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Observer, April 1, '71.
New Testament is a part of, and is explained by this simple compendium. And every law was given out as the application of a great principle to a case in human life; therefore every isolated precept, and every particular case of legislation, must be compared with, and referred to, the principle from which it immediately flows; that principle must again be compared with, and referred to, the great summary of morals before stated, and on no other mode of interpretation can we obtain an enlightened and comprehensive view of the moral philosophy of the New Testament. This method luminously defines both the value and the intention of every precept; the intention being merely to illustrate the great final principle, and the value, precisely the amount of illustration it affords.
Let us apply these principles of construction to those passages which are said to condemn defensive war; I say defensive war, because it is neither necessary to the question, nor consistent with truth to affirm the lawfulness of any war that cannot be brought within this definition. The passages chiefly relied upon are: 'Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also; and, 'If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;' 'Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain;' 'Love your enemies;' 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord;' They that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.' These quotations include all that can be said to have a direct bearing on the question. Any other similar passages are entirely comprehended in these. The first quotation is from the 5th chapter of Matthew, the 39th and following verses. We are not left in doubt as to the particular moral principle which these specific precepts illustrate. It is stated at the beginning of the 39th verse, 'But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil.' Then, in illustration of that principle, these specific precepts are given. The value of these passages, then, is to be tested by the quantity of illustration which they afford to the principle announced,--' resist not evil.' They cannot go beyond, but they must be included in, and governed by, that which they illustrate. We must, therefore, compare them with this secondary principle, from which they are given out as manifestations, and we must also take the final principle from which the secondary flows; we then arrive at the following exegesis, Love thy neighbour as thyself;' evince it by resisting not evil; show that you do not resist evil, by submitting patiently to different kinds of wrong, four of which are specified first, personal violence: If any man smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also;' second, robbery: 'If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;' third, duress, or personal restraint: 'Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.'* Observe, neither of these three modes of nonresistance to evil is to carry us beyond the command to love our neighbour as ourselves. This is a most important limitation of the precept to submit to wrong; it reduces these precedents to comparatively narrow limits, and indicates the fact that non-resistance is here only enjoined under minor wrongs; and the instruction intended is that we are not to be quick in our resentments, that it is often nobler to submit quietly to insult and injustice in minor matters, than to incur the moral risks of seeking redress. If
*I am indebted to a learned clerical friend for the following very interesting illustration of this passage:The original Greek term here is, (angaros), signifying a Persian courier, authorized to compel the service of the king's subjects, and to make use of their horses, carriages, &c., at discretion. The word is originally Persian, (angareuo) to compel a person to perform the service of an angaros. For the exercise of this power, see Luke xxiii. 26. Our Saviour's teaching here, therefore, had reference to one of those minor oppressive customs of the Roman government from which the Jews suffered so continually.
Observer, April 1, '71
greater wrongs were included, non-resistance would involve loving our neighbour better than ourselves, which is without the pale of the final principle, and, therefore, cannot be intended. Observe, further, it is an essential principle in the interpretation of all legislation, that where a law names only minor offences, it cannot by any just construction be made to extend to greater. Offences of an equal or a smaller degree are included; but the mention of a minor class of crimes must not be tortured to mean those of a higher degree. Now, the injuries named here are comparatively unimportant; assault, theft, personal restraint: therefore, even if a literal interpretation be contended for, those who condemn defensive war gain nothing from these precepts; because they only direct us to submit to injuries of the same degree as those specifically named, and not to the vast flood of miseries occasioned by non-resistance to an invading army. There is, therefore, in these passages, even upon a literal interpretation, not the shadow of a precept against defensive war. That the inspired apostles and early Christians understood the principle, resist not evil,' as I have here stated, is evident from historical facts. Paul resisted evil, by claiming his privilege as a Roman citizen to appeal to Cæsar against his false accusers. On another occasion, after having been unjustly scourged, he resisted evil by sending a dignified message to the magistracy, giving them to understand that they might not scourge a Roman with impunity. A still more active resistance of evil is recorded of Paul in the 23rd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, when he took means to obtain a military guard to protect himself from assassination. But there is another criticism upon these quotations, which it would be obviously unfair to omit. The illustrations here given are exclusively confined to individual injuries; the cases afford no type of injuries attempted against the persons and properties of others. War is an attack not only on our own persons and properties, but on those of the entire community in which we dwell, including the endeared objects of our tenderest affection, whom God has placed under our immediate protection, and whom the strongest and noblest instincts of our nature compel us to defend even to death.
