by Adin Ballou
Different kinds of Non-Resistance – The term Non-Resistance – The term Force – The term injury – The term Christian Non-Resistance and its derivation – The key text of Non-Resistance – Necessary applications of Non-Resistance – What a Christian Non-Resistant cannot consistently do – The principle and sub-principle of Non-Resistance – The conclusion.
Different Kinds of Non-Resistance
What is Christian Non-Resistance? It is that original, peculiar kind of non-resistance, which was enjoined and exemplified by Jesus Christ, according to the scriptures of the New Testament. Are there other kinds of non-resistance? Yes. 1. Philosophical non-resistance of various hues, which sets at naught divine revelation, disregards the authority of Jesus Christ as a divine teacher, excludes all strictly religious considerations, and deduces its conclusions from the light of nature, the supposed fitness of things, and the expediency of consequences. 2. Sentimental non-resistance, also of various hues, which is held to be the spontaneous dictate of man’s higher sentiments in the advanced stages of his development, transcending all special divine revelations, positive instructions, ratiocinations, and considerations of expediency. 3. Necessitous non-resistance, commonly expressed in the phrase, “passive obedience and non-resistance,” imperiously preached by despots to their subjects, as their indispensable duty and highest virtue, also recommended by worldly prudence to the victims of oppression when unable to offer successful resistance to their injurers. With this last mentioned kind, Christian non-resistance has nothing in common. With philosophical and sentimental non-resistance it holds much in common; being, in fact, the divine original of which they are human adulterations, and embracing all the good of both without the evils of either. This treatise is an illustration and defense of Christian non-resistance, properly so designated.
The Term Non-Resistance
The term non-resistance itself next demands attention. It requires very considerable qualifications. I use it as applicable only to the conduct of human beings towards human beings – not towards the inferior animals, inanimate things, or satanic influences. If an opponent, willing to make me appear ridiculous, should say, “You are a non-resistant, and therefore must be passive to all assailing beings, things and influences – to Satan, men, beasts, birds, serpents, insects, rocks, timbers, fires, floods, heat, cold and storm,” I should answer, “Not so”. My non-resistance relates solely to conduct between human beings. This is an important limitation of the term. But I go further, and disclaim using the term to express absolute passivity, even towards human beings. I claim the right to offer the utmost moral resistance, not sinful, of which God has made me capable, to every manifestation of evil among mankind. Nay, I hold it my duty to offer such moral resistance. In this sense my very non-resistance becomes the highest kind of resistance to evil. This is another important qualification of the term. But I do not stop here. There is an un-injurious, benevolent physical force. There are cases in which it would not only be allowable, but in the highest degree commendable, to restrain human beings by this kind of force. Thus, maniacs, the insane, the delirious sick, ill natured children, the intellectually or morally non‑compos mentis, the intoxicated, and the violently passionate are frequently disposed to perpetrate outrages and inflict injuries, either on themselves or others, which ought to be kindly and un-injuriously prevented by the muscular energy of their friends. And in cases where deadly violence is inflicted with deliberation and malice aforethought, one may nobly throw his body as a temporary barrier between the destroyer and his helpless victim, choosing to die in that position, rather than be a passive spectator. Thus another most important qualification is given to the term non-resistance. It is not non-resistance to animals and inanimate things, nor to Satan, but only to human beings. Nor is it moral non-resistance to human beings, but chiefly physical. Nor is it physical non-resistance to all human beings, under-all circumstances, but only so far as to abstain totally from the infliction of personal injury, as a means of resistance. It is simply non-resistance of injury with injury – evil with evil.
The opponent will exclaim, “This is no non-resistance at all; the term is mischosen!” I answer. So said the old opponents of the Temperance Reformation, respecting the term “total abstinence.” They began by insisting that the term must be taken unqualifiedly, and pronounced total abstinence an absurdity. It was replied, “We limit its application to the use of ardent spirits and intoxicating liquors.” “Then you exclude these substances from the arts and from external applications, do you?” rejoined the opponents. ‘“No,” replied the advocates of the cause, “we mean total abstinence from the internal use – the drinking of those liquors.” “ But are they not sometimes necessary for medical purposes,” said the opponents, “and then may they not betaken internally?” “Certainly, with proper precautions,” was the reply. “We mean by total abstinence, precisely this and no more – the entire disuse of all ardent spirits and intoxicating liquors, as a beverage.” “That,” exclaimed the objectors (despairing of a reductio ad absurdam), “is no total abstinence at all; the term is mischosen!” Nevertheless, it was a most significant term. It had in it an almost talismanic power. It expressed better than any other just what was meant, and wrought a prodigious change in public opinion and practice. The term non-resistance is equally significant and talismanic. It signifies total abstinence from all resistance of injury with injury. It is thus far non-resistance – no farther.
The almost universal opinion and practice of mankind has been on the side of resistance of injury with injury. It has been held justifiable and necessary, for individuals and nations to inflict any amount of injury that would effectually resist a supposed greater injury. The consequence has been universal suspicion, defiance, armament, violence, torture, and bloodshed. The earth has been rendered a vast slaughter-field – a theatre of reciprocal cruelty and vengeance – strewn with human skulls, reeking with human blood, resounding with human groans, and steeped with human tears. Men have become drunk with mutual revenge; and they who could inflict the greatest amount of injury, in pretended defense of life, honor, rights, property, institutions, and laws, have been idolized as the heroes and rightful sovereigns of the world. Non-resistance explodes this horrible delusion; announces the impossibility of overcoming evil with evil; and, making its appeal directly to all the injured of the human race, enjoins on them, in the name of God, never more to resist injury with injury; assuring them that by adhering to the law of love under all provocations, and scrupulously suffering wrong rather than inflicting it, they shall gloriously “overcome evil with good,” and exterminate all their enemies by turning them into faithful friends.
The Term Force
Having thus qualified and defined the term non-resistance, it would seem proper to do the same with several others, frequently made use of in the discussion of our general subject. One of these terms is force. Non-resistants, like others, have been in the habit of using this and similar terms too loosely; thereby giving needless occasion for misunderstanding, on the part of the uninformed, and misrepresentation on the part of interested opponents. The word force is thus defined by Walker: “strength, vigor, might, violence, virtue, efficacy, validness, power of law, armament, warlike preparations, destiny, necessity, fatal compulsion.” Now if we should use the word force, as the contrary of non-resistance, without any qualification, the idea would be conveyed that non-resistance was identical with absolute passivity, and that it necessarily excluded all kinds and degrees of force, under all circumstances whatsoever. The generic meaning of the term force is “strength, vigor, might,” whether physical or moral. Thus we may speak of the force of love, the force of truth, the force of public opinion, the force of moral suasion, the force of non-resistance. Or we may speak of the force of gravitation, the force of cohesion, the force of repulsion, etc. Or, in relation to the muscular force of human beings, we may speak of benevolent force, kind force, un-injurious force; meaning thereby, various applications of muscular strength for the purpose of preventing human beings committing on themselves or others some injury; in which prevention no personal injury is inflicted, but real kindness and benefit done to all parties concerned. As non-resistance is not identical with absolute passivity but allows, implies and requires various kinds and degrees of moral and physical “strength,” according to circumstances, the term force must not be used as its converse unless it is with such qualifications, or in such a connection, as will give it some one of its conventional significations, so that it shall mean violence, warlike force, positive vengeance, destructive force – in other words, INJURIOUS FORCE. Injurious force of all kinds and degrees, between human beings, is incompatible with non-resistance. Such are the qualifications with which the term force will be used in this work. The term moral force will be understood, from the preceding remarks, as synonymous with moral power – the effective influence of moral “strength, vigor, might.” Physical force, as distinguished from moral force, is a term used to express the idea of material force, the action of one body on another, compelling the weaker to yield to the stronger by mere animal strength or mechanical power. As moral force may be either good or evil, injurious or un-injurious, according to its kind, its object, its spirit, or its manner of application; so may physical force be good or evil, injurious or un-injurious, according to the same considerations. When a licentious man corrupts the mind of an innocent youth by bad examples, bad counsel, bad maxims, and other evil influences, in which there is no physical force, he exerts a most injurious moral force. He demoralizes the principles and habits of one, whom he ought to encourage and confirm in virtue. When a good man converts a sinner from the error of his ways, by good examples, counsels, maxims, and other purifying influences, he exerts a most beneficent and salutary moral force. So when a man by physical force destroys or impairs the life, intellect, moral sentiment, or absolute welfare of a human being, he uses an injurious physical force. But in restraining a madman from outrage, or holding a delirious sick person on the bed, or compelling an ill-natured child to desist from tearing out the hair of a weaker brother, or interposing his body and muscular strength to prevent rape, or any similar act, wherein he does no one a real injury, while he renders to some or all the parties concerned a real benefit, he uses a rightful, un-injurious, physical force.
