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by Adin Ballou
General Objections Answered
1. Impracticable until the millennium – Principles of the millennium – Extracts from Professor Upham – 2. Extremely difficult if not impossible – Hollowness of the objection – Battle at the passage of the Traun in Austria – 3. More difficulty in small than large matters – Illustrations: The profane swearer reproved and subdued – The Christian slave and his enemy – How to overcome evil – Henry C. Wright and his assailant – The victorious little boy – Colony of Practical Christians – The avenger stayed – Conclusion.
The present chapter will be devoted to the consideration and removal of sundry common objections to the doctrine of Christian non-resistance.
Objection 1 – Impracticable Until the Millennium
“Your doctrine may be true in its principles and in its ultimate requirements; but it must be impracticable until the millennium. Then, when the whole human race shall have become regenerate, its sublime morality will be the spontaneous development of all hearts. Under existing circumstances, while there is so much depravity, and such multitudes of men are restlessly bent on aggression, it is obviously impracticable. The wicked would shortly exterminate the righteous were the latter to act on non-resistant principles.”
Answer. I affirm the exact contrary: that the righteous would exterminate the wicked in the best sense of the word, were they to act on strict non-resistant principles. They would immediately usher in the millennium with all its blessings, were they to act on these principles in true and persevering fidelity. How else is it imaginable that any such state as the millennium should ever be developed among mankind? Is it to come arbitrarily and mechanically? Is it to come “with observation,” the full-grown production of some absolute miracle? Is not the kingdom of heaven “within” and “among” men, and thence, like leaven hid in three measures of meal, destined to ferment and rectify the whole mass? Ought not each true Christian’s heart to be a germ of the millennium, and each Christian community a proximate miniature of it? If not, what is the evidence that men have been born again – that there is any such thing as regeneration? If, professing to be disciples of Christ, they are unable, even by divine grace, to practice the precepts of their Lord and Master merely because the unregenerate around them are so wicked, what is their religion, their profession, and their regeneration worth?
The objection before us involves such extreme incongruities that it can be entertained only for a moment. Let us examine it. 1. It presupposes that Jesus Christ enjoined on his disciples, duties for the whole period preceding the millennium, which he knew they could not perform until the arrival of the latter period, and yet gave them no intimation of that fact. 2. It presupposes that Jesus enjoined many particular duties for which there will be no possible occasion in the millennium, and which therefore can never be fulfilled. 3. It presupposes that the principles, dispositions, and moral obligation of men in the millennium will be essentially different from what the New Testament requires them to be now.
Is there any doubt in respect to these three statements? It is certain that Jesus apparently inculcates his non-resistant precepts as now binding and practicable – and that he gives no intimation of their impracticability until some remote future period. Was this design, chance, or mistake! In any case it derogates from the honor of the Redeemer. It is not to be presumed.
It is equally certain, on the objector’s theory, that Christ enjoined particular duties for which there can be no possible occasion in the millennium. In the millennium there will be no occasion to put in practice the precept “Resist not evil,” for there will be no evil-doers to forbear with. In that day there will be no occasion for a man, when smitten on one cheek, to turn the other; when distrained of his coat, to give up his cloak; when persecuted and reviled, to bless; when trespassed upon, to forgive; and no occasion to love his enemy, do good to his hater, or pray for his injurer – for there will be none to harm or destroy in all God’s holy mountain. There can be no occasion for non-resistance where there is no aggression, injury, or insult. So that the objector virtually makes the Son of God appear, in the highest degree, ludicrous and absurd. He makes him say, “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 in the millennium, when there will be none. And if any man smite thee on thy right cheek in the millennium, when all shall be love and kindness, turn unto him the other also. And whosoever will sue thee at the law in the millennium, when the law of love shall be universally obeyed, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. Love your enemies in the millennium, when you have no enemies; bless them that curse you, when there are none to curse; do good to them that hate you, when all love you; forgive offences until seventy times seven, when offences shall be unknown; feed your foes, when all are friends; and overcome evil with good, when no evil remains!”
These are sublime virtues that you are to practice, not now, when there are so many occasions for them, and when they might exert such a powerful influence in favor of Jesus’ religion as contrasted with the spirit of this world – not now, for they are impracticable; the unbelieving world is too wicked for such an exemplification of righteousness – but in the millennium. Then practice them, when you find no occasion for them, and when it will be absolutely impossible to fulfill them for want of an opportunity. “For then all shall know and serve the Lord, from the least unto the greatest!!” Is the great Teacher to be thus understood? Who will presume to say it?
The third statement is also true. The objection presupposes that the principles, dispositions, and moral obligations of men in the millennium will be essentially different from what the New Testament requires them to be now. This is an error so fundamental, and yet so common among professing Christians, that it ought to be thoroughly exploded. Professor Upham has done this so effectually in his Manual of Peace, that I cannot refrain from presenting my readers with the following excellent extract.
Principles of the Millennium
“Are we to expect a new code, a new system of methods of operation? Are we to expect a new Savior, a new crucifixion, a new and amended edition of the New Testament? Certainly not. The doctrines of the millennium are the doctrines of today; the principles of the millennium are the very principles that are obligatory on the men of the present generation; the bond that will exclude all contention and bind together all hearts will be nothing more or less than the gospel of Christ.
