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An argument has sometimes been advanced in favor of war from the divine communications to the Jews under the administration of Moses. It has been said that, as wars were allowed and enjoined to that people, they cannot be inconsistent with the will of God. Certainly not at that time; but, if Christianity prohibits war, there is to Christians an end of the controversy. War cannot be justified by referring to any antecedent dispensation; and those who refer to the authority by which the Jews prosecuted their wars, must be expected to produce the same authority for our own. Wars were commanded to the Jews; but are they commanded to us? War, in the abstract, was never commanded ; and surely the specific wars enjoined upon the Jews for an express purpose, are neither authority nor example for us who have received no such injunction, and can plead no such purpose:
It will, perhaps, be said, that the commands to prosecute wars, even to extermination, are so positive, and so often repeated, that it is not probable, if they were inconsistent with the will of heaven, that they would have been thus peremptorily enjoined. We answer, they were not inconsistent with the will of heaven then. But even then, the prophets foresaw that they were not accordant with the universal will of God, since they predicted, that when that will should be fulfilled, war should be eradicated from the world. And by what dispensation was this will to be fulfilled ? By that of the “Rod out of the stem of Jesse.” Some of the commands under the law, Christianity requires us to disobey. “ If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, &c., all the men of the city shall stone him with stones that he die. If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, entice thee secretly, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,' thou shalt not pity him nor conceal him, but thou shalt surely kill him ; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death.” Deut. xxi. 18, 21.; xiii. 9.
It is worthy of recollection, too, that David was forbidden to build the temple because he had shed blood. " As for me it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God: but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars ; thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight." ; Chron. xxii. 7, 8. So little accordancy did war possess with the purer offices even of the Jewish dispensation.
Perhaps the argument to which the greatest importance is attached by the advocates of war, and by which thinking men are chiefly induced to acquiesce in its lawfulness, is this, that a distinction is to be made between rules which apply to us as individuals, and rules which apply to us as subjects of the state ; and that the pacific injunctions of Christ from the Mount, and all the other kindred commands and prohibitions of the Chris tian Scriptures, have no reference to our conduct as members of the political body.
When persons make such broad distinctions between the obligations of Christianity on private and on public affairs, the proof of the rectitude of the distinction must be expected of those who make it. General rules are laid down by Christianity, of which in some cases the advocate of war denies the applicabil. ity. He, therefore, is to produce the reason and the authority for the exception. And that authority must be a competent authority-the authority mediately or immediately of God. It is to no purpose for such a person to tell us of the magnitude of political affairs of the greatness of the interests which they involve --of necessity or expediency. All these are very proper considerations in subordination to the Moral Law; otherwise they are wholly nugatory and irrelevant. Let the reader observe the manner in which the argument is supported. "If an individual buffers aggression, there is a power to which he can apply that is above himself, and above the aggressor; a power by which the bad passions of those around him are restrained, or by which their aggressions are punished. But amongst nations there is no acknowledged superior or common arbitrator. Even if there were, there is no way in which its decisions could be enforced, but by the sword. War, therefore, is the only means which one nation possesses of protecting itself from the the aggression of another. The reader will observe the fundamental fallacy upon which the argument proceeds; it assumes, that the reason why an individual is not permitted to use violence is, that the laws will use it for him. Here is the error; for the foundation of the duty of forbearance in private life, is not that the laws will punish aggression, but that Christianity requires forbearance.
Undoubtedly, if the existence of a common arbitrator were the foundation of the duty, the duty would not be binding upon nations. But that which we require to be proved is this—that Christianity exonerates nations from those duties which she has imposed upon individuals. This the present argument does not prove ; and in truth, with a singular unhappiness in its application, it assumes in effect that she has imposed these duties upon neither the one nor the other.