But it appears susceptible of easy proof, that a literal interpretation of the verses in question cannot be consistently contended for by the holders of ultra peace doctrines. The principle "resist not evil," is considered by four specific cases, in which non-resistance is prescribed. Only three of those cases have been yet considered, the fourth is as follows: 'Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.' This illustration applies to the non-resistance of evil in pecuniary injuries, and if the literal interpretation is to be so scrupulously followed in the other verses, how is this pecuniary precept to be disposed of? If we are patiently to submit to any amount of wrong inflicted by an invading army, we are equally bound patiently to submit to any amount of pecuniary wrong involved in giving to all who ask, and lending to all who would borrow. I ask that estimable, and wealthy, and discreet community, the Society of Friends especially, and all those who assert that war is unlawful on the ground of a literal interpretation of scripture against it, for their theory of the application of this pecuniary clause. I ask them either to abandon the literal interpretation of the precept on submission to violence, or to adopt that construction in this cognate illustration of the principle 'resist not evil.' Literal interpretation would involve giving and lending even to our utter destitution, not prudently, not even usefully, but to any and to every claimant, to provide, it may be,
Observer, April 1, '71,
for as riotous an expenditure as any begging community can desire. The attempt to condemn defensive war on the ground of these precepts will, I believe, be abandoned sooner or later by every thinking man.
The other quotations I have named, are 'Love your enemies;' 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord;' and 'They that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.'
It may be insisted that war is perfectly compatible with a literal obedience to the peculiarly Christian precept," Love your enemies." The beautiful romances of the age of chivalry, apart we may suppose from any powerful Christian influence, afford instances of generous and even devoted love between mortal combatants. A powerful sentiment of benevolence, or even a strong personal affection, sufficient to answer the demands of this precept, may co-exist with, and be controlled by, a lofty consciousness of duty, in the breast of the soldier hero. This state of feeling was often realized in chivalrous times, and the finest virtues of chivalry were only brilliant imitations of some of the graces of Christianity. How much loftier is the love of the Christian soldier to his foe, who, when the battle is hot, the strife fierce, and the carnage bloody, breathes out his soul to God in the midst of this aceldama of horrors, with the sublime prayer of his Master on his dying lips,-'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' Even this has been an actual, and not merely a possible or imagined attainment, in human life. It is not necessary to the argument to show that this is the prevailing military spirit, to justify war as it is; I only propose to prove that war is necessary, and that it may be consistent with the most elevated piety.
But there is a more effective answer to those who triumphantly quote this precept as conclusive against war. Scripture is the exponent of Scripture, and the command to love our enemies stands side by side with injunctions to love and cherish those who should be endeared to us by the ties of patriotism or of kindred. Thus we obtain a clear and authoritative limitation of the precept, 'Love your enemies;' this love to our enemies is to be perfectly consistent with our natural and moral obligations to protect those who are dependent upon us. In the case of a hostile invasion, circumstances may arise where both these duties cannot be literally performed in the sense in which literal interpretation is claimed by the advocates of ultra-peace doctrines. Where an infinitely greater amount of evil must fall on the innocent, than the forcible prevention of that evil would inflict on the guilty, will those who deny the lawfulness of war show in such a case how their views can be reconciled with either Scripture or reason?
The next quotation, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord,' is only applicable (in this discussion) to a war of vengeance. It does not give even prima facie testimony against a purely defensive war, which cannot be called in any proper sense a war of vengeance. does not affect the present question.
The remaining passage must be interpreted either literally or exegetically if it be taken in a strict literal sense, it is untrue; for many who take the sword do not perish by the sword. If it be taken exegetically, it involves merely a condemnation of the particular appeal to the sword to which it was addressed, and a general caution against violence ; and in neither sense can it be made to affect defensive war. Having learned the true meaning of those particular precepts which are said to have a direct bearing upon the question, it is necessary now to exhibit the aspect of the general principles of Christian morals towards
Observer, April 1, "71.
