Jonathan Dymond.

An inquiry into the accordancy of war with the principles of Christianity : and an examination of the philosophical reasoning by which it is defended ; with observations on some of the causes of war and on some of its effects online

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Online LibraryJonathan DymondAn inquiry into the accordancy of war with the principles of Christianity : and an examination of the philosophical reasoning by which it is defended ; with observations on some of the causes of war and on some of its effects → online text (page 1 of 12)
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('ontempt prior to examination, however comfortable to the mind which entertains it,
or however natural to great parts, is extremely dangerous; and more apt than almost
any other disposition, to produce erroneous judgments both of persons and opinions.







Preface :» - - -■ 5


Original causes — Present multiplicity - - - - 9

Want of inquiry — This want not manifested on parallel subjects - 10
National irritability - - - - - - -13

*^ Balance of p02ver^^ - - - - - - -15

Pecuniary interest — Employment for the higher ranks of society - 18
Jimbition — Private purposes of state policy - - - - 20

Military glory _-.-. - 24

Foundation of military glory — Skill — Bravery — Patriotism —
Patriotism not a motive to the soldier.
Books — Historians — Poets __. - _ 3^?

Writers vi^ho promote war sometimes assert its unlawfulness.


Palpable ferocity of war - - - - - -40

Reasonableness of the inquiry - - - - - -41

Revealed will of God the sole standard of decision - - - 42

Declarations of great men that Christianity prohibits war - - 43

Christianity - .__ - - 45

General character of Christianity - - - - - 47

Precepts and declarations of Jesus Christ - - - - 48

Arguments that the precepts are figurative only - - 51

Precepts and declarations of the apostles - - - - 57

Objections to the advocate of peace from passages of the Christian Scriptures 60
Prophecies of the Old Testament respecting an era of peace - - 67

Early Christians — Their belief— Their practice — Early Christian

writers - - - - 69

Mosaic institutions - - - -77

Example of men of piety - - - - - -80

Objections to the advocate of peace from the distinction between the duties

of private and public life - - - 82

Mode of proving the rectitude of this distinction from the

absence of a common arbitrator amongst nations - - 83

Mode 0^ ^TOYing it on the principles of expedie77cy - - 84

Examination of the principles of expediency as applied to war 86

of the mode of its application - - - 87

Univerf,ality of Christian obligation - - - - - 90


Dr. Palei/s " Moral and Political P/«7o5o/?%"— Chapter " on War."

Mode of discussing the question of its lawfulness - - 91 '^'

This mode inconsistent with the professed principles of the

Moral Philosophy — with the usual practice of the author - 93
Inapplicability of the principles proposed by the Moral Phi-
losophy to the purposes of life - - - - 95

Dr, Paley'*s ^^ Evidences of Christianity'''' - - - - 96

Inconsistency of its statements with the principles of the

Moral Philosophy - - - 98

Argument in favour of war from the excess of male births - - 100 ^^

from the lawfulness of coercion on the part of the civil magistrate 101 —

Right of self-defence — Mode of maintaining the right from the in-
stincts of nature - - - - - - -104 —

Attack of an assassin — Principles on which killing an assas-
sin is defended .. - - 106 -

Consequences of these principles - - - - 110

Unconditional reliance upon Providence on the subject of defence - 113

Safety of this reliance — Evidence by experience in private

life — by national experience - - - - 114

General observations - - - - - - -119


Social consequences - - - - - . -129

Political consequences - - - - - - -131

Opinions of Dr. Johnson - - - - . 132

Moral consequences - - - - - - -133


Familiarity with human destruction — with plunder - - 133

Incapacity for regular pursuits — " half-pay" - - - 135
Implicit submission to superiors.

Its effects on the independence of the mind - - 138

on the moral character - - - . 140

Resignation of moral agency - - - - 141

Military power despotic - - - 143


Peculiar contagiousness of military depravity - - 146

Animosity of party — Spirit of resentment - - . 149

Privateering — Its peculiar atrocity - - - - - 150

Mercenaries — Loan of armies - - - 152

Prayers for the success of war - - - - - - 153

The duty of a subject who believes that all war is incompatible with

Christianity - - - - . - -155

Conclusion - - - - . - - -157


The object of the following pages is, to give a view of the
principal arguments which maintain the indefensibility and im
policy of war, and to examine the reasoning which is advanced
in its favour.

