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If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
CHRISTIANITY, if we well weigh and consider it, in the several parts and members of it, throughout the whole system, may be justly called the last and the most correct edition of the law of nature; there being nothing excellent amongst the heathens, as deducible from the external light of nature, but is adopted into the body of Christian precepts. Neither is there any precept in Christianity so severe and mortifying, and at the first face and appearance of things grating upon our natural conveniencies, but will be resolved into a natural reason; as advancing and improving nature in the higher degrees and grander concerns of it.
And of so universal a spread is the benign influence of this religion, that there is no capacity of man but it takes care for; not only his religious, but his civil and political. It found the world under government, and has bound those bonds of government faster upon it, by new and superadded obligations. And by the best methods of preservation, it secures both the magistrate’s prerogative and the subject’s enjoyment, by the happy provisions of peace; the encomiums of which great blessing 27I shall not now pursue, nor forestall here what will more aptly be inserted hereafter.
The text, we see, is a vehement, concerning, passionate exhortation to this blessed duty, and great instrument of society, peace. If it be possible, live peaceably. It is suspended upon the strictest conditions, stretching the compass of its necessity commensurate to the utmost latitude of possibility.
The words are easy, but their matter full; and so require a full and a large, that is, a suitable prosecution; which I shall endeavour to give them in the discussion of these four particulars.
I. The shewing what is implied in the duty here enjoined.
II. What are the measures and proportions by which it is to be determined.
III. What are the means by which it is to be effected.
IV. What the motives by which it may be enforced.
I. And for the first of these, the duty here enjoined is, live peaceably; which expression is ambiguous, and admits of a double signification.
1. It may be taken for the actual enjoyment of peace with all men. In which sense he only lives peaceably, whom no man molests.
2. It may be taken for a peaceable behaviour towards all men. In which sense he lives peaceably, by whom no man is molested.
The first of these senses cannot be here intended by the apostle, and that for these two undeniable reasons.
(1.) Because so to live peaceably is impossible; 3and what cannot possibly be done, cannot reasonably be commanded.
The impossibility of it appears upon these two accounts.
1st, The contentious, unreasonable humour of many men. Upon this score, David complains of his enemies, that when he spoke of peace, they were for war. Many of the enmities of the world commence not upon the merit of the person that is hated, but upon the humour of him that hates: and some are enemies to a man for no other cause in the earth, but because they will be his enemies. The grounds of very great disgusts are not only causeless, but oftentimes very senseless. Some will be a man’s enemies for his looks, his tone, his mien, and his gesture; and upon all occasions prosecute him heartily with much concernment and acrimony. And therefore that argument is insignificant, which I have often heard used by some men to others; who, when they complain of injurious dealings, think they have irrefragably answered them in this; Why should such an one be your enemy? what hurt have you done him? or what good can he do himself by injuriously treating of you? All which supposes that some reason may and must be given for that which, for the most part, is absolutely unreasonable. A little experience in the world would quickly and truly reply to these demands; that such or such an one is an enemy, not upon provocation, but that his genius and his way inclines him to insult, and to be contentious. And nature is sometimes so favourable to the world, as to set its mark upon such a person, and to draw the lines of his ill disposition 4upon his face; in which only you are to look for the causes of his enmities, and not in the actions of him whom he prosecutes.
There are some persons, that, like so many salamanders, cannot live but in the fire; cannot enjoy themselves but in the heats and sharpness of contention: the very breath they draw does not so much enliven, as kindle and inflame them; they have so much bitterness in their nature, that they must be now and then discharging it upon somebody; they must have vent, and sometimes breathe themselves in an invective or a quarrel, or perhaps their health requires it: should they be quiet a week, they would need a purge, and be forced to take physic.
And now, if any one should be molested and have his peace disturbed by such a person, would he be solicitous to find out the cause, and satisfy himself about the reason of it? When you see a mad dog step aside out of his walk only to bite somebody, and then return to it again, you had best ask him the reason why he did so. Why, the reason is, that he is mad, and his worm will not let him be quiet, without doing mischief, when he has opportunity.
Now such tempers there are in the world, and always were, and always will be; and so long as there be such, how can there be a constant, undisturbed quietness in societies? We may as well expect, that nobody should die when the air is generally infected, or that poison should be still in the stomach, and yet work no effect upon the body. God must first weed the world of all contentious spirits and ill dispositions, before an universal peace can grow in it. And this may be one reason to prove, 5that a living peaceably with all men, as it signifies the actual enjoying of such a peace, is utterly impossible.
