« FöregåendeFortsätt »
passive in what concerns the rights of the community!
In short, if human societies are instituted for any end at all, independent states may not only defend their rights when invaded; but if they are already de. prived or defrauded of them, they may demand restitution in the loudest and most importunate manner; even by calling for it in thunder at the very gates of their enemy. This is often the shortest and most merciful method. Nor is it doing violence to our neighbours, but justice to ourselves, and to the cause of Right, Liberty, Virtue, and public Safety; which would otherwise be left unavoidably to suffer.
It were indeed sincerely to be wished, that the Gospel of the blessed Jesus might have such an universal influence on the lives of all men, as to render it no more necessary to learn the art of war. But, alas! this is a degree of perfection not to be hoped for in the present state of things, and only to be looked for in the kingdom of universal righteousness. Were all men arrived to such a degree of goodness as to render force unnecessary, then also the magistracy, the laws, and every thing else belonging to particular societies in this world, would be a needless institution. But as long as particular societies are of any use, so long will force and arms be of use; for the very end of such societies is to unite the force of individuals, for obtaining safety to the whole.
What I have already said will convince every reasonable person, that the words—do violence to no man—were never meant as a general prohibition of all force and arms; so often necessary in this embarrassed scene of things. As for those who, from views of interest, pretended scruples of conscience, and I know not what prejudices of education, still shut their eyes against the clearest light, I do not pretend to offer arguments for their conviction.
If the barbarities that have been committed around them; if the cries of their murdered and suffering brethren; if their country swimming in blood and involved in an expensive war—if these things have not already pierced their stony hearts, and convinced their deluded reason, that their principles are absurd in idea and criminal in practice, I am sure any thing I might say farther, would have but little weight. I shall only beg leave to remind them, that they will have this cause to plead one day more before a tribunal, where subterfuges will stand them in no stead; and where it will be well if they are acquitted, and no part of the blood that has been spilt is required at their hands.
Having found it necessary to dwell so long on the former part of the text, I shall be very brief on what remains.
The Christian-soldier is forbid, in the second place, to “accuse any man falsely.”
To circumvent, to bear down, or to take away, the character of another, for the sake of revenge, profit or preferment, is indeed a crime of the most unpardonable nature. It seldom admits of any reparation, and strikes at the very root of all peace and faith and society among men. Surely, then, among a society of soldiers, whose strength consists in their harmony, and whose peculiar character is their honour and
yeracity, such a pernicious vice should be discouraged in an eminent degree, as tending to their immediate ruin, and odious both to God and man.
In the third and last place, the Christian-soldier is to be " content with his wages."
This is also a very essential duty. Nothing ought to be more inviolable among men, than the performance of their covenants. Now, between the British state and its soldiery, there is a covenant of the most sacred nature. They voluntarily enlist into a certain service for certain wages. These wages are sufficient for a comfortable subsistence. The British government has mercy in its whole nature, and all its appointments are liberal.
The wages of our common soldiery are almost equal to those of the inferior officers in many other services. Surely then, for them above all others, to be discontented with those wages, to neglect the duty annexed to them, or to be faint-hearted in its performance, would argue the highest baseness. It would be breach of faith, breach of honour, and a total want of every generous affection.
Moreover, to be content with one's wages implies also a faithful application of them to the uses for which they are given. They are not to be spent in riot and intemperance, but in keeping the body neat, clean, healthy, and vigorous for the discharge of its duty. Nastiness and slovenliness in dress or behaviour are sure marks of a mean and dastardily temper. The man who disregards the care of his own person, which is the image of his maker, can have neither spirit nor grace nor virtue in him. It will be almost impossible to exalt his groveling soul to the performance of any great or heroic action.
And as for intemperance in a soldier, a vice of more ruinous consequence cannot well be imagined; or rather it is a complication of all vices. For not to say that it generally leads to those acts of violence, so fully mentioned above, it is in itself a manifest violation of every tie between the soldier and his country:
The soldier, by the terms of his enlistment, con. signs his health, strength, and service to the public, in consideration of his receiving certain wages. Now for him to spend those wages in enervating or destroying that very health and strength for which they are given him, would be robbery of the public! Nay, desertion itself is not a greater crime; and nothing but the mercy of our laws, in compassion to the frailties of human nature, could have made the punishment of the one less than that of the other. For a soldier may as well be found absent from his post, or asleep on it, as be found on it in a condition which renders him unfit for the duties of it.
In short, discontent, sloth, murmuring and intemperance, have been the bane of many a powerful army, and have often drawn down the divine displeasure, by giving them up to certain ruin.
Upon the whole then, we may conclude from the text, that the particular duty of Christian Soldiers consists chiefly in-Obedience to those who are appointed to conimand them; a respectful inoffensive Behaviour to those who support and maintain them; strict Honour and unshaken Veracity towards one another; Temperance, Sobriety, Cleanlines, and Contentment in their private character; and a steady, bold, and cheerful discharge of whatever service their King and Country may require of them.
I said that these things constitute the particular duty of soldiers, considered as such. But here let it be remembered, that no special injunctions of this kind to any certain order of men can possibly exempt them from the general precepts of the gospel. Though the text be addressed particularly to the soldiers, considered in that character; yet as they are also men and creatures of God, they are equally called in the eleventh verse for instance) to the practice of universal benevolence and charity, with the whole body of the people, whereof they are a part, and to whom that verse is directed.
Thus I have finished what I proposed from the text.
And now, gentlemen officers, you will permit me to address the remainder of this discourse more immediately to you. I know you love your King and Country. I know you regard those men under your command, and would wish to see them shining in the practice of those virtues which I have been recommending. But yet, after all, this must, in a great measure, depend upon yourselves. If, then, you would desire to have
upon their consciences; if you would wish to see them act upon principle, and give you any other hold of them than that of mere command let me, Oh let me beseech you, to cultivate and propagate among them, with your whole influence and authority, a sublime