A PORTRAITURE OF QUAKERISM.
TAKEN FROM A VIEW OF THE EDUCATION AND DISCIPLINE, SOCIAL MANNERS, CIVIL AND POLITICAL ECONOMY, RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES AND CHARACTER, OF THE
Society of Friends
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BY THOMAS CLARKSON, M.A.
AUTHOR OF SEVERAL ESSAYS ON THE SLAVE TRADE.
CONTENTS OF THE THIRD VOLUME.
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Civil government—Governors have no right to interfere in matters of religion—Nor are the governed bound to obey, where their consciences are oppressed by doing it—but they are to be willing to suffer the penalties annexed to their disobedience—and they are on no account to resist them by force of arms,
Oaths—Christians are not to take civil oaths—Reasons of the Quakers for their disuse of them,
SECT. I. War—Unlawful for Christians to fight—Scriptural passages in support of this tenet—Answers to these and replies,
SECT. II. These passages supported by the opinions and practice of the early Christians,
SECT. III. Objection to the motive assigned for this practice—Reply to this objection—Motive confirmed,
SECT. IV. Conduct of the early Christians further examined—While Christianity continued pure, they held it unlawful to fight—As it became less pure, their scruples against it declined—As it became corrupt, they ceased,
SECT. V. Reflections of the author on the foregoing subject—Supposed conversation with a superior being in another region—New arguments from thence,
SECT. VI. Subject further considered—Erroneous conceptions of those who argue in favor of the necessity of war—This necessary only where the policy of the world is pursued—Nature of this policy—But not necessary where men act on the policy of the Gospel,
SECT. VII. This doctrine confirmed by historical cases,
SECT. VIII. Final examination of the subject,
SECT. I. Maintenance of a Gospel ministry—Quakers hold it unlawful to pay their own ministers, or those of any other denomination, for their Gospel labours—Scriptural passages and historical facts relative to this doctrine,
SECT. II. Additional reasons against the payment of those of another denomination, as collected from a history of tithes,
SECT. III. A more particular statement of these reasons,
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Character of the Quakers—Difficulties in the proper estimation of character—These removable in the present case,
CHAPTER II. Character general or particular—General is that of a moral people,
SECT. I. Character particular—First of the particular traits is benevolence to man in his temporal capacity,
SECT. II. Second is benevolence to man in his religious capacity,
SECT. III. Third is benevolence, or a tender feeling for the brute creation,
Fourth is complacency of mind and manners,
Fifth is, that they do not sacrifice their consciences, as a body of Christians, where they believe a compliance with any law or custom to be wrong,
Sixth is, that in political affairs they reason upon principle, and not upon consequences,
Seventh is independence of mind,
SECT. I. Eighth is courage in life,
SECT. II. Ninth is courage in death,
Tenth is punctuality to words and engagements,
Imperfect traits—These are either intellectually or morally defective—First of these is a deficiency in literature and science, when compared with other people,
Second is superstition—Distinctions on this subject,
Third is obstinacy—No foundation for this trait,
SECT. I. Fourth is a money-getting spirit—This spirit seldom chargeable with avarice,
SECT. II. Practicable methods suggested for the extirpation of it,
Fifth is a want of animation or affection—This an appearance only.
Sixth is evasiveness in speech—No foundation for this trait.
CHAPTER XVI. Seventh is shyness—This an appearance only.
Eighth is a disregard of truth—Inconsistency of the imputation of this trait.
SECT. I. Character of the Quaker women—Women share in the virtues of the men, but do not partake of all their reputed imperfections.
SECT. II. Quaker women have a public character—Influence of this upon their minds.
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Quakers a happy people—Subordinate causes of this happiness.
Good, which the Quakers have done as a society upon earth.
Quakers in England on the decline in point of numbers, as a religious society—Certain causes of this decline.
Supposed remedies for the diminution of some of these causes—These of various kinds—One of these a superior education—Supposed effect of this education.
Component parts of this education—Favourable state of the society for the admission of it,
Various arguments against it—These examined,
Conclusory remarks, as they relate to those who may have had thoughts of leaving the society,
Conclusory remarks, as they relate to those who may be called the world,
GREAT TENETS OF THE QUAKERS.
Civil government—First tenet is, that governors have no right to interfere with the governed on the subject of Religion—and that if they interfere, and insist upon things which the conscience disapproves, the governed ought to refuse a compliance with them, and to bear patiently all the penalties annexed to such a refusal, but never to resist the governors by violence on this or any other account.
The Quakers hold four principles, which I shall distinguish by the name of Great Tenets. These are considered as arising out of the implied or positive injunctions of Christianity, and were insisted upon as essentials on the formation of the society. The first of these is on the subject of Civil Government.
Civil Government had existed long before the appearance of Christianity in the world. Legislators since that era, as they have imbibed its spirit, so they have introduced this spirit more or less into their respective codes. But, no nation has ever professed to change its system of jurisprudence, or to model it anew, in consequence of the new light which Christianity has afforded: neither have the alterations been so numerous in any nation, however high its profession of Christianity, with respect to laws, as to enable us to say, that there is any government in the known world, of Christian origin, or any government wholly upon the principles of the gospel.
If all men were to become real Christians, civil government would become less necessary. As there would be then no offences, there would be no need of magistracy or of punishment. As men would then settle any differences between them amicably, there would be no necessity for courts of law. As they would then never fight, there would be no need of armies. As they would then consider their fellow-creatures as brethren, they would relieve them as such, and there would be no occasion of laws for the poor. As men would then have more solicitude for the public good, and more large and liberal notions, than at any former time, they would of themselves conceive and raise all necessary public institutions and works. Government then is not so necessary for real Christians. It is necessary principally, as the apostle says, for evil-doers. But if it be chiefly necessary for evil-doers, then governors ought to be careful how they make laws, which may vex, harrass, and embarrass Christians, whom they will always find to be the best part of their communities, or, in other words, how they make laws, which Christians, on account of their religious scruples, cannot conscientiously obey.
It is a tenet of the Quakers, on the subject of government, that the civil magistrate has no right to interfere in religious matters, so as either to force any particular doctrines upon men, or to hinder them from worshipping God in their own way, provided that, by their creeds and worship, they do no detriment to others. The Quakers believe, however, that Christian churches may admonish such members as fall into error, and may even cut them off from membership, but this must be done not by the temporal, but by the spiritual sword.
This tenet the Quakers support, first, by reason. Religion, they say, is a matter solely, between God and man, that is, between God and that man who worships him. This must be obvious, they conceive, because man is not accountable to man for his religious opinions, except he binds himself to the discipline of any religious society, but to God alone. It must be obvious again, they say, because no man can be a judge over the conscience of another. He can know nothing of the sincerity or hypocrisy of his heart. He can be neither an infallible judge, nor an infallible correcter of his religious errors. "The conscience of man, says Barclay, is the seat and throne of God in him, of which he alone is the proper and infallible judge, who, by his power and spirit, can rectify its mistakes." It must be obvious again, they say, from the consideration that, if it were even possible for one man to discern the conscience of another, it is impossible for him to bend or controul it. But conscience is placed both out of his sight and of his reach. It is neither visible nor tangible. It is inaccessible by stripes or torments. Thus, while the body is in bondage, on account of the religion of the soul, the soul itself is free, and, while it suffers under torture, it enjoys the divinity, and feels felicity in his presence. But if all these things are so, it cannot be within the province either of individual magistrates or of governments, consisting of fallible men, to fetter the consciences of those who may live under them. And any attempt to this end is considered by the Quakers as a direct usurpation of the prerogative of God.
