Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered tu the Jews;"—the injunctions “Let none render evil for evil," but rather “overcome evil with good;” and “Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,"'-with others of similar import which it would be out of place here to enumerate.

There is, we confess, something grand in this idea of abstinence from the use of force as an element of human society; and of a patient and abiding faith in the good principles of human nature alone, as being capable of working out a better and happier result of social well-being, by the moral influences of Truth and Love, than can ever be produced by the action of the element of coercive force on its bad principles. The idea is, we repeat, a sublime one, however flippantly the superficial thinker may pronounce it ridiculous. And indeed the element of force has been so sadly perverted and abused to the worst of purposes, in all human societies that have ever existed, and so deep and pervading has been the moral as well as physical mischief growing out of its abuse, that it is not surprising that the minds of men, by long dwelling on this single idea, should carry it beyond the proper limits, within which every truth is regulated by its relations with all other truths, into the fanaticism of maintaining that all force is to be abjured, as essentially and eternally evil and the parent of evil. It is one of those prophetic presentiments of a higher and better state of being of which human nature, even in its present condition, is capable, from the elements of good which lie at the heart of its constitution. It is even somewhat akin to the democratic spirit of the age, being a difference of degree rather than of kind, in its confidence in human nature, and in the principle of perfect Liberty, as a better principle than that of strong Law. We have no doubt that a great many of the existing restraints upon the freedom of private action, in the forms of prohibitions and punishments, which are intended to force men to be good and happy, are in truth pernicious in their operation, doing more harm in one way than they do good in another. But still this doctrine of non-resistance, or the utter and total repudiation of force, is an ultraism in the opposite direction, entirely inconsistent with the actual imperfection of human nature, which would probably be still more mischievous in its practical operation, supposing the possibility of its ever being seriously applied to practice by any community of men.

Without going elaborately into an analysis of the scriptural arguments adduced in its favor, of which the leading passages are above referred to, it will be sufficient-for the purpose of satisfying those minds which would rest the solution of the question on that ground alone-to remark, that an enlightened criticism, viewing the meaning of these and similar passages in the light of the general principles both of Christianity and of human nature, and in comparison with other passages of a different import and bearing, can find in them no support for the extravagant ultraism into which this new. light school of non-resistance would push the Peace principle, the spirit of which is in truth transparent throughout every part of the Christian Scripture. On the contrary the language, and on more than one occasion the personal example, of the Founder of our religion himself, directly or impliedly sanction the use of soroe for the maintenance of right, and even for the punishment of wrong. And if the ultimate tendency of the reform which he introduced is to such a state of things, of absolute and universal Peace, it is a result to be brought about only by the operation of the great moral principles of his reform, to remove the causes which, so long as they exist, in human injustice and sin, render the moderate use of coercive force not only justifiable, but indispensable to the cohesion of human society.

We may safely then assume it as prored, that this non-resistance theory is not borne out by the Christian Scriptures, neither by special precepts, nor by the authority of example; although undoubtedly they do condemn the use of physical force against rightful authority, or for the promotion of truth and counteraction of error of opinion, and generally enjoin a pacific, conciliatory and benevolent spirit.

We will now examine the philosophy and practical fitness of this doctrine as set forth by its most intelligent advocates. It is this. Man being endowed with a rational and moral nature, all men might and ought to be guided in their conduct by a sense of duty, and sentiment of kindness. All means, therefore, which, setting aside man's higher nature, are intended to force them to do right, are essentially wrong. Now, war and the use of force for settling difficulties among men, will never be abolished unless some men resolutely begin with taking the ground of never resorting to these means under any circumstances. If it be understood that no force will be used even in defence of right-if war, with all the preparations for war, as well as chains and prisons, be abolished—much greater exerLions will be made to induce men by moral means, by education, public opinion, argument, and persuasion, to respect the rights of their fellow-men. Still suppose that, notwithstanding these moral efforts, there should be some men who are not restrained by the mere consideration of the injustice of an act. Even among these, few would le found mean enough to inflict injustice upon one who is resolved to bear it without resistance. Thus, in the rebellion towards the close of the last century, the lives of the Quakers were spared; and in the settlement of Pennsylvania, the peace policy of its founder prevented ail hostility on the part of the natives. Hence the principle of : 19-resistance is generally the safest, as well as the best,

course.

But even if there be any human being so hardened and so mean as to inflict an injury upon an unresisting fellow-being, the voluntary martyrdom of the innocent is the highest glory attainable by man, as well as the surest way to establish the truth for which he suffers, and to effect even the conversion of his persecutors. It is thus that Christianity has triumphed so far, and will triumph at last completely over all its enemies.

This mode of reasoning rests on two distinct grounds- expediency and principle. The first of these relates to the personal safety of the individual who embraces the doctrine of non-resistance, and the probability of success in his pursuits. The other question concerns the morality of the two principles, of total abstinence from physical force, and a partial use of it.

