« PreviousContinue »
edge that there have been many concurrent circumstances, favorable to the cause of peace : but I aver, that it was one and the same spirit, that dictated the simultaneous formation of peace societies, on both sides of the Atlantic, and the proposed Congress of Papama, and the favorable reception of the proposition by our government; and that spirit is now working and will work, until the barbarous custom of war shall be banished from Christendom: and there is no person, male or female, who cannot forward the glorious corrsummation.
OPINIONS OF THE EARLY REFORMERS OF CHRISTIANITY AS THEY RELATED TO WAR.
Those, who first attacked the power of the “man of sin,”: were too busily employed in reforming the doctrines of religion, which, together with the practice, had fallen into the greatest corruptions; and they were too
much engaged in opposing the peculiar abominations of the Church of Rome, to think much of those vices, which had been common to the whole world. Hence it was not until the reformation had obtained " a form and pressure"-until reformers began to preach about general duties and the precepts of the gospel, that they began to turn their attention to the custom of war; certainly as contrary to the spirit of the gospel as any of the customs of the Church of Rome.
I do not know, whether the opinions of Luther and Calvin, on this subject, were ever left on record. But Erasmus, their cotemporary, as early as A. D. 1536, observes: “War is every where, rashly and on the slightest pretext, undertaken ; cruelly and severely conducted, not only by unbelievers, but by Christians; not only by laymen, but by priests and bishops ; not only by the young and inexperienced, but even by men far advanced in life, who must have seen and felt its dreadful consequences; not only by the lower order of people, fickle in their nature, but above all by princes, whose duty it is to compose the rash passions of the anthinking multitude, by superior wisdom and the force of reason. Nor are there even wanting men learned in the law and even divines, who are ready to furnish firebrands for the nefarious work, and to fan the latent spark into a flame.”
He next gives a very animated description of the horrors of a battle, and then proceeds thus : “ It sometimes happens, that a brother falls by the hands of a brother, a kinsman on his nearest kindred, a friend upon his friend, who, while each is actuated by this fit of insanity, plunges the sword into the heart of one by whom he never was offended, not even by the word of his mouth! So deep is the tragedy, that the bosom shudders even at the feeble description of it, and the hand of humanity drops the pencil, while it paints the scene.”
“ In the mean time, I pass over the cornfields trodden down, peaceful cottages and rural mansions burnt to the ground, villages and towns reduced to ashes, the cattle driven from their pasture, innocent women violated, old men dragged into captivity, churches defaced and demolished, every
thing laid waste, a prey to robbery, plunder, and violence."
“ Not to mention the consequences, which ensue to a people after a war, even the most fortunate in its event, and the justest in its principles; the poor, the unoffending common people robbed of their little hard earned property, the great laden with taxes”— (and he proceeds to particularize the evil consequences of war, and then observes) 66 why need I dwell on the evils which morals sustain by war, when every one knows, that from war proceeds at once every kind of evil, which disturbs and destroys the happiness of human life?” And much more is said, by the same author, on the same subject, in a work of his, entitled, Anti-Polemos.
It seems, however, that the first reformers were generally very much in the dark, respecting war, slavery, and some other antichristian practices. Indeed, it was not to be expected, that mankind would be all at once enlightened. The degeneracy of the Church, from the purity of the apostles and primitive christians, who held war to be un
lawful and contrary to the commands of Chríst—to the ignorance and barbarity of the dark ages, in which war was most unnaturally united to religion, was gradual ; and it was, therefore, to be expected, that the restoration of the Church to primitive innocence and simplicity, would be also gradual. As we advance in time, however, we find the testimony of eminent Christians, against war, to thicken, until they become a “ cloud of witnesses ;" and we have reason to believe, that light on this subject will increase, with the progress of improvement, the march of intellect, and the diffusion of the gospel, until the majority of mankind in all countries—at least in all Christian coun ; tries—will be found on the side of peace;until the custom of war will pass away like other barbarous customs ;=until mankind, or at least the Christian community, will be induced to enter into one great social compact, and all disputes between nations be settled by reason and not by the sword. It is the duty, therefore, of every individual, who wishes and prays for so joyful a consummation, to do something towards its advance