This tenet the Quakers adopt again on a contemplation of the conduct and doctrines of Jesus Christ and of his apostles. They find nothing in these, which can give the least handle to any man to use force in the religious concerns of another. During the life of Jesus Christ upon earth, it is no where recorded of him, that he censured any man for his religion. It is true that he reproved the Scribes and Pharisees, but this was on account of their hypocrisy, because they pretended to be what they were not. But he no where condemned the devout Jew, who was sincere in his faith. But if he be found no where to have censured another for a difference in religious opinions, much less was it ever said of him, that he forced him to the adoption of his own. In the memorable instance, where James and John were willing to have called fire from Heaven, to burn those who refused to receive him, he rebuked them by an assurance, that "they knew not what spirit they were of." And, with respect to his doctrines, nothing can be more full to the point than his saying, that "his kingdom was not of this world," by which he meant that his dominion was wholly of a spiritual nature, and that men must cast off all worldly imaginations, and become spiritually minded, before, they could belong to him. But no application of outward force, in the opinion of the Quakers, can thus alter the internal man. Nor can even the creeds and doctrines of others produce this effect, except they become sanctioned by the divine influence on the heart.
Neither is it recorded of any of the apostles, that they used any other weapons than those of persuasion and the power of God in the propagation of their doctrines, leaving such as did not choose to follow them to their own way. They were explicit also in stating the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom, from whence an inference similar to the former is deducible, namely, that no compulsory interference can be effectual in matters of religion. And St. Paul, in particular, tells the Corinthians, that, in his spiritual services to them, he does not consider himself "as having any dominion over their faith, but as helpers of their joy."
[Footnote 1: 2 Cor. i. 24.]
But if neither Jesus Christ, who was the author of that religion, which many civil governments have established, nor the apostles, who afterwards propagated it, forced their doctrines upon other men, or hindered them by force from worshipping in their own way, even though the former could have called legions of angels to his support, it certainly does not become weak, ignorant, and fallible men, because they are placed in the situation of governors, to set up their own creeds as supreme, and to throw penalties and restrictions in the way of the religious exercise of others.
But if governors, contrary to the example of Jesus Christ and of his apostles, should interfere in religious matters, and impose laws upon the governed, of which, as Christians, they cannot but disapprove, then the Quakers are of opinion, that the governed ought always to obey the laws of Jesus Christ, rather than the laws of any governors, who are only men. Thus when Peter and John were commanded by the rulers of the Jews to speak no more in the name of Jesus, they dared not yield obedience to their commands, reasoning thus, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye."
[Footnote 2: Acts iv. 19.]
And as the governed in such case ought, in obedience to God, the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and the King of Kings, to refuse a compliance with the laws of their own governors, so they ought to be prepared patiently to submit to the penalties which are annexed to such refusal, and on no account, if just representations made in the meek and quiet spirit of their religion, are not likely to be effectual, to take up arms or resist them by force. And this doctrine they ground, first, on the principle, that it is not only more noble, but more consistent with their duty as Christians, to suffer, than to give growth to the passions of revenge, or by open resistance to become the occasion of loss of life to others. And, secondly, on the example of Jesus Christ, and of the apostles and primitive Christians, all of whom patiently submitted to the pains and penalties inflicted upon them by the governments of their respective times for the exercise of their religion.
Oaths—Quakers conceive it unlawful for Christians to take an oath—their sufferings on this account—Consider oaths as unnecessary—as having an immoral tendency, which even the Heathens allowed—and as having been forbidden by Jesus Christ—Explanation of the scriptural passages cited on this occasion—Christianity not so perfect with the lawfulness of oaths as without it—Other reasons taken from considerations relative to the ancient oath "by the name of God"
A second tenet, which the Quakers hold, is, that it is unlawful for Christians to take a civil oath.
Many and grievous were the sufferings of the Quakers, in the early part of their history, on account of their refusing to swear before the civil magistrate. They were insulted, fined, and imprisoned. Some of the judges too indulged a rancour against them on this account, unworthy of their high office, which prescribed justice impartially to all. For when they could not convict them of the offences laid to their charge, they administered to them the oath of allegiance, knowing that they would not take it, and that confiscation of property and imprisonment would ensue. But neither ill usage, nor imprisonment, nor loss of property, ever made any impression upon the Quakers, so as to induce them to swear in judicial cases, and they continued to suffer, till the legislature, tired out with the cries of their oppression, decreed, that their affirmation should in all cases except criminal, or in that of serving upon juries, or in that of qualifications for posts of honour or emolument under government, be received as equivalent to their oath. And this indulgence towards them is continued to them by law to the present day.
The Quakers have an objection to oaths, as solemn appeals to God, because they are unnecessary.
It is an old saying among the Quaker writers, that "truth was before all oaths." By this they mean, there was a time, when men's words were received as truths, without the intervention of an oath. Ancient fable, indeed, tells us, that there were no oaths in the golden age, but that, when men departed from their primitive simplicity, and began to quarrel with one another, they had recourse to falsehood to substantiate their own case, after which it became necessary, that some expedient should be devised, in the case of disputes, for the ascertaining the truth. Hence Hesiod makes the god of oaths the son of Esis or of contention. This, account differs but little from that of Polybuis, who says, that the use of oaths in judgment was rare among the ancients, but that, as perfidy grew, oaths increased.
And as it is a saying of the Quakers, that "truth was before all oaths," so they believe, that truth would be spoken, if oaths were done away. Thus, that which is called honour by the world, will bind men to the truth, who perhaps know but little of religion. But if so, then he, who makes Christianity his guide, will not be found knowingly in a falsehood, though he be deprived of the opportunity of swearing.
But if it be true, that truth existed before the invention of oaths, and that truth would still be spoken, even if all oaths were abolished, then the Quakers say, that oaths are not so necessary as some have imagined, because they have but a secondary effect in the production of the truth. This conclusion they consider also as the result of reason. For good men will speak truth without an oath, and bad men will hardly be influenced by one. And where oaths are regarded, it is probable that truth is forced out of men, not so much, because they consider them as solemn appeals to God, as that they consider the penalties, which will follow their violation; so that a simple affirmation, under the same pains and penalties, would be equally productive of the truth.
The Quakers consider oaths again as very injurious to morality. For first, they conceive it to be great presumption in men to summon God as a witness in their trilling and earthly concerns.
They believe, secondly, that, if men accustom themselves to call upon God on civil occasions, they render his name so familiar to them, that they are likely to lose the reverence due to it, or so to blend religious with secular considerations, that they become in danger of losing sight of the dignity, solemnity, and awfulness of devotion. And it is not an unusual remark, that persons, most accustomed to oaths, are the most likely to perjury. A custom-house oath has become proverbial in our own country. I do not mean by this to accuse mercantile men in particular, but to state it as a received opinion, that, where men make solemn things familiar, there is a danger of their moral degradation. Hence the Quakers consider the common administration of oaths to have a tendency that is injurious to the moral interests of men.
This notion relative to the bad tendency of oaths, the Quakers state to have prevailed even in the Gentile world. As Heathen philosophy became pure, it branded the system of swearing as pernicious to morals. It was the practice of the Persians to give each other their right hand as a token of their speaking the truth. He, who gave his hand deceitfully, was accounted more detestable than if he had sworn the Scythians, in their conference with Alexander the Great, addressed him thus: "Think not that the Scythians confirm their friendship by an oath. They swear by keeping their word." The Phrygians were wholly against oaths. They neither took them themselves, nor required them of others. Among the proverbs of the Arabs, this was a celebrated one, "Never swear, but let thy word be yes or no." So religious was Hercules, says Plutarch, that he never swore but once. Clinias, a Greek philosopher, and a scholar of Pythagoras, is said to have dreaded an oath so much, that, when by swearing he could have escaped a fine of three talents, he chose rather to pay the money than do it, though he was to have sworn nothing but the truth. Indeed, throughout all Greece, the system of swearing was considered as of the most immoral tendency, the very word, which signified "perjured," in the Greek language, meaning, when analysed, "he that adds oath to oath," or "the taker of many oaths."
But, above all, the Quakers consider oaths as unlawful for Christians, having been positively forbidden by Jesus Christ.
The words, in which they conceived this prohibition to have been contained, they take from the sermon on the Mount.
 "Again, ye have heard, that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths."
[Footnote 3: Matt. v. 33.]
"But I say unto you, swear not at all, neither by heaven, because it is God's throne."
"Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King."
"Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black."
"But let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil."