defensive war. The better to understand how to apply these general principles, it is desirable to glance at the condition and exigencies of the first Christians, and to observe the method of practical application adopted by our Saviour and the inspired guides of the churches. Their mode of deducing laws for specific cases from general principles should be our model. One object of the appointment and continuance of inspired guides over the first Christians, was, to instruct them and all successive generations of men in the practical adaptation to daily life of the principles of the new revelation. The divinely appointed teachers would, both in their oral and written teaching, address themselves not to abstract and ideal legislation, but to actual, living, exciting circumstances. It is to men's business and bosoms, to their warm hearts, and active minds and feelings, that the truth must be brought home. Not only, or chiefly, to their powers of abstraction; therefore the relations of the first Christians, both in the internal economy of their churches, and in the character of citizens and subjects, are repeatedly dealt with by direct moral precept in the inspired writings. War and bloodshed were rife in the world at the period when the writings of the New Testament were penned; and yet through the whole of those writings there is no precept against defensive war. Those who condemn it must therefore venture to charge the Holy Scriptures with a most serious and perilous omission in respect to a moral question of daily occurrence, and of deep import. But it is not mere omission which they must impute. When we read of an inspired apostle obtaining a military guard for his protection-when we read of soldiers applying to John the Baptist with the enquiry, 'what must we do?' and being told to be content with their wages-when we hear our Saviour pronounce a soldier of rank in the Roman army to possess stronger faith than any man he had previously met, not excepting the apostleswhen we read the remarkable narrative in the tenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles,-where we are informed that another soldier of rank, the centurion of the Italian band, a devout man that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always,' was selected to be the first Gentile introduced into the Christian church, and that by miraculous means; with these instances before us, unaccom panied by any intimation that the profession of arms was unlawful, do not those who condemn defensive war virtually charge the sacred Scriptures not only with a perilous omission, but with a tendency to mislead?
From these facts we gather two deductions; first, that here is a prima facie case in favour of the lawfulness of war; and secondly, that if defensive war be condemned at all, the sentence must be sought in the general principles of Christian morality, and not among the adjudicated cases; in other words, the morals of war are contained in the command, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'
With only this general precept to reason from, a very few words are decisive of the argument. From these premises it is obvious that we must adopt in all the relations of life, that line of action, which in our judgment will best promote the welfare of our fellow-men. This is the true exposition of loving others as we love ourselves, and it must be either admitted or denied: if it be denied, if we are not always to take that course which we deem most promotive of the welfare of our fellow-men, then we are sometimes driven to the opposite line of conduct, we must sometimes do less good, or inflict greater evil, than the circumstances of the case may allow. This cannot be loving our neighbour as ourselves, therefore the denial is untrue. If the definition be admitted, then defensive war is not
Observer, April 1, 71.
forbidden, because in case of aggression, the community attacked would have to consider whether resistance or non-resistance would best promote the welfare of others, and if they should decide in favour of defence, then according to the admitted definition, they must engage in war. To undertake it becomes a moral obligation. It is matter of divine command, and in such a case, according to New Testament morality, man has no choice or option. He must either nerve his arm for conflict, or he must become a party to the deeds of murder, and rapine, and lust, which any licentious soldiery may choose to perpetrate. He must either defend the innocent or become accomplice with the guilty. He must despise Divine authority and incur Divine displeasure; or he must accept the sublime, stern mission of the Destroying Angel to a guilty and devoted foe.
The condemnation of defensive war appears to involve absurdity. the passages of Scripture which are quoted to justify the theory, could really be accepted in the sense put upon them, the principle of nonresistance to war would be of universal application. No amount of hostile force, whether small or great, ought in any case to be forcibly resisted. In the application of this principle it matters not how small an invading army may be. Defensive war, if unlawful, is as unlawful in success as in defeat. If a mighty empire be attacked by a score of lawless military barbarians, still defensive war is unlawful. These twenty soldiers may commit a thousand murders, still defensive war is unlawful. Violence must not be used. They must only be requested, persuaded, entreated. If the principle is worth anything it forbids not only such defensive war as would involve death, there is no such limitation in its terms, but it also prohibits any degree of defensive war; any, the smallest amount of force. According to the literal interpretation doctrine, not only is there to be no defence, but there is to be active consenting submission to the attack. Upon this theory it is unscriptural even to run away. The principle, if principle it be, requires that assistance should be rendered to the offending parties. If smitten on the one cheek, you are merely to present the other. If defensive war be prohibited by these passages of Scripture, then not only is the use of force in any degree prohibited also, but the terms of the precept prohibit even any attempt to escape. I have mentioned twenty soldiers as taking possession of an empire. Upon this theory why should not one? If it be unlawful to use violence to twenty men it is unlawful to use violence to one; and those who base a condemnation of defensive war on the positive precepts of the New Testament, must quietly hand over the rights and liberties, the properties, the homes, the persons, and the lives, of any and of every community to any solitary soldier, who foreknowing success, will venture for such a prize to unsheath the sword. I confess I see no way of escape from this dilemma, and I shall be thankful to hear any respectable theory of non-resistance which does not involve it."
Here I leave the matter at present, signing myself
DESIGN OF AFFLICTION.
EVERY vessel of mercy must be scoured in order to brightness; and, however trees in the wilderness may grow without culture, trees in the garden must be pruned to be fruitful; and cornfields must be broken up, when barren heaths are left untouched.-Arrowsmith.