“The gospel is a book of principles – of great, operative, unchangeable principles. Men condemn it because they do not understand it; even Christians may be fairly charged with treating it with no small degree of disregard because, in their worldliness, they have neglected to estimate its heights and depths. If heaven could be brought down to the earth – if Europe and America, and all other continents and parts of the world, could, at the present moment, be peopled with angels and with seraphic natures – the gospel, just as it stands, would be sufficient to guide and govern them. The blessed companies of the heavenly world, unlike the children of men, would ask no higher and better code. But can we regard that it as allowable, under any assignable circumstances, for an angel to retaliate upon an angel, for a seraph to exercise hostility upon a seraph, for one of these holy beings to hold in his own hands the right of extinguishing the life of another? What sort of heaven would that be, which should be characterized by the admission of such a principle? And we may ask further, what sort of a millennium will that be, which shall be characterized, either practically or theoretically, in the same way? When men are fully restored to the favor of God, whether in heaven or on earth, is there to be one code, one set of governmental principles for them, and another for other holy beings? Certainly not. In all the great matters of right and duty, the law of seraphs is the law of angels, and the law of angels is the law of men. If it is utterly and absolutely inconsistent with our conceptions of the heavenly world that the power of life and death should be taken from the hands of Jehovah and that angels and seraphs should have the right to extinguish each other’s existence, it is equally difficult to conceive of such a right in the millennium. And if it will not be right for the men of the millennium to exercise the power of life and death over each other, it is not right for them now. We have the same code of government now which we shall have then; we have the New Testament now and we shall have it then; and not only that, we shall understand it better and love it more. Nothing will be added to it; nothing will be taken from it. If it does not now consider human life inviolable, it never will; if it does not now proscribe all wars among the human species, it never will; the right of taking human life, if it exists now under the Christian code, will exist as a legal and authorized characteristic (painful and even horrible as the mere thought is) of the pure, blessed, and angelic state of the millennium. On the supposition, therefore, that life will be inviolable in the millennium, and that it will not be considered right for one man to put another to death for any possible reason, we argue that it is not right now. This form of reasoning is applicable to any other analogous case whatever. If it will not be right to steal in the millennium, it is not right to steal now; if it will not be right to be intemperate in the millennium, it is not right to be intemperate now; if it will not be right to hold slaves in the millennium, it is not right to hold slaves now; if it will not be right to take life and carry on war in the millennium, it is not right to take life and carry on war now. The principles that will be acknowledged as authoritative in the millennium are the very principles that are prescribed, and are binding upon us at the present moment. No change in principles is required, but merely a change in practice. If the practice of men should tomorrow be conformed to the principles which the finger of God has written on the pages of the New Testament, then tomorrow would behold the millennium.
“We delight to linger upon this subject. There is a charm in the millennial name. ‘Scribenti manum injicit, et quamlibet festinantem in se morari cogit.’ The wing of poetry flags under this great conception. Sometimes we see it under the type of a wilderness newly clothed with bud and blossom; sometimes we see it under the type of a city descending from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; sometimes we behold it as a great temple arising out of the earth, and capacious enough to contain all nations. This temple is not built of earthly materials that will perish with the using, but is supported on immutable columns. Every great moral and religious principle is a pillar in the millennial temple. The principle of total abstinence from intoxicating liquor is one pillar; it suddenly arose, fair and beautiful, and even now is enveloped with some rays of millennial glory; the doctrine that all slaveholding is a sin is another pillar, standing firm, awfully grand and immoveable; the doctrine of the absolute inviolability of human life is another – this is in a state of preparation, but it will soon ascend and stand brightly and majestically in its place; and thus principle after principle will be established, column after column will be erected, until the spiritual house of the Lord shall be established in the tops of the mountains, and shall expand upon the eye of the beholder far more beautiful than the Parthenon. And what then will be wanting? Only that the nations in the language of prophecy shall flow into it; only that the people should occupy it and rejoice in it; and this is millennial glory. But, unless you have firm, unchangeable, immutable principles, it will be like a certain house that was built upon the sand; ‘and the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.’”
Objection 2 – Extremely Difficult If Not Impossible
“The practice of non-resistance, if not impossible for the majority of Christians, is certainly extremely difficult, even for the most advanced. It seems like overstraining duty. It is urging on men so much more than they feel able to perform, that multitudes will faint under the burden and abandon Christianity altogether, as a system wholly beyond their reach. It is unwise to require what must discourage so many thousands from attempting anything at all, as avowed disciples of Christ.”
Answer. Who is to be the judge of what is possible: God, or man? Who is to judge what and how much shall be required: Jesus Christ, or his disciples? Are we to set at naught a duty because it seems to us difficult of performance? Are we to doubt that God’s grace is sufficient for the weakest of his trusting children, to enable them to perform any duty He may lay upon them? Are we to accommodate divine truth and duty to the convenience of our fellow men, in order to multiply superficial disciples? Are we to pare down and fritter away the requirements of our heavenly Father, for fear of discouraging and driving off half-hearted professors? Who is it that presumes to daub with such untempered mortar? He must be a most dangerous latitudinarian. Is this the way in which Christ and his apostles built up the Church amid the violence of a contemptuous and persecuting world? Would it be any great misfortune to Christianity if nine-tenths of its present worldly-minded professors, convinced of the truth of the non-resistance doctrine, should honestly declare to the world, “Since this is Christianity, we cannot consistently profess to adhere to it, as its cross is greater than we are willing to bear”? Would not the world at that moment be nearer its conversion than now?
But why need we hold this language? God reigns and not man. He declares the law of perfect rectitude through his Son. That Son is the head of every man – the Lord and Master of all true disciples. He has enjoined the practice of non-resistance on his professed followers as their indispensable duty. He has promised to be with and aid them to the end of the world. If so, let us say at once whether we believe in Christ or not – whether we will endeavor to follow him and keep his sayings or not – whether we will try to do our duty, confiding in the proffered strength of Heaven, or not. If we will be Christian, let us try with all our might to do our duty, and see how far we shall be left to fall short. Let men earnestly try to carry out Christian non-resistance with this full purpose of heart, and though they may experience the pain of the cross sometimes, they will soon rejoice in a crown of triumph. It is difficult always to do right in this, as it is in respect to other departments of duty; and no more so. There is no virtue that does not involve some painful and almost overwhelming trials. If we were to cast off all obligations that ever required the hazard of mortal life, we should reject every single commandment of the living God. For there is not one that has not had its martyrs, and also its apostates under great temptation. But to the faithful, how blessed is even death itself – if duty obliges the sacrifice? And to the obedient, the willingly cross-bearing, how true is it that Christ’s “yoke is easy and his burden light!” It is only for us to resolve that we will try. All things are then found possible, if they are right.
