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to be our only rule of duty, few Christians deny. The knowledge communicated to us, of the preceptive will of God to his Church, under the first dispensation, is very limited. We find, however, no authority for taking the life of man in any case, not even for murder; but on the contrary, a sevenfold vengeance was pronounced upon him who should slay the murderer. Under the patriarchal dispensation, he that shed man's blood, by man was his blood to be shed. In this, defensive war was tolerated.Under the Mosaic dispensation, not only defensive, but offensive war was tolerated, and not only war was permitted, but a retaliating theocracy established; an eye, for an eye; a tooth, for a tooth; life for life, &c.
The question to be decided is, whether these regulations are still in force, or whether they were disannulled by the gospel dispensation? The life and precepts of our Lord, and his disciples while under the unerring guidance of his spirit, must be our only authority in this inquiry. That many things were done away by the gospel dispensation, none will deny, who believe the gospel. The ceremonial part, which was only a shadow of good things to come, vanished away, when the substance appeared; and not only the ceremonial part was abolished, but many other practices. Polygamy was permitted under the law; but forbidden under the gospel. Divorce was allowed under the Mosaic, but prohibited under the gospel dispensation; except in the case of adultery. Under the Mosaic dispensation, the penalty for whoredom was stoning to
death. This penalty was not enforced under the gospel dispensation, as may be seen in John viii. 11. That all kinds of wars, revenge, and fighting, were utterly prohibited under the gospel dispensation, we think appears evident, not only from the life of our glorious Mediator, but from his express precepts. "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews." No comment can add force to this passage, for it is apprehended that no language can be more explicit against defensive war.
In Christ's sermon on the Mount, he quoted a passage from Exodus, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but, I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." The force of this passage has generally been obviated, by saying, that we are not to take all the words of our Lord literally. Although this is admitted; yet we are absolutely bound to take the spirit of every word, if we can understand them, by comparing the Scriptures with the Scriptures. That the spirit of this passage is directly opposed to the one our Lord quoted from Exodus, we think cannot fairly be denied; and, of course, it disannulled it; for he who had power to make laws under one dispensation, had power to abrogate them under another.
The blessed Mediator did, in the most explicit manner, command his subjects to love their enemies, and render good for evil. This command, we are of D
opinion, is totally incompatible with resisting them with carnal weapons. He says, "But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate and you, pray for them which despitefully use you." Let us for one moment compare this precept with defensive war, and see if it can consistently be put into practice. Suppose our country is invaded, and a professed disciple of the Prince of Peace buckles on the harness, and take the field, to repel by the point of the sword his enemy. He advances amidst the lamentations of the wounded, and the shrieks of the dying, to meet his foe in arms. He sees his wrath kindled, and his spear uplifted; and in this trying moment he hears his Lord say, Love your enemy, and render to him good for evil; and his kindness to him is like Joab's to Amasa; he thrusts him through the heart, and hurries him to the awful tribunal of his judge; probably, without the application to his never-dying soul, of any renewing spirit or atoning blood. Dear brethren, be not deceived; for God is not mocked. Who amongst our fellow-men, would receive the thrust of a sword as an act of kindness? Only let conscience do its office, and there will be no difficulty in deciding whether defensive war is inconsistent with the gospel dispensation or not. Carnal and spiritual weapons, will no more unite under the gospel dispensation, than iron, and miry clay.
Our very salvation depends on being possessed. of a spirit of forgiveness to enemies. If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." If men invade our
rights, and trespass upon our privileges, is it forgiveness to repel them at the point of the bayonet? The honest Christian will find no difficulty in conscientiously deciding this question; notwithstanding he may be slow of heart in believing all that is written.
All the conduct of our Lord had meaning to it; and much of it was with an express view to teach his disciples by way of example. A little before he was betrayed, he ordered his disciples to take swords. The object of this must have been, either to use them for defence, or for some other purpose. The event proves, that they were not taken for selfdefence. The question then is, for what were they taken? The event appears fully to answer the question; viz. To prohibit, by way of example, the use of them for self-defence, in the most trying situation possible. If any situation would justify selfdefence with carnal weapons, it must have been the situation in which our Lord and his disciples were placed, at the time he was betrayed. They were in a public garden; and they were assaulted by a mob, contrary to the statutes of the Romans, and the laws of the Jews; and the object was, to take his life. This the disciples knew; and Peter judged it a proper time for defence, and drew his sword, and smote a servant of the High Priest, and cut off his ear. As our Lord's kingdom was not of this world, he would not suffer his subjects to use the weapons of this world in any situation. He therefore healed the wound they made, and rebuked Peter for his mistaken zeal. "Then said Jesus unto him, put up again thy sword into his place, for all they that take
the sword, shall perish with the sword; thinkest thou that I cannot pray to my father, and he would presently send me more than twelve legions of angels?" Here we see that our Lord not only forbade his disciples to use the sword in self-defence; but added a dreadful penalty to transgressors" all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." The disciples did not then fully understand that his kingdom was not of this world. As soon as they were prohibited using the weapons of this world, they all forsook him and fled*.
Four things are noticeable from this history. First, That the subjects of the Mediator's kingdom have no right to use carnal weapons for defence, in the most trying situation possible. Secondly, The promulgation of a decree of heaven; that all they, (whether states, churches, or kingdoms,) who take the sword, shall perish with the swordEvery political or ecclesiastical body which is defended with the sword, will by the sword be destroyed. In confirmation of this sentiment, we see while the great destroying powers were represented to St. John in the symbols of ferocious beasts, it was added-" If any man have an ear to hear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword;”but in opposition to this it is said—" Here is the faith and the patience of the saints." We would inquire, how the faith and the patience of the saints appear, if they, like the nations of the earth, lead into captivity, and kill with the sword! Thirdly, The weapon, which the subjects of the Redeemer are to use for defence, is here brought into view, viz. Prayer. Nothing which appears prevented our Lord from using this weapon when he was betrayed, but the necessity of the Scriptures being fulfilled. Had he prayed to his Father, more than twelve legions of ministering spirits would have appeared swift as lightning to discharge his will. At the time he shall come in all the glory of his Father, the holy Angels will be with him. He will break through the heavens in flaming fire, and descend with the shout of the Archangel, and the trump of God; and cleave asunder the earth beneath; and send forth his angels, who will awake the sleeping millions from their tombs, and gather together his elect, and take them up into the air, to be ever with their Lord Fourthly, we may expect that angels will be sent to deliver the saints in the times of trouble. Angels are ministering spi