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who cannot be persuaded to abstain from aggression, coercion is necessary to the ends of justice and tranquillity. Or, in other words, government is essential to social order, and, in the actual state of the world, coercion is essential to government.'
Now, to maintain that what is thus necessary to the ends of justice, and essential to good government, is inconsistent with Christianity, would be as much as to say that “the ordinance of “ God” is at variance with his revealed will; that a civil governor cannot be a Christian, and that it is not the interest of society that he should be one. This consequence would necessarily follow, if not only unrighteous war, but the employment of military force in any case, be unlawful.
But Christianity, we are well assured, was designed to introduce no alteration in our civil rights and obligations, and therefore, if any passages in the New Testament should seem to forbid the discharge of what must needs be in some cases a political and social duży, it must arise from some misapprehension of their scope and ineaning. Mr. Sheppard shews, that the command given by our Lord to his disciples not to resist evil, cannot be taken literally, without a departure from those rules of rational interpretation, which are without scruple applied to other precepts resting on the same Divine authority. The prohibition of our Lord had evidently a reference to the spirit of retaliation which the judicial enactments of the Mosaic law might seem to sanction, and it will not justify an abandonment of civil or political duties.
In the fourth letter, the Author, having thus cleared bis ground, proceeds to meet the main question : 'In what cases, or
in what manner may a Christian consistently co-operate in • war?
• The only general answer, conformable to the fundamental principle of my past reas
asonings, is this :- In those cases, and in that manner, alone, where he may conscientiously regard himself as an agent of judicial authority, national or international. This rule, I apprehend, will be found to restrain the Christian from co-operating (until some international authority or sanction is resorted to) in many of those enterprises which the moral reasonings of political and even pro• fessedly Christian philosophers are employed to justify.'
The language of both Montesquieu and Grotius respecting the right of States to wage war for their own preservation, and the consequent right, in certain cases, of conquest, takes it for granted, that individual communities are, like individual savages, subject to no other law than that of nature. But, as Mr. S. remarks, theirs is not a state of mere nature, but a state in which
both civil improvement and revealed knowledge capacitate them, and render it their duty, to impose on themselves some binding regulation for the good of the whole.' At all events,
the Christian cannot use arms at the unlimited direction of the • State.'
Very far am I from supposing, that there are no true Christians in that profession; on the contrary, it is impossible to doubt, (since we have the strongest evidence of the fact,) that there have been distinguished examples of piety in it, and we have every reason to believe that there still are such : but I must regard their approval of unlimited military service as an erroneous view of Christian duty ; since I cannot see how a Christian can justify himself in actively aiding measures and enterprises that are unchristian. But it cannot be doubted, that he is always liable to the necessity of doing so, as a member of a body which is placed at the entire disposal of a State, and obliged to act mechanically at its command. 'To place himself under such an engagement is not consonant to the spirit of his religion, nor to the moral liberty of man, and the proper ends of government. It may, indeed, be said, and has probably been said, in defence of unlimited service, “ He who bears arms for the State, is, in this character or office, merely an instrument, and, as such, not accountable. The military officer, or soldier, though they he) may be liable to aid or execute acts of injustice, are (is) blameless, while acting under a lawful authority. And, besides this, the common soldier is, necessarily, a mere instrument, from his ignorance of the rules of political justice, and total incapacity of deciding on the merits of the service in which he is engaged: so that he escapes moral responsibility, in two ways; by a defect of knowledge, as well as by devolving it, like his superiors, on the government which they serve. The criminality, if any, rests wholly with that supreme authority which devises and directs the wrong." I answer ;-But every man who bears the name of Chris. tian, is a subject of that revealed law of God which forbids all wrong. He cannot, when invited or summoned to become a soldier, without due limitation of service, convert himself, before entering on such an engagement, into an irresponsible mechanical instrument, like the bayonet which he is to wear, or the cannon which he is to point. If he has seen or heard the precepts of the Decalogue and of the New Testament, he cannot annul the moral obligation to obey them, though he may be insensible or regardless of it. We know too well, that there are multitudes who bear the Christian name, still in such a state of moral ignorance and depravity as to become unthinking or approving instruments of evil. Such instruments have been at once the shield and sword of unchristian power ; and it has been one great motive for the alliance between superstition and despotism, to maintain that ignorance which leads to blind subserviency. It was natural that a Buonaparte should insert " military service" in the imperial catechisin, as a primary duty, for the subjects whom he afterwards called * chair à canon ;" but one would wonder, that blind unlimited instrumentality to power should be thought consistent with duty in a l’rotestant country, where endeavours are made, on all hands, to imbue the population with Christian knowledge ; which means, if it mean any thing, a knowledge to refuse the evil and choose the good, and not to be “ a partaker in other men's sins.” »
The advocates of passive obedience bave attempted to give their base notions the weight of Divine authority, by means of that literal and partial mode of quoting Scripture, which has been the favourite resource of the Romanists. But, if the exhortation, “ Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's
sake,” could avail to suspend the higher obligations of Christian duty, upon the same principle, servants, who are enjoined to “ obey in all things” their “masters according to the flesh," would also be irresponsible for conduct however iniquitous, that might be exacted from them in domestic service. No Christian, then, is at liberty to enter on the unlimited military service of a government; but he may consistently, and with the greatest propriety, bear arms for the defence of his country. A national force for the public peace and security, is not more unchristian than a municipal force; and therefore, if with a safe conscience he can serve as a constable, he can lave no good reason for refusing, on the ground of conscience, to serve, when legally called upon, as a militia-man ; nor even as a sea-man, although the moment that a man is called upon to quit his country, as in the case of naval service, the question becomes involved in greater difficulty. The practice of impressing, which Lord Mansfield owned that nothing but the safety of the State could vindicate, bears so close a resemblance to the conscriptions of the French government, that those who loudly exclaim against the latter, would find it difficult to apologise for the former practice, where it extends to unlimited service. Colonial service is another point of some apparent difficulty. Mr. Sheppard enters at large into the consideration of it ; he admits that, with his views, a Christian could not engage in expeditions having for their object the national aggrandizement by means of colonial conquests ; but service specifically limited to the defence of our colonies, falls under the same general rule, so far as respects its lawfulness, as home service for the defence of our country, Conquest in order to security, has ever been the hollow plea of ambition for acts of the most nefarious aggression; and most modern coalitions bave had no better ground than this. There inay, however, our Author remarks, occur cases in which it
shall be the duty of a nation to give defensive succour to a friendly State attacked or in danger, or to join in the coercive acts of a confederacy which deserves the character of an intera national judicature.'
