THE FAITH AND PATIENCE OF THE SAINTS DISPLAYED, IN THEIR NOT MAKING USE OF CARNAL WEAPONS IN THEIR OWN DEFENSE.
The Works of that Eminent Minister of the Gospel, Job Scott, Late of Providence, Rhode Island, Vol. II. Philadelphia: John Comly, 1831, pages 244-271.
I suppose it is an indisputable truth, granted by all, that Christians, for the first three hundred years after Christ's appearance in the flesh, did absolutely refuse to be engaged in outward war; which very clearly shows, they understood his several injunctions, as, to "love enemies," "feed them," "give them drink," "do good to them that hate you," "resist not evil," "turn the other cheek," &c. As absolutely prohibitory, and binding upon them, not to go to war. For what should induce them so steadily to bear a testimony against it, if they did not believe it was inconsistent with pure Christianity? Indeed, it is highly probable, and very reasonable to conclude, that his immediate contemporaries, and those in the next ages, had great opportunity to understand what he mean to inculcate as gospel doctrines, and what not; as no doubt his companions and followers, might frequently hear him enlarge upon subjects, which are but little touched in scripture; and so while his doctrines were fresh in memory, and Christians fresh in zeal to observe them, war was not allowed among them. But, alas! A sad apostasy soon overtook the Christian church. This was foreseen and foretold by the apostle Paul; and so darkened were the understandings of the apostatized, that according to the apostle's prediction, they would not endure sound doctrine. Now it deserves out serious consideration, whether the admission of war among professing Christians, was not at this very door of apostasy, - at which also a multitude of other wrong things entered? Whether the primitive testimony against war was not one of the sound doctrines, which the mean of that apostatized generation, could not endure? Chris [p255] tians now becoming less circumspect, less fervent, and more unbelieving, and getting into a spirit of covetousness and grandeur, and increasing in likeness and love of the world, might very naturally fall into conformity therewith, and untie in vain dependance on the arm of flesh, therein endeavouring to defend themselves and their property, bu the use of carnal weapons; their hearts having departed from that firm dependance, on the Lord that reigneth, which doubtless the first Christians maintained. Moreover, in these after-days of luke-warmness and degeneracy, wherein sound doctrine could not be endured, (and indeed for that very reason) they began to heap upon themselves teachers of men, who, instead of labouring night and day with their hands, like Paul, that the gospel might be without charge, began to prefer a life of ease and luxuriousness; and becoming very avaricious, could nearly stoop to preach almost any thing that would please their feeders; thus teaching - Oh! lamentable! - teaching for doctrines, the commandments of men. And thus, prince and people being bent on war and destruction, and policy dictating to them to make an engine of the priests, they have sorrowfully abused their calling, so that instead of inculcating peace on earth, and good will to men, and valiantly opposing the lust and revengeful spirit of the people, they have been greatly instrumental in fomenting bloody wars, and spreading desolation through the land, age after age: and, (sorry I am that I have to say it,) they have continued the trade to this day. Oh! Sad departure from primitive purity! Oh! lamentable degeneracy from the peaceable disposition of the first promulagots of the gospel of peace!
Now the love of money being the root of evil, as it prevails in these teachers, in blinds the mind, and quite perverts the judgment, or else overpowers conviction, and induces them thus to preach for doctrines the commandments of men. And even while acting as in the capacity of ministers of the gospel, they have been fixing impressions in the minds of precious youth, which directly tend to harden their hearts against the genuine spirit and influence thereof; using abundance of artful sophistry, and a variety of arguments tending to darken counsel and lead [p256] their bewildered hearers from an honest attention to the dictates of that holy spirit, which inspires the soul with love and good will; and from attention to the benign influence of plain scripture doctrines. Thus their precious souls are greatly injured, and their turbulent and malignant passions inflamed to that degree that they glory in their shame and repeat their violations of Christ's injunction with delight. My very soul hath mourned at hearing them recite the arguments in favour of war, which they have told me the priests have preached to them. Some of the poor creatures have even seemed, by their words, to have a strong belief, that if they die in battle they shall have an immediate passage thence to heaven; and have added that the ministers have told them so; though others having heard such doctrine, declare they cannot believe it,. and allow that some of the priests don't assert so far, though they generally endeavour to animate them to the battle. And I have understood, and been credibly informed, that some of them have found it difficult in the course of the present war to please all their hearers, they not being all of one mind respecting the lawfulness of war; so that what pleased one, displeased another.
