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injunctions are unqualified : “Resist not evil ;" “Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” And, to adopt the words of another Tract, “If the requisition be without restriction, our obedience must also be unconditional.” We presume, an appeal to the protection of the law is one of the kinds and degrees of resistance which Mr. Dymond supposes Christianity to allow; but it is evident, that, if these passages are to be interpreted according to the strict letter, they comprehend all kinds and degrees of resistance whatever, and permit of no distinctions or classifications; and, therefore, the Peace Society must either take the literal sense in its full integrity, or abandon the whole argument, and admit that the words are to be understood by the spirit rather than by the letter.
7. The prophecies preceding the advent of Christ are advanced to prove, that the Dispensation of which they were the heralds was to be one of universal and uninterrupted peace; and that therefore we may infer, that if the true nature of the Christian Dispensation were understood, and if the Law by which it is regulated were exactly obeyed, a conversion to our holy religion, or the cordial and serious holding of it, would be universally accompanied with an entire abstinence from warfare. * To support this position a host of quotations are made; the predictions of Isaiah and Micah, that in the last days swords shall be beaten into plough-shares, and spears into pruning-hooks, that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and that War shall be learnt no more, being especially reiterated.
That must be admitted to be a new rule of interpretation which should translate a prediction of the future into a command for the present; and unless this be the aim of the Peace Society, we cannot conceive to what end the above argument is advanced.
“ The wolf,” it is likewise predicted by the same prophets of the same period, “ also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, and their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaning child shall put his hand on the cockatrice-den." These predictions, in the present constitution of nature apparently so impossible, plainly refer the cessation of War to a period when the consequences of the fall shall be wholly obliterated; and however that great change may be wrought, whether by miracle or otherwise, that time is evidently still future. Now, granting, as all true Christians must grant, that the direct tendency of Christianity is to produce this felicitous consummation and to promote peace and good will among men, yet while malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness continue, it is not promised that “ wars and rumours of wars" shall cease. It is the direct tendency of Christianity, not only to abrogate War, but all
* See “Essay on War," by Joseph Gurney, as quoted in Mr. Macnamara's Prize Essay.
coercion whatever; to fit man for the highest kind of self-government, so that he should need no other law than the Gospel, no other ruler than his own conscience. Christianity, in its perfection, could suffer the jurisdiction of no earthly tribunal. Shall we, therefore, in the mean time, denounce all Government as unlawful, and make it criminal for Christians to fill its offices? And yet, to be consistent, such is the proposition the Peace Society ought to maintain, if they persist in thus condemning Defensive War, because it is the ultimate tendency of Christianity to abolish War altogether.
8. The practice of the Primitive Christians is appealed to, with much confidence, by the Peace Society and its supporters. It is asserted, that while the faith continued pure, Christians declined the military profession, and were not found in the Roman armies until the faith became corrupt, towards the third century: but it is scarcely a fair mode of argument, first to affirm that while the faith continued pure Christians refused to become soldiers, and then immediately to make their compliance the sign and evidence of impurity; thus adroitly taking for granted the very thing to be proved. And the assumption, we may observe by the way, that in the third century corruption originated to receive a consummation under Constantine, savours not a little of Dissenting prejudice; for we require only the Epistles to prove, that even during the Apostolic æra heresies had sprung up, such as that of the Nicolaitans, whom we find mentioned by St. John in strong terms of reprobation. It is impossible to predicate when corruption and error began to contaminate the Christian faith ; and we should remember that the early Christians, except when specially illuminated by the Holy Spirit, were men fallible as ourselves.
