Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

submission to the divine law. If these principles did not hold, no man would ever have been a martyr to the convictions of his conscience.

Necessity cannot surely imply that when life appears to be in danger, every other consideration is to be set aside in order to preserve it. This is not the doctrine of Scripture: it is not even the doctrine of heathen philosophy.

It was an old saying among those who were but partially enlightened respecting a future state, Fiat justitia, ruat cœlum:-Let man do his duty, whatever extremity may happen; and it was consistently held that, in some cases, when pressed by violence, men ought rather to surrender their lives, than submit to any act of turpitude or ignominy, for the sake of prolonging their existence So, then, the preservation of life was not to be regarded as the only end and object of rational beings. For, virtue required that life itself should be undervalued, when placed in competition with duty and true honour. If a man were reduced to the supposed necessity of telling a falsehood to save his life, would he be justified in violating the truth, when he felt persuaded that there is a God in heaven to reward the upright? If he were reduced to the supposed necessity of killing another to save himself, would he be justified in breaking the Christian injunction, "not to resist evil," when he entertained a religious confidence that mercy would hereafter be extended to all that show mercy?

But it might happen, as it often has happened, that the necessity of violent resistance might not be real, and that, in the very crisis of alarm, by some unforeseen incident, life might be preserved with honour. How lamentable, then, must be the reflection to a Christian, that by yielding to revenge he had cut off a fellow-creature in the midst of his crimes, who, by a little kindness and persuasion from an enemy, might have been made a friend, and who, by means of salutary discipline, might have been turned from a course of wickedness to a state of acceptance with his Maker.

The argument which supports the necessity of force being opposed to force, assumes, that nations or individuals being threatened, and life, or liberty, or property being in consequence endangered, arms must be resorted to for the purpose of affording protection :

therefore, that those who meditate or offer violence, are to be resisted with violence, as a matter of course, and, if possible, put to death.

Now, who is competent to judge of the necessity and the danger, supposing the plea to be admitted? Is he who is impelled by fear or anger or the sensitive politician who weaves his web at every court, and is tremblingly alive to each of its vibrations? or is the weaker state when threatened by the stronger the more competent judge?

There is no one, surely, more unfit for judging dispassionately of what is right to be done in cases of imminent peril than the fearful. Fear pictures imaginary dangers. It excludes all reliance upon Providence. It therefore moves the mind from the settled restingplace of fortitude, in which it is best prepared to meet and to overcome danger by moral intrepidity. Hence fear ought not to govern a rational being in the midst of peril, either as a motive or a guide. What has the man of integrity to fear?

With respect to the quick and headlong impulse of anger, he that seeks to attain any rational end, while under its influence, instead of waiting for a calm, "puts to sea in the violence of a storm." As the instinctive principles which comprehend the appetites and desires must be restrained, so nothing is more true than that moral and intellectual beings are not to suffer the animal principle of resentment to hurry them indiscriminately and without deliberation into action.

If it be said that in well-disciplined armies the impulse is neither that of fear nor anger, but that of military duty, and therefore to them these strictures do not apply: we admit the objection so far as it refers to armies as instruments. But the case is widely different with those who make use of them. The soldier being reduced by a voluntary act, to the state of passive obedience, makes a conscience of submitting his will in every thing to that of his superior; whether he be commanded to shoot his fellow-soldier, or to destroy his enemy and burn his habitation, or to seize the property of his countrymen, or to expose his own life to certain destruction: and if he conscientiously believes this duty to be paramount, far be it from us to condemn him. We have not to do with the different degrees of light in the minds of men, but with the light of Scripture-the clear and explicit commands of Christ. When

it can be proved from these, that a man may resist evil, may pursue his revenge with the sword, may hate his enemy and take away his life, then we will give up the argument. But we think there would be more honesty in avowing that the yoke of Christian discipline is too hard for us to bear, than in attempting to reconcile the duty of forbearance with revenge, the love of our enemies with their de struction, and the peaceful character with the warlike.

The Christian law has respect to the highest degree of human excellence it admits no inferior standard of virtue: it will have men to be Christians in deed and in truth. It does not insist upon precise conformity in some, and allow partial conformity in others, merely because the latter choose a path for themselves not quite so straight. There is but one pattern of excellence proposed to all for imitation. All may fall short in degree: but no man is allowed to content himself with a relaxed discipline, or to fix any inferior rule. If so, the rule might vary in every community; and at last the conqueror might be esteemed more noble than the martyr; and the warlike Mahomet be set up as a more worthy example for men to follow than the peaceful Messiah.

