Cultural Psychology

Thomas Chalmers — On Christians Working Together to End War

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Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847), ‘Thoughts on Universal Peace (Section 3).  In: Works of Thomas Chalmers.  Philadelphia: Towar, 1830 (pp. 295–303).  This is an example of the remarkable 19th century anti-war literature that awaits rediscovery by modern readers. More examples can be found in The Book of Peace (1845) and on my website.

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III. I trust it is evident from all that has been said, how it is only by the extension of Christian principle among the people of the earth, that the atrocities of war will at length be swept away from it; and that each of us in hastening the commencement of that blissful period, in his own sphere, is doing all that in him lies to bring his own heart, and the hearts of others, under the supreme influence of this principle.  It is public opinion, which in the long run governs the world; and while I look with confidence to a gradual revolution in the state of public opinion from the omnipotence of gospel truth working its silent, but effectual way, through the families of mankind — yet I will not deny that much may be done to accelerate the advent of perpetual and universal peace, by a distinct body of men embarking their every talent, and their every acquirement in the prosecution of this, as a distinct object…. Were each individual member of such a scheme to prosecute his own walk, and come forward with his own peculiar contribution, the fruit of the united labours of all would be one of the finest collections of Christian eloquence, and of enlightened morals, and of sound political philosophy, that ever was presented to the world. I could not fasten on another cause more fitted to call forth such a variety of talent, and to rally around it so many of the generous and accomplished sons [sic] of humanity, and to give each of them a devotedness, and a power far beyond whatever could be sent into the hearts of enthusiasts, by the mere impulse of literary ambition.

Let one take up the question of war in its principle, and make the full weight of his moral severity rest upon it, and upon all its abominations. Let another take up the question of war in its consequences, and bring his every power of graphical description to the task of presenting an awakened public with an impressive detail of its cruelties and its horrors. Let another neutralize the poetry of war, and dismantle it of all those bewitching splendours, which the hand of misguided genius has thrown over it.

Let another teach the world a truer, and more magnanimous path to national glory, than any country of the world has yet walked in. Let another tell with irresistible argument, how the Christian ethics of a nation is at one with the Christian ethics of, its humblest individual.

Let another bring all the resources of his political science to unfold the vast energies of defensive war, and show, that instead of that ceaseless jealousy and disquietude, which are ever keeping alive the flame of hostility among the nations, each may wait in prepared security, till the first footstep of an invader shall be the signal for mustering around the standard of its outraged rights, all the steel, and spirit, and patriotism of the country.

Let another pour the light of modern speculation into the mysteries of trade and prove that not a single war has been undertaken for any of its objects, where the millions and the millions more which were lavished on the cause, have not all been cheated away from us by the phantom of an imaginary interest.

This may look to many like the Utopianism of a romantic anticipation — but I shall never despair of the cause of truth addressed to a Christian public, when the clear light of principle can be brought to every one of its positions, and when its practical and conclusive establishment forms one of the most distinct of Heaven’s prophecies — “that men shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks — and that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn the art of war any more.”


Written by John Uebersax

December 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm

One Response

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