The early Christians were placed in peculiar circumstances, which necessitated a severe asceticism. To them, the world was a hotbed of iniquity, not only in the sense which modern Christians attach to the term, but in one aggravated by the success with which the leaven of idolatry had penetrated and poisoned the whole of social intercourse. In the words of Gibbon, “ The innumerable deities and rites of polytheism were closely interwoven with every circumstance of business or pleasure, of public or of private life; and it seemed impossible to escape the observance of them, without, at the same time, renouncing the commerce of mankind and all the offices and amusements of society. .... Even the common language of Greece and Rome abounded with familiar but impious expressions, which the imprudent Christian might too carelessly utter or too patiently hear.” This universal connexion with idolatry obliged the Christian to refrain from participation in pursuits otherwise lawful, and to associate almost exclusively with his brother-believers : he could accept neither of civil nor military appointments without compromising his principles and practically denying his Saviour. Because during the first two centuries it is not easy to discover Christians in any civil employment, shall we therefore decide all such employment inconsistent with the profession of Christianity? And if not, why should we pronounce all War unlawful, because, actuated by such motives, Christians during that period would not become warriors ?
But there were other reasons, almost equally potent, which dictated this complete resignation of office and emolument. In the first place, the great majority of mankind were Pagans, who sought promotion with greediness, and were but too ready to undertake the defence of the empire or the administration of its laws. Hence there was no call for Christians to burthen themselves with public responsibilities, or to distract their minds with those secular duties, for whose fulfilment ample provision otherwise existed. They confessed that the institutions of government were necessary, in the present system of the world; but that was a system which many of them conceived as about to sustain a sudden and final dissolution. Anticipating the speedy destruction of Rome and the world : delighting in the prospect of the near approach of the kingdom of heaven and the dominion of the saints, it became almost impious in the eyes of many of their number to interrupt or weaken the ecstatic vision by assuming the characters of soldiers or of magistrates, or by any means permitting the importunities of business or of pleasure. Some of the Fathers forbade garments of any colour except white, false hair, vessels of gold or silver, white bread, foreign wines, public salutations, the use of warm baths, and even shaving: shall we therefore declare these things unlawful? Second marriages by the same authorities were very generally condemned as legalised adultery: shall we therefore record a like condemnation? Certain of the Fathers, and among them Origen, interpreted a particular text of Scripture in a literal sense : shall we therefore imitate their practice? And if in these things we are not bound by their example, why should it be considered, even supposing them to be proved, as decisive against War?
When, however, it became manifest that the expectation of an immediate millennium was founded on a misapprehension, and when the Christians increased in numerical importance, an inattention to the public welfare would have been disgraceful to them as individuals, and suicidal to their interests as a community. The fact of Christians being found during the third century filling civil and military posts, is a proof not of their corruption, but of their growth. Tertullian himself is fain to answer the charge, so frequently repeated, that the Christians were useless to the commonwealth, by reminding the objectors, “We serve with you and your armies ;” and his own aversion to War appears to have rested more on the belief that the prophecies of Isaiah were then in course of accomplishment, than on the idea that it could be abolished by itself, and without any miraculous interposition. The same may be said of Irenæus and others.
The argument deduced from the example of the Primitive Christians, even as managed by the Peace Societies themselves, leaves the question to the same issue as before. Aware that the authority of the Fathers is a two-edged weapon, they end their citations by referring the reader back to the Scripture ; and, doing so, discover the apparition of a couple of scriptural examples in complete opposition to their doctrine.
9. Dismissing the example of John the Baptist, who bade the soldiers be content with their pay, we arrive at the case of the first Gentile convert, who, though a Roman Centurion, was commended by our Lord in the memorable words—“I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." But this exclamation, contend the Peace Society, does not imply that the soldier was engaged in a profession which a clearer light of Christianity would not have induced him to relinquish. The words, it is argued, apply merely to faith, which is a mental confidence, totally abstracted from any occupation and from works; and our Lord, if silent with regard to the Centurion's profession, was also silent with regard to his religion, and yet he was doubtless an idolator. *
It is, however, difficult to conceive how such surpassing faith could exist in an unregenerate bosom, or how the Centurion could be other than a proselyte. With regard to his religion he required no admonition, for the work of the Holy Spirit had already been effectually wrought in his heart; but with regard to War, supposing it unlawful, according to the Peace Society's own showing, he needed enlightenment. Christ said to the adulteress, “Go, and sin no more;" why, then, said he not to the Centurion, “Go, and fight no more?” To suppose that a man capable of extorting such praise from our Redeemer, was still immersed in the sin of idolatry, is to suppose a monstrosity; and to suppose that he would not have been warned of the criminal nature of his profession, were it really criminal, is to impeach that Divine Love and Mercy to which he applied so successfully-particularly when such a warning would have set the question of the lawfulness of War at rest for ever, and probably have saved thousands from deadly sin.
