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WAR INCOMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIANITY.
Put up again thy sword, for all they that take the sword shall perish by
THAT war is utterly unlawful in the eye of christianity, no one, we think, can doubt, who has read our sacred scriptures, with due attention to this point. The prophets of the Old Testament, who so clearly foretold the coming of the Messiah, represented the abolition of war and the establishment of universal and permanent peace, as the peculiar felicity of his reign. "Peace on earth and good will towards men" was the triumphant song of the angels, who announced his birth. And to this most blissful result, the precepts and the spirit of his religion directly tend.
In his first discourse, of which any record has been preserved, when a multitude had gathered around him, expecting no doubt incitement to throw off the bondage to which they impatiently submitted, he said to them, "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God." "Ye have heard that it hath been said thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy, but I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." The spirit of this precept, to forgive and not resent injuries, pervaded every part of his life as well as teaching. "When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." Who, that has once read, will ever forget the prayer he offered with his dying breath for his merciless enemies, when, having plied him with every insult malice could invent, they had nailed him to the cross, and stood around deriding his anguish? "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!"
In exact accordance, with the instructions and example of Jesus Christ, were the lessons of his inspired apostles. "Recompence to no man evil for evil. Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath. If thine enemy hunger feed him, if he thirst give him drink. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Many other passages to the same effect, all, who are familiar with the New Testament, may recollect.
For ourselves, we see not how the meaning of precepts expressed, illustrated, enforced and reiterated as these were, can be evaded. Revenge, malice, wrath and strife are forbidden plainly and solemnly; forbearance, forgiveness, and a peaceable temper are as plainly and solemnly enjoined. Now, it is manifestly impossible for war to be carried on without revenge, malice, wrath and strife. Therefore, the criminality of national contests, if not expressly declared, in the New Testament, is most obviously implied. "Or, will it be alleged that those doctrines, which prohibit the resentment of private injuries, are inapplicable to the case of public wrongs? What does a law forbid the murder of an individual, and does it license the murder of thousands? does it bar the indulgence of angry passions against an offending neighbour, and does it authorise feelings of hatred, deeds of cruelty towards unoffending multitudes ?" Or can the edict of an earthly ruler sanction that, which the Lord of earth and heaven has forbidden?
We are under the better dispensation of the Prince of Peace, and the practice of the Jews will no more justify war, than it would countenance polygamy, sacrifices or circumcision.
PROGRESS OF PACIFIC PRINCIPLES.
Let us go on unto perfection.
IN ages past, the mass of mankind have allowed certain persons to sport with their lives as they pleased. The people are now beginning to know that they have civil rights. The human mind is working out its liberty. It will, at length, prevail. Should the throne of the tyrant at length crumble before it, and pacific truth rise out of the ruins, we shall not be astonished. Three hundred years ago Luther gave the signal for men to inquire and judge for themselves. Principles of fundamental importance have since been investigated and established. The people have discovered that their rulers derive their power from them, and are responsible to them; and that the good of the whole, and not the aggrandizement of a few, is the just policy of nations. Such discoveries have led to great results. The Reformation gave an impetus to liberal principles, and our own country and the republics of the south are their patrons. In proportion as these prevail, christianity will exert its native power, and pacific sentiments become a part of education. The question of war will then be decided by an enlightened, humane and virtuous people. Liberal institutions, christian education and uncorrupt religion, will eventually renovate society. Since the Reformation, the knowledge of the 'truth as it is in Jesus' has greatly increased. Men are not content, as formerly, to receive their opinions from dictation. In protestant lands especially, they
ave claimed the right of going to the fountain head for themselves; and for the last century the Bible has been more studied than any other, perhaps all other books. This liberty may have been in some respects abused, but truth has evidently advanced under its auspices. Great varieties of opinion, on speculative points, have been elicited; but the nature of practical religion is uniformly better understood. The inconsistency of the war spirit with the spirit of Christ was most ably exposed, by a cotemporary of Luther-the very learned Erasmus-though he uttered his "Complaint of Peace," as it then seemed, in vain. But the same inconsistency forced itself upon the notice of others. And at length a sect arose, one of whose distinctive doctrines is, that it is not lawful for christians to resist evil, or to war, or to fight in any case. These christians have adhered to this sentiment, with unwavering uniformity, for two hundred years. In the course of their history, they have given some eminent examples of successful practice on their pacific principles, in emergencies, which would seem to have required a departure from them, if any circumstances can warrant a different course of conduct. The Friends or Quakers are now a numerous and respectable sect in Great Britain; and in this country they number more than a thousand congregations. Other smaller sects, the Moravians, Dunkers and Shakers have embraced the same principle, and these together with the Quakers may be considered so many Peace Societies. The uniform testimony of these christians, to the unlawfulness of war, has at length fixed the attention of other denominations upon this too long neglected subject; and powerful co-operation is now extended to the dissemination of pacific sentiments, in the United States, in England, and in France. Great talents and great virtues are enlisted in this cause; and more is doing at present than at any former period, in this cause of virtue and humanity.
Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God.
THE christian religion is a religion of peace. The legacy which an ascending Saviour left to the world was peace, the principles of permanent and universal good will. To establish these principles as the practical rules in international law, is worthy the labour of whole countries and successive generations. Christianity has produced an era of light-it must produce an era of love. He who establishes a peace society, gives circulation to pacific books, he helps to render war unpopular, and he hastens the approach of that day when the laws of nations, as improved and extended by christianity, shall establish a national grand jury to whose final decision all christian powers shall bow. Religion will, at length, abolish war. But this will be the effect, not of any sudden or resistless visitation from heaven, on he character of men; not of any blind or overruling fatality, which will come upon the earth at some distant period of its history, but about which we of the present day have nothing to do, but to look silently on, without concern and without co-operation but it will be brought about by the philanthropy of thinking and intelligent christians. The subject will be brought to the test of christian principle, and many will unite to spread a growing sense of its enormities over the countries of the world.
And much may be done to accelerate the advent of perpetual and universal peace, by a distinct body of men, embarking their every talent, and their every acquirement in the prosecution of this as a distinct object. This was the way in which a few years ago, the American and British publics were gained over to the 'cause of Africa,' for the abolition of the slave trade. This is the way, in which some of the other prophecies of the Bible are at this moment hastening to their accomplishment; and it is in this way, I apprehend, that the prophecy of the abolition of war, may be indebted for its speedier fulfilment to the agency of men, selecting this as the assigned field, on which their philanthropy shall expatiate.
Let one take up the question of war, in its principle, and make the full weight of his moral severity rest upon it, and upon all its abominations. Let another take up the question of war, in its consequences, and bring his every power of graphical description to the task of presenting an awakened public, with an impressive detail of its cruelties and its horrours. Let another neutralize the poetry of war, and dismantle it of all those bewitching splendours, which the hand of misguided genius has thrown over it. Let another teach the world a truer, and more magnanimous path to national glory, than any country of the world has yet walked in. Let another tell with irresistible argument, how the christian ethics of a nation is as one with the christian ethics of its humblest individual. Let another pour the light of modern speculation into the mysteries of trade, and prove, that not a single war has been undertaken for any of its objects, where the millions and the millions more, which were lavished on the cause, have not all been cheated away from us by the phantom of an imaginary interest.
If the word of prophecy be sure, if the precepts and spirit of christianity have any power to convince or persuade, a change in public sentiment must take place, and war will at length be laid aside among the dreadful records of superstition and tyranny.
LIVING FOR OUR FRIENDS.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
I THINK there are those who would sacrifice life on the altar of friendship. You cannot tell how strong the bond which unites virtuous hearts, until you try to rend it. It has pleased the Almighty in his wisdom so to unite us with one another, that perhaps there cannot be found, amidst all the varieties of human life, a single example of solitary felicity or sorrow. With boundaries more or less contracted, according to the circumstances in which the providence of God has placed us, our condition operates beyond ourselves; we have all of us some eye that looks up to us with hope, and all in our turn depend upon others for support or consolation; in one character or another, relation, friend, or neighbour, our welfare is incorporated with that of others, and theirs with ours-its influence is circulated above, below, and all around us; if God have mercy on us, the mercy stops not there; if it seem good to visit us with calamity, the evil falls not upon ourselves alone; wherever we may be, and in whatever station, there are those who rejoice when we rejoice, and mourn when we are stricken.
