Page images

mund; whether it should pay tribute to Philip, or to Louis. This is that great and mighty right, for the establishment of which, the whole world is to be involved in one scene of war, confusion, and bloodshed. But be it so; let this right be estimated as highly as you please; let there be no difference between the right to a man’s private farm and to the public state; no difference between cattle bought with your own money, and men, not only born free, but become Christians; yet it would be the part of a wise man to weigh well in his mind, whether this right is of so much value as that he ought to prosecute it, at the expense of that immensity of calamities, which must be brought, by the prosecution of it, on his own people, on those who are placed under his tutelary care, and for whose good he wears the crown. If, in forming this estimate, you cannot display the generosity of a truly princely character, yet at least show us the shrewdness of a cunning tradesman, that knows and pursues his own interest. The tradesman despises a loss, if he sees it cannot be avoided without a greater loss; and sets it down as clear gain, if he can escape a dangerous risk at a trifling expense. There is a trite little story that exhibits an example in private life, which it might not be amiss to follow, when the state is in danger of involving itself in war. There were two near relations, who could not agree on the division of some property which devolved to them; neither of them would yield to the other, and there seemed to be no possibility of avoiding a suit at law, and leaving the matter to be decided by the verdict of a jury. Counsel were retained, the process commenced, and the whole affair was in the hands of the lawyers. The cause was just on the point of being brought on, or, in other words, war was declared. At this period, one of the parties sent for his opponent, and addressed him to the following purpose: “In the first place,” said he, “it is certainly unbecoming (to speak in the most tender terms of it) that two persons united like us by nature, should be dissevered by interest. In the second place, the event of a law-suit is no less uncertain than the event of war. To engage in it, indeed, is in our own power; to put an end to it, is not so. Now the whole matter in dispute is one hundred pieces of gold. Twice that sum must be expended on notaries, on attornies, on counsellors, on the judges, and their friends, if we go to law about it. We must court, flatter, and fee them; not to mention the trouble of dancing attendance, and paying our most obsequious respects to them. In a word, there is more costs than worship in the business, more harm than good, and therefore I hope this consideration will weigh with you to give up all thoughts of a law-suit. Let us be wise for ourselves, rather than those plunderers; and the money that would be ill-bestowed on them, let us divide between ourselves. Do you give me one moiety from your share, and I will give you the same from mine. Thus we shall be clear gainers in point of love and friendship, which we should otherwise lose; and we shall escape all the trouble. But if you do not choose to yield any thing to me, why then, and in that case, I cheerfully resign the whole to you, and you shall do just as you please with it. I had rather the money should be in the hands of a friend, than in the clutches of those insatiable robbers. I shall have made profit enough by the bargain, if I shall have saved my character, kept my friend, and avoided the plague of a law-suit.” The justice of these remarks, and the good humour

with which they were made, overcame the adversary. They therefore settled the business between themselves, and left the poor lawyers in a rage, gaping like so many rooks for the prey that had just escaped their hungry maws.

In the infinitely more hazardous concerns of war, let statesmen condescend to imitate this instance of discretion. Let them not view merely the object which they wish to obtain, bút how great a loss of good things, how many and great dangers, and what dreadful calamities they are sure of incurring, in trying to obtain it; and if they find, upon holding the scales with an even hand, and carefully weighing the advantages with the disadvantages, that peace, even with some circumstances of injustice, is better than a just war, why should they choose to risk the die of battle? Who, but a madman, would angle for a vile fish with a hook of gold ? If they see much more loss than gain in balancing the account, even on the supposition that every thing happens fortunately, would it not be better to recede a little from their strict and rigorous right, than to purchase a little advantage at the high price of evils at once undefined and innumerable? Let the possessors keep their, obsolete claims and titles unmolested, if I cannot. dispute them without so great a loss of Christian blood! The reigning prince has probably possessed his doubtful right many years; he has accustomed his people to his reins; he is known and acknowledged by them ; he is executing the princely functions; and shall some pretender start up, and having found an old title, in antiquated chronicles or musty parchments, go and disturb the state that is quietly settled, and turn every thing, as the phrase is, topsy-turvy ? especially, when we see that there is nothing among mortals which remains fixed and

stable; but every thing in its turn becomes the sport of fortune, and ebbs and flows like the tide. What end can it answer to claim, with such mischievous and tumultuary proceedings, what, after it is claimed and obtained, will soon change hands, and find its way to another claimant, and to some unborn proprietor?

But supposing Christians unable to despise, as they certainly ought, such trifles, yet why, on the breaking out of a dispute, must they rush instantly to arms? The world has so many grave and learned bishops, so many venerable churchmen of all ranks, so many grey-headed grandees, whom long experience has rendered sage, so many councils, so many senates, certainly instituted by our ancestors for some useful purpose; why is not recourse had to their authority, and the childish quarrels of princes settled by their wise and decisive arbitration ?

But more respect is paid to the specious language of the princes themselves, who cry out, “ Religion is in danger,” and that they go to war to defend the church; as if the people at large were 'not the prince's church; or as if the whole dignity or value of the church consisted in the revenues of the priesthood; or, as if the church rose, flourished, and be came firmly established in the world by war and slaughter; and not rather by the blood of the martyrs, by bearing and forbearing, and by a contempt for life, in competition with duty and conscience.

I, for one, do not approve the frequent holy wars which we make upon the Turks.

the Turks. Ill would it fare with the Christian religion if its preservation in the world depended on such support; nor is it reasonable to believe that good Christians will ever be made by such initiation into their religion as force and slaughter. What is gained to the cause by the



sword, may in its turn be lost by the sword. Would you convert the Turks to Christianity? show them not your riches, your troops of soldiers, your power to conquer, your pretended title to their dominions; but show them the infallible credentials of a Christian, an innocent life, a desire to do good even to enemies, an invincible patience under all kinds of injuries, a contempt for money, a disregard of glory, a life itself little valued; and then point out to them the heaventaught doctrine which leads to such a conduct, and requires such a life: these are the arms by which unbelievers are best subdued. As we now go on, we engage in the field of battle on equal terms, the wicked with the wicked, and our religion is no better than their own. I will say more, and I wish I said it with greater boldness than truth: if we drop the name of Christians and the banner of the cross, we are no better than Turks fighting against our brother Turks. If our religion was instituted by troops of soldiers, established by the sword, and disseminated by war, then indeed let us go on to defend it by the same means by which it was introduced and propagated. But if, on the contrary, it was begun, established, and disseminated by methods totally different, why do we have recourse, as if we were afraid to rely on the aid of Christ, to the practices of the poor heathens, for succour and defence of the Christian cause? But the objector repeats, “Why may I not go and cut the throats of those who would cut our throats if they could 2* Do you then consider it as a disgrace that any should be wickeder than you ? Why do you not go and rob thieves? they would rob you if they could. Why do you not revile them that revile you? Why do you not hate them that hate you? - - - s

« PreviousContinue »