SERMONS ON PUBLIC OCCASIONS
ON UNIVERSAL PEACE
Preached in the Tron Church, Glasgow, on "A Day of National Thnaksgiving" 1816
"Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither
shall they learn war any more." ISAIAH ii. 4.
THERE are a great many passages in Scripture, which warrant the expectation that a time is coming, when war shall be put an end to - when its abominations and its cruelties shall be banished from the face of the earth - when those restless elements of ambition and jealousy, which have so long kept the species in a state of unceasing commotion, and are ever and anon sending another and another wave over the field of this worlds politics, shall at length be hushed into a placid and enduring calm; and many and delightful are the images which the Bible employs, as guided by the light of prophecy; it carries us forward to those millennial days, when the reign of peace shall be established, and the wide charity of the gospel, which is confined by no limits, and owns no distinctions, shall embosom the whole human race within the ample grasp of one harmonious and universal family.
But before I proceed, let me attempt to do away a delusion which exists on the subject of prophecy. Its fulfilments are all certain, say many, and we have therefore nothing to do, but to wait for them. In passive and indolent expectation. The truth of God stands in no dependence on human aid to vindicate the immutability of all His announcements; and the power of God stands in no need of the feeble exertions of man to hasten the accomplishment of any of His purposes. Let us therefore sit down quietly in the attitude of spectators - let us leave the Divinity to do His own work in His own way, and mark, by the progress of a history over which we have no control, the evolution of His designs, and the march of His wise and beneficent administration.
Now, it is very true, that the Divinity will do His own work in His own way, but if He choose to tell us that that way is not without the instrumentality of men, but by their instrumentality, might not this sitting down into the mere attitude of spectators, turn out to be a most perverse and disobedient conclusion? It is true, that His purpose will obtain its fulfilment, whether we shall offer or not to help it forward by our co-operation. But if the object is to be brought about, and if, in virtue of the same sovereignty by which He determined upon the object, He has also determined on the way which leads to it, and that that way shall be by the acting of human principle, and the putting forth of human exertion, then let us keep back our co-operation as we may, God will raise up the hearts of others to that which we abstain from; and they, admitted into the high honour of being fellow-workers with God, may do homage to the truth of His prophecy; while we, perhaps, may unconsciously do dreadful homage to the truth of another warning, and another prophecy. I work a work in your days which you shall not believe, though a man declare it unto you. Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish.
Now this is the very way in which prophecies have been actually fulfilled. The return of the people of Israel to their own land was an event predicted by inspiration, and was brought about by the stirring up of the spirit of Cyrus, who felt himself charged with the duty of building a house to God at Jerusalem. The pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was foretold by the Saviour ere he left the world, and was accomplished upon men, who assembled themselves together at the place to which they were commanded to repair; and there they waited, and they prayed. The rapid propagation of Christianity in those days was known by the human agents of this propagation, to be made sure by the word of prophecy; but the way in which it was actually made sure, was by the strenuous exertions, the unexampled heroism, the holy devotedness and zeal of martyrs, and apostles, and evangelists.
And even now, my brethren, while no professing Christians can deny that their faith is to be one day the faith of all countries; but while many of them idly sit, and wait the time of God putting forth some mysterious and unheard of agency, to bring about the universal diffusion, there are men who have betaken themselves to the obvious expedient of going abroad among the nations, and teaching them; and though derided by an undiscerning world, they seem to be the very men pointed out by the Bible, who are going to and fro increasing the knowledge of its doctrines, and who will be the honoured instruments of carrying into effect the most splendid of all its anticipations.
Now the same holds true, I apprehend, of the prophecy in my text. The abolition of war will be the effect not of any sudden or resistless visitation from heaven on the character of men - not of any mystical influence working with all the omnipotence of a charm on the passive hearts of those who are the subjects of it - not of any blind or overruling fatality which will come upon the earth at some distant period of its history, and about which, we, of the present day, have nothing to do but to look silently on, without concern, and without co-operation. The prophecy of a peace as universal as the spread of the human race, and as enduring as the moon in the firmament, will meet its accomplishment, and at that very time which is already fixed by Him, who seeth the end of all things from the beginning thereof. But it will be brought about by the activity of men. It will be done by the philanthropy of thinking and intelligent Christians. The conversion of the Jews - the spread of gospel light among the regions of idolatry - these are distinct subjects of prophecy, on which the faithful of the land are now acting, and to the fulfilment of which they are giving their zeal and their energy.
