Page images

question is, Whether it be reasonable to expect a direct command in the New Testament for one of these acts, rather than the other; and, if so, for which of the two? I think, undoubtedly, for building a hospital ; because the other, although incomparably. the greater benefit, was prompted urgently by private and public interest, and is, besides, an act quite political; therefore, least of all within the direct scope of evangelical exhortations.

[ocr errors]



Recapitulation. --Second inquiry.---The Christian's general

rule.- Why it differs from the views of philosophers.Duty of Christian nations to render their acts of external force more properly judicial. - The Christian's practice. He cannot be, I consistently, at the full disposal of the State. His moral responsibility contended for.-Scriptural precepts concerning subjects and servants.

Thus far I have been occupied in examining, Whether the principle,

" that all war is inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity,” requires limitation; and it may be proper briefly to recapitulate the arguments which have led me to conclude that it does so. On first addressing you, it was my object to show the necessity of force to civil authority, and its lawfulness, while used (by that' authority) in such a form and measure as the ends of justice require: and, further, to exhibit the untenable consequences which arise from supposing that Christians cannot consistently exercise or aid such authority. In a second Letter I considered the manner in which the persons who maintain that principle

[ocr errors]

attempt to deduce it from the precepts of the New Testament; and I endeavoured to show that their inconsistency, as practical interpreters, (although occasioned by the most humane feelings and motives,) exempts us from any obligation to adopt their sense of Scripture, and affords a strong presumption of its being, in this point, erroneous. My last communication suggested two characteristics of our Saviour's teachings, which must often guide us in interpreting the preceptive parts of his discourses; and then applied these to the precepts in debate, showing that their natural and true sense is very important, both in its past and present use, but is wholly foreign to the question, Whether public force may be lawfully exercised for the ends of justice. Lastly, I have argued, from the general object and character of the New Testament, the unreasonableness of claiming a direct command, or express permission, to justify acts which are strongly urged by a regard to our present welfare, and which are also public or political. If these arguments, contained in my last two Letters, be not unsound, they must remove all hesitation in acceding to the conclusion of the first, that the principle of the Peace Society requires to be limited.

I proceed, therefore, to the second inquiry proposed, In what cases, or in what manner, may a Christian consistently co-operate in war ? The only general answer, conformable to the fundamental principle of my past reasonings, is this :- In those cases, and in that manner, alone, where he may conscientiously regard himself as an agent of judicial authority, national or international. This rule, I apprehend, will be found to restrain the Christian from co-operating (until some international authority or sanction is resorted to) in many of those hostile enterprises which the moral reasonings of political and even professedly Christian philosophers are employed to justify. The source of this difference in moral judgment, I conceive, is to be sought in the following considerations. We shall find that the writers referred to, have ascribed to States a larger judicial authority than the Christian can admit them separately to possess. They have attempted to prove this authority, by considering States, metaphorically, as independent individuals, having no tribunal by which their rights can be protected, or, if I may speak so, as individuals not in a state of civil society, but in a state of nature; and they found on this supposed condition very extensive rights of hostility. The following is the language of


Montesquieu :-“ The life of States is like that of men: the latter have a right to kill, in the case of natural defence: the former have a right to wage war for their own preservation. In the case of natural defence, I have a right to kill, because my life is mine, as the life of him who attacks me is his : in the same manner, a State wages war, because its preservation is as just as the preservation of another. Between citizens, the right of natural defence does not include the necessity of attacking. Instead of attacking, they need only have recourse to the tribunals. They cannot, therefore, exercise this right, but in sudden cases, where it is death to wait for the help of the laws. But between societies, the right of natural defence sometimes involves the necessity of attacking, when a nation sees that a longer peace will put another in a condition to destroy it, and that an immediate attack is the only way to prevent this destruction."* From

* “La vie des états est comme celle des hommes. Ceux-ci ont droit de tuer dans le cas de la défense naturelle; ceux-là ont droit de faire la guerre pour leur propre conservation. Dans le cas de la défense naturelle, j'ai droit de tuer, parceque ma vie est a moi, comme la vie de celui qui m'attaque est à lui: de même, un état fait la guerre, parceque sa conservation est juste comme toute autre conservation. Entre les citoyens, le droit de la défense naturelle n'emporte point avec lui la nécessité de l'attaque. Au lieu d'attaquer, ils n'ont qu'à recourir aux tribunaux. Ils ne peuvent donc exercer le droit de cette défense que dans les cas momentanés, où l'on seroit perdu si l'on atten

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »