Christian Non-Resistance in Extreme Cases
"He that loveth his life shall lose it: and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." John 12:25.
What is Christian non-resistance? That peculiar kind of non-resistance which was taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ. There are several other kinds of non-resistance which have been inculcated in the world. These are all more or less anti-Christian, or at least un-Christian. The doctrine of Christian non-resistance prescribes especially the duty of human beings relative to offending human beings - enemies, evildoers, the wicked. It says: Resist not evil-doers with evil; that is, in opposing evildoers, do unto them no evil, no harm; never disregard their highest good; do nothing, threaten nothing, intend nothing, countenance nothing toward them, but what is dictated by pure friendship, good-will, love, to them and all mankind.
THREE GREAT TRUTHS
The great teacher and exemplifier of this doctrine based it on three grand truths.
1. God our heavenly Father loves both his enemies and friends with a pure disinterested love, in which he continually seeks the highest good of each and all, - therefore man should do likewise.
2. All mankind are spiritual entities, destined to immortal existence beyond physical death; and therefore ought always to do that which is best for them in view of their whole existence, present and future.
3. It is best for all mankind, in view of their whole existence present and future, always to treat each other, whether friend of foe, righteous or wicked, in strict accordance with the dictates of pure disinterested love, which worketh no ill its object.
This is the foundation of Christian non-resistance. If either of these three assumed truths is really not a truth, the doctrine falls at once. If God governs the moral world otherwise than as the disinterested friend of his enemies, the wicked, as well as of his friends, the righteous, then the doctrine of Christian non-resistance falls, inasmuch as it requires the creature to be better than his Creator. If mankind are not spiritual entities, destined to immortal existence beyond physical death, then also the doctrine falls, for want of sufficient motive to practice it in extreme cases. If it is not best for mankind, in view of their whole existence present and future, always to treat each other, whether friend or foe, righteous or wicked, in strict accordance with the dictates of pure disinterested love which worketh no ill to its object, then the doctrine falls of course, because there must be cases in which the contrary is best. I myself believe that these three assumed truths are real truths, immutable truths, glorious truths. Consequently I believe the doctrine of Christian non-resistance is a sound, sublime, irrefutable and sacred doctrine - one never to be trampled under foot, betrayed, abandoned, or disregarded, under any pretext whatsoever. Viewing it in this light, I am bound to treat it accordingly, whoever else may treat it otherwise.
Some who profess to admire this doctrine in theory, or who at least concede that it would be a glorious doctrine, if the world were good enough to admit of its being carried out in practice, reject it, because, as the world is, they deem it impracticable in extreme cases. Now if there are extreme cases, as the world is, in which this doctrine ought not to be practiced, in which, all things considered, it is best to practice the opposite doctrine, however few and extreme those cases may be, the question is settled - the doctrine is false.
A true and good doctrine must be true and good in extreme cases. Those are exactly the cases in which it is most needed. Extreme cases are the tests of principles, virtues, doctrines and professions. It is when men are tempted and tried severely that the heart and its principles are revealed. It is easy to love the lovely, to be friendly to the friendly, to be peaceable toward the peaceable, to be a non-resistant when only slight evils are to be resisted. But to love the hateful for the sake of their inmost souls, as God does; to be the true friend of wicked and outrageous offenders, so as to die rather than harm them; to be peaceable toward the violent and destructive; to refrain from resisting the most murderous evil-doers with deadly force, though one lose his own life and lives even dearer than his own; this is being DIVINELY human, godlike, in extreme cases. And if Christian non-resistance is wrong in such cases, it is wrong altogether - virtually good for nothing "but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men." Because the popular doctrine of righteous resistance with deadly force provides for all ordinary cases of forbearance. It requires us to forbear till "forbearance ceases to be a virtue." Besides, the world as it is needs examples of the loftiest self-sacrifice to lift it out of the slough of selfishness and vengeance in which it is struggling. Instead of saying that Christian non-resistance would be just the thing, if the world were good enough to practice it, we should more wisely say, It is just the thing this evil world needs to see in extreme cases to elevate it - to make it a better world. When it becomes good enough not to steal, rob, ravish, oppress and murder, non-resistance will be like medicine where there is no sickness.
