Thursday, January 14, 2016

John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon: Quotes On War

John Wesley

Here is an excerpt from John Wesley, “The Doctrine of Original Sin”, 1757 (pdf, link), which is nearly the same as above:
10. But there is a still greater and more undeniable proof that the very foundations of all things, civil and religious, are utterly out of course in the Christian as well as the heathen world. There is a still more horrid reproach to the Christian name, yea, to the name of man, to all reason and humanity. There is war in the world! war between men! war between Christians! I mean, between those that bear the name of Christ, and profess to “walk as He also walked.” Now, who can reconcile war, I will not say to religion, but to any degree of reason or common sense? 
But is there not a cause? O yes: “The causes of war,” as the same writer observes, “are innumerable. Some of the chief are these: The ambition of Princes; or the corruption of their Ministers: Difference of opinion; as, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of the grape be blood or wine; what is the best color for a coat, whether black, white, or gray; and whether it should be long or short, whether narrow or wide. Nor are there any wars so furious as those occasioned by such difference of opinions.

“Sometimes two Princes make a war to decide which of them shall dispossess a third of his dominions. Sometimes a war is commenced, because another Prince is too strong; sometimes, because he is too weak. Sometimes our neighbors want the things which we have, or have the things which we want: So both fight, until they take ours, or we take theirs. It is a reason for invading a country, if the people have been wasted by famine, destroyed by pestilence, or embroiled by faction; or to attack our nearest ally, if part of his land would make our dominions more round and compact.

“Another cause of making war is this: A crew are driven by a storm they know not where; at length they make the land and go ashore; they are entertained with kindness. They give the country a new name; set up a stone or rotten plank for a memorial; murder a dozen of the natives, and bring away a couple by force. Here commences a new right of dominion: Ships are sent, and the natives driven out or destroyed. And this is done to civilize and convert a barbarous and idolatrous people.”
But, whatever be the cause, let us calmly and impartially consider the thing itself. Here are forty thousand men gathered together on this plain. What are they going to do? See, there are thirty or forty thousand more at a little distance. And these are going to shoot them through the head or body, to stab them, or split their skulls, and send most of their souls into everlasting fire, as fast as they possibly can. Why so? What harm have they done to them? O none at all! They do not so much as know them. But a man, who is King of France, has a quarrel with another man, who is King of England. So these Frenchmen are to kill as many of these Englishmen as they can, to prove the King of France is in the right. Now, what an argument is this! What a method of proof! What an amazing way of deciding controversies! What must mankind be, before such a thing as war could ever be known or thought of upon earth? How shocking, how inconceivable a want must there have been of common understanding, as well as common humanity, before any two Governors, or any two nations in the universe, could once think of such a method of decision? If, then, all nations, Pagan, Mahometan, and Christian, do, in fact, make this their last resort, what farther proof do we need of the utter degeneracy of all nations from the plainest principles of reason and virtue? of the absolute want, both of common sense and common humanity, which runs through the whole race of mankind? 
In how just and strong a light is this placed by the writer cited before! —“I gave him a description of cannons, muskets, pistols, swords, bayonets; of sieges, attacks, mines, countermines, bombardments; of engagements by sea and land; ships sunk with a thousand men, twenty thousand killed on each side, dying groans, limbs flying in the air; smoke, noise, trampling to death under horses’ feet, flight, pursuit, victory; fields strewed with carcasses, left for food to dogs and beasts of prey; and, farther, of plundering, stripping, ravishing, burning, and destroying. I assured him, I had seen a hundred enemies blown up at once in a siege, and as many in a ship, and beheld the dead bodies drop down in pieces from the clouds, to the great diversion of the spectators.” 
Is it not astonishing, beyond all expression, that this is the naked truth? that, within a short term of years, this has been the real case in almost every part of even the Christian world? And meanwhile we gravely talk of the “dignity of our nature” in its present state! This is really surprising, and might easily drive even a well-tempered man to say, “One might bear with men, if they would be content with those vices and follies to which nature has entitled them. I am not provoked at the sight of a pickpocket, a gamester, a politician, a suborner, a traitor, or the like. This is all according to the natural course of things. But when I behold a lump of deformity and diseases, both in body and mind, smitten with pride, it breaks all the measures of my patience; neither shall I ever be able to comprehend how such an animal and such a vice can tally together.” 
And surely all our declamations on the strength of human reason, and the eminence of our virtues, are no more than the cant and jargon of pride and ignorance, so long as there is such a thing as war in the world. Men in general can never be allowed to be reasonable creatures, till they know not war any more. So long as this monster stalks uncontrolled, where is reason, virtue, humanity? They are utterly excluded; they have no place; they are a name, and nothing more. If even a heathen were to give an account of an age wherein reason and virtue reigned, he would allow no war to have place therein. So Ovid of the golden age: — Nondum praecipites cingebant oppida fossae; Non galeae, non ensis erat. Sine militis usu Mollia securae peragebant otia gentes. “Steep ditches did not then the towns surround, Nor glittering helm, nor slaughtering sword was found; Nor arms had they to wield, nor wars to wage, But peace and safety crown’d the blissful age.” 