Oh! the love of money! What desolations has it made! what havock of human lives! what violations of tile gospel precepts! Can it be believed that worldly hirelings better understand, or can better explain, the true intent and meaning of these blessed precepts than the pious, humble, self-denying primitive Christians? Surely nay. But the apostasy has entered, wherein it was foreseen that all the world should wonder after the beast, save only those who had the Father's name written in their foreheads; and those, being redeemed from the earth and from among men, were seen standing on Mount Zion with harps in their hands. These are not trusting in man, but in the living God; and not rending and devouring, nor making military preparations to defend themselves and properties; but being Christ's sheep, they hear his voice, commanding them, "When ye hear of wars and rumours of wars, see that ye be not troubled." This they dare not violate; nor will they give way to vain fears, so as to seek to the arm of flesh, and carnal weapons, for protection. They are not governed by carnal reasonings, that they shall [p256] be swallowed up, and their estates wrested from them; that civil government cannot be maintained but by the sword of war; and that therefore they must unsheathe it in their own and country's defence. No, no. They have learned another lesson, viz. "that he that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword." Rev. xiii. 10.
And here I cannot well avoid taking notice of the remarkable words which immediately follow these expressions; for to me they appear to be a glorious display of the true christian spirit. The words are, "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." Where is this patience and faith of the saints? Answer, here in this very thing; in their observance of this very declaration, "He that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword." Therefore, they being Christ's servants, will not fight; dare not disobey his instructions, and incur his displeasure, by a conduct so violative of the "patience and faith of the saints," as to distrust his divine protection, and flee to carnal weapons for defence, and for the support of civil government. Their kingdom is not of this world; their principal treasure is not here below, in earthly possessions, but above in that kingdom which they are commanded to seek in the first place, with the promise of him who cannot lie, that all things necessary shall be added. And they can take his word for it, trusting him not only to add them, but to protect them in the enjoyment thereof, and to support civil government by means most agreeable to his infinite wisdom. Therefore, though they hear of wars, and rumours of wars, they trust in the Lord, and are not confounded, are not troubled about the means of preservation; they fly not to carnal weapons for defence; remembering, and also believing, that "he that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword." "Here," in deed and in truth, "is the patience and the faith of the saints." Their patience appears in that when they are reviled, they revile not again; when one cheek is smitten, they smite not again, but rather turn the other; in that when their outward interest is in danger; or when it is violently withheld or wrested from them, they dare not consent to the violent use of the sword, even in the hands of a civil officer, in order to recover their property again; and [p258] in their patiently waiting for deliverance in the Lord's own way and time. And their faith appears in their firm dependance on the Lord alone; not doubting that their lives and property will be safe in his protection; not doubting that he can restrain and overrule the rage of cruel adversaries, and the wrath of armed men; and preserve them from "the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and from the arrow that flyeth at noon-day."
Now I have heard divers say, that although war was so far from being easily justifiable from the doctrines and spirit of the gospel, that it seemed to be pretty clearly forbidden and condemned,, yet they must believe it consistent therewith, from the impossibility, as thy supposed, of maintaining civil government without it. This carries the point with them, as a like objection did with the chief priests and pharisees, "If we let this man alone the Romans will come and take away our place and nation;" doubtless because they though their safety and being, as a nation, depended on the use of those weapons, and of such force as the doctrines of Christ utterly rejected and forbid; and that by his being let alone, and suffered to inculcate such doctrines, he might so convince and proselyte the people, (as they saw he spake with authority, and not as the scribes,) that their place and nation would thereby be endangered, and left defenceless, for want of soldiers to wield the sword in their defence. Oh! weak and faithless generation! How happy had it been for them had they yielded obedience, and given gull place in their hearts to the heavenly instructions of this prince and preacher of peace! Then had they been safe in the hollow of that hand, out of which none could pluck them; they would have witnessed surer preservation that e'er was found in, or procured by the use of carnal weapons. But so it was, their eyes were blinded; they knew not in their day the things that belonged to their peace, and so they were hid from their eyes.
