« PoprzedniaDalej »
When we consider how great a part of mankind have perished by the hands of each other, and how large a portion of human calamity has resulted from war; it surely cannot appear indifferent, whether this custom is or is not the effect of delusion. Certainly there is no custom wbich deserves a more thorough examination, than that which has occasioned more slaughter and misery, than all the other abominable customs of the heathen world.
War has been so long fashionable among all nations, that its enormity is but little regarded ; or when thought of at all, it is usually considered as an evil necessary and unavoidable. Perhaps it is really so in the present state of society, and the present views of mankind. But the question to be considered is this ; cannot the state of society and the views of civilized men be so cbanged as to abolish a barbarous custom, and render wars unnecessary and avoidable ?
If this question may be answered in the affirmative, then we may hope “ the sword will not devour forever.”
Some may be ready to exclaim, none but God can produce such an effect as the abolition of war; and we must wait for the millennial day. We admit that God only 000 produce the necessary change in the state of society, and the views of men ; but God works by human agency and human means. God only could have overthrown the empire of Napoleon; but this he did by granting suceess to the efforts of the allied powers. He only could have produced such a change in the views of the British pation, as to abolish the slave trade ; yet the event was brought about by a long course of persevering and hon. orable exertions of benevolent men.
When the thing was first proposed, it probably appeared to the majority of the people, as an unavailing and chimerical project. But God raised up powerful advocates, gave them the spirit of perseverance, and finally crowned their efforts with glorious success. Now, it is probable thousands of people are wondering bow such an abominable traffic ever had existence in a nation which had the least pretensions to christianity or civilization In a similar manner God can put an end to War, and fill the world with astonishment, that ratione
al beings ever thought of such a mode of settling contre versies.
As to waiting for the millenium to put an end to war, without any exertions on our own part; this is like the sinner's waiting God's time for conversion. while he pursues his course of vice and impiety. If ever there shall be a millenium, in which the 'sword will cease to devour, it will probably be effected by the blessing of God on the benevolent exertions of enlightened men. Perhaps no one thing is now a greater obstacle in the way of the wished for state of the church, than the spirit and custom of war, which is maintained by christians themselv Is it not then time that efforts should be made to enlighten the minds of christions on a subject of such infinite importance to the happiness of the human race?
It is not the present object to prove, that a nation may not defend their lives, their liberties and their property against an invading foe; but to inquire whether it is not possible to effect such a change in the views of men, that there shall be no occasion for defensive war.
That such a state of things is desirable, no enlightened christian can deny. That it can be produced without expensive and persevering efforts is not imagined. But are not such efforts to exclude the miseries of war from the world, as laudable, as those which have for their object the support of such a malignant and desolating custom!
The whole amount of propety in the United States is probably of far less value, than what has been expended and destroyed within two centuries by wars in Christendom. Suppose, then, that one fifth of this amount had been judiciously laid out by peace associations in the different states and nations, in cultivating the spirit and art of peace, and in exciting a just abhorrence of war; would not the other four fifths have been in a great meas. are saved, besides many millions of lives, and an inmense portion of misery ? Had the whole value of what has been expended in wars, been appropriated to the purpose of peace, how laudable would have been the appropriation, and how blessed the consequences !
“Shall the sword devour forever?
That it is possible to produce such a state of society, as to exclude national wars, may appear probable from the following fac's.
1. It is impossible for the rulers of any one nation to do much in carrying on a war with another, without the aid of subjects, or the common people.
2 A war between two nations is generally produced by the influence of a small number of ambitious and unprincipled individuals ; while the greater part of the na: tion has no hand in the business until war is proclaimed.
3. A vast majority of every civilized nation have an aversion to war; such an aversion that it requires much effort and management, to work up their passions so far, that they are willing personally to engage in such hazardous and bloody conflicts. The more any people are eivilized and christianized, the greater is their aversion to war; and the more powerful exertions are necessary to excite what is called the war spirit. Were it not for the influence of a few ambitious or revengeful men, an offensive war could not be undertaken with any prospect of success, except when the mass of the people are either uncivilized, or slaves. If then, as great exertions should be made to excite a just abhorrence of war, as have often been made to excite a war spirit, we may be very certain that rulers would find little encouragement to en. gage in any war, which is not strictly defensive. And as soon as offensive wars shall cease, defensive wars will of course be upkı own.
