« AnteriorContinuar »
itself; as though less in enmity with man than in defiance of heaven; as if, in war, all other passions were suspended in an exulting sense of a mighty capacity for evil. The passion of war is doubtless a superior passion to that which nerves the arm of the midnight marauder; it partakes less of the weakness of humanity; it has less respect to selfish objects; it approximates more nearly to a love of evil in the abstract. Being found in combination with high intellectual qualities, nay, with what must be termed moral qualities, this passion, in proportion to the scale on which it displays itself, becomes associated in our minds with ideas of heroism and moral grandeur: and thus, the Demon of extermination, invested by the imagination with super-human attributes, becomes the object of that unballowed idolatry which mankind have ever been prone to pay to Evil Power. Refined, sublimed, however, as it may be, the elemental passion remains under every modification the same, and is at last resolvable into the same evil principles that pronipt to all other kinds of wickedness. We have the highest authority for solving the question, " Whence come wars and fightings ?” — by the unanswerable appeal, “ Come they not hence, even of your lusts?"-In what light then must we view the abettors of War, but in that of men systematically setting at defiance the purpose and will of their Creator, and waging impious hostility against the Divine workmanship, as if it were framed with no higher design than that of ministering to the sport of human passions, and furnishing amusement to the infernal spirits that are permitted to infatuate our miserable race?
Yet, if there be any truth in this representation, are not the existence and prevalence of war, as arising from the natural ferment of moral corruption, a fact, how horrible soever in the retrospect, far less staggering and mournful, than the indifference which professed Christians have manifested on the subject, and the few, solitary, and obscure attempts which have been made to disseminate better principles among society. This is a circumstance which demands serious investigation.
Among the honourable few who have aspired to the beatitude pronounced upon the “ Peace-makers,” the great Erasmus deserves to be particularly had in remembrance. His “ Complaint “ of Peace every where despised and rejected of men,"** written about the year 1517, has been translated by an anonymous hand, and was published in London during the short interval of peace, in 1802.' This pamphlet, though not in every respect adapted to the taste of the present day, and though the name of its author has no longer the weight which once attached to it, should be reprinted and circulated. The occasion of his writing it is
* Querela Pacis, undique gentium ejectæ profligatæque.
referred to in the following curious passage, extracted by the translator from one of his Latin letters.
' It was a favourite project about that time to assemble a
congress of kings at Cambray. It was to consist of Maximi' lian the Emperor, Francis the First, King of France, Henry
the Eighth, of England, and Charles, the Sovereign of the • Low Countries; of which I am a native. They were to en
ter, in the most solemn manner, into mutual and indissoluble engagements, to preserve peace with each other, and consequently peace throughout Europe. This momentous business was very much promoted by a man of most excellent character, William a Ciervia, and by one who seemed to have been born to advance the happiness of his country, and of human nature, John Sylvagius, Chancellor of Burgundy. But certain
persons, who get nothing by peace, and a great deal by war, • threw obstacles in the way, which prevented this truly kingly purpose from being carried into execution.
After this great disappointment, I sat down and wrote, by desire of John Syl
vagius, my Querela Pacis, or Complaint of Peace. But since • that period, things have been growing worse and worse; and I
believe I must soon compose the Epitaph instead of the Com
plaint of Peace, as she seems to be dead and buried, and not ' very likely to revive !'
Of this singular, and, for the period, extraordinary and bold production, our liwits will not admit of our giving a minute abstract; the general purport of it is to shew the absolute incompatibility of war with the professed religion of the nations of Christendom. Peace is represented as speaking in her own person, as lamenting over the insanity of mortals, to which, as the only adequate cause, the rejection of the blessings of peace is attributed. . How can I believe them to be otherwise than stark • mad, who, with such a waste of treasure, with so ardent a zeal, ' with so great an effort, with so many arts, so much anxiety, • and so much danger, endeavour to drive me away from them,
and purchase endless misery and mischief at a price so high, • If they were wild beasts who thus despised and rejected me,
I could bear it more patiently, because I should impute the affront to nature, who had implanted in them so savage a disposition. If I were an object of hatred to dumb creatures, I • could overlook their ignorance, because the powers of mind
necessary to perceive my excellence have been denied to them. • But it is a circumstance equally shameful and marvellous, that
though nature has formed one animal, and one alone, with powers of reason, and a mind participating of divinity; one animal, and one alone, capable of sentimental affection and so
cial union; I can find admission among the wildest of wild + beasts, and the most brutal of brutes, sooner than with this one
animal; the rational, immortal animal called man.'
The custom of displaying the cross on military banners, is adverted to by Erasmus with poignant indignation. The allusion to the true nature of the Christian's legitimate warfare, is very striking
"That cross is the standard of them who conquered, not by fighting, but by dying; who came not to destroy men's lives,
but to save them. It is a standard, the very sight of which "might teach you what sort of enemies you have to war against,
if you are a Christian, and how you» may be sure to gain the -
at the same time; crosses dashing against crosses, and Christ 6 against Christ.' And he proceeds to contrast the several petitions of the Lord's Prayer with the conduct of these fighting . Christians.