It is said by those, who oppose the Quakers on this subject, that these words relate, not to civil oaths, but to such as are used by profane persons in the course of their conversation. But the Quakers deny this, because the disciples, as Jews, must have known that profane swearing had been unlawful long before this prohibition of Jesus Christ. They must relate, therefore, to something else, and to something, which had not before been forbidden.
They deny it also on account of the construction of the sentences, and of the meaning of the several words in these. For the words, "Swear not at all," in the second of the verses, which have been quoted, have an immediate reference to the words in the first. Thus they relate to the word "forswear," in the first. But if they relate to the word "forswear," they must relate to perjury, and if to perjury, then to a civil oath, or to an oath, where an appeal is made to God by man, as to something relating to himself. The word oath also is explicitly mentioned in the first of these verses, and mentioned as an oath which had been allowed. Now there was one oath, which had been allowed in ancient time. The Jews had been permitted, in matters of judgment, to swear by the name of God. This permission was given them, for one, among other reasons, that they might be prevented from swearing by the name of those idols by which their neighbours swore; for a solemn appeal to any Heathen god necessarily includes an acknowledgment of the omnipresence of the same.
That they related to this oath in particular, the Quakers conceive to be obvious from the prohibition in the verses which have been cited, of swearing by heaven, by earth, and by other things. The Jews, knowing the sacredness of the name of God, had an awful notion of the consequences of perjury, if committed after an appeal to it, and therefore had recourse to the names of the creatures, in case they should swear falsely. But even the oaths, thus substituted by them, are forbidden by Jesus Christ; and they are forbidden upon this principle, as we find by a subsequent explanation given by St. Matthew, that whosoever swore by these creatures, really and positively swore by the name of God. But if they are forbidden, because swearing by these creatures is the same thing as swearing by God who made them, then the oath "by the name of God," which had been permitted to the Jews of old, was intended by Jesus Christ to be discontinued, or to have no place in his new religion.
The Quakers then, considering the words in question to have the meaning now annexed to them, give the following larger explanation of what was the intention of our Saviour upon this occasion.
In his sermon on the Mount, of which these words on the subject of oaths are a part, he inculcated into his disciples a system of morality, far exceeding that of the Jews, and therefore in the verses which precede those upon this subject, he tells them, that whereas it was said of old, "thou shall not kill," he expected of them, that they should not even entertain the passion of revenge. And whereas it was said of old, "thou shalt not commit adultery," he expected, that they should not even lust after others, if they were married, or after those in a married state. Thus he brings both murder and adultery from act to thought. He attaches a criminality to unlawful feelings if not suppressed, or aims at the subjugation of the passions, as the springs of the evil actions of men. Going on to shew the farther superiority of his system of morality over that of the Jews, he says again, whereas it was said of old, "thou shall not forswear thyself," he expects that they should not swear at all, not even by the name of God, which had been formerly allowed, for that he came to abrogate the ancient law, and perjury with it. It was his object to make the word of his true disciples equal to the ancient oath. Thus he substituted truth for oaths. And he made this essential difference between a Jew and a Christian, that, whereas the one swore in order that he might be believed; the other was to speak truth in order that he might not swear. Such was the intended advance from Jew to Christian, or from Moses to Christ.
The Quakers are farther confirmed in their ideas upon this subject, by believing, that Christianity would not have been as perfect as they apprehend it to have been intended to be, without this restriction upon oaths. Is it possible, they say, that Jesus Christ would have left it to Christians to imagine, that their words were to be doubted on any occasion? Would he have left it to them to think so dishonourably of one another, or of their new vocation, that their words were to be tried by the touchstone of oaths, when his religion was to have a greater effect than any former system of morality ever known, in the production of truth? Is it possible, when oaths sprung out of fraud and falsehood, as he himself witnesses, (for whatever is more than yea and nay, cometh of evil) that he would have left this remnant of antiquity standing, as if his religion was not intended to extirpate the very ground-work of it?
Finally, the Quakers are confirmed in their ideas upon this subject from a belief that oaths were to cease, either at the coming of Jesus Christ, or as men became Christians. For, in the first place, the oath "by the name of God," is considered by some, as I have before noticed, to have been permitted to the Jews during their weak state, that they might not swear by the idols of their cotemporary neighbours, and thus lose sight of the only and true God. But what Christian stands in need of any preservative against idolatry, or of any commemorative of the existence and superintendence of an almighty, wise, beneficent, and moral Governor of the world? Some again have imagined, that, as the different purifications among the Jews, denoting the holiness of God, signified that it became men to endeavour to be holy, so the oath "by the name of God," denoting the verity of God, signified, that it became men to devote themselves to the truth. But no true Christian stands in need of such symbols, to make him consider his word as equivalent to his oath. Others again have imagined, that the oath "by the name of God," typified the truth, or the eternal word. But as the type ceases when the antitype appears, so the coming of Jesus Christ, who in the gospel language is called both the truth and the eternal word, may be considered as putting an end to this, as to other types and shadows, of the Jewish church.
War—Tenet on war—Quakers hold it unlawful for Christians to fight—Scriptural passages, which they produce in support of this tenet—Arguments which others produce from scriptural authority against it—Reply of the Quakers to these arguments.
The next of the great tenets which the Quakers hold, is on the subject of war. They believe it unlawful for Christians to engage in the profession of arms, or indeed to bear arms under any circumstances of hostility whatever. Hence there is no such character as that of a Quaker soldier. A Quaker is always able to avoid the regular army, because the circumstance of entering into it is a matter of choice. But where he has no such choice, as is the case in the militia, he either submits, if he has property, to distraints upon it, or, if he has not, to prison.
[Footnote 4: The Quakers have been charged with inconsistency in refusing military service, and yet in paying those taxes, which are expressly for the support of wars. To this charge they reply, that they believe it to be their duty to render to Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to leave the application of them to Caesar himself, as he judges best for the support of government. This duty they collect from the example of Jesus Christ, who paid the tribute money himself, and ordered his disciples to do it, and this to a government, not only professedly military, but distinguished for its idolatry and despotism. Personal service, however, they conceive to militate against a positive command by our Saviour, as will be explained in this chapter.]
The Quakers ground the illicitness of war on several passages, which are to be found in the New Testament. I shall not quote all the texts they bring forward, but shall make a selection of them on this occasion.
Jesus Christ, in the famous sermon, which he preached upon the Mount, took occasion to mention specifically some of the precepts of the Jewish law, and to inform his hearers, that he expected of those, who were to be his true disciples, that they would carry these to a much higher extent in their practice under the new dispensation, which he was then affording them. Christianity required a greater perfection of the human character than under the law. Men were not only not to kill, but not even to cherish the passion of revenge. And "whereas it was said of old, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, I say unto you, says Christ, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." And farther on in the same chapter, he says, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy: But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the Publicans the same? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Now the Quakers are of opinion, that no man can receive this doctrine his heart, and assist either offensively or defensively in the operations of war.
[Footnote 5: Matt. v. 38.]
[Footnote 6: The Heathen nations, on account of their idolatry, were called enemies by the Jews.]
Other passages, quoted by the Quakers, in favour of their tenet on war, are taken from the apostles Paul and James conjointly.
The former, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, says, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, to the casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." From hence the Quakers argue, that the warfare of Christianity, or that which Christianity recognises, is not carnal, but spiritual, and that it consists in the destruction of the evil imaginations, or of the evil lusts and passions of men. That is, no man can be a true soldier of Christ, unless his lusts are subdued, or unless the carnal be done away by the spiritual mind. Now this position having been laid down by St. Paul, or the position having been established in Christian morals, that a state of subjugated passions is one of the great characteristic marks of a true Christian, the Quakers draw a conclusion from it by the help of the words of St. James. This apostle, in his letter to the dispersed tribes, which were often at war with each other, as well as with the Romans, says, "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence even of your lusts that war in your members?" But if wars come from the lusts of men, then the Quakers say, that those who have subdued their lusts, can no longer engage in them, or, in other words, that true Christians, being persons of this description, or being such, according to St. Paul, as are redeemed out of what St. James calls the very grounds and occasions of wars, can no longer fight. And as this proposition is true in itself, so the Quakers conceive the converse of it to be true also: For if there are persons, on the other hand, who deliberately engage in the wars and fightings of the world, it is a proof, that their lusts are not yet subjugated, or that, though they may be nominal, they are not yet arrived at the stature of true or of full-grown Christians.
