« AnteriorContinua »
rescue his master from the persecuting hands of his enemies, in the same spirit as when he opposed his going up to Jerusalem; in both which instances he was in the wrong : and the saying of our Saviour, that all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword, has commonly been verified, in this sense of it.
I believe it will be found, that, when Christians have resorted to the sword, in order to resist persecution for the gospel's sake, as did the Albigenses, the Bohemians, the French Protestants, and some others, within the last six hundred years, the issue has commonly been, that they have perished by it ; that is they have been us overcome by their enemies, and exterminated ; whereas, in cases where their only weapons have been the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, loving not their lives unto death, they have overcome. Like Israel in Egypt, the more they have been afflicted, the more they have increased.
But none of these things prove it unlawful to take up arms as members of civil society, when called upon to do so for the defence of our country. The ground on which our Saviour refused to let his servants fight for him, that he should not be delivered into the hands of the Jews, was, that his was a kingdom not of this world; plainly intimating, that if his kingdom had been of this world, a contrary line of conduct had been proper. Now, this is, what every other kingdom is : it is right, therefore, according to our Lord's reasoning, that the subjects of all civil states should as such, when required, fight in defence of them. Has not Christianity, I ask, in the most decided manner, recog
I nized civil government, by requiring Christians to be subject to it? Has it not expressly authorized the legal use of the sword? Christians are warned that the magistrate beareth not the sword in vain ; and that he is the minister of God, a revenger, to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. But, if it be right for the magistrate to bear the sword, and to use it upon evil doers within the realm, it cannot be wrong to use it in repelling invaders from without: and, if it be right on the part of the magistrate, it is right that the subject should assist him in it; for, otherwise, his power would be merely nominal, and he would indeed bear the sword in vain. Vol. VII,
We have not been used, in things of a civil and moral nature, to consider one law as made for the religious part of a nation, and another for the irreligious. Whatever is the duty of one, allowing for different talents and situations in lite, is the duty of all. If, therefore, it be not binding upon the former to unite in every necessary measure for the support of civil government, neither is it upon the latter : and if it be binding upon neither, it must follow, that civil government itself ought not to be supported, and that the whole world should be left to become a prey to anarchy or despotism.
Farther : If the use of arms were, of itself, and in all cases, inconsistent with Christianity, it were a sin to be a soldier : but nothing like this is beld out to us in the New Testament. On the contrary, we there read of two believing centurions, and neither of them was reproved on account of his office, or required to relinquish it. We also read of publicans and soldiers who came to John to be baptized, each asking, What shall we do? The answer to both proceeds on the same principle : They are warned against the abuses of their respective employments ; but the employments themselves are tacitly allowed to be lawful. To the one he said, Exact no more than that which is appointed you: to the other, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages. If either of these occupations bad been, in itself, sinful, or inconsistent with that kingdom which it was John's grand object to announce, and into the faith of which his disciples were baptized, he ought on this occasion, to have said so, or, at least, not to have said that which implies the contrary.
If it be objected, that the sinfulness of war would not lie so much at the door of the centurions and soldiers as of the government by whose authority it was proclaimed and executed; I allow there is considerable force in this : but yet, if the thing itself were necessarily, and in all cases, sinful, every party voluntarily concerned in it must have been a partaker of the guilt, though it were in different degrees.
But, granting, it may be said, that war is not, in itself, necessarily sinful; yet it becomes so by the injustice with which it is commonly undertaken and conducted. It is no part of my design to become the apologist of injustice, on whatever scale it may be practised. But, if wars be allowed to be generally undertaken and conducted without a regard to justice, it does not follow that they are always so; and still less that war itself is sinful. In ascertaining the justice or injustice of war, we have nothing to do with the motives of those who engage in it. The question is, Whether it be in itself unjust ? If it appeared so to me, I should think it my duty to stand aloof from it as far as possible.
There is one thing, however, that requires to be noticed. Be- . fore we condemn any measure as unjust, we ought to be in possession of the means of forming a just judgment concerning it.