THE WORLD'S PROGRESS THUS FAR
But suppose we take the opposite view, and grant that the world is so bad at present, Christian non-resistance must at least be postponed for a season as utterly impracticable; when and how is the world to be made better? We are now past the meridian of the 19th Christian century. Yet human progress with all its boasted achievements cleaves tenaciously to the instrumentalities of war and deadly force. Never before were there such mighty armies and navies on the globe - such strong fortresses - so many well stored armories, arsenals and military magazines - such thorough martial schools, so many able military captains, - and such tremendous engines of human destruction. Never before did the nations of the earth expend so much money, time, strength and intelligence in preparing for the contingencies of war. And the more civilized nations lead off in this military progress. Christendom leads Heathendom and the Mahometans; and the greatest nations of Christendom lead the inferior ones. Nearly all sects, parties and classes, not excepting our professed reformers, philanthropists and progressives of the most modern school, are enthusiastic for the sword, rifle and bayonet as indispensable means of overcoming evil doers and bettering the condition of this wicked world.
What does all this signify? To what does it all amount? To what does it tend? Treasure enough has been expended to render the earth a paradise of intelligence, virtue and beauty. Human beings enough have been slain in this murderous process to people twenty such globes us ours. Human blood enough has been shed to fill a sea that would float all the navies of the world. Agonies enough have gone up from writhing humanity to feast all the fiends of darkness for ages. And all for what? To save life, was it? To execute justice, was it? To protect human rights, was it? To promote civil and religious liberty, was it? To maintain order, bless society and elevate mankind, was it? Yet life has been trifled with, sacrificed and cheapened to mere dregs. Injustice has triumphed twenty times where justice has once. Human rights have gone to the wall as often. Tyranny has come off victorious in a vast majority of instances, or one set of selfish masters has merely given place to another. Order of some sort has indeed often been enforced, but it has been a kind of order whose cloven foot crushed out the noblest blood of its times. Whole nations have been overrun, demoralized and poisoned for generations by the turn of a single battle.
And still the world is so low, so bad, so depraved, that Christian non-resistance, with its scepter of peace, must be postponed indefinitely as impracticable. Why? O, because there are extreme cases which can only be provided against by bowie knives, revolvers, Sharpe's rifles and the various instruments of death. And when will the morals of the world get so amended, under the administration of its present blood-letting, death-dealing doctors, that peace-principles will become practicable? Absolutely never. The oftener men resort to deadly weapons, and especially if they conquer, the more they trust in them. There is no hope but in a radical change of principles. Every man who rejects Christian non-resistance falls back on the world as it is, and on bloody violence as the great dernier resort of all persons, parties and nations, for the final arbitrament of human controversies. There is no middle ground. There are only two opposite principles - only two sides - and every person takes one or the other.
AN EXTREME CASE MET
Let us meet these extreme cases which are alleged to be so fatal to Christian non-resistance. Let us see if they are more extreme, or more numerous, than the war-principle involves. Here is one: "Suppose a robber attacks you in some lonely place on the highway; your money and your life are in jeopardy; as a Christian non-resistant what will you do?"
Let me consider first what I should do as a resistant. If unarmed, as most persons are apt to be in such emergencies, I should probably be frightened and submit to all exactions, however much I believed in fighting. Fighting men without arms generally yield readily to an enemy with deadly weapons in his hands. They are very much afraid of being killed. But I might be armed; what then? Two chances to one I should even then be so disconcerted as to be at the mercy of my assailant, and thus be slain, or badly disabled. If not, two chances to one his weapons, coolly poised, would take effect, while mine missed their mark. Then where should I be? It is not to be assumed, in such cases, that the party in the right always masters his foe. A cool, expert ruffian has generally a decided advantage. In most cases he carries his point. But suppose in one case out of five, I save my life and purse by killing the robber; what then? I have prolonged my life a little on earth and saved my money. I have also precipitated him, with all his sins on his head, into the world of spirits, utterly regardless of his good here or there.