And what is there so discouraging to the humble and upright soul? Did not Jesus live and die the glorious exemplar of his own non-resistant precepts? Did not his apostles? Did not the primitive Christians for more than two centuries? Have I not brought up a host of witnesses, practically illustrating that under the most adverse circumstances it was generally, even safer, to carry out non-resistance principles than their opposite? Behold robbers looked out of countenance and actually converted; ferocious bandits rendered harmless; wild savages inspired with permanent kindness; and all manner of evil overcome with good! Am I to be asked after all this, “What would you do if a robber should attack you? If an assassin should threaten your life? If a mob should break forth upon you? If a tribe of savages should beset your dwelling? If a foreign army should come against your land? If lawless soldiers should deal death and rapine about your neighborhood?” What would I do? If I did right – if I acted the Christian part – the wise and noble part, I should adhere to my non-resistance principles, and ten to one experience the most signal deliverance, and achieve the most glorious of all victories, in the conquest of any own passions and those of my assailants!
Hollowness of the Objection
But the extreme hollowness of the objection before us becomes at once obvious when I turn the tables and demand whether the practice of injurious resistance offers immunity from extreme trial, danger, hardship, and suffering? How happens it that human beings enough to people from eighteen to forty such globes as ours have perished in war? How happens it that blood enough has been shed by the sword to fill a harbor that would embosom at quiet anchor the combined navies of the world? Do these tremendous facts indicate that resistance is sustained without hardships, distresses, and mortal agony? Let us contemplate the scenes of a single battle.
Passage of the Traun
“In 1809, in the campaign of Aspern and Wagram, Massena added to his former renown and was one of the firm props of Napoleon’s empire on those fiercely fought battle-fields. Previous to the battle of Aspern, after the battle of Eckmuhl, while Bonaparte was on the march for Vienna chasing the Archduke before him, Massena had command of the advance guard. Following hard after the retreating army of the Archduke, as he had done before in Italy, he came at length to the river Traun, at Ebersberg, or Ebersdorf, a small village on its banks just above where it falls into the Danube. Here, for a while, an effectual stop seemed put to his victorious career; for this stream, opposite Ebersberg, was crossed by a single long, narrow, wooden bridge. From shore to shore, across the sand-banks, islands, etc., it was nearly half a mile, and a single narrow causeway traversed the entire distance to the bridge, which itself was about sixty rods long. Over this half mile of narrow path the whole army was to pass and the columns to charge; for the impetuous torrent could not be forded. But a gate closed the further end of the bridge, while the houses filled with soldiers enfiladed the entire opening, and the artillery planted on the heights over it commanded every inch of the narrow way. The high rolling ground along the river was black with the masses of infantry, sustained by terrific batteries of cannon, all turned on that devoted bridge, apparently enough in themselves to tear it in fragments. To crown the whole, an old castle frowned over the stream, on whose crumbling battlements cannon were so planted as to command the bridge. As if this were not enough to deter any man from attempting the passage, another row of heights, over which the road passed, rose behind the first, covered with pine trees, affording a strong position for the enemy to retire to if driven from their first. Thus defended, thirty-five thousand men, supported by eighty cannon, waited to see if the French would attempt to pass the bridge. Even the genius of Massena might have been staggered at the spectacle before him. It seemed like marching his army into the mouth of the volcano to advance on the awful batteries that commanded that long, narrow bridge. It was not like a sudden charge over a short causeway; but a steady march along a narrow defile through a perfect tempest of balls. But this was the key to Vienna, and the Marshall resolved to make the attempt – hoping that Lannes, who was to cross some distance further up, would aid him by a movement on the enemy’s flank. The Austrians had foolishly left four battalions on the side from which the French approached. These were first attacked, and being driven from their positions, were forced along the causeway at the point of the bayonet, and on the bridge followed by the pursuing French. But the moment the French column touched the bridge, those hitherto silent batteries opened their dreadful fire on its head. It sank like a sand bank that caves under the torrent. To advance seemed impossible; but the heroic Cohorn, flinging himself in front, cheered them on, and they returned to the charge, driving like an impetuous torrent over the bridge.
“Amid the confusion and chaos of the fight between these flying battalions and their pursuers, the Austrians on the shore saw the French colors flying, and fearing the irruption of the enemy with their friends, closed the gate and poured their tempest of cannon balls on friend and foe alike. The carnage then became awful. Smitten in front by the deadly fire of their friends, and pressed behind with the bayonets of their foes, those battalions threw themselves into the torrent below, or were trampled under foot by the steadily advancing column. Amid the explosion of ammunition wagons in the midst, blowing men into the air, and the crashing fire of the enemy’s cannon, the French beat down the gate and palisades and rushed with headlong speed into the streets and village. But here, met by fresh battalions in front, and swept by a destructive cross-fire from the houses, while the old castle hurled its storm of lead on their heads, these brave soldiers were compelled to retire, leaving two-thirds of their number stretched on the pavement. But Massena ordered up fresh battalions, which, marching through the tempest that swept the bridge, joined their companions, and regaining the village, stormed the castle itself. Along the narrow lanes that led to it the dead lay in swaths, and no sooner did the mangled head of the column reach the castle walls, than it disappeared before the dreadful fire from the battlements as if it sunk into the earth. Strengthened by a new reinforcement, the dauntless French returned to the assault, and battering down the doors, compelled the garrison to surrender. The Austrian army, however, made good their position on the pine-covered ridge behind the village, and disputed every inch of ground with the most stubborn resolution. The French cavalry, now across, came on a plunging gallop through the streets of the village, trampling on the dead and dying, and amid the flames of the burning houses, and through the smoke that rolled over their pathway, hurried on with exulting shouts and rattling armor to the charge. Still the Austrians held out until, threatened with a flank attack, they were compelled to retreat.
