Page images
PDF
EPUB

caused, and the mischiefs they perpetrated; that men there were, men deemed worthy of popular recompense, who for some small pecuniary retribution, hired themselves out to do any deeds of pillage, devastation and murder, which might be demanded of them; and that such men-destroyers were marked out as the eminent and illustrious, as the worthy of laurels and monuments, of eloquence and poetry.”

MEN OF LETTERS.

ERASMUS, the glory of his age, wrote against war with unrivalled beauty and force. • What infernal being, allpowerful in mischief, fills the bosom of man with such insatiable

rage for war! If familiarity with the sight had not destroyed all surprise at it, and custom blunted the sense of its evils, who could believe that those wretched beings are possessed of rational souls, who contend with all the rage of furies ? Robbery, blood, butchery, desolation, confound without distinction every thing sacred and profane."

“Behold with the mind's eye savage troops of men horrible in their very visage and voice; men clad in steel, drawn upon every side in battle-array, and armed with weapons that are frightful in their clash and their very glitter. Mark the horrid murmur of the confused multitude, their threatening eyeballs, the harsh, jarring din of drums and clarions, the terrific sound of the trumpet, the thunder of cannon, a mad shout like the shrieks of bedlamites, a furious onset, a cruel butchering of each other ! See the slaughtered and the slaughtering, heaps of dead bodies, fields flowing with blood, rivers reddened with human gore!”

"I pass over, as comparatively trifling, the fields of grain trodden down; peaceful cottages and rural mansions burnt to the ground; villages and towns reduced to ashes; innocent women violated; old men dragged into captivity; churches defaced and demolished ; every thing laid waste, a prey to robbery, plunder and violence. Nor will I mention the consequences of the justest and most fortunate

the unoffending common people robbed of their little, hard-earned property; the great laden with taxes ; old people bereaved of their children, more cruelly killed by the murder of their offspring than by the sword; women far advanced in age, left destitute, and put to death in a worse form than if they had died at once by the point

war

of the bayonet; widowed mothers, orphan children, houses of mourning, and once affluent families reduced to extreme penury."

“Do you detest robbery and pillage? These are among the duties of war. Do you shudder at the idea of murder? To commit it with despatch, and by wholesale, constitutes the celebrated art of war. Do you regard debauchery, rapes, incest, and crimes of a dye still deeper than these, as foul disgraces to human nature ? Depend upon it, war leads to all of them in their most aggravated atrocity. Is impiety, or a total neglect of religion, the source of all villany ? Religion is always overwhelmed in the storms of war."

“ The absurdest circumstance of all is, that you see in wars among Christian nations the cross glittering and waving on high in both the contending armies at once. What a shocking sight! Crosses dashing against crosses, and Christ on this side firing bullets at Christ on the other ! Cross against cross, and Christ against Christ, and prayers at the same time from both armies to the same God of Peace!!"

Well does Burton, Johnson's favorite author, ask, “ Is not this a mad world? Are not these madmen who leave such fearful battles as memorials of their madness to all succeeding generations ? What fury put so brutish a thing as war first into the minds of men ? Why should creatures, born to exercise mercy and meekness, so rave and rage like beasts rushing on to their own destruction? So abominable a thing is war! And yet warriors are the brave spirits, the gallant ones of this world, the alone admired, the alone triumphant! These have statues, and crowns, and pyramids, and obelisks to their eternal fame!!”

THEOLOGIANS. The early fathers of the church were unanimous in denouncing war as inconsistent with a profession of faith in Christ. Custom,” says TERTULLIAN, tion an unlawful act. And can a soldier's life be lawful, when Christ has pronounced that he who lives by the sword, shall perish by the sword? Can any one who professes the peaceable doctrines of the gospel, be a soldier?” Such views prevailed among all the ministers and churches of Christ during the purest era of our religion, and ceased not to regulate their conduct till near the fatal union of

3*

can never sanc

Church and State, under Constantine, early in the fourth century.

Jeremy Taylor holds war to be incompatible with the gospel. “The Christian religion hath made no particular -provision for the conduct of war, under a proper title; and, if men be subjects of Christ's law, they can never go to war with each other. As contrary as cruelty is to mercy, tyranny to charity, so is war and bloodshed to the meekness and gentleness of the Christian religion; and such is the excellency of Christ's doctrine, that, if men would obey it, Christians would never war one against another."

Bishop Watson exclaims,“ Would to God that the spirit of the Christian religion would exert its influence over the hearts of individuals in their public capacity, as much as, we trust, it does over their conduct in private life! Then there would be no war. When the spirit of Christianity shall exert its proper influence over the minds of individuals, and especially over the minds of public men in their public capacities, war will cease throughout the Christian world."

