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of Lyons, 167, discusses the same prophecy, and proves its relation to our Savior by the fact, that the followers of Jesus had disused the weapons of war, and no longer knew how to fight. Tertullian, 200, indeed, alludes to Christians who were engaged in military pursuits, but, on another occasion, informs us, that many soldiers quitted those pursuits in consequence of their conversion to Christianity; and repeatedly expresses his own opinion, that any participation in war is unlawful for believers in Jesus, not only because of the idolatrous practices in the Roman armies, but because Christ has forbidden the use of the sword, and the revenge of injúries. Origen, 230, in his work against Celsus, says, “We no longer take up the sword against any nation, nor do we learn any more to make war. We have become, for the sake of Jesus, the children of peace. By our prayers, we fight for our king abundantly, but take no part in his wars, even though he urge us."
Traces of the same doctrine and practice are very clearly marked in the subsequent history. Under the reign of Dio clesian, 300, a large number of Christians refused to serve in the army, and, in consequence, many of them suffered martyrdom. Now, although the conduct of these Christians might arise partly from their religious objections to the idolatrous rites at that time mixed up with the military system, it is probable that the unlawfulness of war itself was also a principle on which they acted. Thus Lactantius, who wrote during the reign of this very emperor, expressly asserts, that “to engage in war, cannot be lawful for the righteous man, whose warfare is that of righteousness itself.” In the twelfth canon of the Council of Nice held under the reign of Constantine, 325, a long period of excommunication is attached as a penalty to the conduct of those persons who, having once renounced the military calling, were persuaded by the force of bribes to return to it "like dogs to their own vomit.” Such a law would scarcely have been promulgated under the reign of the converted Constantine, had not an opinion been entertained in the council, that war itself is inconsistent with the highest standard of Christian morality. We have already noticed the declaration of Martin, 360, that it was unlawful for him to fight because he was a Christian; and even so late as the middle of the fifth century, Pope Leo declared it “contrary to the rules of the church, that persons after the action of penance, should revert to the warfare of the world.”
I must, however, advert to another principle, viz., that
human life is sacred, and that death is followed by infinite consequences. The Israelites were enjoined to inflict death; and the destruction of life, when thus expressly authorized by the Creator, must unquestionably have been right; but the sanction thus given to killing, was accompanied with a comparatively small degree of illumination respecting the true nature of life and death, respecting immortality and future retribution. Bishop Warburton has endeavored to prove that the Israelites had no knowledge on these subjects; and it is sufficiently evident that the full revelation of these important truths was reserved for the gospel. Those who read the declarations of Jesus, can no longer doubt, that man is born for eternity ; that when his body dies, his soul ascends into Paradise, or is cast into hell; and that after the day of resurrection and final judgment, we shall all reap the full eternal reward of our obedience or our rebellion. Christians thus instructed, must acknowledge, that the future welfare of an individual man is of greater importance than the present merely temporal prosperity of a whole nation; nor can they, if consistent with themselves, refuse to confess that, unless sanctioned by the express authority of Christ, they take upon themselves a most unwarrantable responsibility when they cut short the days of their neighbor, and transmit him to the awful realities of eternity.
Since then no such express authority can be found in the New Testament; since, on the contrary, it is clearly declared, that the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, and that his followers war not after the flesh," I cannot but conclude, that for one man to kill another under any circumstances, is utterly unlawful under the Christian dispensation."
Such, then, are the grounds on which we consider it our duty to abstain entirely from war. On a review of the whole argument, the reader will recollect, that the wars of the Israelites bore so peculiar a character as to afford no real sanction to those of other nations, even if the Jewish dispensation were still continued ; and also that the precept of John the Baptist to soldiers appears to be merely
* This doctrine of the strict inviolability of human life is adopted by only a part of the believers in the contrariety of all war to the gospel, and is not made the basis of operations in the cause of peace. Even William Penn, while strong enough against all war, still incorporated, as the author himself states in a note, the penalty of death in the laws of his colony, though the Quakers now are pretty generally opposed to the taking of huinan life in any case.-Am. Ev.
neutral on the subject, but that our opinion of the unlawfulness of all war rests principally on the moral law as revealed in the gospel; that abstinence from warfare was predicted as one of its principal characteristics; that it fully unfolds the principles which alone are sufficiently powerful to produce this effect, namely, those of suffering wrong, returning good for evil, and loving our enemies; that, since these principles were so clearly promulgated by Jesus and his Apostles, the individual who engages in any kind of warfare, plainly infringes the divine law; that nations, when carrying on war, do also infringe that law; that the Christian who fights for his prince or his country, not only commits sin in his own person, but aids and abets the national transgression ; that the injunction of Christ to his followers respecting the love of their enemies, was specifically directed against national wars ; that, when our Lord exhorted his disciples to sell their garments, and buy swords, his expressions were evidently to be understood figuratively; that our sentiments on this subject, so far from being new and extraordinary, form a striking and prevalent feature in the early Christians; and lastly, that the practice of warfare is directly at variance with the full light enjoyed under the gospel respecting life, death and eternity.