This is past, and many are acting over the same thing in substance, in these our days, and that in the same blindness and unbelief in which they acted in that; for when they are told of trusting and believing in the Lord's divine preserving arm, and of the maintenance of civil government without the use of carnal weapons and military assistance, they seem as full of wonder [p259] and distrust and as ready to say how can it be, as Nicodemus was, at the doctrine of the new birth. And so, because their natural reason cannot comprehend the sufficiency of divine influence, or the probability of its being exerted so as to deter evil doers, and support civil government, as they suppose it may be done by swords and guns, therefore, they strive to force Christ's plainly opposite doctrines to a consistency with what they imagine absolutely necessary to the support of civil government and human policy. But they ought to consider that in so doing, they reverse the commandment; and, instead of seeking first the heavenly kingdom, and trusting God, according to his promise, to add other things, they seek first to secure what he has promised to add, and neglect to seek first the heavenly kingdom, which he has commanded them; hoping, it may be, that he will add that to the earthly, though he has not promised, nor indeed have they any solid grounds to expect it, for if they love earthly things more than Christ, he has expressly declared they are not worthy of him.
Now it is observable, that the prayer he taught, agrees exactly with the precepts he delivered. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven :" not as in warring, avenging, lusting christendom; no, no; but as it is in heaven, where all is love, harmony, and peace. "Give us this day, or day by day, our daily bread." Behold the moderation of the request. Not give us vast estates, to increase our ease, honour, popularity, and power; and to perpetuate our names and families in the earth. Not protect us, in the luxurious enjoyment of an hundred times more than enough, and that at the loss of others' lives, in the field of battle and blood; but "give us this day, (mark well, this day,) our daily bread." Were our desires after earthly things, in any good degree conformable to this petition I believe we should seldom find occasion for the use of carnal weapons. But to proceed. "Forgive us our trespasses" - how? "as we forgive those that trespass against us." Not as we have loved the world, lusted after, and murdered the workmanship of thy hands, made after thy image, to obtain it. Not as we have rigorously exacted the utmost farthing, and revenged every little injury and offence; no, no: but as we have [p360] forgiven those who have injuriously treated us, and trespassed against us; for we are taught, that if we forgive men their trespasses, our heavenly Father will forgive ours; and we are taught also, not to avenge ourselves; and that war proceeds from lust warring in the members, desiring to have wherewithal to consume upon those very lusts. So that lust seems to be the origin from which war proceeds, and the gratification thereof, the centre to which it tends. But as we come to trust in him that clothes the lilies, to clothe us, (otherwise we should justly deserve to be reproved with an "O ye of little faith!") we renounce the world, pray, "thy kingdom come, and we be done," and cheerfully forgive, yea, love and feed our enemies.
This, this is the language of the gospel disposition; this is the spirit of the real Christian: unto whom, it is not difficult to find a way for the maintenance of civil government, without the violation of the Lord's commandments; though it may be hard for him to make a mere nominal Christian, or even a fearful and unbelieving one, whose eye is single to the Lord, believe it possible: because, to see clearly through the whole mystery of godliness, the mind must be redeemed fro the world, and the love of it; for if we love the world, the love of the Father, we are assured, is not in us. And if his love is not in us, it is impossible we should have a firm dependance on, and unshaken faith in him: and so, for want of this dependance, and of the eye being single, the mind turns outward, and seeks protection from the arm of flesh; and being destitute of that fulness of light that attends a single eye, darkness overspreads the understanding, dark and carnal reasonings enter and prevail; fear, trouble, and alarm, confuse and confound the poor unbelieving, wandering soul. And thus, instead of exhibiting to the world, an example of true christian faith, fortitude, and patience, he become a fearful, worldly politician; flying to the arm of flesh for protection. This is not :the patience and faith of the saints;" no, by no means: neither it conforming to those holy injunctions, "See that ye be not troubled," "Resist not evil," "Love the Lord with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself," &c. but is directly the reverse.
