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Observer, Mar. 1, '71,
FRANKLIN says, “I have been apt to think that there never has been, nor ever will be any such thing as a good war, or a bad peace.”
SIB THOMAS FUWELL BUXTON says, “ I do verily believe that the true, genuine valorous, military spirit is the true and genuine spirit inspired by the enemy of man; and I hope that I shall never refuse or be ashamed to avow these strange, extraordinary sentiments.'
THEODORE PARKER says, “War is in utter violation of Christianity. . If war be right, then Christianity is wrong, false—a lie. But if Christianity be true-if reason, conscience, religion, the highest faculties of man, are to be trusted—then war is the wrong, the falsehood, the lie.”
Thus we have the testimony of Preachers, Authors, Statesmen and Soldiers. It would be very difficult to gainsay much they thus advance. Still the form in which they address us is that of affirmation rather than argument—they, so far, assert their opinions rather then prove them. The article following this exhibits the most recent expression of an earnest body of people who have considered the question and suffered in defence of their faith.
WAR AND CHRISTIANITY *
The present is a solemn crisis in the history of the world. Our hearts are filled with grief at the appalling waste of human life, at the amount of wretchedness and woe, which, within the brief space of a few months, two of the principal nations of Europe, in the face of professing Christendom, have deliberately inflicted upon each other. The awful conflict is still going on between men acknowledging the same Father in Heaven, and who still avow allegiance to Him who said, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”—John xiii. 35.
When we think of all the agony of this mutual slaughter, and of the sufferings of thousands of the aged, the widows and the fatherless, consequent upon it, whose property has been ravaged or destroyed, and whose homes have been made desolate, as some amongst us have witnessed to our deep sorrow, we are ready to exclaim-Is this Christianity ? Is it for this that the counsels of infinite love have been working for ages, and that the Son of God suffered and died? And if the strongest possible negative must be given to these questions, the inquiry may well arise-Upon whom does the guilt of these tremendous iniquities fall? It is not for us to pass judgment upon the actors in this vast tragedy. Their responsibility can only be measured by the great Searcher of Hearts. But we would, with the earnestness which the gravity of the subject demands, invite all who profess the name of Christ, seriously to examine how far they are themselves sharing in that responsibility, by upholding or sanctioning a course of practice which makes such a state of things possible.
We would not here enter upon the question whether war may be justified on grounds which might have been consistently taken by heathen nations. Our present inquiry is a very simple one: Is war consistent with the spirit or the obligations of Christianity ?
The promise to the Patriarchs, which as Christians we believe to be fulfilled in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, is one of blessing for all the families of the earth.” And as it becomes more distinctly defined in the predictions of David, of Isaiah, and of the other Hebrew prophets,
* An address recently issued from the Society of Friends in Great Britain. It well expresses the horror which every true Christian must experience when he contemplates the battle field. bility of war with Christianity, but it does not recognize that the Nations are not Christian. There are,
It urges the incompatihowever, broad features not looked at in this addresa. We hope to advance with the investigation next month.
Observer, Mar. 1,71.
"peace”-even “abundance of peace"—is again and again associated with the Messiah’s universal and perpetual dominion. (Ps. lxxii. 7, 8.) He is declared to be the “Prince of Peace, of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end.” The promise is not for individuals of for churches only. Out of the mouths of two inspired witnesses, and in almost the same language, peace under the Messiah, is proclaimed to the nations of the earth. " Î'hey shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isa. ii. 4 ; Mic. iv. 3.) Are these reiterated assurances without meaning; or does not the promise imply corresponding obligations, affecting not merely the conduct of individuals, but that of nations also ?
And when, after long years of waiting, the fulness of time was accomplished, an anthem burst forth at the announcement of the New Dispensation which proclaimed “ peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” as a theme ministering even to the joy of heaven, and as inseparably associated with ** Glory to God in the highest.” He, the long-expected Messiah, was at length come; but not as one of earth's mighty conquerors, ascending to the summit of worldly greatness amidst desolation and slaughter. He came with the inessage of mercy and reconciliation, “not to destroy men's lives but to save them.” Upon the cross He prayed for His enemies. His whole life, crowned by suffering and by death, was one continued manifestation of compassion, patience, and love. “ We beheld His glory,” saith the Apostle, " the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” His Deity authenticates the testimony of His manhood. He, and not Cæsar, or any other of the world's conquerors, is " the entire, the perfect man.” He is the Divinely-appointed exemplar of all righteousness. Against His authority there can, for the Christian, be no appeal. When He enjoins love upon His followers, how shall they hate? In the face of His express command to love even enemies, how shall the Christian, or any Christian Church, without disclaiming His example and authority, countenance war ?
