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HERALD OF PEACE.
—oDECEMBER 1821. -o
THE DUTY OF PRAYER CONSIDERED IN REFERENCE TO THE PEACE OF THE WORLD.
THE exercise of Prayer is as much
our privilege as it is our duty.
- Devotion, considered in itself, is admirably calculated to enlighten, console, and fortify the human mind; and it is the divinely appointed means through which all needful blessings are to be obtained. In all ages, and among savage as well as civilized nations, it has been the prevailing custom to implore the favour, or to deprecate the vengeance, of some imaginary Being of attractive excellence, or of awful malignity. But with Christians it is a duty as delightful in its exercise, as it is solemnly obligatory in its requirements. Distinguished above all others by Divine revelation, and by the teachings of the Holy Spirit, the disciple of Jesus ought to have his thoughts frequently occupied with devotional feelings, and should give utterance to those feelings in the language of prayer and praise. The benefits which, by the merciful and all-wise providence of God, are made to result from the exercise W0L. III,
of Prayer, afford the greatest encouragement to Christians, to persevere in their supplications at the throne of grace. The sacred writings, the lives of good men, and the experience of all the servants of God,' furnish innumerable proofs of the efficacy of prayer. Prayer makes the darken'd cloud withdraw; Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw ;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
“All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,’ said our Lord, Matth. xxi. 22. These remarks are intended to introduce a serious enquiry, Whether the disciples of Jesus Christ have in former times, and more especially whether they have in the present day, been distinguished by the frequency and earnestness of their prayers for the prevalence of Christian peace among mankind? The pages of Ecclesiastical history induce us to put an awful negative upon the first part of this enquiry. We shall there discover, that they have not 2 Z
only been lamentably deficient in promoting a spirit of peace, but have continually acted under the influence of its infernal opponent. We may safely challenge the history of nearly eighteen hundred years, since the Prince of Peace began his public ministry, to furnish one solitary instance where even those who ministered in holy things have borne a public and decided testimony against War. But on the contrary, many instances may be adduced in which they have fanned the flame of mortal Warfare, and have, perhaps unwittingly, lent themselves to the service of him who was a murderer from the beginning. We need not go back to the wild and fanatical period, when Peter the hermit blew so successfully the blast of War, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the inclement regions of Scandinavia. We remember to have seen an elegant political sermon by a Christian minister, who is still living, the object of which was to rouse the nation to war; and towards the close of which, in a strain of sublime imagery, he represented God and the holy angels as looking down with lively interest upon the approaching contest, and holding out crowns of glory to those who should fall in battle. - * Nor is this a solitary instance, Thousands and tens of thousands of both clergy and laity, forgetful of the mind that was in Christ Jesus, have been led astray from the purity of the Christian faith, and the amiableness of the Christian temper, by that spirit of resistance, or retaliation, or national glory, which martials armies for the ensanguined field, and justifies the slaughter, the devastation, and the miseries of War.
If such persons ever were accustomed to pray for the peace of mankind,-are we not compelled, in the exercise even of Christian charity, to believe that their prayers were either expressed without fervour and sin
cerity, or uttered under the most
erroneous impressions; — altogether discordant with the subject of their petition ? o If, even in the present day, we were to visit the churches and chapels of England only, to say nothing of the other parts of Christendom—if we were to enquire into the principles, feelings, and habits of the different ministers and their congregations, is there not reason to fear that the subject of Peace occupies very little of their attention,-that it seldom constitutes the subject of their ar. dent supplications,—and that when it is introduced into the prayers of the devout Christian, it is regarded as a blessing only to be attained at some distant period, and by some unforeseen and miraculous operation, It has been supposed that the universal diffusion of Christianity must precede the establishment of universal peace. Yes, we say, Christianity, properly understood as it regards the subject of Peace, must prevail over the delusions of Mahometanism, and the cruel rites of Paganism, before wars and contentions shall cease to the ends of the earth. But, after the experience of so many centuries has demonstrated the inefficacy of the principles of Christianity, as they have been hitherto understood, to promote and preserve the peace of Christianized Europe, what hope can we have that the general diffusion" the religion of Jesus Christ willbe”.
tended with more benign effects?
