Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

behalf we are now met together, be steadily and sacredly devoted. I would say to its guardians and teachers, Let this be your chief aim. I would say to the students, Keep this in sight in all your studies. Never forget your great vocation; that you are to prepare yourselves for a strong, deep, and beneficent agency on the minds of your fellowbeings. Everywhere I see a demand for the power on which I have now insisted. The cry comes to me from society and from the church. The condition of society needs a more efficient administration of Christianity. Great and radical changes are needed in the community to make it Christian. There are those indeed, who, mistaking tho courtesies and refinements of civilised life for virtue, see no necessity of a great revolution in the world. But civilisation, in hiding the grossness, does not break the power of evil propensities. Let us not deceive ourselves. Multitudes are living with few thoughts of God, and of the true purpose and glory of their being. Among the nominal believers in a Deity and in a judgment to come, sensuality, and ambition, and the love of the world, sit on their thrones, and laugh to scorn the impotence of preaching. Christianity has yet a hard war to wage, and many battles to win; and it needs intrepid, powerful ministers, who will find courage and excitement, not dismay, in the strength and number of their foes.

Christians, you have seen in this discourse, the purposes and claims of this theological institution. Offer your fervent prayers for its prosperity. Besiege the throne of mercy in its behalf. Cherish it as the dearest hope of our churches. Enlarge its means of usefulness, and let your voice penetrate its walls, calling aloud and importunately for enlightened and powerful teachers. Thus joining in effort with the directors and instructors of this seminary, doubt not that God will here train up ministers worthy to bear his truth to present and future generations. If on the contrary you and they slumber, you will have erected these walls, not to nourish energy, but to be its tomb, not to bear witness to your zeal, but to be a melancholy monument of fainting cffort and betrayed truth.

But let me not cast a cloud over the prospects of this day. In hope I began—with hope I will end. This institution has noble distinctions, and has afforded animating pledges. It is eminently a free institution, an asylum from the spiritual despotism, which, in one shape or another, overspreads the greatest part of Christendom. It has already given to the churches a body of teachers, who, in theological acquisitions and ministerial gifts, need not shrink from comparison with their predecessors or cotemporaries. I see in it means and provisions, nowhere surpassed, for training up enlightened, free, magnanimous, self-sacrificing friends of truth. In this hope, let us then proceed to the work, which has brought us together. With trust in God, with love to mank.nd, with unaffected attachment to Christian truth, with earnest wishes for its propagation through all lands and its transmission to remotest ages, let us now, with one heart and one voice, dedicate this edifice to the One living and true God, to Christ and his Church, to the instruction and regeneration of the human soul.

LECTURE ON WAR.

In commencing this lecture on War, my thoughts are irresistibly drawn to that exemplary servant of God, the late Noah WORCESTER, through whose labours, more than through any other cause, the attention of the community has been awakened to the guilt and misery of war. . I feel my own obligation to him in this particular. In truth it was not easy to know him, and to escape wholly the influence of his character. So imbued was he with the spirit of peace, that it spread itself around him like the fragrance of sweet flowers. Even those within his sphere, who listened at first with distrust or with a feeling approaching opposition, were not seldom overcome by the singular union in his conversation of gentleness, earnestness, and serene wisdom. He did not live in vain. One of my motives for taking part in this course of lectures, is my respect for this venerated man. Another and a stronger motive, is the fact, that notwithstanding the favourable impression made by his efforts, there is yet comparatively little interest in the subject of peace. It is a reason for setting forth great truths, that sceptics deride them, and the multitude pass them by with unconcern. Dr. Worcester was not roused by the shouts of a crowd to lift up his voice in behalf of peace. He did not postpone his testimony to “a more convenient season. He was as

one crying in the wilderness.” He began his ministry amidst the triumphs of the spirit of war. He took counsel not of men, but of the divine oracle in his own breast. The truth, which was burning as a fire within him, he could not but give forth. He had faith in it. He had faith in God its inspirer. So ought we to trust. So ought we to bear a more fervent witness to truth, on the very ground that it is unpopular, neglected, despised.

In the following lecture, I shall aim to set forth the Chief Evil of war, to set forth its great Remedy, and then to point out some of the Causes of the faint impression made by its woes and crimes.