I conceive the prophecy which relates to the final abolition of war will be taken up in the same manner; and the subject will be brought to the test of Christian principle; and many will unite to spread a growing sense of its follies and its enormities, over the countries of the world and the public will be enlightened not by the factious and turbulent declamations of a party, but by the mild dissemination of gospel sentiment through the land - and the prophecy contained in this book will pass into effect and accomplishment, by no other influence than the influence of its ordinary lessons on the hearts and consciences of individuals - and the treasure will first be carried in one country, not by the unhallowed violence of discontent, but by the control of general opinion, expressed on the part of a people, who, if Christian, in their repugnance to war, will be equally Christian in all the loyalties and subjections, and meek unresisting virtues of the New Testament - and the sacred fire of good-will to the children of men will spread itself through all climes, and through all latitudes - and thus by scriptural truth conveyed with power from one people to another, and taking its ample round among all the tribes and families of the earth, shall we arrive at the magnificent result of peace throughout all its provinces, and security in all its dwelling-places.
In the further prosecution of this discourse, I shall, First, epiatiate a little on the evils of war.
In the Second place, I shall direct your attention to the obstacles which stand in the way of its extinction, and which threaten to retard for a time the accomplishment if the prophecy I have now selected for your consideration.
And, in the Third place, I shall endeavour to point out, what, can only be done at present in a hurried and superficial manner, some of the expedients by which these obstacles maybe done away.
I. I shall expatiate a little on the evils of war. The mere existence of the prophecy in my text, is a sentence of condemnation upon war, and stamps a criminality on its very forehead. So soon as Christianity shall gain a full ascendancy in the world, from that moment war is to disappear. We have heard that there is something noble in the art of war; that there is something generous in the ardour of that fine chivalric spirit which kindles in the hour of alarm, and rushes with delight among the thickest scenes of danger and of enterprise ; - that man is never more proudly arrayed, than when, elevated by a contempt for death, he puts on his intrepid front, and looks serene, while the arrows of destruction are flying on every side of him ; - that expunge war, and you expunge some of the brightest names in the catalogue of human virtue, and demolish that theatre on which have been displayed some of the sublimest energies of the human character. It is thus that war has been invested with a most pernicious splendour, and men have offered to justify it as a blessing, and an ornament to society, and attempts have been made to throw a kind of imposing morality around it; and one might almost be reconciled to the whole train of its calamities and its horrors, did he not believe his Bible, and learn from its information, that in the days of perfect righteousness, there will be no war; - that so soon as the character of man has had the last finish of Christian principle thrown over it, from that moment all the instruments of war will be thrown aside, and all its lessons will be forgotten; that, therefore, what are called the virtues of war are no virtues at all, or that a better and a worthier scene will be provided for their exercise; but in short, that at the commencement of that blissful era, when the reign of heaven shall be established, war will take its departure from the world with all the other plagues and atrocities of the species.
But apart altogether from this testimony to the evil of war, let us just take a direct look of it, and see whether we can find its character engraven on the aspect it bears to the eye of an attentive observer. The stoutest heart of this assembly would recoil, were he who owns it, to behold the destruction of a single individual by some deed of violence. Were the man who at this moment stands before you in the full play and energy of health, to be in another moment laid by some deadly aim a lifeless corpse at your feet, there is not one of you who would not prove how strong are the relentings of nature at a spectacle so hideous as death. There are some of you who would be haunted for whole days by the image of horror you had witnessed - who would feel the weight of a most oppressive sensation upon you heart, which nothing but time could wear away who would be so pursued by it as to be unfit for business or for enjoyment - who would think of it through the day, and it would spread a gloomy disquietude over your waking momentswho would dream of it at night, and it would turn that bed which you courted as a retreat from the torments of an ever-meddling memory, into a scene of restlessness.