Here is his brother, Charles Wesley, 1758 (link):

Our earth we now lament to see
With floods of wickedness overflowed,
With violence, wrong, and cruelty,
The killing fields our constant abode,
Where men like fiends each other tear,
In all the hellish rage of war.

As listed on Abaddon’s side,
They mangle their own flesh, and slay:
Tophet is moved, and opens wide
Its mouth for its enormous prey;
And myriads sink beneath the grave,
And plunge into the flaming wave.

O might the universal Friend
This havoc of His creatures see!
Bid our unnatural discord end;
Declare us reconciled in Thee;
Write kindness on our inward parts,
And chase the murderer from our hearts!

Who now against each other rise,
The nations of the earth, constrain
To follow after peace, and prize
The blessings of Thy righteous reign,
The joys of unity to prove,
The paradise of perfect love!

Further Reading: 

Charles Spurgeon

"A New Departure", addresses delivered between 1872 and 1890  (HT: Spurgeon War Quotes):
We are up to the hilt advocates of peace, and we earnestly war against war. I wish that Christian men would insist more and more on the unrighteousness of war, believing that Christianity means no sword, no cannon, no bloodshed, and that, if a nation is driven to fight in its own defence, Christianity stands by to weep and to intervene as soon as possible, and not to join in the cruel shouts which celebrate an enemy's slaughter. Let us always be on the side of right. To-day, then, my brethren, I beg you to join with me in seeking renewal.

India’s Ills and England’s Sorrows,” September 6, 1857:
Long have I held that war is an enormous crime; long have I regarded all battles as but murder on a large scale.