[p261 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding," is an excellent precept; for the world by its wisdom knows not God, nor his way of preservation; and accordingly the son of his bosom, who well understood his counsels, was heard reverently to return him thanks because he had hid those things from the wise and prudent, and revealed thereunto babes. Now these babes, having a filial trust in and dependance on the Lord, their holy Parent, they wait for the word from his mouth, and babe-like, pretend not to know better than he, nor to dispute his divine authority; nay, nor even strive to pervert or evade the force of his injunctions. They do not presumptuously conclude, they will not observe his laws, nor understand them in their plain and proper meaning, unless he will Premise to defend their lives and properties from all invasions. They do not refuse to follow him, unless he will clearly show them beforehand, how, and by what means, he will, preserve them; or how he will confound their enemies; but they believe the declaration, that "when a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." Though for a season he may suffer the wrath of the wicked to rise up against him, and threaten inevitable ruin and destruction; yet, none ever trusted in the Lord, and were confounded; for no weapon formed against such, shall prosper; but every tongue that riseth in judgment against them, they shall condemn. Let it be again repeated, "Here is the patience, and the faith of the saints."
Oh! my heart's desire and prayer to God is that his kingdom may come, and his will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. That righteousness may cover the earth, as waters do the seas. That swords may universally be beaten into plough-shares, and spears in pruning-hooks. That nation may not lift up sword against nation, nor learn war any more at all, for ever; but that the nations of the earth may become the nations, (yea, and the peaceable-followers,) of God, and of his Christ. And this I not only pray for in sincerity, and in feeling fervency of soul, but I also have an unshaken faith and expectation, that such a time will come; that such a reformation will prevail; however enthusiastical it may seem to worldly minded Christians. But [ p262] know, O christendom, that, in so far as thou hast denied the Lord that bought thee, and hast treacherously refused to hold forth his ensign to the nations, and to lift up his standard of peace among the people; but hast hidden thy light under a bed or bushel, and been ashamed of his blessed testimony, in so far will he deny thee before his Father and the holy angels. He will blot thy name out of the book of life, and deny thee an inheritance among those who have followed him in regeneration and the daily cross, bearing his reproach among the sons of men, and maintaining his testimony through persecution, scorn, and death. The mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
Therefore, be awakened, O careless christendom! Be aroused, O lukewarm and unfaithful professors of the holy name of Jesus, the prince of peace! Be persuaded, I beseech you, to look around and consider your sad departure from the self-denying life of our holy head and pattern, and from the example and testimony of his primitive followers. They denied themselves, took up their daily cross, and followed their redeemer, bearing testimony to the peaceable nature of the gospel dispensation. Alas! How unlike the conduct of present professors! How contrary to the wrathful, revengeful spirit of fallen, worldly christendom! What lamentations shall be taken up - what language shall be used, to impress the minds of mankind with a proper sense of the woeful apostasy that has bewildered and benighted poor christendom! My very soul doth mourn, and my heart is moved within me wile I written in consideration of these things, and as they now seriously affect and impress my mind.