Certainly we can have no rational expectation that Christianity will universally produce ‘ Peace on earth, and good-will towards men,' unless it be taught and received as a system of absolute and unlimited forgiveness and love, and as immutably principled against all national Warfare, as well as individual contention.
In this point of view how important is the subject of Peace and how necessary the labours and the fervent prayers of the friends of peace . We cannot conclude without earnestly wishing that all who engage in the noble employment of Missionaries, and those whose office it is to qualify them for the arduous work, would give their serious attention to a point of Christian duty which ought to be the grand test of the sincerity and success of all Missionary efforts. ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one towards another.’
My Dear Sir, * -- * * * * * * * * * * The object of your Society is delightful, and cannot but be approved of by everythinking Christian. Herein my sentiments are what they were: but not so, for a long time past, my opinion of the prospect, or probability, of any attendant good on its views and measures; which, I have little doubt, may be considered as politically anti-governmental; and tending, whilst it fails in the production of the good it contemplates, to clog the wheels of the State, and impede preparations, should the day come (not unlikely) for even an attitude of defence in the country. The more too I revolve it in my mind, the more strongly it appears
to me as visionary and unstable; and unpossessed of inherent stamina, and genuine merit, to make its way or maintain its footing. There never was a period when the grace, the duties of Christianity, were more Sedulously or more universally endeavoured to be propagated to the Heathen, in whatever portion of the globe residing, or urged in the practice of every professing Christian, than at present; and in the same proportion as the divine, saving knowledge spreads, and success attends the blissful praiseworthy attempts of the active and the good, so will and must the object your Society has in view be produced in the mind of man. Why therefore take up this isolated virtue Why spend your time and money for the accomplishment of a virtue exclusively, which must and does from its nature form a component of the grand attainment contemplated by Christianity? I conceive it a work of, if I may use the word, supererogation : whilst from its unseasonable trial, i. e. from the state of the world and the human mind not being yet in a suitable condition for it, and a prejudice being entertained against it politically, it is visionary, unnecessary, and unfit; and, my word for it, will not succeed.— The subscription, therefore, my dear Sir, which under my early impression of this subject, I should have committed to your hands, I am bound now to withhold. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * I am, my dear Sir, Your's very truly, * * * * * * *
14th May, 1821.
Respected and Dear Sir, I DARE say you will be surprised that at this distance of time I should offer a reply to your note of the 14th of May on the subject of the Peace Society : but my avocations are not few, and the question is one which is
not affected by the lapse of time.
Your objections to the Society appear to be threefold, viz. 1. That “it may be considered as politically anti-governmental; and tending, whilst it fails in the attainment of its object, to clog the wheels of the State, and impede preparations, should the day come (not unlikely) for even an attitude of defence in the country.” 2. That inasmuch as unprecedentedly great efforts are now being made for the propagation of Christianity, both at home and abroad; and as far as that object is achieved, so far will the purpose of the Peace Society be answered; therefore the labours of the Society are supererogatory. 3. That “ from its unseasonable trial, i. e. from the state of the world, and the human mind not being yet in a suitable condition for it, and a prejudice being entertained against it politically, it is visionary, unnecessary, and unfit; and, your word for it, will not succeed.” With regard to the first objection, namely, that the Society may be considered as anti-governmental; and is calculated to clog the wheels of the State, and to impede preparations for the defence of the country. You will allow, dear Sir, that the circumstance of an institution being considered “ anti-governmental,” does not mecessarily establish the truth of the charge : it is at least possible that the many may be sometimes in error, in judging of the few. This may especially be the case in the instance of a new association, whose constitution may not have received adequate examination. Now the Bible being the acknowledged basis upon which the legislative acts of this and every Christian state are founded, and by which the operations of its govern. ment are professedly regulated, it follows that whatever principles are fairly derived from that source cannot be properly anti-governmental. That the principles whence War
are placed, in every command which
does not contravene the higher allthority of God's Word, from the obligations of which no human sanctions can discharge them. Your second objection is, that the efforts of the Peace Society are not required, because extraordinary exertions are being made by the Chris. tian world to propagate the Gospel at home and abroad; and the success of Christianity will be the success of the Peace Society. This objection, dear Sir, has been already urged, and (I think) successfully answered. It has been replied—“ If the mere spread of Christianity were sufficient to root out all the malignant and selfish passions, whence wars origi: nate, how has it happened thatthebulk
* I am aware that, according to the letter of the British Constitution, it is one of the King's prerogatives to make war: but it is well known that he never does 30 absolutely; he acts herein by and with the consent of his Privy Council. And the Third Estate always votes the supplies wherewith war is waged.