2dly, The second reason is from the contrary and inconsistent interests of many men. Most look upon it as their interest to be great, rich, and powerful: but it is impossible for all that desire it to be so; forasmuch as some’s being so, is the very cause that others cannot. As the rising up of one scale of the balance does of necessity both infer and effect the depression of the other.
This premised, we easily know further, that there is nothing which men prosecute with so much vigour, vehemence, and activity, as their interest; and the prosecution of contrary interests must needs be carried on by contrary ways and motions; which will be sure to thwart and interfere one with another: and this is the unavoidable cause of enmity and opposition between persons.
Sometimes we see two men pecking at one another very eagerly, with all the arts of undermining, supplanting, and ruining one another. What! is it because the one had done the other an injury? or because he is of a quarrelsome temper? Perhaps neither; but because he stands in his way; he cannot rise but by his disgrace and downfall; he must be removed, or the other person’s designs cannot go forward. Now as long as both these interests bear up together, and one has not totally run down and devoured the other, so long the persons will be engaged in a constant enmity and contest.
The ground that the poet assigned as one great cause of the civil wars between Caesar and Pompey, multis utile bellum, is that into which most men’s 6particular quarrels and enmities are resolved. In peace, every man enjoys his own; and therefore he that has nothing of his own, will be ready enough to blow the trumpet for war, by which he may possibly gain an estate, being secure already that he can lose none.
What is the reason that it is observed in tradesmen and artificers, that they are always almost detracting from one another; but that it is the apparent interest of one, by begetting in men a vile esteem of the other, to divert his custom to himself; or at least to secure that in his own hands, which he has already? If the other person is the only workman, why then he shall monopolize all the custom; if he be as good as this, then this shall have the less: and this is that which sets them upon perpetual bickerings and mutual vilifications.
The sum of all is, that most men’s interests lie cross, their advantages clash, or at least are thought to do so: and contrary qualities will prey upon one another. Where men’s interests fight, they themselves are not like to be long at peace. But now God, in his wise providence, is pleased to cast the affairs of mankind into such a posture, that there will be always such inequalities and contrarieties in the conditions and estates of men. And this is the other reason, why to enjoy peace with all men is impossible.
(2.) But in the next place, admitting that it were not impossible, yet thus to live peaceably with all men cannot be the sense of the apostle’s exhortation, forasmuch as it can be no man’s duty. That which is the matter of duty ought to be a thing not only possible in itself, but also in the power of him 7 to whom it is enjoined. But it is not in my power to enjoy peace with all men, since this depends upon their behaviour towards me, and not immediately upon mine towards them. And therefore it can be no more my duty, than it is my duty that another man should not be a thief or a murderer. If he will be so, I cannot prevent him; he only is the master of his own will and actions: and where the power of acting is seated, there only lies the obligation of duty; otherwise, if I should be obliged to that which depends not at all upon my power, a man might as well tell me that I am obliged to see that it does not thunder, or that the Turk does not invade Germany. Wherefore it is clear that the words of the text are to be understood only in the second sense propounded; and that living peaceably imports no more than a peaceable behaviour towards all men: which being the duty here enjoined, we are to see what is included in it.
And for this it seems adequately to consist of these two things.
1. A forbearance of hostile actions.
2. A forbearance of injurious, provoking words.
This seems to take in the whole scope of it, as comprehending all that makes up the behaviour of one man towards another, which are his actions and his words; what he does and what he says. And if those unruly instruments of action, the tongue and the hands, be regulated and kept quiet, there must needs ensue an entire peace.
1. And first, the living peaceably implies a total forbearance of all hostile actions, and that in a double respect:
(1.) In a way of prevention.8
(2.) In a way of retaliation.
(1.) For the first, I call that prevention, when a man unprovoked makes an injurious invasion upon the rights of another, whether as to his person or estate. God, for the preservation of society, has set a defence upon both these, and made propriety sacred, by the mounds and fortifications of a law. For what living were there, did not the divine authority secure a man both in his being and in the means of his being; but should leave it free for the stronger to devour and crush the weaker, without being responsible to the almighty Governor of all things for the injury done to his fellow-creature, and the contempt passed upon the divine law?
And certainly one would think it not only a reasonable, but a very easy thing for a man wholly unprovoked to keep his hand from his brother’s throat, to let him live and enjoy his limbs, and to have the benefits of nature, and the common rights of creation. It is a sad thing for a man not to be safe in his own house, but much more in his own body, the dearer earthly tabernacle of the two. How barbarous a thing is it to see a Romulus imbruing his hands in the blood of his brother! and he that kills his neighbour, kills his brother, as to the common bonds and cognation of humanity. Now all murders, poisons, stabs, and unjust blows, fall under this just violation of the peace in reference to men’s persons; which God will avenge and vindicate, as being parts of his image: for there is none who requires to be honoured in himself, who will endure to be affronted so much as in his picture.
