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REV. MR. CHEEVER'S ADDRESS,
AT THE LATE ANNIVERSARY OF THE AMERICAN PEACE SOCIETY.
Mr. Cheever said, the thought of universal peace was one of grandeur, of immense interest to all; and why any Christian or benevolent mind should not appreciate its magnitude, it is hard to explain. And whatever may be said or felt, one thing no person, who believes the Bible, or even in divine benevolence, will dispute,-universal peace will at last prevail. That it will be so is proved :
1. From express assurances from God, given frequently in his holy word. It is no plainer that the world will be filled with truth, and light, and righteousness, than it is, that men shall not hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain, and the instruments of war be converted into implements of husbandry.
2. This is the expectation of all. A state of war is the greatest violation of reason which can be conceived. When a case occurs, all hope and expect it will soon terminate. So we all expect, from a natural dictate of humanity, as well as from the Bible, that all wars will cease.
3. A state of peace is the natural consequence of a religious state of mind. It is as natural that two nations should cease to quarrel, if piety prevails, as it is that two individuals should. Two young men, who had given and accepted a challenge to fight a duel, had an hour to spare, before the time for fatal encounter arrived. They spent that hour in a prayer, unknown to each other, till near the close. Their minds were impressed. They became serious, and most devoted friends. For this, there was no other reason than that they had become pious. Let this spirit pervade the nations, and all will be peace.
4. Again, all good men are laboring, by their prayers, their efforts, and their universal charity, to promote peace; and they will as surely succeed, as that the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea.
Besides, there is another view to be taken. It is a great and incontrovertible principle of humanity and religion, that human life must not be taken, except by God, and at his command. These circumstances imply all the authority which any government can claim for doing this appalling act,-depriving man of that which to bim is more valuable than all sublunary good; taking away that life, which his Creator gave, when that life has been forfeited by public offence, into the hands of violated laws. God has given general directions to civil powers, by which they are allowed to assume the forfeiture of the criminal. But this is the only case, except when special directions are given.
Abraham was directed to take the life of his son, and was bound to do it. But no other man can plead his example as an authority for his doing the same thing. The Hebrews were commanded to destroy the nations of Canaan. But this command is no warrant to
any but those to whom it was given. And no war has been right since, unless coinmanded by God, or unless the circumstances of the case have been such plain indications as to be equivalent to an express precept.
Take another view. One nation was never made, or constituted to govern another nation, but to govern only their own subjects. Besides, the public sense of all civilized nations is against the principle of war. Open war is a duel between two nations. And the principle involved is the right of two men, to attempt to destroy each other. And yet the idea of this practice and principle is now repudiated by all civilized nations. And some have declared, that the killing of a man in a duel is niurder in the first degree. To be consistent, they must adopt the same view of a duel, however large the scale may be upon which it is fought.
Again; we have the opinion of an apostle on this subject. He declares, without qualification, that wars and fightings arise from the lusts that war in our members. Nothing can be plainer than that the whole Bible forbids all such lusts, or evil passions, and, consequently, all the conduct which springs from them.
I remember that a celebrated king once called several of his subjects around him. His object was to explain the fundamental principles of his government, in the administration of which he was about to einploy those then collected. And among other important remarks, I find the following: “Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God.” And they paid careful attention to it; and just so far as they were able to disseminate that spirit, they were at the greatest distance from all kinds of contention. Let the rulers and subjects of every kingdom cultivate that spirit, and wars for ever cease.
OBJECTIONS TO THE PRINCIPLES OF PEACE.*
One of the principal arguments drawn from the Ne Testament, on which the defenders of war rest their vindication, is taken froni the remark of John the Baptist to the soldiers who came to him, saying, “And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man; neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages." Luke iii. 14. It is argued from this passage, that John allowed the soldiers to take their wages, and thereby sanctioned war.