I have taken care of my own mortal self. I am proud of my exploit, or rather of my luck. Will it make me a better man? Probably not. Probably it will make me a vainer, harder hearted man, more ready to glorify and trust in deadly weapons. Will it make others better? Probably it will stimulate them to arm themselves for a like exploit, and give a greater or less impetus to the fighting spirit. And this will make every man worse that imbibes it - more disposed to boast, threaten, defy and quarrel. What will be its moral effect on unprincipled rascals? It will inspire a few with temporary dread, others with cunning caution, others with an ambition to handle deadly weapons more expertly than their unlucky comrade, but not one with repentance, redeeming emotions, or really better feelings - not one.
What Is To Be Done
I will now consider what I am to do, in such a case, as a Christian non-resistant. If I am true one, 1 shall not be half so likely to be attacked by a robber, as if a fighting man. My habitual humility, humanity, kindness and forbearance will be a preventive in the minds of many who might otherwise he bad enough to rob me. They would say, "I cannot rob him; he never treats the meanest with contempt; he would put his hand in his pocket at any moment to relieve me in distress; I cannot touch him; he will never harm me; I must take some proud, stingy, crabbed or dashing fellow for my victim." This would be the feeling of more than half the bad characters that knew me.
But, say you, what of the rest? Some one of them attacks me. If I am a true Christian non-resistant, I am no coward. I am calm, kind, firm and brave. He presents his pistol and says, "Your money or your life."
I reply, "Unfortunate brother, do you know that I am your friend? Would you shed my blood? I am not afraid of death. My hope and my home are in heaven. Are you unfortunate, needy, distressed, friendless? then I will loan you, or give you, what I am able. Do not sin by robbing one who is willing to befriend you, and who will never harm you!"
The chances are ten to one that such language, with such kindness, calmness, and fearlessness, would impel the robber to fly from me at once, or would melt him down, or would lead him to say, "I am in want; loan me a little; or give me something of your own accord; I will not harm you." In either of these cases I should escape in safety, and he would leave me with a holy lesson never to be forgotten - a lesson which could by no possibility make him a worse man, if it did not make him a better. Under such treatment steadily pursued by the generality of honest people, robbing would soon become a rare crime.
"But," say you, "what if the villain should chance to be utterly unsusceptible to your appeal, and recklessly shoot you in the midst of your very friendly talk?" That is not at all likely; yet if he should, my case would still be a more desirable one than the cases of four fifths of resistants; for they are killed in the act of trying to kill their assailants, and are wholly unprepared in spirit for their change; whereas I should only go to a better sphere a little sooner than in the natural way, and should have left an arrow of moral conviction in the bosom of my murderer which would never cease to wound him for his good till he became a reformed spirit. My conduct would be unselfish, noble, brave and salutary in all its influences. I should lose my life on earth for the sake of a. divine principle, and so spiritually keep it unto life eternal. Would you have me set at nought all such heavenly considerations, and either die, or live a little longer, by a murderous squabble with a. wretched fellow creature? Do you not see that in the average I should be ten times safer on my ground than on the other? And do you not see that, living or dying, I should do ten times more to put an end to all such violence in the world, than I could as an armed fighting man?
That you may see that my illustrations are not merely imaginary, permit me to give you two or three actual, well authenticated cases of the kind.