Notwithstanding the clearness and importance of these principles, it is continually pleaded that wars are often expedient, and sometimes absolutely necessary.
To such a plea it might be sufficient to answer, that nothing is so expedient, nothing so desirable, nothing so necessary, either for individuals or for nations, as conformity with the revealed will of God. Let Christians, then, take a survey of Europe during the last eighteen centuries, and impartially examine how many of its wars have been really expedient or necessary. Far the greater part of them have in fact been, even in a political point of view, much more hurtful than useful to all the parties. Where, for instance, has England found an equivalent for the almost infinite waste of blood and treasure in her many wars? Must not impartial history decide, that almost the whole of her wars have in fact been waged against imaginary dangers, might have been avoided, and have turned out to be extensively injurious to herself? If Christians would abstain from all wars which have no better foundation than a false worldly honor, from all which are not absolutely inevitable, from all which are in reality injurious to their country, they would take a very important step towards that entirely peaceable conduct which we uphold and defend. Even after such a step, however, war might seem on certain occasions to be actually necessary for mere defence and self-preservation ; and, if we admit the lax morality so generally prevalent, we must confess that war, in such
is right, and cannot be avoided; but for those who “ follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,” war is never right. It is always their duty to obey his high and holy law, to suffer wrong, to return good for evil, to love their enemies. If, in consequence of their obedience to this law, they apprehend themselves surrounded with many dangers, let them still place undivided reliance upon the power and benevolence of their God and Savior. It may be his good pleasure to deliver them from the peril, or let them fall a sacrifice; but, whatever the result, so long as they obey his law, so long are they safe in his hands.
Godliness, however, has the promise of this life, as well as of that which is to come; and we may therefore entertain a reasonable confidence, that our temporal happiness and safety, as well as our growth in grace, will in general be promoted by obedience to our heavenly Father. These observations are peculiarly applicable to those particulars in the divine law which preclude all warfare. of self-defence will be found so efficacious as Christian meekness, kindness and forbearance, the suffering of injuries, the absence of“revenge, the return of good for evil, and the ever-operating love of God and man. Those who regulate their life according to these principles, have little reason to fear violence. Such has often been the lot of Christian individuals, and such might also be the experience of Christian nations. When we consider the still degraded condition of mankind, we can hardly look at present for the trial of this experiment; but were there a people who would boldly conform their national conduct to the rules of Christ, lay aside the weapons of carnal warfare, and proclaim the principles of universal peace, suffer wrong with condescension, abstain from all retaliation, return good for evil, and diligently promote the welfare of all men ; I am fully persuaded, that such a people would not only dwell in absolute safety, but would be blessed with eminent prosperity, enriched with unrestricted commerce, loaded with reciprocal benefits, and endowed, for every good, and wise, and worthy purpose, with irresistible influence over surrounding nations.
AMERICAN PEACE SOCIETY, BOSTON, MASS,
CHALMERS ON PEACE.*
There are a great many passages in Scripture which warrant the expectation that a time is coming, when an end shall be put to war-when its abominations and its cruelties / shall be banished from the face of the earth; and many and delightful are the images which the Bible employs, as guided by the light of prophecy, it carries us forward to those millennial days, v. hen the reign of peace shall be established, and the wide charity of the gospel, which is confined by no limits, and owns no distinctions, shall embosom the whole human race within the ample grasp of one harmonious and universal family.
Let me first attempt to do away a delusion which exists on the subject of prophecy. Its fulfilments are all certain, say many; and we have therefore nothing to do, but to wait for them in passive and indolent expectation. Let us therefore sit down quietly in the attitude of spectators-let us leave the Divinity to do his own work in his own way, and mark, by the progress of a history over which we have no control, the evolution of his designs, and the march of his wise and beneficent administration.
Now, it is very true, that the Divinity will do his own work in his own way; but if he choose to tell us that that way is not without the instrumentality of men, but by their instrumentality, might not this sitting down into the mere attitude of spectators, turn out to be a most perverse and disobedient conclusion ? It is true, that his purpose will obtain its fulfilment, whether we shall offer or not to help it forward by our co-operation; but if the object is to be brought about, and he has also determined on the way which leads to it, and that that way shall be by the putting forth of human exertion, then, let us keep back our co-operation as we may, God will raise up the hearts of others to that which we abstain from.
Now, this is the very' way in which prophecies have actually been fulfilled ; and the same holds true of the prophecy of universal peace. The abolition of war will be the
* From a Sermon by Rev. Thomas Chalmers, D. D. P. T. NO. XVIII.