A very sorrowful, yea, even painful circumstance now presents to my view, namely, the case of those who on account of their violation of our christian testimony against war, and spirit of it, and perhaps from a desire to enjoy a little more liberty, have suffered themselves to be cut off and separated from our religious society, as members. I believe such, if ever they were green and lively, must have been greatly withered, before they could so far deviate, and I greatly fear they will, unless they pass through deep repentance and condemnation, shrivel and die, as members disjointed from the body, or as [p263] branches separated from and not abiding in the vine. Oh! How is the cause of reformation wounded by such examples! How may the hearts of tender inquirers be discouraged, and the mouths of vaunting adversaries opened against them, as well as against the pure truth, bu such mournful departures from, and renouncings of the testimony thereof! Oh! That they who have so sadly fallen away, might be persuaded to a serious consideration and amendment of their ways before it be too late. Oh! That they might be brought back to a state of true sensibility, and enjoyment of that divine presence, without which a man's life is a burden, and all earthly enjoyments, vanity of vexation of the spirit. I feel sincere desires for their awakening and return, that so their immoral souls may rest in the day of trouble. It seems as if I could suffer great tribulation for their sakes, if it might tend to the enlightening of their darkened understandings, and softening their hearts.
"When the Lord turns again the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad." Meantime wisdom is justified of her children, And though the world may lie in wickedness, and even some who have known and tasted the good word of life, and the powers of the world to come may fall away; though the stars may fall from heaven, and Demas may love this present world, yet be encouraged, ye upright hearted testimony bearers; ye tribulated followers of the Prince of Peace, among all denominations. Be ye strengthened in you zeal and fervent resolution to follow him to the mountain of the Lord, where no one shall "hurt or destroy." Give not back,, though multitudes of world christians reproach and discourage you. As ye abide faithful, ye shall witness preservation,, evincing that :to us a child is born - to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder;" his name is "Wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; and of the increase of his government, and peace, there shall be no end:" for he sitteth upon the throne of David, to order it, and to establish it, henceforth, through all generations. Therefore, hold on your way, hold on your way ye conscientious burthen-bearers! [p 264] wherever your lots may be cast, in whatever remote corner of the earth, in whatever outward communion.
The Lord's sheep are not confined to any one outward fold; but though they all know, and are gathered into one fold of inward rest, yet outwardly they walk, and are scattered among various denominations. This I firmly believe; and wherever they are, I call them brethren; I own them in the covenant and fellowship of celestial affinity; in the bonds and endearments of a spiritual relationship. And charity obliges me to own some who engage in things I am persuaded are altogether unlawful form me. Thus, I believe, the Lord owns some as in a good degree his servants, who yet have not clearly seen the contrariety of war to the life of a truly humble and dependant Christian, who is thoroughly redeemed fro the very occasion of wars, and who lives a life and faith and confidence in God, his only refuge. I feel that flowing of universal love towards some, who, through ignorance, the force of education, or bad instruction, remain in violation of those holy precepts which are to me as binding, obligatory laws. And I am also fully persuaded and assured that they are so far obligatory upon all, that every soul who violates them merely to secure his outward interest, contrary to what secretly reproves and informs him,; and is not blinded by the influence of priest-craft or education, but being able to see beyond the one, and soar above the prejudice of other, will yet, with his eyes thus open, for the sake of self-preservation, rush violently into the field of war: I say, I firmly believe that every one who thus "killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword" of the spirit. No matter what dark and carnal, though seemingly plausible reasonings he makes use of to justify his conduct; if his own heart, or the witness of God in his own mind, condemns; God is greater than his heart, and knoweth all things, knoweth he was not without a condemning witness in that mind, and will ratify and confirm that witness and condemnation. And even though he may rebel against the light, till he comes to know scarce any thing of ways thereof, and is hardened and darkened to that degrees, as to be almost insensible of its impressions, and in presumption [p265] declare he believe it his duty to war and fight; yea, even though in the height of extravagance and obduracy, he may venture to preach it up as a duty to others, and strive to give sanction to it by the name of the Lord of Hosts, yet I declare on behalf of him and of his despised testimony, that he will strike up a light in such benighted souls, that shall bring to their remembrance the secret reproofs of instruction they have stifled and trampled upon. He will turn over the leaves of their lives, and cause them to read in legible character the impressions once made and written by his eternal finger on the table of their hearts. And then, Oh! How will they wish their lives had been governed by the unerring witness of truth!