It is looked upon by some as a piece of gentility and height of spirit, to stab and wound, especially 9if they are assured that the injured person will not resist; and so secure them the reputation of generosity, without the danger of betraying their cowardice.
The other instance of violence, is the forcible wringing from men the supports of life, their estates, their revenues, or whatsoever is reducible to this notion, as contributing either to their subsistence or convenience. And this is not to be understood barely of oppression managed by open and downright defiance; but by any other sinister way whatsoever, as the overbearing another’s right by the interest and interposal of great persons, by vexatious suits and violence cloaked with the formalities of a court and the name of law. And whosoever interverts a profit belonging to another by any of these courses, is a thief and a robber; perhaps a more safe and creditable one indeed, but still a thief; and that as really, as if he did it by plunder and sequestration; which is only a more odious name, but not a more unjust thing.
And he is no less a disturber of the peace, and a breaker of this law, who oppresses the widow, and grinds the face of the fatherless and the poor, than he who forages a country with an army. For that is only violence with a greater noise, and more solemnities of terror. But God, who weighs an evil action by the malignity of its principle and the injustness of its design, and not by those exterior circumstances which only clothe its appearance, but not at all constitute its nature, has as much vengeance in store for an oppressing justice (if that be not a contradiction in the terms) as he has for the pillaging soldier or the insolent decimator: it being as truly 10oppression in the accounts of heaven, when proclaimed by the groans and cries of the orphan, as when ushered in with the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war.
For wherein should consist the difference? Is it because one stands upon his ground, and repels the invasion? and the other opens his bosom to the blow, and resigns himself to his oppressor with patience and silence? Is it peace, because the man is gagged and cannot, or overawed and dares not cry out of oppression? Or is he therefore not wronged, because his adversary, by his place or greatness, has set himself above the reach of justice, and is grown too big for the law?
It was an acute and a proper saying of one concerning a prevailing faction of men, Solitudinem cum fecerint, pacem vocant; when they have devoured, wasted, and trampled down all before them, so that there is none indeed so much as left to resist, that they call peace. But certainly neither are the peacemakers blessed, nor is the peace a blessing, that is procured by such dismal methods of total ruin and desolation. And thus much for the forbearance of hostility in point of prevention or provocation.
(2.) In the next place, there is required also a forbearance of all hostile actions, as to retaliation. I shall not run forth into the common place about revenge, it being a subject large and important enough to be treated of in a discourse by itself. But this I shall say, that according to the weights and measures by which Christianity judges of things and actions, he that revenges an injury will be found as truly a malefactor in the court of heaven, as he 11that does one. And he that requires an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, is a Jew, and not a Christian; a person of a mean spirit, and a gross notion, unacquainted with the sublimity and spirituality of so refined and excellent a religion.
A peaceable deportment is one of the great duties enjoined in it: and the rule and measure of that is to be charity, of which divine quality the apostle tells us in 1 Cor. xiii. 7, that it suffers all things, hopes all things, endures all things. The very genius and nature of Christianity consists in this, that it is a passive religion: a religion that composes the mind to quietness, upon the hardest and the most irksome terms and conditions.
And the truth is, if it drives on a design of peace, we shall find that the consequences of revenge make as great a breach upon that, as a first defiance and provocation. For were not this answered with resistance and retribution, it would perhaps exhale and vanish; and the peace would at least be preserved on one side. For be the injurious person never so quarrelsome, yet the quarrel must fall, if the injured person will not fight. Fire sometimes goes out, as much for want of being stirred up, as for want of fuel.
And therefore he that can remit nothing, nor recede, nor sacrifice the prosecution of a small dispensable right to the preservation of peace, understands not the full dimensions and latitude of this great duty; nor remembers that he himself is ruined for ever, should God deal with him upon the same terms.
The great God must relax his law, and recede from some of his right; and every day be willing to 12put up, and connive at many wrongs, or I am sure it is impossible for him to be at peace with us. He shines upon his enemies, and drops the dew of heaven upon the base and the unthankful. And in this very instance of perfection, Matth. v. 48, he recommends himself to our imitation.
If revenge were no sin, forgiveness of injuries could be no duty. But Christ has made it a grand and a peculiar one: indeed so great, as to suspend the whole business of our justification upon it, in Matth. xviii. 35. And in the foregoing verses of that chapter, treating of the unmerciful servant, who exacted a debt from his poor fellow-servant, we find that his lord was wroth with him, and delivered him to the tormentors. Neither could it have profited him to have said, that he exacted but what was lawfully his own; what was due to him upon the best and the clearest terms of propriety. No; this excused not the rigour of a merciless proceeding from him, who had but newly tasted of mercy, and being pardoned a thousand talents, remorselessly and unworthily took his fellow by the throat for an hundred pence.
