Lawfulness of War.

From: Essays on the Principles of Morality, and on the Private and Political Rights and Obligations of Mankind (1834).
Author: Jonathan Dymond
Published: Harper & Brothers 1834 Philadelphia


  I would recommend to him who would estimate the moral character of war, to endeavour to forget that he has ever presented to his mind the idea of a battle, and to endeavour to contemplate it with those emotions which it would excite in the mind of a being who had never before heard of human laughter. The prevailing emotions of such a being would be astonishment and horror. If he were shocked by the horribleness of the scene, he would be amazed at its absurdity.—That a large number of persona should assemble by agreement and deliberately kill one another, appears to the understanding a proceeding so preposterous, so monstrous, that I think a being such as I have supposed would inevitably conclude that they were mad. Nor is it likely, if it were attempted to explain to him me motives to such conduct, that he would be able to comprehend how an possible circumstances could make it reasonable. The ferocity and prodigious folly of the act would in his estimation outbalance the weight of every conceivable motive, and he would tum unsatisfied away,

“Astonished at the madness of mankind.”

  There is an advantage in making suppositions such as these: because, when the mind has been familiarized to a practice, however monstrous or inhuman, it loses some of its sagacity of moral perception: the practice is perhaps veiled in glittering fictions, or the mind is become callous to its enormities. But if the subject is, by some circumstance, presented to the mind unconnected with any of its previous associations, we see it with a new judgment and new feelings; and wonder, perhaps, that we have not felt so or thought so before. And such occasions it is the part of a wise man to seek; since, if they never happen to us, it will often be difficult for us accurately to estimate the qualities of human actions, or to determine whether we approve them from a decision of our judgment, or whether we yield to them only the acquiescence of habit.

  It may properly be a subject of wonder, that the arguments which are brought to justify a custom such as war receive so little investigation. It must be a studious ingenuity of mischief which could devise a practice more calamitous or horrible; and yet it is a practice of which it rarely occurs to us to inquire into the necessity, or to ask whether it cannot be, or ought not to be, avoided. In one truth, however, all will acquiesce, —that the arguments in favour of such a practice should be unanswerably wrong.

  Let it not be said that the experience and the practice of other ages have superseded the necessity of inquiry in our own; that there can be no reason to question the lawfulness of that which has been sanctioned by forty centuries; or that he who presumes to question it is amusing himself with schemes of visionary philanthropy. “There is not, it may be,” says Lord Clarendon, “a greater obstruction to the investigation of truth, or the improvement of knowledge, than the too frequent appeal, and the too supine resignation of our understanding, to antiquity.”1 Whosoever proposes an alteration of existing institutions will meet, from some men, with a sort of instinctive opposition, which appears to be influenced by no process of reasoning, by no considerations of propriety or principles of rectitude, which defends the existing system because it exists, and which would have equally defended its opposite if that had been the oldest. “Nor is it out of modesty that we have this resignation, or that we do, in truth, think those who have gone before us to be wiser than ourselves: we are as proud and as peevish as any of our progenitors: but it is out of laziness; we will rather take their words, than take the pains to examine the reason they governed themselves by.”2 To those who urge objections from the authority of ages, it is indeed a sufficient answer to say that they apply to every long-continued custom. Slave-dealers urged them against the friends of the abolition; papists urged them against Wickliffe and Luther; and the Athenians probably thought it a good objection to an apostle, that “he seemed to be a setter forth of strange gods.”

  It is some satisfaction to be able to give, on a question of this nature, the testimony of some great minds against the lawfulness of war, opposed, as these testimonies are, to the general prejudice and the general practice of the world. It has been observed by Beccaria, that “it is the fate of great truths to glow only like a flash of lightning amid the dark clouds in which error has enveloped the universe;” and if our testimonies are few or transient, it matters not, so that their light be the light of truth. There are, indeed, many who, in describing the horrible particulars of a siege or a battle, indulge in some declamation on the horrors of war, such as has been often repeated, and often applauded, and as often forgotten. But such declamations are of little value and of little effect; he who reads the next paragraph finds, probably, that he is invited to follow the path to glory and to victory; to share the hero’s danger and partake the hero’s praise; and he soon discovers that the moralizing parts of his author are the impulse of feelings rather than of principles, and thinks that though it may be very well to write, yet it is better to forget them.

  There are, however, testimonies, delivered in the calm of reflection, by acute and enlightened men, which may reasonably be allowed at least so much weight as to free the present inquiry from the charge of being wild or visionary. Christianity indeed needs no such auxiliaries; but if they induce an examination of her duties, a wise man will not wish them to be disregarded.

  “They who defend war,” says Erasmus, “must defend the dispositions which lead to war; and these dispositions are absolutely forbidden by the gospel.—Since the time that Jesus Christ said, Put up thy sword into its scabbard, Christians ought not to go to war.—Christ suffered Peter to fall into an error in this matter, on purpose that, when He had put up Peter’s sword, it might remain no longer a doubt that war was prohibited, which, before that order, had been considered as allowable.”—“Wickliffe seems to have thought it was wrong to take away the life of man on any account, and that war was utterly unlawful.”3—“I am persuaded,” says the Bishop of Landaff, “that when the spirit of Christianity shall exert its proper influence, war will cease throughout the whole Christian world.”4 “War,” says the same acute prelate, “has practices and principles peculiar to itself, “which but ill quadrate with the rule of moral rectitude, and are quite abhorrent from the benignity of Christianity.”5 A living writer of eminence bears this remarkable testimony:—“There is but one community of Christiains in the world, and that unhappily of all communities one of the smallest, enlightened enough to understand the ‘prohibition of war by our Divine Master, in its plain, literal, and undeniable sense: and conscientious enough to obey it, subduing the very instinct of nature to obedience.”6

  Dr. Vicessimus Knox speaks in language equally specific:—“Morality and religion forbid war, in its motives, conduct, and consequences.7

  Those who have attended to the mode in which the moral law is instituted in the expressions of the Will of God, will have no difficulty in supposing that it contains no specific prohibition of war. Accordingly if we be asked for such a prohibition, in the manner in which Thou shalt not kill is directed to murder, we willingly answer that no such prohibition exists; and it is not necessary to the argument. Even those who would require such a prohibition are themselves satisfied respecting the obligation of many negative duties on which there has been no specific decision in the New Testament. They believe that suicide is not lawful: yet Christianity never forbade it. It can be shown, indeed, by implication and inference, that suicide could not have been allowed, and with this they are satisfied. Yet there is, probably, in the Christian Scriptures not a twentieth part of as much indirect evidence against the lawfulness of suicide, as there is against the lawfulness of war. To those who require such a command as Thou shalt not engage in war, it is therefore sufficient to reply, that they require that which, upon this and upon many other subjects, Christianity has not seen fit to give.