The Term Injury
I use this term in a somewhat peculiar sense, to signify any moral influence or physical force exerted by one human being upon another, the legitimate effect of which is to destroy or impair life, to destroy or impair the physical faculties, to destroy or impair the intellectual powers, to destroy, impair or pervert the moral and religious sentiment, or to destroy or impair the absolute welfare, all things considered, of the person on whom such influence or force is exerted, whether that person is innocent or guilty, harmless or offensive, injurious or un-injurious, sane or insane, compos mentis or non-compos, adult or infant. Some of the lexicographers define an “injury” to be “hurt, harm or mischief, unjustly done to a person”; thereby implying that any hurt, harm or mischief done to one who deserves nothing better, or can be considered as justly liable to it, is no injury at all. I reject entirely every such qualification of the term. I hold an injury to be an injury, whether deserved or undeserved, whether intended or unintended, whether well meant or ill meant, determining the fact in accordance with the foregoing definition. But, says the inquirer, “What if it can be proved justifiable, by the law of God, to inflict personal injury in certain cases on the offensive and guilty?” Then, of course, it will be proved that non-resistance is a false doctrine. “What if it can be proved that the infliction of small injuries may prevent much greater evils?” Then it will be proved that we may do evil that good may come, which will forever keep the world just where it is. “What if it can be shown that the person who inflicts an injury honestly intended it for a benefit?” That will only prove him honestly mistaken, and so undeserving of blame. “What if a man inflicts death or any other injury according to established human laws, but does it without malice, or revenge, or any malevolent intent?” Then he does an anti-Christian act, without conscience as to its real nature. The act must be condemned; he must be credited for his motives; due allowance must be made for his misapprehension of duty; and light poured into his mind to superinduce a better conscience, that he may be brought to act the Christian part. But in no case must we lose sight of the inquiry, whether an injury has been done. And in determining this, we must not ask whether the recipient were guilty or innocent, whether the thing done were well or ill intended, whether it were done in a right or a wrong spirit. If it is in fact an injury, it is contrary to the doctrine of Christian non-resistance; and no person knowing it to be such can repeat it under any pretext whatsoever, without violating the law of God. This is the sense and signification of the terms injury, injurer, injurious, etc., as used in these pages. The objector may here interpose critical queries, with a view to test the soundness of my definition. He may suppose that a man’s leg, hand or eye, is so diseased as to require amputation in order to save his life. But such member is one of his physical faculties, which must not be destroyed or impaired, because that would be an injury. I answer. The diseased member is already lost. The question is not whether the friendly surgeon shall destroy or impair it, but only whether he shall amputate it, in order to preserve the life and remaining faculties. No injury, but an absolute benefit is proposed. This case is clear. But suppose the minister of the law is ordered to amputate a sound leg, hand, or eye, as a punishment, or for an example to deter others from the commission of crime. This is absolute injury, done under good pretexts indeed, but on that account none the less an injury. Again, a child dangerously sick requires some medical application, very disagreeable, yet indispensable to his recovery, which can only be applied by physical force. Or an insane adult is in the same circumstances. Or a person infected with hydrophobia, and subject to terrible paroxysms of the disease, needs to be confined; and yet for want of judgment, even in his intervals, refuses to be. Or a man subject to violent impulses of propensity or passion, rendering him dangerous to all around him when excited, needs to be excluded from general society, or otherwise watched and restrained by keepers in order to prevent serious mischief to others; and yet he resents and resists all entreaties to submit to such restriction. Or a wicked man is exceedingly alarmed, disturbed, and offended by a truthful exposure of his iniquitous proceedings, or by the faithful remonstrances and rebukes of some good man. Now in all such cases the will must be crossed, the personal freedom abridged, and the feelings pained. Must it not be an injury to coerce, restrain, expose, and reprove such persons, however necessary to their and the public good, and however kindly executed? Is it not generally more intolerable to be crossed in one’s will, and wounded in one’s feelings, than to be beaten, maimed and otherwise maltreated? Answer. It is not man’s imaginations, thoughts, and feelings that determine what is or is not injurious to him. Love itself may “heap coals of fire on a man’s head.” Truth may torment his mind. The most benevolent