“There was not a more desperate passage in the whole war than this. Massena was compelled to throw his brave soldiers, whether dead or wounded, into the stream, to clear a passage for the columns. Whole companies falling at a time, they choked up the way and increased the obstacles to be overcome. These must be sacrificed or the whole shattered column that was maintaining their desperate position on the farther side would be annihilated. It was an awful spectacle to see the advancing soldiers, amid the most destructive fire, themselves pitch their wounded comrades, while calling out most piteously to be spared, by scores and hundreds into the torrent. Le Grand fought nobly that day. Amid the choked-up defile and deadly fire of the batteries, he fearlessly pressed on, and in answer to the advice of his superior officer, deigned only the stern reply, ‘Room for the head of my columns – none of your advice;’ and rushed up to the very walls of the castle. The nature of the contest, and the narrow bridge and streets in which it raged, gave to the field of battle the most horrid aspect. The dead lay in heaps and ridges, piled one across the other, mangled and torn in the most dreadful manner by the hoofs of the cavalry and the wheels of the artillery which were compelled to pass over them. Twelve thousand men thus lay heaped, packed and trampled together, while across them were stretched burning rafters and timbers which wrung still more terrible cries and shrieks from the dying mass. Even Bonaparte, when he arrived, shuddered at the appalling sight, and turned with horror from the scene. The streets were one mass of mangled, bleeding, trampled men, overlaid with burning ruins.” – American Review.
Such was one of the world’s ten thousand bloody conflicts. Suppose all the courage and endurance displayed on this horrible occasion could be brought into the service of peace and non-resistance! Should we hear any more of the extreme difficulty, if not impossibility, of carrying out the doctrine? Suppose these soldiers to have been devoted Christian non-resistants, scattered over the whole earth; and suppose them exposed to all the robberies, assaults and batteries, abuses, injuries, and insults by any means likely to fall to their lot; and then, let our objector tell us how much harder their service would be in the army of the Prince of Peace, than that of the Prince of murderers! The truth is that men can endure almost anything they choose. What they have endured as the servants of sin is a proof of what they are capable of enduring for righteousness’ sake. The latter service requires not a thousandth part of the physical and mental suffering of the former. How flimsy then is the objection we are considering! Let it never be repeated by any man calling himself a Christian. A true heart, a sound principle of action, and a conscientious will can never find Christian non-resistance either an unattainable or an unsupportable virtue.
Objection 3 – More Difficult in Small Than Large Matters
“The practice of non-resistance is more difficult in small than large matters. It is not in abstaining from war and battle, or in enduring great and notorious injuries with forbearance that non-resistance imposes the heaviest burdens. Men gather strength in such cases from the consciousness of public admiration and sympathy – and even from the magnitude of the conflict and the consequent glory of a triumph. Extraordinary events and occasions inspire an extraordinary enthusiasm, power, and firmness of purpose. But in everyday life, where people pass through a thousand trials, consuming to the vital spirits of their being, unnoticed, without sympathy, without pity, and uncared for, it is by no means so easy to endure the mean, vexatious aggressions, wrongs, and insults of petty injurers. But your doctrine obliges the abused wife of a brutal husband, and the insulted and smitten victim of insolent scoundrels to refrain from defensive violence, and even from prosecutions at law, at least under the existing type of human government. It does not appear that you would allow even a mob to be repelled with military force, or so much as a demand to be made on the government for the protection of one’s property, family, or life. It is this extreme and intolerable nicety of your doctrine to which I object, as much as to anything about it.”
Answer. There is truth in the assertion that a practical exemplification of non-resistance in the small matters of everyday life is more difficult than in great matters on extraordinary occasions. And is not this true of all the great virtues enjoined in Law or Gospel? It may be easier to eschew idolatry, adultery, fornication, murder, robbery, theft, falsehood, covetousness, etc., in the open gaze of public scrutiny and public opinion, even under the mightiest temptation, than in private unobserved life. It may be easier to suffer the martyrdom of death before a gaping and amazed, perhaps admiring, multitude, than the petty martyrdom of a taunt, a kick, a cuff, or a wrung nose, of which the multitude know nothing and for which they might care as little. Be it so. Does this change principle or abrogate duty? What is right? What ought we all to do in small as well as large matters? These are the questions to settle. Not what may chance to be most convenient, or easy, or comfortable, or self-indulgent under momentary temptations. We have already settled them, so far as respects the duty never to resist injury with injury. Is indulgence asked for the commission of daily violations of this duty, or occasional violations of it in what are called small matters? Go demand indulgence to commit violations of the Ten Commandments in small matters. Plead how difficult it is in everyday life not to lie a little, deceive a little, defraud a little, extort a little, hate your neighbor a little, steal a little, be murderous a little, idolatrous a little, and lascivious a little. Get your indulgence from Heaven for all this, and then doubtless an indulgence will not be withheld to resist injury with injury a little, and to render evil for evil a little, in ordinary matters. Until then, the law and standard of righteousness must not be relaxed to suit human convenience. Duty must be insisted on without abatement, and whoever exhibits weakness, imperfection, frailty or sin, must bear the shame and condemnation.
It is in these small matters that every virtue suffers its greatest betrayal. A continual dropping wears the hardest stone. A continual unscrupulousness in little things undermines all moral principle. The ocean is made up of drops. Righteousness is an aggregate of the little things of life. He that is faithless habitually in small matters is not to be depended on in great matters. He may, or may not do right. A principal reason why public institutions, laws, and measures are so repugnant to justice and humanity is that the individual consciences of the people, in the small matters of ordinary life, are habitually unscrupulous. If, then, non-resistance is to be insisted on at all, as a duty, it is to be insisted on in small matters as well as large.
And after all that may be said of the difficulty of practicing it, we know that it has been and can be practiced. Nothing is wanting but the will to try. I will add to the numerous illustrations already given, a few others relating chiefly to individual affairs and the so-called small matters of life.