Before entering on these topics, I would offer one or two remarks. In speaking, as I propose to do, of the evils of war, I have no thought of denying that war has sometimes done good. There is no unmixed evil in the universe. Providence brings good from everything, from fearful sufferings, from atrocious crimes. But sufferings and crimes are not therefore to be set down among our blessings. Murder sometimes cuts short the life and triumphs of a monster of guilt. Robbery may throw into circulation the useless hoards of a miser. Despotism may subdue an all-wasting anarchy. But we do not, therefore, canonise despotism, robbery, and murder.

In fierce ages, when common life is made up of violence and borders on bloodshed, when piracy is an honourable trade, and a stranger is a foe, war, by accumulating force in the hands of an able chieftain, may gather many petty tribes under one iron will, and thus a State may be founded, and its rude organization may prove a germ of social order. In later times, war may carry into less civilized regions the influences, knowledge, arts, and religion, of more cultivated nations. Above all, war may call forth in those whom it assails, an indignant patriotism, a fervent public spirit, a generous daring, and heroic sacrifice, which testify to the inborn greatness of human nature; just as great vices, by the horror with which they thrill us, and by the reaction they awaken, often give strength to the moral sentiments of a community. These, however, are the incidental influences of war. Its necessary fruits are crime and woe.

To enthrone force above right, is its essential character; and order, freedom, civilization, are its natural prey. Besides, the benefits of war, such as they are, belong to unrefined ages, when the passions, if not expended in public conflicts, would break out in worse forms of rapine and lust; and when one nation can act on another only by violence. Society, in its present stage, stands in need of war no more than of the ordeal, the rack, the inquisition, the baronial license of the middle ages. All these monuments and ministers of barbarism should be buried in one grave.

1. I now proceed to consider, first, as I proposed, the chief evil of war. The chief evil of war! What is it? What induces us to place war at the head of human calamities? In replying to these questions, I shall not direct you to the physical sufferings of war, however great or terrible. Death in its most agonizing forins; the overthrow of proud cities; the devastation of fruitful fields; the impoverishing of nations; famine; pestilence ; these form the train of victorious war. But these are not the distinguishing evils of war. These are inflictions of other causes much more than of war. Other causes are wasting human life and joy more than battles. Millions indeed die by the sword; but these millions are as nothing, compared with the countless multitudes who die by slow and painful disease. Cities are overthrown by earthquakes as well as by armies, and more frequently swept by accidental conflagrations than by the flames of war. Hostile bands ravage the fields ; but how much oftener do whirlwinds, storms, hurricanes, rush over land and sea, prostrating harvests, and destroying the labours of years on a scale so vast, as to reduce human devastations to a narrow extent! The truth is, that man is surrounded with mighty powers of nature which he cannot comprehend or withstand; and, amidst their beneficent operations, all of them inflict much suffering: What distinguishes war is, not that man is slain, but that he is slain, spoiled, crushed by the cruelty, the injustice, the treachery, the murderous hand of man. The evil is Moral evil. War is the concentration of all human crimes. Here is its distinguishing, accursed brand. Under its standard gather violence, malignity, rage, fraud, perfidy, rapacity, and lust. If it only slew man, it would do little. It turns man into a beast of prey. Here is the evil of war, that man, made to be the brother, becomes the deadly foe of his kind; that man, whose duty it is to mitigate suffering, makes the infliction of suffering his study and end; that man, whose office it is to avert and heal the wounds which come from nature's powers, makes researches into nature's laws, and arms himself with her most awful forces, that he may become the destroyer of his race. Nor is

this all. There is also found in war a cold-hearted indifference to human miseries and wrongs, perhaps more shocking than the bad passions it calls forth. To my mind, this contempt of human nature is singularly offensive. To hate, expresses something like respect. But in war, man treats his brother as nothing worth; sweeps away human multitudes as insects; tramples them down as grass; mocks at their rights; and does not deign a thought to their woes.

These remarks show us the great evil of war. It is moral evil. The field of battle is a theatre, got up at immense cost, for the exhibition of crime on a grand scale. There the hell within the human breast blazes out fiercely and without disguise. A more fearful hell in any region of the universe cannot well be conceived. There the fiends hold their revels and spread their fury.

To many, the physical evils of war are more striking than the moral. The outward, impresses multitudes more than the inward. It is because they cannot look inward, because they are too earthly and sensual to see and comprehend the deformity of a selfish, unjust, malignant soul. The outward evils of life are emblems of the inward, and are light when severed from these. The saddest view of war is, that it is the breaking out of the human heart, revealing there what is more awful than the miseries which it inflicts. The death-groan is fearful; but how much more appalling the spirit of murder which extorts it!

