THE EVILS OF WAR
 

by Archibald Alexander


No one in his senses can believe that it is a right thing for men to destroy each others' lives. For a man to shed the blood of his brother, is murder: to shed the blood of hundreds, is murder on a large scale. There is no excuse for war, but dire necessity. As long as possible, every nation should avoid war; but a state of warfare may be forced on a nation. Self-defense is the first law of our nature; and is a duty. On the contrary principle, the lawless and violent would have everything in their own hands, and the virtuous and peaceable would be the prey of the wicked. But still, it is an evident truth, that every case in which human life is taken in war, is a case of murder; some people must be accountable for the shedding of all the blood which is spilled. And if this be so, then that nation which, without sufficient reason, commences a war, or provokes a war, has an awful responsibility resting on it; and so also when a war is in progress, that nation which refuses to make peace, or insists on unreasonable conditions, is guilty of all the blood which may be shed, and all the misery produced. Disguise it as we may, a battle-field exhibits a shocking scene to the moral feelings. Suppose there never had been any account of war in the history of nations, what would be our feelings in reading an account of a bloody battle?

But the loss of human life is not the only evil consequence of war: many families are left destitute of the support and guidance of their natural heads, and are thrown upon an unpitying world in a state of helplessness. See the widowed mother a family of young children. Were she alone, she might make out to struggle through the world; but when she looks upon her dear babes, her heart sinks, and she is ready to give herself up to despair. Military glory is a poor compensation for her loss; and the honors bestowed on the dead are a poor solace for a broken heart. These remarks relate to all wars; they are a horrible evil, wherever the guilt may lie.

The moral effects of war are also most deplorable. Men employed as soldiers commonly become exceedingly profane, and reckless of their conduct.

The writer is old enough to remember the evils brought into a quiet village, by the return of a number of disbanded soldiers, after the war of the Revolution. These men, having been habituated to a soldier's life, were averse to labor, and as long as they had anything to spend, they met in companies to drink and swear and fight, to the annoyance of the neighborhood. And even the return of the officers was not favorable to the cause of sobriety and purity. They now wished for scenes of fashionable amusement, such as they had enjoyed in the army. Cards and dancing were introduced into a society where such amusements had been almost entirely unknown. Teachers of dancing were now in demand, and the attention of the young was much occupied with this fascinating amusement. Domestic order was frequently interrupted, and family religion rendered odious to the young. Pious parents could not restrain their own children, and many professors were led astray by the opinion that these social meetings were harmless, and tended to rub off the rusticity of the young, and to give a polish to their manners. One consequence of these things was, that the church was brought into a cold and languishing state. The young manifested a great aversion to religion, and for years none of them applied for admission to the church. Discipline was exercised, but public opinion being strongly against it, it failed in most instances of effecting the desired end. Had matters remained in this village in the state into which they had been brought by the means mentioned, religion would soon have become extinct, for it seemed to be confined to a few aged people. But it pleased God after a few years to revive religion in that place, and many were converted from the error of their ways, and were added to the church.

The writer expresses no opinion respecting the necessity of the war in which our country is engaged, (1847.) He is no politician, and does not pretend to understand the reasons on which our government acts in the present contest; but of one thing he is fully persuaded, that war is a fearful calamity and a heavy judgment from God on any nation, whether it be entered on for sufficient or insufficient reasons. And as it is much easier to draw the sword than to return it to its scabbard, we may find much trouble and inconvenience before we can bring this contest to a safe and honorable conclusion. As far as we know, our government is solicitous to obtain peace, but our enemies seem not likely to concur in these pacific views.

In these circumstances, the Christian people of this land should unite in earnest prayer that God would remove from our country the pressure of this heavy judgment. God may have seen that we needed chastisement, and therefore permitted this fierce contest to take place, by which so many precious lives have been lost to their country and to their families. As in some churches days of prayer have been appointed, let all who know how to pray, and believe in the efficacy of prayer, join in supplicating the throne of grace for mercy, and for the removal of this heavy judgment. Let them cry, "Spare your people, O Lord," and restore peace to our country, which has already expended so much blood and treasure.