restraint may be painful to his feelings. He may be made, for a while, quite unhappy by crossing his evil will. He may prefer to be smitten and mutilated, rather than be exposed in his secret iniquities, or endure the faithful reproof of the upright. Such persons often prefer an injury to a benefit. They are not, for the time being, in a state of mind to understand and choose what is best for them. Therefore their wills, feelings, and opinions are not the indices of their own good – much less that of others. Is it good for a capricious, obstinate child to be indulged in opposing a necessary medical application? Is it good for an insane or delirious, sick adult to have his own will, even to the commission of murder and self-destruction? Is it good for a man to have unlimited freedom, when he will almost certainly make it a curse to himself and others, by gross involuntary outrage, or uncontrollable passion? Is it good for a wicked man, under specious hypocritical disguises, to perpetrate the most atrocious mischief, unexposed and unreproved? These things are not good for mankind. On the contrary, it is good for them to be crossed, restrained, coerced, and reproved, by all un-injurious moral and physical forces, which benevolence prompts and wisdom dictates. To cross their wills, and pain their feelings, by such means, under such circumstances, is not an injury, but a substantial good, to them and to all who are connected with them. It may be said, “These things cannot be done un-injuriously. It would be impracticable.” Cannot unreasonable children be nursed, delirious adults controlled, dangerously distempered people prevented from doing themselves and others harm, outrageous non-compos persons restrained, hypocrites exposed, and sinners reproved without inflicting injury on them? Then nothing good be can done without doing evil. Imperfection is indeed incidental to all human judgment and conduct; and therefore it is probable that some mistakes and some accidental injuries might happen. But the reason and common sense of mankind, once fairly pledged to the true principle of action, would seldom fail to discharge all these duties to general satisfaction. Still it may be asked, “What is to be done if un-injurious force should prove inadequate? May life be sacrificed, limbs broken, the flesh mangled, or any other injuries allowed in extreme cases?” Never. The principle of non-injury must be held inviolable. It is worth worlds, and must be preserved at all hazards. What cannot be done un-injuriously must be left undone. But these extreme cases are mostly imaginary. The truth is, that what cannot be done un-injuriously can scarcely ever be done at all. Or if done, had better have been let alone. Experience in the case of the insane has already proved that incomparably more can be done by un-injurious forces, scrupulously and judiciously employed, than by any admixtures of the injurious element. Presuming that my definition and use of the terms injure, injury, injurer, injurious, etc. cannot be misunderstood, I pass on.
The Term Christian Non-Resistance
Whence originated the term Christian non-resistance? Non-resistance comes from the injunction, “Resist not evil,” Matt. 5:39. The words “resist not,” being changed from the form of a verb to that of a substantive, give us non-resistance. This term is considered more strikingly significant than any other associated with the principle involved, and the duty enjoined in our Savior’s precept, hence its adoption and established use. It is denominated Christian non-resistance, to distinguish it, as the genuine primitive doctrine, from mere philosophical, sentimental, and necessitous non-resistance. Literally, then, Christian non-resistance is the original non-resistance taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ; the bearings, limitations, and applications of which are to be learned from the scriptures of the New Testament.
And what are those bearings, limitations, and applications? I have already given an imperfect view of them in the previous definitions. But I will be more explicit. What I aim at is to carry the obligations of non-resistance just as far and no farther than Jesus Christ has done. It is easy to go beyond, or to fall short of his limits. Ultra radicals go beyond him. Ultra conservatives fall short of him. Even those of both these classes, who profess to abide implicitly by his teachings, construe and interpret his language so as to favor their respective errors. The ultra radicals seize on strong figurative, hyperbolic, or intensive forms of expression, and make him seem to mean much more than he could have intended. The ultra conservatives ingeniously fritter away and nullify the very essence of his precepts, in such a manner as to make him seem to mean much less than he must have intended. There is, however, a general rule for such cases, which can scarcely fail to expose the errors of both classes, in respect to any given text. It is this: “Consider the context; consider parallel texts; consider examples; consider the known spirit of Christianity.” Any construction or interpretation of the recorded language of Christ, or of his apostles, in which all these concur, is sound. Any other is probably erroneous.