The author has not found, either in those works which treat
exclusively of war, or in those which refer to it as part of a
general system, any examination of the question that embraced
it in all its bearings. In these pages, therefore, he has attempted,
not only to inquire into its accordancy with Christian principles,
and to enforce the obligation of these principles, but to discuss
those objections to the advocate of peace which are advanced by
philosophy, and to examme into the authority of those which are
enforced by the power of habit, and by popular opinion.

Perhaps no other apology is necessary for the intrusion of this
essay upon the public, than that its subject is, in a very high
degree, important. Upon such a subject as the slaughter of
mankind, if there be a doubt, however indeterminate, whether
Christianity does not prohibit it — if there be a possibility, how-
ever remote, that the happiness and security of a nation can be
maintained without it, an examination of such possibility or
doubt, may reasonably obtain our attention. — The advocate of
peace is, however, not obliged to avail himself of such consider-
ations : at least, if the author had not believed that much more
than doubt and possibility can be advanced in support of his
opinions, this inquiry would not have been offered to the public.

He is far from amusing himself with the expectation of a
general assent to the truth of his conclusions. Some will pro-

bably dispute the rectitude of the principles of decision, and some
will dissent from the legitimacy of their application. Never-
theless, he believes that the number of those whose opinions will
accord with his own is increasing, and will yet much more
increase ; and this belief is sufficiently confident to induce him
to publish an essay which will probably be the subject of con-
tempt to some men, and of ridicule to others. But ridicule and
contempt are not potent reasoners.

" Christianity can only operate as an alterative. By the mild
diffusion of its light and influence, the minds of men are insensi-
bly prepared to perceive and correct the enormities, which folly,
or wickedness, or accident have introduced into their public
establishments."* It is in the hope of contributing, in a degree
however unimportant or remote, to the diffusion of this light
and influence, that the following pages have been written.

For the principles of this little volume, or for its conclusions,
no one is responsible but the writer : they are unconnected with
any society, benevolent or religious. He has not written it for
a present occasion, or with any view to the present political
state of Europe. A question like this does not concern itself
with the quarrels of the day.

It will perhaps be thought by some readers, that there is con-
tained, in the following pages, greater severity of animadversion
than becomes an advocate of peace. But, " let it be remembered,
that to bestow good names on bad things, is to give them a pass-
port in the world under a delusive disguise."! The writer
believes that wars are often supported, because the system itself,
and the actions of its agents, are veiled in glittering fictions. He
has therefore attempted to exhibit the nature of these fictions
and of that which they conceal ; and to state, freely and honestly,
both what they are not, and what they are. In this attempt it
has been difficult — perhaps it has not been possible— to avoid

* Paley's Moral and Political Philosophy. f Knox's Essays, No. 34.


some appearance of severity : but he would beg the reader always
to bear in his recollection^ that if he speaks with censure of any
class of men, he speaks of them only as a class. He is far from
giving to such censure an individual application : Such an appli-
cation would be an outrage of all candour and all justice. If
again he speaks of war as criminal, he does not attach guilt,
necessarily, to the profession of arms. He can suppose that
many who engage in the dreadful work of human destruction,
may do it without a consciousness of impropriety, or with a
belief of its virtue. But truth itself is unalterable : whatever be
our conduct, and whatever our opinions, and whether we per-
ceive its principles or not, those principles are immutable ; and
the illustration of truth, so far as he has the power of discovering
it, is the object of the Inquiry which he now offers to the public.



Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas. — Virg.

In the attempt to form an accurate estimate of the
moral character of human actions and opinions, it is
often of importance to inquire how they have been pro-
duced. There is always great reason to doubt the rec-
titude of that, of which the causes and motives are
impure ; and if, therefore, it should appear from the
observations which follow, that some of the motives to
war, and of its causes, are inconsistent with reason or
with virtue, I would invite the reader to pursue the
inquiry that succeeds them, with suspicion, at least, of
the rectitude of our ordinary opinions.

