Page images

may strike for preservation of the government without a particle of hatred towards the persons he is compelled to strike?

We have now reached the core of our subject ;-we touch the precise spot, where the fallacy of the unqualified peace-doctrine takes its start. It is assumed, that in every possible instance wherein a person strikes another, he is governed by a spirit of hatred. It is assumed, that love towards an enemy and violent resistance against his assaults -resistance sometimes necessarily pushed to the point of a deadly blow—are utterly incompatible things. It is assumed, that love towards an enemy necessarily involves submission to whatever he imposes upon us, no matter what the consequences to ourselves or to others. And these points are assumed as if they were self-evident--as if no one would presume to question them as if they belong to the class of postulates against which it is impossible to imagine an argument.

We have given these several points careful consideration, and we reach the conclusion that they are invalid. We now believe, that there are contingencies in which a person may strike another and yet love him; that there are contingencies in which he may carry the point of resistance to evil doers to a deadly-blow and yet have no unchristian feeling in his heart ; that there are contingencies, in which submission to the assaults of our foes, may perhaps be an exhibition of an amiable disposition, but nevertheless be not only unmanly but positively unchristian. And we believe that a national crisis has been reached in which the soldier in the army of freedom may consistently carry the New Testament in his pocket, have the spirit of the New Testament in his heart,-indeed be all the better soldier for being a Christian,--and in the deadly onset lift a prayer to the Father and Friend of all, that the fearful missile may go straight to the mark !

We are not unmindful of the fact, that war waged for any cause, however justifiable, is almost sure to bring into play the worst passions of the unsanctified heart. Nor do we forget the certain demoralization of a people under the influences attendant

the mere fact of being in a state of war. Familiarity with scenes of carnage and blood, or even with the published records of such scenes, tends insensibly, yet surely, to deaden the better feelings--to harden the heartto blunt the moral perceptions, and the benevolent sympathies--in a word to barbarize a people. The demoralization attendant upon camp life, and this, in spite of discipline however rigid, is a fearful item to be taken into the account in assuming the responsibility of calling armies into the field. The mutilations of body and limb_worse to contemplate than instant death at the hands of the foem with the attendant tortures and groans of the victims, and the speechless agony in homes once happy, but now robbed of the objects of their dearest affections, make a sum of horrors which prove that but one thing can be worse than war--the surrender of the cause in which war finds its necessity and justification.


But while these things prove the exceeding wickedness of war when carried on without sufficient cause, and while they indicate the almost crushing responsibility resting upon those who as rulers are called upon to take the initative act in the dread resort, they cannot weigh as insuperable if we concede the right and the duty of government to maintain its own existence. If such an objection were allowed to be decisive, not even Christianity could abide the test; indeed, the world has seen no other great movement, against which such an objection would be more potent. Among the occasions of strife, contentions, and war in its most terrific forms, the New Testament has been most prominent. Christ predicted as much in the words already quoted, "I came not to bring peace but a sword.” But the sufficient answer to all this, is the fact that Christianity, in no sense, is the cause of strife ; that this cause is in the depravity of the human heart and will; but that as the commands of Christ necessarily come in contact with the evil passions and schemes of men, it proves the occasion that brings the depravity of man into more palpable expression. It has been well said that even the devil would be amiable and peaceable if allowed to have his own way; he becomes furious only by being resisted; nevertheless the command is imperative, “Resist the devil.” The rum-seller may be a most obliging neighbor and generous friend, if permitted to enrich his pocket by spreading ruin and woe without even a word of resistance. When, however, the strong arm of the law, sustained by the virtuous indignation of an outraged community, opposes

a barrier to his iniquitous traffic, he suddenly becomes defiant and quarrelsome. Whether our anti-slavery agitators have loved the slave wisely as well as zealously, we do not care to discuss in this connection. It is, however, certain that their labors have been among the occasions of the present national strife. But the view is narrow indeed which mistakes the occasion for the cause—which does not see the culpable cause in the domineering spirit and barbarous schemes of the self-constituted champions of the “ peculiar institution." Words of truth and soberness, spoken to guilty men, will occasion strife, but nevertheless such words should be spoken.