But generally the death of violence is not instantaneous, and there is often a sad and dreary interval between its final consummation, and the infliction of the blow which causes it. The winged messenger of destruction has not found its direct avenue to that spot, where the principle of life is situated - and the soul, finding obstacles to its immediate egress, has to struggle for hours, ere it can make its way way through the winding avenues of that tenement, which has been torn open by a brothers hand. 0! my brethren, if there he something appalling in the suddenness of death, think not that when gradual in its advances, you will alleviate the horrors of this sickening contemplation, by viewing it in a milder form. 0! tell me, if there be any relentings of pity in your bosom, how could you endure it, to behold the agonies of the dying man - as goaded by pain, he grasps the cold ground in convulsive energy, or faint with the loss of blood, his pulse ebbs low, and the gathering paleness spreads itself over his countenance - or wrapping himself round in despair, he can only mark by a few feeble quiverings, that life still lurks and lingers in his lacerated body or lifting up a faded eye, he casts on rou a look of imploring helplessness, for that succour which no sympathy can yield him.
It may be painful to dwell on such a representation but this is the way in which the cause of humanity is served. The eye of the sentimentalist turns away from its sufferings; and he passes by on the other side, lest he hear that pleading voice, which is armed with a tone of remonstrance so vigorous as to disturb him. He cannot bear thus to pause, in imagination, on the distressing picture of one individual; but multiply it ten thousand times say, how much of all this distress has been heaped together upon a single field - give us the arithmetic of this accumulated wretchedness, and lay it before us with all the accuracy of an official computation and, strange to tell, not one sigh is lifted up among the crowd of eager listeners, as they stand on tiptoe, and catch every syllable of utterance, which is read to them out of the registers of death. 0! say, what mystic spell is that, which so blinds us to the sufferings of our brethren - .which deafens to our ear the voice of bleeding hmnanity, when it is aggravated by the shriek of dying thousands - which makes the very magnitude of the slaughter, throw a softening -disguise oer its cruelties, and its horrors - which causes us to eye with indifference, the field that is crowded with the most revolting abominations, and arrests that sigh, which each individual would singly have drawn from us, by the report of the many who have fallen, -and breathed their last in agoney along wih him?
I am not saying the burden of all this criminality rests upnn the head of the immediate combatants. It lies somewhere; but who can deny that a soldier may be a Christian, and that from bloody field on which his body is laid, his soul may wing its ascending way to the shores of a peaceful eternity? But when I think that the Christian even of the great world, form but a very little flock, and that an army is not a propitious soil for the growth of Christian principle - when think on the character of one such army, that had been led on for years by a ruffian amnbition and been enured to scenes of barbarity and had gathered a most ferocious hardihood of soul, from the many enterprises of violence to which an principled commander had carried them - when I follow them to the field of battle, and further think that on both sides of an exasperated contest the gentleness of Christianity can have no place in almost any bosom; but that nearly every heart lighted up with fury, and breathes a vindictive purpose against a brother of the species, I cannot but reckon it among the most fearful of the calamities of war - that while the work of death is thickening along its ranks, so many disembodied spirits should pass into the presence of Him who sitteth upon the throne, in such a posture, and with such a preparation.
I have no time, and assuredly as little taste, for expatiating on a topic so melancholy, nor can afford at present to set before you a vivid picture of the other miseries which war carries in its train - how it desolates every country through which it rolls, and spreads violation and alarm among the villages how, at its approach, every home pours forth its trembling fugitives - how all the rights of property, and all the provisions of justice, must give way before its devouring exactions - how, when Sabbath comes, no Sabbath charm comes along with it - and for the sound of the church bell, which wont to spread its music over some fine landscape of nature, and summon rustic worshippers to the house of prayer nothing is heard but the deathful vollies of the battle, and the maddening outcry of infuriated men - how, as the fruit of victory, an unprincipled licentiousness which no discipline can restrain, is suffered to walk at large among the people - and all that is pure, and reverend, and holy in the virtue of families, is cruelly trampled on, and held in the bitterest derision. Oh! my brethren, were we to pursue those details, which no pen ever attempts, and no chronicle perpetuates, we should be tempted to ask, what that is which civilization has done for the character -of the species? It has thrown a few paltry embellishments over the surface of human affairs; and for the order of society, it has reared the defences of law around the rights and the property of the individuals who compose it. But let war, legalized as you may, and ushered into the field with all the parade of forms and manifestoes - let this war only have its season, and be suffered to overleap these artificial defences, and you will soon see how much of the security of the commonwealth is due to positive restrictions, and how little of it is due to a natural sense of justice among men.