Oh! that mankind were wise! That they would timely and aright consider their latter end, and seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God, firmly depending on him for an addition of all things necessary and best for them to enjoy. Then would their lives be comfortable, and their latter end blessed with joy and consolation. Then whatever turnings and overturnings the Lord might suffer to take place in the kingdoms of this world; whatever interruptions of the administration of civil government might happen by the unruly passions of wicked men those that were thus given up in body, soul, and spirit to the Lord, viewing all these things with a single eye, would see and know that all would work together for their own good. And were this the case with an whole nation, they, standing thus in the light of the Lamb, would not fear, but would know that although wars, and rumours of wars, may remain for a time in the earth, and among the earthly minded, yet the captain of their salvation, who has the hearts of kings and tyrants in his hands, would preserve them who thus trust in him, as in the hollow thereof, from suffering aught by the malice of wicked princes, or the cruelty of enraged adversaries, but what would redound to their peace, his own glory, and the furtherance of his blessed work on earth, and among the sons of men. For though the times and seasons might be gloomy, through devastating giht spread around, and thought he course of civil justice might be obstructed, and anarchy and confuison freigh for a season, yet would the strenght of Omnipotence be engaged on their [p266] behalf; and no doubt he woul much sooner restore peace, harmony, and the regular admistration of civil justice, to such a nation, so conducting, and out of a pure conscience to God, refusing to defend themselves, than if they should revolt from their dependance on the arm of divine strength, and fly to carnal weapons for security. For "cursed is the man who trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord;" but "blessed is the man who trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord alone is."
I have a firm and fixed belief, that should any whole nation be convinced of the peaceable principles of the gospel, and in sincerity endeavour to live up to them, in their full extent; where such a nation was once invaded from abroud, the warring nation would be many times invaded; and where the regular administration of civil justice would be obstructed in such a nation for a month, it would often be so in other nations for years. But alas! How many are like poor unbeliving Peter, when he began to walk on the water, though his Lord commanded it, yet for want of faith he sunk amidst the waves, and lost his resolution: but had he firmly truste di the Lord that called him, without doubting, he would have been enabled to walk on the watery element , and instead of being reproved with an "O thou of little faith" wherefore didst thou doubt?" he might have been received to his master's fond embraces with an encouraging commendation and testimonyh, "that such faith had not been seen, no, not in Israel." Oh! The multitudes that cannot enter the heavenly Canaan, because of unbelief.
Now, I have no doubt that this may sound very impertinent inm the ear of many a carnal Christian, who in the wisdom of this world, may think himself abundantly furnished with uanswerable obejctions to such a system. But I would once more desire such to remember the example of primitive Christians. How were they preserved? How was civil government maintained? Perhaps it may be said, not by Christians, but by worldy civil magistrates. Perhaps it might be, and I could wish that Christians had never meddled with it, nor attempted to maintain it, any further than they could have in done it in agreement with the doctrines of the gospel, and example of the primitive Christians.
[p267] If civil government be an ordinance of God, as undoubtedly it is, there can be no doubt that God will enable every truechristian magistrate to act his part and do his duty in it, without violation of those precepts, the observance of wihc distinguish a true peaceable Christian, from a wrathful, warring infidel. Let it also be inquired, how christendom has improved in pure christianity in other respects, since professed christians have taken sheler under the sword of war and vengeance, and fled for sanctuary to the protection of carnal, fighting captains and commanders. Has self-denial flourished under the spreading boughs of tall ceders? Has the cross accompanied Christians to the covert of the sutdy oaks of Bashan? Has thelove of God and man waxed warm in the field of slaughter? Have your garments been washed white through great tribulations, in the blood of fellow mortals? Has the sound of drums and trumpets prepard your hearts to worship God in reverence and love? I wish thiese tings might be considered; and a clam inquiry entered into, whether Christians inearlyages were mistaken intheir testiomny; and whether latter ages have been more enlightened? Whether the love of the world is less prevalent? - love of one another more predominant? Whether charity, benevolence, and fervent devotion are more conspicuous? Is the power of the gospel ministry more efficacious? Are Christians more successful in converting infidels? Is skepticism more extinguished? Are faith and love increased? I believe if impartial answers were given to these queries, each would be nagami with a No, no, the contrary lamentable prevails! I think few are so obdurate, as not to believe that a sad falling short of primitive uprightness, and a great declension from ancient purity, are visibly manifest.
