Page images

cessions, and have turned out to be extensively injurious to her in many of their results ? If Christians would abstain from all wars which have no better foundation than the false system of worldly honour—from all which are not, on political grounds, absolutely inevitable—from all which are plainly hurtful to their countrythey would take a very important step toward the adoption of that entirely peaceable conduct which is upheld and defended by the Society of Friends.

After such a step had been taken, it must, indeed, be admitted, that certain occasions might remain, on which warfare would appear to be expedient; and, according to the estimate of most persons, actually necessary, for the mere purposes of defence and selfpreservation. On such occasions, I am well aware that, if we are to abide by the decisions of that lax morality which so generally prevails among the professors of the Christian name, we must confess that war is right, and cannot be avoided. But for true believers, for those who are brought under the influence of vital religion, for those who would “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,” war is never right. It is always their duty to obey his high and holy law—to suffer wrong-to return good for evil—to love their enemies. If, in consequence of their obedience to this law, they apprehend themselves to be surrounded with many dangers—if tumult and terror assail them—let them still remember that “ cursed” is “the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm ;" let them still place an undivided reliance upon the power and benevolence of their God and Saviour. It may be his good pleasure that they be delivered from the outward peril by which they are visited; or he may decree that they fall a sacrifice to that peril. But, whatever be the result, as long as they are preserved in obedience to his law, so long are they safe in his hands. They know that ALL THINGS work together for good to them that love God."1

Godliness, however, has the promise of this life, as well as of that which is to come: we may, therefore, entertain a reasonable confidence that our temporal happiness and safety, as well as our growth in grace, will, in general, be promoted by obedience to our heavenly Father. It is not in vain, even in an outward point of view, that God has invited his unworthy children to cast their cares upon him, and to trust him for their support and protection ; for, though he may work no miracles in their favour, the very law which he gives them to obey is adapted, in a wonderful manner, to convert their otherwise rugged path through life, into one of comparative pleasantness, security, and peace. These observations are applicable, with a peculiar degree of force, to those particulars in the divine law, which, as they are closely followed, preclude all warfare. No weapons of self-defence will be found so truly effectual as Christian meekness, kindness, and forbearance; the suffering of injuries; the absence of revenge; the return of good for evil; and the ever-operating love of God and man. Those who regulate their life and conversation with true circumspection, according to these principles, have, for the most part, little reason to fear the violent hand of the enemy and the oppressor. While clothed in the breastplate of righteousness, and firmly grasping the shield of faith, they are quiet in the centre of storms, safe in the heart of danger, and victorious amid a host of enemies.

1 Rom. viii. 28.

Such, in a multitude of instances, has been the lot of Christian individuals, and such might also be the experience of Christian nations. When we consider the still degraded condition of mankind, we can hardly, at present, look forward to the trial of the experiment; but, was there a people who would renounce the dangerous guidance of worldly honour, and boldly conform their national conduct to the eternal rules of the law of Christ—was there a people who would lay aside the weapons of a carnal warfare, and proclaim the principles of universal peace; suffer wrong with condescension ; abstain from all retaliation ; return good for evil, and diligently promote the welfare of all men—I am fully persuaded that such a people would not only dwell in absolute safety, but would be blessed with eminent prosperity, enriched with unrestricted commerce, loaded with reciprocal benefits, and endowed for every good, and wise, and worthy purpose, with irresistible influence over surrounding nations.


A. D. 1831.

ALTHOUGH the number of individuals who have of late years joined our society, has not been large, several of our distinguishing views are spreading with considerable rapidity. On the subject of war, more especially, an extensive change of sentiment has manifested itself, among serious Christians during the last ten years; and a gradual approximation appears to be taking place to the standard maintained by the primitive believers, and by some of the early fathers of the church. A large number of persons, not of our religious body, have joined the Peace Society, which is formed on the very principles advocated in the foregoing chapter. By these persons it is fully allowed, that to take away the life of any man, for the purpose of self-defence, is an action unlawful to the Christian; and many others who have not fully subscribed to this doctrine, seem almost ready to admit, that defensive as well as offensive warfare, is opposed to the precepts of Jesus Christ. As these precepts become more influential, and as a sense of the awful importance of death and eternity spreads among men, there can be no doubt that the cause of permanent and universal peace will prevail over all opposition.

The diffusion of truly Christian sentiment on the subject, is the only radical remedy for that tremendous evil, war. In the mean time, however, the nations of Europe appear to be increasingly convinced, that to waste their blood and treasure in afflicting and destroying each other, is the greatest of political follies. May the peace which has so long subsisted among them, soon rest upon a more stable basis, than that of a mere system of balancing and check ; may it gradually ripen into a kindly Christian union, which shall never again be broken !




From the statements contained in the two preceding chapters, it will have been observed, that, on two practical points of great importance, Friends have been led to adopt a higher and purer standard of action, and one which appears to be more exactly conformed to the requisitions of the divine law, than that which generally prevails among their fellow-Christians.

In point of fact, the adoption of an exalted standard of action is the proper result of their main and fundamental principle, that, in matters of conduct, man is bound to follow the guidance of a perfectly wise and holy Monitor—even the word of the most high God, revealed in the heart; a guide who will never fail to distinguish the good from the evil, the precious from the vile. According to the doctrine of the inspired author of the epistle to the Hebrews, this word of God “is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature,” adds the apostle, “ that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”!

1 Heb. iv. 12, 13. It might, undoubtedly, be said of the word of God, as it is outwardly preached, (when applied by the Spirit of Truth,) that it is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. When, however, we view this passage as a whole, we can scarcely fail to perceive that the apostle is speaking of the essential word of God: that divine Person " with whom we have to do," and who, in the subsequent verse, is plainly described as "a great High Priest—Jesus the son of God:” see ver. 14. Such is the express judgement of a variety of able commentators: see Poli True Christians, of every name and nation, will ever be found producing the fruits of the Spirit: it is by those fruits alone that they are known and distinguished; nor can any one who does not bear them, however right his opinions, or orthodox his profession, justly claim a membership in the body of Christ. Being thoroughly convinced of these truths, I am little disposed to forget either the virtues of those real Christians who do not agree with us in our peculiar views, or the moral defects and delinquencies which, when we forsake the Fountain of living waters, quickly make their appearance among ourselves. Nevertheless, the impartial observer will, probably, allow that the force and clearness with which Friends maintain that great principle of religion to which I have now adverted, is accompanied, in the serious part of the Society, with a corresponding completeness of view respecting good and evil. “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, and calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul! He hath shewed thee, 0 man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?As Friends have been much impressed with the inefficacy of sacrificial rites and other forinal ordinances, so have they been led to direct a very particular attention to the several branches of moral duty which are enjoined in this passage of Scripture, and which, under the Gospel dispensation, are unfolded and required in their true perfection. A few examples will eludicate and justify this assertion—it being always understood that my appeal is not to the practice of the unsound professor or mere formalist among us, but to the principles of the Society, as they are set forth and enforced in its public acts, and as they are, in some

Shall I give my

Synopsis. On the supposition that the passage describes the Son of God, it appears very plainly to relate to the secret operations of his Spirit in the hearts of men: comp. John i. 4, 9: 2 Cor. iii. 17.

1 Mic. vi. 6–8.

2 The laws by which the discipline of Friends is regulated, and the moral and religious principles by which the Society is distinguished, will be found recorded under various heads, (as many of my readers are probably well aware,) in an invaluable volume, entitled the “ Book of Extracts”-a book

« PreviousContinue »