I know well, that the plausibilities of human character, which abound in every modern and enlightened society, have been mustered up to oppose the doctrine of the Bible on the woful depravity of our race. But out of the history of war, I can gather for this doctrine the evidence of experiment. It tells me, that man, when left to himself and let loose among his fellows, to walk after the counsel of his own heart, and in the sight of his dwn eyes, will soon discover how thin that tinsel is, which the boasted baud of civilization has thrown over him. And we have only to blow the trumpet of war, and proclaim to man the hour of his opportunity, that his character may show itself in its essential elements - and that we may see how many, in this our moral and enlightened day, would spring forward as to a jubilee of delight, and prowl like the wild men of the woods, amidst scenes of rapacity, and cruelty, and violence.
II. But let me hasten away from this part of the subject; and, in the Second place, direct your attention to those obstacles which stand in the way of the extinction of war, and which threaten to retard, for a time, the accomplishment of the prophecy I have now selected for your consideration. But is this the time, it may be asked, to complain of obstacles to the extinction of war, when peace has been given to the nations, and we are assembled to celebrate its triumphs? Is this day of high and solemn gratulation, to be turned to such forebodings as these? The whole of Europe is now at rest from the tempest which convulsed it - and a solemn treaty, with all its adjustments and all its guarantees, promises a firm perpetuity to the repose of the world. We have long fought for a happier order of things, and at length we have established it - and the hard-earned bequest we hand down to posterity as a rich inheritance, won by the labours and the sufferings of the present generation. That gigantic ambition which stalked in triumph over the firmest and the oldest of our monarchies, is now laid - and can never again burst forth from the confinement of its prison-hold to waken a new uproar, and send forth new troubles over the face of a desolated world.
Now, in reply to this, let it be observed, that every interval of repose is precious - every breathing time from the work of violence is to be rejoiced in by the friends of humanity - every agreement among the powers of the earth, by which a temporary respite can be gotten from the calamities of war, is so much reclaimed from the amount of those miseries that afflict the world, and of those crimes, the cry of which ascendeth unto heaven, and bringeth down the judgments of God on this dark and rebellious province of His creation. I trust, that on this day, gratitude to Him who alone can still the tumults of the people, will be the sentiment of every heart - and I trust that none who now hear me, will refuse to evince his gratitude to the Author of the New Testament, by their obedience to one of the most distinct and undoubted of its lessons - I mean the lesion of a reverential and submissive loyalty. I cannot pass an impartial eye over this record of Gods will, - without perceiving the utter repugnance that there is between the spirit of Christianity, and the factious, turbulent, unquenchable, and evermeddling spirit of political disaffection. I will not compromise, by the surrender of a single jot or tittle, the integrity of that preceptive code which the Saviour hath left behind Him for the, obedience of His disciples. I will not detach the very minutest of its features, from the fine picture of morality that Christ hath bequeathed, both by commandment and example, to adorn the nature He condescended to wear - and sure I am that the man who has drunk in the entire spirit of the gospel - who, reposing himself on the faith of its promised immortality, can maintain an elevated calm amid all the fluctuations of this worlds interest - whose exclusive ambition it is to be the unexcepted pupil of pure, and spiritual, and self-denying Christianity - sure I am that such a man will honour the king and all who are in authority - and be subject unto them for the sake of conscience - and render unto them all their dues - and not withhold a single fraction of the tribute they impose upon him - and be the best of subjects, just because he is the best of Christians- resisting none of the ordinances of God, and living a quiet and a peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.