[Footnote 7: 2 Cor. x. 3, 4, 5.]
[Footnote 8: James iv. I.]
A third quotation, made by the Quakers, is taken from St. Paul exclusively. "Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." That is, if men have not the same disposition which Jesus Christ manifested in the different situations of his life, the same spirit of humility and of forbearance, and of love, and of forgiveness of injuries, or if they do not follow him as a pattern, or if they do not act as he would have done on any similar occasion, they are not Christians. Now they conceive, knowing what the spirit of Jesus was by those things which have been recorded of him, that he could never have been induced or compelled, by any earthly consideration or power, to have engaged in the wars of the world. They are aware that his mission, which it became him to fulfil, and which engrossed all his time, would not have allowed him the opportunity of a military life. But they believe, independently of this, that the spirit which he manifested upon earth, would have been of itself a sufficient bar to such an employment. This they judge from his opinions and his precepts. For how could he have taken up arms to fight, who enjoined in the new dispensation, that men were not to resist evil; that they were to love their enemies; that they were to bless those who cursed them, and to do good to those who hated them? This they judge also from his practice. For how could he have lifted up his arm against another, who, "when he was reviled, reviled not again;" and who, in his very agony upon the Cross, prayed for his persecutors, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But if Jesus Christ could not have been induced or compelled to have engaged in a profession, which would have subjected him to take away the life of another, so neither can any Christian; "for if a man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
[Footnote 9: Rom. viii. 9.]
Three arguments are usually brought against the Quakers on this subject.
The first is, that John the Baptist, when the soldiers demanded of him what they should do, did not desire them to leave the service in which they were engaged, but, on the other hand, to be content with their wages. To this the Quakers reply, that John told them also, "to do violence to no man." But even if he had not said this, they apprehend that nothing could be deduced from his expressions, which could become binding upon Christians. For John was the last prophet of the old dispensation, but was never admitted into the new. He belonged to the system which required an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but not to that which required no resistance to evil, and which insisted upon the love of enemies as well as of friends. Hence Jesus Christ said of him, that "he who was least in the kingdom of heaven, was greater than he."
[Footnote 10: Luke iii. 14.]
The second argument brought against the Quakers on this occasion, is of a similar nature with the former. It is said that, if war had been unlawful, our Saviour, when the centurion came to him at Capernaum, would have found fault with his profession; but he did not do this, but on the other hand he highly commended him for his religion. In answer to this the Quakers observe, first, that no solid argument can be drawn from silence on any occasion. Secondly, that Jesus Christ seems, for wise purposes, to have abstained from meddling with many of the civil institutions of his time, though in themselves wicked, thinking probably, that it was sufficient to have left behind him such general precepts, as, when applied properly, would be subversive of them all. And, thirdly, that he never commended the centurion on account of his military situation, but on account of his profession of his faith.
[Footnote 11: Matt. viii. 5.]
They say farther, that they can bring an argument of a much more positive nature than that just mentioned, from an incident which took place, and where Jesus was again concerned. When Peter cut off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest, who was concerned in the apprehension of his Lord, he was not applauded, but reprimanded for the part which he thus took in his defence in the following words: "Put up again thy sword in its place, for all they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword." Now the Quakers conceive, that much more is to be inferred against the use of the sword from this instance, than from the former in favour of it.
[Footnote 12: Matt. xxvi, 52.]
The last argument, which is usually adduced against the Quakers on this subject, is, that they have mistaken the meaning of the words of the famous sermon upon the Mount. These words teach us the noble lesson, that it is more consistent with the character of a Christian to forgive, than to resist an injury. They are, it is said, wholly of private import, and relate solely to private occurrences in life. But the Quakers have extended the meaning of them beyond private to public injuries or wars.
The Quakers, in answer to this observe, that they dare not give to the words in question a less extensive meaning. They relate to every one who reads them. They relate to the poor. They relate to the rich. They relate to, every potentate who may be the ruler of a land. They relate to every individual of his council. There is no exception, or dispensation to any one, in favour of any case.
That they relate to public as well as private wars, or that they extend themselves naturally to those which are public, the Quakers conceive it reasonable to suppose from the following consideration. No man, they apprehend, can possess practically the divine principle of loving an individual enemy at home, or of doing good to the man who hates him, but he must of necessity love his enemy in any and every other place. He must have gone so for forward on the road to Christian perfection, as to be unable to bear arms against any other person whatsoever, and particularly when, according to the doctrines of the New Testament, no geographical boundaries fix the limits of love and enmity between man and man, but the whole human race are considered as the children of the same parent, and therefore as brothers to one another. But who can truly love an enemy and kill him? And where is the difference, under the Gospel dispensation, between Jew and Gentile, Greek and Barbarian, bond and free?
That these words were meant to extend to public as well as to private ware, the Quakers believe again from the views which they entertain relative to the completion of prophecy. They believe that a time will come, in one or other of the succeeding ages, "when men shall bent their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall not learn war any more." Now other Christians, who differ from them in the interpretation of the words in question, believe equally with them, that the times thus predicted will come to pass. The question then is, whether the more enlarged interpretation of these words, as insisted upon by the Quakers, or of the less enlarged as insisted upon by others, be the most consistent with the belief of the future accomplishment of the prophecy just mentioned. And in this case the Quakers are of opinion, that if wars were ever to cease, one ought to expect that some foundation would have been previously laid in Christianity for this great and important end. The subjugation of the passions, which it is the direct tendency of Christianity to effect, would produce this end. And so far such a foundation has already been laid in this system. But as the admission of moral precepts into the education of man, so as to form habits of moral opinion, is another, way of influencing conduct in life, the Quakers think it likely that some such maxim as "that Christians should not fight," would have been introduced also, because the adoption of such a maxim would have had a similar tendency with the subjugation of the passions in producing the same end. For it seems absurd, they conceive, to suppose that wars should cease, and that no precept should have been held out that they were wrong. But the more enlarged interpretation of the words in question furnishes such a precept, and therefore another foundation seems to have been laid in Christianity for the same end. They admit, therefore, the larger interpretation as included in the less, because it comports more with the design of Providence, who, by the mouth of his prophets wills universal peace, that the prohibition of public as well as of private wars should be understood as a Christian doctrine, than that the words in question should be confined to private injuries alone.
The last reason, which the Quakers give for adopting the larger interpretation of the words in the sermon upon the Mount, as well as the less, is the following. They are of opinion, that, as Christians, they ought not to lessen the number of the moral obligations of the Gospel. They ought not to abridge its dignity, nor to put limits to its benevolence. If it was the desire of Jesus Christ, that men should love their enemies, it is their duty to believe, that his wish could not have been otherwise than universal. If it was an object with him to cure moral evil, it is their duty to suppose, that it was his desire to destroy it, not partially, but to the utmost possible extent. If it was his design to give happiness to man, it is their duty to determine, that he intended to give it not in a limited proportion, but in the largest measure. But when they consider the nature of wars, that they militate against the law of preservation, that they include the commission of a multitude of crimes, that they produce a complication of misery and suffering to man, they conceive they would not be doing their duty as Christians, or giving to Christianity its due honour, if they were not to admit the larger meaning of the words in question as well as the less. Reason too, pleads for the one as well as for the other. Consistency of moral doctrine again demands both. But if we admit the restricted interpretation, and exclude the larger, we offend reason. All consistency is at an end. Individual responsibility for moral turpitude will be taken from man. Crimes, clearly marked and defined in the page of Christianity, will cease to be crimes at the will of princes. One contradiction will rush in after another; and men will have two different standards of morality, as they adhere to the commands of the Gospel, or to the customs of governments or of the world.
_Meaning of the scriptural passages advanced by the Quakers, supported by the opinions and practice of the early Christians—Early Christian writers held it unlawful for Christians to fight, as appears from Justin—Tatian—Clemens—and others—Christians would not enter into the armies for more than two centuries, as appears from Ireneus—Tertullian —Celsus—Origen and others—and generally left the military service, if they happened to be converted in it.