It is or may be the case of every one of us. We pray every day for forgiveness; nay, we are so hardy as to pray that God would forgive us just so as we forgive others: and yet oftentimes we can be sharp, furious, and revengeful; prosecute every supposed injury heartily and bitterly; and think we do well and generously not to yield nor relent: and what is the strangest thing in the world, notwithstanding an express and loud declaration of God to the contrary, all this time we look to be saved by mercy; and, like Saul, to be caught into heaven, while we are 13breathing nothing but persecution, blood, and revenge.
But as to the great duty of peaceableness which we have been discoursing of, we must know, that he who affronts and injures his brother breaks the peace; but withal that he who owns and repays the ill turn, perpetuates the breach. By the former, a sin is only born into the world; but by the latter, it is brought up, nourished, and maintained.
And perhaps the greatest unquietness of human affairs is not so much chargeable upon the injurious, as the revengeful. The first undoubtedly has the greater guilt; but the other causes the greater disturbance. As a storm could not be so hurtful, were it not for the opposition of trees and houses; it ruins no where, but where it is withstood and repelled. It has indeed the same force when it passes over the rush or the yielding osier; but it does not roar nor become dreadful, till it grapples with the oak, and rattles upon the tops of the cedars. And thus I have shewn the first thing included in a peaceable behaviour, viz. a forbearance of hostile actions, and that both as to provocation and retaliation. But whether all kind of retaliation be absolutely unlawful, shall be inquired into afterwards.
2. The other thing that goes to constitute a peaceable behaviour, is a forbearance of injurious, provoking words. I know none that has or deserves a reputation, but tenders the defence of it, as much as of his person or estate. And perhaps it has as great an influence upon his contents and emoluments as both of them. It is that which makes him considerable in society. He is owned by his friends, and cannot be trampled upon by his enemies. 14Even those that will not love him, will yet in some manner respect him. For till the enclosures of a man’s good name are broke down, there cannot be a total waste made upon his fortunes.
Upon this it is, that abusive language, by which properly a man’s repute is invaded, is by all men deservedly looked upon as an open defiance, and proclaiming of war with such a person: and consequently, that the reviler is as great a disturber as an armed enemy; who usually invades a man in that which is much less dear unto him. Rabshakeh broke the peace with Hezekiah, as much by his railing, as by the army that besieged him. And he that flings dirt at a man, affronts him as much as he that flings a stone at him. A wound upon the skin is sometimes sooner got off than a spot upon the clothes.
I would fain know, what man almost there is, that does not resent an ugly, reflexive word with more acrimony and impatience, than he would the stab of a poniard. He remembers it more tenaciously, prosecutes it more thoroughly, and forgets it much more difficultly. And the reason is, because a blow or a wound directs an evil only to a man’s person, but an ill word designs him a wider calamity; it endeavours the propagation and spreading of his unhappiness, and would render him miserable as far as he is known.
Besides, it hurts him so as to put the reparation of that hurt absolutely out of his power: for it lodges his infamy in other men’s thoughts and opinions, which he cannot command or come at, so as to rectify and disabuse them. But admit that the defamed person by a blameless and a virtuous deportment 15 wipes off and confutes the calumny, and clears himself in the esteem of men; yet it is of those only with whom the scene of his converse lies: but in the mean time the slander spreads and flies abroad; and many hundreds come to hear the ill words by which the man is abused, who never come to see his own behaviour by which he is righted.
I conclude therefore, that this great duty of living peaceably is not consummate, without a constant and a careful suppression of all offensive and provoking speeches. And he who does not acquit himself in this instance of a Christian behaviour, will find hereafter, that men will meet with as certain a condemnation for what they have said, as for what they have done.
And thus much for the first general thing proposed for the handling of the words; namely, to shew what was implied in the duty enjoined in them. I pass now to the
Second, which is to consider, what are the measures and proportions by which it is to be determined. And those are expressed in these words; If it be possible, live peaceably. Now possible may be taken two ways.
1. As it is opposed to naturally impossible, and that which cannot be done. Which sense cannot be here intended, as being supposed in all just and reasonable commands. For none can rationally command or advise a man to that, which is not naturally within his power, as has been already observed.