But it gives me pleasure to advance a further testimony in behalf of that government with which it has pleased God, who appointeth to all men the bounds of their habitation, to bless that portion of the globe which we occupy. I count it such a government that I not only owe it the loyalty of my principles but I also owe it the loyalty of my affections. I could not lightly part with my devotion to that government which the other year opened the door to the Christianization of India - I shall never withhold the tribute of my reverence from that government which put an end to the atrocities of the Slave Trade - I shall never forget the triumph which, in that proudest day of Britains story, the cause of humanity gained within the walls of our enlightened Parliament. Let my right hand forget her cunning, ere I forget that country of my birth, where, in defiance to all the clarnours of mercantile alarm, every calculation of interest was given to the wind, and braving every hazard, she nobly resolved to shake off the whole burden of the infamy which lay upon her. I shall never forget, that how to complete the object in behalf of which she has so honourably led the way, she has walked the whole round of civilized society, and knocked at the door of every government in Europe, and lifted her imploring voice for injured Africa, and pled with the mightiest monarchs of the world, the cause of her outraged shores, and her distracted families. I can neither shut my heart nor my eyes to the fact, that at this moment she is stretching forth the protection of her naval arm, and shielding to the uttermost of her vigour, that coast where an inhuman avarice, is still plying its guilty devices, and aiming to perpetuate among an unoffending people, a trade of cruelty, with all the horrid train of its terrors and abominations. Were such a government as this to be swept from its base, either by the violence of foreign hostility, or by the hands of her own misled and infatuated children, - I should never cease to deplore it as the deadliest interruption which ever had been given to the interests of human virtue, and to the march of human improvement. O! how it should swell every heart, not with pride, but with gratitude, to think that the land of our fathers, with all the iniquities which abound in it, with all the profligacy which spreads along our streets, and all the profaneness that is heard among our companies to think that this our land, overspread as it is with the appalling characters of guilt, is still the securest asylum of worth and of liberty - that this is the land from which the most copious emanations of Christianity are going forth to all the quarters of the world - that this is the land which teems from one end to the other of it with the most splendid designs and enterprises for the good of the species - that this is the land where public principle is most felt, and public objects are most prosecuted, and the fine impulse of a public spirit is most ready to carry its generous people beyond the limits ofa selfish and contracted patzotisrn.
Yes, and when the heart of the plilanthropist is sinking within him at the gloomy spectacle of those crimes and atrocities which still deform the history of man, I know not a single earthly expedient more fitted to brighten and sustain him, than to turn his eye to the country in which he lives- and there see the most enlightened government in the world acting as the organ of its most moral and intelligent population.
It is not against the government of my country, therefore, that I direct my observations - but against that nature of man in the infirmities of which we all share, and the evil of which no government can extinguish. We have carried a new political arrangement,. and we experence as the result of it, a temporary calm - but we have not yet carried our way to the citadel of humnan passions. The elements of war are hushed for a season - but these are not destroyed. They still rankle in many unsubdued heart and I am too well taught by history of the past, and the experience of its restless variations, not to believe that they will burst forth again in thunder over the face of society. No, my brethren, it will only be when diffused and vital Christianity comes upon the earth, that an enduring peace will come along with it. The prophecy of my text will obtain its fulfilment - but not till the fulfilment of the verses which go before it ; - not till the influence of the gospel has found its way to the human bosom, and plucked out of it the elementary principles of war; - not till the law of love shall spread its melting and all-subduing efficacy, among the children of one common nature; not till ambition be dethroned from its mastery over the affections of the inner man; - not till the guilty splendours of war shall cease to captivate its admirers, and spread the blaze of a deceitful heroism, over the wholesale butchery of the species; - not till national pride he humbled, and man shall learn, that if it be individually the duty of each of us in honour to prefer one another; then let these individuals combine as they may, and form societies as numerous and extensive a they may, and each of these be swelled out to the dimensions of an empire, still, that mutual condescension and forbearance remain the unalterable Christian duties of these empires to each other; - not till man learns to revere his brother as man, whatever portion of the globe he occupies, and all the jealousies and preferences of a contracted patriotism be given to the wind; - not till war shall cease to be prosecuted as a trade, and the charm of all that interest which is linked with its continuance, shall cease to beguile men in the peaceful walks of merchandise, into a barbarous longing after war in one word, till pride, and jealousy, and interest, and all that is opposite to the law of God and the charity of the gospel, shall be for ever eradicated from the character of those who possess an effectual control over the public and political movements of the species; - Not till all this be brought about; and there is not another agent in the whole compass of nature that can bring it about but the gospel of Christ, carried home by the all-subduing power of the Spirit to the consciences of men; then, and not till then, my brethren, will peace come to take up its perennial abode with us, and its blessed advent on earth be hailed by one shout of joyful acclamation throughout all its families; - then, and not till then, will the sacred principle of good-will to men circulate as free as the air of heaven among all countries - and the sun looking out from the firmament, will behold one fine aspect of harmony throughout the wide extent of a regenerated world.
It will only be in the last days, when it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the Lords house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow into it: And many people shall go, and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people;" - then, and not till then, they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
The above rapid sketch glances at the chief obstacles to the extinction of war; and, in what remains of this discourse, I shall dwell a little more particularly on as many of them as my time will allow me, finding it impossible to exhaust so wide a topic, within the limits of the public services of one day.
