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of the right to use the necessary means for the promotion of the great end for which all moral agents are bound to live. And yet strange to tell, this philosophy professes to deny the right to use force and to take life in support of government on the ground of benevolence, that is, that benevolence forbids it. What is this but maintaining that the law of benevolence demands that we should love others too much to use the indispensable means to secure their good? Or that we should love the whole too much to execute the law upon those who would destroy all good? Shame on such a philosophy. It overlooks the foundation of moral obligation and of all morality and religion. Just as if an enlightened benevolence could forbid the due, wholesome and necessary execution of law. This philosophy impertinently urges the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," as prohibiting all taking of human life. But it may be asked, why say human life. The commandment, so far as the letter is concerned, as fully prohibit the killing of animals or vegetables as it does of men. The question is what kind of killing does this commandment prohibit? Certainly not all killing of human beings, for in the next chapter we are commanded to kill human beings for certain crimes. The ten commandments are precepts, and the lawgiver, after laying down the precepts, goes on to specify the penalties that are to be inflicted by men for a violation of these precepts. Some of these penalties are death, and the penalty for the violation of the precept under consideration is death. It is certain that this precept was not intended to prohibit the taking of life for murder. A consideration of the law in its tenor and spirit renders it most evident that the precept in question prohibits murder, and the penalty of death is added by the lawgiver to the violation of this precept. Now how absurd and impertinent it is to quote this precept in prohibition of taking life under all circumstances!
Men have an undoubted right to do whatever is plainly indispensable to the highest good of man, and therefore nothing can by any possibility be law that should prohibit the taking of human life when it became indispensable to the great end of government. This right is every where recog nized in the Bible, and if it were not, still the right would exist. This philosophy that I am opposing, assumes that the will of God creates law, and that we have no right to take life without an express warrant from him. But the facts are,
(1.) That God has given us an express warrant and injunction to take life for certain crimes, and,
(2.) If he had not, it would be duty to do so whenever the public good required it. Let it be remembered that the moral law is the law of nature, and that every thing is lawful and right that is plainly demanded for the promotion of the highest good of being.
The philosophy of which I am speaking lays much stress upon what it calls inalienable rights. It assumes that man has a title or right to life in such a sense that he can not forfeit it by crime. But the fact is, there are no rights inalienable in this sense. There can be no such rights. Whenever any individual, by the commission of crime, comes into such a relation to the public interest that his death is a necessary means of securing the highest public good, his life is forfeited, and to take the forfeiture at his hands is the duty of the government.
2. It will be seen that the same principles are equally applicable to insurrections, rebellion, &c. While government is right, it is duty, and while it is right and duty because necessary as a means to the great end upon which benevolence terminates, it must be both the right and the duty of government, and of all the subjects, to use any indispensable means for the suppression of insurrections, rebellion, &c., as also for the due administration of justice in the execution of law.
3. These principles will guide us in ascertaining the rights, and of course the duty of governments in relation to war.
War is one of the most heinous and horrible forms of sin unless it be evidently demanded by and prosecuted in obedience to the moral law. Observe, war to be in any case a virtue or to be less than a crime of infinite magnitude, must not only be honestly believed by those who engage in it, to be demanded by the law of benevolence, but it must also be engaged in by them with an eye single to the glory of God and the highest good of being. That war has been in some instances demanded by the spirit of the moral law there can be no reasonable doubt, since God has sometimes commanded them, which he could not have done had they not been demanded by the highest good of the universe. In those cases, if those who were commanded to engage in them had benevolent intentions in prosecuting them as God had in commanding them, it is absurd to say that they sinned. Rulers are represented as God's ministers to execute wrath upon the guilty. If in the Providence of God He should find it duty to destroy or to rebuke a nation for his own glory and the highest good of being, he may, beyond question, command that
But in no
they should be chastised by the hand of man. case is war any thing else than a most horrible crime unless it is plainly the will of God that it should exist, and unless it be actually engaged in in obedince to his will. This is true of all, both of rulers and of subjects who engage in war. Selfish war is wholesale murder. For a nation to declare war or for persons to enlist or in any way to designedly aid or abet in the declaration or prosecution of war upon any other conditions than those just specified involves the guilt of mur
There can scarcely be conceived a more abominable and fiendish maxim than "our country right or wrong." Recently this maxim seems to have been adopted and avowed in relation to the present war of the United States with Mexico.
It seems to be supposed by some that it is the duty of good subjects to sympathize with and support government in the prosecution of a war in which they have unjustly engaged, and to which they have committed themselves, upon the ground that since it is commenced it must be prosecuted as the less of two evils. The same class of men seem to have adopted the same philosophy in respect to slavery. Slavery, as it exists in this country, they acknowledge to be indefensible on the ground of right; that it is a great evil and a great sin, but it must be let alone as the less of two evils. It exists, say they, and it can not be abolished without disturbing the friendly relations and federal union of the States, therefore the institution must be sustained. The philosophy is this: war and slavery as they exist in this nation are unjust, but they exist, and to sustain them is duty, because their existence, under the circumstances, is the less of two evils. To this I answer:
1. That of moral evils or sins we can not know which is the least, that is, which involves the least or the greatest guilt.