2. It may be taken, as it is opposed to morally impossible, and that which cannot be done lawfully: 16for it is a maxim in the civil law, id possumus quod jure possumus; which was the sense of Joseph’s answer to his mistress, in Genesis xxxix. 9, How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? and of that of the apostle, 2 Corinth. xiii. 8, We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. In both which places, not the possibility, but the lawfulness of the action is specified; and that is the sense here intended.
But now the observance of peace being limited by the measure of lawful, it follows, that where the breaking of the peace is not unlawful, there the maintaining of it ceases to be a necessary duty. It is of some moment therefore to satisfy ourselves when it is lawful, and when unlawful to break the peace. And all inquiries concerning this are reducible to these two.
1. Whether it can at all be lawful.
2. Supposing that it may be lawful, when and where it ought to be judged so.
Under the first of these I shall discuss that great question, whether war can be lawful for Christians. Under the second, I shall shew those general grounds that may authorize a war, and from thence descend to the resolution of particular cases. As,
1. Whether it can be lawful to break peace with the magistrate.
2. Whether it may be lawful for one private man to make war upon another, in those encounters which we commonly call duels.
3. Whether it be lawful for a man to repel force with force, so as to kill another in his own defence.
4. And lastly, since the prosecution of another in courts of judicature is in its kind a breach of the 17mutual bond of peace, I shall inquire whether it be allowable for Christians to go to law one with another.
All these things admit of much doubt and dispute; and yet, being matters of common and daily occurrence, it concerns us to have a right judgment of them.
I shall begin with the first question, which is concerning the lawfulness of war; in order to the resolution of which, I shall premise what it is. War may be properly defined, a state of hostility, or mutual acts of annoyance, either for the preservation of the public from some mischief intended, or in the vindication of it for some mischief already done to it.
The ground of war therefore is some public hurt or mischief; and since this may be twofold, either intended or actually done, there are accordingly two distinct kinds of war, defensive or offensive.
1. Defensive is in order to keep off and repel an evil designed to the public; and therefore is properly an act of self-preservation.
2. Offensive is for the revenging a public injury done to a community, and so is properly an act of justice.
It is clear therefore, that the lawfulness and justness of war is founded upon the justness of its cause; and this being once found out, and rightly stated, I affirm, that it is allowable before God to cease from peace, and to enter into a state of war; and that upon the strength of these arguments:
(1.) That which is a genuine, natural, and necessary consequent derived from one of the chief principles of the law of nature, that is lawful: but 18 so is war, namely, from the principles of self-preservation, the noblest and the most acknowledged of all those principles, by which nature regulates and governs the actions of the creature. Hoc et ratio doctis, necessitas barbaris, feris natura ipsa praescripsit, ut omnem semper vim, quacunque ope possint, a corpore, a capite, a vita sua propulsarent. Cicero, in his defence of Milo. And that self-preservation cannot be maintained without war is too evident to be proved. The Jews, when they were set upon by their enemies on the sabbath day, and then murdered and massacred, because they thought it unlawful to make any resistance, or to defend themselves on that day, have transmitted the sad truth of this assertion in bloody letters to posterity.
That men will sometimes invade the rights and the lives of others is certain; and it is also as certain, that the naked breast is not the surest armour, nor patience the best weapon of defence.
Do we expect a rescue from heaven? and that God should send down fire from the clouds, and work miracles for our preservation? Experience sufficiently convinces us that such an expectation is vain. God delivers men by means, when means are to be had, and by the interposal of their own endeavours: and therefore he that flies to the church when he should be in the field, and takes his prayer-book in his hand when he should take his sword, tempts God, and loses himself; and, according to a due estimate of things, becomes a murderer, by so patiently suffering another to be so.
Victrix patientia is a puff and a metaphor; and may, perhaps, in the issue of things, bear a man 19through a domestic injury or a private affront; but I never read that it put an army to flight, or rebated the courage or controlled the invasion of a fighting enemy.
Besides, patience is properly the suffering quietly, when God in his providence calls us to suffer: but it is not a suffering, when God calls us to act, and to stand upon our own defence. As in some men we see it usual to veil their cowardice and pusillanimity with the names of prudence and moderation; so that, which some call patience, will be once found nothing else but a lazy relinquishment of the rights and privileges of their nature; and that a life and a being was much cast away upon such as would not exert the utmost power they had to defend it. This argument is properly for defensive war.
(2.) The second is for offensive; and it proceeds thus: That which is a proper act of distributive justice is lawful; but such a thing is war, it being a retribution of punishment for a public hurt or injury done by one nation to another. That he who does a wrong should suffer for it, is a thing required by justice, the execution of which is committed to the supreme power of every nation: and why justice may not be done upon a company of malefactors defending themselves with arms, as well as upon any particular thief or murderer, brought shackled and disarmed to the block or the gallows, I cannot understand.