If it be said, that Christianity allows to individuals some degree and kind of resistance, and that some resistance is therefore lawful to states, we do not deny it. But if it be said, that the degree of lawful resistance extends to the slaughter of our fellow Christians, to war, we do deny it; we say that the rules of Christianity cannot, by any possible latitude of interpretation, be made to extend to it. The duty of forbearance, then, is antecedent to all considerations respecting the condition of man; and, whether he be under the protection of laws or not, the duty of forbearance is imposed.
The only truth which appears to be elicited by the present argument is, that the difficulty of obeying the forbearing rules of Christianity is greater in the case of nations than in the case
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of individuals; the obligation to obey them is the same in both. Nor let any one urge the difficulty of obedience in opposition to the duty; for he who does this, has yet to learn one of the most awful rules of his religion-a rule enforced by the precepts, and more especially by the final example of Christ, of Apostles and martyrs—the rule which requires that we should be " obedient even unto death.” Let it not, however, be supposed that we believe the difficulty of forbearance would be as great in practice as it is in theory. Our interests are commonly promoted by the fulfilment of our duties; and we hope hereafter to show, that the fulfilment of the duty of forbearance forms no exception to the applicability of the rule.
The intelligent reader will have perceived, that the war of which we speak is all war, without reference to its objects, whether offensive or defensive. In truth, respecting any other than defensive war, it is scarcely worth while to entertain a question; since no one with whom we are concerned to reason, will advocate its opposite. Some persons indeed talk with much complacency of their reprobation of offensive war. robate no more than this, is only to condemn that which wickedness itself is not wont to justify. Even those who practise offensive war, affect to veil its nature by calling it by another name.
In conformity with this, we find that it is to defence that the peaceable precepts of Christianity are directed. Offence appears not to have even suggested itself. It is, “Resist not evil ;” it is, “ Overcome evil with good;" it is, “Do good to them that hate you;” it is, “ Love your enemies ;” it is, “ Render not evil for evil ;" it is, “ Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek.” All this supposes previous offence, or injury, or violence; and it is then that forbearance is enjoined.
It is common with those who justify defensive war, to identify the question with that of individual self-defence. This is one of the strongholds of the defender of war, the almost final fastness to which he retires. The instinct of self-preservation, it is said, is an instinct of nature; and since this instinct is implanted by God, whatever is necessary to self-preservation is accordant with his will. The fallacy of the whole argument appears to consist in this, that it assumes an instinct of nature to be a law of paramount authority. God has implanted in the human system various propensities or instincts, of which the purposes are wise. These propensities tend in their own nature to abuse; and, when gratified or followed to excess, they become subversive of the purposes of the wisdom which implanted them, and destructive of the welfare of mankind. He has therefore instituted a superior law, sanctioned by his immediate authority; and by this law, we are required to regulate these propensities. The question therefore is, not whether the instinct of self-preservation is implanted by nature, but whether Christianity has restricted its operation. By this, and by this only, the question is to be determined. Now, he who will be at the trouble of mak
ing the inquiry, will find that a regulation of the instincts of nature, a restriction of their exercise, is a prominent object of the Christian morality; and I think it plain that this regulation and restriction apply to the instinct before us. That some of these propensities are to be restrained, is certain. One of the most powerful instincts of our nature, is an affection to which the regulating precepts of Christianity are peculiarly directed. I do not maintain that any natural instinct is to be eradicated, but that all of them are to be regulated and restrained; and I maintain this of the instinct of self-preservation.
We say, however, that the questions of self-defence and of war, are practically dissimilar; so that if we had a right to kill a man in self-defence, very few wars would be shown to be lawful. Of the wars which are prosecuted, some are simply wars of aggression ; some are for the maintenance of a balance of power ; some are in assertion of technical rights; and some, undoubtedly, to repel invasion. The last are perhaps the fewest; and of these only it can be said that they bear any analogy whatever to the case which is supposed ; and even in these, the analogy is seldom complete. It has rarely indeed happened that wars have been undertaken simply for the preservation of life, and that no other alternative has happened to a people than to kill or be killed. And let it be remembered, that unless this alternative alone remains, the case of individual self-defence is irrelevant; it applies not practically to the subject.