  We have had many occasions to illustrate, in the course of these disquisitions, the characteristic nature of the moral law as a law of benevolence. This benevolence, this good-will and kind affections towards one another, is placed at the basis of practical morality,—it is “the fulfilling of the law,”—it is the test of the validity of our pretensions to the Christian character. We have had occasion too to observe, that this law of benevolence is universally applicable to public affairs as well as to private, to the intercourse of nations aa well as of men. Let us refer then to some of those requisitions of this law which appear peculiarly to respect the question of the moral character of war.

  “Have peace one with another.”—” By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

  “Walk with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.”‘

  “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing.”

  “Be at peace among yourselves.” “See that none render evil for evil unto any man.”—“God hath called us to peace.”

  “Follow after love, patience, meekness.”—“Be gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.”—“Live in peace.”

  “Lay aside all malice.”—“Put off anger, wrath, malice.”— “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”

  “Avenge not yourselves .”—“If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst., give him drink.”—“Recompense to no man evil for evil.”—“Overcome evil with good.”

  Now we ask of any man who look over these passages, What evidence do they convey respecting the lawfulness of war! Could any approval or allowance of it have been subjoined to these instructions, without obvious and most gross inconsistency?—But if war is obviously and moat grossly inconsistent with the general character of Christianity; if war could not have been permitted by its teachers without an egregious violation of their own precepts, we think that the evidence of its unlawfulness, arising from this general character alone, is as clear, as absolute, and as exclusive as could have been contained in any form of prohibition whatever.

  But it is not from general principles alone that the law of Christianity respecting war may be deduced.—“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”—“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; for if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?”8

  Of the precepts from the Mount the most obvious characteristic is greater moral excellence and superior purity. They are directed, not so immediately to the external regulation of the conduct, as to the restraint and purification of the affections. In another precept it is not enough that an unlawful passion be just so far restrained as to produce no open immorality,—the passion itself is forbidden. The tendency of the discourse is to attach guilt, not to action only, but also to thought. It has been said, “Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”9 Our Lawgiver attaches guilt to some of the violent feelings, such as resentment, hatred, revenge; and by doing this, we contend that he attaches guilt to war. War cannot be carried on without those passions which he prohibits. Our argument therefore is syllogistical:—War cannot be allowed if that which is necessary to war is prohibited. This indeed is precisely the argument of Erasmus:—“They who defend war must defend the dispositions which lead to war; and these dispositions are absolutely forbidden.”

  Whatever might have been allowed under the Mosaic institution as to retaliation or resentment, Christianity says, “If ye love them only which Ion you, what reward have ye?—Love your enemies.” Now what sort of love does that man bear towards his enemy who runs him through with a bayonet? We repeat, that the distinguishing duties of Christianity must be sacrificed when war is carried on. The question is between the abandonment of these duties and the abandonment of war, for both cannot be retained.10

  It is however objected, that the prohibitions “Resist not evil,” &c. are figurative; and that they do not mean that no injury is to be punished, and no outrage to be repelled. It has been asked, with complacent exultation, What would these advocates of peace say to him who struck them on the right cheek? Would they tum to him the other? What would these patient moralists say to him who robbed them of a coat? Would they give a cloak also? What would these philanthropists say to him who asked them to lend a hundred pounds? Would they not turn away? This is argumentum ad hominem: one example among the many of that low and dishonest mode of intellectual warfare which consists in exciting the feelings instead of convincing the understanding. It is, however, some satisfaction that the motive to the adoption of this mode of warfare is itself an indication of a bad cause; for what honest reasoner would produce only a laugh, if he were able to produce conviction?

  We willingly grant that not all the precepts from the Mount were designed to be literally obeyed in the intercourse of life. But what then? To show that their meaning is not literal, is not to show that they do not forbid war. We ask, in our turn, What is the meaning of the precepts? What is the meaning of “Resist not evil?” Does it mean to allow bombardment,—devastation,—slaughter? If it does not mean to allow all this, it does not mean to allow war. What again do the objectors say is the meaning of “Love your enemies;” or of “Do good to them that hate you?” Does it mean “ruin their commerce,”—“sink their fleets,”—“plunder their cities,”—“shot through their hearts?” If the precept does not mean to allow all this, it does not mean to allow war. It is therefore not at all necessary here to discuss the precise signification of some of the precepts from the Mount, or to define what limits Christianity may admit in their application, since, whatever exceptions she may allow, it is manifest what she does not allow:11 for if we give to our object on whatever license of interpretation they may desire, they cannot, without virtually rejecting the precepts, so interpret them as to make them allow war.

  Of the injunctions that are contrasted with “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,” the entire scope and purpose is the suppression of the violent passions, and the inculcation of forbearance, and forgiveness, and benevolence, and love. They forbid, not specifically the act, but the spirit of war; and this method of prohibition Christ ordinarily employed. He did not often condemn the individual doctrines or customs of the age, however false or however vicious; but he condemned the passions by which only vice could exist, and inculcated the truth which dismissed every error. And this method was undoubtedly wise. In the gradual alterations of human wickedness, many new species of profligacy might arise which the world had not yet practised: in the gradual vicissitudes of human error, many new fallacies might obtain which the world had not yet held: and how were these errors and these crimes to be opposed, but by the inculcation of principles that were applicable to every crime and to every error?—principles which define not always what is wrong, but which tell us what always is right.

  There are two modes of censure or condemnation; the one is to reprobate evil, and the other to enforce the opposite good; and both these modes were adopted by Christ.—He not only censured the passions that are necessary to war, but inculcated the affections which are moat opposed to them. The conduct and dispositions upon which be pronounced his solemn benediction are exceedingly remarkable. They are these, and in this order: Poverty of spirit;—mourning;—meekness;—desire of righteousness;—mercy;—purity of heart;—peace-making;— sufferance of persecution. Now let the reader try whether he can propose eight other qualities, to be retained as the general habit of the mind, which shall be more incongruous with war.