The case in a civil war is clear between a magistrate assisted by his subjects, against another rebel part of his subjects: for he being the supreme power, the right of punishing offenders, whether single or in companies, is undoubtedly in him. But since to 20punish is properly an act of a superior to an inferior, and two kingdoms or nations seem to be equal, and neither to have any superiority or jurisdiction over the other, it may be doubted, how the one’s making war upon the other can be properly an act of punitive justice.
To this I answer, that though these two kingdoms or states be in themselves equal, yet the injury received gives the injured people a right of claiming a reparation from those that did the injury; and consequently, in that respect, gives them a kind of superiority over the other. For, in point of right, still the injured person is superior: and the reason is, because common justice is concerned in his behalf; to whose rules all nations in the world owe a real subjection.
If it were not for war, therefore, there could be no provision made of doing justice upon an offending nation; justice would only prey upon particular persons; but national robberies, national murders, must pass in triumph with the reputation of virtues, as high and great actions, above the control of those common rules that govern the particular members of societies.
In a word, society could not consist, if it were not lawful for one nation to exact a compensation for the injuries done to it by another; and upon the refusal of such compensation, to endeavour it by force and acts of hostility. Wherefore I conclude, that war must needs be just, when the instrument of its management is the sword of justice. And this argument is for offensive war.
But before I dismiss it, there is one doubt that may require resolution, and it is this; that admitting 21that an injured nation may lawfully make war upon the nation that injured it, yet is it lawful for the injurious nation, being thus justly assaulted by war, also to defend itself?
I answer, that it is; and that upon this ground, that be a man’s delinquency against the laws of society never so great, yet, as long as he retains the nature of a man, he also retains the natural right of self-defence and preservation; unless where, by his own consent, he has quitted it.
But you will say, a particular malefactor is bound to resign up his life to the punishment of the law without resistance: and the case, as to this, seems to be the same in a particular malefactor and an injurious nation; war being a doing of justice upon one, as the execution of the gallows is upon the other: and consequently the obligation to a non-resistance seems to be the same in both. I answer, that the case is very different; and that upon this reason, that a particular member of a commonwealth has consented and submitted to the laws of the nation of which he is a member, which laws enjoin malefactors to surrender up their lives to justice without resistance; whereupon, the right of resisting is lost by his own consent. But now there is no law imposed upon one nation by another, or owned and submitted to by any nation, that obliges it, for having done an injury to another nation, without resistance to endure the effects of war and an hostile invasion; whereupon it still keeps the right of defending itself against all opposition, how just soever it be on their sides that make it.
(3.) The third argument is for all kind of war indifferently, and it runs thus: If St. John the Baptist, 22Christ himself, and the apostles, judged the employment of a soldier lawful, then war is lawful. The consequence is apparent; for every employment is lawful or unlawful, according to the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the actions to which it is designed: an employment being indeed nothing else but a constant engaging of a man’s self in such or such a way of action. And now for the assumption, that St. John the Baptist, Christ himself, and the apostles, judged the life and employment of a soldier lawful, it shall be made appear particularly.
And first for St. John the Baptist. It was his great office to be the preacher of repentance, and to consign it with the great sacrament of baptism: upon which it is rational to conclude, that he admitted none to baptism, without declaring to them what sins they were to repent of. And since the sum of his doctrine was, that men should bring forth fruits worthy of repentance; when any men asked him what they were to do, to fulfil this great command, it is most consonant to reason to judge, that his answer taught them all that was included in that duty, and shewed them whatsoever was inconsistent with it.
But now, when the soldiers amongst others asked John what they should do, Luke iii. 14, he speaks nothing at all of laying down their employment; but rather confirms that, by prescribing rules to them how they should manage it: as, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any one falsely, and be content with your wages. In short, it is not imaginable that the great forerunner of the Messias, even one of the greatest persons that was born of women, should busy himself to instruct men how they should lawfully manage such an employment as was in itself absolutely 23unlawful; and to countenance men to receive wages for a work that he judged highly impious and unjust.
In the next place, for the judgment of Christ and his apostles about this matter; the first we have in Matth. viii. 10, where Christ, speaking of the centurion, said, that he had not found so much faith, no, not in Israel. And the like is testified of Cornelius the centurion, in Acts x. 1, 2, that he was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house.
From whence I argue thus: he whose faith Christ commended, and he to whom the Spirit of God bore this testimony, that he was a devout man, and feared God, could neither of them be engaged in a course of life absolutely unlawful; otherwise saving faith, and the fear of God, would be consistent with a settled, constant, resolved living in sin. For he whose employment is sinful, sins habitually, and with a witness; and we might, with as much propriety of speech, and truth in divinity, commend the faith of an highwayman, and say, a devout bawd, and a devout cheat, as a devout centurion.