Independence of Christianity,” August 31, 1857 (bold mine):
The church, we affirm, can neither be preserved nor can its interests be promoted by human armies. We have all thought otherwise in our time, and have foolishly said when a fresh territory was annexed to our empire, “Ah! what a providence that England has annexed Oude,” — or taken to itself some other territory — “Now a door is opened for the Gospel. A Christian power will necessarily encourage Christianity, and seeing that a Christian power is at the head of the Government, it will be likely that the natives will be induced to search into the authenticity of our revelation, and so great results will follow. Who can tell but that, at the point of the British bayonet, the Gospel will be carried, and that, by the edge of the true sword of valiant men, Christ’s Gospel will be proclaimed?” I have said so myself; and now I know I am a fool for my pains, and that Christ’s church hath been also miserably befooled; for this I will assert, and prove too, that the progress of the arms of a Christian nation is not the progress of Christianity, and that the spread of our empire, so far from being advantageous to the Gospel, I will hold, and this day proclaim, hath been hostile to it. 
But I have another string to my bow, I believe that the help of Government would have been far worse than its opposition, I do regret that the [East India] Company sometimes discourages missionary enterprise; but I believe that, had they encouraged it, it would have been far worse still, for their encouragement would have been the greatest hindrance we could receive. If I had to-morrow to go to India to preach the Gospel, I should pray to God, if such a thing could be, that he would give me a black face and make me like a Hindoo; for otherwise I should feel that when I preached I should be regarded as one of the lords — one of the oppressors it may sometime be added — and I should not expect my congregation to listen to me as a man speaking to men, a brother to brother, a Christian full of love, but they would hear me, and only cavil at me, because even my white face would give me some appearance of superiority. Why in England, our missionaries and our clergymen have assumed a kind of superiority and dignity over the people; they have called themselves clergy, and the people laity; and the result has been that they have weakened their influence. I have thought it right to come amongst my fellow men, and be a man amongst men, just one of themselves, their equal and their friend; and they have rallied around me, and not refused to love me. And I should not expect to be successful in preaching the gospel, unless I might stand and feel that I am a brother, bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh. If I cannot stand before them thus, I cannot get at their hearts. Send me, then, to India as one of the dominant ruling race, and you give me a work I cannot accomplish when you tell me to evangelise its inhabitants. In that day when John Williams fell in Erromanga, ye wept, but it was a more hopeful day for Erromanga than the day when our missionaries in India first landed there. I had rather go to preach to the greatest savages that live, than I would go to preach in the place that is under British rule. Not for the fault of Britain, but simply because I, as a Briton, would be looked upon as one of the superiors, one of the lords, and that would take away much of my power to do good. Now, will you just cast your eye upon the wide world? Did you ever hear of a nation under British rule being converted to God? Mr. Moffat and our great friend Dr. Livingstone have been laboring in Africa with great success, and many have been converted. Did you ever hear of Kaffir tribes protected by England, ever being converted? It is only a people that have been left to themselves, and preached to by men as men, that have been brought to God. For my part, I conceive, that when an enterprise begins in martyrdom, it is none the less likely to succeed, but when conquerors begin to preach the gospel to those they have conquered, it will not succeed, God will teach us that it is not by might All swords that have ever flashed from scabbards have not aided Christ a single grain. Mahommedans’ religion might be sustained by scimitars, but Christians’ religion must be sustained by love. The great crime of war can never promote the religion of peace. The battle, and the garment rolled in blood, are not a fitting prelude to “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” And I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel. The gospel will proceed without them, but never through them. “Not by might.” Now don’t be fooled again, if you hear of the English conquering in China, don’t go down on your knees and thank God for it, and say it’s such a heavenly thing for the spread of the gospel — it just is not. Experience teaches you that, and if you look upon the map you will find I have stated only the truth, that where our arms have been victorious, the gospel has been hindered rather than not; so that where South Sea Islanders have bowed their knees and cast their idols to the bats, British Hindoos have kept their idols, and where Bechuanas and Bushmen have turned unto the Lord, British Affairs have not been converted, not perhaps because they were British, but because the very fact of the missionary being a Briton, put him above them, and weakened their influence. Hush thy trump, O war; put away thy gaudy trappings and thy bloodstained drapery, if thou thinkest that the cannon with the cross upon it is really sanctified, and if thou imaginest that thy banner hath become holy, thou dreamest of a lie. God wanteth not thee to help his cause. “It is not by armies, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord”.

War! War! War!” May 1, 1859:
The Lord’s battles, what are they? Not the garment rolled in blood, not the noise, and smoke, and din of human slaughter. These may be the devil’s battles, if you please, but not the Lord’s. They may be days of God’s vengeance but in their strife the servant of Jesus may not mingle. We stand aloof. Our kingdom is not of this world; else would God’s servants fight with sword and spear. Ours is a spiritual kingdom, and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds.

A Peal of Bells,” July 7, 1861:
War is to our minds the most difficult thing to sanctify to God. The genius of the Christian religion is altogether contrary to everything like strife of any kind, much more to the deadly clash of arms. . . . Now I say again, I am no apologist for war, from my soul I loathe it, and I do not understand the position of a Christian man as a warrior, but still I greatly rejoice that there are to be found at this present day in the ranks many of those who fear God and adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour.

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