  Of these benedictions, I think the most emphatical is that pronounced upon the peace-makers. “Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.”12 Higher praise, or a higher title, no man can receive. Now I do not say that these benedictions contain an absolute proof that Christ prohibited war, but I say they make it clear that he did not approve it. He selected a number of subjects for his solemn approbation; and not one of them possesses any congruity with war, and some of them cannot possibly exist in conjunction with it. Can any one believe that he who made this selection, and who distinguished the peacemakers with peculiar approbation, could have sanctioned his followers in destroying one another? Or does any one believe, that those who were mourners, and meek, and merciful, and peace-making, could at the same time perpetrate such destruction? If I be told that a temporary suspension of Christian dispositions, although necessary to the prosecution of war, does not imply the extinction of Christian principles, or that these dispositions may be the general habit of the mind, and may both precede and follow the acts of war, I answer that this is to grant all that I require, since it grants that when we engage in war we abandon Christianity.

  When the betrayers and murderers of Jesus Christ approached him, his followers asked, “Shall we smite with the sword?” and without waiting for an answer, one of them drew “his sword, and smote the servant of the high-priest, and cut off his right ear.”—“Put up again thy sword into his place,” said his Divine Master: “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”13 There is the greater importance in the circumstances of this command, because it prohibited the destruction of human life in a cause in which there were the best of possible reasons for destroying it. The question “Shall we smite with the sword,” obviously refers to the defence of the Redeemer from his assailants by force of arms. His followers were ready to fight for him; and if any reason for fighting could be a good one, they certainly had it. But if, in defence of himself from the hands of bloody ruffians, his religion did not allow the sword to be drawn, for what reason can it be lawful to draw it? The advocates of war are at least bound to show a better reason for destroying mankind than is contained in this instance in which it is forbidden.

  It will, perhaps, be said, that the reason why Christ did not suffer himself to be defended by arms was, that such a defence would have defeated the purpose for which he came into the world, namely, to offer up his life; and that he himself assigns this reason in the context.—He does indeed assign it; but the primary reason, the immediate context is,—“for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” The reference to the destined sacrifice of his life is an after-reference. This destined sacrifice might, perhaps, have formed a reason why his followers should not fight then; but the first, the principal reason which he assigned, was a reason why they should not fight at all.—Nor is it necessary to define the precise import of the words, “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword:” since it is sufficient for us all that they imply reprobation.

  It is with the apostles as with Christ himself. The incessant object of their discourses and writings is the inculcation of peace, of mildness, of placability. It might be supposed that they continually retained in prospect the reward which would attach to “peace-makers.” We ask the advocate of war, whether he discovers in the writings of the apostles or of the evangelists, any thing that indicates they approved of war. Do the tenor and spirit of their writings bear any congruity with it? Are not their spirit and tenor entirely discordant with it? We are entitled to renew the observation, that the pacific nature of the apostolic writings proves, presumptively, that the writers disallowed war. That could not be allowed by them as sanctioned by Christianity which outraged all the principles that they inculcated.

  “Whence come wars and fightings among you?” is the interrogation of one of the apostles, to some whom he was reproving for their unchristian conduct: and he answers himself, by asking them, “Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”14 This accords precisely with the argument that we urge. Christ forbade the passions which lead to war; and now, when these passions had broken out into actual fighting, his apostle, in condemning war, refers it back to their passions. We have been saying that the passions are condemned, and therefore war; and now, again, the apostle James thinks, like his Master, that the most effectual way of eradicating war is to eradicate the passions which produce it.

  In the following quotation we are told, not only what the arms of the apostles were not, but what they were. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”15 I quote this, not only because it assures us that the apostles had nothing to do with military weapons, but because it tells us the object of their warfare,—the bringing every thought to the obedience of Christ: and this object I would beg the reader to notice, because it accords with the object of Christ himself in his precepts from the Mount,—the reduction of the thoughts to obedience. The apostle doubtless knew that if he could effect this, there was little reason to fear that his converts would slaughter one another. He followed the example of his Master. He attacked wickedness in its root; and inculcated those general principles of purity and forbearance which, in their prevalence, would abolish war, as they would abolish all other crimes. The teachers of Christianity addressed themselves, not to communities, but to men. They enforced the regulation of the passions and the rectification of the heart; and it was probably clear to the perceptions of apostles, although it is not clear to some species of philosophy, that whatever duties were binding upon one man were binding upon ten, upon a hundred, and upon the state.

  War is not often directly noticed in the writings of the apostles. When it is noticed, it is condemned, just in that way in which we should suppose any thing would be condemned that was notoriously opposed to the whole system,—just as murder is condemned at the present day. Who can find, in modern books, that murder is formally censured? We may find censures of its motives, of its circumstances, of its degrees of atrocity; but the act itself no one thinks of censuring, because every one knows that it is wicked. Setting statutes aside, I doubt whether, if an Otaheitan should choose to argue that Christians allow murder because he cannot find it formally prohibited in their writings, we should not be at a loss to find direct evidence against him. And it arises, perhaps, from the same causes, that a formal prohibition of war is not to be found in the writings of the apostles. I do not believe they imagined that Christianity would ever be charged with allowing it. They write, as if the idea of such a charge never occurred to them. They did, nevertheless, virtually forbid it; unless any one shall say that they disallowed the passions which occasion war, but did not disallow war itself; that Christianity prohibits the cause but permits the effect; which is much the same as to say, that a law which forbade the administering arsenic did not forbid poisoning.

  But although the general tenor of Christianity and some of its particular precepts appear distinctly to condemn and disallow war, it is certain that different conclusions have been formed; and many, who are undoubtedly desirous of performing the duties of Christianity have failed to perceive that war is unlawful to them.