Whatever allowance therefore may be made in the case of the hired soldier; to those at the helm of Christian states, as lawgivers and counsellors, who send him upon his commission, and give the impulse to his movements, the same indulgence cannot, upon Christian principles, be extended. Whether these may call it honour or national independence, for which they have recourse to arms, it cannot be doubted that the real motives for organizing armies, arise from fear, jealousy, or resentment.

Now these are motives which ought not to enter into the mind of a Christian, much less to influence his conduct. With respect indeed to resentment, it would be more creditable at least to humanity, that men should go forward to the work of death under this animal influence,—because brute passion extinguishes for the time what is generous and amiable,- than under the factitious and delusive influence of any other principle which has acquired a specious name among men, and which seems to permit the growth of good and evil together, one of the most dangerous kinds of union, because they are then so apt to be confounded, such as honour. glory, and love of country. Human nature, the more it is refined

and enlightened, the more it ought to possess of the milk of human kindness, and the less of a thirst for blood. True honour, true glory, true love of country, if the terms were rightly understood, would effectually restrain the inhabitants of any nation, who knew their real interests, from engaging in conflicts that must tend unavoidably to demoralize their countrymen, to waste their strength and resources, and to subject themselves to reprisals from their enemies. But honour, glory, and love of country, by means of capricious and false associations, which artfully cover a deformity that could not be endured if the veil were removed, have long been prostituted to ends alike derogatory to reason, and abhorrent from the meek spirit of Christianity, and cannot therefore in any way be supposed to exalt the dignity of human nature. If military glory could have this effect, the world ought to be used as a great arena on which contending armies should be perpetually struggling for the support and exercise of the military virtues; and not be (as Christians profess it should be) a theatre for the display of benevolence, the diffusion of knowledge, the propagation of truth, the improvement and happiness of the human race, and the universal spread of peace and righteousness.

Some of the cases of presumed necessity, which have been urged by politicians, for embroiling two nations in war, are almost calculated to excite a smile-if it were possible to excite a smile on such a subject. The reasons have been so puerile, and the causes of difference so easy to have been removed by a little mutual concession, that it is marvellous that any stress should have been laid on such pretended justifications; for these are seen by the dispassionate observers at a distance, in their true light, as unworthy of the least consideration, in the scale of humanity and true national glory. The sensitive jealousy of politicians towards rival nations is always rankling as in a state of feverish excitement. To them, "trifles light as air" are strong confirmations of intended coolness and hostility. They raise the phantom and they pursue it. Hence a political necessity for war has been urged, on account of an obsolete claim of some insignificant portion of territory, or an alleged insult offered to a flag or an ambassador, or a breach of some state punctilio, or the exclusive monopoly of some article of commerce, or some private pique between rulers or ministers, or the fancied

IX.-PART I.

C

undue preponderance in the scale of balanced power, or some other of the many bubbles blown by secret ambition, and constantly floating in the fluctuating element of diplomatic intrigue. It is manifest that every one of these causes could really have no more to do with necessity than the appearance of a comet: which, in times of superstition, it was imagined, did exert some necessary influence in producing war.

[blocks in formation]

When a weak state is menaced by one that is powerful, there is prima facie a strong justification for taking up arms to defend what are called its Rights. The cause is supposed to be one which Heaven must approve. The love of liberty, natural to man, awakes enthusiasm; the God of justice is invoked in aid of the enterprise : and, as if to encourage and embolden, the secret prayers of the friends of civil liberty in all countries, who look at the object without And what are the regarding the means, are put up for its success. usual consequences? As if the Almighty Controller of human events designed to shew his creature man, that in this age of the world, it is not by savage contention that the ends of his sovereign justice should be attained in the earth,-the weak state is overthrown: wickedness is triumphant; thousands perhaps are slain; and the remainder reduced to a condition far more abject and degraded than if they had submitted peaceably to the aggression, with no other appearance of resistance than that moral sting which an unoffending and peaceable state throws against its adversary, when it protests firmly and energetically, with reason and justice on its side, against wanton and unprincipled aggression. In so hard a case as the latter, as human nature is constituted, the very agents would be ashamed of the commission they had undertaken; and they would be disposed, as far as lay in their power, to lessen the weight of oppression upon the innocent, instead of adding to the burden.

Of all the reasonings in favour of the use of arms, there is none which comes home more closely to flesh and blood, or is more triumphantly urged against the disciple of peace, than that which supposes the circumstance of a civil war, and of a murderer at our

« EdellinenJatka »