• I have already made a reserve on the subject of specific service: I have not affirmed, that there is no possible case in which such an extension of defensive service may be a duty. I have not said, for instance, that the five hundred gentlemen who, in Queen Elizabeth's reign, volunteered to serve in the Low Countries, when conflicting against the lateful tyranny of Philip II., acted an unchristian part;
nor that militia regiments, volunteering as such, to assist our Dutch allies in defending their country, within its borilers, after the declaration of war by France against England and Holland in 1793, would have engaged in an unchristian service: but all foreign service, in order to be engaged in with a safe conscience, must, as I judge, be strictly and specifically limited: it must be a voluntary and special extension of the general duty of home defence.'
• If the king of Sardinia should revive the cruel persecution of his ancestors against the Waldenses in his Piedmontese valleys, Great Britain ought to hear, and would hear, with deep concern, the wrongs of suffering Protestants. If our government partook that concern, and, after the failure of earnest diplomatic remonstrances, sought and obtained the concurrence of other Protestant States, to its taking possession of Genoa, only till securities were given for the cessation of persecution and the full toleration of the sufferers,—were I a member of a national militia, I certainly should not object (under such a judicial sanction to embark in that specific service.
It should seem to be clear, that, if any circumstances can justify an armed resistance on the part of the people, either to ibe invasions of a foreign despot or to the tyranny of their own rulers, those same circumstances will justify a Christian in vo. Junteering his personal services in aid of the oppressed party. The Author avows that his sentiments are fully compatible with the opinion of Dr. Paley, that the submission which surrenders
the liberty of a nation and entails slavery upon future gene‘rations, is enjoined by no law of rational morality. But he who refuses from principles of peace and justice, to be the instrument of aggression abroad, will not, he argues, be easily prompted to have recourse to the use of the extreme means of resistance to the government at home. From the widest diffusion of the sentiments advocated in these Letters, a constitutional government could have nothing to fear, unless it can be shewn that a love of peace tends to insubordination, and that a conscientious man does not make the best subject.
There is nothing, then, in the employment of force, civil or military, by a government, incompatible with the dictates of Christianity; but, remarks our Author, 'I should be the last person to enter on the hard task of shewing that Christianity is at all compatible with such a policy as rulers and ministers of state, professing Cbristianity, have hitherto frequently adopted.' As a consistent Christian, lie cannot but deprecate that policy which maintains an establishment of troops for uplinited service; and as a lover of his country also, he contends against the necessity as well as the lawfulness, on bis principles, of standing arinies. He quotes from Madame de Staël, the just sentiment, that 'regular troops are an unhappy invention.'
« Could they
be suppressed at once throughout the whole of Europe,' says that eloquent Writer, ' mankind would have taken a great step ' towards the perfection of social order.' One of the reasons assigned by Dr. Paley for preferring a standing army to a numerous militia, is, the doubt whether any goveroment can long be
secure where the people are acquainted with the use of arms.' But to this argument, ' an obvious answer,' Mr. S. remarks, ' is afforded by the measures of the late war.'
• It was commenced on the plea that popular disaffection existed in this country, fomented by peace and intercourse with France; yet, in the course of it, almost all the regular forces were at times sent out of the island, and it was thought expedient to arm, not only a very numerous militia, but a much greater number of all ranks in voluntary association. This fact must silence (until the government or the people be essentially different from what they were during the late war) the plea, that this nation cannot be trusted with its own de. fence.' p. 146.
Among the opposite dangers which seem at the present moment to hang over the destinies of our country, the greatest of all is that which is presented by our immense military establishment. Were it true, as the partisans of corruption are continually telling us, that that establishment is required to keep down the spirit of disaffection, that our civil institutions are in. adequate to the maintenance of liberty and order, the time would have arrived when the English constitution would in effect have been superseded by a military despotism. Such a despotism would by no means be felt as intolerable by a large proportion of the nation, accustomed as they have been to acquiesce with perfect complacency in that approach towards it which consists in the identification of the legislative authority with the executive, it would by no means be intolerable so long as the army answered with the regularity of a machine to the impulse of the Civil Power. But let a disputed succession, or some other wational question, present to the soldiery an alternative determinable by their will, and at the same time awake the consciousness of their physical power, and then, where are we? What is to keep the army loyal, after they have put down disaffection in the people? God forbid that ministerial imbecility and obstinacy should ever bring so fearful an experiment to its issue! But it is to be feared that we have not yet experienced half of the benefits which forin the baleful legacy of the war.