The Key Text of Non-Resistance
Now let us examine Matt. 5:39. “I say unto you, resist not evil…” This single text, from which, as has been stated, the term non-resistance took its rise, if justly construed, furnishes a complete key to the true bearings, limitations and applications of the doctrine under discussion. This is precisely one of those precepts that may be easily made to mean much more, or much less, than its author intended. It is in the intensive, condensed form of expression, and can be understood only by a due regard to its context. What did the divine Teacher mean by the word “evil,” and what by the word “resist?” There are several kinds of evil: 1. pain, loss, damage, suffered from causes involving no moral agency, or natural evil; 2. sin in general, or moral evil; 3. temptations to sin, or spiritual evil; and 4. personal wrong, insult, outrage, injury – or personal evil. Which of these kinds of evil does the context show to have been in our Savior’s mind when he said, “Resist not evil?” Was he speaking of fires, floods, famine, disease, serpents, wild beasts, or any other mere natural evil agent? No. Then of course he does not prohibit our resisting such evil. Was he speaking of sin in general? No. Then of course he does not prohibit our resisting such evil by suitable means. Was he speaking of temptations addressed to our propensities and passions, enticing us to commit sin? No. Then of course he does not prohibit our resisting the devil, withstanding the evil suggestions of our own carnal mind, and suppressing our evil lusts. Was he speaking of personal evil, injury personally inflicted by man on man? Yes. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’; but I say unto you that ye resist not evil,” i.e. personal outrage, insult, affront – injury. The word “evil” necessarily means, in this connection, personal injury or evil inflicted by human beings on human beings.
But what did Jesus mean by the words “Resist not”? There are various kinds of resistance, which may be offered to personal injury, when threatened or actually inflicted. There is passive resistance – a dead silence, a sullen inertia, a complete muscular helplessness, an utter refusal to speak or move. Does the context, show that Jesus contemplated, pro or con, any such resistance in his prohibition? No. There is an active, righteous, moral resistance – a meek, firm remonstrance, rebuke, reproof, and protestation. Does the connection show that Jesus prohibits this kind of resistance? No. There is an active, firm, compound, moral and physical resistance, un-injurious to the evil-doer, and only calculated to restrain him from deadly violence or extreme outrage. Was Jesus contemplating such modes of resisting personal injury? Does the context show that he intended to prohibit all resistance of evil by such means? No. There is a determined resistance of personal injury by means of injury inflicted; as when a man deliberately takes life to save life, destroys an assailant’s eye to save an eye, inflicts a violent blow to prevent a blow; or, as when, in retaliation, he takes life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, etc.; or, as when, by means of governmental agencies, he causes an injurious person to be punished by the infliction of some injury equivalent to the one he has inflicted or attempted. It was of such resistance as this that our Savior was speaking. It is such resistance as this that he prohibits. His obvious doctrine is: Resist not personal injury with personal injury. I shall have occasion to press this point more conclusively in the next chapter, when presenting my scriptural proofs. Enough has been said to determine the important bearings and limitations of the general doctrine. It bears on all mankind, in every social relation of life. It contemplates men as actually injured, or in imminent danger of being injured by their fellow men; and commands them to abstain from all personal injuries, either as a means of retaliation, self-defense, or suppression of injury. If smitten on the one cheek, they must submit the other to outrage, rather than smite back. If the life of their dearest friend has been taken, or an eye or a tooth thrust out, or any other wrong been done to themselves or their fellow men, they must not render evil for evil, or railing for railing, or hatred for hatred. But they are not prohibited from resisting, opposing, preventing, or counteracting the injuries inflicted, attempted or threatened by man on man, in the use of any absolutely un-injurious forces, whether moral or physical. On the contrary, it is their bounden duty, by all such benevolent resistances, to promote the safety and welfare, the holiness and happiness of all human beings, as opportunity may offer.