  In examining the arguments by which war is defended, two important considerations should be borne in mind—first, that those who urge them are not simply defending war, they are also defending themselves. If war be wrong, their conduct is wrong; and the desire of self-justification prompts them to give importance to whatever arguments they can advance in its favour. Their decisions may, therefore, with reason, be regarded as in some degree the decisions of a party in the cause. The other consideration is, that the defenders of war come to the discussion prepossessed in its favour. They are attached to it by their earliest habits. They do not examine the question as a philosopher would examine it, to whom the subject was new. Their opinions had been already formed. They are discussing a question which they had already determined: and every man, who is acquainted with the effects of evidence on the mind knows that under these circumstances, a very slender argument in favour of the previous opinions, possesses more influence than many great ones against it. Now all this cannot be predicated of the advocates of peace; they are opposing the influence of habit; they are contending against the general prejudice; they are, perhaps, dismissing their own previous opinions; and I would submit it to the candour of the reader, that these circumstances ought to attach, is his mind, suspicion to the validity of the argumenta against us.

  The narrative of the centurion who came to Jesus at Capernaum to solicit him to heal his servant furnishes one of these argumenta. It is said that Christ found no fault with the centurion’s profession; that if he had disallowed the military character, he would have taken this opportunity of censuring it; and that, instead of such censure, he highly commended the officer, and said of him, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”16

  An obvious weakness in this argument is this; that it is founded, not upon an approval, but upon silence. Approbation is indeed expressed, but it is directed not to his arms, but to his “faith;” and those who will read the narrative will find that no occasion was given for noticing his profession. He came to Christ, not as a military officer, but simply as a deserving man. A censure of his profession might, undoubtedly, have been pronounced, but it would have been a gratuitous censure, a censure that did not naturally arise out of the case. The objection is, in its greatest weight, presumptive only; for none can be supposed to countenance every thing that he does not condemn. To observe silence17 in such cases. Was indeed the ordinary practice of Christ. He very seldom interfered with the civil or political institutions of the world. In these institutions there was sufficient wickedness around him, but some of them, flagitious as they were, he never, on any occasion, even noticed. His mode of condemning and extirpating political vices was by the inculcation of general rules of purity, which, in their eventual and universal application, would reform them all.

  But how happens it that Christ did not notice the centurion’s religion? He was surely an idolater. And is there not as good reason for maintaining that Christ approved idolatry because he did not condemn it, as that he approved war because he did not condemn it? Reasoning from analogy, we should conclude that idolatry was likely to have been noticed rather than war: and it is therefore peculiarly and singularly unapt to bring forward the silence respecting war, as an evidence of its lawfulness.

  A similar argument is advanced from the case of Cornelius, to whom Peter was sent from Joppa; of which it is said, that although the gospel was imparted to Cornelius by the especial direction of Heaven, yet we do not find that he therefore quitted his profession, or that it was considered inconsistent with his new character. The objection applies to this argument as to the last, that it is built upon silence, that it is simply negative. We do not find that he quitted the service:—I might answer, Neither do we find that he continued in it. We only know nothing of the matter: and the evidence is therefore so much less than proof, as silence is less than approbation. Yet, that the account is silent respecting any disapprobation of war might have been a reasonable ground of argument under different circumstances. It might have been a reasonable ground of argument, if the primary object of Christianity had been the reformation of political institutions, or, perhaps, even if her primary object had been the regulation of the external conduct; but her primary object was neither of these. She directed herself to the reformation of the heart, knowing that all other reformation would follow. She embraced indeed both morality and policy, and has reformed, or will reform, both,—not so much immediately as consequently; not so much by filtering the current, as by purifying the spring. The silence of Peter, therefore, in the case of Cornelius, will serve the cause of war but little; that little is diminished when urged against the positive evidence of commands and prohibitions, and it is reduced to nothingness, when it opposed to the universal tendency and object of the revelation.

  It has sometimes been urged that Christ paid taxes to the Roman government at a time when it was engaged in war, and when, therefore, the money that he paid would be employed in its prosecution. This we shall readily grant; but it appears to be forgotten by our opponents, that if this proves war to be lawful, they are proving too much. These taxes were thrown into the exchequer of the state, and a part of the money was applied to purposes of a most iniquitous and shocking nature; sometimes, probably, to the gratification of the emperor’s personal vices and to his gladiatorial exhibitions, &c. and certainly to the support of a miserable idolatry. If, therefore, the payment of taxes to such a government proves an approbation of war, it proves an approbation of many other enormities. Moreover, the argument goes too far in relation even to war; for it must necessarily make Christ approve of all the Roman wars, without distinction of their justice or injustice,—of the most ambitious, the most atrocious, and the most aggressive: and these even our objectors will not defend. The payment of tribute by our Lord was accordant with his usual system of avoiding to interfere in the civil or political institutions of the world.

  “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”18—This is another passage that is brought against us.—“For what purpose,” it is asked, “were they to buy swords, if swords might not be used!” It may be doubted, whether with some of those who advance this objection, it is not an objection of words rather than of opinion. It may be doubted whether they themselves think there is any weight in it. To those, however, who may be influenced by it, I would observe, that, as it appears to me, a sufficient answer to the objection may be found in the immediate context:—“Lord, behold, here are two swords,” said they; and he immediately answered, “It is enough.” How could two be enough when eleven were to be supplied with them? That swords, in the sense, and for the purpose of military weapons, were even intended in this passage, there appears much reason for doubting. This reason will be discovered by examining and connecting such expressions as these: “The Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them,” said our Lord. Yet, on another occasion, he says, “I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.” How are we to explain the meaning of the latter declaration? Obviously, by understanding “sword” to mean something far other than steel. There appears little reason for supposing that physical weapons were intended in the instruction of Christ. I believe they were not intended, partly because no one can imagine his apostles were in the habit of using such arms, partly because they declared that the weapons of their warfare were not carnal, and partly because the word “sword” is often used to imply “dissension,” or the religious warfare of the Christian. Such a use of language is found in the last quotation; and it is found also in such expressions as these: “shield of faith,”—“helmet of salvation,”—“sword of the spirit,” —“I have fought the good fight of faith.”

  But it will be said that the apostles did provide themselves with swords, l for that on the same evening they asked, “Shall we smite with the sword?” This is true, and it may probably be true also that some of them provided themselves with swords in consequence of the injunction of their Master. But what then? It appears to me that the apostles acted on this occasion upon the principles on which they had wished to act on another, when they asked, “Wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?” And that their Master’s principles of action were also the same in both.—“Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” This is the language of Christianity; and I would seriously invite him who now justifies “destroying men’s lives,” to consider what manner of spirit he is of.

