Leo Tolstoy.

Complete works (Volume 11) online

. (page 1 of 62)
Online LibraryLeo TolstoyComplete works (Volume 11) → online text (page 1 of 62)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

6 4 4


tvt i„r;i^'i'''r:' vv-yi ■ ■ ■'■ ,^\m B

Edition de Luxe



Lyof N. Tolstoi







The Wheeler Publishing Co.



Edition De Luxe
Limited to looo copies

.1.. •> - w V> \>




Copyright, 1899,


The present volume contains a strong appeal for
practical religion. It is an arraignment of empty ob-
servances and hollow mockeries, and a plea for simple
righteousness within. Count Tolstoi's earnest and elo-
quent manner comes out forcibly in his elucidation of
Christ's words which he takes for his text, — " The
Kingdom of God is within you." The writer pleads
that the outward forms of religion, however helpful
they may be to some souls, are not essential ; that the
superstitions with which Faith sometimes clothes or
masks herself may or may not be uplifting ; but that
the foundation of Christianity is the truth contained in
Christ's words, his simple, plain, undogmatic commands
and prohibitions.

"I beheve it is Max Miiller," says Tolstoi', "who
describes the astonishment of an Indian converted to
Christianity, who, having apprehended the essence of
the Christian doctrine, came to Europe and beheld the
life of Christians. He could not recover from his
astonishment in the presence of the reality, so different
from the state of things he had expected to find among
Christian nations."

Contradictions like this between teaching and living
will continue to arise, he continues, until men find the
essential something which they lack — the quality which
will make them what they really desire to be, and what
many even conscientiously believe themselves to be.

One word sums up this need, and that word is Love.
If the world should take Love for its guiding star, it is
evident that all the evils of mankind would cease, —
wars, crimes, poverty, ambitions; the millennium would


come ! How that blessed period may begin in the heart
of every man is the theme of this beautiful and inspiring

The translation has been done with care and fidelity
by Mrs. Aline Delano. The translator has also had
opportunity to revise her work.




Introductory i


Doctrine of non-resistance to evil, from the origin of Christianity,

has been, and still is, professed by the minority of men . . 3

Opinions of believers and unbelievers in regard to non-resistance . 30

Misconception of Christianity by non-believers 47

Misconception of Christianity by scientists ... • ♦ 79

Contradiction of our life and Christian consciousness . . • 100

Attitude of men of the present day toward war • • • • 122


Significance of the military conscription ..•••• 152




^ - ^ PAGB

Certainty of the acceptance of the Christian doctrine of non.

resistance to evil by violence by the men of our world. . 171


The acceptance of the Christian life-conception delivers men from

the miseries of our pagan life , 194


Uselessness of violence for the destruction of evil — The moral
advance of mankind is accomplished, not only through the
knowledge of truth, but also through the estabhshment of
public opinion „ 2l8


Christian public opinion already arises in our society, and will
inevitably destroy the system of violence of our life — ■ When
this will come about 242

Conclusion : " Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand I ** . 254




"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." —
John viii. 32.

" And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the
soul ; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in
hell." — Matthew x. 28.

"Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." —
I Corinthians vii. 23.


IN 1 884 1 wrote a book entitled " My Religion," wherein
I formulated my creed.

While affirming my faith in the doctrine taught by
Christ, I could not refrain from manifesting at the same
time the reason why I look upon the ecclesiastical doc-
trine commonly called Christianity as erroneous, and to
me incredible.

Among the many deviations of the latter from the
doctrine of Christ, I called attention to the principal
one; namely — the evasion of the commandment that
forbids man to resist evil by violence, as a striking ex-
ample of the perversion of the doctrine of Christ by
ecclesiastical interpretation.

I knew but little, no more than other men, of what had
been taught or written on the subject of non-resistance
in former times. I was familiar with the opinions of


the Fathers of the Church, Origen, Tertulhan, and
others ; and I also knew of the existence of certain sects
called Mennonites, Herrnhuters, and Quakers, all of
which forbid Christians the use of arms, and will not
submit to conscription, but I never knew the argum.ents
by which these sects sought to maintain their views.

