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port the meaning of the scriptural passages which they produce in favour of their tener
The Quakers, then, lay it down as a position, that the Christians of the first and second centuries, as we have already observed, gave the same interpretation as they themselves give of the passages in question,
Now they say, first, that if there were any words or expressions in the original manuscripts of the Evangelists or Apostles, which inight throw light upon the meaning of these or other passages on the same subject, but which words and expressions were not in the copies which came after, then many of those, who lived in the first and second centuries, had advantages with respect to knowledge on this subject, which their successors, had not, inasmuch as the former were soon afterwards lost.
They say, secondly, that if there was any thing in tradition, which might help to explain these passages more satisfactorily, those of the first and second centuries had advans tages, again, because they lived nearer to these traditions, or to the time when they.
were more pure, than those Christians, who succeeded them.
They say, thirdly, that if primitive practice be to be considered as the best interpreter of the passages in question, then those of the first and second centuries had their advantages, again, because many of them lived in the times of the Evangelists and Apostles, and all of them nearer to those, who succeeded the Evangelists and Apostles, than those in the subsequent ages of the Christian æra.
But a direct inference, they conceive, is to be drawn from these premises ; namely, that the opinions of those, who lived in the first and second centuries, relative to the meaning of the passages in question are likely to be more correct, on these several accounts, than those of Christians in
of the ages
that followed. And as in the first and second centuries of the Church, when Christianity was purest, there were no Christian soldiers ; but as in the fourth century, when it became corrupt, Christians had lost their objections to a military life; they conceive the opinions of the former to be more correct than those of the latter, because the opinions of real Christians, willing to make any sacrifice for their religion, must be always less biassed and more pure than those of persons calling themselves Christians, but yet submitting to the idolatrous and other corrupt practices of the world.
And as they conceive this to be true of the opinions of the second century, when compared with those of the fourth, so they conceive it to be true of the opinions of the second, when compared with those of the moderns upon this subject; because, whatever our progress in Christianity may be, seeing that it is not equal to that of the first Christiảns, it is certain, besides the distance of time, that we have prejudices arising from the practice of fourteen centuries, during all which time it has been held out, except by a few individuals, as lawful for Christians to fight.
Reflections of the Author on the foregoing subject
Case of a Superior Being supposed, who should reside in the planet nearest to us, and see war carried on by men no larger than the race of ents -his inquiry as to the origin of these wars--their duration--and other circumstances---supposed answers to these questions--new arguments from this supposed conversation against war.
I have now stated the principal arguments, by which the Quakers are induced to believe it to be a doctrine of Christianity that men should abstain from war; and I intended to close the subject in the last section. But when I consider the frequency of modern wars,—when I consider that they åre scarcely over before others rise up in their place ;-when I consider, again, that they come like the common diseases, which belong to our infirm nature, and that they are considered by men nearly in a similar light,I should feel myself criminal, if I were not to avail myself of the privilege of an author to add a few observations of my own upon this subject.
Living as we do in an almost inaccessible island, and having therefore more than ordinary means of security to our property and our persons from hostile invasion, we do not seem to be sufficiently grateful to the Divine Being for the blessings we enjoy. We do not seem to make a right use of our benefits, by contemplating the situation, and by feeling a tender anxiety for the happiness, of others. We seem to make no proper estimates of the miseries of war. The latter we feel principally in abridgements of a pecuniary nature. But if we were to feel them in the conflagration of our towns and villages, or in personal wounds, or in the personal sufferings of fugitive misery and want, we should be apt to put a greater value than we do upon the blessings of we should be apt to consider the connection between war and misery, and between war and moral evil, in a light so much stronger than we do at present, that we might even suppose the precepts of Jesus Christ to be deficient, unless they were made to extend to wars as well as to private injuries.
I wonder what a Superior Being, living in the nearest planet to our earth, and seeing