With regard to the alleged safety of the practice of non-resistance there can be no doubt, that distrust is very often the chief cause of danger, and faith the best security. The moral importance of the principle of faith in education is generally acknowledged; but it is the peculiar merit of the friends of Peace to have brought forward many glorious instances of reckless crime disarmed by defenceless faith. They have shown that even when the character of a man is formed, and his habits are fixed, after he has thrown off all allegiance to virtue, and put on the whole armour of crime, still he is not proof against the arrows of kindness; he feels constrained to revere virtue in others even when this reverence is necessarily coupled with self-contempt. But on the other hand, the force of facts constrains us to admit, that in many cases the most devoted heroic faith has proved inadequate to overcome the determined wickedness or hopeless delusion of men. Thus the early converts to Christianity, according to the testimony of the fathers of the church, generally refused to fight, on the ground that they were Christians. Yet they, as well as the author of their faith, were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' It is not consistent with facts, then, that the non-resistance faith is always a safe and expedient doctrine. Those whose conduct is conformed to the belief that men are creatures of circumstances, are generally safe; but those who act upon the principle that circumstances are, or ought to be, the creatures of men, who dare to have an opinion, a conscience of their own, whether the world be with or against them, they live a life of constant danger. In the height of suc. cess they must be prepared to hear the cries of Crucify! Crucify! even before the last echoes of Hosanna ! have died away.

This question, whether one mode of conduct be less dangerous than another, -whether it be probable that the man who has struck one blow to destroy my life, and having missed by accident, aims another, will forbear upon seeing my determination rather to die than to resist, or only upon finding me both able and resolved to

take his own life in case he should endanger mine,—this question depends on a calm and discriminating consideration of the circumstances of the case. The theory of implicit faith in man's better nature has been refuted by the whole history of martyrdom; the opposite theory of distrust has been disproved by many instances of determined criminals, and even madmen, overcome by non-resistance, made irresistible to them, by the power of faith and love. The safety of either of these antagonist principles cannot be determined by general rules, but the nature of the case must be the practical guide for individuals and nations. "What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand !” But it is not only numbers, but natural advantages, and above all the encouraging and inspiring influence of a good cause, which are to be taken into account. It was by partly accommodating themselves to existing circumstances, and partly by forcing circumstances into the service of their determined will, that the ancient Greeks resisted the countless hosts of the great king, and that in more recent times the Netherlanders, the Provinces of North America, and the modern Greeks, established their independence.

With regard to the chances of war a computation has recently been made, with a view to ascertain in how many wars recorded in history right has prevailed over wrong. It is supposed that the number of cases in which the good cause has been victorious, and of those in which it has been defeated, is about the same. fulness of war as a remedy against injustice has been inferred from that computation. But this conclusion does not seem to be borne out by the facts adduced. The fact that justice does not always prevail in contest only proves that the goodness of the cause is not of itself sufficient to secure to its defenders the victory. The belief in an immediate interposition of Providence, which instituted ordeals, has long been given up as a superstition. Hence, he who maintains the justice of resistance against oppression, agrees with the adrocate of non-resistance in condemning any attempt at insurrection made without reasonable prospect of success—unless the tyranny be so atrocious and degrading that the most hopeless strugglc is preferable to brutalizing submission.

But while it is true on the one hand that justice, without the means of carrying it into effect, without forecast, activity and decision, does not insure success, it is equally true that of all the favorable auspices under which a man may go forth to mortal strife, there is none so propitious and sure as the consciousness of a good cause. We remember to have seen in Germany in the hands of one nf the bravest of the brave who distinguished themselves in

The use

course. But even if there be any human being so hardened and so mean as to inflict an injury upon an unresisting fellow-being, the voluntary martyrdom of the innocent is the highest glory attainable by man, as well as the surest way to establish the truth for which he suffers, and to esseet even the conversion of his persecutors. It is thus that Christianity has triumphed so far, and will triumph at last completely over all its enemies.

This mode of reasoning rests on two distinct grounds- expediency and principle. The first of these relates to the personal safety of the individual who embraces the doctrine of non-resistance, and the probability of success in his pursuits. The other question concerns the morality of the two principles, of total abstinence from physical force, and a partial use of it.

With regard to the alleged safety of the practice of non-resistance there can be no doubt, that distrust is very often the chief cause of danger, and faith the best security. The moral importance of the principle of faith in education is generally acknowledged; but it is the peculiar merit of the friends of Peace to have brought forward many glorious instances of reckless crime disarmed by defenceless faith. They have shown that even when the character of a man is formed, and his habits are fixed, after he has thrown off all allegiance to virtue, and put on the whole armour of erime, still he is not proof against the arrows of kindness; he feels constrained to revere virtue in others even when this reverence is necessarily coupled with self-contempt. But on the other hand, the force of facts constrains us to admit, that in many cases the most devoted heroic faith has proved inadequate to overcome the determined wickedness or hopeless delusion of men. Thus the early converts to Christianity, according to the testimony of the fathers of the church, generally refused to fight, on the ground that they were Christians. Yet they, as well as the author of their faith, were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' It is not consistent with facts, then, that the non-resistance faith is always a safe and expedient doctrine. Those whose conduct is conformed to the belief that men are creatures of circumstances, are generally safe; but those who act upon the principle that circumstances are, or ought to be, the creatures of men, who dare to have an opinion, a conscience of their own, whether the world be with or against them, they live a life of constant danger. In the height of success they must be prepared to hear the cries of Crucify! Crucify! even before the last echoes of Hosanna ! have died away.

This question, whether one mode of conduct be less dangerous than another,—whether it be probable that the man who has struck one blow to destroy my life, and having missed by accident, aims another, will forbear upon seeing my determination rather to die than to resist, or only upon finding me both able and resolve:l to

« ZurückWeiter »