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When the Saviour, in his sententious and figurative style, indicating the trials just coming upon his friends, said, “You had better sell your outside garments and buy a sword, one present, understanding him literally, as some of the friends of war still do, immediately responded, “Lord, here are two swords.” What did he say? “It is enough.” Two swords for twelve Apostles! Truly, they are dull scholars who thence infer he meant that they should literally buy two swords to fight with! When asked by Pilate whether he was a king, he responded that he was born to be a king; but not a king of worldly type or character. Had he been such a king, his servants would, indeed, have used the sword. But his kingdom neither came, nor stands, by the sword. When first announced as a king by the Jewish Prophets, more than seven centuries before he was born, the Spirit said of his reign—“He shall judge among the nations, and decide among many people. And they shall beat their swords to ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Is. ii. 2-4. Two Prophets both describe it in almost the same words. Micah, as well as Isaiah, saith
“Out of Zion shall go forth the law,
For the mouth of Jehovah of hosts hath spoken it."
There is frequently a multiplication of testimony for display rather than for effect. And, indeed, the accumulation of evidence does not always correspondingly increase its moral momentum. Nor is it very expedient on other considerations to labor a point which is very generally, if not universally, admitted. That the genius and spirit of Christianity, as well as the letter of it, are admitted, on all hands, to be decidedly "peace on earth and good will among men,” needs no proof to any one that has ever read the volume that contains it.
But if any one desires to place in contrast the gospel of Christ and the genius of war, let him suppose the Chaplain of an army addressing the soldiers on the eve of a great battle, on performing faithfully their duty, from such passages as the following:—“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the children of your father in heaven, who makes his sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sends his rain upon the just and the unjust.” Again, in our civil relations, “Recompense to no man evil for evil." "As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves; but rather give place to wrath.” “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.” “Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good”-would any one suppose that he had selected a text suitable to the occasion? How would the commander in chief have listened to him? With what spirit would his audience have immediately entered upon an engagement? These are questions which every man must answer for himself, and which every one can feel much better than express.
But a Christian man cannot conscientiously enter upon any business, nor lend his energies to any cause which he does not approve; and, in order to approve, he must understand the nature and object of the undertaking. Now how does this dictate of discretion, religion and morality bear upon the case before us?
Nothing, it is alleged, more tends to weaken the courage of a conscientious soldier, than to reflect upon the originating causes of wars and the objects for which they are prosecuted. These, indeed, are not always easily comprehended. Many wars have been long prosecuted, and some have been terminated after many and long protracted efforts, before the great majority of the soldiers themselves, on either side, distinctly understood what they were fighting for. Even in our country, a case of this sort has, it is alleged, very recently occurred. If, it is presumed, the true and proper causes of most wars were clearly understood, and the real design for which they are prosecuted, could be clearly and distinctly apprehended, they would, in most instances, miscarry for the want of efficient means of a successful prosecution.
A conviction of this sort, some years ago, occasioned an elaborate investigation of the real causes for which the wars of Christendom had been undertaken from the time of Constantine the Great down to the present century. From the results furnished the Peace So. ciety of Massachusetts, it appeared, that, after subtracting a num. ber of petty wars, long since carried on, and those waged by Christian nations with tribes of savages, the wars of real magnitude
amounted in all to 286. The origin of these wars, on a severe analysis, appeared to have been as follows:- Twenty-two for plunder and tribute; 44 for the extension of territory; 24 for revenge or retaliation; 6 for disputed boundaries; 8 respecting points of honor, or prerogative; 6 for the protection or extension of commerce; 55 civil wars; 41 about contested titles to crowns; 30 under pretence of assisting allies; 23 for mere jealousy of rival greatness; 28 religious wars, including the crusades—not one for defence alone; and certainly not one that an enlightened Christian man could have given one cent for, in a voluntary way, much less have volunteered his services or enlisted into its ranks.
If the end alone justifies the means, what shall we think of the wisdom or the justice of war, or of the authors and prominent actors of these scenes? A conscientious mind will ask, Did these 286 wars redress the wrongs, real or feigned, complained of? Did they in all cases, in a majority of the cases, or in a single case, necessarily determine the right side of the controversy? Did they punish the guilty, or the more guilty, in the ratio of their respective demerits! No one can-indeed, no one will, contend that the decision or termination of these wars naturally, necessarily, or even probably, decided the controversy so justly, so rationally, so satisfactorily as it could have been settled in any one case of the 286, by a third or neutral party.
