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CONGREGATIONAL MINISTERS OF MASS ACHUSETTS.
Isaiah ii. 4: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
I HAVE chosen a subject, which may seem at first view not altogether appropriate to the present occasion, the subject of war. It may be thought, that an address to an assembly composed chiefly of the ministers of religion, should be confined to the duties, dangers, encouragements of the sacred office. But I have been induced to select this topic, because, after the slumber of ages, Christians seem to be awakening to a sense of the pacific character of their religion, and because I understood, that this Convention were at this anniversary to consider the interesting question, whether no method could be devised for enlightening the public mind on the nature and guilt of war. I was unwilling that this subject should be approached and dismissed as an ordinary affair. I feared, that in the pressure of business, we might be satisfied with the expression of customary disapprobation; and that, having in this way relieved our consciences, we should relapse into our former indifference, and continue to hear the howlings of this dreadful storm of human passions with as much unconcern as before. I resolved to urge on you the duty, and I hoped to excite in you the purpose, of making some new and persevering efforts for the abolition of this worst vestige of barbarism, this grossest outrage on the principles of Christianity. The day I trust is coming, when Christians will look back with gratitude and affection on those men, who, in ages of conflict and bloodshed, cherished generous hopes of human improvement, withstood the violence of corrupt opinion, held forth, amidst the general darkness, the pure and mild light of Christianity, and thus ushered in a new and aceful era in the history of mankind. May you, my brethren, be included in the grateful recollection of that day. The miseries and crimes of war, its sources, its remedies, will be the subjects of our present attention. n detailing its miseries and crimes, there is no temptation to recur to unreal or exaggerated horrors. No depth of colouring can approach reality. It is lamentable, that we need a delineation of the calamities of war, to rouse us to exertion. The mere idea of human beings employing every power and faculty in the work of mutual destruction, ought to send a shuddering through the frame. But on this subject, our sensibilities are dreadfully sluggish and dead. Our ordinary sympathies seem to forsake us, when war is named. The sufferings and death of a single fellow-being, often excite a tender and active compassion; but we hear without emotion, of thousands, enduring every variety of woe in war. A single murder in peace thrills through our frames. The countless murders of war are heard as an amusing tale. The execution of a criminal depresses the mind, and philanthropy is labouring to substitute milder punishments for death. But benevolence has hardly made an effort to snatch from sudden and untimely death, the innumerable victims immolated on the altar of war. This insensibility demands that the miseries and crimes of war should be placed before us with minuteness, with energy, with strong and indignant feeling. The miseries of war may be easily conceived from its very nature. By war, we understand the resort of nations to force, violence, and the most dreaded methods of destruction and devastation. In war, the strength, skill, courage, energy, and resources of a whole people are concentrated for the infliction of pain and death. The bowels of the earth are explored, the most active elements combined, the resources of art and nature exhausted, to increase the power of man in destroying his fellow-creatures. Would you learn what destruction, man, when thus aided, can spread around him : Look, then, at that extensive region, desolate and overspread with ruins; its forests rent, as if blasted by lightening; its villages prostrated, as by an earthquake; its fields barren, as if swept by storms. Not long ago, the sun shone on no happier spot. But ravaging armies prowled over it; war frowned on it; and its fruitfulness and happiness are fled. Here, thousands and ten thousands were gathered from distant provinces, not to embrace as brethren, but to renounce the tie of brotherhood; and thousands, in the vigour of life, when least prepared for death, were hewn down, and scattered like chaff before the whirlwind. Repair, my friends, in thought, to a field of recent battle. Here, are heaps of slain, weltering in their own blood, their bodies mangled, their limbs shattered, and almost every vestige of the human form and countenance destroyed. Here, are multitudes trodden under foot, and the war-horse has left the trace of his hoof in many a crushed and mutilated frame. Here, are severer sufferers; they live, but live without hope or consolation. Justice despatches the criminal with a single stroke; but the victims of war, falling by casual, undirected blows, often expire in lingering agony; their deep groans moving no compassion, their limbs writhing on the earth with pain, their lips parched with a burning thirst, their wounds open to the chilling air, the memory of home rushing on their minds, but not a voice of friendship or comfort reaching their ears. Amidst this scene of horrors, you see the bird and