The first great obstacle then to the extinction of war, is the way in which the heart of man is carried off from its barbarities and its horrors, by the splendour of its deceitful accompaniments. There is a feeling of the sublime in contemplating the shock of armies, just as there is in contemplating the devouring energy of a tempest; and this so elevates and engrosses the whole man, that his eye is blind to the tears of bereaved parents, and his ear is deaf to the piteous moan of the dying, and the shriek of their desolated families. There is a gracefulness in the picture of a youthful warrior burning for distinction on the field, and lured by this generous aspiration to the deepest of the animated throng, where, in the fell work of death, the Opposing sons of valour struggle for a remembrance and a name; - and this side of the picture is so much the exclusive object of our regard, as to disguise from our view the mangled carcasses of the fallen, and the writhing agonies of the hundreds and the hundreds more who have been laid on the cold ground, where they are left to languish and to die. There no one pities them. No sister is there to weep over them. There no gentle hand is present to ease the dying posture, or bind up the wounds, which, in the maddening fury of the combat, have been given and received by the children of one common Father. There death spreads its pale ensigns over every countenance; and when night comes on, and darkens around them, how many a despairing wretch must take up with the bloody field as the untended bed of his last sufferings, without one friend to bear the message of tenderness to his distant home, without one companion to close his eyes.
I avow it. On every side of me I see causes at work which go to spread a most delusive colouring over war, and to remove its shocking barbarities to the back-ground of our contemplations altogether. I see it in the history which tells me of the superb appearance of the troops, and the brilliancy of their successive charges. I see it in the poetry which lends the magic of its numbers to the narrative of blood, and transports its many admirers, as by its images, and its figures, and its nodding plumes of chivalry, it throws its treacherous embellishments over a scene of legalized slaughter. I see it in the music which represents the progress of the battle; and where, after being inspired by the trumpet notes of preparation, the whole beauty and tenderness of a drawing room are seen to bend over the sentimental entertaininent; nor do I hear the utterance of a single sigh to interrupt the death-tones of the thickening contest, and the moans of the wounded men as they fade away upon the ear, and sink into lifeless silence.
All, all goes to prove what strange and half-sighted creatures we are. Were it not so, war could nevet have been seen in any other aspect than that of unmingled hatefulness; and I can look to nothing but to the progress of Christian sentiment upon earth, to arrest the strong current of its popular and prevailing partiality for war. Then only will an imperious sense of duty lay the check of severe principle, on all the subordinate tastes and faculties of our nature. Then will glory be reduced to its right estimate - and the wakeful benevolence of the gospel chasing away every spell, will be turned by the treachery of no delusion whatever, from its simple, but sublime enterprises for the good of the species. Then the reign of truth and quietness will be ushered into the world, and war, cruel, atrocious, unrelenting war, will be stript of its many and its bewildering fascinations.
But again, another obstacle to the extinction of war, is a sentiment which seems to be universally gone into, that the rules and promises of the gospel which apply to a single individual, do not apply to a nation of individuals. Just think of the mighty effect it would have on the politics of the world, were this sentiment to be practically deposed from its wonted authority over the counsels and the doings of nations, in their transactions with each other. If forbearance be the virtue of an individual, forbearance is also the virtue of a nation. If it be encumbent on men in honour to prefer each other, it is incumbent on the very largest societies of men, through the constituted organ of their government, to do the same. If it be the glory of a man to defer his anger, and to pass over a transgression, that nation mistakes its glory which is so feelingly alive to the slightest insult, and musters up its threats and its armaments upon the faintest shadow of a provocation. If it be the magnanimity of an injured man to abstain from vengeance, and if by so doing, he heap coals of fire upon the head of his enemy, then that is the magnanimous nation, which, recoiling from violence and from blood, will do no more than send its Christian embassy, and prefer its mild and impressive remonstrance; and that is the disgraced nation which will refuse the impressiveness of the moral appeal that has been made to it.
O! my brethren, there must be the breathing of a different spirit to circulate round the globe, ere its Christianized nations resign the jealousies which now front them to each other in the scowling attitude of defiance - and much is to do with the people of every land, ere the prophesied influence of the gospel shall bring its virtuous and its pacifying control to bear with effect on the counsels and governments of the world.