1. I might easily evade this argument, by pleading that the ministration of Jobn was no part of the Christian dispensation, which had
* This article is an abridgment of three sections in a recent pamphlet on “ Obstacles and Objections to the Cause of Peace.” The writer rarely attempts to distir.guish the cause of Peace from certain principles still in dispute among tho professed friends of this cause. The objections here considered lie not against the cause, but against the supposition that the gospel forbids all war; and we have therefore changed the title in accordance with its real design and character.- ED. Adv.
not yet commenced; but as some sects of Christians think the authority of John to be equal to that of any of the apostles, I will admit it for argument sake. Yet the apostles themselves were not fully aware of the peaceful nature of the religion of Jesus Christ until “the day of Pentecost was fully come,” when they were filled with the “Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” After they were thus inspired, they never gave the least countenance to war in any form; but all their precepts ipculcated a spirit directly the opposite to war in every particular.
2. A candid inquirer after truth from the word of God does not split texts apart, and, taking that part which suits him, reject the other. By this means, the Bible may be made to say almost any thing. In this case, take the whole sentence together, and what does it say? “ Do violence to no man.” Now, if all the soldiers in the world would obey this injunction of John the Baptist, and do violence to po man, wars would cease.
3. These were Roman soldiers, and consequently idolaters; and idolatry constituted a part of their military duty, as they were obliged to worship their standards, and the image of Cæsar. If the injunction of John, to be content with their wages, would justify war, it would also justify idolatry; and it would justify all the conquests, tyranny and oppression of pagan Rome. But, it is asked, Why did not John take this opportunity to condemn the practice of war? In addition to what has been already said about his own light and knowledge on the subject, I might as reasonably ask, why he did not take this opportunity to condemn idolatry, polygamy, unnatural lust, licentiousness, and all the horrible vices of the Roman camp? His silence on the subject does not prove that he sanctioned war, any more than its accompanying vices. Certainly, his injunction, “Do violence to no man,” goes as far to condemn war, as any other remark of his to the soldiers did to discountenance any other sin; and the friends of peace could quote the whole verse in their favor with much more plausibility than the defenders of war.
4. It is a principle of exegesis generally allowed, that scripture should never be so interpreted as to contradict itself. Now this passage, and one other, relating to the two swords, are the only two texts, taken from the gospel, which, for many years, I have heard quoted in defence of war; and if these be sufficient to justify war, then our Saviour's sermon on the mount, and all his subsequent precepts of a peaceful nature, together with his example, and the precepts and example of the apostles after the day of Pentecost, must go for nothing. So much do the abettors of war call on us to sacrifice, that they may be enabled to support a custom which has, from the murder of Abel to the present day, covered the earth with blood, and made it resound with lamentation and wo, and sent millions of souls to perdition.
I now come to the text on which the abettors of war chiefly rely for defence. Luke xxii. 36. “He that kath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." “Here,” say our opponents, “notwithstanding all the prophecies which predicted our Saviour as the Prince of peace, and under the influence of whose principles the nations should learn war no more (Isaiab ii. 4; Micah iv. 3); notwithstanding that his precepts and example had hitherto been eminently pacific, he did now, at last, by this single sentence, authorize violence, blood
shed, and war!” I confess the accusation appears to me like impiety and blasphemy; and I grieve that the prevalence of depravity in the world, and unbelief in the church, should make it necessary to elear our blessed Saviour's character from a charge of such gross inconsistency. But as it is, I must proceed to the task, “ more in sorrow than in anger.”
