Jesse Kersey

Philadelphia: Emmor Kimbor, 1815. Pages 93-101.

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[P. 93] The Society of Friends believe that all wars and fightings, whether offensive or defensive, are contrary to the peaceable Spirit of Christ, and therefore not lawful for Christians. If a religion which has for its object the redemption of fallen man from under the dominion of corrupt passions and dispositions did not forbid wars and fightings, if it could even suppose a case, either national or individual, which could not be settled among its followers without an appeal to arms, such a religion, in the opinion of Friends, would be unworthy of the name of Christ. A main pillar in the [P. 94] Gospel is the Spirit of non-resistance without this Spirit the whole ground of Christianity would be lost a principle which calls upon his followers to love enemies, to forgive injuries, and when we are smitten upon one cheek, to turn the other also. The Saviour of the world did not only deliver such precepts, he also confirmed them by example because, though he had all power in heaven and in earth, yet he submitted to the unrighteous decision of the Jews, and bore, without resistance, to be nailed to the cross; setting us an example that we should follow his footsteps. We therefore believe that he has not left his followers at liberty to enter the field of blood and destruction. That we are to endure, with unconquerable patience, and leave our cause to the decision of a righteous judge. Praying for those who may injure us, after his blessed example when suffering upon the tree, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." But we are told, if this be the duty of Christians, if they are in no case to defend themselves against an enemy, not only nations, but individuals, would trample upon the right of each other. This is saying, in substance, that Christianity, if it does not allow of wars, will [P. 95] be a religion not suitable for man, and consequently ought to be rejected. Those who reason thus, are not to be spoken to as Christiansif they are spoken to on the subject, it must be without any claim on their part to Christianity; and with such, the author has no prospect of reasoning here. But all those who lay claim to the Christian religion, he conceives, must believe that wars and fightings are contrary to the Spirit of Christ, who has informed us, "My Kingdom is not of this world; if my Kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight." John 1836. I am aware that many just observations and reasonings have already appeared against wars and fightings; and it therefore does not seem necessary to say much upon the subject. But when I consider the warlike measures which singularly engage the councils of nations, and the dependence which seems every where placed upon human force, and contrast this with what Christianity calls for, I am convinced that much more is necessary to be done, before this dark cloud will be removed from the professors of Christianity. I see no reason to expect its removal, until men shall weary themselves with their own deceivings. The [P. 96] probability is, that there will be wars and rumors of wars, and that, in a national point of view, the end is not yet. But I believe there are some in most countries, who are redeemed from the spirit of war, and I doubt not there are those who will submit to suffer any persecution that the governments of this world, in the darkness of human policy, may inflict upon them, rather than stain their hands in human blood. I feel concerned, while writing upon this important testimony, that the religious Society of which I am a member, may look well to its conduct in all respects on this subject. My fears have been, that many are in danger of departing from the true ground of this testimony. Those only will stand, in a time of trial, who have placed their confidence in the all-sufficient arm of the Almighty; and who have no dependence upon the arm of flesh; who know that the Kingdom of their Divine Master is not of this worldand who themselves are redeemed from the love of it, and prefer his cause to all other considerations. Such will be kept free from all the measures of war, and endeavour to lead quiet and peaceable lives among men, in all godliness .and honesty. Neither will they be tossed about [P. 97] by any of the changes that are going on in the worldbut being satisfied with the peace of God in their own souls, they will lean upon him, not daring to mix with any thing but what they know proceeds from the Light and Spirit of Truth. But when the affections of men fasten upon worldly possessions, they are in danger of mixing with the policy and Spirit of the times, and often the steps they take to promote their own selfish ends, are contrary to the benign purpose of Him who regards with an equal eye all the nations of the earth. Hence, such become instrumental in hastening the very troubles they meant to guard against. As we have professed to own the Spirit of Truth for our guide, and by its influence to be led out of every thing which is not conformable to it, I have seen that the day calls for great watchfulness, and that without it, though we profess to have a testimony against war, we may give our strength and countenance in favour of measures, the remote tendency whereof may be to shed the blood of our sons in the field of battle. Under these considerations my mind has often been exercised, and I have been desirous that some way might open to call the attention of my [P. 98] fellow professors, and invite them to stand separate from every thing which has not its Life in the Life of Truth. Until this is the case, we shall feel weak in maintaining the dignified testimony to the peaceable Spirit of the Gospel of Christ; in whose Gospel and power, the prophet Daniel saw the saints of the Most High standing, saying one to another, how long shall these things be. They were not mixed with the multitude, but were trusting in the Lord. Under these considerations, I have felt desires that all might come out of the wisdom of the creaturely will, believing that though there may be many things admitted by this wisdom, which may appear founded in equity, and due from man to man, yet that the government of men, both in a national and individual capacity, is the ultimate and sovereign right of the Almighty, and that the establishment of peace on earth call never be expected, until the rule and dominion is surrendered up to him. Then will that Kingdom be set up, both individually and in the world, in which the same enlightened prophet saw. "And in the days of these kings, shall the God of heaven set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the Kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and [P. 99] consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." Dan. 244. While the pride of man continues to usurp the government, and his will and wisdom dictate the measures to be adopted, the effect will be what this fallen wisdom ever has produced. But when that Kingdom shall be set up, which is already begun in the souls of many people, it shall remove the Spirit of war, and establish in the room thereof, the peaceful reign of the Messiah. As members of this Kingdom, which the Lord designs to exalt, what have such to do with any other, but to be examples of the peaceable government of Christ? Therefore, let all those who profess to be his subjects, and who believe in his Lamb-like, suffering nature, beware how they mar his work in their own souls, and retard its progress in the earth, lest they stumble and fall, and lose that inheritance in his Light and Truth, to which they are called.

But some will say, that if this be the profession of Friends, they are against all civil government, and look for the Kingdom and government of Christ to do all things, to answer all ends and purposes. To such I would observe, that the foundation of Christian [P. 100] government stands upon the ground of conviction, convincement, and good will to men and that I know of no constitution or government in the world that, at this day, agrees with Christianity they all make provision for war, they all complete their ends by force. And therefore, it becomes a people who cannot act upon opposite principles, to be on their guard how they connect themselves with the measures of government. The Christian may live in the world, he may comply with all the commands of government, either actively or passively, and there is nothing to fear from him, if he be a Christian. And if all men were Christians, the principles of civil government would be changed from compulsion to consent, the subjects from force to submission without it. But I may be told, all men are not Christians, therefore force is necessary to protect Christians. This consequence will not follow; for a Christian is like a plant in the earth, he stands till he is cut down; or in other words, his stay on earth is wholly submitted to the will of his Creator; and because his Creator has forbidden the exercise of force, he knows that it is not the will of his Lord that he should resort to it, even when he [P. 101] cannot stand without it. He is removed from the world, he has made no resistance, he dies in peace; therefore, by the power of non-resistance, he is made victorious; and this is our victory, even our faith. And thus it is, that the Lamb and his followers are unconquerable, because they never strive. All, therefore, who take this ground, are members of the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace; they are redeemed from war, and the occasions that lead to it, and stand in that Spirit which is of God, and which is willing, like him, that blessings should flow upon the evil and upon the good.

I have confidence that the day is fast approaching, when, according to the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah, "he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isaiah 24 and Micah 44. But there will be a qualification to say one to another, "come, let us walk in the Light of the Lord." Isaiah 25.

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