It may be presumed to be difficult for Christians, who have been in the habit of seeing wars entered into and carried on by their own and other Christian governments, and without any other censure than that they might be politically wrong, to see the scriptural passages of "non-resistance to evil and love of enemies," but through a vitiated medium. The prejudices of some, the interests of others, and custom with all, will induce a belief among them, that these have no relation to public wars. At least they will be glad to screen themselves under such a notion. But the question is, what a Heathen would have said to these passages, who, on his conversion to Christianity, believed that the New Testament was of divine origin, that it was the book of life, and that the precepts, which it contained, were not to be dispensed with, to suit particular cases, without the imputation of evil. Now such a trial, the Quakers say, has been made. It was made by the first Christians, and they affirm, that these interpreted the passages, which have been mentioned, differently from those of most of the Christians of the present age; for that both their opinions and their practice spoke loudly against the lawfulness of war.
Upon this new subject I shall enter next. And I confess I shall enter upon it willingly. First, because I know of none that is more important. Secondly, because, though controversy may have thrown some light upon it, much remains to be added. And, thirdly, because the assertions of the Quakers on this point are disputed by many at the present day. With respect to the opinions of the early Quakers, which I shall notice first, it must be premised, that such of them as have written books, have not all of them entered on this subject. Some of them have not had even occasion to mention it. But where they have, and where they have expressed an opinion, I believe that this will be found unfavourable to the continuance of war.
Justin the Martyr, one of the earliest writers in the second century, considers war as unlawful. He makes also the devil "the author of all war." No severer sentence could have been passed upon it than this, when we consider it as coming from the lips of an early Christian. The sentiment too was contrary to the prevailing sentiments of the times, when, of all professions, that of war was most honourable, and was the only one that was considered to lead to glory. It resulted, therefore, in all probablity, from the new views, which Justin had acquired by a perusal of such of the scriptures, as had then fallen into his hands.
Tatian, who was the disciple of Justin, in his oration to the Greeks, speaks precisely 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 against the lawfulness of war.
Tertullian, who may be mentioned next in order of time, strongly condemned the practice of bearing arms, as it related to Christians. 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 afterwards: for custom never sanctions an illicit 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, takes a view of such customs in his own times, as he conceived to be repugnant to the spirit or the letter of the Gospel. In looking at war, which was one of them, he speaks thus: "Suppose thyself, says he, with me on the top of some very exalted eminence, and from thence looking down upon the appearances of things beneath thee. 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 more enormous the size of the wickedness is, so much the greater is the chance for impunity." These are the sentiments of Cyprian, and that they were the result of his views of Christianity, as taken from the divine writings, there can be little doubt. If he had stood upon the same eminence, and beheld the same sights previously to his conversion, he might, like others, have neither thought piracy dishonourable, nor war inglorious.
Lactantius, who lived some time after Cyprian, in his treatise "Concerning the True Worship of God," says, "It can never be lawful for a righteous man to go to war, whose warfare is in righteousness itself," And in another part of the same treatise he observes, that "no exception can be made with respect to this command of God. It can never be lawful to kill a man, whose person the Divine Being designed to be sacred as to violence."
It will be unnecessary to make extracts from other of the early Christian writers, who mention this subject. I shall therefore only observe, that the names of Origen, Archelaus, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerom, and Cyril, may be added, to those already mentioned, as the names of persons who gave it as their opinion, that it was unlawful for Christians to go to war.
With respect to the practice of the early Christians, which is the next point to be considered, it may be observed, that there is no well authenticated instance upon record, of Christians entering into the army for the first two centuries; but it is true, on the other hand, that they declined the military profession, as one in which it was not lawful for them to engage.
The first species of evidence, which I shall produce to this point, may be found in the following facts, which reach from the year 169 to the year 198, Avidius Crassus had rebelled against the emperor Verus, and was slain in a short time afterwards. Clodius Albinus in one part of the world, and Pescenninus Niger in another, rebelled against the emperor Severus, and both were slain likewise. Now suspicion fell, as it always did in these times, if any thing went wrong, upon the Christians, as having been concerned upon these occasions. But Tertullian, in his Discourse to Scapula, tells us, that no Christians were to be found in these armies. And yet these armies were extensive. Crassus was master of all Syria, with its four legions, Niger of the Asiatic and Egyptian legions, and Albinus of those of Britain, which legions together contained between a third and an half of the standing legions of Rome. And the fact, that no Christians were to be found in these, is the more remarkable, because, according to the same Tertullian, Christianity had reached all the places, in which these armies were.
A second species of evidence, as far as it goes, may be collected from expressions and declarations in the works of certain authors of those times. Justin the Martyr, and Tatian, make distinctions between soldiers and Christians; and the latter says, that the Christians declined even military commands. Clemens of Alexandria, gives the Christians, who were cotemporary with him, the appellation of "peaceable, or of the followers of peace," thus distinguishing them from the soldiers of his age. And he says expressly, that "those, who were the followers of peace, used none of the instruments of war."
A third species of evidence, which is of the highest importance in this case, is the belief which the writers of these times had, that the prophecy of Isaiah, which stated, that men should turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, was then in the act of completion.
Irenaeus, who flourished about the year 180, affirms, that this famous prophecy had been completed in his time; "for the Christians, says he, have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not how to fight," Justin Martyr, who was cotemporary with Irenaeus, asserted the same thing, which he could not have done if the Christians in his time had engaged in war. "That the prophecy, says he, is fulfilled, you have good reason to believe, for we, who in times past killed one another, do not now fight with our enemies." And here it is observable, that the word "fight" does not mean to strike, or to beat, or to give a blow, but to fight as in war; and the word "enemy" does not mean a common adversary, or one who has injured us, but an enemy of the state; and the sentence, which follows that which has been given, puts the matter again out of all doubt. Tertullian, who lived after these, speaks in those remarkable words: "Deny that these (meaning the turning of swords into ploughshares) are the things prophesied of, when you see what you see, or that they are the things fulfilled, when you read what you read; but if you deny neither of these positions, then you must confess, that the prophecy has been accomplished, as far as the practice of every individual is concerned, to whom it is applicable." I might go from Tertullian even as far as Theoderet, if it were necessary, to shew, that the prophecy in question was considered as in the act of completion in those times.
The fourth and last proof will be found in the assertions of Celsus, and in the reply of Origen to that writer. Celsus, who lived at the end of the second century, attacked the Christian religion. He made it one of his charges against the Christians, that they refused in his time to bear arms for the emperor, even in the case of necessity, and when their services would have been accepted. He told them farther, that if the rest of the empire were of their opinion, it would soon be overrun by the Barbarians. Now Celsus dared not have brought this charge against the Christians, if the fact had not been publicly known. But let us see whether it was denied by those, who were of opinion that his work demanded a reply. The person, who wrote against him in favour of Christianity, was Origen, who lived in the third century. But Origen, in his answer, admits the fact as stated by Celsus, that the Christians would not bear arms, and justifies them for refusing the practice on the principle of the unlawfulness of war.
And as the early Christians would not enter into the armies, so there is good ground to suppose, that, when they became converted in them, they relinquished their profession. Human nature was the same both in and out of the armies, and would be equally worked upon, in this new state of things, in both cases. Accordingly we find, from Tertullian, in his "Soldier's Garland," that many in his time, immediately on their conversion, quitted the military service. We are told also, by Archelaus, who flourished under Probus in the year 278, that many Roman soldiers, who had embraced Christianity, after having witnessed the piety and generosity of Marcellus, immediately forsook the profession of arms. We are told also by Eusebius, that, about the same time, "Numbers laid aside a military life, and became private persons, rather than abjure their religion." And here it may not be unworthy of remark, that soldiers, after their conversion, became so troublesome in the army, both on account of their scruples against the idolatrous practices required of the soldiery, and their scruples against fighting, that they were occasionally dismissed the service on these accounts.