Suppose two multitudes of men, each composed of thousands, meeting from different countries, but meeting not to destroy but to consult and labour for the good of the race; and suppose them, in the midst of their deliberations, to be smitten suddenly by some mysterious visitation of God, and their labours to be terminated by immediate death. We should be awe-struck by this strange, sudden, wide-spread ruin. But reflection would teach us, that this simultaneous extinction of life in so many of our race, was but an anticipation or peculiar fulfilment of the sentence passed on all mankind; and a tender reverence would spring up, as we should think of so many generous men coming together from so many different regions, in the spirit of human brotherhood, to be wrapped in one pall, to sleep in one grave. We should erect a monument on the solemn spot; but chiefly to commemorate the holy purpose, which had gathered them from their scattered abodes; and we should write on it, “ To the memory of a glorious company, suddenly taken from God's ministry on earth, to enter again (a blessed brotherhood) on a higher ministry in heaven." Here you have death sweeping away hosts in a moment. But how different from death in a field of battle, where man meets man as a foe, where the countenance flashes rage and the arm is nerved for slaughter, where brother hews down brother, and where thousands are sent unprepared, in the moment of crime, to give their account! When nature's laws, fulfilling the mysterious will of God, inflict death on the good, we bow, we adore, we give thanks. How different is death from the murderous hand of man!

Allow me to make another supposition, which may bring out still more strongly the truth on which I now insist, that the great evil of war is inward, moral; that its physical woes, terrible as they may be, are light by the side of this. Suppose, then, that in travelling through a solitary region, you should catch the glimpse of a distant dwelling.

You approach it eagerly in the hope of hearing a welcome after your weary journey. As you draw nigh, an ominous stillness damps your hope, and on entering, you see the inmates of the house, a numerous family, stretched out motionless and without life. A wasting pestilence has, in one day, made their dwelling a common tomb.

At first you are thrilled with horror by the sight; but as you survey the silent forms, you see on all their countenances, amidst traces of suffering, an expression of benignity. You see some of the dead lying side by side, with hands mutually entwined, showing that the last action of life was a grasp of affection; whilst some lie locked in one another's arms. The mother's cold lips are still pressed to the cheek of the child, and the child's arms still wind round the neck of the mother. In the forms of others, you see no ambiguous proof, that the spirit took its flight in the act of prayer. As you look on these signs of love and faith, stronger than the last agony, what a new feeling steals over you! Your horror subsides. Your eyes are suffused with tears, not of anguish, but of sympathy, affection, tender reverence. You feel the spot to be consecrated. Deatlı becomes lovely like the sleep of infancy. You say, Blessed family, death hath not divided you!

With soothed and respectful sorrow, you leave this resting-place of the good, and another dwelling, dimly descried in the horizon, invites your steps. As you approach it, the same stillness is an augury of a like desolation, and you enter it, expecting to see another family laid low by the same mysterious disease. But you open the door, and the spectacle freezes your blood, and chains your steps to the threshold. On every face you see the distortion of rage. Every man's hand grasps a deadly weapon; every breast is gored with wounds. Here lies one, rived asunder by a sword. There, two locked together, but in the death-grapple of hatred, not the embrace of love. Ilere lies woman, trampled on and polluted, and there the child, weltering in his own blood. You recoil with horror, as soon as the sickness of the heart will suffer you to move. The deadly steam of the apartment oppresses, overpowers you, as if it were the suffocating air of hell. You are terror-struck, as if through the opening earth you had sunk into the abode of fiends; and when the time for reflection comes, and you recall the blessed habitation you had just before left, what a conviction rushes on you, that nothing deserves the name of woe, but that which crime inflicts! You feel, that there is a sweetness, loveliness, sacredness in suffering and death, when these are pervaded by holy affections; and that infinite wretchedness and despair gather over these, when springing from unholy passion, when bearing the brand of crime.

In these remarks, I do not mean to deny, that the physical sufferings of war are great, and should incite us to labour for its abolition. But sufferings, separate from crime, coming not through man's wickedness, but from the laws of nature, are not unmixed evils. They have a ministry of love. God has ordained them, that they should bind men to one another, that they should touch and soften the human heart, that they should call forth mutual aid, solace, gratitude, and selfforgetting love. Sorrow is the chief cement of souls. Death, coming in the order of nature, gathers round the sufferer sympathizing, anxious friends, who watch day and night, with suffused eyes and heart-breathed

« AnteriorContinuar »