The Young Man near Philadelphia
A few years since, a young man in the vicinity of Philadelphia was one evening stopped in a grove, with the demand, "Your money, or your life." The robber then presented a pistol to his breast. The young man, having a large sum of money, proceeded leisurely and calmly to hand it over to his enemy, at the same time setting before him the wickedness and peril of his career. The rebukes of the young man cut the robber to the heart. He became enraged, cocked his pistol, held it to the young man's head, and with an oath, said, "Stop that preaching, or I will blow out your brains." The young man calmly replied, "Friend, to save my money, I would not risk my life; but to save you from your evil course, I am willing to die. I shall not cease to plead with you." He then poured in the truth still more earnestly and kindly. Soon the pistol fell to the ground; the tears began to flow; and the robber was overcome. He handed the money all back with the remark, "I cannot rob a man of such principles."
Robert Barclay and Leonard Fell
Robert Barclay, the celebrated apologist of the Quakers, and Leonard Fell, a member of the same Society, were severally attacked by highwaymen in England, at different times. Both faithfully adhered to their non-resistance principles, and both signally triumphed. The pistol was leveled at Barclay, and a determined demand made for his purse. Calm and self-possessed, he looked the robber in the face, with a firm but meek benignity, assured him he was his and every man's friend, that he was willing and ready to relieve his wants, that he was free from the fear of death through a divine hope in immortality, and therefore was not to be intimidated by a deadly weapon; and then appealed to him, whether he could have a heart to shed the blood of one who had no other feeling or purpose but to do him good. The robber was confounded; his eye melted; his brawny arm trembled; his pistol fell to his side; and he fled from the presence of the non-resistant hero whom he could no longer confront.
Fell was assaulted in a much more violent manner. The robber rushed upon him, dragged him from his horse, rifled his pockets, and threatened to blow out his brains on the spot, if he made the least resistance. This was the work of a moment. But Fell experienced no panic. His principles raised him above the fear of man and of death. Though forbidden to speak, he calmly but resolutely reproved the robber for his wickedness, warned him of the consequences of such a course of life, counseled him to reform, and assured him that while he forgave this wanton outrage on himself, he hoped for his own sake he would henceforth betake himself to an upright calling. His expostulation was so fearless, faithful and affectionate, that the robber was struck with compunction, delivered back his money and horse, and bade him go in peace. Then, with tears filling his eyes, he exclaimed, "May God have mercy on a sinful wretch," and hastened out of sight.
So much for one of your extreme cases. Now for another.
ANOTHER EXTREME CASE MET
"Suppose you and your family should be attacked by a gang of vile scoundrels, who should design to commit rape, robbery and murder, or perhaps to kidnap yourself, wife and children for sale into interminable slavery; what would you do in that case?"
That would indeed be a horribly extreme case. Do you think I should be more liable to such a terrible trial as a Christian non-resistant, than as a common resistant? I see no reason why I should. I see several reasons why I should be less exposed. But I might come even into such straits. Possibly God and his good angels might leave me and my family to such a trial. If so, I would hope to pass through it, with heavenly help, worthily. I might fall from my principles, and be driven to distraction. But I should pray that it might be otherwise.
As a fighting man my only chance would be to kill outright, foil or frighten off this gang of scoundrels; in which case I should do nothing, nor even design to do anything, for their good in this world or the next. But if I were not a match for them at this game of deadly violence, what then? Of course, they would either kill or disable me, and then without compunction proceed to accomplish their hellish purposes on my family. In war, rape and booty have ten thousand times been the watchwords of the victors. Ten thousand times husbands, fathers and brothers have been compelled to witness the ferocious defilement of their screaming loved ones, and then been hewn in pieces themselves with a broad sword, or pierced through with a bayonet. This is one of the infernal accompaniments of victorious war. and the war principle is heavily chargeable with such atrocious crimes. Say then how many chances, as a fighting man, I should have to save myself or my family from this supposed gang of scoundrels? You perceive at once that fighting would in many cases only make the matter worse. The odds must be in my favor, or resistance would be vain.