Objection to the foregoing statement, that the idolatry, which was then connected with the military service, and not the unlawfulness of war, was the reason why Christians declined it—Idolatry admitted to be a cause—Instance in Marinus—But the belief of the unlawfulness of fighting was another, and an equally powerful cause—Instances in Maximilian—Marcellus—Cassian—Marlin—The one scruple as much then a part of the Christian religion as the other.
As an objection may be made to the foregoing statement, I think it proper to notice it in this place.
It will be said, that the military oath, which all were obliged to take alike in the Roman armies, and which was to be repeated annually, was full of idolatry; that the Roman standards were all considered as gods, and had divine honours paid to them by the soldiery; and that the images also of the emperors, which were either fixed upon these standards, or placed in the midst of them in a temple in the camp, were to be adored in the same manner. Now these customs were interwoven with the military service. No Roman soldier was exempted from them. It will be urged, therefore, that no Christian could submit to these services. Indeed when a person was suspected of being a Christian in those times, he was instantly taken to the altars to sacrifice, it being notorious, that if he were a Christian he would not sacrifice, though at the hazard of his life. Is it not, therefore, to be presumed, that these idolatrous tests operated as the great cause, why Christians refused to enter into the army, or why they left it when converted as described in the former section?
That these tests operated as a cause, we must allow. And let this be considered as an insuperable argument against those, who contend that there were Christian soldiers in these times, for no Christian could submit to such idolatrous homage; but, if so, no Christian could be a soldier.
That these tests must have operated as a cause, we may infer from the history of Marinus. Marinus, according to Eusebius, was a man of family and fortune, and an officer in a legion, which, in the year 260, was stationed at Caesarea of Palestine. One of the centurion's rods happened to become vacant in this legion, and Marinus was appointed to it. But just at this moment another, next to him in rank, accused him before the tribunal of being a Christian, stating, that "the laws did not allow a Christian, who refused to sacrifice to the emperors, to hold any dignity in the army." Achaeus, the judge, asked Marinus if it was true, that he had become a Christian. He acknowledged it. Three hours were then allowed him to consider, whether he would sacrifice or die. When the time was expired, he chose the latter. Indeed, so desirous were the early Christians of keeping clear of idolatry in every shape, that they avoided every custom that appeared in the least degree connected with it. Thus when a largess was given in honour of the emperors, L. Septimius Severus the father, and M. Aurelius Caracalla the son, a solitary soldier, as we learn from Tertullian, was seen carrying the garland, which had been given him on that occasion, in his hand, while the rest wore it upon their heads. On being interrogated by the commander, why he refused wearing it, he replied, that he had become a Christian. He was immediately punished before the army, and sent into prison. What became of him afterwards is not related. But it must be clear, if he lived and cherished his Christian feelings, that, when the day of the renewal of his oath, or of the worshipping of the standards, or of any sacrifice in the camp, should arrive, he would have refused these services, or abandoned his profession.
[Footnote 13: The priests wore the garland, when they sacrificed to the Heathen gods.]
But though unquestionably the idolatrous services, required of the soldiers of those times, hindered Christians from entering into the armies, and compelled those, who were converted in them, to leave them, nothing is more true, than that the belief, that it was unlawful for Christians to fight, occasioned an equal abhorrence of a military life. One of the first effects, which Christianity seems to have produced upon its first converts, when it was pure and unadulterated, and unmixed with the interpretations of political men, was a persuasion, that it became them, in obedience to the divine commands, to abstain from all manner of violence, and to become distinguishable as the followers of peace. We find accordingly from Athenagoras, and other early writers, that the Christians of his time, abstained, when they were struck, from striking again, and that they carried their principles so far, as even to refuse to go to law with those who injured them. We find also, from the same Athenagoras, and from Theophilus Antiochenus, Tatian, Minucius Felix, and others, that they kept away from the shews of the gladiators. This they did, not only because these shews were cruel; but because, as Theophilus says, "lest we should become partakers of the murders committed there." A similar reason is also given by Athenagoras on this occasion: "Who is there, says he, that does not prize the shews of the gladiators, which your emperors make for the people? But we, thinking that there is very little difference whether a man be the author or spectator of murder, keep away from all such sights." And here it may be observed, that the gladiators themselves were, generally prisoners of war, or reputed enemies, and that the murder of these was by public authority, and sanctioned; as in war, by the state. Now what conclusion are we to draw from these premises? Can we think it possible, that those, who refused to strike again, or to go to law with those who injured them, and who thought an attendance at the gladiatorial spectacles criminal on the principle, that he who stood by was a murderer, though the murder was sanctioned by law; should not have an objection to the military service, on the principle, that it was unlawful to fight?
In short, the belief of the unlawfulness of war, was universal among Christians in those times. Every Christian writer of the second century, who notices the subject, makes it unlawful for Christians to bear arms. And if the Christian writers of this age were of this opinion, contrary to all their sentiments before their conversion, and wholly from their knowledge of divine truths, why should not others, who had a common nature with these, be impressed, on receiving the same truths, in a similar manner? And so undoubtedly they were. And as this belief was universal among the Christians of those times, so it operated with them as an impediment to a military life, quite as much as the idolatry, that was connected with it, of which the following instances, in opposition to that of Marinus, may suffice.
The first case I propose to mention shall be, where there was an objection to entering into the military service upon this principle. And here, I apprehend none can be more in point than that of Maximilian, as preserved in the acts of Ruinart.
Maximilian, having been brought before the tribunal, in order to be enrolled as a soldier, Dion, the proconsul, asked him his name. Maximilian, turning to him, replied, "Why wouldst thou know my name? I am a Christian, and cannot fight."
Then Dion ordered him to be enrolled, and when he was enrolled, it was recited out of the register, that he was five feet ten inches high. Immediately after this, Dion bade the officer mark him. But Maximilian refused to be marked, still asserting that he was a Christian. Upon which Dion instantly replied, "Bear arms, or thou shalt die."
To this Maximilian answered, "I cannot fight, if I die. I am not a soldier of this world, but a soldier of God." Dion then said, "Who has persuaded thee to behave thus?" Maximilian answered, "My own mind, and he who called me." Dion then spoke to his father, and bade him persuade his son. But his father observed, that his son knew his own mind, and what it was best for him to do.
After this had passed, Dion addressed Maximilian again in these words, "Take thy arms, and receive the mark." "I can receive, says Maximilian, no such mark. I have already the mark of Christ." Upon which Dion said, "I will send thee quickly to thy Christ." "Thou mayest do so, said Maximilian, but the glory will be mine."
Dion then bade the officer mark him. But Maximilian still persisted in refusing, and spoke thus: "I cannot receive the mark of this world, and if thou shouldst give me the mark, I will destroy it. It will avail nothing. I am a Christian, and it is not lawful for me to wear such a mark about my neck, when I have received the saving mark of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, whom thou, knowest not, who died to give us life, and whom God gave for our sins. Him all we Christians obey. Him we follow as the restorer of our life, and the author of our salvation."
Dion instantly replied to this, "Take thy arms, and receive the mark, or thou shalt suffer a miserable death."—"But I shall not perish, said Maximilian. My name is already enrolled with Christ. I cannot fight."
Dion said, "Consider then thy youth, and bear arms. The profession of arms becomes a young man." Maximilian replied, "My arms are with the Lord. I cannot fight for any earthly consideration. I am now a Christian."
Dion the proconsul, said, "Among the life-guards of our masters Dioclesian and Maximian, and Constantius and Maximus, there are Christian soldiers, and they fight." Maximilian answered, "They know best what is expedient for them, but I am a Christian, and it is unlawful to do evil."
Dion said, "Take thy arms. Despise not the profession of a soldier, lest thou perish miserably."—"But I shall not perish, says Maximilian; and if I should leave this world, my soul will live with Christ the Lord."
Dion then ordered his name to be struck from the roll, and, when this was done, he proceeded, "Because, out of thy rebellious spirit, thou hast refused to bear arms, thou shall be punished according to thy deserts for an example to others." And then he delivered the following sentence: "Maximilian! because thou hast with a rebellious spirit refused to bear arms, thou art to die by the sword." Maximilian replied, "Thanks be to God."