2. I would ask, do these philosophers intend to admit that the prosecution of a war unjustly waged is sin, and that the support of slavery in this country is sin, but that the sin of supporting them is less than would be the sin of abandoning them under the circumstances? If they mean this, to be sure this were singular logic. To repent of a sin and forsake it were a greater sin than to persist in it! True and genuine repentance of a sin is sin, and even a greater sin than that repented of! Who does not know that it can never be sin to repent of sin? To repent and forsake all sin is always right
always duty and can in no case be sin. If war has been unjustly waged, if slavery or any thing else exists that involves injustice and oppression or sin in any form, it cannot be sin to abandon it. To abhor and reject it at once must be duty, and to persevere in it is only to add insult to injury.
Nothing can sanctify any crime but that which renders it no crime, but a virtue. But the philosophers whose views I am examining, must if consistent, take the ground that since war and slavery exist, although their commencement was unjust and sinful, yet since they exist, it is no crime but a virtue to sustain them as the least of two natural evils. But I would ask to whom are they the least of two evils? To ourselves or to being in general? The least of two present, or of two ultimate evils? Our duty is not to calculate the evils in respect merely to ourselves or to this nation and those immediately oppressed and injured, but to look abroad upon the world and the universe, and inquire what are the evils resulting and likely to result to the world, to the church, and to the universe from the declaration and prosecution of such a war, and from the support of slavery by a nation professing what we profess; a nation boasting of liberty; who have drawn the sword and bathed it in blood in defence of the principle that all men have an inalienable right to liberty; that they are born free and equal. Such a nation proclaiming such a principle and fighting in the defence of it, standing with its proud foot on the neck of three millions of crushed and prostrate slaves! O horrible! This a less evil to the world than emancipation or even than the dismemberment of our hypocritical union! "O shame, where is thy blush!" The prosecution of a war unjustly engaged in a less evil than repentance and restitution? It is impossible. Honesty is always and necessarily the best policy. Nations are bound by the same law as individuals. If they have done wrong it is always duty and honorable for them to repent, confess, and make restitution. To adopt the maxim, "Our country right or wrong,' and to sympathise with the government 'in the prosecution of a war unrighteously waged must involve the guilt of murder. To adopt the maxim, "Our union even with perpetual slavery," is an abomination so execrable as not to be named by a just mind without indignation.
4.The same principles apply to governmental sabbath desecration. The Sabbath is plainly a Divine Institution founded in the necessities of human beings. The letter of the law of the Sabbath forbids all labor of every kind, and under all
circumstances on that day. But, as has been said in a former lecture, the spirit of the law of the Sabbath, being identical with the law of benevolence, sometimes requires the violation of the letter of the law. Both governments and individuals may, and it is their duty to do, on the Sabbath, whatever is plainly required by the great law of benevolence. But nothing more, absolutely. No human legislature can nullify the moral law. No human legislation can make it right or lawful to violate any command of God. All human enactments requiring or sanctioning the violation of any command of God are not only null and void, but they are a blasphemous usurpation and invasion of the prerogatives of God.
5. The same principles apply to slavery. No human constitution or enactment can, by any possibility, be law that recognizes the right of one human being to enslave another in a sense that implies selfishness on the part of the slaveholder. Selfishness is wrong per se. It is therefore always and unalterably wrong. No enactment, human or Divine, can legalize selfishness and make it right, under any conceivable circumstances. Slavery or any other evil, to be a crime, must imply selfishness. It must imply a violation of the command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." If it implies a breach of this, it is wrong invariably and necessarily, and no legislation or any thing else can make it right. God can not authorize it. The Bible can not sanction it, and if both God and the Bible were to sanction it, it could not be lawful. God's arbitrary will is not law. The moral law, as we have seen, is as independent of his will as his own necessary existence is. He can not alter or repeal it. He could not sanctify selfishness and make it right. Nor can any book be received as of Divine authority that sanctions selfishness. God and the Bible quoted to sustain and sanctify slaveholding in a sense implying selfishness! "Tis blasphemous! That slaveholding, as it exists in this country, implies selfishness at least, in almost all instances, is too plain to need proof. The sinfulness of slaveholding and war, in almost all cases, and in every case where the terms slaveholding and war are used in their popular signification, will appear irresistible, if we consider that sin is selfishness, and that all selfishness is necessarily sinful. Deprive a human being of liberty who has been guilty of no crime! Rob him of himself-his body-his soul-his time and his earnings to promote the interest of his master, and attempt to justify this on the principles of moral law! It is the greatest absurdity, and the most revolting wickedness.