  I think, then, that no argument arising from the instruction to buy swords can be maintained. This, at least, we know, that when the apostles were completely commissioned, they neither used nor possessed them. An extraordinary imagination he must have, who conceives of an apostle, preaching peace and reconciliation, crying “forgive injuries,” “love your enemies,”—“render not evil for evil;” and at the conclusion of the discourse, if he chanced to meet violence or insult, promptly drawing his sword and maiming or murdering the offender. We insist upon this consideration. If swords were to be worn, swords were to be used; and there is no rational way in which they could have been used, but some such as that which we have been supposing. If, therefore, the words “He that hath no sword let him sell his garment, and buy one, “do not mean to authorize such a use of the sword, they do not mean to authorize its use at all: and those who adduce the passage must allow its application in such a sense, or they must exclude it from any application to their purpose.

  It has been said, again, that when soldiers came to John the Baptist to inquire of him what they should do, he did not direct them to leave the service, but to be content with their wages. This, also, is at best but a negative evidence. It does not prove that the military profession was wrong, and it certainly does not prove that it was right. But, in truth, if it asserted the latter, Christians have, as I conceive, nothing to do with it: for I think that we need not inquire what John allowed, or what he forbade. He confessedly belonged to that system which required “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:” and the observations which we shall by-and-by make on the authority of the law of Moses apply, therefore, to that of John the Baptist. Although it could be proved (which it cannot be) that he allowed wars, he acted not inconsistently with his own dispensation; and with that dispensation we have no business. Yet, if any one still insists upon the authority of John, I would refer him for an answer to Jesus Christ himself. What authority He attached to John on questions relating to His own dispensation may be learned from this,—“The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

  It is perhaps no trifling indication of the difficulty which writers have found in discovering in the Christian Scriptures arguments in support of war, that they have had recourse to such equivocal and far-fetched arguments. Grotius adduces a passage which he says is “a leading point of evidence to show that the right of war is not taken away by the law of the gospel.” And what is this leading evidence? That Paul, in writing to Timothy, exhorts that prayer should be made for “kings!”19—Another evidence which this great man adduces is, that Paul suffered himself to be protected on his journey by a guard of soldiers, without hinting any disapprobation of repelling force by force. But how does Grotius know that Paul did not hint this! And who can imagine that to suffer himself to be guarded by a military escort, in the appointment of which he had no control, was to approve war?

  But perhaps the real absence of sound Christian arguments in favour of war is in no circumstance so remarkably intimated as in the citations of Milton in his Christian Doctrine. “With regard to the duties of war,” he quotes or refers to thirty-nine passages of Scripture,—thirty-eight of which are from the Hebrew Scriptures: and what is the individual one from the Christian?—“What king going to war with another king,” &c.!20

  Such are the arguments which are adduced from the Christian Scriptures by the advocates of war. In these five passages, the principal of the New Testament evidences in its favour unquestionably consist: they are the passages which men of acute minds, studiously seeking for evidence, have selected. And what are they? Their evidence is in the majority of instances negative at best. A “NOT” intervenes. The centurion was not found fault with: Cornelius was not told to leave the profession: John did not tell the soldiers to abandon the army: Paul did not refuse a military guard. I cannot forbear to solicit the reader to compare these objections with the pacific evidence of the gospel which has been laid before him; I would rather say, to compare it with the gospel itself; for the sum, the tendency, of the whole revelation is in our favour.

  In an inquiry whether Christianity allows of war, there is a subject that always appears to me to be of peculiar importance,—the prophecies of the Old Testament respecting the arrival of a period of universal peace. The belief is perhaps general among Christians, that a time will come when vice shall be eradicated from the world, when the violent passions of mankind shall be repressed, and when the pure benignity of Christianity shall be universally diffused. That such a period will come we indeed know assuredly, for God has promised it.

  Of the many prophecies of the Old Testament respecting this period, we refer only to a few from the writings of Isaiah. In his predictions respecting the “last times,” by which it is not disputed that he referred to the prevalence of the Christian religion, the prophet says,—“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.”21 Again, referring to the same period, he says,” They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”22 And again, respecting the same era,—“Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders.”23

  Two things are to be observed in relation to these prophecies: first, that it is the will of God that war should eventually be abolished. This consideration is of importance, for if war be not accordant with His will, war cannot be accordant with Christianity, which is the revelation of His will. Our business, however, is principally with the second consideration,—that Christianity will be the means of introducing this period of peace. From those who say that our religion sanctions war an answer must be expected to questions such as these:—By what instrumentality, and by the diffusion of what principles, will the prophecies of Isaiah be fulfilled? Are we to expect some new system of religion, by which the imperfections of Christianity shall be removed and its deficiencies supplied? Are we to believe that God sent his only Son into the world to institute a religion such as this,—a religion that, in a few centuries, would require to be altered and amended? If Christianity allows of war, they must tell us what it is that is to extirpate war. If she allows “violence, and wasting, and destruction,” they must tell us what are the principles that are to produce gentleness, and benevolence, and forbearance.—I know not what answer such inquiries will receive from the advocate of war, but I know that Isaiah says the change will be effected by Christianity: and if any one still chooses to expect another and a purer system, an apostle may perhaps repress his hopes:—“Though we or an angel from heaven,” says Paul, “preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”24

  Whatever the principles of Christianity will require hereafter they require now. Christianity, with its present principles and obligations, is to produce universal peace. It becomes, therefore, an absurdity, a simple contradiction, to maintain that the principles of Christianity allow of war, when they, and they only, are to eradicate it. If we have no other guarantee of peace than the existence of our religion, and no other hope of peace than in its diffusion, how can that religion sanction wart

  The case is clear. A more perfect obedience to that same gospel, which we are told sanctions slaughter, will be the means, and the only means, of exterminating slaughter from the world. It is not from an alteration of Christianity, but from an assimilation of Christians to its nature, that we are to hope. It is because we violate the principles of our religion, because we are not what they require us to be, that wars are continued. If we will not be peaceable, let us then, at least, be honest, and acknowledge that we continue to slaughter one another, not because Christianity permits it, but because we reject her laws.