My book, as I had anticipated, was prohibited by the
Russian censors, but partly in consequence of my repu-
tation as a writer, partly because it excited curiosity, it
had a circulation in manuscript, and while, on the one
hand, it called forth from those persons who sympa-
thized with my ideas, information concerning works
written on the same subject, on the other, it excited
criticisms on the opinions therein maintained.

These two results, together with the historical events
of recent years, made many things clear to me, and led
me to many new deductions and conclusions which I
now desire to set forth.

I shall speak in the first place of the information I
received in regard to the history of this matter of non-
resistance to evil ; and in the second place, of the argu-
ments upon the subject offered by religious critics, that
is, by critics who profess the religion of Christ, as well
as those of secular critics, that is to say, of men who
make no such profession ; and finally, the conclusions
which I drew from the arguments of both parties, as
well as from the historical events of later years.




Concerning the book " My Religion " — Information called forth by this
book — Letters of Quakers — Professions of Garrison — Adin Ballou, his
works and Catechism — " The Net of P'aith " of Helchitsky — Relations of
men toward works that explain the teachings of Christ — The book of
Dymond " On War " — Assertion of Non-resistance by Musser — Rela-
tions of government in 1818 toward those who refuse to join the mili-
tary service — General inimical attitude of governments and liberal men
toward those who refused to take part in the violence of governments
and their conscious effort to conceal and ignore these demonstrations
of Christian Non-resistance.

AMONG the early responses called forth by my book
were letters from American Quakers. In these
letters, while expressing their sympathy with my ideas
in regard to the unlawfulness of violence and war where
Christians are concerned, the Quakers made known to
me many details in relation to their sect, which for
more than two hundred years has professed the doctrine
of Christ in the matter of non-resistance, and which
never has, nor does it now use weapons for self-defense.
Together with the letters, the Quakers sent me many
of their pamphlets, periodicals, and books. From these
publications I learned that already, many years ago,
they had demonstrated the Christian's duty of keeping
the commandment of non-resistance to evil by violence,
and the error of the church which countenances wars
and executions.

Having shown by a succession of arguments and texts
that war — the slaughter and mutilation of men — is
inconsistent with a religion founded on peace and good-
will to men, the Quakers go on to assert that nothing is
so conducive to the defamation of Christ's truth in the
eyes of the heathen, or so successful in arresting the
spread of Christianity throughout the world, as the re-
fusal to obey this commandment, made by men who call


themselves Christians, and by the sanction thus given to
war and violence. The doctrine of Christ, which has
entered into the consciousness of men, not by force or
by the sword, as they say, but by non-resistance to evil,
by humility, meekness, and the love of peace, can only
be propagated among men by the example of peace, love,
and concord given by its followers.

A Christian, according to the teaching of the Lord,
should be guided in his relations toward men only by
the love of peace, and therefore there should be no
authority having power to compel a Christian to act in a
manner contrary to God's law, and contrary to his chief
duty toward his fellow-men.

The requirements of the civil law, they say, may oblige
men, who, to win some worldly advantages, seek to con-
ciliate that which is irreconcilable, to violate the law of
God ; but for a Christian, who firmly believes that his
salvation depends upon following the teaching of Christ,
this law can have no meaning.

My acquaintance with the activity of the Quakers and
with their publications, with Fox, Paine, and particularly
with a work published by Dymond in 1827, proved to
me not only that men have long since recognized the
impossibility of harmonizing Christianity and war, but
that this incompatibility has been proved so clearly
and irrefragably, that one can only wonder how it is
possible for this incongruous union of Christianity with
violence — a doctrine which is still taught by the church
— to remain in force.