Therefore, O sleeping christendom! Awake from thy lethargy, and arise from the dead, that Christ may give thee light; and that thou in his light may see more light, and so the light of the moon become as the light of the sun, and that of the sun as the light of seven days; that so thou mayst reform from thy many evil ways. I am confident that in such abundant light, thou wouldst plainly see that they teachers have been strengthening the bands of iniquity, and as it were shutting up the king [p268] dom of heaven, neither entering themselves nor suffering those that would. And I also firmly believe that in this light, thus powerfully shining and increasing, thou would not only see that war and fighting are inconsistent with pure chrisitanity; but also would have an eye open to see a way for civil government to be far better maintained, that by the point of the sword. That authority in the life, and power, and efficacy of true religion would be afforded which would an hundred times more effectually awe and dishearten heathen nations, than all military preparations can possibly do; and more effectually tend to harmony and concord within our borders, than all the military was held up in terror ever did or ever will do.
The Lord is as able now to prevent wicked men from hurting his servants, as ever he was, and if it be in their hearts to do so, he can restrain them, that they shall not fulfil their purpose; yea, he can fill their hearts with terror, that they shall not dare come nigh thy dwelling. And if at any time he should suffer them to enter thy dominions, and to threaten destruction and ruin, and even to execute cruelty, I have no doubt that their angry, and proud assaults and insults would b\far sooner be restrained, and far few lives would be destroyed, than if force was resisted by force. And as it is a principle in natural philosophy, that action and reaction are always equal; so in this case, like begets its likeness; anger begets anger, smiting provokes to smiting.
Thus from the most trifling causes, thousands and millions of lives have been sacrificed to more than brutal barbarity and revenge; and little petty quarrels, scarce worth a serious thought at first, have be mutual aggravation been fomented and increased, till they that were brethren, children of the same parents, as well as professed believers in the same common Redeemer, have freely sheathed their swords and stianed their hands in one another's blood.
Oh the human blood that crieth to the Lord for vengeance, from the earth and also from the seas; blood that was shed in quarrels of the most insignificant nature, and of almost no importance. And yet - Oh! wretched apostasy! - the professors of our age are preposterously crowning with laurels, the [p269] heads of those who are the most famous for human havock; and he that is the most victorious in destroying human lives, is extolled as most honourable and worthy! Oh! strange perversion of the nature of things! - sad contrariety to the design of the gospel!
But to return. As wrath begets wrath, railing, railing, and resistance, resistance; so on the other hand love begets love, forbearance, forbearance, and forgiveness, forgiveness. And thus, were all christendom true Christians, not resisting evil, but turning the other cheek, or patiently enduring threatenings, and even ravages of inveterate heathens, no doubt to me but it would the most effectually, of any conduct, soften their hearts, and beget relentings and compassion; and some among the heathen would be hereby converted to the Christian faith. Oh! glorious victory! Oh! valiant overcoming! infinitely superior to all the vain glory of Alexander, or the sounds and triumphs of conquering commanders. What! a heathen converted to the Christian faith by example. A wrathful, wicked warrior turned to truth and righteousness by thy submissive christian temper! Be assured, if thou perseverest to the end, and thus turnest many to righteousness, thou shalt shine as a star in the firmament of God's power forever and ever.
