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If men must fight, let them wear the badges which become their craft. It would shock us to see a hangman dressed out in scarf and epaulette, and marching with merry music to the place of punishment. The soldier has a sadder work than the hangman; his office is not to dispatch occasionally a single criminal : he goes to the slaughter of thousands as free from crime as himself. The sword is worn as an ornament, and yet its use is to pierce the heart of a fellow creature. As well might the butcher parade before us his knife, or the executioner his axe or halter. Allow war to be necessary, still it is a horrible necessity, a work to fill a good man with anguish of spirit; shall it be turned into an occasion of pomp and merriment? To dash out men's brains, to stab them to the heart, to cover the body with gashes, to lop off the limbs, to crush men under the hoof of the war-horse, to destroy husbands and fathers, to make widows and orphans, all this may be necessary; but to attire men for this work with fantastic trappings, to surround this fearful occupation with all the circumstances of gaiety and pomp, seems as barbarous as it would be to deck a gallows, or to make a stage for dancing beneath the scaffold."*
Thus men delude one another. They give to * “Lecture on War," by W. E. Channing, p. 33. The friends of peace should congratulate themselves on the possession of this murder the more softened title of war, to the murderer that of soldier; while statues and monuments are raised in all directions, even in our churches, to the insatiable demon of strife, as if he were a deity to command the worship of mankind.
Our prejudices render us blind to the crimes of warriors. Let them but meet with success in the field of battle, and they are supposed to ensure honour on earth and happiness in heaven. The vices of the man are buried under the praises of the hero. Is it then wonderful that youth should acquire notions of glory totally false, and altogether at variance with a Christian spirit ?
"War, pestilence, and famine,” says Cicero, “have been the great scourges of mankind. The two latter are always mentioned with horror; while the former is so blazoned with the trophies of heroism and valorous exploits, that while patriots exclaim loudly against the conduct of war, and all complain of its expenditure, and wish for peace, but few are found who object to its principle.”
Were it not for these delusions, were the multitude duly aware of the true nature of war, even children would shudder at its very name.
Though the hero be praised and honoured ;
work, replete as it is with argument and eloquence, and emanating from one who has devoted his powerful mind to the benefit of his fellow beings.
though in life he be loaded with wealth and rank; though after death his fame survive, and the costly monument display his courage and success, yet the true Christian would prefer to spend his existence in humble labour, or in calm retirement; and, at its close, rather than have such mockery over his mortal remains, he would choose his resting-place under the green sod with the lowly and the poor. The poet Southey, when describing Pizarro, observes
“A mighty realm
SECTION 2.-Frequency of War.
Another cause of this insensibility to war is undoubtedly its frequent occurrence. This it is that has made history a mere catalogue of miseries and murders, and that has dried up the sources of human pity. If war had been a rare evil, if the world had enjoyed peace since its creation, until at one period a battle suddenly took place, with
what horror should we regard the men who engaged in it, the time at which it occurred, and the very -spot where it was fought ! It would be a deserted, desolate place, marked as the scene of a terrible murder.* And yet the frequency of an event will not change its nature, though it accustom us to its appearance. We should not allow our minds thus to be rendered torpid and insensible to surrounding circumstances, but reflection should be summoned to overcome the power of habit.
SECTION 3.-Notion of War appertaining to Civil
The common belief that the right of war belongs to civil government, greatly promotes an indifference to its evils. The sovereign, looking upon war as a right essential to his attributes, forgets that he is committing a crime, and therefore does not apply the considerations of morality. The subject, believing himself bound to obey the sovereign's command, which is exercised as a right, perhaps imputes to himself merit in the slaughter of his fellow-beings.
Many who allow the precepts of Christianity to be obligatory to their fullest extent on individuals, endeavour to draw a distinction when they are applied to political bodies or states. It is incumbent on those who would make an exception to rules apparently universal, clearly to prove their assertion, and to have very strong authority for introducing the exclusion; and we should be most careful of admitting trifling quibbles and idle distinctions, that may waste away the firmly knit
* Channing on War.
, and symmetrical body of the Christian faith into a lifeless and inactive skeleton.
The argument in support of this national right to contravene the Divine commands is thus stated: No law being of general authority among nations in order to protect them from violence, each community must protect itself, and must frequently have recourse to war.* The proposition is supported by some such reasoning as this : an individual is enabled to obtain redress for an injury from the constituted authorities of the state to which he is subject, but no tribunal can be appealed to by nations. It might be sufficient to answer, that it is our own fault that there is no court for the settlement of disputes between nations, and that negligence will not excuse a breach of duty; but the fact is, that the above
* See a very able essay on “ The Applicability of the Pacific Principles of the New Testament to the Conduct of States," &c. By Jonathan Dymond. It forms the seventh tract of the Peace Society.