What Defense Might Be Made
Let me now imagine how much of a defense I might make as a Christian non-resistant. Suppose my spirit to be benignant, calm, meek, firm and heroic. How are these wicked men to introduce their business? They see me and my family quietly in our habitation unarmed. They rudely knock at our door, or thrust themselves in without leave. But I meet them with a friendly look, resolutely kind, and inquire, "What brings you thus into our peaceful abode? We desire to be the friends of mankind, the enemies of none. In what way can we do you good? Are you hungry, needy, suffering? What do you wish?" They must quickly commence their outrage, or be embarrassed, nonplussed and disposed to make a retreat. It is hard to fight this sort of battles with a true peace man - much harder than many suppose. I should stand more than an even chance to outgeneral such assailants.
But worst might come to worst, and what then? I should remonstrate with all my moral energy. "You have come to commit murder and rapine on a peaceful family who never did you any injury! Will you be guilty of such crimes! We cannot do you intentional harm, but we shall resist you by all the non-injurious force in our power. Understand me; you cannot murder or dishonor these, my beloved ones, till you shall have crushed out my own physical strength and theirs." In such an extreme I should place myself in front of my wife and children, and cover their retreat to the best of my ability, shielding them from outrage with my body, and exerting all the uninjurious force I possessed to protect them. I might be killed at once, or disabled, or overcome at length, and then the worst designs of our assailants would be consummated. But I should have been true to my principles, and done my duty. Then dead or alive, my family dead or alive, be the consequences what they might to my or their mortal existence, my and their spiritual existence would take on eternal life. Moreover, I should have set an example and exerted an influence every atom of which would tend to put away from the human race this hellish spirit of violence which caused my extreme case of trial.
Remember that this gang of scoundrels were born, bred and trained for their wickedness by the war-spirit in a pro-war state of society. They are pupils of the war-school. They could never have been bred to such crimes in a state of society formed by the principles and tuition of Christian non-resistance. Therefore, whoever acts in accordance with this doctrine does just so much towards putting an end to all these supposed extreme cases. And whoever favors the war-principle and system does just so much towards breeding up more or less of just such wretches, and perpetuating the possibility of just such cases.
WHO ARE ON THE SAFEST SIDE
Thus I have supposed and granted much that might be imagined to happen in extreme cases. But every reflecting mind must see that all the trials and miseries which could befall faithful Christian non-resistants in such cases would be nothing in comparison with those which necessarily befall fighting men and their families in every considerable war that takes place the world over.
What then would people lose in these respects by becoming true disciples of this doctrine? They would gain much. Besides, these supposed extreme cases very seldom happen. Christian non-resistants would run more risk of being struck with lightning than of being overtaken by such trials. If we could find fifty Christian non-resistants and count them out against fifty average resistants, the fifty non-resistants, all other things being equal, would live out more years on earth, and suffer less from the aggressions of bad men, than the fifty resistants. There might be extreme cases with both classes, but I confidently affirm that the non-resistants, if true, faithful and consistent, would enjoy decidedly the most of all real good on earth, to say nothing of their superior condition in the spheres beyond.
It would be so with larger numbers, with communities, and with nations, acting on the same principles. For example, I refer you to the early history of Pennsylvania, which records the glorious fact that William Penn's colony of Quakers lived unarmed in the midst of warlike savages for seventy years unharmed, and even befriended in their utmost need. Also, to the wonderful preservation of the Quakers and Moravians during the two great Irish rebellions - not one faithful adherent to the peace principle having lost his life, though many were fearfully imperiled. Also, to alike preservation of the Quakers through the devastating Indian wars on our Western frontiers during the last century.
And so it ought to be, if the doctrine is divine. God has undoubtedly shown us, in this peculiar doctrine of his Son, the most excellent way of promoting human welfare both for this life and the future. It is only the extreme cases that are plausibly urged against this doctrine. And these are unreasonably urged; because the whole history of mankind demonstrates that the extreme cases on the opposite side are ten times more numerous. So that if a man is to be frightened from Christian non-resistance by a few extreme cases of trial and suffering, he ought to be frightened ten times worse by the terrors on the other side.