Necessary Applications of Non-Resistance
The necessary applications of the doctrine are to all cases in human intercourse where man receives aggressive injury from man, or is presumed to be in imminent danger of receiving it – i.e., to all cases wherein the injury of man upon man is either to be repelled, punished or prevented. There are four general positions in which human beings may stand to resist injury with injury: 1. as individuals; 2. as a lawless combination of individuals; 3. as members of allowable voluntary associations; and 4. as constituent supporters of human government in its state or national sovereignty. Standing in any of these positions, they can resist injury with injury, either in immediate self-defense, in retaliation, or by vindictive punishments. As individuals, they may act immediately by their own personal energies, or they may act through their agents – persons employed to execute their will. Connected with a lawless combination, they may act directly in open co-operative violence, or clandestinely, or through select agents, or in a more general manner through their acknowledged leaders. As members of allowable voluntary associations, they may exert a powerful influence, without any deeds of violence, by means of speech, the press, education, religion, etc., to delude, corrupt, prejudice, and instigate to evil the minds of mankind one toward another. Thus designedly to stimulate, predispose and lead men to commit personal injury, under pretence of serving God and humanity, is essentially the same thing as directly resisting injury with injury by physical means. The mischief may be much greater, the moral responsibility certainly no less. As constituent supporters of human government (whether civil, military, or a compound of both), in its state or national sovereignty, men are morally responsible for all constitutions, institutions, laws, processes, and usages which they have pledged themselves to support, or which they avowedly approve, or which they depend upon as instrumentalities for securing and promoting their personal welfare, or in which they acquiesce without positive remonstrance and disfellowship. Thus if a political compact, a civil or military league, covenant or constitution, requires, authorizes, provides for, or tolerates war, bloodshed, capital punishment, slavery, or any kind of absolute injury, offensive or defensive, the man who swears, affirms or otherwise pledges himself to support such a compact, league, covenant or constitution, is just as responsible for every act of injury done in strict conformity thereto, as if he himself personally committed it. He is not responsible for abuses and violations of the constitution. But, for all that is constitutionally done, he is responsible. The army is his army, the navy his navy, the militia his militia, the gallows his gallows, the pillory his pillory, the whipping post his whipping post, the branding iron his branding iron, the prison his prison, the dungeon his dungeon, and the slaveholding his slaveholding. When the constitutional majority declares war, it is his war. All the slaughter, rapine, ravages, robbery, destruction, and mischief committed under that declaration, in accordance with the laws of war, are his. Nor can he exculpate himself by pleading that he was one of a strenuous anti-war minority in the government. He was in the government. He had sworn, affirmed, or otherwise pledged himself, that the majority should have discretionary power to declare war. He tied up his hands with that anti-Christian obligation, to stand by the majority in all the crimes and abominations inseparable from war. It is therefore his war, its murders are his murders, and its horrible injuries on humanity are his injuries. They are all committed with his solemn sanction. There is no escape from this terrible moral responsibility but by a conscientious withdrawal from such government, and an uncompromising protest against so much of its fundamental creed and constitutional law, as is decidedly anti-Christian. He must cease to be its pledged supporter, and approving dependent.
What a Christian Non-Resistant Cannot Consistently Do
It will appear from the foregoing exposition, that a true Christian non-resistant cannot with deliberate intent, knowledge or conscious voluntariness, compromise his principles by any of the following acts:
1. He cannot kill, maim, or otherwise absolutely injure any human being, in personal self-defense, or for the sake of his family, or anything he holds dear.
2. He cannot participate in any lawless conspiracy, mob, riotous assembly, or disorderly combination of individuals, to cause or countenance the commission of any such absolute personal injury.
3. He cannot be a member of any voluntary association, however orderly, respectable or allowable by law and general consent, which declaratively holds as fundamental truth, or claims as an essential right, or distinctly inculcates as sound doctrine, or approves as commendable in practice, war, capital punishment, or any other absolute personal injury.
4. He cannot be an officer or private, chaplain or retainer, in the army, navy, or militia of any nation, state, or chieftain.