He was twenty years, three months, and seventeen days old, and when he was led to the place of execution, he spoke thus: "My dear brethren, endeavour with all your might, that it may be your portion to see the Lord, and that he may give you such a crown;" and then, with a pleasant countenance, he said to his father, "Give the executioner the soldier's coat thou hast gotten for me, and when I shall receive thee in the company of the blessed martyrs, we may also rejoice together with the Lord."
After this he suffered. His mother Pompeiana obtained his body of the judge, and conveyed it to Carthage, and buried it near the place where the body of Cyprian the Martyr lay. And thirteen days after this his mother died, and was buried in the came place. And Victor, his father, returned to his habitation, rejoicing and praising God, that he had sent before such a gift to the Lord, himself expecting to follow after.
I shall only observe, upon this instance, that it is nearly pure and unmixed, or that it is but little connected with idolatrous circumstances, or rather, that the unlawfulness of fighting was principally urged by Maximilian as a reason against entering upon a military life. Let us now find a case, where, when a person was converted in the army, he left it, pleading this principle, as one among others, for his dereliction of it.
Marcellus was a centurion in the legion called "Trajana." On a festival, given in honour of the birth-day of Galerius, he threw down his military belt at the head of the legion, and in the face of the standards, declared with a loud voice, that he would no longer serve in the army, for that he had become a Christian. "I hold in detestation, said he, addressing himself to all the soldiers, the worship of your gods: gods, which are made of wood and stone, gods which are deaf and dumb." So far Marcellus, it appears, seems to have been influenced in his desertion of a military life by the idolatry connected with it. But let us hear him farther on this subject. "It is not lawful, says he, for a Christian, who is the servant of Christ the Lord, to bear arms for any earthly consideration." After a delay of more than three months in prison after this transaction, which delay was allowed for the purpose of sparing him, he was brought before the prefect. There he had an opportunity of correcting his former expressions. But as he persisted in the same sentiments, he suffered. It is remarkable, that, almost immediately after his execution, Cassian, who, was the notary to the same legion, refused to serve any longer, by publicly throwing his pen and accompt-book upon the ground, and declaring, at the same time, that the sentence of Marcellus was unjust. When taken up by the order of Aurelianus Agricolanus, he is described by the record, preserved by Ruinart, to have avowed the same sentiments as Marcellus, and, like him, to have suffered death.
It may not be necessary, perhaps, to cite any other instances, as opposed to that of Marinus, to the point in question. But, as another occurs, which may be related in few words, I will just mention it in this place. Martin, of whom Sulpicius Severus says so much, had been bred to the profession of arms, but, on his conversion to Christianity, declined it. In the answer, which he gave to Julian the Apostate for his conduct on this occasion, we find him making use only of these words, "I am a Christian, and therefore I cannot fight."
Now this answer of Martin is detached from all notions of idolatry. The unlawfulness of fighting is given as the only motive for his resignation. And there is no doubt, that the unlawfulness of fighting was as much a principle of religion in the early times of Christianity, as the refusal of sacrifice to the Heathen gods; and that they operated equally to prevent men from entering into the army, and to drive them out of it on their conversion. Indeed these principles generally went together, where the profession of arms presented itself as an occupation for a Christian. He, who refused the profession on account of the idolatry connected with it, would have refused it on account of the unlawfulness of fighting. And he, who refused it on account of the guilt of fighting, would have refused it oh account of the idolatrous services it required. Both and each of them were impediments, in the early times of Christianity, to a military life.
Early Christians then declined the army on account, of one, among other persuasions, that it was unlawful for Christians to fight—Their practice examined farther, or into the fourth century—shewn from hence, that while Christianity continued pure, Christians still declined the military profession—but as it became less pure, their scruples against it became less—and when it became corrupt, their scruples against it ceased—Manner in which the Quakers make the practice of these early times support the meaning of the scriptural passages, which they adduce in favour of their tenet on war.
As it will now probably be admitted, that the early Christians refused to enter into the army, and that they left it after their conversion, on account of one, among other persuasions, that it was unlawful for them to fight, I must examine their practice, as it related to this subject, still farther, or I must trace it down to a later period, before I can show how the Quakers make the practice of these early times support the meaning of the scriptural passages, which they advance in favour of their tenet on war.
It may be considered as a well founded proposition, that, as the lamp of Christianity burnt bright, in those early times, so those, who were illuminated by it, declined the military profession; and, that, as its flame shone less clear, they had less objection to it. Thus, in the two first centuries, when Christianity was the purest, there were no Christian soldiers. In the third century, when it became less pure, there is frequent mention of such soldiers. And in the fourth, when its corruption was fixed, Christians entered upon the profession of arms with as little hesitation, as they entered upon any other occupation in life.
That there were no Christian soldiers in the first and second centuries, has already been made apparent.
That Christianity also was purest in these times, there can be no doubt. Let us look at the character which is given of the first Christians by Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, Minucius Felix, and others of the early Christian writers. According to these they were plain and neat in their apparel, and frugal in their furniture. They were temperate in their eating and drinking. They relinquished all the diversions of the times, in which they saw any tendency to evil. They were chaste in their conversation, tempering mirth with gravity. They were modest and chaste in their deportment and manners. They were punctual to their words and engagements. They were such lovers of the truth, that, on being asked, if they were Christians, they never denied it, though death was the consequence of such a religious profession. They loved each other as brethren, and called one another by that name. They were kind, and courteous, and charitable, beyond all example, to others. They abstained from all manner of violence. They prayed for those who persecuted them. They were patterns of humility and patience. They made no sacrifice of their consciences, but would persevere in that which was right, never refusing to die for their religion. This is the character, which is uniformly given of them by the Christian writers of those times.
That their conduct was greatly altered in the third century, where we are now to view it, we may collect from indisputable authority. I stated in the former section, that a Christian soldier was punished for refusing to wear a garland, like the rest of his comrades, on a public occasion. This man, it appears, had been converted in the army, and objected to the ceremony on that account. Now Tertullian tells us, that this soldier was blamed for his unseasonable zeal, as it was called, by some of the Christians at that time, though all Christians before considered the wearing of such a garland as unlawful and profane. In this century there is no question but the Christian discipline began to relax. To the long peace the church enjoyed from the death of Antoninus to the tenth year of Severus, is to be ascribed the corruption that ensued. This corruption we find to have spread rapidly; for the same Tertullian was enabled to furnish us with the extraordinary instance of manufacturers of idols being admitted into the ecclesiastical order. Many corruptions are also noticed in this century by other writers. Cyprian complained of them, as they existed in the middle, and Eusebius, as they existed at the end of it, and both attributed it to the peace, or to the ease and plenty, which the Christians had enjoyed. The latter gives us a melancholy account of their change. They had begun to live in fine houses, and to indulge in luxuries. But, above all, they had begun to be envious, and quarrelsome, and to dissemble, and to cheat, and to falsify their word, so that they lost the character, which Pliny, an adversary to their religion, had been obliged to give of them, and which they had retained for more than a century, as appears by their own writers.
That there were Christian soldiers in this more corrupt century of the church, it is impossible to deny. For such frequent mention is made of them in the histories, which relate to this period, that we cannot refuse our assent to one or other of the propositions, either that there were men in the armies, who called themselves Christians, or that there were men in them, who had that name given them by others. That they were Christians, however, is another question. They were probably such Christians, as Dion mentioned to have been among the life-guards of Dioclesian and Maximian, and of Constantius and Maximus, of whom Maximilian observed, "These men may know what it is expedient for them to do, but I am a Christian, and therefore I cannot fight." Indeed, that real Christians could have been found in the army in this century is impossible, for the military oath, which was full of idolatry, and the adoration of the standards, and the performance of sacrifice, still continued as services not to be dispensed with by the soldiery. No one, therefore, can believe, that men in the full practice of Pagan idolatry, as every legionary soldier must then have been, were real Christians, merely because it is recorded in history, that men, calling themselves Christians, were found in the army in those times. On the other hand, if any soldiers professed Christianity at this period, or are related by authors to have professed it, and yet to have remained soldiers, it may be directly pronounced, that they could only have been nominal or corrupted Christians.