ANOTHER CASE - CIVIL SOCIETY
Here is another case. "How is civil society to be maintained against outrageous offenders, ruffians and desperadoes? Are raving maniacs, mad drunkards, midnight burglars and all sorts of lawless scoundrels to go at large unrestrained? What would you do with such characters, if the majority of people should adopt your Christian non-resistance principles and have to carry on the government of general society?"
We should hold sacred the lives, welfare and highest good of all classes. We should rely on preventive, rather than deadly force. We should cease to breed devils in the hot-beds of war, drunkenness and selfishness, as they now are bred by thousands. We should educate, employ, moralize and Christianize myriads who are now diabolized. We should soon have very few outrageous characters; and those few we should restrain by uninjurious, beneficent physical force. We should have a police force and a posse comitatus composed of men ready to lose their own lives rather than kill the worst of wretches, and at the same time strong enough to render all resistance momentary and useless. We should substitute safe moral hospitals for gibbets, jails and demoralizing prisons. And we should maintain a truly Christian government, replete with blessings to all classes of society.
ANOTHER CLASS OF EXTREME CASES
Another class of extreme cases, and I close. "How would our revolutionary fathers have gained liberty and independence for their country, if they had been Christian non-resistants? How can the down-trodden peoples of the earth ever gain their liberty without fighting to the death against their tyrants for it? And how are our four millions of American slaves to throw off their chains without insurrection and war to the knife? How are human rights, how is human liberty, and how is human progress, ever to triumph the world over, without resisting and crushing out tyrants?"
Answer. If our revolutionary fathers had been Christian non-resistants, they would have asserted all their rights, remonstrated against all wrongs done them, and then suffered as martyrs for those rights, passively refusing to obey all unjust requirements, and patiently enduring the consequences. If they had so done, they would not only have conquered, but converted the British nation - a large minority of whom sympathized deeply with them. In that case they would have slain none of their enemies, saved nine-tenths of their own people's lives that were actually sacrificed by the war, spent far less money, corrupted no one's morals by the vile school of a warlike camp, and gained more of real liberty and glory than they did by violence. Then they could have given freedom to their six hundred thousand slaves, instead of multiplying them to four millions, and pertinaciously inflicting on them a bondage, "one hour of which," as Jefferson has said, "is fraught with more misery than ages of that which they rose in rebellion to oppose." And then there would be no occasion for the question, How are the American slaves to gain their liberty? We should have had no slaves. But that ever glorified revolutionary war rendered slavery a long and dreadful fixture. And let it not be forgotten, that the success of that same war largely depended on the hatred of France and Spain to England, who aided the Americans more out of spite to the mother country, than love for liberty.
The Down-Trodden Peoples
Next, the down-trodden peoples of the earth. How are they to get rid of their tyrants, without fighting? Let me ask, rather, how they have got rid of them, and are getting rid of them, with fighting? This is the more pertinent inquiry. Look at the French people; they have fought many revolutions to get rid of their tyrants. Where are they now? When have they crushed one set of tyrants without soon elevating another? When will they? When they are worthy of liberty? Who can tell when that will be? And who will dare to say that fighting is the thing to render them worthy?
Where is Hungary and her brilliant Kossuth? What has fighting done for them? Where is Poland? Where is Ireland? Where is Italy? Where is Mexico? Where are the Central American and the South American Republics? What great things has fighting done for all these peoples? Behold their condition. It is not fighting that they need. They have had too much of this. It is education, intelligence, virtue, moral principle and industrial economy. These are the instrumentalities of love and peace. And they cannot do their work, like a bloody battle, in one day. They require the patient, unthanked, unglorified efforts of the wise and good through successive generations. With these any people may and will become free, truly and happily free. Without these no people can become so. And all peoples on the face of the earth, under whatever form of government, enjoy real liberty and its blessings just in proportion to the amount of education, intelligence, virtue, moral principle, and industrial economy prevailing among them. These are the criteria of any people's progress towards the destiny of man on earth. Neither the will nor the power to fight with deadly weapons determines any people's progress, liberty or happiness.
