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investigate the subject: and I am persuaded that those solemn impressions which they sometimes feel, in contemplation of the subject-before-at the time or after the taking of an oath, would result in a clear conviction of the impropriety of the practice.
I will draw to a conclusion, with a summary view of the subject.
However the practice of swearing might have been sanctioned in "times of ignorance" and "hardness of heart," it was positively prohibited under the Gospel. The primitive Christians, for three hundred years after Christ, maintained the doctrine of the unlawfulness of oaths; and even pious Heathens entertained the same principle. It is now conclusively proved, that oaths are not necessary for the purposes of civil government, inasmuch as no evil has ever resulted from admitting an affirmation instead of an oath-and there are strong grounds for believing, that the frequent recurrence of judicial oaths, has a powerful influence in producing falsehood and profaneness.
The Society of Friends believe that War is altogether inconsistent with the spirit and precepts of the Gospel.
We believe that the Almighty, in the creation of the world, and in placing man on earth, dignified with the Divine Image, never designed that he should be the enemy of his species, or that discord and violence should mark his conduct. On the contrary, he was certainly designed to pursue that line of conduct which would secure his own happiness, and correspond to the attributes of his Creator. His defection from original purity and excellence, proved an inlet to those depraved and violent passions, without which wars would never have had a beginning on earth. Thus the apostle James queried ; "Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not from hence, even of your lusts, that war in your members ?" iv. 1. And no man who has reflected on the subject, can dissent from the apostle. In the original order of human actions and human feelings, there certainly was harmony-nothing like the features, or even the seeds of War.
Soon after the fall of our first parents from this happy state, in which they were no doubt designed to continue, violence and bloodshed made their appearance,
We therefore believe that God, in the formation of all things, designed that man should live in peace and harmony; that wars and violence were the effects of that diabolical spirit which gained admission into the human heart through sin; and which the Gospel was designed to eradicate.
If we believe that wars would never have taken place, had man retained his original innocence and command over his passions-if they are the fruits of that malevolent spirit which gained admission in the fall— and further, if we believe that the object of Christ's coming, was to destroy the works of the Devil, and to bring in everlasting righteousness-we must believe, that where the Gospel is brought into its just pre-eminence, all wars must cease.
The example of pious persons, under the Legal Dispensation, has been considered as evidence, that war is not inconsistent with the Gospel.
But to this objection it may be replied, that the practices under the Law, do not necessarily establish the same things under the Gospel. The morality of the Law was certainly inferior to that required under the Gospel. It would be injurious to the character of our Lord, and of the Dispensation which He introduced, to say that He made no discoveries of Truth, or pointed his followers to no state, in our relations to God and one another, superior to what had been attained before his coming.
The construction of the human mind requires it to be gradually informed and expanded. And as, in the fall, it was sunk into a low and servile state; so it pleased Divine Goodness to prepare a means for its re
storation, by the coming of Jesus Christ into the world; who not only became a Propitiation for us, but brought to light those important truths, which had remained obscured for ages and generations, through the weakness and darkness which pervaded the human mind. But in order to prepare mankind for this exalted discovery of Truth, He made use of several Dispensations, each successively rising above that which preceded it. First, He revealed his own Divine attributes: among these, his sovereignty and power were conspicuously displayed. His goodness to his creatures was also strongly impressed;-next, the dependence of man on his bounty, mercy, and protecting providence ;-the utter helplessness of frail and finite creatures, when left to themselves, or when going counter to the will of the Almighty;—and their perfect security when they cast their care on Him. Gratitude to so beneficent a Creator, arose next ;-then justice--and love to our fellow-creatures. These were like the rudiments, or first principles of religion, and were summed up in those two comprehensive precepts; "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”—“ And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matt. xxii. 37, 39. Deut. vi. 5. Lev. xix. 18. And "on these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets." Matt. xxii. 40.
But it remained for Jesus Christ to teach and apply these first principles, as never man taught. It remained for Him, to instruct and to lead man to a more exalted morality than had been known before; and, at the same time, into a more intimate union with God, through the means of a more copious effusion of his own Divine Influence.
These things being admitted, which cannot be denied, it will follow that we are not warranted in going back from the excellencies of the Gospel, to the practices which prevailed under the Law.
As Jesus Christ condescended to take our nature upon Himself, and walk among men; that He might the more effectually reveal the mysteries of heaven, and raise man to that state which he enjoyed before the introduction of sin into the world; and thus, in the language of the apostle, destroy the works of the Devil; we are bound to leave "those things which are behind," and "press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Phil. iii. 13, 14.
Thus reason, as well as Revelation, will support the opinion, that the Gospel proposes a more excellent state for man, in his relations both to God and to his fellow-creatures, than had been revealed or attained under the former Dispensation.
We are also supported by reason, as well as the evidence of Scripture, in believing that the Gospel was designed to restore man to his original moral rectitude, and stamp on him, once more, the Divine Image. If this was not the case, then the promised Redeemer was not clothed with sufficient powers ;-the remedy provided for man's restoration was not sufficient for the purpose.
But it is probable no one will be willing to urge the argument to these consequences; but on the contrary, admit those truths which cannot be denied, without thus running into the most palpable inconsistency.
The controversy being thus fairly stated, the argu ments drawn from a darker age will be found of no force. And indeed all those subtle divisions and subdivisions