beast of prey gorging themselves, with the dead or dying, and human plunderers rifling the warm and almost palpitating remains of the slain. If you extend vour eye beyond the immediate field of battle, and follow the track of the victorious and pursuing army, you see the roads strewed with the dead; you see scattered flocks, and harvests trampled under foot, the smoking ruins of cottages, and the miserable inhabitants flying in want and despair; and even yet, the horrors of a single battle are not exhausted. Some of the deepest pangs which it inflicts, are silent, retired, enduring; to be read in the widow's countenance, in the unpro. tected orphan, in the aged parent, in affection cherishing the memory of the slain, and weeping that it could not minister to their last angS. p Five asked you to traverse in thought, a field of battle. There is another scene often presented in war, perhaps more terrible. I refer to a besieged city. The most horrible pages in history, are those which record the reduction of strongly fortified places. In a besieged city, are collected all descriptions and ages of mankind, women, children, the old, the infirm. Day and night, the weapons of death and conflagration fly around them. They see the approaches of the foe, the trembling bulwark, and the fainting strength of their defenders. They are worn with famine, and on famine presses pestilence. At o the assault is made, every barrier is broken down, and a lawless soldiery, exasperated by resistance, and burning with lust and cruelty, are scattered through the streets. The domestic retreat is violated; and even the house of God is no longer a sanctuary. Venerable age is no protection, female purity no defence. Is woman spared amidst the slaughter of father, brother, husband, and son? She is spared for a fate, which makes death in comparison a merciful doom. With such heart-rending scenes, history abounds; and what better fruits can you expect from war? These views are the most obvious and striking which war presents. There are more secret influences, appealing less powerfully to the senses and imagination, but deeply affecting to a reflecting and benevolent mind.—Consider, first, the condition of those who are immediately engaged in war? The sufferings of soldiers from battle we have seen; but their sufferings are not limited to the period of conflict. The whole of war is a succession of exposures too severe for human nature. , Death employs other weapons than the sword. It is computed, that in ordinary wars, greater numbers perish by sickness than in battle. Exhausted by long and rapid marches, by unwholesome food, by exposure to storms, by excessive labour under a burning sky through the day, and by interrupted and restless sleep on the damp ground, and in the chilly atmosphere of night, thousands after thousands of the young, pine away and die. They anticipated that they should fall, if to fall should be their lot, in what they called the field of honour; but they perish in the inglorious and crowded hospital, surrounded with sights and sounds of woe, far from home and every friend, and denied those tender offices which sickness and expiring nature require. Consider next the influence of war on the character of those who make it their trade. They let themselves for slaughter, place themselves, servile instruments, passive machines in the hands of rulers, to execute the bloodiest mandates, without a thought on the justice of the cause in which they are engaged. What a school is this for the human character! From men trained in battle to ferocity, accustomed to the perpetration of cruel deeds, accustomed to take human life without sorrow or remorse, habituated to esteem an unthinking courage a substitute for every virtue, encouraged by plunder to prodigality, taught improvidence by perpetual hazard and exposure, restrained only by an iron discipline which is withdrawn in peace, and unfitted by the restless and irregular career of war for the calm and uniform pursuits of ordinary life; from such men, what ought to be expected but contempt of human rights and of the laws of God? . From the nature of his calling, the soldier is almost driven to sport with the thought of death, to defy and deride it, and of course, to banish the thought of that retribution to which it leads; and though of all men the most exposed to sudden death, he is too often of all men most unprepared to appear before his Judge. The influence of war on the community at large, on its prosperity, its morals, and its political institutions, though less striking than on the soldiery, is yet baleful. How often is a community impoverished to sustain a war in which it has no interest? Public burdens are aggravated, whilst the means of sustaining them are reduced. Internal improvements are neglected. The revenue of the state is exhausted in military establishments, or flows through secret channels into the coffers of corrupt men, whom war exalts to power and office. The regular employments of peace are disturbed. Industry in many of its branches is suspended. The labourer, ground with want, and driven to despair by the clamour of his suffering family, becomes a soldier in a cause which he condemns, and thus the country is drained of its most effective population. The people are stripped and reduced, whilst the authors of war retrench not a comfort, and often fatten on the