there were no Christian soldiers] to the present day, have, with the “ comparatively trivial exceptions of the Society of Friends and the United Brethren [or Moravians,] held the unchristian tenet that war is consistent with Christianity? Does not this fact demonstrate that Christians themselves require to be informed on this head 2 In other words, does it not prove the necessity of drawing their minds to a serious reexamination of that Gospel which they have received as a rule of life, in order that they may see “whether those things' which the Peace Society affirms “be so : " In fine, the promoters of the Peace Society are simply desirous of placing their views of Christianity before their fellowprofessors of it, as means whereby that perfect dispensation may have its legitimate effect upon their minds, but which has been to such a fearful extent counteracted by the pernicious force of early education and popular delusion; — an effect which would infallibly ensure the existence of peace on earth, while the subjects of it would assuredly breathe nothing but good-will toward men.” Another writer has said, “ The need of such a Society is obvious, from the frequent occurrence, the wide, extensive, and fatal effects, of War down to the present time. Neither civilization, nor a profession of Christianity, has yet succeeded to stop this source of incalculable miseries and crimes. They have even, by mitigating the ferocity of warfare, been perverted to apologies for its practice. . It is evident that the genuine principles both of religion and political economy have not been sufficiently appplied, to the root of the evil. To give that direction to them, and by concentrating them to augment their force, are the objects of Peace Societies.” Another objection which you urge against the Peace Society arises from
its being “visionary, unnecessary, and unfit, in consequence of the state of the world, and the human mind not being yet in suitable condition for it, and a prejudice being entertained against it politically;” and then you add your conviction that “it will not succeed.” To this I simply reply by asking, What great moral revolution, that affected the passions and trenched upon the supposed interests of mankind, was ever deemed otherwise than “visionary, unnecessary, and unfit,” whenever proposed for adoption ? On such occasions, some reasons of expediency have always been brought forward, to controvert the plain and express dictates of truth. The question of the Slave Trade Abolition, you know, was met in this way: but the champions of religion and humanity were not daunted: they persevered through evil report and good report; and the God of Justice and Mercy crowned their labours with success. Again, the question of sending Missionaries to the Hindoos was replied to, some years ago, by temporising representations of the very serious dangers attending the measure : but now what a contrast do we behold ! Thus it is with War, which has destroyed an infinitely greater number of the human race than Avarice ever enslaved, or than Superstition has immolated. Your concluding prophecy, dear Sir, that the efforts of Peace Societies “ will not succeed,” is not of course matter for argumentation. You are doubtless at perfect liberty to entertain, and express, that opinion. I beg to say, however, that I differ from you. I believe that they will succeed; and for this reason: because I find that in the prophecies of the Old and the New Testament a time is specifically foretold when peace shall universally prevail; and I see that the Almighty Disposer of events condescends to use human agency in the accomplishing of all those great moral changes which are