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probable, if it is worth while to offer mere conjectures and guesses in this matter, that, as he himself was in his own person the subject of unjust detention and violence, he took the opportunity to impress on his attendants the cruelty and unlawfulness of their warlike calling.
Again, it is said, that the Centurion in the 10th chap. of Acts, who is so favorably spoken of for his prayers and alms, was baptized and was recognized as a Christian, without being required to lay aside his military profession. It will be noticed, that this argument, if such it may be called, is based, like the preceding, not upon any thing positively done or said ; not upon any precept or injunction expressly given ; but upon a mere negation, a mere absence of testimony. Such an argument may have just as much weight, or as little weight as any one chooses to give it, since it is in its very nature wholly conjectural. Whether the apostle Peter, who was the person commissioned to instruct the Centurion in the principles of the Christian religion, did, or did not attempt to explain to him the inconsistency of the practice of war with those principles, cannot now be known. It is probable, that the Centurion was amply instructed in respect to the pacific nature of the Gospel ; that it implied unspeakable love in its Author and required perfect love in those who adopt it; and if he was left to make the practical application of these instructions to his particular situation and calling, it was certainly nobody's fault but his own, if he lived any longer a soldier.
We now leave the subject, so far as it depends on the doctrines of the New Testament, to the candid consideration of the reader. As the discussion, by the admission of all parties, rests chiefly and ultimately upon the Gospel, we ask him to examine it in the spirit of the Gospel. Let him subdue the elements of war in his own bosom ; let him discipline his wayward heart to the
high doctrine of perfect love ; and then, in the spirit of deep, humility and fervent prayer, let him take up the New Testament, and see how much warrant he will find for the shedding of human blood! How much authority he will discover for that course of hostility, violence, and revenge, which have made this fair world one great Aceldama, one vast and horrid place of execution, a reeking and smoking slaughter-house. We doubt not, that the time will sooner or later come, when there will be but one opinion on this all-important subject. And shall Christians any longer delay the investigation of it! Shall they sit supinely in their easy chairs, or walk softly and mincingly to their pulpits, and dream pleasant dreams, and utter soft sayings as when one playeth on a pleasant instrument, when shrieks and groans arise on every side, and the garments of their brethren are still rolled in blood! Let them pause and consider! The Gospel has an impress of its own; it is a distinct entity, a grand and effective fact in the administration of the universe ; it has its own character and relations; and is not, as some would seem to imagine, a mere Metempsychosis of heathenism, ushering itself into the world under the patronage of a new and lovely name.
TESTIMONY AND PRACTICE OF THE PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANS.
We hold the argument from the New Testament to be entirely satisfactory and conclusive in itself. We maintain, that it stands, unshakenly immovable on its own basis, without depending on collateral and adventitious aid. But still we are not at liberty to reject such aid ; but are to avail ourselves of every incidental circumstance, which may tend to communicate light and strength. The minds of different individuals are in some respects differently constituted. And in the conflict of argument, a single circumstance, (perhaps a slight and unimportant one in itself,) may establish some minds in a correct result, who, without that particular view of the subject, would never have arrived at it.
Hence before quitting the subject, we are led to suggest another consideration. We naturally inquire, how did the Primitive Christians understand the subject ? What was the impression of those, who stood nearest to the times of Christ, as to what was expected of his followers ? Did they, with the example of the Savior and of the first disciples and Apostles so directly before them, feel at liberty to gird on the sword and to engage in the dreadful business of shedding human blood ? If they did not, then the conclusion at which we have arrived, unanswerably strong as it is in itself, receives new strength,
and we are encouraged to act upon it with the greater confidence.
The statements, which follow, are taken from Clarkson's Essay on the Doctrines and Practice of the early Christians as they relate to War. They conclusively show, that the early Christians generally considered war às unlawful, and declined serving as soldiers. generally, because there are some expressions in Tertullian and Eusebius, that escaped the notice of Clarkson, which seem to indicate, that, about the year 174, there were some Christian soldiers in the Roman army. But such instances were exceptions to the general rule. They seldom occurred ; and for the first century and a half at least, we may undoubtedly pronounce the Christian Church as a body, although there were some exceptions, clear of the unspeakable sin of slaughtering their fellow men in war. The extract which follows relates to two distinct points, viz, the Opinions or Doctrines of the early Christian writers on the subject of war, and the Practice of those who became Christians.
First.—“With respect to the Opinions of the first Christian Writers after the Apostles, or of those who are usually called the Fathers of the Church, relative to War, I believe we shall find them alike for nearly three hundred years, if not for a longer period. Justin the Martyr, one of the earliest of those in the second century, considers war as unlawful. He makes, also, the devil the author of all war.
TATIAN, who was the disciple of Justin, in his oration to the Greeks, speaks in the same terms on the same subject.
From the different expressions of CLEMENS, of Alexandria, a contemporary of the latter, we collect his opinion to be decisive also against the lawfulness of war.
TERTULLIAN, who may be mentioned next in order of
time, strongly condemned the practice of bearing arms. I shall give one or two extracts from him on this subject. In his Dissertation on the Worship of Idols,” he says, “Though the soldiers came to John and received a certain form to be observed, and though the centurion believed, yet Jesus Christ, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier afterward; for custom never sanctions an unlawful act.” And in his “Soldier's Garland,” he says, “Can a soldier's life be lawful, when Christ has pronounced, that he, who lives by the sword, shall perish by the sword? Can one, who professes the peaceable doctrines of the Gospel, be a soldier, when it is his duty not so much as to go to law ? And shall he, who is not to revenge his own wrongs, be instrumental in bringing others into chains, imprisonment, torment, death?
CYPRIAN, in his Epistle to Donatus, speaks thus“ Suppose thyself with me on the top of some very exalted eminence, and from thence looking down upon the appearances of things below. Let our prospect take in the whole horizon, and let us view, with the indifference of persons not concerned in them, the various motions and agitations of human life. Thou wilt then, I dare say, have a real compassion for the circumstances of mankind, and for the posture in which this view will represent them.
And when thou reflectest upon thy condition, thy thoughts will rise in transports of gratitude and praise to God for having made thy escape from the pollutions of the world. The things thou wilt principally observe will be the highways beset with robbers, the seas with pirates ; encampments, marches, and all the terrible forms of war and bloodshed. When a single murder is committed it shall be deemed, perhaps, a. crime; but that crime shall commence a virtue, when committed under the shelter of public authority: so that punishment is not rated by the measure of guilt ; but the