5. He cannot be an officer, elector, agent, legal prosecutor, passive constituent, or approver of any government, as a sworn or otherwise pledged supporter thereof, whose civil constitution and fundamental laws, require, authorize or tolerate war, slavery, capital punishment, or the infliction of any absolute personal injury.
6. He cannot be a member of any chartered corporation or body politic, whose articles of compact oblige or authorize its official functionaries to resort for compulsory aid in the conducting of its affairs, to a government of constitutional violence.
7. Finally, he cannot do any act, either in person or by proxy; nor abet or encourage any act in others; nor demand, petition for, request, advise or approve the doing of any act, by an individual, association or government, which act would inflict, threaten to inflict, or necessarily cause to be inflicted, any absolute personal injury, as herein before defined.
Such are the necessary bearings, limitations, and applications of the doctrine of Christian non-resistance. Let the reader be careful not to misunderstand the positions laid down. The platform of principle and action has been carefully founded, and its essential peculiarities plainly delineated. Let it not be said that the doctrine goes against all religion, government, social organization, constitutions, laws, order, rules, and regulations. It goes against none of these things per se. It goes for them in the highest and best sense. It goes only against such religion, government, social organization, constitutions, laws, order, rules, regulations and restraints, as are unequivocally contrary to the law of Christ; as sanction taking “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” as are based on the assumption that it is right to resist injury with in jury, and evil with evil.
The Principle and Sub-Principle of Non-Resistance
This chapter may be profitably concluded with a brief consideration of the doctrine under discussion with respect to the principle from which it proceeds, to the sub-principle that is its immediate moral basis, and to the rule of duty in which all its applications are comprehended. What is the principle from which it proceeds? It is a principle from the inmost bosom of God. It proceeds from ALL PERFECT LOVE, that absolute, independent, unerringly wise, holy love, which distinguishes the Divine from all inferior natures, and which, transfused into the natural sentiment of human benevolence, superinduces the highest order of goodness. Of this it is said, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Or as the amiable John expressed it, “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” This love is not mere natural affection, nor sentimental passion, but a pure, enlightened, conscientious principle. It is a divine spring of action, which intuitively and spontaneously dictates the doing of good to others, whether they do good or evil. It operates independently of external influences, and being in its nature absolutely unselfish, is not affected by the merit or demerit of its objects. It does not inquire, “Am I loved? Have I been benefited? Have my merits been appreciated? Shall I be blessed in return? Or, am I hated, injured, cursed and condemned?” Whether others love or hate, bless or curse, benefit or injure, it says, “I will do right; I will love still; I will bless; I will never injure even the most injurious; I will overcome evil with good.” Therefore its goodness is not measured by or adjusted to the goodness of others, but ever finds in itself a sufficient reason for doing good and nothing but good to all moral agents. Jesus, in whom flowed the full current of this divine love, the sublime efflux of the heavenly nature, laying hold of the great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” drew it forth from the ark of the Mosaic Testament, all mildewed and dusky with human misapprehension, and struck from it the celestial fire. The true principle was in it, but men could not clearly perceive it, much less appreciate its excellence. He showed that the “neighbor” intended was any human being, a stranger, an enemy, a bitter foe – anyone needing relief, or in danger of suffering through our selfishness, anger or contempt – the greatest criminal, the worst wretch of our race. Hence, knowing that the entire wisdom of this world had justified injury to injurers, hatred to enemies, and destruction to destroyers, he reversed the ancient maxims, abrogated the law of retaliation, and proclaimed the duty of unlimited forbearance, mercy, and kindness. Imperfect religion, worldly minded philosophy, and vindictive selfishness had concurrently declared, “There is a point beyond which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.” He swept away this heartless delusion with a divine breath, and sublimely taught obedient and everlasting adherence to the law of love, as well toward offenders, injurers, and enemies, as toward benefactors, lovers, and friends. “I say unto you, take not life for life, eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. Smite not the smiter to save thine own cheek. Give to him that asketh, and turn not the borrower away. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father in Heaven. For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love, and salute, and do good to them that love you, what are ye better than the publicans?” Be like your Father in Heaven. Such is the true light radiated from the bosom of the Infinite Father, and reflected on this benighted world from the face of Jesus Christ. What are the puerile sentimentalisms of effeminate poets, or the gossamer elaborations of the world’s philosophers, or the incantations of solemn but vindictive religionists, compared with the divine excellence of truth, as it is distilled in the language of the Messiah?