I conclude therefore, that war is a thing in itself lawful and allowable, and that the proof of it stands firm, both upon the principles of nature and the principles of Christianity.
And being so, it is a great wonder that Faustus Socinus, and his school, in other things too partial defenders of nature, should yet in this so undeservedly desert it, as to assert all war to be utterly unlawful; not indeed by virtue of the law of nature, or of Moses, but of Christ, who, they say, has perfected the two former, and superadded higher and more sublime precepts.24
But still I cannot see that this sect of men are able to quit themselves from the charge of very great unreasonableness in this assertion. For in those truths that concern the theory of the Christian religion, as about the Trinity and the like, they vehemently contend that all scriptures, howsoever in the clearest appearance of natural construction looking that way, yet ought to be interpreted and brought down to the analogy and rules of natural reason. But here, in the highest concerns of practice, in which men’s lives and fortunes, their being and wellbeing, are immediately interested, they strip men of all the rights of nature, and that under pretence of such an injunction from the Christian religion.
It concerns us therefore to inquire into their arguments; which we shall do, first, by examining the general ground upon which they stand; and then by traversing those several scriptures which these men allege in the behalf of their opinion.
First of all then, they lay this as the foundation of all their arguings in this particular, that God, under the Mosaical covenant, made only promises of temporal possessions and blessings to his people; and therefore giving them a temporal Canaan, it was necessary that he should allow them the means of defending it, which was properly by war, and repulsing their temporal enemies: but now under the covenant of grace, established by the mediatorship of Christ with the world, God has made no express promise of any temporal enjoyments or felicities; but rather, on the contrary, bids us despise and take our minds wholly off from them. And therefore, according to the tenor of such a covenant, he has made no provision to secure his people in any such temporalities, 25but took from them all right of war and resistance.
To this, which is a proposition current through the main body of the Socinian divinity, I answer, that it is both false in itself, and as to the present purpose hugely inconclusive.
For first, it is to be denied that God transacted with his people, under the Mosaical covenant, only in temporal promises: he did indeed, according to the thick genius of that people, too much intent upon worldly happiness, express and shadow forth spiritual blessings under temporal; but that they had hopes, and consequently promises of a better life after this, is clear from sundry places, as particularly that in Psalm lxxiii. 24, where David says to God, Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel here, and afterward receive me to glory. And it is clear, from all the foregoing verses, that by the guidance of God’s counsel, he understood God’s favour to him throughout the whole compass of his life. But more fully in Heb. xi. 13, where the divine author, speaking of the ancient heroes before the times of the gospel, says, that they all died in the faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. What could be said more fully and expressly to shew the insolence of that assertion, that by taking from the Mosaical church all promise of future blessedness, would degrade them to the rank of brutes and swine, and epicures, who live only by this beastly principle: Let us eat and drink to-day, for to-morrow we shall die?26
And further, it is also false, that God has under the covenant of grace made no temporal provision for the persons under it. For what mean those words of Christ, Matt. vi. 33, Seek ye first the kingdom of God., and all these things shall be added unto you? God indeed did not design these temporals as parts of the great promised blessing, as he did under the Mosaical covenant, but only as appendages and concomitants of it, that so he might shew the spiritual nature of this covenant to be much above that of the other: but still it follows not, but God has made an allowance of temporal necessaries under the second covenant, though not in the same manner and upon the same terms that he did under the first.
It is clear therefore, that the contrary proposition is false; and that it is as weak in the nature of an argument, as it is false in the nature of a proposition, is no less manifest.
For if the only reason that made war lawful to the Jews was because it was a means to secure them in the possession of their temporal Canaan, against the invasion and incursions of the enemy, then when there was no such incursion or invasion, it ceased to be lawful: this is a natural inference. But the contrary is evident: for we know that they commenced a lawful war against the tribe of Benjamin, their brethren, in which there could be no pretence either of securing or enlarging the borders of the promised land; but only a just revenge acted upon them, for a black and villanous trespass upon the laws of common justice and humanity.
And then for the Christian church; suppose they should have no federal or spiritual right to their earthly possessions, yet they have a civil and a natural 27right; which right they may accordingly defend: since, by virtue of the covenant of grace, to have a title to heaven; and withal to have a civil and temporal claim to their earthly estates; and further, to maintain that claim against the violence of an enemy; are not at all opposite or contrary one to the other, but very fairly subordinate.