There are some customs wliich have obtained so
generally and so long, that what was originally an effect
becomes a cause, and what was a cause becomes an
effect, until, by the reciprocal influence of each, the
custom is continued by circumstances so multipbed and
involved, that it is difficult to detect them in all their
ramifications, or to determine those to which it is prin-
cipally to be referred.

What were once the occasions of wars may be easily
supposed. — Robbery, or the repulsion of robbers, was
probably the only motive to hostility, until robbery

B ^


became refined into ambition, and it was sufficient to
produce a war that a chief was not content with the ter-
ritory of his fathers. But by the gradually increasing
complication of society from age to age, and by the
multiplication of remote interests and obscure rights,
the motives to war have become so numerous and so
technical, that ordinary observation often fails to per-
ceive what they are. They are sometimes known only
to a cabinet, which is influenced in its decision by rea-
sonings of which a nation knows little, or by feelings
of which it knows nothing : so that of those who per-
sonally engage in hostilities, there is, perhaps, not
often one in ten who can distinctly tell why he is

This refinement in the motives of war is no trifling
evidence that they are insufficient or bad. When it is
considered how tremendous a battle is, how many it
hurries in a moment from the world, how much wretch-
edness and how much guilt it produces, it would surely
appear that nothing but obvious necessity should induce
us to resort to it. But when, instead of a battle, we
have a war with many battles, and of course with mul-
tiplied suffering and accumulated guilt, the motives to
so dreadful a measure ought to be such as to force them-
selves upon involuntary observation, and to be written,
as it w^ere, in the skies. If, then, a large proportion of
a people are often without any distinct perception of
the reasons why they are slaughtering mankind, it
implies, I think, prima facie evidence against the ade-
quacy or the justice of the motives to slaughter.

It would not, perhaps, be affectation to say, that of
the reasons why we so readily engage in war, one of
the principal is, that we do not inquire into the subject.
We have been accustomed, from earliest life, to a
familiarity with all its '' pomp and circumstance ;"


soldiers have passed us at every step, and battles- ^nd
victories have been the topic of every one around us.
War, therefore, becomes familiarized to all our thoughts,
and interwoven v^ith all our associations. We have
never inquired whether these things should be : the
question does not even suggest itself. We acquiesce
in it, as we acquiesce in the rising of the sun, without
any other idea than that it is a part of the ordinary
process of the world. And how are we to feel dis-
approbation of a system that we do not examine, and
of the nature of which we do not think? Want of
inquiry has been the means by which long continued
practices, whatever has been their enormity, have ob-
tained the general concurrence of the world, and by
which they have continued to pollute or degrade it,
long after the few who inquire into their nature have
discovered them to be bad. It was by these means
that the slave-trade was so long tolerated by this land
of humanity. Men did not think of its iniquity. We
were induced to think, and we soon abhorred and then
abolished it. In the present moral state of the world,
therefore, I believe it is the business of him who would
perceive pure morality, to question the purity of that
which now obtains.

'' The vices of another age," says Robertson, "asto-
nish and shock us ; the vices of our own become familiar,
and excite little horror." — " The influence of any na
tional custom, both on the understanding, on the heart,
and how far it may go towards perverting or extin-
guishing moral principles of the greatest importance,
is remarkable. They who [in 1566] had leisure to
reflect and to judge, appear to be no more shocked at
the crime of assassination, than the persons who com-
mitted it in the heat and impetuosity of passion."*

♦ History of Scotland.


