« PreviousContinue »
ments of the Fathers of the Christian Church, and what was the practice of those that belonged to it, for two centuries, on the subject of war, we come to the proof of the third and last proposition, namely, that as the lamp of Christianity burnt bright in those early times, so those who were illuminated by it, declined the military profession ; that, as its flame shone less clear, they had less objection to it ; and that it was not till Christianity became corrupted, that its followers became soldiers. Thus in the two first centuries, when Christianity was the purest, there are no christian soldiers upon record. In the third century, when it became less pure, there is frequent mention of such soldiers. And in the fourth, when its corruption was fixed, christians entered generally upon the profession of arms, with as little hesitation as they entered upon any other occupation of life.
That there were no christian soldiers, at any rate upon record, for the best part of two centuries, has already been made apparent. And that Christianity also was purest in these times, there can be no doubt.”
It must be allowed, that the case was altered in the third century. When Christian
ity was under the guidance of the apostles, and those who had conversed with them, and were their immediate successors ; while it was a persecuted church; while “ the lamp of Christianity burnt bright,” Christians refused to commit murder, either public or private. But when the church began to enjoy peace and quiet,-when its revenues were enlarged, it began to be corrupted, and worldly men sought the office of pastor that they might fleece the flock. Hereditary Christians,-the descendants of the truly pious-being unwilling to abandon, either their hope of salvation through Christ, or their love of worldly honors and gains, sought to reconcile a love of God with a love of the world—to unite Christ with Belial. Thence arose a sect of “ Christian Casuists,” who taught that war, idolatry, sorcery, and many other heathen and anti-christian practices, were consistent with real christianity. From these came fighting Christians, with their consecrated banners --" booted apostles," knights of the cross, with the image of a crucified Savior in one hand, and a sword in the other ; making converts to the religion of the Prince of Peaee, by force of arms.
Then, in short, began that mixed medley of war, idolatry, and Christianity, which is, in some measure, yet exhibited in the Church of Rome. They must indeed have been dark ages, when Moloch sat in the chair of St. Peter,—when the laity were forbidden to read the Bible,—when the cossack was worn over the coat of mail,—when priest and soldier were united in one person, and the house of God was converted into a den of thieves, filled with images, priests, and soldiers ;-when gangs of highway robbers had their chaplains and confessors, and a share of the booty paid the price of a pardon. But we Protestants profess to be of the reformed religion. True, in some things we are reformed; but in others we are yet in as much darkness as pagan or papist. We have indeed abandoned the practice of idolatry; but we have retained the practice of war, which is as much averse to Christianity as the other. Yet we have idols in our hearts if not in our churches, and while the capital of New-England, with what assistance it can beg from other quarters—is erecting, in her high places, a vast altar to Moloch, we have all the spirit of idolatry, if we have not the name. Oh! “if Christian
nations were nations of Christians," there would be no longer any war, nor monuments of war.
ON THE RESIGNATION OF A BRITISH OFFICER,
FROM A CONVICTION, THAT THE PROFESSION
It was my intention to follow up the subject of my last essay, viz. “ The doctrine and practice of the ancient Christians as they relate to war," by opinions of later christians, philanthropists, and statesmen on the same custom; but, as two recent events have taken place in the British service, which are, in themselves, singular, and which tend to illustrate the same subject, I embraced, the present opportunity of making some remarks on one of them ; leaving the other for a future number.
The first I shall notice is the resignation of Capt. Thomas Thrush, of the navy, on the ground of the unlawfulness of war.
I cannot do better, than to insert extracts from his own letter to the king, accompanying his resignation, which are as follows:
" With much zeal and sincerity, I entered into the Naval service of your Majesty's revered father, and swore allegiance to him. This allegiance is now, of course, due to your Majesty as his lawful successor. When I entered into this solemn contract, I entertained no apprehension that I was acting in opposition to the principles of the Christian religion; nor did any apprehension of this kind ever arise in my mind during the time I was actively employed in the service of my country. Nay, so far from suspecting that I was departing from Christian rectitude, it appeared to me almost certain, if I should lose my life in the service of my king and country, that this would serve as a kind of passport to the favour and acceptance of God. This opinion, which has been frequently inculcated by ministers of the Gose, pel of Peace, as well as by Pagan writers, is, I believe, generally entertained by those,