The Profane Swearer Reproved and Subdued
Mr. Deering, a Puritan minister, being once at a public dinner, a gallant young man sat on the opposite side of the table, who, besides other vain discourse, broke out in profane swearing, for which Mr. Deering gravely and sharply reproved him. The young man, taking this as an affront, immediately threw a glass of beer in his face. Mr. Deering took no notice of the insult; but wiped his face and continued eating as before. The young gentleman presently renewed his profane conversation, and Mr. Deering reproved him as before – upon which, but with more rage and violence, he flung another glass of beer in his face. Mr. Deering continued unmoved, still showing his zeal for the glory of God by bearing the insult with Christian meekness and humble silence. This so astonished the young gentleman that he rose from the table, fell on his knees, and asked Mr. Deering’s pardon, and declared that if any of the company offered him similar insults, he would stab them with his sword. Here was practically verified the New Testament maxim: “Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.” – Rom. 12:21.
The Christian Slave and His Enemy
The following was first published in the London Christian Observer:
A slave in one of the West Indies, who had originally come from Africa, having been brought under the influence of religious instruction, became singularly valuable to his owner on account of his integrity and general good conduct. After some time his master raised him to a situation of some consequence in the management of his estate, and on one occasion, wishing to purchase twenty additional slaves, employed him to make the selection, giving him instruction to choose those who were strong and likely to make good workmen. The man went to the slave market and commenced his scrutiny. He had not long surveyed the multitude offered for sale, before he fixed his eye upon an old decrepit slave, and told his master that he must be one. The poor fellow begged that he might be indulged when the dealer remarked that, if they were about to buy twenty, he would give them that man in the bargain. The purchase was accordingly made and the slaves were conducted to the plantation of their master; but upon none did the manager show half the attention and care that he did upon the poor old decrepit African. He took him to his own habitation and laid him upon his own bed; he fed him at his own table and gave him drink out of his own cup; when he was cold, he carried him into the sunshine; and when he was hot, he placed him under the shade of the cocoanut tree. Astonished at the attention this confidential slave bestowed upon a fellow-slave, his master interrogated him upon the subject. He said, “You could not take so much interest in the old man but for some special reason: he is a relation of yours, perhaps your father?” “No, massa,” answered the poor fellow, “he no my fader.” “He is then an elder brother?” “No, massa, he no my broder!” “Then he is an uncle, or some other relation?” “No, massa, he no be my kindred at all, nor even my friend!” “Then,” asked the master, “on what account does he excite your interest?” “He my enemy, massa,” replied the slave. “He sold me to the slave dealer, and my Bible tell me when my enemy hunger, feed him, and when he thirst, give him drink.”
How to Overcome Evil
“I once had a neighbor, who, though a clever man, came to me one hay day and said, ‘Esquire White, I want you to come and get your geese away,’ ‘Why,’ said I, ‘what are my geese doing?’ ‘They pick my pigs’ ears when they are eating, and drive them away, and I will not have it.’ ‘What can I do?’ I said. ‘You must yoke them.’ ‘That I have not time to do now,’ said I, ‘I do not see but they must run.’ ‘If you do not take care of them, I shall,’ said the clever shoemaker in anger. ‘What do you say, Esquire White?’ ‘I cannot take care of them now, but I will pay you for all damages.’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘you will find that a hard thing, I guess.’
“So off he went and I heard a terrible squalling among the geese. The next news from the geese was that three of them were missing. My children went and found them terribly mangled, dead, and thrown into the bushes.
“‘Now,’ said I, ‘all keep still and let me punish him.’ In a few days, the shoemaker’s hogs broke into my corn. I saw them but let them remain a long time. At last I drove them all out, and picked up the corn that they had torn down, and fed them with it in the road. By this time the shoemaker came in great haste after them.
“‘Have you seen anything of my hogs?’ said he. ‘Yes, sir, you will find them yonder, eating some corn that they tore down in my field.’ ‘In your field?’ ‘Yes sir,’ said I, ‘hogs love corn, you know – they were made to eat.’ ‘How much mischief have they done?’ ‘ O, not much,’ said I.
“Well, off he went to look, and estimated the damage to be equal to a bushel and a half of corn.
“‘Oh, no,’ said I, ‘it can’t be.’ ‘Yes,’ said the shoemaker, ‘and I will pay you every cent of damage.’ ‘No,’ replied I, ‘you shall pay me nothing. My geese have been a great trouble to you.’
“The shoemaker blushed, and went home. The next winter, when we came to settle, the shoemaker determined to pay me for my corn. ‘No,’ said I, ‘I shall take nothing.’
“After some talk, we parted; but in a day or two, I met him in the road, and fell into conversation in the most friendly manner. But when I started on he seemed loath to move, and I paused. For a moment both of us were silent. At last he said, ‘I have something laboring on my mind.’ ‘Well, what is it?’ ‘Those geese. I killed three of your geese and shall never rest until you know how I feel. I am sorry.’ And the tears came in his eyes. ‘Oh well,’ said I, ‘never mind, I suppose my geese were provoking.’
“I never took anything of him for it; but whenever my cattle broke into his field after this, he seemed glad – because he could show how patient he could be.”
“Now,” said the narrator, “conquer yourself, and you can conquer with kindness where you can conquer in no other way.” – Anonymous.
Henry C. Wright and His Assailant
The following incident in the life of Henry C. Wright shows his admirable consistency and the salutary influence of non-resistance on the offender. He was in a hotel in Philadelphia, and there engaged in a conversation on non-resistance. An officer present became enraged and struck him. Mr. Wright took no notice of the assault but proceeded with his remarks. In a few moments the officer struck him again. Friend Wright still preserved his equanimity and continued the conversation. His assailant struck him a third time and nearly knocked him down. He recovered himself, though much injured by the blows of his opponent, took him by the hand, and said, “I feel no unkindness towards you and hope soon to see you at my house.” He then left the company and returned home. Mr. Wright saw his assailant much sooner than he expected, for he was called up at dawn next morning by the very man who had struck him the previous evening. He exclaimed, as he entered the house, “Can you forgive me? I have been in agony all night. I thought you would strike again or I never should have struck you.” “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” – McCree.