Liberation of the Poor Slaves
But the four millions of American slaves, bow are they to gain their liberty without fighting? What is your harmless Christian non-resistance to do for them? Let us see. What is to be done in this case by fighting? Are these millions of long-crushed slaves expected to fight their way to freedom, without arms, without martial training, without knowledge, without resources, naked, poor, ignorant, spiritless (with here and there an exception), against six times their number of a powerful, well armed, rich, proud, selfish, ambitious, enterprising race? Who is so demented as to dream of such a result? A thousand Nat Turners may arise and brandish the torch of insurrection. They will never succeed. They will be extinguished quickly and utterly.
"But the Abolitionists of the North will help them, and then fighting will be done to some purpose." Believe it not. A thousand honest John Browns may make the experiment, but they will perish in the attempt. It is not in the nature of the case that such methods should be successful. It is only the madness of the slaveholding States, rushing into disunion and rebellion against the federal government, and thus bringing on a general war between the North and the South, that will necessitate the abolition of slavery by the process of arms.
Such may be the case, but even then the result might not be abolition. There is uncertainty and crooked policy in war. But Christian non-resistance, what little there is of it, dictates, advises, countenances none of these resorts to violence. It says, instruct, enlighten, elevate and purify the minds of white and colored people wherever they can be reached to the uttermost. Regenerate public sentiment at the North and thus ultimately at the South by every possible means. Put away from the people their dominant selfishness and sordidness. Patiently and perseveringly use all the instrumentalities of benevolence and peace. Look forward a century, yes, a thousand years, and do just the self-sacrificing work which will, in the long run, render all classes wisest, best and happiest. Breathe out no wrath, let slip no dogs of war, rouse not up the lion, the tiger and the wolf in the breasts of animal men; suffer the loss of any thing earthly for love's sake, for humanity's sake, for righteousness' sake; but commit no murder, inflict no vengeance, do no violence, countenance no insurrections, seditions, bloody revolutions. All these come of the self-will, restless ambition, pride and combativeness of the animal mind. They work not the righteousness of God, nor the highest welfare of mankind, either in this world or the next.
Such are my views of this subject in its most , important bearings and perplexing aspects. I might easily imagine numerous other extreme cases, but they could all be obviated in substantially the same way. The truth is, the doctrine of Christian non-resistance rests on foundations which underlie human nature itself, which are immutably fixed in the Divine Nature - pure Love. It simply forbids us as moral agents ever to hate a moral agent, ever knowingly to harm a fellow soul, ever consciously to disregard a brother or sister spirit's highest welfare, ever to sacrifice another human being's good to our own or others' selfishness. It allows and requires us to sacrifice our selfishness, yes our earthly life with all its concomitant good, to the good of others for righteousness' sake, but never to destroy, injure, or harm our fellow humans under any pretext whatsoever. And it assures us that if we thus act we shall enjoy eternal life - shall do that which on the whole is best for us, best for our offending fellow creatures, and best for all mankind.
Why then should we reject and revolt against this doctrine? Does not the Spirit of God in our inmost souls tell us it is true, sublime, and divinely glorious? In our best moments do we not all hear the "still small voice" of this testimony? But the animal nature is still turbulent, willful and clamorous within us. We think of the offender, the sinner, the wicked, extreme cases of wrong and outrage. What then? Surely we must punish such guilty beings.
Do we remember that this is not our work - that that we ourselves are ignorant, erring and sinful - that it is God's work through his infallible laws permeating every nature and all things - that that it is as impossible for any moral agent to escape his just punishment, or lose his just reward, as to escape from himself? Do we remember that no soul can possibly wrong others without wronging himself far worse? It must be so. Why then do we not rather pity than punish? But perhaps we do not desire to punish, but only to defend and protect ourselves or those dear to us, or those abused, or the public, or our country. It is right to do this so far as we can do it innocently, unselfishly and without intentionally harming others, but no farther; by no means which disregard the highest good of any fellow human being. If we do, we turn the scale against our own highest good and that of all whom we would defend and protect. We swell the current of selfishness, hate and wrong.
