WAR AND CHRISTIANITY.
THOSE excellent people of the Peace Society are at work again, assuring us that Christianity is opposed to war. We con- fess we do not attach very much meaning to the expression. We understand what is meant by saying that Christ forbade impurity of heart, or the passion of revenge, or envy, perhaps even am- bition, certainly avarice, censoriousness, carking care for the morrow, wastefulness, a spirit that prefers receiving to giving, and the love of strife or bloodshed. But when it is said that He forbade war, we are as much puzzled as if we were told that He forbade the possession of property, or making your arrangements a day beforehand, or the act of receiving alms. War is an external act, and may be waged in all sorts of spirits. There is no external act, as far as we know, in the whole range of human life, which Christ forbade as such, and apart from the spirit or motive in which it was entered upon. It is not absolutely certain even that Christ would have condemned all aggressive war, and it is, we take it, almost certain that he would not have con- demned all defensive war. The few words which, taken alone, seem to convey this, if they convey this, convey a great deal more than this, viz., the universal duty of non-resistance to evil, and are therefore absolutely neutralized by the act related of Him,—certainly an aggressive act, though not carried to the point of endangering life—of ejecting the money-changers from the Temple with a whip. No doubt his directions to His own apostles, and their subsequent conception of their own duty, kept them entirely outside the military struggles of the day, and it was necessary that it should be so for the Gospel's sake. But it is by no means clear that the first disciples if pressed into the Roman legions would have thought it their duty to their master to die rather than serve under the Roman banner, as it would have been their duty to die rather than disavow their faith or commit a spiritual sin. The injunction of Christ to provoke no struggle, to hold aloof from the strife of nations, and to yield to persecution rather than resist it, to flee from city to city as city after city rejected them, seems conceived in the spirit of his warn- ing to Peter when he produced two swords, "Put up thy sword into its sheath ; they that take the sword shall perish by the sword," which it was not desirable for the preachers of His Gospel to do. The true inference from the absolute neutrality of Christ sal His Apostles in relation to the Roman Empire, and from the injunctions of the latter to respect its organization on the ground that all actual power was " of God," is that there was not believed to be anything intrinsically wrong in the rtfyinse of the Roman Government. It was looked upon by them, in relation to the work they had to do, much in the same light as the forces of nature, the winds and waves,—as necessary condi- tions of their work, but absolutely external to it, —as a power the protection of which it might be necessary to seek, and certainly not a power of evil. Christ would certainly not have authorized the paying of tribute to a power of evil. And just as the Apostles looked upon the general power of Rome, so in all probability they looked upon the general operations of the Roman armies by which that power was sustained and extended. The probability seems to us very strong that a Christian convert, if taken for a soldier, would have refused at any sacrifice to keep silence upon his faith to his comrades, but would have accepted the service in other respects, at all events not with more reluctance than he would have accepted alavery,—as a misfortune perhaps, but a misfortune which, while it lasted, might involve a certain class of duties which he would have striven to perform faithfully. The Christian morality attempted to empty the mind of evil passions, and to sow the purest motives in their place. But while it necessarily kept clear of politics, there is not a word in the New Testament to show that it con- demned war as war, or apart from the bad passions which usually precipitate war.
"There were a great number of inconsistencies in this world," said the Rev. Hugh Stowell Brown, at the Peace Society on Tues- day, "but he really did not know of one so startling or so bare- faced as the inconsistency he saw when people professing the religion of Jesus Christ engaged in war, or were prepared to defend war, or connived at war, or did not immediately and em- phatically protest against war." We can suggest a greater in- consistency, namely, where disciples of Christ having full power to prevent it, whether only by war or otherwise, engage in in- justice, or connive at injustice, and do not immediately and with all their power prevent injustice. All these goad persons, the chair- man of the Peace Society, for instance, Mr. H. Pease, are loud in their praises of the strictest neutrality in all war, of universal non- intervention. They would think our conduct in permitting the parti- tion of Poland, or any other enormity which has brought subsequent wars and agonies of revolution more excruciating than ware, on Europe, the strict Christian policy, and this clearly on the ground that to sacrifice life—and this apart from the question of vindictive passions—is infinitely more unchristianthan to sacrifice justice. Take the case of Venetia. The Italians know that almost every Italian in Venetia would give more than his life to redeem Venetia from Austria. The Italians consider it,—possibly the Peace Society itself would admit it to be,—the most profound moral iniquity that Austria should rule a people whom she can,not rule well, and who are longing to belong to the Italian nation. Are the Italians warranted by Christian principles in drawing the sword, to re- cover, even by martyrdom, the freedom of their country? No,' say the Peace Society, because there must be so many murders before it can be obtained,—war is murder.' But war is not murder. Whatever else is true, taking away life without the peculiar procedure and motive necessary to constitute the guilt and crime of murder cannot be murder. It may be unlawful killing ; but then the Austrian