“He that, unshrinking and without a groan
Bears the first wound, may finish all the war
With mere courageous silence, and come off conqueror.” – Watts.
The Victorious Little Boy
I had the following anecdote from a gentleman of veracity. A little boy in Connecticut, of remarkably serious mind and habits, was ordinarily employed about a mechanic’s shop where nearly all the hands were addicted to the common use of intoxicating liquors. The lad had imbibed temperance principles, and though often invited could never be induced to partake with any of the shop’s crew. At length his teacher in the Sunday school, in conversation on certain non-resistant texts of scripture, had awakened his mind to that subject, and he very conscientiously avowed his determination to try to live in accordance with this great Christian doctrine. Three or four of the harder drinkers in the shop, somewhat piqued at such precocious piety and scrupulousness of conscience, resolved to humble the lad, or at least put his new notions to the test. They resolved to force a dram of rum down his throat by some means. Seizing an opportunity when he was left alone in the shop with them, they invited him to drink. He refused. They then told him they should compel him. He remained calm and unmoved. They threatened him with violence. Still he neither seemed angry nor attempted to escape nor evinced the least disposition to yield; but insisted that it was wicked and he could not do it. They then laid hold of him, a man at each arm, while the third held the bottle ready to force it into his mouth. Still their victim remained meek and firm, declaring that he had never injured them and never should, but that God would be his friend and protector, however they might abuse him. The man who held the fatal bottle, up to that moment resolute in his evil purpose, was so struck by the non-resisting dignity and innocence of the lad, that, as he afterwards confessed almost with tears, he actually felt unable to raise his hand. Twice he essayed to lift the bottle, as he placed the nose of it in the child’s mouth, hut his arm refused to serve him. Not the least resistance was made in this stage of the proceeding otherwise than by a meek protesting look; yet the ringleader himself was overcome in his feelings and gave over the attempt, declaring that he could not and would not injure such an innocent, conscientious, good hearted boy. Such is moral power. Such is the strength by which evil may, sometimes at least, be overcome with good.
Colony of Practical Christians
The following is another extract from the writings of Lydia M. Child. It needs no commendation. It will speak to the better feelings of the soul and leave its sweet odor there.
“The highest gifts my soul has received during its world pilgrimage have often been bestowed by those who were poor, both in money and intellectual cultivation. Among these donors, I particularly remember a hard working, uneducated mechanic from Indiana or Illinois. He told me he was one of thirty or forty New Englanders, who, twelve years before, had gone out to settle in the western wilderness. They were mostly neighbors, and had been drawn to unite together in emigration from a general unity of opinion on various subjects. For some years previous, they had been in the habit of meeting occasionally at each other’s houses to talk over their duties to God and man, in all simplicity of heart. Their library was the Gospel, their priesthood the inward light. There were then no anti-slavery societies; but thus taught and reverently willing to learn, they had no need of such agency to discover their duties to the enslaved. The efforts of peace societies had reached this secluded band only in broken echoes; and non-resistance societies had no existence. But with the volume of the Prince of Peace and hearts open to his influence, what need had they of preambles and resolutions?
“Rich in God-culture, this little band started for the far West. Their inward homes were blooming, gardens; they made their outward ones in a wilderness. They were industrious and frugal, and all things prospered under their hands. But soon wolves came near the fold in the shape of reckless, unprincipled adventurers; believers in force and cunning, who acted according to their creed. The colony of practical Christians spoke of their depredations in terms of gentlest remonstrance and repaid them with unvarying kindness. They went farther – they openly announced, ‘You may do us what evil you choose; we will return nothing but good.’ Lawyers came into the neighborhood and offered their services to settle disputes. They answered, ‘We have no need of you. As neighbors, we receive you in the most friendly spirit; but for us your occupation has ceased to exist.’ ‘ What will you do, if rascals burn your barns and steal your harvests?’ ‘ We will return good for evil. We believe this is the highest truth, and therefore the best expediency.’
“When the rascals heard this, they considered it a marvelous good joke, and said and did many provoking things, which to them seemed witty. Bars were taken down in the night and cows let into the cornfields. The Christians repaired the damage as well as they could, put the cows in the barn, and at twilight drove them gently home; saying, ‘Neighbor, your cows have been in my field. I have fed them well during the day, but I would not keep them all night lest the children should suffer for their milk.’
“If this was fun, those who planned the joke found no heart to laugh at it. By degrees, a visible change came over these troublesome neighbors. They ceased to cut off horses’ tails and break the legs of poultry. Rude boys would say to a younger brother, ‘Don’t throw that stone, Bill! When I killed the chicken last week, didn’t they send it to mother, because they thought chicken-broth would be good for poor Mary! I should think you’d be ashamed to throw stones at their chickens.’ Thus was evil overcome with good, until not one was found to do them willful injury.
“Years passed on, and saw them thriving in worldly substance beyond their neighbors, yet beloved by all. From them the lawyer and the constable obtained no fees. The sheriff stammered and apologized when he took their hard earned goods in payment for the war tax. They mildly replied, ‘Tis a bad trade, friend. Examine it in the light of conscience and see if it is not so.’ But while they refused to pay such fees and taxes, they were liberal to a proverb in their contributions for all useful and benevolent purposes.
“At the end of ten years, the public lands, which they had chosen for their farms, were advertised for sale at auction. According to custom, those who had settled and cultivated the soil were considered to have a right to bid it in at the government price; which at that time was $1.25 per acre. But the fever of land speculation then chanced to run unusually high. Adventurers from all parts of the country were flocking to the auction; and capitalists in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston were sending agents to buy up western lands. No one supposed that custom or equity would be regarded. The first day’s sale showed that speculation ran to the verge of insanity. Land was eagerly bought in at seventeen, twenty-five, and forty dollars an acre. The Christian colony had small hope of retaining their farms. As first settlers, they had chosen the best land; and persevering industry had brought it into the highest cultivation. Its market value was much greater than the acres already sold at exorbitant prices. In view of these facts, they had prepared their minds for another remove into the wilderness, perhaps to be again ejected by a similar process. But the morning their lot was offered for sale, they observed with grateful surprise that their neighbors were everywhere busy among the crowd, begging and expostulating: ‘Don’t bid on these lands! These men have been working hard on them for ten years. During all that time, they never did harm to man or brute. They are always ready to do good for evil. They are a blessing to any neighborhood. It would be a sin and a shame to bid on their land. Let it go at the government price.’