Two hundred and fifty years have added something to
our morality. We have learnt, at least, to abhor assas-
sination ; and I am not afraid to hope that the time
will arrive when historians shall think of war what
Robertson thinks of murder, and shall endeavour, like
him, to account for the ferocity and moral blindness
of their forefathers. For I do not think the influence
of habit in the perversion or extinction of our moral
principles, is in any other thing so conspicuous or
deplorable, as in the subject before us. They who are
shocked at a single murder in the highway, hear with
indifference of the murder of a thousand on the field.
They whom the idea of a single corpse would thrill
with terror, contemplate that of heaps of human car-
casses, mangled by human hands, with frigid indiffer-
ence. If a murder is committed, the narrative is given
in the public newspaper, with many expressions of
commiseration, with many adjectives of horror, and
many hopes that the perpetrator will be detected. In
the next paragraph the editor, perhaps, tells us that he
has hurried a second edition to the press, in order that
he may be the first to glad the public with the intelli-
gence, that in an engagement which has just taken
place, eight liundred and fifty of the enemy were hilled.
By war, the natural impulses of the heart seem to be
suspended, as if a fiend of blood were privileged to
exercise a spell upon our sensibilities, whenever w^e
contemplated his ravages. Amongst all the shocking
and all the terrible scenes the world exhibits, the
slaughters of war stand pre-eminent ; yet these are the
scenes of which the compassionate and the ferocious,
the good and the bad, alike talk with complacency or

England is a land of benevolence, and to human
misery she is, of all nations, the most prompt in the


extension of relief. The immolations of the Hindoos
fill us with compassion or horror, and we are zealously
labouring to prevent them. The sacrifices of life by
our own criminal executions are the subject of our
anxious commiseration, and we are strenuously en-
deavouring to diminish their number. We feel that
the life of a Hindoo or a malefactor is a serious thinof,
and that nothing but imperious necessity should in-
duce us to destroy the one, or to permit the destruction
of the other. Yet what are these sacrifices of life in
comparison with the sacrifices of war? In the late
campaign in Russia, there fell, during one hundred and
seventy-three days in succession, an average of two
thousand nine hundred men per day. More than five
hundred thousand human beings in less than six
months ! And most of these victims expired with pe-
culiar intensity of suffering. "Thou that teachest
another, teachest thou not tiiyself ?" We are carrying
our benevolence to the Indies, but what becomes of
it in Russia or at Leipsic ? We are labouring to save
a few lives from the gallows, but where is our solici-
tude to save them on the field ? Life is life, where-
soever it be sacrificed, and has every where equal
claims to our regard. I am not now inquiring whether
war is right, but whether we do not regard its calami*
ties with an indifi'erence with which we reo^ard no
others, and whether that indifference does not make us
acquiesce in evils and in miseries which we should
otherwise prevent or condemn.

Amongst the immediate causes of the frequency of
war, there is one which is, indisputably, irreconcilable
in its nature with the principles of our religion. 1
speak of the critical sense of national pride, and conse-
quent aptitude of offence, and violence of resentment.
National irritability is at once a cause of war, and an


efiect. It disposes us to resent injuries with bloodshed
and destruction ; and a war, when it is begun, inflames
and perpetuates the passions that produced it. Those
who wish a war, endeavour to rouse the spirit of a
people by stimulating their passions. They talk of the
insult, or the encroachments, or the contempts of the
destined enemy, with every artifice of aggravation ;
they tell us of foreigners who want to trample upon our
rights, of rivals who ridicule our power, of foes who will
crush, and of tyrants who will enslave us. These men
pursue their object, certainly, by efficacious means ;
they desire a war, and therefore irritate our passions,
knowing that when men are angry they are easily
persuaded to fight.

In this state of irritability, a nation is continually
alive to occasions of offence; and when we seek for
offences, we readily find them. A jealous sensibility
sees insults and injuries where sober eyes see nothing ;
and nations thus surround themselves with a sort of
artificial tentacula, which they throw wide in quest of
irritation, and by which they are stimulated to revenge,
by every touch of accident or inadvertency.

He that is easily offended will also easily offend.
The man who is always on the alert to discover tres
passes on his honour or his rights, never fails to quarrel
with his neighbours. Such a person may be dreaded
as a torpedo. We may fear, but we shall not love him ;
and fear, without love, easily lapses into enmity. There
are, therefore, many feuds and litigations in the life of
such a man, that would never have disturbed its quiet,
if he had not captiously snarled at the trespasses of
accident, and savagely retaliated insignificant injuries.
The viper that we chance to molest, we suffer to live
if he continue to be quiet ; but if he raise himself in
menaces of destruction, we knock him on the head.