Besides the information obtained from the Quakers, I
also received from America about the same time advices
on the subject from another and hitherto unknown source.
The son of William Lloyd Garrison, the famous anti-sla-
very champion, wrote to me that, having read my book,
wherein he had found ideas similar to those expressed
by his father in 1838, and taking it for granted that
I should be interested to know that fact, he sent me
a book written by Mr. Garrison some fifty years ago,
entitled " Non-resistance."

This avowal of principle took place under the follow-


ing circumstances : — In 1838, on the occasion of a meet-
of the Society for the Promotion of Peace, William Lloyd
Garrison, while discussing means for the suppression of
war, arrived at the conclusion that the estabUshment of
universal peace can have no solid foundation save in the
literal obedience to the commandment of non-resistance
by violence (Matthew v. 39), as understood by the Qua-
kers, with whom Garrison was on friendly terms. Hav-
ing arrived at this conclusion, he wrote, offering to the
Society the following proclamation, which at that time,
in 1838, was signed by many of its members : —

^^Declaration of Sentiments adopted by the Peace Con-
vention, held in BostoUy September 18, \% and 20,
1838: —

"Assembled in Convention, from various sections of
the American Union, for the promotion of Peace on earth
and Good-will among men, We, the undersigned, regard
it as due to ourselves, to the cause which we love, to the
country in which we live, and to the world, to publish a
Declaration, expressive of the principles we cherish, the
purposes we aim to accomplish, and the measures we
shall adopt to carry forward the work of peaceful, uni-
versal reformation.

" We cannot acknowledge allegiance to any human
government; neither can we oppose any such govern-
ment by a resort to physical force. We recognize but
one King and Lawgiver, one Judge and Ruler of man-
kind. We are bound by the laws of a Kingdom which
is not of this world ; the subjects of which are forbidden
to fight ; in which Mercy and Truth are met together,
and Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other ;
which has no state lines, no national partitions, no geo-
graphical boundaries ; in which there is no distinction of
rank or division of caste, or inequality of sex ; the officers
of which are Peace, its exactors Righteousness, its walls
Salvation, and its gates Praise ; and which is destined to
break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms. Our
country is the world, our countrymen are ail mankind.


We love the land of our nativity only as we love all
other lands. The interests, rights, liberties of American
citizens are no more dear to us than are those of the
whole human race. Hence, we can allow no appeal to
patriotism to revenge any national insult or injury ; the
Principle of Peace, under whose stainless banner we
rally, came not to destroy, but to save, even the worst
of enemies. He has left us an example, that we should
follow His steps. God commendeth his love toward
us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for

"We conceive that if a nation has no right to defend
itself against foreign enemies, or to punish its invaders,
no individual possesses that right in his own case. The
unit cannot be of greater importance than the aggregate.
If one man may take life, to obtain or defend his rights,
the same license must necessarily be granted to com-
munities, states, and nations. If lie may use a dagger
or a pistol, they may employ cannon, bombshells, land
and naval forces. The means of self-preservation must
be in proportion to the magnitude of interests at stake,
and the number of lives exposed to destruction. But if
a rapacious and bloodthirsty soldiery, thronging these
shores from abroad, with intent to commit rapine and
destroy life, may not be resisted by the people or magis-
tracy, then ought no resistance to be offered to domes-
tic troubles of the public peace or of private security.
No obhgation can rest upon Americans to regard for-
eigners as more sacred in their persons than them-
selves, or to give them a monopoly of wrong-doing with

" The dogma, that all the governments of the world
are approvingly ordained of God, and that the powers
that be in the United States, in Russia, in Turkey, are
in accordance with His will, is not less absurd than
impious. It makes the impartial Author of human
freedom and equality unequal and tyrannical. It can-
not be affirmed that the powers that be, in any nation,
are actuated by the spirit or guided by the example of
Christ, in the treatment of enemies ; therefore, they can-


not be agreeable to the will of God ; and therefore their
overthrow, by a spiritual regeneration of their subjects,
is inevitable.