[Footnote 14: The military oath was not altered for Christians till the next century, when they were allowed to swear "by God, by Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, and by the majesty of the emperor, which, next to God, is to be loved and honoured by mankind."]
That Christianity was more degenerate in the fourth than in the third century (which is the next position) we have indubitable proof. One of the first facts, that strikes us, is an extraordinary one related by Lactantius, in his "Death of the persecuted," that there were Christians at this time, who, having probably a superstitious belief, that the sign of the Cross would be a preventive of pollution, were present, and even assisted at some of the Heathen sacrifices. But it is not necessary to detail these or other particulars. Almost every body knows, that more evils sprang up to the church in this century, than in any other, some of which remain at the present day. Indeed, the corruption of Christianity was fixed as it were by law in the age now mentioned. Constantine, on his conversion, introduced many of the Pagan ceremonies and, superstitions, in which he had been brought up, into the Christian religion. The Christians, rejoiced at seeing an emperor of their own persuasion, under whom they had hopes of restoration to equal privileges with others, and of freedom from persecution, submitted, in order to please or flatter him, to his idolatrous customs and opinions, thus sacrificing their consciences to their ease and safety. Many, on the other hand, who had always been Heathens, professed themselves Christians at once out of compliment to their emperor, and without any real conversion of the heart. Thus there was a mixture of Christianity and Paganism in the church, which had never been known before. Constantine too did not dispense with the blasphemous titles of Eternity, Divinity, and Pontifex Maximus, as they had been given to his predecessors. After his death, he was considered also as a god. And if Philostorgius is to be believed, the Christians, for so he calls them, prayed to and worshipped him as such.
Now in this century, when the corruption of the church may be considered to have been fixed, we scarcely find any mention of Christian soldiers, or we find the distinction between them and others gradually passing away. The truth is, that, when the Christians of this age had submitted to certain innovations upon their religion, they were in a fit state to go greater lengths; and so it happened, for as Heathens, who professed to be Christians out of compliment to their emperor, had no objection to the military service, so Christians, who had submitted to Heathenism on the same principle, relaxed, in their scruples concerning it. The latter too were influenced by the example of the former. Hence the unlawfulness of fighting began to be given up. We find, however, that here and there an ancient father still retained it as a religious tenet, but these dropping off one after another, it ceased at length to be a doctrine of the church.
Having now traced the practice of the Christians down to the fourth century, as far as the profession of arms is concerned, I shall state in few words the manner in which the Quakers make this practice support the meaning of the scriptural passages, which they produce in favour of their tenet on war.
The Quakers then lay it down as a position, that the Christians of the first and second centuries, as we had already observed, gave the same interpretation, as they themselves give, of the passages in question.
Now they say first, that if there were any words or expressions in the original manuscripts of the Evangelists or Apostles, which might throw light upon the meaning of these or other passages on the same subject, but which words and expressions were not in the copies which came after, then many of those who lived in the first and second centuries, had advantages with respect to knowledge on this subject, which their successors had not, inasmuch as the former were soon afterwards lost.
They say secondly, that if there was any thing in tradition which might help to explain these passages more satisfactorily, those of the first and second centuries had advantages again, because they lived nearer to these traditions, or to the time when they were more pure, than those Christians did, who succeeded them.
They say thirdly, that, if primitive practice be to be considered as the best interpreter of the passages in question, then those of the first and second centuries had their advantages again, because many of them lived in the times of the Evangelists and the Apostles, and all of them nearer to those who succeeded the Evangelists and Apostles, than those in the subsequent ages of the Christian era.
But in direct inference, they conceive, is to be drawn from these premises, namely, that the opinions of those who lived in the first and second centuries, relative to the meaning of the passages in question, are likely to be more correct on these several accounts, than those of Christians in any of the ages that followed.
And as in the first and second centuries of the church, when Christianity was purest, there were no Christian soldiers, but as in the fourth century, when it became corrupt, Christians had lost their objections to a military life, they conceive the opinions of the former to be more correct than those of the latter, because the opinions of real Christians, willing to make any sacrifice for their religion, must be always less biassed and more pure, than those of persons calling themselves Christians, but yet submitting to the idolatrous and other corrupt practices of the world.
And as they conceive this to be true of the opinions of the second century, when compared with those of the fourth, so they conceive it to be true of the opinions of the second, when compared with those of the moderns upon this subject, because, whatever our progress in Christianity may be, seeing that it is not equal to that of the first Christians, it is certain, besides the distance of time, that we have prejudices arising from the practice of fourteen centuries, during all which time it has been held out, except by a few individuals, as lawful for Christians to fight.
Reflections of the author on the foregoing subject—Case of a superior being supposed, who should reside in the planet nearest to us, and see war carried on by men no larger than the race of ants—His enquiry as to the origin of these wars—their duration—and other circumstances—supposed answers to these questions—New arguments, from this supposed conversation, against war.
I have now stated the principal arguments, by which the Quakers are induced to believe it to be a doctrine of Christianity, that men should abstain from war, and I intended to close the subject in the last section. But when I consider the frequency of modern wars; when I consider that they are scarcely over, before others rise up in their place; when I consider again, that they come like the common diseases, which belong to our infirm nature, and that they are considered by men nearly in a similar light, I should feel myself criminal, if I were not to avail myself of the privilege of an author, to add a few observations of my own upon this subject.
Living as we do in an almost inaccessible island, and having therefore more than ordinary means of security to our property and our persons from hostile invasion, we do not seem to be sufficiently grateful to the Divine Being for the blessings we enjoy. We do not seem to make a right use of our benefits by contemplating the situation, and by feeling a tender anxiety for the happiness of others. We seem to make no proper estimates of the miseries of war. The latter we feel principally in abridgments of a pecuniary nature. But if we were to feel them in the conflagration of our towns and villages, or in personal wounds, or in the personal sufferings of fugitive misery and want, we should be apt to put a greater value than we do, upon the blessings of peace. And we should be apt to consider the connexion between war and misery, and between war and moral evil, in a light so much stronger than we do at present, that we might even suppose the precepts of Jesus Christ to be deficient, unless they were made to extend to wars, as well as to private injuries.
I wonder what a superior being, living in the nearest planet to our earth, and seeing us of the size of ants, would say, if he were enabled to get any insight into the nature of modern wars.
It must certainly strike him, if he were to see a number of such diminutive persons chasing one another in bodies over different parts of the hills and vallies of the earth, and following each other in little nut-shells, as it were upon the ocean, as a very extraordinary sight, and as mysterious, and hard to be explained. He might, at first, consider them as occupied in a game of play, or as emigrating for more food, or for a better climate. But when he saw them stop and fight, and destroy one another, and was assured that they were actually engaged in the solemn game of death, and this at such a distance from their own homes, he would wonder at the causes of these movements, and the reason of this destruction, and, not knowing that they possessed rational faculties, he would probably consider them as animals, destined by nature to live upon one another.
I think the first question he would ask would be, And from whence do these fightings come? It would be replied of course, that they came from their lusts; that these beings, though diminutive in their appearance, were men; that they had pride, and ambition; that they had envy and jealousy; that they indulged also hatred, and malice, and avarice, and anger; and that, on account of some or other of these causes, they quarrelled and fought with one another.
Well, but the superior being would say, is there no one on the earth, which I see below me, to advise them to conduct themselves better, or are the passions you speak of eternally uppermost, and never to be subdued? The reply would of course be, that in these little beings, called men, there had been implanted the faculty of reason, by the use of which they must know that their conduct was exceptionable, but that, in these cases, they seldom minded it. It would also be added in reply, that they had a religion, which was not only designed by a spirit from heaven, who had once lived among them, but had been pronounced by him as efficacious to the end proposed; that one of the great objects of this religion was a due subjugation of their passions; and this was so much insisted upon, that no one of them was considered to have received this religion truly, unless his passions were subdued. But here the superior being would enquire, whether they acknowledged the religion spoken of, and the authority from whence it came? To which it would of course be replied, that they were so tenacious of it, notwithstanding their indulgence of their passions, and their destruction of one another, that you could; not offend them more grievously than by telling them, that they did not belong to the religion they professed.