It is enough that war carried on for a justifiable cause need not call into action a single unworthy passion. When the preservation of interests more precious than life renders it imperative that lives be destroyed, the order to destroy may come from a heart, and obedience thereto may come from hearts, in which not an unkind feeling is cherished towards a human being. Because, in a given contingency, we destroy our foes, it does not follow that we do not love them, but that a higher interest makes us the instrument of their sacrifice. Gladly would we escape a necessity so terrible—fraught with responsibilities so solemn. But if what we can but regard as the will of Heaven commands us, for the preservation of a priceless boon, to strike our brother, our obedience to the divine behest, rendered in sadness and pain, should not be attributed to an unbrotherly spirit. There can be no greater fallacy than that which assumes, that physical resistance, even though pushed to the last extremity, necessarily supposes that we cherish unchristian dispositions towards the human objects of our resistance.

In a world where human souls are sometimes compelled to choose between death and dishonor, there can be no question that some things are more precious than animal life. When the choice was presented to Latimer, Hooper and Ridley, either to recant their convictions or “give their bodies to be burned,” they at once decided that their integrity was of more importance than their lives. The memorable words, “ Give me liberty, or give me death,” are to the same purport. To refer to the highest example, the scene on Calvary is simply an illustration of the worthlessness of life in the body, when obedience to the Divine Will de



mands the sacrifice. In all this, we but repeat familiar truths. We know but little of the claims of the soul, if we even hesitate at the proposition, that there are realities infinitely more precious than animal existence.

The contest now is for the maintenance of government -our republican government, the free institutions under which we have been prospered as a people--a form of government, which, notwithstanding serious imperfections and glaring inconsistencies, is, as a whole, the most precious legacy the civil and political experience of the world has ever conferred upon a nation, Or, if it be denied that our government is all this; or, admitting so much, if it be • denied that its existence is really imperilled even on the

supposition of the success of the rebellion,-if these points be denied, it is sufficient for our present argument, that the people as a body, as represented by the rulers of their choice, believe what we allege. It may be too much to ask that a people shall act only from what they absolutely know; for absolute knowledge on the part of finite beings may not, in the things which the crisis involves, be possible. They have done all that can be expected of them, if they act from their convictions. With the great body of the people of the North, the conviction is profound and earnest, that the very existence of the best government the world has ever seen, is imperilled by the existing rebellion; and the believing of this is, for practical purposes, the same as if, instead of convictions, the people had absolute knowledge. To the question, whether such a government is worth the sacrifice of human lives, it ought to be a sufficient answer, that human lives were, at the outset, freely given to purchase it. The importance of maintaining the government cannot be less than that of originally obtaining it. Did the patriot fathers give too much for our institutions? If not, their maintenance at an equal cost, cannot be too great.

But, fixing our minds upon the innocent persons who must suffer from the prosecution of the war, persons who in limb and life are made the victims of a crisis for the origin of which they are in no sense culpable, it may be asked, How stands their case in the light of Christianity ? Prove that the sacrifice of criminal instigators of the rebellion is just, is it Christian to put in peril the lives of the loyal and patriotic ? Is it Christian that the innocent should suffer

because of the guilty ? To this general question we have a ready answer: It is a cardinal doctrine of Christianity that the innocent must suffer for the guilty. The Author of this divine religion himself “ suffered, the just for the unjust.” “ He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed." Take from the Gospel scheme the single fact, that the life of Christ was sacrificed for the good of the sinner, and how much would what remains be worth? The familiar words, breathed in the prayers and the songs of Christians the world over, "He died that we might live,” contain the very essence of Christian doctrine. The war to crush rebellion must cost the sacrifice of many innocent lives; but in this, certainly, there is conformity to, by no means departure from, both the spirit and the form of the religion of the New Testament.

If the question still linger, Is not the case of the innocent victims of even a just war a hard one ? We answer that if they are Christians (and let it be remembered, we are discussing the subject wholly in the light of Christianity) they themselves will not regard their case as hard—they themselves, who certainly ought to be best qualified to form a judgment on the subject, will not feel that they have reason to complain. There is a quality in the faith of the Christian that makes him deem it a privilege to suffer, and if need be, to die for the true and right. The worldly, the frivolous, the selfish know nothing of this marvellous attribute of a sincere Christian faith; and such, of course, are incompetent even to reason in regard to it; but to those who put it to the test of experience, its power to cheer and sustain those who suffer for righteousness' sake is no longer a problem.

We have abundant confirmations of what we here affirm in the lives of faithful men in every period of Christian history. But we need not look outside of the authoritative record. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake ; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. An apostle had abundant opportunity to test the correctness of this promise. He tells us : “ of the Jews five times I received forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with

« PreviousContinue »