  The opinions of the earliest professors of Christianity upon the lawfulness of war are of importance, because they who lived nearest to the time of its Founder were the most likely to be informed of his intentions and his will, and to practise them without those adulterations which we know have been introduced by the lapse of ages.

  During a considerable period after the death of Christ, it is certain, then, that his followers believed he had forbidden war; and that, in consequence of this belief, many of them refused to engage in it whatever were the consequence, whether reproach, or imprisonment, or death. These facts are indisputable: “It is as easie,’ says a learned writer of the seventeenth century, “to obscure the sun at mid-day, as to deny that the primitive Christians renounced all revenge and war.” Christ and his apostles delivered general precepts for the regulation of our conduct. It was necessary for their successors to apply them to their practice in life. And to what did they apply the pacific precepts which had been delivered? They applied them to war: they were assured that the precepts absolutely forbade it. This belief they derived from those very precepts on which we have insisted: they referred expressly to the same passages in the New Testament, and from the authority and obligation of those passages, they refused to bear arms. A few examples from their history will show with what undoubting confidence they believed in the unlawfulness of war, and how much they were willing to suffer in the cause of peace.

  Maximilian, as it is related in the Acts of Ruinart, was brought before the tribunal to be enrolled as a soldier. On the proconsul’s asking his name, Maximilian replied, “I am a Christian, and cannot fight.” It was however ordered that he should be enrolled, but he refused to serve, still alleging that he was a Christian. He was immediately told that there was no alternative between bearing arms and being put to death. But his fidelity was not to be shaken:—“I cannot fight,” said he, “if I die.” He continued steadfast to his principles, and was consigned to the executioner.

  The primitive Christians not only refused to be enlisted in the army, but when they embraced Christianity while already enlisted, they abandoned the profession at whatever cost. Marcellus was a centurion in the legion called Trajana. While holding this commission he became a Christian; and believing, in common with his fellow Christians, that war was no longer permitted to him, he threw down his belt at the head of the legion, declaring that he had become a Christian, and that he would serve no longer. He was committed to prison; but he was still faithtful to Christianity. “It is not lawful,” said he, “for a Christian to bear arms for any earthly consideration;” and he was in consequence put to death. Almost immediately afterward, Cassian, who was notary to the same legion, gave up his office. He steadfastly maintained the sentiments of Marcellus, and like him was consigned to the executioner. Martin, of whom so much is said by Sulpicius Severus, was bred to the profession of arms, which, on his acceptance of Christianity, he abandoned. To Julian the Apostate, the only reason that we find he gave for his conduct was this:—“I am a Christian, and therefore I cannot fight.”

  These were not the sentiments, and this was not the conduct, or insulated individuals who might be actuated by individual opinion, or by their private interpretations of the duties of Christianity. Their principles were the principles of the body. They were recognised and defended by the Christian writers their contemporaries. Justin Martyr and Tatian talk of soldiers and Christians as distinct characters; and Tatian san that the Christians declined even military commands. Clemens of Alexandria calls his Christian contemporaries the “followers of peace,” and expressly tells us “that the followers of peace used none of the implements of war.” Lactantius, another early Christian, says expressly, “It can never be lawful for a righteous man to go to war.” About the end of the second century, Celsus, one of the opponents of Christianity, charged the Christians with refusing to bear arms even in case of necessity. Origen, the defender of the Christians, does not think of denying the fact; he admits the refusal, and justifies it, because war was unlawful. Even after Christianity had spread over almost the whole of the known world, Tertullian, in speaking of a part of the Roman armies, including more than one-third of the standing legions of Rome, distinctly informs us that “not a Christian could be found among them.”

  All this is explicit. The evidence of the following facts is however yet more determinate and satisfactory. Some of the arguments which at the present day are brought against the advocates of peace, were then urged against these early Christians; and these arguments are examined and repelled. This indicates investigation and inquiry, and manifests that their belief of the unlawfulness of war was not a vague opinion, hastily admitted and loosely floating among them, but that it was the result of deliberate examination, and a consequent firm conviction that Christ had forbidden it, The very same arguments which are brought in defence of war at the present day were brought against the Christians sixteen hundred years ago; and sixteen hundred years ago, they were repelled by these faithful contenders for the purity of our religion, It is remarkable, too, that Tertullian appeals to the precepts from the Mount, in proof of those principles on which this chapter has been insisting:—that the dispositions which the precepts inculcate are not compatible with war, and that war, therefore, is irreconcilable with Christianity.

  If it be possible, a still stronger evidence of the primitive belief is contained in the circumstance, that some of the Christian authors declared that the refusal of the Christians to bear arms was a fulfilment of ancient prophecy. The peculiar strength of this evidence consists in this,—that the fact of a refusal to bear arms is assumed as notorious and unquestioned. Irenæus, who lived about the year 180, affirms that the prophecy of Isaiah, which declared that men should tum their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks, had been fulfilled in his time; “for the Christians,” says he, “have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not how to fight.” Justin Martyr, his contemporary, writes,—“That the prophecy is fulfilled you have good reason to believe, for we, who in times past killed one another, do not now fight with our enemies.” Tertullian, who lived later, says, “You must confess that the prophecy has been accomplished, as far as the practice of every individual is concerned to whom it is applicable.”

  It has been sometimes said, that the motive which influenced the early Christians to refuse to engage in war consisted in the idolatry which was connected with the Roman armies.—One motive this idolatry unquestionably afforded; but it is obvious, from the quotations which we have given, that their belief of the unlawfulness of fighting, independent of any question of idolatry, was an insuperable objection to engaging in war. Their words are explicit: “I cannot fight if I die.”—“I am a Christian, and therefore I cannot fight.”—” Christ,” says Tertullian, “by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier;” and Peter was not about to fight in the armies of idolatry. So entire was their conviction of the incompatibility of war with our religion, that they would not even be present at the gladiatorial fights, “lest,” says Theophilus, “we should become partakers of the murders committed there.” Can any one believe that they who would not even witness a battle between two men would themselves fight in a battle between armies? And the destruction of a gladiator, it should be remembered, was authorized by the state, as much as the destruction of enemies in war.