" We register our testimony not only against all wars,
whether offensive or defensive, but all preparations
for war ; against every naval ship, every arsenal, every
fortification ; against the militia system and a stand-
ing army ; against all military chieftains and soldiers ;
against all monuments commemorative of victory over
a fallen foe, all trophies won in battle, all celebrations
in honor of military or naval exploits ; against all ap-
propriations for the defense of a nation by force and
army, on the part of any legislative body ; against every
edict of government requiring of its subjects military
service. Hence we deem it unlawful to bear arms, or
to hold a military office.

" As every human government is upheld by physi-
cal strength, and its laws are enforced virtually at the
point of the bayonet, we cannot hold any office which
imposes upon its incumbent the obligation to compel
men to do right, on pain of imprisonment or death.
We therefore voluntarily exclude ourselves from every
legislative and judicial body, and repudiate all human
politics, worldly honors, and stations of authority. If
we cannot occupy a seat in the legislature or on the
bench, neither can we elect othejs to act as our substi-
tutes in any such capacity.

" It follows that we cannot sue any man at law, to
compel him by force to restore anything which he may
have wrongfully taken from us or others ; but if he
has seized our coat, we shall surrender up our cloak,
rather than subject him to punishment.

" We believe that the penal code of the old covenant,
* An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,' has been
abrogated by Jesus Christ ; and that under the new
covenant, the forgiveness instead of the punishment
of enemies has been enjoined upon all His disciples,
in all cases whatsoever. To extort money from ene-
mies, or set them upon a pillory, or cast them into
prison, or hang them upon gallows, is obviously not to


forgive, but to take retribution. ' Vengeance is mine,
I will repay, saith the Lord.'

" The history of mankind is crowded with evidences
proving that physical coercion is not adapted to moral
regeneration ; that the sinful disposition of men can be
subdued only by love ; that evil can be exterminated
from the earth only by goodness ; that it is not safe to
rely upon an arm of flesh, upon man whose breath is
in his nostrils, to preserve us from harm ; that there
is great security in being gentle, harmless, long-suffer-
ing, and abundant in mercy ; that it is only the meek
who shall inherit the earth, for the violent who resort
to the sword are destined to perish with the sword.
Hence, as a measure of sound pohcy — of safety to
property, life, and Hberty — of public quietude and pri-
vate enjoyment — as well as on the ground of allegiance
to Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, we cor-
dially adopt the non-resistance principle ; being confi-
dent that it provides for all possible consequences, will
insure all things needful to us, is armed with omnipotent
power, and must ultimately triumph over every assailing

"We advocate no Jacobinical doctrine. The spirit of
jacobinism is the spirit of retaliation, violence, and mur-
der. It neither fears God nor regards man. We would
be filled with the spirit of Jesus Christ. If we abide by
our principles, it is impossible for us to be disorderly, or
plot treason, or participate in any evil work ; we shall
submit to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake ;
obey all the requirements of government, except such as
we deem contrary to the commands of the gospel ; and
in no case resist the operation of law, except by meekly
submitting to the penalty of disobedience.

" But while we shall adhere to the doctrine of non-
resistance and passive submission, we purpose, in a moral
and spiritual sense, to speak and act boldly in the cause
of God ; to assail iniquity in high places and in low
places ; to apply our principles to all existing civil,
political, legal, and ecclesiastical institutions ; and to
hasten the time when the kingdoms of this world will


have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His
Christ, and He shall reign forever.

" It appears to us a self-evident truth, that, whatever
the gospel is designed to destroy at any period of the
world, being contrary to it, ought now to be abandoned.
If, then, the time is predicted when swords shall be
beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning-hooks,
and men shall not learn the art of war any more, it fol-
lows that all who manufacture, sell, or wield those
deadly weapons do thus array themselves against the
peaceful dominion of the Son of God on earth.