10. Still more decisive is the instance of Cornelius. This Centurion, described by the sacred historian as “a devout man, one that feared God with all his house, and prayed to God alway," was saluted by the Angel of the Lord as a worshipper whose prayers and alms had “come up for a memorial before God,” and was the favoured subject of two visions, and honoured by being selected as the first evidence that God had granted repentance to the Gentiles. His conversion was peculiarly cared for ; he received a supernatural admonition to send for Peter, and Peter the same to go to him : when the Apostle arrived, the Holy Ghost fell on all, whether Jew or Gentile, that heard the Word ; and the Centurion with his household being baptised, Peter tarried three days. Not a sentence is there on the sacred page relating these important events, which could lead us to conclude that the profession of Cornelius was objected to as unlawful, either by St. Peter or by the Angel of the Lord, who addressed him in terms of such unqualified approval. Nay, the very messenger despatched to request the attendance of the Apostle was himself a “devout soldier;" and surely, had the military occupation been sinful, Peter would have instructed to that effect both the messenger and his master, which instruction would have been recorded for our edification. At any rate, the passage would not have been left naked
as it is now, and open to such an obvious interpretation in favour of soldiers.
Can the Peace Society be satisfied with the manner in which they have met this case? Can they have succeeded even in convincing themselves that they have met it effectually? Never do we remember, in any theological discussion, to have encountered a reply so lame and ill-supported as is theirs. We are to presume, forsooth, that on receiving baptism, Cornelius renounced his profession, or resolved to take no active part in its duties. To this cool assertion we shall merely rejoin, Prove it! But this presumption (presumption, indeed !) is stated as “founded on the whole tendency of the Christian Religion, on the practice of the primitive followers of Jesus, and on the fact that all Roman soldiers were obliged to worship idols—a species of adoration totally opposed to the principles of our faith."'*
But even assuming that Cornelius left the army on account of the idolatry connected with the service, our argument would not in the least suffer thereby; it is requisite to prove that he left because he considered all warfare unlawful; to prove which, or to prove that he left at all, is simply impossible. The sacred volume gives not the most distant hint on the matter; and as he was a Centurion when converted, we have a right to argue that he remained a Centurion afterwards. This and the preceding instance presented opportunities for War to be impressively and solemnly denounced ; and as they were allowed to pass without comment, we may legitimately gather that under all circumstances War was not considered unlawful.
To a somewhat similar caveat, however, we discover a writer in “The Herald of Peace”'t inditing a reply, with no small chuckling. It had been objected that “There is no hint given that these persons (the Centurion and Cornelius) resigned their employment:" to which is retorted (how happily !), “ Nor is there in the New Testament any hint to the contrary; thus the account is balanced !" But the account is not balanced ; for the presumption is clearly in favour of the “contrary.” As no “hint” is given that Cornelius left his occupation, and as that occupation is mentioned in the same manner as any other lawful occupation would have been mentioned, and without the slightest censure, we have good grounds for assuming that it was not thought unlawful either by himself or the celestial messenger who commended him, or the apostle who instructed him, or the sacred historian who recorded the incident; and the onus of proof lies upon those who deny our assumption. Neither Mr. Macnamara, I nor the writer in “ The Herald of Peace,” has therefore any title to suppose, “in the absence of all proof to the contrary;" for, in this case, it is
* Mr. Macnamara's Prize Essay. + January, 1840.
I It is just to award to this gentleman no inconsiderable meed of praise for the clearness, candour, and truly Christian spirit of his Essay: had they been confined to Aggressive War, his arguments would have been cogent and unanswerable.