  It is therefore indisputable, that the Christians who lived nearest to the time of our Saviour believed, with undoubting confidence, that he bad unequivocally forbidden war; that they openly avowed this belief; and that, in support of it, they were willing to sacrifice, and did sacrifice, their fortunes and their lives.

  Christians, however, afterward became soldiers: and when?—When their general fidelity to Christianity became relaxed; when, in other respects, they violated its principles; when they had begun “to dissemble,” and “to falsify their word,” and “to cheat;” when “Christian casuists” had persuaded them that they might “sit at meat in the idol’s temple;” when Christians accepted even the priesthoods of idolatry, In a word, they became soldiers when they had ceased to be Christians.

  The departure from the original faithfulness was however not suddenly general. Like every other corruption, war obtained by degrees. During the first two hundred years, not a Christian soldier is upon record. In the third century, when Christianity became partially corrupted, Christian soldiers were common. The number increased with the increase of the general profligacy; until at last, in the fourth century, Christians became soldiers without hesitation, and perhaps without remorse. Here and there, however, an ancient father still lifted up his voice for peace; but these, one after another, dropping from the world, the tenet that war is unlawful ceased at length to be a tenet of the church. Let it always be home in mind by those who are advocating war, that they are contending for a corruption which their forefathers abhorred; and that they are making Jesus Christ the sanctioner of crimes, which his purest followers offered up their lives because they would not commit.

  An argument has sometimes been advanced in favour of war, from the divine communications to the Jews under the administration of Moses. It has been said, that as wars were allowed and enjoined to that people, they cannot be inconsistent with the will of God.

  The reader who has perused the First Essay of this work will be aware that to the present argument our answer is short:—If Christianity prohibits war, there is, to Christians, an end of the controversy. War cannot then be justified by the referring to any antecedent dispensation. One brief observation may however be offered, that those who refer, in justification of our present practice, to the authority by which the Jew, prosecuted their wars, must be expected to produce the same authority for our own. Wars were commanded to the Jews; but are they commanded to us? War, in the abstract, was never commanded: and surely those specific wars which were enjoined upon the Jews for an express purpose are neither authority nor example for us, who have received no such injunction, and can plead no such purpose.

  It will perhaps be said that the commands to prosecute wars, even to extermination, are so positive and so often repeated, that it is not probable, if they were inconsistent with the will of Heaven, that they would have been thus peremptorily enjoined. We answer, that they were not inconsistent with the will of Heaven then. But even then, the prophets foresaw that they were not accordant with the universal will of God, since they predicted, that when that will should be fulfilled, war should be eradicated from the world. And by what dispensation was this will to be fulfilled? By that of the “Rod out of the stem of Jesse.” It is worthy of recollection, too, that David was forbidden to build the temple because he had shed blood. “As for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God: but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.”25 So little accordancy did war possess with the purer offices even of the Jewish dispensation.

  Perhaps the argument to which the greatest importance is attached by the advocates of war, and by which thinking men are chiefly induced to acquiesce in its lawfulness, is this,—That a distinction is to be made between rules which apply to us as individuals, and rules to which apply to us as subjects of the state; and that the pacific injunctions of Christ from the Mount, and all the other kindred commands and prohibitions of the Christian Scriptures, have no reference to our conduct as members of the political body.

  If there be soundness in the doctrines which have been delivered at the commencement of the Essay upon the “Elements of Political Rectitude,” this argument possesses no force or application.

  When persons make such broad distinctions between the obligations of Christianity on private and on public affairs, the proof of the rectitude of the distinction must be expected of those who make it. General rules are laid down by Christianity, of which, in some cases, the advocate of war denies the applicability. He, therefore, is to produce the reason and the authority for the exception. And that authority must be a competent authority,—the authority mediately or immediately of God. It is to no purpose for such a person to tell us of the magnitude of political affairs,—of the greatness of the interests which they involve,—of “necessity,” or of expediency. All these are very proper considerations in subordination to the moral law; otherwise they are wholly nugatory and irrelevant. Let the reader observe the manner in which the argument is supported.—If an individual suffers aggression, there is a power to which he can apply that is above himself and above the aggressor; a power by which the bad passions of those around him are restrained, or by which their aggressions are punished. But among nations there is no acknowledged superior or common arbitrator. Even if there were, there is no way in which its decisions could be enforced, but by the sword. War, therefore, is the only means which one nation possesses of protecting itself from the aggression of another. The reader will observe the fundamental fallacy upon which the argument proceeds.—It assumes, that the reason why an individual is not permitted to use violence is that the laws will use it for him. Here is the error; for the foundation of the duty of forbearance in private life is, not that the laws will punish aggression, but that Christianity requires forbearance.

  Undoubtedly; if the existence of a common arbitrator were the foundation of the duty, the duty would not be binding upon nations. But that which we require to be proved is this,—that Christianity exonerates nations from those duties which she has imposed upon individuals. This, the present argument does not prove; and, in truth, with a singular unhappiness in its application, it assumes, in effect, that she has imposed these duties upon neither the one nor the other.

  If it be said that Christianity allows to individuals some degree and kind of resistance, and that some resistance is therefore lawful to states, we do not deny it. But if it be said that the degree of lawful resistance extends to the slaughter of our fellow Christians,—that it extends to war,—we do deny it: we say that the rules of Christianity cannot, by any possible latitude of interpretation, be made to extend to it. The duty of forbearance, then, is antecedent to all considerations respecting the condition of man; and whether he be under the protection of laws or not, the duty of forbearance is imposed.

  The only truth which appears to be elicited by the present argument is, that the difficulty of obeying the forbearing rules of Christianity is greater in the case of nations than in the case of individuals: the obligation to obey them is the same in both. Nor let any one urge the difficulty of obedience in opposition to the duty; for he who does this has yet to learn one of the most awful rules of his religion,—a rule that was enforced by the precepts, and more especially by the final example, of Christ, of apostles, and of martyrs, the rule which requires that we should be “obedient even unto death.”

  Let it not, however, be supposed that we believe the difficulty of forbearance would be great in practice, as it is great in theory. Our interests are commonly promoted by the fulfilment of our duties; and we hope hereafter to show that the fulfilment of the duty of forbearance forms no exception to the applicability of the rule.

