« ElőzőTovább »
sit down and make no efforts for breaking from miserable slaves the yoke of bondage ? There have always been tyrants : shall the struggle for liberty be therefore relinquished ? A dark cloud of ignorance has always settled over the human race : shall we therefore make no attempts to send a strong light into this darkness? The world has always been addicted to the excitement of intoxicating drinks : shall therefore the cause of temperance be abandoned? Because then men have always been accustomed to cut each others' throats, shall we think it useless to endeavor to convince them, that it were wiser and more benevolent to abstain? Milton argued against this custom, and doubtless in the hope of convincing the mind of some lover of war.
“They err, who count it glorious to subdue
By conquest far and wide, to overrun
Perhaps it will be said, that the Christian religion, as expounded by learned writers on national law, tolerates wars. But their distinction of wars as just and unjust should not be overlooked. Let it be, that the right of self-defence against unjust attack, is not abrogated by the gospel ; yet it is obvious, that every war is unjust on the one side or the other, and that the waging of an unjust war is a great crime. It is undeniable also, that, if the gospel was universally obeyed, there could be no wars. Let us read a few
passages of our Scriptures.—“ Thou shalt not kill.” Can this mean, that the ruler shall not poison his wife nor stab his son, but that he may march his troops and plunge their bayonets into the breasts of a hundred thousand of his brethren in a neighboring country?" From whence come wars and fightings among you ? Come they not hence, even of your lusts,
which war in your members ? And does the gospel then tolerate the malignant passions, which are the parents of wars ?-" Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Every one of us shall give account of himself unto God.” murderer hath eternal life.” “Unto them, that do evil, God will render indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish.”Is the ruler, the monarch, the emperor exempted from the force of these precepts? If he is constituted a beneficent minister of God for the good of man ; is it in the fulfilment of his office, and in obedience to Scripture, that he overwhelms his subjects with the crushing miseries of war ?
Some may assert, that it is the prevalence of the gospel, and nothing else, which will cure the evil of war; and therefore, that no special and combined efforts should be made to remedy the disaster, and that we should limit ourselves to the spreading of the religion of Christ.
Surely the Christian religion is the grand remedy for all the crimes of man; but then the same objection would lie against the temperance associations and all philanthropic societies; and we should, for the same reason, tell all men, who are thus combined, to disband their unions, and never to act in concert, except for the direct object of spreading the gospel. The true principle is this, that union gives strength, and that every combination is good, which aims at the promotion of an object in accordance with the spirit of the gospel,
In this point of view, enlightened reason must approve of the Peace Societies, designed to influence public opinion, so as to exterminate wars. The project has been brought forward to establish a Grand Council of Nations for the settlement of national controversies; and is not the project a good one and most important ?
In a civilized community, when two individuals have a controversy concerning some alleged right, they do not undertake to settle the controversy with the fist, or a dirk, or a spear, or a rifle; but they submit it to the decision of twelve of their neighbors as jurymen. The rulers of nations are but men; and, if they claim to be civilized, why should they be barbarians and settle their controversies with the musket and bayonet, the sword and the cannon?
There is evidently wanting a closer society amongst nations, a more intimate bond of union, a fixed and acknowledged method of determining the controversies, which may
spring up. The resort of war indicates a condition of barbarism in the intercommunity of nations. For, let it be asked, what are nations but collections of individuals, deriving their character, rank, celebrity and power from individuals, and governed too by individual men in authority? In the savage condition of man, before civilization imparts its blessings, and before fixed law takes the place of ever-varying passion and personal will, a private hand is the avenger of wrongs ; and of course the avengement is unregulated, and may be unequal and disproportionate ; and against the occurrence of wrongs there is no protection, except in one's own right hand. But, on the establishment of society, wrongs are defined; the scale of punishment is held up before the public eye; the course of justice is prescribed, and the ministers of justice are appointed. A sacred code of law is instituted, uniting these regulated individuals to the great system of the universe, which is governed by law. He who oversteps the sacred boundaries of law, whether impelled by the vehemence of his passions, or in the proud consciousness of superior reason adopting new rules for his own conduct, finds himself at war with the whole community, and is recalled from his error by public opinion and by the public arm, and subjected to the same common rule, by which men of inferior intellect are bound, and which is the guardian of rights and the preservative of order.