War is not now, nor was it ever, a process of justice. It never was a test of truih-a criterion of right. It is either a mere game of chance, or a violent outrage of the strong upon the weak. Need we any other proof that a Christian people can, in no way whatever, countenance a war as a proper means of redressing wrongs, of deciding justice, or of settling controversies among nations? On the common conception of the most superficial thinkers on this subject, not one of the 286 wars which have been carried on among the “Christian nations” during 1500 years was such as that an enlightened Christian man could have taken any part in it—because, as admitted, not one of them was for defence alone; in other words, they were all aggressive wars.
But to the common mind, as it seems to me, the most convincing argument against a Christian becoming a soldier may be drawn from the fact that he fights against an innocent person-I say an innocent person, so far as the cause of the war is. contemplated. The men that fight are not the men that make the war. Politicians, merchants, knaves, and princes cause or make the war, declare the SERIES 111.-VOL. V.
war, and hire men to kill for them those that may be hired on the other side to thwart their schemes of personal and family aggrandizement. The soldiers on either side have no enmity against the soldiers on the other side, because with them they have no quarrel. Had they met in any other field, in their citizen dress, other than in battle array, they would, most probably, have not only inquired after the welfare of each other, but would have tendered to each other their assistance if called for. But a red coat or a blue coat, a tricolored or a two-colored cockade, is their only introduction to each other, and the signal that they must kill or be killed!! If they think at all, they must feel that there is no personal alienation, or wrong, or variance between them. But they are paid so much for the joband they go to work, as the day-laborer, to earn his shilling. Need I ask how could a Christian man thus volunteer his services, or hire himself out for so paltry a sum, or for any sum, to kill to order his own brother man who never offended him in word or deed! What an infatuation! What consummate folly and wickedness? Well did Napoleon say;—“War is the trade of Barbarians;" and his conqueror, Wellington;—"Men of nice scruples about religion have no business in the army or navy." The horrors of war only enhance the guilt of it; and these, alas! no one can depict in all their hideous forms.
By the "horrors of war” I do not mean the lightning and the thunder of the battle field-the blackness and darkness of those dismal clouds of smoke, which, like death's own pall, shroud the encounter; it is not the continual roar of its cannon, nor the agonizing shrieks and groans of fallen battalions-of wounded and dying legions; nor is it, at the close of the day, the battle field itself, covered with the gore and scattered limbs of butchered myriads, with here and there a pile, a mountain heap of slain heroes in the fatal pass, mingled with the wreck of broken arms, lances, helmets, swords, and shattered firearms, amidst the pavement of fallen balls that have completed the work of destruction, numerous as hailstones after the fury of the storm; nor, amidst these, the sight of the wounded lying upon one another, weltering in their blood, imploring assistance, importuning an end of their woes by the hand of a surviving soldier, invoking death as the only respite from excruciating torments. But this is not all; for the tidings are at length carried to their respective homes. Then come the enduring wail of widows and orphans—the screams and the anguish of mothers and sisters deprived forever of the consolations and hopes that clustered round the return of those so dear to them, that have perished in the conflict.
But even these are not the most fearful desolations of war. Where now are the 200,000 lost by England in our revolutionary war?the 70,000 lost by her at Waterloo and Quatre Bras!-the 80,000 at Borodino?--the 300,000 at Arbela?-or where the 15,000,000 Goths destroyed by Justinian in twenty years?—the 32,000,000 by Jenghiz Khan in forty-one years?—the 60,000,000 slain by the Turks?—the 80,000,000 by the Tartars, hurried away to judgment in a paroxysm of wrath, amid the fury of the passions
!! What can we think of their eternal destiny?* Besides all these, how many have died in captivity! How many an unfortunate exile or captive might, with a French prisoner, sing of woes like these, or even greater
“I dwelt upon the willowy banks of Loire:
And stretch myself and die upon their grave!'' But these, multiplied by myriads, are but specimens of the count. less millions slain, the solitary exiles, the lonely captives. They tell the least portion of the miseries of war. Yet even these all say to the Christian, How can you become a soldier? How countenance and aid this horrible work of death?
For my own part, and I am not alone in this opinion, I think that its moral desolations cap the climax of the horrors of war. And amongst these, I do not assign the highest place to the vulgar profanity, brutality, and debauchery of the mere soldier, the professional and licensed butcher of mankind, who, for his eight dollars a month, or his ten sous per day, hires himself to lay waste a country, to pillage, burn, and destroy the peaceful hamlet, the cheerful vil
* “War, a destroyer of Souls," a tract of the Peace Society.