But that I may thoroughly pluck up this false foundation, grounded upon the difference of the two covenants, I shall observe this: that since in the former covenant there were some things of moral and external right, some things only of positive institution, peculiarly made for and restrained to the church and commonwealth of the Jews; whatsoever alterations and abrogations have been made by Christ under the second covenant, were only of those positive laws, peculiar and proper to the Jews; all other things, which depended upon the eternal and immutable laws and rights of nature, remaining inviolately the same under both covenants, and as unchanged as nature itself.
Now such a thing I affirm the right of war to be, as being the result and dictate of that grand natural right of self-preservation. It is the voice of reason and nature, that we should defend our persons from assassination, and our estates from violence: and he that seeks for rescue from any thing but a vigorous resistance, will find himself wronged to that degree, that it will be too late for him to be righted.
Having thus removed the false ground of the arguments, proving the utter unlawfulness of war, I come now to see what countenance this opinion receives from scripture; from which the abettors of it argue thus:28
If we are expressly commanded not to resist evil, but being smote on the right cheek, to turn the other also, as in Matt. v. 39. and to recompense no man evil for evil., nor to avenge ourselves, but rather to give place to wrath, as in Rom. xii. 17, 19. if also we are commanded to love our enemies, as in the same Matt v. then war, which includes in it the clean contrary, is utterly unlawful.
Before I answer these particular scriptures, I shall premise this:
What if we should answer Socinus in his own words, who in his book De Jesu Christo Servatore, disputing against Covelus for the disproving of Christ’s satisfaction, has the hardiness to say, that the word satisfaction is not to be found in scripture? which is true. But supposing that it were; yet it being, in his judgment, contrary to right reason, it was not, he says, to be admitted in the sense naturally signified by it. So say I; these scriptures indeed, however they prohibit self-defence, yet this being contrary to the light of nature and right reason, they are not to be admitted in their proper signification. Surely this, though it were a bold and a profane speech, yet to him it were a very full answer, who makes the very same plea upon a parallel occasion.
But we shall not need such refuges. To those scriptures therefore I answer, that they are to be understood only of private revenge acted by one particular man upon another, and not of a public, managed by the authority of the magistrate: but such a revenge only is war. That the words are so to be understood is clear, as the occasion of those in Matt. v. shews: for Christ’s design was to beat 29 down that corrupt and false gloss of the pharisees upon the law, who taught that it was lawful for any private man to right and revenge himself with his own hands; provided that he observed the just measure of equality between the evil which he suffered, and the evil which he returned: whereas indeed Moses committed the execution of this law of retaliation only to the magistrate.
Hereupon Christ tells them, that it was the duty of private men not to resist evil, nor to revenge themselves, but being smote upon one cheek to turn the other; which words are not literally to be understood, for neither Christ himself nor the apostle Paul so behaved themselves: but being smote upon the face, they expostulated the injury of the blow, John xviii. 23, and Acts xxiii. 3. But they are only an hyperbolical speech, prescribing a very great degree of patience and composure of mind; and that of the two, we should rather choose, having received one injurious blow, to offer ourselves to another, than to sin against God by revenging it.
But that this prohibition of revenge, further urged in Rom. xii. 19, concerns only private men, and not absolutely damns all kind of revenge, acted by a public person, is manifest; for not above six verses off, namely, in verse 4, chap. xiii. the apostle is so far from denying this to the magistrate, that he tells us it is the very design of his office, and that he beareth not the sword in vain; as being the minister of God., a revenger, to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. We cannot therefore make the apostle to forbid all revenge, without a gross and a palpable contradicting of himself.
But besides, as touching revenge, which is properly 30 a retaliation, or repaying one evil for another, that this is not a thing in its nature unlawful, is invincibly proved by this: that God, by an express law, under the Mosaical economy, committed the exercise of it to the magistrate. But were it a thing in the very nature of it unjust, God could not so much as permit or allow the practice of it, much less countenance it by a law.
As for the next injunction, of loving our enemies, I answer, 1. That it is there directed by Christ to particular persons, not public bodies or whole nations. 2. But secondly, admitting that it extends to these also, yet I assume that the love here commanded is not properly a love of friendship, but a love of charity; which consists in a freedom from any malice to, or hatred of our enemies’ persons: and this may continue and be maintained, even while a man, either in the defence or vindication of his country, kills his adversary in the field.
For I suppose a judge may be in charity with a malefactor while he condemns him; and the executioner have no design of hatred to him, whom by the duty of his office he makes a sacrifice to common justice.
The case is the same in war; where, when a man kills another, it is not because he has not a love of charity to his person, but because he is bound to love his prince and his country with a greater.31
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