I find that I must be drawing to a close, and that I must forbear entering into several topics on which I meant at one time to expatiate. I wished, in particular, to have laid it fully before you, how the extinction of war, though it should withdraw one of those scenes on which man earns the glory of intrepidity - yet it would leave other, and better, and nobler scenes, for the display and the exercise of this respectable attribute. I wished also to explain to you, that however much I admired the general spirit of Quakerism, on the subject of war; yet that I was not prepared to go all the length of its principles, when that war was strictly defensive. It strikes me, that war is to be abolished by the abolition of its aggressive spirit among the different nations of the world. The text seems to tell me, that this is the order of prophecy upon the subject; - and that it is when nation shall cease to lift up its sword against nation - or, in other words, when one nation shall cease to move, for the purpose of attacking another, that military science will be no longer in demand, and that the people of the earth will learn the art of war no more. I should also have stated, that on this ground, I refrained from pronouncing on the justice or necessity of any one war in which this country has ever been involved. I have no doubt, that many of those who supported our former wars, looked on several of them as wars for existence - but on this matter I carefully abstain from the utterance of a single sentiment - for in so doing, I should feel myself to be descending from the generalities of Christian principle, and employing that pulpit as the vehicle of a questionable policy, which ought never to be prostituted either to the unworthy object of sending forth the incense of human flattery to any one administration, or of regaling the factious, and turbulent, and disloyal passions of any party. I should next, if I had had time, offer such observations as were suggested by my own views of political science, on the multitude of vulnerable points by which this country is surrounded, in the shape of numerous and distant dependencies, and which, however much they may tend to foster the warlike politics of our government, are, in truth, so little worth the expense of a war, that should all of them be wrested away from us, they would leave the people of our empire as great and as wealthy, and as competent to every purpose of home security as ever.
Lastly, I might have whispered my inclination, for a little more of the Chinese policy being imported into Europe, not for the purpose of restraining a liberal intercourse between its different countries, but for the purpose of quieting in each its restless spirit of alarm, about every foreign movement in the politics and designs of other nations; because, sure I am, that were each great empire of the world to lay it down as the maxim of its most scrupulous observance, not to meddle till it was meddled with, each would feel in such a maxim both its safety and its triumph ; - for such are the mighty resources of defensive war, that though the whole transportable force of Europe were to land upon our borders, the result of the experiment would be such, that it should never be repeated - the rallying population of Britian could sweep them all from the face of its territory, and a whole myriad of invaders would melt away under the power of such a government as ours, trenched behind the loyalty of her defenders, and strong, as she deserves to be, in the love and in the confidence of all her children.
I would not have touched on any of the lessons of political economy, did they not lead me, by a single step, to a Christian lesson, which I count it my encumbent duty to press upon the attention of you all. Any sudden change in the state of the demand, must throw the commercial world into a temporary derangement. And whether the change be from war to peace, or from peace to war, this effect is sure to accompany it. Now for upwards of twenty years, the direction of our trade has been accommodated to a war system; and when this system is put an end to, I do not say what amount of the distress will light upon this neighbourhood, hut we may be sure that all the alarm of falling markets, and ruined speculation, will spread an oppressive gloom over many of the manufacturing districts of the land.
Now, let my title to address you on other grounds be as questionable as it may, I feel no hesitation whatever in announcing it, as your most imperative duty, that no outcry of impatience or discontent from you, shall embarrass the pacific policy of his Majestys government. They have conferred a great blessing on the country, in conferring on it peace; and it is your part resignedly to weather the languid or disastrous months which may come along with it. The interest of trade is an old argument that has been set up, in resistance to the dearest and most substantial interests of humanity. When Paul wanted to bring Christianity into Ephesus, he raised a storm of opposition around him, from a quarter which, 1 dare say, he was not counting on. There happened to be some shrine manufactories in that place, and as the success of the Apostle would infallibly have reduced the demand for that article, forth came the decisive argument of, "Sirs, by this craft we have our wealth, and should this Paul turn away the people from the worship of gods made with hands, thereby much damage would accrue to our trade". Why, my brethren, if this argument is to be admitted, there is not one conceivable benefit that can he offered for the acceptance of the species. Would it not be well, if all the men of reading in the country were to be diverted from the poison which lurks in many a mischievous publication - and should this blessed reformation be effected, are there none to be found who would feel that much damage had accrued to their trade? Would it not be well if those wretched sons of pleasure, before whom, if they repent not, there lieth all the dreariness of an uuprovided eternity would it not be well, that they were reclaimed from the maddening intoxication which speeds them on in the career of disobedience - and on this event too, would there be none to complain that much damage had accrued to their trade?