But, alas! alas! (my soul is grieved at the prospect,) the case is sadly otherwise. Heathen and infidels are much more likely to be hardened in their infidelity, hardness of heart, and cruelty, than to be softened into tenderness, and won to truth and righteousness, by the example of carnal and revengeful Christendom. Oh! had primitive purity remained; had love, benevolence, and forgiveness increased; how would Christians at this day have had to rejoice in the spreading of that gracious declaration, "Peace on earth and good will to men," and in the coming of the kingdom of Jehovah on earth, as it is in heaven! How would swords have been beaten into instruments of usefulness to mankind! And how might the sons of the morning have sung and shouted for joy! But thought this glorious day is thus long deferred, through the unfaithfulness of Christendom, yet it must in time arrive, and bless shall he be, who, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, shall to the end [p270] valiantly bear his saviour's dying cross, and hold forth a faithful testimony to the purity and peaceableness of the gospel day: he shall die in peace, and rest forever in a mansion of undisturbed tranquillity, and comfort inexpressible.
And now it is in my mind to address myself to those among all denominations who are convinced of the unlawfulness of war, and especially my brethren in an outward fellowship. Dear friends, you with myself profess to believe in the peaceable doctrines of the gospel; profess to trust your all in the mighty God of Jacob. Oh! that our example may correspond with this profession. The reformation must in great measure depend on our circumspection. If we live in those lusts and passions, and reach forth eagerly to compass those gratifications which sow the seeds of war, we must expect to be in some degree answerable for the calamities that ensue. If we indulge the love of money, and strain at wealth and grandeur: if we in food, furniture, and apparel, exceed the bounds of that narrow way that leads to life; if we in these things go beyond that degree which strictly consists with the true harmony of mankind, and example others in a wrong way of living, thereby raising desires in them to strive to advance themselves in the same way, this will tend to kindle undue anxiety and inordinate exertions, and so a wheel will move within a wheel, and in the chain and connexion of things, we shall be found promoters of war and desolation.
Therefore, let us all, who are convinced of this glorious peaceable principle, deny ourselves, and take up our cross, yea, our daily cross, to everything that tends to retard the universal spreading of righteousness and peace over the face of the earth. Let us endeavour to avoid strengthening the bands of wickedness by word or deed; but especially it lives in my mind to urge the necessity of our dying to the love of the world, and to every desire to possess and enjoy, to taste or be gratified with this world's goods, beyond the bounds of a strict conformity to the self-denying life of Jesus. For every step beyond the necessary supply of nature's wants, I believe tends to feed a part in us that is our enemy, and ultimately to create wars and calamities; and in this sense I do believe many of us are more or less account [p271] able for the present unhappy broils and contentions. And I further believe, and desire to express it in that love that travails for a restoration to primitive purity, that our particular society, when we all come to be content with real necessaries, and indulge no imaginary wants, will both wear a very different aspect from what it has and does: will relinquish many things, now thought necessary; and also will shine forth in ancient lustre and beauty. And this I believe the Lord is on his way to bring about, and will effectuate.
It has often dwelt on my mind, that if his calls to us immediately by his spirit, instrumentally by his servants, to narrow the path of life: if his secret influences are not attended to, and our minds given up to follow him in self-denial, he will use means that will narrow the path for us. These things I express, as I have felt them, and not once or twice only but repeatedly. Therefore, Oh! that we may be wise. and dwelling near the fountain of life, draw fresh supplies from day to day, which may enable us to live so as to hasten the reformation in the earth, and hold forth an example to the nations of pure religion, dependance on, and resignation to God; not daring when smitten, to smite again, nor to contribute in any wise to the cause of war and bloodshed: but let all nations see and bear testimony that it is not in profession only but in life and practice, that we renounce the service of that roaring lion whose work it is to promote revenge and slaughter. And no doubt at all, we shall by so doing, find the Lord to he our portion, protection, and exceeding great reward. We shall be enabled to sing in the midst of drums and trumpets, swords and bayonets, cannons and thunderings: and be much better preserved from harm, than by resisting force by force: and finally shall he conducted safe through the pilgrimage of this world, to an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
"Here is the faith and patience of the saints."
Reader, in much good will to thy immortal soul, I put my pen to paper; so in the same I rest thy real friend,