All-perfect, independent, self-sustaining, unswerving love – DIVINE LOVE – is the principle from which Christian non-resistance proceeds. What is the sub-principle that constitutes its immediate moral basis? The essential efficacy of good, as the counteracting force with which to resist evil. The wisdom of this world has relied on the efficacy of injury, terror, and EVIL to resist evil. It has trusted in this during all past time. It has educated the human race to believe that their welfare and security depended mainly on their power to inflict injury on offenders. Hence it has been their constant endeavor to possess a sufficiency of injurious means to overawe their enemies, and terrify their encroaching fellow men. Their language has been, “Keep your distance; touch not my property; insult not my honor; infringe not my rights, assail not my person; be just and respectful; yield to my convenience, and be my friend; or I will let slip the dogs of war; you shall feel the weight of my vengeance; I will inflict unendurable injuries on you: death itself, torture, imprisonment in a loathsome dungeon, pains and penalties shall be your portion. I will do you incomparably greater evil, than you can do me. Therefore be afraid, and let me alone.” And so perfectly befooled are the children of this world, with faith in injury as their chief ultimate security, that scarcely one in a thousand will at first thought allow the non-resistance doctrine to be anything better than a proclamation of cowardice on one side, and of universal anarchy, lawlessness and violence on the other. As if all mankind were so entirely controlled by the dread of deadly, or, at least tremendous personal injury, that if this were relinquished a man’s throat would be instantly cut, his family assassinated, or some horrible mischief inflicted. Very few know how entirely they trust for defense and security in this grim and bloody god of human injury. They have enshrined him in the sword, the gibbet, and the dungeon. They worship him in armies, navies, militia organizations, battle-ships, forts, arsenals, penal statutes, judicial inflictions, pistols, daggers, and bowie knives. And if we propose to lay all these evils aside, and go for nothing but un-injurious beneficent treatment of mankind, never transcending, even with the most outrageous, the limits of firm but friendly personal restraint, lo, they cry out with alarm, “These have come hither that turn the world upside down!” “Torment us not before the time!” “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” “Great is the sword, the halter, the salutary power to kill or injure sinners at discretion! What would become of human society if war, capital, and other injurious punishments should be abolished!” On this altar they have sacrificed human beings enough to people twenty such planets as the earth, with no other success than to confirm and systematize violence throughout the whole habitable globe. And yet INJURY is their god, and at his gory altar of revenge and cruelty they are resolved forever to worship, amid the clangor of deadly weapons, and the groans of a bleeding world.
But the Son of the Highest, the great self-sacrificing Non-Resistant, is our prophet, priest, and king. Though the maddened inhabitants of the earth have so long turned a deaf ear to his voice, he shall yet be heard. He declares that good is the only antagonist of evil that can conquer the deadly foe. Therefore he enjoins on his disciples the duty of resisting evil only with good. This is the sub-principle of Christian non-resistance. “Evil can be overcome only with good.” Faith, then, in the inherent superiority of good over evil, truth over error, right over wrong, love over hatred, is the immediate moral basis of our doctrine. Accordingly, we transfer all the faith we have been taught to cherish in injury to beneficence, kindness, and un-injurious treatment, as the only all-sufficient enginery of war against evil-doers. No longer seeking or expecting to put down evil with evil, we lift up the cross for an ensign, and surmounting it with the glorious banner of love, exult in the divine motto displayed on its immaculate folds, “RESIST NOT INJURY WITH INJURY.” Let this in all future time be the specific rule of our conduct, the magnetic needle of our pathway across the troubled waters of human reform, until all men, all governments and all social institutions shall have been molded into moral harmony with the grand comprehensive commandment of the living God – “THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF.” Then shall Love (God by his most sublime name) “be all in all.”
The earth, so long a slaughter-field,
Shall yet an Eden bloom;
The tiger to the lamb shall yield,
And War descend the tomb.
For all shall feel the Savior’s love,
Reflected from the cross;
That love, that non-resistant love,
Which triumphed on the cross.