rIgime in Venetia is, certainly to all Italian minds, more unlawful, and involves guilt far worse than killing, because it withers the life, not only of the existing people but of their descendants. Why is a permanent act that is wicked to endure, and a temporary act that is leas wicked to be absolutely prohibited? Even if killing, apart from the circumstances and motive, be a moral evil, can the leas of two moral evils of which one is inevitable be more morally evil than the other? Christ says, it is true, love your enemies,' but He did not think this inconsistent with driving those who were not His enemies, but those of His people, out of the Temple by force. He did not love the less those whom He ex- pelled. And assuredly the Italians are far less likely to be fulfil- ling this duty towards the Austrians now, than they would be if they had driven them out of Venetia. The spiritual duty remains high above the reaoh of most of us in our ordinary moods. But assume the exaltation of nature needful to discharge it fully, and it does not seem less difficult to reconcile it with open acts of public war than with submission to oppression. Men can punish without hatred, nay, even with compassion. The judge, the gaoler, and probably even the executioner, feel no evil passion towards those who suffer under their hands, and may feel the most Christian love for him. Why is the state of mind of the soldier, indulging no private enmity to his foe, less Christian than that of the public prosecutor, judge, or gaoler to the guilty culprit? There is usually more room for generous and noble feeling in the one case than in the other. The incidental evils of war are great, but so are the incidental evils of oppression and subjugation. Are not the essential evils of the latter deeper than those of the former? If evil motive and passion is essential to all moral evil, assuredly war might be imagined quite free from sin, and we doubt whether some kinds of tyranny could be. Christianity, in claim- ing to purify the heart, must have the option of choosing out of two external states the one which involves the least certainty and the least permanence of evil passion.
The true secret of the impression that Christianity is absolutely opposed to war, probably, however, lies deeper than the ordinary platitudes of the Peace Society about murder. Nobody believes that war is murder. Nobody really believes that a short, sharp war is so evil in any sense, moral or physical, as a long, dark tyranny. But the secret of the feeling is no doubt the faith which Christ has sown that the highest victory is gained through suffering,—through letting the whole tide of evil passion be poured out and expended upon one who does not breathe a single evil wish, who breathes only love in return. And we freely admit that this is far the highest victory possible to man. Those who could even hope that God would give them strength to conquer thus through their own loss, would be guilty of distrust to choose the lower road of re- sistance. But we doubt if this could apply to a whole nation of men of ordinary moral constitutions, because, preach as you will, in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred oppression would sear, and deprave, and enrage, instead of lifting into the sublime spirit of the Crucifixion. Moral certainties of this sort are as much to be taken into account as physical certainties in estimating the duty of a nation. You may say, and truly, that if Italy could prevail over Austria by such Christian for- titude, faith, and love, that without yielding a single patri- otic purpose and vow they shamed the whole Austrian army of occupation into a passive revolt against its leaders rather than continue the oppression, Italy would have won an infinitely higher victory than by wresting Venetia from the Austrian armies. Still that theoretic contingency cannot excuse the acquiescence of those in the present system who know that this is not possible, either in this generation, or the next, or the one following that. The true duty for an individual under injury is to assume, if he can, the mind of Christ in the same-circumstances. And so on of course for numbers of individuals. But the true duty for a nation is to act so as to secure the highest moral possibilities for the whole nation, and in conceding this it is impossible, it is wrong, to ignore the actual moral condition of the vast majority. We take it that if Our Lord had been himself the only sufferer by the traffic of the money-changers in the Temple, He would have no more thought of a violent expulsion of them than He did of a violent rescue of himsalf from the hands of His enemies. But in the former case the sufferers were not Himself, but numbers who saw the mercenary spirit invading the very Temple, and interfering with true worship, and who could not see the wrong thus done with the eyes of Christ. And He acted therefore for them as He would never have thought of acting for Himself. So, too, in like manner questions of national duty must be judged by the actual moral condition of the nation, and by the effect upon them of any given circumstances which It is proposed to remove. So little is Christian morality really passive, that it is bcause the endurance of love really involves the highest spiritual life and warfare, that such endurance is so much higher, when it is possible, than ordinary resistance. Indeed the true language of Christianity, from the time of St. Paul onward, has always been military. The sword of truth, and the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation are not meta- phors which would have been seized upon by a religion of passivity. If a righteous war is ever wrong, it is only because those who engage in it would have been capable of a spirit still more truly, more nobly military, a spirit leading to victory through Christian passion, instead of Christian action. But when
that, as in almost all earthly cases, is simply a dream,, we hold that war, even aggressive war, for a righteous object, is far more Christian than the pacific spirit which hugs itself for accumu- lating capital, encouraging commerce, and preventing " the effusion of blood."