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never dispossess himself of his individual obligation to obey God. But the unlawfulness of war in any form, is equally evident when regarded as the affair of nations. Doubtless there may be found in the Scriptures a variety of injunctions applicable to men only as individuals; but it is one of the excellent characteristics of the Bible, that its principles are of universal application to mankind, whether acting singly as individuals, or collectively as nations. If not thus applicable, national crimes might be committed without entailing any national guilt, and without any real infraction of the revealed will of God.
Now, among these eternal, unchangeable principles of the 'Bible, is that of universal love. The law of God, addressed alike to all men, plainly says, Resist not evil ; revenge not injuries ; LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. Individuals, and nations consisting of individuals, are all unquestionably bound to obey this law; and, whether it is the act of an individual, or a nation, the transgression of the law is sin. tions transgress the Christian law of love, and commit sin, when they declare or. carry on war, precisely as does the private duellist, when he sends or accepts a challenge, and deliberately endeavors to destroy his neighbor. The man who takes any part in national warfare, takes a part also in the national sin. He aids and abets his nation in breaking the law of Christ. So far then is the authority of his legislature, or his monarch, from justifying his engagement in warfare, that he cannot obey either, without adding to his private transgression, the further criminality of actively promoting the transgression of the state.
It is evident, then, that total abstinence from warfare would be the necessary result of strict adherence to the law of Christ. But one of the precepts already cited, bears a specific, peculiar allusion to the subject of war : “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies." Here is a direct, avowed contrast between the law and the gospel. In calling the attention of his hearers to the sayings " by them of old time," Christ quoted from the law of Moses itself; and it was with that law, as understood by the Jews, that he compared his own holier system. Now the precepts of ancient times to which he refers the precepts respecting love and hatred, -probably formed a part of those divine edicts which were delivered to the Israelites by Moses. That which related to the love of their neighbor, is recognized at once: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Lev. xix. 18. The love here enjoined, was to the children of the people of Israel. The neighbor to be loved was a fellow-countryman, or, if a stranger, a proselyte; and the precept in fact commanded no more than that the Israelites should love one another. So also the injunction of old, that the Israelites should hate their enemies, was exclusively national. They were not permitted to hate their private enemies in the same favored community, but were enjoined to do them good : “ If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.” But they were to hate their national enemies, and make no covenant with them: “Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them.” On another occasion, a similar injunction was delivered respecting the Amalekites : “ Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven."
Such was the hatred enjoined upon ancient Israel, and thus was it to be applied. Now, it is to these edicts, that the law of Christ is placed in opposition : " But I say unto you, Love your enemies." True, this law is applicable to private life; but it was principally intended to discountenance national enmities, and prevent the practice of war. The Israelites were commanded to combat and destroy the nations who were enemies alike to themselves and to God. Christians are introduced to a purer, more lovely system; their law commands them to be the friends of all mankind. If sent forth among idolatrous nations, it is as the ministers of their restoration, not as the instruments of their punishment; and, as they may not contend with the sword against God's enemies, much less may they wield it for any purpose of their own.
Armed with submission, forbearance and longsuffering, they must secede from the warfare of a wrathful and corrupt world, and, whatever the aggravations to which they are exposed, must evince themselves to be the meek, harmless, benevolent followers of the Prince of Peace."
I know of nothing in the New Testament which has any appearance of contravening these precepts, but a single passage in the gospel of Luke. After our Lord's paschal supper, and immediately before he was betrayed, he said to his disciples, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." These words, superficially con
sidered, may be deemed to inculcate the notion, that his followers were to defend themselves and their religion with the sword; but the context, and the circumstances which followed, evidently decide otherwise.
The disciples, apparently understanding their Lord literally, answered, “ Here are two swords;" and Jesus replied, “ It is enough. In declaring that two swords were enough under such cir. cumstances, he offered them an intelligible hint, that he had been misunderstood; but the opportunity was at hand on which they were to be completely undeceived. The enemies of Jesus approached, armed; whereupon the disciples said, “ Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” and Peter, without waiting for a reply, smote the servant of the High Priest, and cut off his ear. Then were they clearly instructed, that it was their duty not to fight, but to suffer wrong. “Suffer ye thus far,” said he to Peter; and immediately afterwards he confirmed his doctrine by actionhe touched the wounded man, and healed him. Then he cried out to Peter, “ Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? All they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.” When carried before Pilate, he plainly declared, that his kingdom was such as neither to require nor allow the defence of carnal weapons. “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews."
When our Lord, therefore, exhorted his disciples to sell their garments, and buy swords, his precept was evidently not to be understood literally. Such, indeed, is the explicit judgment of most commentators; and we may therefore conclude either with Erasmus, that the sword of which our Lord here spake, was the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, or with critics in general, that the words of Jesus imported only a general warning to the disciples, that their situation was about to be greatly changed; that, deprived of his presence, they would be exposed to every species of difficulty, become the objects of hatred and persecution, and thus be driven to a variety of expedients in providing for their own maintenance and security.
The absolute inconsistency of war with the gospel, was the prevalent belief of the early Christians. Justin Martyr, A. D. 140, quoting the prophecy of Isaiah already cited, says, “That these things have come to pass, you may be readily convinced; for we who were once slayers of one another, do not now fight against our enemies." Irenæus, Bishop 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 injuries. 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 Dioclesian, 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
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. ED.