« AnteriorContinuar »
dividuals to nations, the light of Nature would seem to authorize war in those extreme cases, where we are obliged to choose between our own destruction and that of our assailant.
So far as this, arguing the subject from the light of nature alone, we feel disposed to concede to the advocates of war. We do not deny that if the code of nature were the only code, which binds its requisitions on the human race, the prospect of universal and permanent peace would be altogether a hopeless one. would beseech the advocates of the right of war not to forget, as seems to be too often done in arguing on this subject, that we are not left in this situation. It is not true, (and we ought to be grateful that we are permitted to say it,) that we are left to the guidance of the light of nature alone. In the present erring and fallen condition of the human race, every candid mind will be ready to confess, that the light of nature is often dim and uncertain ; and just so far as we have the purer and brighter radiance of Revelation, we are under obligations to follow it.
OF WAR AS EXAMINED BY THE OLD TESTAMENT.
If we examine the subject of war, as it appears in the light of nature, we may perhaps be obliged to admit, that, in some extreme cases, which very seldom occur, it is allowable. But in addition to the light of nature, as we have already had occasion to say, we have the purer and brighter light of Revelation. The mere fact of a Revelation from God implies, that those unaided suggestions of natural reason and conscience, which are indicated by the phrase light of nature, are not enough for us in the actual circumstances of our situation. Accordingly we naturally anticipate, that there will be found in the Scriptures principles and practical requisitions, different from and above the principles and requisitions of nature. Revelation embraces the natural divisions of the Old and New Testaments, which are so clearly separated from each other by time, by events, and by principles, that there is no danger, in the examination of the subject before us, of their being confounded together. We proceed, therefore, to the examination of the subject of war, as it is presented to us in the Old Testament.
In the first place we admit, that wars were frequently carried on during those periods, to which the Old Testament particularly relates, and that religious men, such as Abraham, Joshua, and David, participated in
them. There is no question as to the fact. The question is in respect to the principle. On what grounds did this happen ? What were the reasons, which led to this state of things ? We cannot doubt, that the wars of the Old Testament, so far as they were entered into and conducted by pious men, were understood by them to be fully authorized by the permission of God, either express or implied. It will be recollected, that during the long period of the Old Testament dispensations, God was in the habit of holding communications with his chosen people. Their government, even so far back as the time of Noah, may properly be denominated theocratical. In other words, God was their civil and political, as well as moral governor. By dreams and visions of the night, by symbolic appearances, by the mouth of his prophets, by Urim and Thụmmim, and by the agency of angels, he condescended to make manifestations of his will to his people and their rulers. The subjects of those communications were more or less important; some of them have been handed down to us, but some in all probability have not been made matter of historical record. But certainly it would be unreasonable to suppose, that the subject of the destruction of human life and of war was wholly passed by. If we had no express testimony to to the fact, we should certainly conclude from the nature of the case, that the pious servants of Jehovah would not feel at liberty to destroy their fellow men, without a knowledge of the Divine will in so important a matter. They consulted him in other things; they were in the habit of regulating their conduct by his directions and advice ; and is it at all probable, that, in so responsible business as that of shedding human blood, they would either refuse to seek his counsel, or would disregard it when given ?
The first war particularly mentioned in the Bible, as
having been carried on by those, whose example would have any weight in this discussion, is that, which was commenced by Abraham for the rescue of Lot. In regard to this case we admit, it does not appear from the record which we have of those events, that any divine permission was expressly given to Abraham. from a knowledge of his character, and particularly of his entire reliance upon God, we are naturally led to conclude, that, if he had not an express revelation on the subject, he yet had such evidences and intimations in regard to it, as according to the best views he could take justified him in the course he pursued. His reply to the proposition of the king of Sodom, that he had lifted up his hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, &c, seems to indicate very clearly, that he had not engaged in this warlike enterprise for mere worldly purposes, nor without a reference to the will of that great Being, in whom he believed. Especially when we consider, that he was blessed for his conduct by Melchisedeck, the priest of the Most High God; and that both before and after this event he had direct communications with God himself. If we examine the wars, which took place in the times of Moses and Joshua, we shall find more decisive evidence that they were commenced and carried on, as a general thing, under the divine direction. On a certain occasion the Israelites proposed to make an attack upo the Amalekites ; but what was the language of Moses? “Go not up, for the Lord is not among you ; that ye be not smitten before your enemies.” In another case it is said, when Arad the Canaanite opposed the passage of the Israelites through his territories, that “Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, if thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities. And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites.” When the king
of Bashan came out against the Israelites to give battle at Edrei, “ The Lord said unto Moses, fear him not, for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land.” The wars, which were waged after the death of Moses, under the direction of Joshua, were commenced and carried on with the divine permission and approbation. After directing him to arise and pass over the Jordan, God says to Joshua, “Every place, that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites.” — In other instances too numerous to repeat here, we find that God kept in his own hands the direction in this matter; and that nearly in proportion as his people revered him and loved him and were disposed to do his pleasure, they consulted him in all measures of a warlike nature. This at least is found to be so frequently the case, that in those instances where no record of such consultation has come down to us, we may reasonably infer, that it was not in fact omitted. And this is what we should naturally expect from a consideration of the immense consequences involved in war; and particularly after the solemn announcement on Mount Sinai, Thou SHALT NOT KILL.
The sixth Commandment furnishes a key to the interpretation of the whole of the Old Testament on the subject of the inviolability of human life. By keeping this key in our hand, we may unlock it and explain it in entire consistency with itself from beginning to end ; and in consistency also with the New Testament. We have no idea, that this command, thou shalt not kill, was limited, as some imagine, to cases of manslaughter and murder. We are aware, that some distinguished names would impose this limitation. Even Rosenmueller translates it by the Latin expressions, NE HOMICIDIUM COMMITTITE;