"Having thus briefly stated our principles and pur-
poses, we proceed to specify the measures we propose
to adopt in carrying our object into effect.

" We expect to prevail through the foolishness of
preaching, — striving to commend ourselves unto every
man's conscience, in the sight of God. From the press
we shall promulgate our sentiments as widely as practi-
cable. We shall endeavor to secure the cooperation of
all persons, of whatever name or sect. The triumphant
progress of the cause of Temperance and of Abolition
in our land, through the instrumentality of benevolent
and voluntary associations, encourages us to combine
our own means and efforts for the promotion of a still
greater cause. Hence, we shall employ lecturers, circu-
late tracts and publications, form societies, and petition
our state and national governments, in relation to the sub-
ject of Universal Peace. It will be our leading object
to devise ways and means for effecting a radical change
in the views, feelings, and practices of society, respecting
the sinfulness of war and the treatment of enemies.

" In entering upon the great work before us, we are
not unmindful that, in its prosecution, we may be called
to test our sincerity even as in a fiery ordeal. It may
subject us to insult, outrage, suffering, yea, even death
itself. We anticipate no small amount of misconception,
misrepresentation, calumny. Tumults may arise against
us. The ungodly and violent, the proud and pharisaical,
the ambitious and tyrannical, principalities and powers,
and spiritual wickedness in high places, may contrive to


crush us. So they treated the Messiah, whose example
we are humbly striving to imitate. If we suffer with
Him we know that we shall reign with Him. We shall
not be afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. Our
confidence is in the Lord Almighty, not in man. Hav-
ing withdrawn from human protection, what can sustain
us but that faith which overcomes the world .'' We shall
not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is
to try us, as though some strange thing had happened
unto us; but rejoice, inasmuch as we are partakers
of Christ's sufferings. Wherefore, we commit the
keeping of our souls to God, in well-doing, as unto a
faithful Creator. For every one that forsakes house,
or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or
children, or lands, for Christ's sake, shall receive a
hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

" Firmly relying upon the certain and universal
triumph of the sentiments contained in this declara-
tion, however formidable may be the opposition ar-
rayed against them — in solemn testimony of our faith
in their divine origin — we hereby affix our signatures
to it, commending it to the reason and conscience of
mankind, giving ourselves no anxiety as to what may
befall us, and resolving in the strength of the Lord
God calmly and meekly to abide the issue."

Later on. Garrison founded a Non-resistance Society
and started a periodical entitled The Non-resistant^
wherein the full significance and consequences of the
doctrine were plainly set forth, as has been stated in
the proclamation. I gained, subsequently, further in-
formation concerning the fate of this society and the
periodical from a biography of William Lloyd Garri-
son, written by his sons.

Neither the periodical nor the society enjoyed a long
life. The majority of Garrison's associates in the
work of liberating the slaves, apprehensive lest the
too radical views expressed in the TJie Non-resistant
might alienate men from the practical business of the
abolition of slavery, renounced the doctrine of non-


resistance as expressed in the declaration, and both
periodical and society passed out of existence.

One would suppose that this declaration of Garrison,
formulating, as it did, an important profession of faith
in terms both energetic and eloquent, would have made
a deeper impression on men, and have become a sub-
ject for universal consideration. On the contrary, not
only is it unknown in Europe, but even among those
Americans who honor the memory of Garrison there
are but few who are familiar with this.

A similar fate befell another American champion
of the same doctrine, Adin Ballou, who died recently,
and who for fifty years had preached in favor of non-
resistance to evil. How little is known in regard to the
question of non-resistance may be gathered from the
fact that the younger Garrison (who has written an
excellent biography of his father in four large vol-
umes), in answer to my inquiry whether any society
for the defense of the principles of non-resistance was
yet alive and possessed adherents, wrote me that, so
far as he knew, the society had dissolved and its mem-
bers were no longer interested, while at this very time

Online LibraryLeo TolstoyComplete works (Volume 11) → online text (page 1 of 62)