If a difference arise only between two families, or two individ. vals, though every person in the neighbourhood may be talking and giving his opinion upon it: yet it is easy to perceive that no one of them is competent to pronounce upon the justice or injustice of either side, till he has acquainted himself with all the circumstances of the case, by patiently hearing it on both sides. How much less, then, are we able to judge of the differences of nations, which are generally not a little complex, both in their origin and bearings; and of which we know but little, but through the channel of newspapers and vague 'reports ! It is disgusting to hear people, whom no one would think of employing to decide upon a common difference between two neighbours, take upon them to pronounce with the utmost freedom, upon the justice or injustice of national differences. Where those who are constitutionally appointed to judge in such matters have decided in favour of war, however paintul it may be to my feelings, as a friend of mankind, I consider it my duty to submit, and to think well of their decis. ion, till by a careful and impartial examination of the grounds of the contest, I am compelled to think otherwise.
After all, there may be cases in which injustice may wear so prominent a feature, that every thinking and impartial mind shall be capable of perceiving it ; and where it does so, the public sense of it will and ought to be expressed. In the present instance, however, there seems to be no ground of hesitation. In arming to resist a threatened invasion, we merely act in the defensive ; and not to resist an enemy, whose ambition, under the pretence of
libera ng mankind, has carried desolation wherever he has gone, were to prove ourselves unworthy of the blessings we enjoy. Without taking upon me to decide on the original grounds of the difference, the question at issue with us is, Is it right that any one nation should seek absolutely to ruin another, and that other not be warranted, and even obliged to resist it? That such is the object of the enemy, at this time, cannot be reasonably doubted. If my country were engaged in an attempt to ruin France, as a nation, it would be a wicked undertaking ; and if I were fully convinced of it, I should both hope and pray that they might be disappointed. Surely, then, I may be equally interested in bebalf of my native land!
But there is another duty which we owe to our country; which is, That we pray to the Lord for it. It is supposed that religious people are a praying people. The godly Israelites, when carried into Babylon, were banished from temple-worship ; but they still had access to their God. The devotional practice of Daniel was well known among the great men of that city, and proved the occasion of a conspiracy against his life. King Darius knew so much of the character of the Jews as to request an interest in their prayers, in behalf of himself and his sons. My brethren, your country claims an interest in your's; and I trust that if no such claims were preferred, you would, of your own accord, remember it.
You are aware that all our dependence, as a nation, is upon God; and, therefore, should importune his assistance. After all the struggles for power, you know that in his sight all the inhabitants of the world are reputed as nothing : he doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Indeed this has been acknowledged, and, at times, sensibly felt, by irreligious characters; but, in general, the great body of a nation, it is to be feared, think but little about it. Their dependence is upon an arm of flesh. It may be said, without uncharitableness, of many of our commanders, both by sea and land, as was said of Cyrus, God hath girded them, though they have not known him. But by how much you perceive a want of prayer and dependence on God in your countrymen, by so much more should you
be concerned, as much as in you lies, to supply the defect. The prayer of the righteous man availeth much.
You are also aware, in some measure, of the load of guilt that lies upon your country ; and should, therefore, supplicate mercy on its behalf. I acknowledge myself to have much greater fear from this quarter, than from the boasting menaces of a vain man. If our iniquities provoke not the Lord to deliver us into his hand, his schemes and devices will come to nothing. When I think, among other things, of the detestable traffic before alluded to, in which we have taken so conspicuons a part, and have shed so much innocent blood, i tremble ! When we have fasted and prayed, I have seemed to hear the voice of God, saying unto us, Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke! Yet, peradventure, for his own name's sake, or from a regard to his own cause, which is here singularly protected, the Lord may hearken to our prayers, and save us from deserved ruin. We know that Sodom itself would have been spared, if ten righteous men could have been found in her. I proceed to consider,
II. THE MOTIVE BY WHICH THESE DUTIES ARE ENFORCED : In the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
The Lord hath so wisely and mercifully interwoven the interests of mankind, as to furnish motives to innumerable acts of justice and kindoess. We cannot injure others, nor even refrain from doing them good, without injuring ourselves.
The interest of individuals and families are closely connected with those of a country. If the latter prosper, generally, speaking, so do the former ; and if the one be ruined, so must the oth
It is impossible to describe, or to conceive betorehand, with any degree of accuracy, the miseries which the success of a for. eign enemy, such as we have to deal with, must occasion to private families. To say nothing of the loss of property among the higher and middle classes of people ; (which must be severely felt, as plunder will, undoubtedly, be the grand stimulus of an invading army ;) who can calculate the loss of lives? Who can contemplate, without horror, the indecent excesses of a victorious, unprincipled, and brutal soldiery ? Let not the poorest man say,