Again, if we duly consider the passions which war arouses, and without which it is difficult to conceive that it can be carried on, the argument against it becomes no less convincing. War tends to foster anger, wrath, revenge, ambition, cruelty, and even a thirst for blood; to say nothing of the other passions which too often follows in its train. Christianity, on the contrary, commands and requires the exercise of compassion, forgiveness, mercy, long-suffering, and love. The two classes of motives appear to be irreconcileably inconsistent. If the one be cherished, the other must to that extent be excluded. To expect war to be carried on under the influence of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, involves a practical contradiction.
But it has been said that war is the great instrument of international justice. Is that justice which appeals, not to right or to reason, but to force; and which, in its execution, constantly confounds the innocent with the guilty ? There are multitudes who admit the authority of the teaching and the example of Christ, who yet allow themselves to postpone the full application of them to an undefined and uncertain future, upon the plea that they are impracticable in the present state of the world. We would, with the love and respect of Christian brethren, call upon these seriously to consider the imputation which they thus, it may be almost unconsciously, cast upon our Lord and Master. Was He who “knew what was in man," and who looked through futurity, incapable of judging
of that which is practicable, or did He command impossibilities? And shall His commands be disregarded with impunity? How, indeed, consistently with man's free agency, are the prophecies to be fulfilled, and the purposes of Christianity to be accomplished, but through voluntary subjection to these commands on the part both of individuals and of nations ? To assert that obedience to His law is to be postponed until all shall have submitted to it, is to frustrate that law by suspending its obligation until obedience shall have become impossible. For how can the injunction to love enemies be obeyed when all strife shall have ceased, and there are no enemies to love? With the Apostle we disclaim the expectation of any other gospel. We accept the religion of the New Testament as the absolute Revelation of the will of God to man. It is the dispensation under which we are now actually living, and to which, as Christians, we are bound to believe that the commands of Christ were designed to be especially appropriate. We have no warrant for assuming that some future period will be more, favourable than the present for the manifestation of Christian heroism in a course of faithful allegiance to our Divine Master. It is now, in the midst of this tossed and sin-stricken world, that Christ is to be glorified by the keeping of His commandments ; and it is by the weapons of faith and prayer that the true victory is to be
Were we not assured that “the Lord reigneth," and that His truth must at last prevail, the existing circumstances of Europe might well awaken melancholy foreboding. If the same zeal, energy and skill
, and the same expenditure of time and money as have been lavished upon the present war, had been on either side sedulously devoted to the promotion of love and goodwill upon the basis of Gospel Truth, how much carnage and misery might have been spared. And instead of the bitter hate and appetite for revenge now, it is to be feared, aroused between two of the mightiest nations, Europe might have rejoiced to see them clasped in a firm confederacy, supported by all that is true and noble in the character of the two peoples. Let it be fixed in our minds that it is not by war, or military renown, or the arts of mutual slaughter, that the progress of civilization, or the sum of human happiness, can be advanced. It is rather by the promotion of sound knowledge, virtuous habits, and moral and religious improvement, grounded on a living practical faith in Christ amongst the great masses of the people, by training and encouraging them in all that is just and good, and by the maintenance of harmony and good feeling, between man and man, and between the various nations of the earth. When difficulties arise between individuals, whether from passion or mistake, these are no longer decided as of old, by an appeal to physical force, but by law, administered upon principles of general application. Can we doubt that the happiness of the world would be promoted, and a vast mass of misery and ruin averted, if a similar method were applied to questions arising between nations ? The inevitable tendency of war is to stimulate and beget war : and to refer differences between nations to such an arbitrament is as unpractical as it is irrational and unchristian.
In view of the solemn events passing around us, we would plead with our fellow-Christians earnestly to lay to heart their responsibilities in connection with this great question. If war be opposed to human progress; if its continuance be essentially a backward movement in all that is civilizing and good and holy; if it be, in its varied aspects and in its entire spirit, opposed to the teaching and to the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, is it not the duty of all who bow with reverence at that sacred
Observer, Mar. ), '71
name, to pray that they may be themselves thoroughly redeemed from the war spirit; and to seek, as far as in them lies, to discountenance it in others, whether in word or deed. And if such be the obligations incumbent upon every true follower of Jesus, how can any who are the ministers of the Gospel do otherwise than maintain, on all fitting occasions, our Lord's authoritative prohibition of all war?
In speaking thus plainly in the love of Christ, we believe that our appeal will not be altogether in vain. High as is the standard, it cannot be lowered without damage to our just conception of the ends after which, as Christians, we ought to strive. The promotion of harmony amongst nations, the prevention of war, with its attendant misery and crime, may be surely classed amongst these blessed ends. The prayer which our Lord taught His disciples points to the accomplishing of the will of God, not in heaven only, but upon earth also. Such a prayer implies more than the bare possibility of its fulfillment. The disciple of Christ rests in the assurance that the purposes of infinite wisdom and grace correspond with the petition. He knows that the kingdom of which he is a citizen is righteousness and peace and joy,” and that as often as he truly prays. * Thy kingdom come,” he confesses not only the duty of his own present subjection to it, but the solemn obligation resting upon him to do all in his power for its universal establishment.