“The sale came on; the cultivators of the soil offered $1.25; intending to bid higher if necessary. But among all that crowd of selfish, reckless speculators, not one bid over them! Without one opposing voice, the fair acres returned to them! I do not know a more remarkable instance of evil overcome with good. The wisest political economy lies folded up in the maxims of Christ.”
The Avenger Stayed
I will add one more impressive illustration, and close. I copy from the Advocate of Peace for April 1845, which appears to have quoted from The History of Danish Missions:
“The history of the Danish missions in Greenland is well known. Hans Egede, a man of apostolic benevolence and zeal, was the pioneer in those efforts to Christianize the wild and savage wanderer of the frozen north; and among his successors was his grand-son, Hans Egede Saabye, from whose interesting diary we select the following tale of vengeance sternly purposed, but graciously turned into love by the power of the gospel.
“The law or custom of Greenland requires every murder, especially that of a father, to be avenged by the nearest of kin. Some twenty years before the arrival of Saabye, a man was murdered under circumstances of great atrocity, in the presence of his own son. The boy, only thirteen years old, was too young to defend his father, but he did not forget the debt of vengeance due to his murderer. Fleeing for his own safety into a remote part of the country, he there fanned in his bosom the secret flame for twenty-five years, and waited only for an opportunity to let it burst forth in full and fierce revenge. The murderer was a man of so much influence, and surrounded with so many adherents ready for his defense, that the son feared to attack him; but having persuaded a number of his own relatives to accompany him, he started at length on his long cherished purpose of vengeance, and came in quest of his victim near the residence of Saabye. The houses in Greenland are a species of common property. The people quit them during their short summer, and on returning the next winter, take possession of anyone they may chance to find unoccupied. Winter was now beginning to stretch his icy arms over the north; but the avenger found no shelter for himself and his associates in the work of vengeance. Only one was vacant, and that belonged to the preacher of peace and forgiveness; but Saabye, though well apprized of his purpose, let him have the house, and treated him with his wonted courtesy and kindness. These attentions touched the avenger’s heart; and he came to thank Saabye, and repeated his visits so often that he apologized at length for their frequency by saying, ‘You are so amiable that I cannot keep away from you.’ After a lapse of several weeks, he said, ‘I should like to know something of that great Lord of Heaven, about whom you say so much; and some of my relations wish to learn too.’ Saabye granted his request, and found ten or twelve of the company anxious for instruction. He sent a catechist to live with them, and was much gratified at their progress, especially that of the avenger, who frequently left his fishing to hear instruction, and who at length resolved to ask for baptism.
“In the month of May, Kunnuk came to Saabye, and said, ‘Teacher, will you baptize me? You know I’m obedient. I know God; and my wife, as well as I, wishes to become a believer.’ ‘Yes,’ replied the preacher, ‘you know something of God. You know he is good; you see how he loves you and desires to make you happy; but he desires also to have you obey him.’ ‘I do love him,’ earnestly rejoined the avenger; ‘I will obey him.’ ‘But,’ answered Saabye, ‘if you wish to obey him, you must kill nobody. You have often heard his command, thou shalt not kill.’
“Kunnuk shook his head in great emotion, and only said, half to himself, ‘Hard doctrine; hard doctrine!’ ‘Hear me, good Kunnuk,’ continued the man of God. ‘I know you have come to avenge the murder of yow father; this you must not do if you wish to become a believer.’ ‘But,’ retorted the avenger with a flash of indignation gleaming from his eye, ‘he murdered my father, my own father! I saw it but could not help him; and now I must punish the murderer.’ ‘You grieve me!’ said the man of peace. ‘How?’ asked the avenger. ‘Because you seem resolved to murder.’ ‘Only him who deserves to die.’ ‘But the great Lord of Heaven says, thou shalt not kill.’ ‘I will not – only him.’ ‘But you must not kill even him. Have you forgotten how often during the winter, you heard this command: avenge not thyself, but rather give place unto wrath; for vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.’ ‘But,’ asked the avenger, ‘shall the wicked murder with impunity?’ ‘No, he shall not; God will punish him.’ ‘When?’ ‘Perhaps in this world; but certainly at the day of judgment, when he will reward every one according to his deeds.’ ‘That is so long,’ replied Kunnuk, ‘my countrymen and relations will blame me if I do not myself avenge my father now.’ ‘If you did not know the will of God, I should say nothing; but now I must not be silent.’ ‘This is hard!’ said the avenger. ‘What shall I do?’ ‘You must not kill him; you must even forgive him.’ ‘Forgive him!’ exclaimed the avenger. ‘Your doctrine is very strange and difficult.’ ‘The doctrine,’ replied the preacher, ‘is not mine, but Christ’s.’
“Kunnuk sighed deeply, but made no reply; and Saabye continued, ‘perhaps your father was not innocent; he too may have killed somebody.’ ‘As to that,’ replied Kunnuk, ‘I do not know. I only know that this man deserves to die.’ ‘Well,’ answered Saabye, turning to leave the avenger, ‘I have done. Kill him, if you will; but remain an unbeliever, and expect his children one day to kill you in turn.’ ‘You are amiable no longer,’ retorted the man of blood, ‘you speak hard words.’ ‘No, Kunnuk,’ replied the man of peace, ‘I love you still, and therefore wish you not to sin against God, who will do justice both to you and your adversary.’ Saabye turned to go; but Kunnuk cried after him, ‘Stay, teacher. I will speak to my relations.’