It is very certain that these swords were not for defence ; for-1. When the disciples replied, “ Lord, behold here are two swords," “ He said unto them, It is enough.” Now it is certain, that two swords were not enough” for twelve men, if they had any intention of defending themselves by physical force. 2. When Peter did take one of these two swords, in his rash zeal to defend his Master, so far from approving of his conduct, Jesus rebuked him, and healed the ear which Peter had smitten off. 3. He had no need of two swords for defence, who could command “more than twelve legions of angels.” 4. The apostles and their immediate successors did not understand the abovenamed passage as authorizing war, either offensive or defensive; for we have no record in the canon of Scripture, that any one of them did ever, after that memorable night on which Jesus prohibited the use of the sword to his disciples, take the sword even for defence ; though there is no example in history, if we except that of the Jews, where a sect has been so persecuted and oppressed; and none would have so good a right, judging after the manner of men, to take the sword as they. And this was not owing to cowardice, but principle, and a firm belief that the Christian religion forbids the use of the sword for any purposes of bloodshed; for in many provinces of the Roman empire, the Christians were a large minority, and in some a majority of the population. Ancient fathers of the church and ecclesiastical history confirm this fact, wbich I could prove by manifold quotations, if I had room; but two remarks must suffice. 1. When Celsus, the great enemy of Christianity in the second century, accused the Christians of refusing to bear arms, even in case the empire was invaded by the barbarians, Origen, one of the most eminent Christian fathers of the day, in answer to Celsus, does vot deny a fact of such general notoriety, but justifies the refusal of the Christians, on the ground that it was not lawful for them to bear arms, and inconsistent with their religion. 2. Gibbon, in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” says of the early Christians—whom he seems to hate almost as much as Celsus did—“Nor could their humane ignorance be convinced, that it was lawful on any occasion to shed the blood of our fellow-creatures, either by the sword of justice, or that of war, even though their criminal or hostile attempts should threaten the peace and safety of the whole community.” (Chap. xv.) When Christianity became corrupted by an union with the state, Christians took the sword; and they not only perished by the sword, but they brought a legion of corruptions into the church by means of war; and we now see but the bare dawping of the Reformation. 5. If we put the construction on the passage which our opponents contend for, we must do violence to all the peaceful precepts of Christ and his holy apostles, as well as to their example, and the example of the primitive Christians, that “noble army of martyrs" who suffered public execution sooner than take the sword for any consideration whatever, and also the obvious meaning of the prophecies which foretold the pacific character of the
Messiah and his religion; and thus destroy the most incontestible proof of the truth of our holy religion, and leave the world without any revelation from heaven, but one inconsistent with itself.
But our opponents, with great confidence, ask “Why were the disciples commanded to sell their garments, and buy swords, if they were not to use them?” We have, I think, plainly proved that it was not to justify war, offensive or defensive, and that ought to satisfy them. There are difficulties in the Scriptures, which neither they nor we can solve, in the present state of imperfection; but I will hazard one conjecture, in addition to the other glosses which have been given on this passage, either of which would be more in harmony with the gospel than that which our opponents contend for. Our Saviour often used figurative expressions, which were not fully comprehended by his disciples until they were explained by him. Such was his injunction : “ Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves saying, It is because we have taken no bread.” Matt. xvi. 6, 7. In this instance, the Saviour explained his meaning to them. In the case of the two swords, for wise reasons, he left them in an error for a while. In a few hours he would practically show his meaning. The apostles kept the two swords with them. They were "enough” —if not for defence—to show his meaning. And when one of them was used, he rebuked him who used it, healed the wound, and gave this his last commaudment before his crucifixion : “ Put up again thy sword into his place,” with this denunciation, “for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.” Matt. xxvi. 52. Our Saviour's advent into the world was bailed by songs of angels, singing, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.” Luke ii. 4. His first public discourse was full of peace; his last command before he suffered was, “ Put up thy sword;" his last denunciation was on those who used it; and his last prayer was for his enemies; thus producing a beautiful barmony through the whole of bis ministration, which harmony our opponents are laboring to destroy.
But our opponents still reply, “How came these two swords among the apostles 3" To this we answer, In that warlike age, every man had a sword; and a sword being always at hand, it would be used for many purposes which in this peaceful age and country we do not think of-just as ruin is, or has been used for many purposes which the next generation will hardly think of. It is not probable, that all the apostles had thrown away their swords; but some two or three of them might have been kept for useful purposes. Now, if it should happen that a Quaker fishing-boat should be captured by a man-ofwar, would the captor be justified in treating a crew of eleven men as warriors, because two fowling-pieces were found on board the prize, though they might have been old muskets, and formerly used in war? Besides, the apostles were not yet indoctrinated in the peaceful principles of the gospel. If they had been, they would not have fallen under the just rebuke of their Master for asking his permission to call down fire from heaven to consume the inhabitants of a Samaritan village, or smitten a poor servant, and cut off his ear. In both cases, our Saviour showed his disciples that they knew not what spirit they were of; and many of his disciples of the present day are under the same mistake, and deserve the same rebuke.