But, indeed, you cannot in practice make distinctions even moderately accurate between defensive war, and war for other purposes. Suppose the Christian Scriptures had said, An army may fight in its own defence, but not for any other purpose. Whoever will attempt to apply this rule in practice, will find he has a very wide range of justifiable warfare, a range tha will embrace many more wars than moralists, laxer than we shall suppose him to be, are willing to defend. If an army may fight in defence of their own lives, they may, and they must fight in defence of the lives of others ; if in the defence of the lives of others, they will fight in defence of their property ; if in defence of property, they will fight in defence of political rights; if in defence of rights, they will fight in promotion of interests ; if in promotion of interests, they will fight in promotion of glory and crime. Let any honest man look over the gradations by which we arrive at this climax, and I believe he will find that, in practice, no curb can be placed upon the conduct of an army until they reach that cl nax Th is indeed a wid distance between fighting in defence of life, and fighting in furtherance of our crimes; but the steps which lead from one to the other, will follow in inevitable succession. I know that the letier of our rule excludes it; but I know that the rule will be a letter only. It is very easy for us to sit in our studies, and point the commas, and semicolons, and periods of the soldier's career ; it is very easy for us to say, he shall stop at defence of life, or at protection of property, or at the support of rights; but armies will never listen
to us; we shall be only the Xerxes of morality, throwing out idle chains into the tempestuous ocean of slaughter.
What is the testimony of experience? When nations are mutually exasperated, and armies are levied, and battles are fought, does not every one know that with whatever motives of defence one party may have begun the contest, both in turn become aggressors? In the fury of slaughter, soldiers do not attend, they cannot attend, to questions of aggression. Their business is destruction, and their business they will perform. If the army of defence obtains success, it soon becomes an army of aggression. Having repelled the invader, it begins to punish him. If a war has begun, it is vain to think of distinctions of aggression and defence. Moralists may talk of distinctions, but soldiers will make none; none can be made; it is beyond the limits of possibility,
Indeed, some of the definitions of defensive or just war which are proposed by moralists, indicate how impossible it is to confine warfare within any assignable limits. “ The objects of just war,” says Paley, “are precaution, defence, or reparation. Every just war supposes an injury perpetrated, attempted, or feared.", I shall acknowledge, that if these be justifying motives to war, I see very little purpose in talking of morality upon the subject. It is in vain to expatiate on moral obligations, if we are at liberty to declare war whenever an “injury is feared;" an injury, without limit to its insignificance! a fear, without stipulation for its reasonableness! The judges, also, of the reasonableness of fear, are to be they who are under its influence; and who so likely to judge amiss as those who are afraid ? Sounder philosophy than this has told us, that “he who has to reason upon his duty when the temptation to transgress it is before him, is almost sure to reason himself into error."
Violence, and Rapine, and Ambition are not to be restrained by morality like this. It may serve for the speculations of a study; but we wil venture to affirm, that mankind will never be controlled by it. Moral rules are useless, if, from their own nature they cannot be, or will not be applied. Who believes that if kings and conquerors may fight when they have fears, they will not fight when they have them not ? This morality allows too much latitude to the passions, to retain any practical restraint upon them. And a morality that will not be practised, I had almost said, that cannot be practised, is an useless morality. It is a theory of morals. We want clearer and more exclusive rules; we want more obvious and immediate sanctions. It were in vain for a philosopher to say to a general who was burning for glory, You are at liberty to engage in the war, provided you have suffered, or fear you will suffer an injury-otherwise Christianity prohibits it.' He will tell him of twenty injuries that have been suffered, of a hundred that have been attempted, of a thousand that he fears. What answer can the philosopher make ?
If these are the proper standards of just war, there will be little difficulty in proving any war to be just, except that of simple aggression; and by the rules of this morality, the aggressor iş