“His relations urged Kunnuk day after day to revenge, and threatened him with the curses of his kindred and the scorn of his countrymen if he shrunk from avenging his murdered father. The bosom of the son seemed a theatre of conflicting emotions. The preacher, in his visits to him, perceived the struggle, and, without taking any notice of the particular subject, read such portions of scripture and such hymns as led to peaceful and forgiving thoughts. Some days after, Kunnuk returned to the preacher. His countenance, his manner, every thing about him, indicated a violent struggle. ‘I will,’ said he, ‘I will not; I hear, and I do not hear. I never felt so before.’ ‘What will you,’ asked the preacher, ‘and what will you not!’ ‘I will forgive him, and I will not forgive him; I have no ears, and yet I have ears.’ ‘When you will not forgive,’ answered Saabye, ‘then your unconverted heart speaks, and would dissuade you; and when you will forgive, then your better heart speaks. Which will you obey?’ ‘I was so moved,’ said the avenger, ‘when you spoke yesterday, that my heart wished to obey.’ ‘See, then, ought you not,’ said Saabye, ‘to feel that it is the voice of your Heavenly Father speaking in your heart; he bids you to be like him, and he giveth sunshine and showers to his foes as well as his friends. Think of your Savior, too, and strive to resemble him. Did he ever hate his enemies or return their curses on their own heads? When smitten, did he smite back? When persecuted from city to city, did he return evil upon his persecutors? When led to the cross like a lamb to the slaughter, did he open his mouth? Yes; but it was to pray for his murderers: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’
“This appeal touched the avenger’s heart; a tear stood in his eye; and earnestly he replied, ‘Yes, yes, that was praiseworthy; but he was better than we.’ ‘Yes, infinitely better,’ rejoined Saabye, ‘but, if we have a good will, God will give us strength. Hear how a man like you and me can pray for his murderers.’ The preacher then read the martyrdom of Stephen; and Kunnuk, drying his eyes, said, ‘Wicked man! But he is happy; he is certainly with God in heaven. My heart is so moved; but give me a little time; and, when I have brought my other heart to silence, I will come again.’
“Soon Kunnuk returned with an altered countenance that spoke the peace and joy of his heart. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘I am happy. I hate no more; I have forgiven; my wicked heart shall be silent. Did you not see how moved I was when you read about him on the cross praying for his murderers? Then I vowed in my heart, I will forgive; I have forgiven. Now I hope I and my wife, who has never hated, may be baptized.’ His request was granted; and when the day arrived for the ceremony, he gave a simple and touching account of his faith; tears streamed from his eyes as he knelt for baptism; and, at the close of the service, he said, ‘Receive me now as a believer; I will hate no more; we will love each other, and all men.’ To the murderer of his father, he soon after sent a message, saying, ‘I am now a believer; you have nothing to fear.’ He even invited the murderer to his house, and received him in a most friendly manner. Being invited to return the visit, he went alone; but to show the heathen murderer in contrast with the Christian, Kunnuk found, on his way back, a hole cut in his kayak, or boat, for the purpose of drowning him. He soon stopped out the water, and said with a smile, ‘Ah! He is still afraid; but I’ll never harm him. Vengeance is no longer mine; I leave him to God, and pray that he may see his sins as I have seen my own.’”
Who can contemplate such practical exemplifications of Christian non-resistance as these, and not be ravished with the excellence and loveliness of the sublime doctrine! Can we turn around and gaze on the battlefield, the hospital of mangled mortality, the gaudy military parade, the pomp of blood-stained chieftains, or into the more ordinary affairs of life – on the scuffles, retaliations, resentments, duels, litigations, and endless quarrels of a world infatuated with resisting violence – can we look on these things without heart-sickness and disgust? How base, despicable and abhorrent are they all, compared with the spiritual heroism, the moral bravery, the glorious self-sacrifice, the life-preserving, heart-reforming, soul-redeeming works of genuine Christianity! “O, my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united.”
And shall those who ought to be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth” dishonor their high calling, and defile their garments, by engaging in the conflicts of human ambition, violence, and revenge? Shall they lust after the dainties of cannibalism, admire the splendors of martial idolatry, and delight themselves in the acts of mortal cruelty? If risen with Christ, ought they not to seek the things of Christ, inhale the perfumes of his Spirit, follow in his footsteps, and make it their supreme satisfaction to do the will of the Father? Is it for them to fly from the dangers of Gethsemane to look with despair from afar on the non-resistant cross, and to make themselves one with a mutually defiant and destructive world? Shall they see lions in the way, and fear to go forth? Shall they stand shivering like the sluggard because it is cold, and so neglect to plow? Does it become them to complain that the duties of love are hard, that non-resistance is impracticable, impossible, or extremely difficult, when its principle is so god-like, its spirit so heavenly, its exemplification so beautiful, its fruits so refreshing, and its achievements so glorious? What if it demands a strict discipline; what if it requires some severe exertions; what if it imposes some manly endurance; what if it offers an opportunity to perform some exploits of moral heroism; shall it therefore be unattractive to great souls? Nay, rather let it seem the more worthy of a holy and generous enthusiasm. Let its calls for volunteers appeal more thrillingly to a noble ambition – an ambition to be and do something worthy of our divine parentage – worthy of the love that has purchased our redemption with the tears and groans and blood of the cross – worthy of immortality – worthy of living and dying for. To save one life, to recover one lost brother, to make one heart holy and happy – or even to qualify ourselves by self-denial for the indwelling Spirit of the Highest – is infinitely more worthy of a whole life’s cares and vigils than all the wealth, pomp, and splendor which the world’s favorite destroyers ever acquired by the sword. “God forbid that we should glory in anything save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“How hardly man this lesson learns,
To smile and bless the hand that spurns;
To see the blow – to feel the pain,
But render only love again.
This spirit not to earth is given;
One had it – he came from heaven.
Reviled, rejected and betrayed,
No curse he breathed, no plaint he made,
But when in death’s deep pang he sighed,
Prayed for his murderers and died.” – Edmiston.