« AnteriorContinuar »
longer polluted by being made subservient to the policy of states, or the arts of priests, how rapid and blissful will be its career, restraining the passions of men, advancing their improvement, and blending nations into brotherhood! But Reformation must precede diffusion. Unitarianism must herald the universality of Christianity; must go before, like the Baptist, to prepare its way; to level the mountains of prejudice; to make strait the crooked ways of mystery and superstition; to smooth the rough" places of bigotry; and then “shall the glory of the Lord be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
ISAIAH ii. 4:
And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks : nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Our present subject should, according to an arrangement strictly logical, form merely a subdivision of the next, and concluding Lecture, on the Perfectibility of Man. The human race has been, I believe, gradually advancing, notwithstanding many apparent interruptions, and even retrograde movements, and is destined to a still more rapid and brilliant course of improvement, which will chiefly be effected by the agency of Christianity, purified from the corruptions which have palsied its strength, and perverted its influence. In reviewing the obstacles which impede the salutary operations of pure religion on the destiny of mankind, war presents itself, foremost and pre-eminent, as most hideous in
itself, and most formidable in its resistance. I give it a separate discussion to discharge that Lecture of a topic far too momentous to be made only a secondary consideration, and also by shewing what views may be held of its final abolition to prepare the way for unembarrassed attention to the general prospects of the nations of the earth, as involved in the designs of Providence, and the promises of revelation.
The present is a favourable time for this discussion. We are at peace with all the world. Long may we remain so.
Were it otherwise, it would be a duty not to shrink from telling the truth of God, though to reluctant ears, and in spite of malicious tongues. That a particular application would be made of general reflections, that a remonstrance against war would be ins terpreted of any particular contest in which the country might be engaged, and considered a sign of disaffection, as well as of enthusiasm, would not excuse the professor of Christianity from reminding his brethren and countrymen of the violated laws and spirit of the gospel. If a nation be criminal, at the bar of God let that nation be arraigned, by the word of God let that nation be condemned. But at such a time, the clamour of the interested would be raised, the timid, the ignorant, and the unthinking, would be alarmed and imposed on, and the subject would have to struggle with accumulated difficulties. Now it
is likelier to have a fair hearing, and to produce beneficial effects. The late contest has left here, and in other realms, a wholesome weariness with war, which should be improved by those who are on principle the friends of peace. The public, at least all who think, seem to be feeling much like the ruined spendthrift on his wild excesses, and the condemned malefactor on his criminal passions. Those who wish well to human interests should seize such a moment, and exert themselves, on this subject, to form just opinions and diffuse useful information. The labour would not be lost, either as to the ultimate object, or the immediate influence.
We comprise the object of this discourse in one sentence--war is a great, but not insuperable, obstacle to that general improvement in the state of man which Christianity tends, and was designed to realize.
War is opposed to the well-being and progress of society by the misery it inflicts, the criminality it implies, and the mischiefs it produces. To men of human feelings, Christian principles, general benevolence, it is unnecessary to advance laboured proof of these assertions. Nothing more is required than attention to the subject.
From the humblest agent whom poverty or folly may have driven or cajoled into military service, or the wretchedest inhabitant of the seat of hostilities, to the vast empires by which they
are waged, war is associated with suffering. Scenes may be shifted, and success may vary, but the misery is permanent. It is alike the sad accompaniment of the lamentation for defeat, and the joyous song of victory. There is nothing of good but what is foreign, ambiguous, and accidental. The evil is great, inseparable, and essential. Trace it in the field of battle. What multitudes are there assembled, that the scythe of death may. mow them down with greater facility—that not individuals, but thousands, may be levelled at a stroke! Dreadful scene of indiscriminate slaughter! There perish the mighty and renowned, there the young, the healthy, and the vigorous. The qualities which, in the ordinary course of things, seem to promise exemption from the ravages of mortality, there only recommend them for the sacrifice, and fit them to be victims. And surround it as we may with epithets of glory, or think to reward it with the meed of fame, still what a death is the soldier's ! What rational being would thus take the awful step into the unseen world—what Christian would wish the fierce passions or unmitigated agonies of that scene to be his last earthly feeling, his preparation for standing at the bar of God? For the bed of death one would wish all that is soothing and consolatory. Wretched and comfortless is the soldier's fate. He is alone in the midst of thousands. The vanquished in their