We weaken our defenses, impair our protection, multiply our enemies, embitter their hatred, provoke fresh aggression, cheapen human life, aggravate the general disposition to resort to violence, and retard the regeneration of our race. If we save our own lives or those of our dear friends in doing it, we feed a wrathful flame which ultimately causes the destruction of ten, or a hundred lives, for every one selfishly saved. We transmit a legacy of violence and destruction to posterity which must curse unborn generations. Would a man boast that he had saved his own life, if thereby he nourished an evil spirit in those around him which was sure to slay ten of his grandchildren? Yet resistance of evil-doers with evil naturally tends to this, and even worse results. Fighting men glorify themselves and one another for accomplishing some present supposed good, when ultimately that same imaginary good in its remoter consequences inevitably reproduces ten times greater evils than it seemed to prevent. This is the inherent nature of the war system, even in its most plausible developments. The whole history of the world demonstrates, that love begets love, war war, and peace peace.
Then let the selfish, haughty, cruel war-principle be denounced and renounced utterly. Let the whole system of wrath and vengeance be left to rot among the barbarisms of the past. Let a class of uncompromising men and women arise who proclaim the duty of universal disarmament, who will give no countenance, not the least, to any man, or class of men, or nation in resorting to deadly weapons under any pretext whatsoever. Let them leave no door open for this brutal abomination to come into the temple of humanity, by granting its necessity in extreme cases. Let them give it no quarter anywhere this side of the bottomless pit. Let them never betray or deny Christian non-resistance, when the Old Serpent, transformed into an angel of light, cries out "Self defense, family protection, patriotism, liberty, human rights, the poor slave, fight for these." It is thus that the very elect are deceived, and fall away. It is thus .that mankind have been cheated and re-cheated for long ages by that Lying Spirit which has been "a murderer from the beginning." Sin is never so dangerous, so tempting, as when it takes on the guise of righteousness and claims to be necessary to some good end - to be indispensable to some noble achievement. Then shortsighted souls overlook the evil means and sanctify them for the sake of the end. Deceit, wrath, violence, war, are then deemed right, or at least excusable, because they are for self-defense, justice, liberty or some great humanitary cause! Away with all such delusions.
Who noble ends by noble means attains,
Or failing, smiles in exile or in chains,
Like good Aurelius let him reign, or bleed,
Like Socrates, that man is great indeed.
Let us look forward with confidence to the reign of universal love and peace, so long prayed for by the wise and good, so long predicted by the noblest prophets of past ages. Let us labor, suffer and pour out the offerings of holy self-sacrifice to hasten its coming, to usher in the blessed era fore-chanted by the angels of heaven, when they sang over Bethlehem's plains, "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men." A voice resounds through the long troubled earth, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make his paths straight; for he cometh to rule the world in righteousness." His heralds proclaim it; his pioneers are running to and fro, preparing for "the good time coming," and I cannot more appropriately conclude, than in the beautiful words of Cowper:
O scenes surpassing fable, and yet true,
Scenes of accomplished bliss! which who can see,
Though but in distant prospect, and not feel
His soul refreshed with foretaste of the joy?
Rivers of gladness water all the earth,
And clothe all climes with beauty: the reproach
Of barrenness is past. The fruitful field
Laughs with abundance; and the land, once lean,
Or fertile only in its own disgrace,
Exults to see its thistly curse repeal'd,
The various seasons woven into one.
And that one season an eternal spring,
The garden fears no blight, and needs no fence,
For there is none to covet, all are full.
All creatures worship man, and all mankind
One Lord, one Father. Error has no place;
That creeping pestilence is driven away.
The breath of Heaven has chased It. In the heart
No passion touches a discordant string,
But all is harmony and love.
One song employs all nations: and all cry,
"Worthy the Lamb, for he was slain for us!"
The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks
Shout to each other, and the mountain tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy,
Till, nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous hosanna round.