War and peace.
That war is a great evil it not the present conflict to demonstrate.
But yet, like all other evils, it has certain benevolent designs and in the economy of Providence
, which may reconcile man to its awful necessity.
We to those abolitionists who have opened the gates of Janus
‘"The dire abode, And the fierce issues of the furious god."’ but on their heads alone rests the responsibility.
For the South
, it stands, as it ever has stood, on the defensive, and every drop of blood it sheds has been in vindication of the most sacred rights of humanity.
An able English writer has remarked, among the many delusions of human error, that Rosecrans
's phantasy of Perpetual Peace, and the like pastoral dreams, preceded the bloodiest wars that have convulsed the earth for a thousand years. ‘"The same delusions."’ he adds, writing a few years ago, ‘"are renewed again.
Benevolent theorists go about prophesying peace as a positive certainty, deduced from that sibyl book, the ledger; and we are never again to buy cannons, provided only we can exchange cotton for corn."’
Society is always at battle, either in that condition which is called peace, or in that which takes the honest name of war. The struggles of peace are often more corroding, and its disasters more desperate and irretrievable, than those of war. Even death, which is the most repulsive shape which war assumes to the vulgar gaze, is not less inevitable in peace, in peace every man's hand is against his brother in business, in trade, in ambition, in politics, even in religion.
Its battles, its lists of killed and wounded, are not published in the newspapers, but none the less deep are its wounds, and, as for its dead, all the killed of all the battles ever fought upon the earth, if gathered into a heap, would be a molehill by a mountain, compared with the innumerable myriads who have died in peaceful beds.
Even the angry passions of war are not as atrocious in general as those engendered by the rivalries and jealousies of peaceful life.
In most wars there is no personal hate, and as soon as the shock of battle has ceased, the late foemen become friends.
We find in Scripture no prohibition of war, although it is treated as an evil, which will ultimately give way before the triumphant genius of Christianity.
Yet Abraham, the friend of God, and David, as man after God's own heart, engaged in war, the latter especially being an indomitable soldier, and yet, having even stronger proofs of the continued favor of Heaven than Solomon, whose reign was one of continued peace.
In the New Testament, the Roman
centurion is applauded for a degree of faith which the Saviour declared he had not found in all Israel
Yet, these same Scriptures pronounce the heaviest anathemas upon the man who does not forgive his personal enemies, so that, evidently, the personal hatred and revenge which abound in peace, are more reprehensible in the sight of Heaven than the strife and collision of battle.
In war, these private feuds disappear in the presence of a common peril; there is a degree of mutual fellowship, succor, and affection even, arising from the mutual danger, which is entirely unknown in time of peace.
It is a disgusting spectacle to see two men backing each other to pieces with bayonets; but is it worse than that envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness which we so often witness in peaceful life?
The two belligerents, each urged on by a belief that he is doing his duty, stand manfully up, and without any sham or hypocrisy endeavor to pound each other out of existence.
On the other hand, two unfriendly persons will devote their whole existence to make each other's lives as miserable as possible; often defaming and endeavoring to injure each other in every conceivable manner.
The Scripture declares that be who hate his brother is a murderer, and that he who does not forgive cannot be forgiven; but it never says that of the warrior.
On the contrary, almost all the Old Testament Saints
were warriors, and under the New Testament they were admitted to the Christian Church and not required to give up their profession.
Indeed, the Church
itself is likened to an army, and the apostles exhort its members to be ‘ "good soldiers,"’ to arm themselves with the ‘"sword of the spirit" ’ and the ‘"shield of Faith,"’ figures of speech which would not be adopted by the inspired penmen if the things from which they are drawn were wrong or sinful.
It is a pitiable fight that of noble young men cut down in the flower of their youth, and often by caitiff hands, unworthy of their steel.
It is like the spectacle of a waving field of grain destroyed by locusts, or princely oaks robbed of their life by miserable worms.
And yet, who shall arraign Providence
for such a destiny?
Who shall say that, to the lofty and generous spirit, death in the cause of country and of humanity is not desirable and glorious if it helps to secure the success of that cause, or, if the cause shall fail, that it is not better than a life of bondage and degradation?
Who shall say that the fallen man himself, if he had lived, might not have suffered calamities compared with which death is a blessing, or, if he had escaped all these, and lived to extreme old age, what is there in old age, with its infirmities and disquietudes, when ‘"fears shall be in the way and the grasshopper shall become a burthen;"’ when the friends of youth are all gone, and the man stands like a blasted tree in a solitary plain; what is there in this more desirable than a death which embalms the name of the soldier in the history of his country, and keeps his image ever young and surrounded by a halo of light and glory, in the memory of his friends?
Admitting that war, to the generation in which it occurs, is often a great evil, we should bear in mind that evil is admitted by Providence
into the agency of creation, physical and moral.
It has been philosophically remarked that the combative bump, which seems as common to the human skull as the philoprogenitive, is not in our organization without cause; and that wars arise not only from human crimes and follies, but as often from necessities interwoven in the framework of society, and speed the great ends of the human race, conformably with the designs of the Omniscient.
Without the Persian war, contends an eloquent writer, Greece
would never have risen to be the teacher of the world, the eruptions of Hun
, and Goth, and Vandal, regenerated the manhood of demoralized Rome
; the iron hand of the great Frank
settled the nations and founded existent Europe
; the Crusades introduced into Europe
humaner arts, destroyed the tyranny of feudalism, and checked the progress of the Mohammedan sword and Koran.
‘"You call the Godfreys, and Tancreds, and Richards
, mad men, but the frenzy of nations is the statesmanship of fate.
How know you that but for the terror inspired by the hosts who marched to Jerusalem
, the Crescent
had not waved over the forum of Rome
, and on the site of Notre Dame?
The crusader fought for the tomb of Christ
, but he saved the life of Christendom."’
War, then, has within it seeds of good, seeds which must be fertilized by blood to bring forth a harvest of blessings.
And if ever there was a war which demanded at once the energies of the patriot and the benediction of the Christian
, it is a war in defence of homes and altars, of civil liberty, of social virtue, of life itself, and of all that makes life worth having.