« EdellinenJatka »
defiance of the sword. It had so little dependence on the sword to aid its progress, that it has never made a single conquest over the minds of men, when its professed followers have used the sword in its sacred name. It inculcates those dispositions in heart and mind which can have no possible affinity with the pride of martial glory, nor concord with the turbulence of military achievements. Peace was the legacy bequeathed to his disciples by the great Head of the Church. Upon the peace-makers he pronounced his blessing. Peace was predicted to be the sign and supreme excellency of the Messiah's kingdom in the latter days on the earth: and the believer in Scripture must be assured that a time will come when there will be PERMANENT AND UNIVERSAL PEACE. All these things demonstrate that a pure Christianity is identified with a state of peace: and, surely, we have evidence enough from past history to convince the most doubting in the present day, of the great preponderance, in the scale of national glory, of peace over war; and to prove its loveliness, its security, and its transcendent excellency.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ON THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCE OF PEACE-
TO PART I.
The Insurgents enter Ferns and treat him kindly..
He certifies on behalf of his neighbours..
PRINCIPLES OF PEACE,
Preliminary Observations on the practical Influence of Peaceable Dispositions.
THERE are two different lights in which we may habitually regard our fellow-creatures; either with feelings of good-will and affection, or of distrust and suspicion, as we are disposed to take a favourable view of human nature, or the contrary. According as we are influenced by one or other of these dispositions, we shall be led to attract our fellow-man towards us, or to repel him from us; to look upon an erring brother with a degree of pity, and in a forgiving spirit, (even when he harbours the most unjust feelings respecting us,) or to place ourselves in a hostile attitude against him, even for the slightest supposed offence. It is obvious that as, by our own conduct, we excite the good or evil propensities of others, so we must expect to make ourselves liable to their effects. For if we display those dispositions which lead to wrath and envy, we must look, in the course of things, for the manifestation of similar feelings, at least from the rude and undisciplined, who are not better informed. It is in the nature of love, as it is of cruelty, to propagate its kind; and, by our example, as well as by the immediate effect of our conduct, we make others peaceable or vindictive: these are natural consequences.
According, therefore, as we cultivate in ourselves the benevolent or malevolent affections towards others, and excite corresponding feelings in them, we may be assured, that such will be the state of society in our immediate vicinity;—and, if we reason from the less to the greater-from our own circle to the widest IX. PART. I
sphere of our influence such will be our friendly or unfriendly relation to mankind universally, and consequently our influence in promoting the happiness or misery of the world.
Now, though it must be acknowledged, that the principles above stated are enforced in the clearest and strongest manner in the precepts of Christianity, and, moreover, that it is necessary the mind should be deeply imbued with the peculiar spirit of Christian love, before it can bring forth, in perfection, the fruits of peace and goodwill; yet, before the Gospel was ushered into the world, the human mind had a glimpse of the excellence and utility of these principles. For heathen philosophy has told us what ought to be the rule of human conduct, and the practice of a wise and virtuous man, when under opprobrium and wrong. It has told us that, by mildness, anger may be appeased, even as "a soft answer turns away wrath;" and that, by forbearance, animosity may be extinguished. Pythagoras, Epictetus, Plutarch, Seneca, and others, teach us many such lessons.
But it was reserved for a light, clearer than that of either Greece or Rome, to point out a surer road to peace than any of their wisest sages seem to have been capable of imagining. That light was the Gospel; that path was meekness, forgiveness of injuries, and forbearance these duties were inculcated in the precept-To love our enemies; and to do good unto all men.
The heathen, indeed, saw something of the excellence of this principle; but did not so far anticipate Christianity as to trust their lives and fortunes to its government. Their gods were implored in danger; but idolatry vitiated their sacrifices. They knew nothing of what it was "to stand still and see the salvation of God."
The Jews advanced a step further: when the cause was not their own, and their motive was not ambition; or when danger was at hand, and they meekly petitioned for divine aid; their enemies were scattered "like chaff before the wind," and they found that "one could chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight." But the Jews were not practically instructed, and perhaps the spirit of the times did not permit them to be so, in the heart-softening lesson of Christian charity, by meekness to disarm revenge. They do not appear to have considered that one act of retaliation only prepared the way for another.
The example of Christ and his apostles, and the history of Christianity itself, afford a practical proof of the pacific efficacy of the Gospel, and of the universal love it breathes to the human family.
Thus a gradual illumination may be said to have beamed upon the world: the light of nature and of reason;-the outward and typical institutions of Moses;-the inward and spiritual dispensation of Jesus Christ.
The law that resulted from the first was vague and uncertain: Socrates and Cicero had no claims to the legislative or prophetic character.
The Mosaic code was of a decided though rigid cast, partial however, and adapted to the stubborn necks of a rebellious people. The Gospel was of universal love, and as universal application; intelligible to all, and unlimited in its range.
The first shone upon the human intellect, as through a mist; and the learned only could perceive the signs of divine wisdom in the Law of Nature. The second struck upon the outward senses of a peculiar people; with signs, indeed, of awe and terror, and with miraculous display of power; in its types and ordinances shadowing out the substantial, and spiritual dispensation, which should succeed.
The last was emitted from the Sun of Righteousness himself, directly to the heart, with transcendently glorious manifestations of divine love to the human family. This last dispensation has in itself, therefore, the means of accomplishing that for which it was designed-Peace on earth: and, do we still wait for something more perfect than we have yet received? "Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?"
Now, whatever virtue it is incumbent upon a good man to be always practising, that ought to be the governing principle of every human society, from the contracted circles of families and neighbourhoods, to the enlarged sphere of countries and kingdoms. For, all mankind is of one blood and there is not one code for individuals and another code for associations, either of few or many. In respect to moral laws, there is not one code for the prince, and another for the people. All men are equally bound by the duties of religion. Christian virtue can no more be bent from its firm and upright attitude, to suit the petty views of the