intellectual warfare which consists in exciting the feelings instead of convincing the understanding. It is, however, some satisfaction, that the motive to the adoption of this mode of warfare, is itself an indication of a bad cause ; for what honest reasoner would produce only a laugh, if he were able to produce conviction ?
We willingly grant that not all the precepts from the Mount were designed to be literally obeyed in the intercourse of life. But what then? To show that their meaning is not literal, is not to show that they do not forbid war. We ask in our turn, What is the meaning of these precepts? What is the meaning of “ Resist not evil?" Does it mean to allow bombardmentdevastation-slaughter? If not, it does not allow war. What, again, do the objectors say is the meaning of, “ Love your enemies," or of, “ Do good to them that hate you ?" Does it mean, “ ruin their commerce”—“sink their fleets”-“plunder their cities ”—“shoot through their hearts ?” If the precept does not mean all this, it does not allow war. It is, therefore, not at all necessary here to discuss the precise signification of some of the precepts from the Mount, or to define what limits Christianity may admit in their application, since whatever exceptions she may allow, it is manifest what she does not allow; if we give to our objectors whatever license of interpretation they may desire, they cannot, without virtually rejecting the precepts, so interpret them as to make them allow war.
Of the injunctions contrasted with “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,” the entire scope and purpose is the suppression of the violent passions, and the inculcation of forbearance and forgiveness, benevolence and love. They forbid not specifically the act, but the spirit of war; and this method of prohibition Christ ordinarily employed. He did not often condemn the individual doctrines or customs of the age, however false, or however vicious; but he condemned the passions by which only vice could exist, and inculcated the truth which dismissed every
And this method was undoubtedly wise. In the gradual alterations of human wickedness, many new species of profligacy might arise which the world had not yet practised; in the gradual vicissitudes of human error, many new fallacies might obtain which the world had not yet held ; and how were these errors and these crimes to be opposed, but by the inculcation of principles applicable to every crime and every error-principles which define not always what is wrong, but tell us what always is right?
There are two modes of censure or condemnation ; the one is to reprobate evil, and the other to enforce the opposite good; and both these modes were adopted by Christ. He not only censured the passions necessary to war, but inculcated the affections most opposed to them. The conduct and dispositions upon which he pronounced his solemn benediction, are exceedingly remarkable. They are these, and in this order: Poverty of Spirit ;–Mourning ;-Meekness ;-Desire of righteousness ;Mercy ;-Purity of heart ;—Peace-making; Sufferance of persecution. Now, let the reader try whether he can propose eight other qualities, to be retained as the general habit of the mind, which shall be more incongruous with war.
Of these benedictions, I think the most emphatical is that pronounced upon the Peace-makers.
“ Blessed are the peacemakers;
for they shall be called the children of God." Higher praise or a higher title, no man can receive. Now, I do not say these benedictions contain an absolute proof that Christ prohib
ited war; but I say they make it clear that he did not approve it. He selected a number of subjects for his solemn approbation; and not one of them possesses any congruity with war, and some of them cannot possibly exist in conjunction with it. Can any one believe that he who made this selection, and distinguished the peace-makers with peculiar approbation, could have sanctioned his followers in destroying one another? Or does any one believe that those who were mourners, and meek, and merciful, and peace-making, could at the same time perpetrate such destruction ? If I be told that a temporary suspension of Christian dispositions, although necessary to the prosecution of war, does not imply the extinction of Christian principles, or that these dispositions may be the general habit of the mind, and may both precede and follow the acts of war, I answer that this is to grant all I require, since it grants that, when we engage in war, we abandon Christianity.
When the betrayers and murderers of Jesus Christ approached him, his followers asked, “Shall we smite with the sword ? " and without waiting for an answer, one of them “ drew bis sword, and smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off bis right ear.” “ Put up again thy sword into his place,” said bis Divine Master; “ for all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.” Matt. xxvi. 52. There is the greater importance in the circumstances of this command, because it probibited the destruction of human life in a cause in which there were the best possible reasons for destroying it. The question, “ shall we smite with the sword,” obviously refers to the defence of the Redeemer from his assailants by force of arms. His followers were ready to fight for him ; and, if any reason for fighting could be a good one, they certainly had it. But if, in defence of himself from the hands of bloody ruffians, his religion did not allow the sword to be drawn, for what reason can it be lawful to draw it? The advocates of war are at least bound to show a better reason for destroying mankind, than is contained in this instance in which it was forbidden.
It will, perhaps, be said, that the reason why Christ did not suffer himself to be defended by arms, was, that such a defence would have defeated the purpose for which he came into the world, namely, to offer up his life; and that he himself assigns this reason in the context. He does indeed assign it; but the primary reason, the immediate context is, “ for all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword." The reference to the destined sacrifice of his life is an after reference. This destined sacrifice might perhaps have formed a reason why his followers should not fight then; but the first, the principal reason which he assigned, was the reason why they should not fight at all. Nor is it necessary to define the precise import of the words, " for all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword;" since it is sufficient for us all, that they imply reprobation.
It is with the Apostles as with Christ himself. The incessant object of their discourses and writings is the inculcation of peace,