It is with nations as with men. If, on every offence
we fly to arms, and raise the cry of blood, we shall of
necessity provoke exasperation; and if we exasperate
a people as petulant and bloody as ourselves, we may
probably continue to butcher one another, until we
cease only from emptiness of exchequers, or weariness
of slaughter. To threaten war, is therefore oftea equi-
valent to beginning it. In the present state of men's
principles, it is not probable that one nation will observe
another levying men, and building ships, and founding
cannon, without providing men and ships and cannon
themselves ; and when both are thus threatening and
defying, what is the hope that there will not be a war ?

It will scarcely be disputed that we should not kill

one another unless we cannot help it. Since war is an

enormous evil, some sacrifices are expedient for the

sake of peace; and if we consulted our understandings

more and our passions less, we should soberly balance

the probabilities of mischief, and inquire whether it

be not better to endure some evils that we can estimate,

than to engage in a conflict of which we can neither

calculate the mischief, nor foresee the event ; which

may probably conduct us from slaughter to disgrace,

and which at last is determined, not by justice, but by

power. Pride may declaim against these sentiments ;

but my business is not ^iih. pride, but with reason; and

I think reason determines that it would be more wise,

and religion that it would be less wicked, to diminish

our punctiliousness and irritability. If nations fought

only when they could not be at peace, there would be

very little fighting in the world. The wars that are

waged for " insults to flags," and an endless train of

similar motives, are perhaps generally attributable to

the irritability of our pride. We are at no pains to

appear pacific towards the offender ; our remonstrance


is a threat; and the nation, which would give satis-
faction to an inqidry, will give no other answer to
a menace than a menace in return. At length we
begin to fight, not because we are aggrieved, but be-
cause we are angry.

The object of the haughtiness and petulance which
one nation uses towards another, is of course to produce
some benefit; to awe into compliance with its demands,
or into forbearance from aggression. Nov/ it ought to
be distinctly shown, that petulance and haughtiness
are more efficacious than calmness and moderation ;
that an address to the passions of a probable enemy is
more likely to avert mischief from ourselves, than an
address to their reason and their virtue. Nations are
composed of men, and of men with human feelings.
Whether with individuals or with communities, *' a
soft answer turneth away wrath." There is, indeed,
something in the calmness of reason — in an endeavour
to convince rather than to intimidate — in an honest
solicitude for friendliness and peace, which obtains,
which commands, which extorts forbearance and es-
teem. This is the privilege of rectitude and truth.
It is an inherent quality of their nature ; an evidence
of their identity with perfect wisdom. I believe, there-
fore, that even as it concerns our interests^ moderation
and forbearance would be the most politic. And let
not our duties be forgotten ; for forbearance and mode-
ration are duties, absolutely and indispensably imposed
upon us by Jesus Christ.

The " balance of power" is a phrase with which we
are made sufficiently famiUar, as one of the great objects
of national policy, that must be attained, at whatever
cost of treasure or of blood. The support of this ba-
lance, therefore, is one of the great purposes of war,
and one of the great occasions of its frequency.


It is, perhaps, not idle to remark, that a balance of
power amongst nations, is inherently subject to con-
tinual interruption. If all the countries of Europe
were placed on an equality to-day, they would of neces-
sity become unequal to-morrow. This is the inevitable
tendency of human affairs. Thousands of circum-
stances which sagacity cannot foresee, will continually
operate to destroy an equilibrium. Of men, who enter
the world with the same possessions and the same
prospects, one becomes rich and the other poor; one
harangues in the senate, and another labours in a
mine ; one sacrifices his life to intemperance, and
another starves in a garret. How accurately soever we
may adjust the strength and consequence of nations to
each other, the failure of one harvest, the ravages of
one tempest, the ambition of one man, may unequalize
them in a moment. It is, therefore, not a trifling

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Online LibraryJonathan DymondAn inquiry into the accordancy of war with the principles of Christianity : and an examination of the philosophical reasoning by which it is defended ; with observations on some of the causes of war and on some of its effects → online text (page 1 of 12)