Is it not well, that the infamy of the Slave Trade has been swept from the page of British history? and yet do not many of you remember how long the measure lay suspended, and that about twenty annual flotillas, burdened with the load of human wretchedness, were wafted across the Atlantic, while Parliament was deafened and overborne by unceasing clamours about the much damage that would accrue to the trade? And now, is it not well that peace has once more been given to the nations? and are you to follow up this goodly train of examples, by a single whisper of discontent about the much damage that will accrue to your trade? No, my brethren, I will not let down a single inch of the Christian requirement that lies upon you. Should a sweeping tide of bankruptcy set in upon the land, and reduce every individual who now hears me, to the very humblest condition in society, God stands pledged to give food and raiment to all who depend upon Him; and it is not fair to make others bleed, that you may roll in affluence; - it is not fair to desolate thousands of families, that yours may be upheld in luxury and splendour - and your best, and noblest, and kindest part is, to throw yourself on the promises of God, and he will hide you and your little ones in the secret of his pavilion, till these calamities be over - past.
III. I trust it is evident from all that has been said, how it is only by the extension of Christian principle among the people of the earth, that the atrocities of war will at length be swept away from it; and that each of us is hastening the commencement of that blissful period, who, in his own sphere, is doing all that in him lies to bring his own heart, and the hearts of others, under the supreme influence of this principle. It is public opinion, which, in the long run, governs the world; and while I look with confidence to a gradual revolution in the state of public opinion, from the omnipotence of gospel truth working its silent, but effectual, way through the families of mankind - yet I will not deny, that much may be done to accelerate the advent of perpetual and universal peace, by a distinct body of men embarking their every talent, and their every acquirement, in the prosecution of this, as a distinct object. This was the way in which, a few years ago, the British public were gained over to the cause of Africa. This is the way in which some of the other prophecies of the Bible are at this moment hastening to their accomplishment; and it is in this way, I apprehend, that the prophecy of my text may be indebted for its speedier fulfilment to the agencyof men, selecting this as the assigned field on which their philanthropy shall expatiate. Were each individual member of such a scheme to prosecute his own walk, and come forward with his own peculiar contribution, the fruit of the united labours of all would be one of the finest collections of Christian eloquence, and of enlightened morals, and of sound political philosophy, that ever was presented to the world. I could not fasten on another cause more fitted to call forth such a variety of talent, and to rally around it so many of the generous and accomplished Sons of humanity, and to give each of them a devotedness and a power far beyond whatever could be sent into the hearts of enthusiasts, by the mere impulse of literary ambition.
Let one take up the question of war in its principle, and make the full weight of his moral severity rest upon it, and upon all its abominations. Let another take up the question of war in its consequences and bring his every power of graphical description to the task of presenting an awakened public with an impressive detail of its cruelties, and its horrors. Let another neutralize the poetry of war, and dismantle it of all those bewitching splendours, which the hand of misguided genius has tbrown over it. Let another teach the world, a truer and more magnanimous path to national glory, than any country of the world has yet walked in. Let another tell, with irresistible argument, how the Christian ethics of a nation is at one with the Christian ethics of its humblest individnal. Let another bring all the resources of his political science to unfold the vast energies of defensive war, and show, that, instead of that ceaseless jealousy and disquietude which are ever keeping alive the flame of hostility among the nations, each may wait in prepared security, till the first footstep of an invader shall be the signal for mustering around the standard of its outraged rights, all the steel, and spirit, and patriotism of the country. Let another pour the light of modern speculation into the mysteries of trade, and prove that not a single war has been undertaken for any of its objects, where the millions and the millions more which were lavished on the cause, have not all been cheated away from us by the phantom of an imaginary interest. This may look to many like the Utopianism of a romantic anticipationist. I shall never despair of the cause of truth addressed to a Christian public, when the clear light of principle can be brought to every one of its positions, and when its practical and conclusive establishment forms one of the most distinct of Heavens prophecies - "that men shall heat their swords into plough-shares, and their Spears into pruning-hooks and that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn the art of war any more.
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