  The intelligent reader will have perceived that the “War” of which we speak is all war, without reference to its objects whether offensive or defensive. In truth, respecting any other than defensive war, it is scarcely worth while to entertain a question, since no one with whom we are concerned to reason will advocate its opposite. Some persons indeed talk with much complacency of their reprobation of offensive war. Yet to reprobate no more than this is only to condemn that which wickedness itself is not wont to justify. Even those who practise offensive war affect to veil its nature by calling it by another name.

  In conformity with this we find that it is to defence that the peaceable precepts of Christianity are directed. Offence appears not to have even suggested itself. It is, “Resist not evil:” it is, “Overcome evil with good:” it is, “Do good to them that hate you:” it is “Love your enemies:” it is, “Render not evil for evil:” it is, “Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek.” All this supposes previous offence, or injury, or violence; and it is then that forbearance is enjoined.

  It is common with those who justify defensive war to identify the question with that of individual self-defence, and although the questions are in practice sufficiently dissimilar, it has been seen that we object not to their being regarded as identical. The rights of self-defence have already been discussed, and the conclusions to which the moral law appears to lead afford no support to the advocate of war.

  We say the questions arc practically dissimilar; so that if we had a right to kill a man in self-defence, very few wars would be shown to be lawful. Of the wars which are prosecuted, some are simply wars of aggression; some are for the maintenance of a balance of power; some are in assertion of technical rights; and some, undoubtedly, to repel invasion. The last are perhaps the fewest; and of these only it can be said that they bear any analogy whatever to the case which is supposed; and even in these the analogy is seldom complete. It has rarely indeed happened that wars have been undertaken simply for the preservation of life, and that no other alternative has remained to a people than to kill or to be killed. And let it be remembered, that unless this alternative alone remains, the case of individual self-defence is irrelevant: it applies not, practically, to the subject.

  But indeed you cannot in practice make distinctions, even moderately accurate between defensive war and war for other purposes.

  Supposing, the Christian Scriptures had said, An army may fight in its own defence, but not for any other purpose.—Whoever will attempt to apply this rule in practice will find that he has a very wide range of justifiable warfare; a range that will embrace many more wars than moralists, laxer than we shall suppose him to be, are willing to defend. If an army may fight in defence of their own lives, they may, and they must, fight in defence of the lives of others: if they may fight in defence of the lives of others, they will fight in defence of their property: if in defence of property, they will fight in defence of political rights: if in defence of rights, they will fight in promotion of interests: if in promotion of interests, they will fight in promotion of their glory and their crimes. Now let any man of honesty look over the gradations by which we arrive at this climax, and I believe he will find that, in practice, no curb can be placed upon the conduct of an army until they reach that climax. There is, indeed, a wide distance between fighting in defence of life and fighting in furtherance of our crimes; but the steps which lead from one to the other will follow in inevitable succession. I know that the letter of our rule excludes it, but I know that the rule will be a letter only. It is very easy for us to sit in our studies, and to point the commas, and semicolons, and periods of the soldier’s career: it is very easy for us to say, he shall stop at defence of life or at protection of property, or at the support of rights; but armies will never listen to us: we shall be only the Xerxes of morality, throwing our idle chains into the tempestuous ocean of slaughter.

  What is the testimony of experience? When nations are mutually exasperated, and armies are levied, and battles are fought, does not every one know that with whatever motives of defence one party may have begun the contest, both, in turn, become aggressors? In the fury of slaughter, soldiers do not attend, they cannot attend, to questions of aggression. Their business is destruction, and their business they will perform. If the army of defence obtains success, it soon becomes an army of aggression. Having repelled the invader, it begins to punish him. If a war has once begun, it is vain to think of distinctions of aggression and defence. Moralists may talk of distinctions, but soldiers will make none; and none can be made; it is without the limits of possibility.

  Indeed some of the definitions of defensive or of just war which are I proposed by moralists indicate how impossible it is to confine warfare within any assignable limits. “The objects of just war,” says Paley, “are precaution, defence, or reparation.”—“Every just war supposes an injury perpetrated, attempted, or feared.”

  I shall acknowledge, that if these be justifying motives to war, I see very little purpose in talking of morality upon the subject.

  It is in vain to expatiate on moral obligations, if we are at liberty to declare war whenever an “injury is feared:” an injury, without limit to its insignificance! a fear, without stipulation for its reasonableness! The judges, also, of the reasonableness of fear, are to be they who are under its influence; and who so likely to judge amiss as those who are afraid? Sounder philosophy than this has told us, that “he who has to reason upon his duty when the temptation to transgress it is before him, is almost sure to reason himself into an error.”

  Violence, and rapine, and ambition are not to be restrained by morality like this. It may serve for the speculations of a study; but we will venture to affirm, that mankind will never be controlled by it. Moral rules are useless, if, from their own nature, they cannot be or will not be applied. Who believes that if kings and conquerors may fight when they have fears, they will not fight when they have them not? The morality allows too much latitude for the passions to retain any practical restraint upon them. And a morality that will not be practised, I had almost said, that cannot be practised, is a useless morality. It is a theory of morals. We want clearer and more exclusive rules; we want more obvious and immediate sanctions. It were in vain for a philosopher to say to a general who was burning for glory, “you are at liberty to engage in the war provided you have suffered, or fear you will suffer, an injury; otherwise Christianity prohibits it.”—He will tell him of twenty injuries that have been suffered, of a hundred that have been attempted, and of a thousand that he fears. And what answer can the philosopher make to him?

  If these are the proper standards of just war, there will be little difficulty in proving any war to be just, except indeed that of simple aggression; and by the rules of this morality, the aggressor is difficult of discovery; for he whom we choose to “fear,” may say that he had previous fear” of us, and that his “fear” prompted the hostile symptoms which made us “fear” again.—The truth is, that to attempt to make any distinctions upon the subject is vain. War must be wholly forbidden, or allowed without restriction to defence; for no definitions of lawful and unlawful war will be, or can be, attended to. If the principles of Christianity, in any case, or for any purpose, allow armies to meet and to slaughter one another, her principles will never conduct us to the period which prophecy has assured us they shall produce. There is no hope of an eradication of war but by an absolute and total abandonment of it.

See Footnotes here.

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