Page images
PDF
EPUB

ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks, and when nation shall not lift

up sword against nation, and they shall not learn war any more.

Now other Christians, who differ from them in the interpretation of the words in question, believe equally with them that the times thus predicted will come to pass. The question then is, whether the more enlarged interpretation of these words, as insisted upon by the Society, or of the less enlarged, as insisted upon by others, be the most consistent with the belief of the future accomplishment of the prophecy just mentioned. And in this case the Quakers are of opinion, that if wars were ever to cease, one ought to expect that some foundation would have been previously laid in Christianity for this great and important end. The subjugation of the passions, which it is the direct tendency of Christianity to effect, would produce this end: and so far such a foundation has already been laid in this system. But as. the admission of moral precepts into the education of man, so as to form habits of moral opinion, is another way of influencing conduct in life, they think it likely

that

[ocr errors]

that some such maxim as “ that Christians should not fight” would have been introduced also; because the adoption of such a maxim would have a similar tendency with the subjugation of the passions in producing the same end. For it seems absurd, they conceive, to suppose that wars should cease, and that no precept should have been held out that they were wrong. But the more enlarged interpretation of the words in

question furnishes such a precept, and therefore another foundation seems to have been laid in Christianity for the same end. They admit, therefore, the larger interpretation as included in the less, because it comports more with the design of Providence (who announces by the mouth of his Prophets that he wills universal peace) that the prohibition of private as well as public wars should be understood as a Christian doctrine, than that the words in question should be confined to private injuries alone.

The last reason, which the Quakers give for adopting the larger interpretation of the words in the Sermon upon the Mount as well as the less, is the following: They are of opinion that, as Christians, they ought

not

not to lessen the number of the moral obligations of the Gospel. They ought not to abridge its dignity, nor to put limits to its benevolence. If it was the desire of Jesus Christ that men should love their enemies, it is their duty to believe that his wish could not have been otherwise than uni. versal. If it was an object with him to cure moral evil, it is their duty to suppose that it was his desire to destroy it, not partially, but to the utmost possible extent. If it was his design to give happiness to men, it is their duty to determine that he intended to give it, not in a limited proportion, but in the largest measure. But when they consider the nature of wars,—that they militate against the law of preservation,--that they include the commission of a multitude of crimes,--that they produce a complication of misery and suffering to man,--they conceive they would not be doing their duty as Christians, or giving to Christianity its due honour, if they were not to admit the larger meaning of the words in question as well as the less. Reason, too, pleads for the one as well as for the other. Consistency of moral dectrine, again, demands both. But if we admit the restricted interpretation, and exclude the larger, we offend reason. All consistency is at an end. Individual responsibility for moral turpitude will be taken from man. Crimes, clearly marked and defined in the

page of Christianity, will cease to be crimes at the will of princes. One contra diction will rush in after another, and men will have different standards of morality, as they adhere to the commands of the Gospel, or to the customs of governments, or to the opinions of the world.

SECTION II.

Njeaning of the scriptural passages advanced by

the Quakers supported by the opinions and prac-
tice of the early Christians-Early Christian
writers held it unlawful to fight, as appears from
Justin, Tatian, Clemens, and othersChristians
would not enter into the armies for more than
two centuries, as appears from Irenæus, Ter-
tullian, Celsus, Origen, and others and gene-
rally left the military service if they happened
to be converted in it.
It
may

be presumed to be difficult for Christians, who have been in the habit of

beholding beholding wars entered into and carried on by their own and other Christian Governments, and without any other censure than that they might be politically wrong, to see the scriptural passages of " non-resistance of injuries, and love of enemies,” but through a vitiated medium. The prejudices of some, the interests of others, and custom with all, will induce a belief among them, that these have no relation to public wars. At least they will be glad to screen themselves under such a notion. But the question is, what would a Heathen have said to these passages, who, on his conversion to Christianity, believed that the New Testament was of Di. vine origin,--that it was the Book of Life, and that the precepts, which it contained, were not to be dispensed with to suit particular cases, without the imputation of evil. Now such a trial, the Quakers say, has been made. It was made by the first Christians ; and they affirm, that these interpreted the passages, which have been mentioned, differently from those of most of the Christians of the present age; for that both their opinions and their practice spoke laudly against the lawfulness of war.

Upon

« PreviousContinue »