In this combination of interests, this reflection and communication of happiness or misery, thus evidently ordained by the Creator, our duties are presented to us under their strongest point of view: our responsibility assumes a solemn and enduring aspect, when we consider how many may be affected by our prosperity or distress and indeed to the magnitude of this responsibility we are none of us insensible; the labour of our lives, whatever be the place assigned to us by Providence, is exercised not only nor even chiefly for ourselves, but that they who are united with us may profit by it. I speak not of vulgar industry alone. In the cultivation of better talents, in the ambition of higher excellence, in the solicitude for wider fame, it is not so much ourselves that we consider, as those who by the ties of nature or society are entitled to participate our welfare; it is when they bless us for support; it is when they share in our well-earned reputation; it is when, with honest pride and grateful exultation, they hail us as fathers, brothers, friends and patrons, it is then we feel conscious that we have discharged our duties well, and then that we enjoy the best reward of duty which on this side the grave we are permitted to enjoy.-On the other hand, if by culpable negligence or criminal indulgence our time has been wasted, our talents misemployed, our good name tarnished, it is in the grief and disappointment of those who looked to us for aid, for comfort, and for honour, that we taste the severest bitterness of our worldly punishment at either termination we see and acknowledge that we are not created for ourselves alone; and indeed, on our road to either, this condition of our nature is more or less present to our minds; it cheers and facilitates our progress towards good, and it checks, for a while at least, our decline towards evil; we press on to laudable attainments, that others may have joy in our prosperity; we pause upon the verge of temptation, and shrink from the allurements of indolence and vice, lest others again should have sorrow in our shame. Happy are they in whom this principle of action has fair and ample scope for its exertion.
SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES.
Search the Scriptures.
CURIOSITY, a sense of duty, the stamp of God's holy name, the tradition and observances of our fathers, the claims of the scriptures, their promises, threatenings, principles and examples, all lead us to examine the Bible.-The rules of procedure are these. Search the sacred scriptures, with an unprejudiced mind; with the single desire, to find truth; with purity of heart; with untiring patience; with submissive veneration of God, and above all, with deep humility. Humility finds the true and legitimate path which leads to religious science. If we begin with humility, and go on with industry, we need not doubt but that God will second our endeavours. Avoiding the pride of reason and the weakness of superstition, we must keep the mind at its natural level. The mind is powerful, as we find in real and daily life. It is adequate to great discoveries and persevering action; but it is compelled to acknowledge that its powers are limited. If there be any, therefore, who have been misled by false confidence, or false terrour, let them, ere it be too late, tread back their steps to the true and tenable grounds of religious examination, common good sense, and modesty that very sense will render them aware that in no such inquiry is perfect knowledge to be expected; that in the dispensations of God, revealed in scripture, they ought neither to be surprised nor offended, nor distressed, by meeting with some subjects touched upon, which surpass their comprehension. In his natural dispensations, in those of every day's occurrence, the utmost acuteness and vigour of their intellect are daily and hourly baffled and overpowered by inexplicable difficulties; still daily and hourly they behold, in those very dispensations, the manifest proofs of God's power, wisdom and goodness. In the revealed word of God they may justly expect to find additional testimonies of these attributes, but such distance still preserved between the Almighty and his creatures, as to allow only a partial insight into the divine counsels and nature. It will occur to them, that, unless a new frame and structure were given to their minds, such a structure as would enable them to develope every particular of God's natural dispensations, his word will have some things hard to understand. This view of the case by no means precludes inquiry; it only ascertains its province; it ascertains, that, without being able to judge fully of every particular professing to be revealed from God, we are permitted, and indeed enjoined, to inquire diligently whether such particulars have been revealed or not.
This, if I mistake not, is to search the scriptures as the scriptures ought to be searched; or rather these are the general rules (which are all that I pretend to give) for the motives and manner of entering upon the research. The scriptural rule of life no man has presumed to charge with mystery; the promise of God's mercy no man can fail to see: let us hope then, that since what is revealed cannot be a mystery, the reward of our sincere and diligent inquiry into the word of God will be, in this world, composure and peace of mind, the fruit of a lively and well grounded faith; and in that which is to come, the enjoyment of God's presence, and the perfect knowledge of his will.
Christians! while grateful songs ye raise,