4. It is an affront to common sense, to pretend that military officers and soldiers have no right to inquire whether a war be just or unjust; and that all they have to do is to obey the orders of government. Such a doc. trine is fit to be taught only to slaves without souls.
If a man is called to fight, he should he faithfully informed, and tully satisfied, that he is not to act the part of a murtrer, that the blood of men may not be required at his
inds Every soldier ought to be impressed with the idea, that offensive war is murderous, and that no gova ernment on earth has any right to compel him to shed
Blood in a wanton and aggressive war. Yet in the pres. ent state of general deiusion, the soldiers and most of the citizens are treated as having no more right to judge of the justice or the injustice of a war, tban the horses em ployed in military service. On one side a war is certain. ly unjust and murderous. Yet on both sides it is con: sidered as the duty of soldiers to submit to the orders of government, and fight, whether it be murder or not mur. der! With the same propriety it might be considered as the duty of a citizen, to obey an order of government for murdering an individual of his own nation.
5. National wars often originate from such petty offences, as would not justify the taking of a single life, and from false principles of honor, which every christian should abhor. What can be more perfect delusion, tban to
suppose the honor of a nation requires a declaration of war, for such offences as would not justify one individual in taking the life of another? Or what can be more absurd than to suppose the honor of a nation requires going to war, while there is not even the prospect of advantage? Is such petulepce, as would disgrace a common citizen, or such a revengeful spirit, as would disgrace a savage, becoming the dignity of a national government, or the ruler of a christian people ?
To sacrifice human beings to false notions of national honor or to the ambition or avarice of rulers, it no better than to offer them to Moloch, or any other heathen deity. As soon as the eyes of people can be opened to see that war is the effect of delusion, it will then become as unpopular as any other heathenish mode of offering human sacrifices.
It is enough to fill the mind of any reflecting man with horror, to think of the millions of his fellow mer, who have been sacrificed to the ambition, the avarice, the petulance, or the profligacy of ungodly rulers. How shocking the thought, of armies meeting under the influence of enmity, artificially excited, to plunge their bayonets into the breasts of each other; and thus to offer human sacrifices by thousands, to some idolized phantom of ambitious or revengelul men ! 'In every war that has taken place, the soldiers, on one side or the other, have been either the slaves or the dupes of deluded or unprin. cipled rulers. The soldiers on each side often meet
without ever having experienced the least injury from each other ; with no enmity but what has been artificially excited, and without having the least ground to be offended with each other, any more than they had in a time of perfect peace.
Yet those who never had any provocation from one another, nor any hand in proclaiming the war, are by art inspired with enmity, and made to thirst for each other's blood, and to perish by each other's hands. A more barbarous mode of offering human sacrifices was never practised by the most savage nations; nor oue, it is believed, more abhorrent in the eyes of Heaven
Public wars and private duels seem to be practised on similar principles. Gentlemen may fight and kill tor petty offences; but if common people do the same, they are hanged as murderers. Gentlemen of the sword cannot wait the slow operation of law, for the redress of supposed wrongs, but must show themselves.men of spirit, that is, ready to kill for an offensive word. What is deemed honorable virtue in them, is shameful vice in other people. That benevolent, forbearing spirit, which is the glory of good people, is thought beneaih the dignity of a gentleman ot honor. First to give a challenge, and thus notify a man of a wish to kill him, is supposed to exclude the sin of murder. So in regard to war makers, that magnanimity and forbearance, which would adorn the character of a private christian, is despised by the ambitious ruler, in relation to himself. And that petulance, rashness, and disregard to the lives of others, which would render a private citizen the object of just and general abhorrence, are regarded by many, as honorable traits in the character of one, who is exalted to to rule over men. If in the exercise of this haughty, unfeeling and vindictive temper he declares war, this declaration, he fancies, will secure him from the guilt of murder. Thus thousands after thousands are sacrificed on the altar of his ungodly ambition; and every means, which ingenuity can invent, is employed to delude the unfortunate victims, and make them believe, that with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
There is, however, one circumstance usually attending public wars, which renders them more detestable than private duels. The duelist usually has the gener