Cecil assures us “there is something worse than the plunder of the ruffian, than the outrage of the ravisher, than the stab of the murderer. These are comparatively but the momentary evils of war. There is also a shocking moral appendage which naturally grows out of national conflicts. Instead of listening to the counsels of divine mercy, and concurring in the design of a kingdom of heaven set up on earth in ‘righteousness,

and joy in the Holy Ghost,' the spirit of warlike discord tends to entomb every such idea. It tends rather to set up something like a kingdom of hell, a reign of violence where destruction is the grand enterprise ; where the means of death and desolation are cultivated as a science; where invention is racked to produce ruin, and the performance of it is ennobled by public applause. Moloch seems once more enthroned; while ambition, revenge and oppression erect their banners amidst groans and tears, amidst cities desolated, or smoking in their ashes."

ROBERT Hall, the first preacher, if not the first mind of his age, has filled many a page with strains of eloquent denunciations against war. “But how is it possible to give you an idea of its horrors ? Here you behold rich harvests, the bounty of heaven, and the reward of industry, consumed in a moment, or trampled under foot, while famine and pestilence follow in the steps of deso ation. There the

and peace,

OF VIRTUE.

cottages of peasants given up to the flames; mothers expiring through fear not for themselves, but their infants; the inhabitants flying with their helpless babes in all directions, miserable fugitives on their native soil ! In another part you witness opulent cities taken by storm; the streets, where no sounds were heard but those of peaceful industry, filled on a sudden with slaughter and blood, resounding with the cries of the pursuing and the pursued; the palaces of nobles demolished, the houses of the rich pillaged, the chastity of virgins and of matrons violated, and every age, sex and rank mingled in promiscuous massacre and ruin.”

“ War is also the fruitful parent of crimes. It reverses, with respect to its objects, all the rules of morality It is nothing less than A TEMPORARY REPEAL OF THE PRINCIPLES

It is a system out of which almost all the virtues are excluded, and in which nearly all the vices are included. Whatever renders human nature amiable or respectable, whatever engages love or confidence, is sacrificed at its shrine."

“While the philanthropist is devising means to mitigate the evils, and augment the happiness of the world, the warrior is revolving in the gloomy recesses of his capacious mind, plans of future devastation and ruin. Prisons crowded with captives, cities emptied of their inhabitants, fields desolate and waste, are among his proudest trophies. The fabric of his fame is cemented with tears and blood; and, if his name is wafted to the ends of the earth, it is in the shrill cry of suffering humanity, in the curses and imprecations of those whom his sword has reduced to despair.”

CHALMERS, one of the first minds that Scotland ever produced, is very full on this subject, and truly says, that * the prophecy of universal peace will meet its accomplishment only by the activity of men, by the philanthropy of thinking and intelligent Christians. It is public opinion which in the long run governs the world; and, while I look with confidence to a gradual revolution in the state of public opinion from the omnipotence of gospel truth working its sile but effectual way through the families of mankind, yet much may be done to accelerate the advent of perpetual and universal peace by a distinct body of men embarking their every talent and acquirement in the prosecution of this as a distinct object. This was the

way

in which, a few years ago, the British public were gained over to the cause of Africa; and it is in this way, I apprehend, that the prophecy of universal peace will receive a speedier fulfilment."

Well does JAMES, one of the most popular religious writers in England, deem “it high time for the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus to study the genius of their religion. A hatred of war is an essential feature of practical Christianity; and it is a shame upon what is called the Christian world, that it has not long since borne universal and indignant testimony against that enormous evil which still rages not merely among savages, but among scholars, philosophers, Christians and divines. Real Christians should come out from the world on this subject, and touch not the unclean thing. Let them act upon their own principles, and become not only the friends but the advocates of Peace. Let ministers from the pulpit, writers from the press, and private Christians in their intercourse with each other and the world, inculcate a fixed and irreconcilable abhorrence of war.

LET THE CHURCH OF GOD BE A SOCI. ETY FOR THE DIFFUSION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF UNIVERSAL Peace.

In view of such testimonies, we cannot regard the cause of Peace as a trivial or a friendless enterprise. The greatest and the best men of every age have given it their full sanction, their warmest wishes; all the glorified spirits above are its deeply interested patrons ; God himself has taken it under his special care, and promised it eventual triumph through the world. It is the noblest enterprise that ever tasked the powers of man; and loudly does it call upon every friend of God and a bleeding race to come to its support.

Mark how far the extracts above go against war. They do not directly touch the vexed question concerning wars purely defensive; but they are strong against the whole warsystem, and would, if carried into practice, entirely demolish this enormous engine of guilt, bloodshed and misery. Breathe the spirit and sentiments of these extracts into the people of Christendom; and you work such a change in public opinion as would ere-long banish this custom from every land blest with the light of the gospel. Such is the change which the friends of peace are laboring to produce; and fain would we entreat every lover of his country, his species, or his God, to lend this cause his utmost aid.

AMERICAN PEACE SOCIETY, BOSTON, MASS.

« PreviousContinue »