THE PERILS OF THIS REFORMATION_No. I.* The wives of Jacob brought with them into the land of Canaan the gods of their father Laban. The Israelites in the wilderness murmured at Moses, and in their hearts turned back into Egypt.” They were not equal to the high enterprize to which they had been called. When the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity, they mournfully realized that they were a mongrel race, that many of the people had married pagan wives, that they spoke an impure speech, and that they were sadly degenerated from the religion of their fathers.
Even in the days of the apostles a defection began to appear, which, after their death, developed itself into a full grown Man of Sin. Since the great apostacy, progress toward a better order of things has been secured by a perpetual recurrence of schism. Thus, the Greek Church is better than the Oriental Churches, the Roman Catholic Church is better than the Greek Church, Lutheranism is better than Roman Catholicism, and Calvinism better than Lutheranism. The Church of England is better than the Church of Rome, and the Methodist Church is better than the Church of England. Thus also Congregationalism is better than Presbyterianism, and, when the Congregationalists of New England separated Roger Williams from their communion, the Baptistism of Roger Williams was better than the Congregationalism of his Puritan persecutors.
Yet sects are the bane and curse of Protestant Christianity.
We in this Reformation have supposed it possible to avoid the necessity of all future schism, first, by building on the Bible alone, which is always
* Most of our readers are aware that the return to the Faith and Order of the Apostolic Church, advocated in our pages, is in accordance with the pleading of sonie hundreds of thousands of Disciples of Christ in America Large success has crowned their efforts, unu, of course, numerous perils besct their way. In this country we are fewer, but, perhaps, upon the whole, nearer the Primitive Order than very many of the Churches in America. But then their perils, or at least most of them, are ours, so we can well afford to consider
their cautions. A Series of Articles under the above heading are in progress in the Christian
Standard, which, therefore, in part or altogether, we shall reproduce.
Observer, Mar. 1, 71
infallible, and second, by never attempting to say to human growth and human intelligence, “thus far shalt thou go and no further, and here
, shall all thy progress be stayed.” Hence, we profess to be not a reformed people, but Reformers. Indeed may we not conclude from the considerations already submitted, that it is not to be expected from any people under the whole heaven, that they will be able to leap, at a single bound, from such a condition as that in which we found ourselves at the beginning of this Reformation, into Primitive Christianity?
There are those to whom it is offensive to speak of reforming the Reformation. We must do one of two things. Either we must accept this necessity, and look it calmly in the face, or we must accept that progress that comes through a perpetual recurrence of schism.
But there is a question that more immediately concerns us : Is that order of things that now actually exists in a majority, or even in a large minority, of our churches, the order that was conceived in the hearts of the men that originally built up this Reformation; or have such churches, whether a majority or a minority of our whole number, like Israel of old, stopped in the wilderness, and refused to enter the promised Canaan ?
This Reformation, in the rapidity of its growth, is without a parallel in the history of Protestant parties. At its beginning Alexander Campbell was a middle-aged man, and was at the maturity of his powers, and before his death, it had attained to a membership of more than three hundred thousand persons, Those acquainted with its history need not be told that a large number of its members were, at the first, from the Baptists. It is, indeed, a matter of wonder that a Presbyterian minister, but a short time identified with the Baptists, should exert such an influence over them as to induce a great multitude of churches to resolve, that when he was driven out of the Baptist Church, they, also, would share his fortune, and accept loss of representation and exclusion from their former brotherhood, for the sake of the principles which they had learned from him. Now when we reflect that this embraced not only young men, but old men -men already arrived at that period of life in which it is most difficult to change our habits of thinking and acting, it becomes a question of profoundest interest. Were these men able to make a change so radical as to plant themselves completely on our reformation principles, and abandon everything in their old Baptist doctrine and practice incompatible therewith ?
When we remember that this movement embraced not merely churchmembers, but gray-haired Baptist ministers, who, all their lives, had been accustomed to lead and not to follow, we curiously inquire, was their change perfect and complete, or did they locate themselves on a sort of half-way ground, which was a compromise between Reformation principles and old Baptistism?
We propose to build up a Church that shall never be broken by schism ; but shall continue to gather Christians into its fold, until it shall be merged in the glories of the coming millennium. There are those who regard this as an insufferable arrogance on our part; nevertheless, we do entertain this thought. Now, it is evident, that while other Churches have their respective bonds of union largely made up of worldly compromises, ours, if we continue to entertain such expectations, must be wholly divine. Again we ask, did Baptists coming into the Reformation, adopt an order which is a compromise between Reformation principles and Baptist usages ?