We shall liave occasion again to recur to this pamphlet. Our immediate business is with our own times, and with the part which Christians, making far higher pretensions to spirituality than those whom Erasmus satirizes, have taken in reference to the great national crime of war. We have before us the sermons of two clergymen of the sister Establishments of England and Scotland, referring to the same Scripture promise, that a time shall come when pations shall “ learn war no more ; and we hail their seasonable publication. “Reflections on War," is the title of a well known sermon by the Rev. Robert Hall. Other occasional serions of more ephemeral fame, but directed to the same object, the productions chiefly of Protestant Dissenting Ministers, have also appeared. These scattered exceptions, however, to the general reserve, only confirm our statement, that the religious world have, for the most part, seemed to acquiesce in the lawfulness and necessity of war; at least they have exhibited an insensibility with regard to the practice, which it is difficult to reconcile with any correct views of Christianity; but it is not perhaps impossible to trace it up to the operation of some of those latent prejudices which obstruct, even in the minds of good men, the consistent development of their own principles.
One of these prejudices, though of a very indefinite character, may be expressed pretty accurately in these words :-Christians, or religious people, ought not to intermeddle with political affairs : civil obedience comprises the whole of a Christian's social duty. This is the general idea, but two very different propositions are involved in it ; it may imply either that Christians, because they are such, ought, on that account, to refrain from exercising their political rights, or that, us Christians, their duties are exclusively of a religious nature. Both of these notions, as it appears to us, are equally false and pernicious, and their
bearing on the present subject, demands that they should be investigated; for War being exclusively a political affair, an act of the Government, if Christians, either as Christians, or because they are Christians, are not to intermeddle with political affairs, their passive acquiescence in this particular respect, is not only accounted for, it is justified.*
The notion, as broadly but fairly stated in express words, might seem scarcely to need serious refutation. Were a person gravely to affirm that Christians, that is to say, religious people, have nothing to do with Lloyd's Coffee-house, or the Exchange, with commercial affairs and civic ineetings; or were he to insist upon the unlawfulness of trade, adducing as arguments the Apostolic precedent of community of goods, and the exhortations of our Lord to bis disciples not to care for the things of the morrow, we should justly doubt his sanity. Yet, if Christianity does not forbid a man to pursue bis secular advantage by these methods, but leaves him, in respect to his calling and relative station, exactly wbere it found him, how can it be supposed to forbid his pursuing the same object, bis secular advantage, in the exercise of all his political rights? In what respect can the personal duty of a religious man, in his capacity of subject and citizen, be considered as more circumscribed than that of an irreligious man? Civil liberty is the most valuable portion of that secular good which forms the object of the merchant and the tradesman. The ends of all political regulations, the true ends of Government, are exactly the same as those by wbich the humblest individual directs his exertions; the public good being only individual happiness in the aggregate. To say, therefore, that a Christian ought to take no active concern iu political affairs, is to affirm that he is forbidden to pursue his temporal interests, as regards the most valuable portion of them, by the only rational methods by which they are to be secured.
As to the extent of our civil rights and obligations,' remarks the moderate and judicious Paley, ' Christianity hath • left us where she found us; she hath neither altered nor ascer• tained it; the New Testament contains not one passage, 6 which, fairly interpreted, affords either argument or objection • applicable to any conclusions upon the subject, that are de• duced from the law and religion of nature t.' Obedience to
* Perhaps it may be thought that we have a personal interest in this question ; for The Eclectic Review, although it does not differ from other literary journals in its general plan, but embraces all the variety of topics that come before the public, is nevertheless distinguished by a peculiarity of religious character, and the propriety of our interesting ourselves in political discussions, might seem, therefore, to rest on the same rule as that which determines individual duty.
† Paley's Moral Philosophy, Vol. II. p. 162.
the civil governinent, is, not less than the duties connected with other social relations, a moral duty, antecedent to the publication of the Gospel; the grounds of this obedience are not therefore to be sought for in Christianity, but in reason. Obedience is not the only duty, however, arising out of our political relation : the subjects of a free goverment are bound to promote to the utmost the general welfare of the community, to resist with firmness all encroachments on their civil rights, to take an active interest in the public weal. Religion furnishes us with no discharge in this respect, more than in the former case, from the law of rational morality. It only superinduces new motives to the conscientious discharge of all our relative obligations.
It is not, then, because men are Christians, that they lie under moral restraint with respect to their conduct in political matters; it must be that the sort of interference which is deprecated, is in itself improper and prejudicial, or is by certain persons considered as being so; and the circumstance of Christian profession is of weight simply as aggravating this impropriety. That this is really the ground of the objections raised against any interference on the part of Christians in political concerns, is sufficiently obvious from the quarter in which such objections originate; but then it deserves our particular attention, that these objections proceed from political, not from religious opinion ; and Scripture is employed to sanction anticonstitutional tenets respecting the rights of the subject, in the same manner as it was quoted by the Jacobites to support the * Divine right of kings,' which, as Paley remarks, is like • the Divine right of constables, both being equally, in the sense of St. Paul, “ the ordinance of God," and without any repugnancy, in the sense of St. Peter's words, “ the ordinance
It were idle, then, to combat such objections on religious grounds, inasmuch as they who adduce them, unless they grossly deceive themselves, must be conscious that they wholly originate in a difference of political opinion, as to the relative bearings of civil liberty and civil government.
We contend then, not only that Christians are under no special restrictions, in consequence of their religious profession, that should preclude their taking an active part in all measures relating to the good of the community, but that in their religious character they have much to do with public affairs; that the peculiar motives which bind them to the exemplary discharge of other moral duties, enforce upon them, no less, a strict regard to those connected with their political relations, and that the responsibility attaching to every individual, according to his sphere and measure of influence, is from the nature of his religious obligations, proportionably augmented. Add to this,
* Paley's Moral Philosophy, Vol. II. p. 164.
66 of man