spoils and woes of their country. The influence of war on the morals of society is also to be deprecated. The suspension of industry multiplies want; and criminal modes of subsistence are the resource of the suffering. Commerce, shackled and endangered, loses its upright and honourable character, and becomes a system of stratagem and collision. In war, the moral sentiments of a community are perverted by the admiration of military exploits. The milder virtues of Christianity are eclipsed by the baleful lustre thrown round a ferocious courage. The disinterested, the benignant, the merciful, the forgiving, those whom Jesus has pronounced blessed and honourable, must give place to the hero, whose character is stained not only with blood, but sometimes with the foulest vices, but all whose stains are washed away by victory. War especially injures the moral feelings of a people, by making human nature cheap in their estimation, and human life of as little worth as that of an insect or a brute. War diffuses through a community unfriendly and malignant passions. Nations, exasperated by mutual injuries, burn for each other's humiliation and ruin. They delight to hear that famine, pestilence, want, defeat, and the most dreadful scourges which Providence sends on a guilty world, are desolating a hostile community. The slaughter of thousands of fellow-beings, instead of awaking pity, flushes them with delirious joy, illuminates the city, and dissolves the whole country in revelry and riot. Thus the heart of a man is hardened. His worst o are nourished. He renounces the bonds and sympathies of umanity. Were the so. or rather the curses of warring nations prevalent in heaven, the whole earth would long since have become a desert. The human race, with all their labours and improvements, would have perished under the sentence of universal extermination.
But war not only assails the prosperity and morals of a community; its influence on the political condition is threatening. It arms government with a dangerous patronage, multiplies dependants and instruments of oppression, and generates a power, which, in the hands of the energetic and aspiring, endangers a free constitution. War organises a body of men, who lose the feelings of the citizen in the soldier; whose habits detach them from the community; whose ruling passion is devotion to a chief; who are inured in the camp to despotic sway; who are accustomed to accomplish their ends by force, and to sport with the rights and happiness of their fellow-beings; who delight in tumult, adventure, and o ; and turn with disgust and scorn from the quiet labours of peace. Is it wonderful, that such protectors of a state should look with contempt on the weakness of the protected, and should lend themselves, base instruments to the subversion of that freedom which they do not themselves enjoy? In a community, in which precedence is given to the military profession, freedom cannot long endure. The encroachments of power at home are expiated by foreign triumphs. The essential interests and rights of the state are sacrificed to a false and fatal glory. Its intelligence and vigour, instead of presenting a bulwark to domestic usurpation, are expended in military achievements. Its most active and aspiring citizens rush to the army, and become subservient to the power which dispenses honour. The nation is victorious, but the recompense of its toils is a yoke as galling as that which it imposes on other communities. Thus, war is to be ranked among the most dreadful calamities which fall on a guilty world; and, what deserves consideration, it tends to multiply and perpetuate itself without end. It feeds and grows on the blood which it sheds. The passions, from which it springs, gain strength and fury from indulgence. The successful nation, flushed by victory, pants for new laurels; whilst the humbled nation, irritated by defeat, is impatient to redeem its honour and repair its losses. Peace becomes a truce, a feverish repose, a respite to sharpen anew the sword, and to repare for future struggles. Under professions of friendship, lurk tred and distrust; and a spark suffices to renew the mighty conflagration. When from these causes, large military establishments are . formed, and a military spirit kindled, war becomes a necessary part of policy. A foreign field must be found for the energies and passions of a martial people. To disband a numerous and veteran soldiery, would be to let loose a dangerous horde on society. The blood-hounds must be sent forth on other communities, lest they rend the bosom of their own country. Thus war extends and multiplies itself. No sooner is one storm scattered, than the sky is darkened with the gathering horrors of another. Accordingly, war has been the mournful legacy of every generation to that which succeeds it. Every age has had its conflicts. Every country has in turn been the seat of devastation and slaughter, The dearest interests and rights of every nation have been again and again committed to the hazards of a game, of all others the most uncertain, and in which, from its very nature, success too often attends on the fiercest courage and the basest fraud. Such, my friends, is an unexaggerated, and I will add, a faint delineation of the miseries of war; and to all these miseries and crimes the human race have been continually exposed, for no worthier cause,