Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

A glorious success, quietly obtained, is more profitable than the dan-
gers of a battle; for we ought to esteem those, who do what is agreeable
to temperance and prudence, no less glorious than those, who have gained
great reputation by their actions in war." Vespasian.

FIFTH EDITION.

CAMBRIDGE:

PRINTED BY HILLIARD AND METCALF.

Sold by Wells & Lilly, No. 97, Court-Street, Boston

1816.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

SOLEMN REVIEW.

SECTION I.

"Shall the sword decour forever ?"

WE regard with horror the custom of the ancient heathens in offering their children in sacrifice to idols. We are shocked with the customs of the Hindoos, in prostrating themselves before the car of an idol to be crushed to death; in burning women alive on the funeral piles of their husbands; in offering a monthly sacrifice, by casting living children into the Ganges to be drowned. We read with astonishment of the sacrifices made in the papal crusades, and in the Mahometan and Hindoo pilgrimages. We wonder at the blindness of christian nations, who have esteemed it right and honorable to buy and sell Africans as property, and reduce them to bondage for life. But that which is fashionable and popular in a country is esteemed right and honorable, whatever may be its nature in the views of men better informed.

But while we look back with a mixture of wonder, indig nation and pity, on many of the customs of former ages, are we careful to inquire, whether some customs, which we deem honorable, are not the effect of popular delusion? and whether they will not be so regarded by future generations? Is it not a fact, that one of the most horrid customs of savage men, is now popular in every nation in Christendom? What custom of the most barbarous nations is more repugnant to the feelings of piety, humanity and justice, than that of deciding controversies between nations by the edge of the sword, by powder and ball, or the point of the bayonet? What other savage custom has occasioned half the desolation and misery

to the human race?

And what but the grossest infatuation, could render such a custom popular among rational beings?

When we consider how great a part of mankind have perished by the hands of each other, and how large a portion of human ealamity 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 which 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 changed 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 can 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 success to the efforts of the allied powers, He only could have produced such a change in the views of the British nation, as to abolish the slave trade; yet the event was brought about by a long course of persevering and honorable exertions of benevolent men.

When the thing was first proposed, it probably appeared to the majority of the people, as an unavailing and chimer ical project, But God raised up powerful advocates, gave them the spirit of perseverance, and finally crowned their ef forts with glorious success. Now, it is probable, thousands

[ocr errors]

of people are wondering how 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 rational beings ever thought of such a mode of settling controversies.

As to waiting for the millennium to put an end to war, without any exertions on our own part; this is like the sin ner's waiting God's time for conversion, while he pursues his course of vice and impiety. If ever there shall be a millennium, 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 themselves. Is it not then time, that efforts should be made to enlighten the minds of christians 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 occa sion 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 property 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 measure saved, besides many millions of

« PreviousContinue »