But civilized nations, although thus enjoying all the advantages of law in their internal concerns, yet in their intercourse with each other have no law, and are mere barbarians. For certainly what is called the law of nations hardly deserves the name of law, inasmuch as the principles of the code are yet unsettled, and the public voice of nations does not enforce it. Treaties deserve not the name of law, because, in the experience of the world, they have come to be regarded only as breathing times of exhausted combatants, awaiting the renewal of their vigor for a more deadly struggle.
While nations in their bearing upon each other are exempted from the rules and guidance of law, what wonder is it, that they should jostle with each other, and that all the internal advantages of law should at such moments of concussion be countervailed and destroyed ? 'What, if the parts of each planetary world are ever so nicely adjusted, and every satellite walks undeviatingly in the prescribed aerial path? Yet, if in the relation of these worlds to each other
there is no adjustment; if the force of law does not bind together all these worlds, connecting them in one grand system; if they are liable to rush against each other; then, in the shock of such a contact, all the interior order, which had subsisted, will be subverted and destroyed forever. There must be an all-pervading law, or the benefits of law will be precarious.
How can nations be under the governance of public law, when each is a judge in his own cause ;-when there is no grand court of national justice ;-no established rule of arbitrement ;—no sacred hall of justice ;—no seated and venerable judges ;-no appointed impleaders and recorders ;-no original contract, and solemn, mutual agreement to abide by the decision ?
Nations, then, in regard to their present intercourse with each other, are uncivilized and barbarous; and even the amazing phenomenon is presented of the same nation punishing with death one of its citizens for a private combat, while itself rushes unreproved into a public war, by which thousands of citizens are miserably destroyed, and other thousands left desolate of property and desolate of heart. If the affairs of nations are governed by men; why should not those men, as in private affairs, have settled rules to govern them, in order to accomplish the ends, which only are worthy of regard by the servants of the supreme rulerthe administration of justice and the promotion of good? If the idea of right is forgotten, and the whole aim is selfish interest, partial aggrandizement, exclusive prerogative or honor;—then it is time to re-assert the fact and repeat the warning, that the community of nations cannot thrive, any more than that of individuals, by narrow counsels and the allowed sway of unrighteousness; and that God will again mark, as he has ever marked, with his signal displeasure in this world, the crimes of nations, as he will punish in the future world the unforsaken vices of individuals.
Can we doubt, whether He has punished, and remarkably punished national guilt? Is it asked—where are the monuments of these judgments of heaven upon the guilty ? Go, then, and gaze upon the ruins of some ancient city of idola-, try, and war, and crime, as mighty Nineveh, or proud Babylon, or Palmyra in the desert, or Athens the polished seat of idolatry ;-survey the broken and prostrate columns, the confused fragments of glittering palaces and magnificent
temples all lying low in the dust,- the roofless wall and the remnants of a long colonnade, where now “the stork” makes her nest ;-see “thorns springing up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof,"_"the glorious city become a habitation for dragons, and a court for owls,”— “the rejoicing city become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in ;'--go and meditate upon the grave of such a city, and you will hear a voice issuing from the remains of desolated magnificence and departed glory, saying to the world—“God is just " :thus shall the guilty nations “be swept with the besom of destruction.” And when we survey the self-inflicted evils of war, we shall regard every warring nation as a scorpion, shut in a circle of fire, which wounds indeed all it meets, but at last plunges its fatal sting into its own head, and dies.
Against this project for securing the peace of the world there are indeed formidable adversaries, yet not invincible ones. The pride of sovereigns, revolting at the submission of a controversy, in which they are concerned, to any other tribunal than their own self-sufficient will ;-the greedy appetite for the acquisition of a new territory, which would add a new jewel to the crown of empire ;-the insatiable covetousness of the multitude, who profit by the operations of war, by rewards, by contracts, and by plunder ;—the fierce ambition, which by great exploits wins for itself distinction, wealth, and power ;—these are some of the combatants, that must be routed or disarmed, before a council of nations is likely to be established, whose arbitrement shall be a substitute for the judgment of war.
But these enemies of peace, in the progress of events in the world, are already half repulsed. Who is not aware, that within a few years several of the old monarchies of Europe have been compelled to respect the voice of the people, crying out for their long violated rights? Now, let the people be only tanght, and they will infallibly be soon taught, that war is a terrible game of a few proud and ambitious men, of which the people are the pitiable dupes and miserable victims ;-let the people see that it is their sweat and blood which is the nourishment of war—that they are made the murderers of each other for six pence or a shilling a day—and that their wounds and death, and the penury, and the wretchedness, and the perdition of their families are the purchase of a victory for their commander; and they will begin to say, that “war is a