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In November, 1823, on another reduction in the army, I finally retired from the service. The leisure thus afforded induced me to look within, not with the superficial survey of former years, but with a desire and determination to discover my real condition as a moral and accountable creature : in other words, the facts and verities of the Christian religion were revealed to my mind with new and affecting power. To many this will appear strange, to some ridiculous; and there are a few who will ask, why a soldier of spirit, above all others, should trouble himself about the concerns of religion. I answer that question by asking another,—Why should he not?
He has as deep an interest in gospel truth as any other person ; and if piety of life be deemed essential for any person, in any station of society, they are not less so for him. I apprehend, that if there be any difference between civil and military life, in this respect, the soldier ought to be the most religious ; for his life is usually in greater jeopardy than that of the man of peace. Death, it is true, comes to all men sooner or later ; but the soldier often anticipates its approach by the perils of active warfare. Others have objected, that for military men, who are proverbial for licentiousness, to set up for extraordinary sanctity, is not only uncalled for, but absurd and hypocritical. I again ask, why so? If soldiers are actually so very bad, both in pretension and reality, they stand so much the more in need of religion to make them better. Salvation is a girdle which encompasses the world; and why a man is to be excluded from its benefits because he had defended his country's right at the sword's point, and hazard of his life and fame, I have yet to learn. But, say some, there is something so pitiful and gloomy in a soldier who professes to be religious. There we are again at issue ; and I consent to try the question by this single test. I affirm the converse; and aver, that pity must fall only on the irreligious, who are often gloomy and sad from certain assaults of conscience, known only to themselves; while some of the most intrepid and courageous men who ever lived, were noted for obedience to divine law; and, what is more to the present purpose, many of the ablest warlike achievements ever effected, were planned and executed by pious soldiers. What is more extraordinary still, we shall presently discover that the success of many an expedition depended upon that piety, and that the Almighty Ruler of the universe granted or withheld the victory, to or from those whose hearts were right with him. A distinguished Prelate of the Church of England has observed, that “one murder makes a villain, millions a hero." The line is forcible ; and yet we must make a little abatement from the inuendo it conveys, and on which the writer might not have ventured, but for those licences of language to which poets conceive themselves entitled. Between the two characters, here placed side by side, there can be no possible analogy, upon any fair and acknowledged principle. The first is a sneaking assassin, who, under cover of night, cowers down in search of massacre. Influenced either by satanic malevolence, or the basest avarice, he steals to the bed-side of slumbering innocence, and takes away life. If by the term hero, we are to understand the Marshal or conductor of an army, the affix, murderer, is a little strained and misapplied. That Commanders on important emergencies are compelled to be prodigal of human life, is admitted. The very nature of the profession renders the evil inevitable. But see the difference : the chief officer acts under heavy responsibilities for his country. If it be invaded, he is to repel the intruders ; or, if offensive measures are deemed necessary by the State, he is to lead on, and carry them into effect. Could all this be performed without the loss of a single life, no doubt he would be happy: but the measure, though ever so desirable, cannot be thus secured ; for the enemy opposes force to force : still his design is, not to destroy, but to conquer ; and the loss of human life, the murders that ensue, are not the objects sought; they are the unavoidable incidents which follow the prosecution of certain designs, previously determined ; of which, the execution is laid upon the shoulders of the military chief. Besides, the murder of millions is by no means an essential ingredient in the character of an hero. That term simply means, a man eminent for bravery, or the first of his class in any respect ; so that the opprobrium created by my poetical quotation, when examined, seems to have slight foundation in justice and propriety. War is, indeed, a great evil, and can be justified only on principles of self-defence. When a nation is invaded, or attacked in relation to her undoubted rights and privileges, then she has a pretence for war. I will not assert that the attack ought to be awaited.
While methods are adopted for security at home, it may be proper to meet the enemy half way, and, by timely resistance, avert those greater evils which would attend a system of pusillanimous neglect.
It is not a little singular that one of the first battles recorded in Scripture consisted of a well-con
ducted expedition formed and leu on by one of the greatest saints that ever lived; and the circumstances, so far from being stated to his disparagement, evidently redound to his honour. Soon after the combat in the vale of Siddim, which was full of slime-pits, Lot, the nephew of Abram, was taken prisoner, and his property carried away by the four Kings commanding the victorious forces. When the disaster was made known to Abram, he armed and led forth his trained servants, three hundred and eighteen in number, and pursued the army unto Dan. He there made the needful dispositions for the approaching conflict; and, as his detachment was of far inferior numerical strength, when compared with the opposing force, he properly resolved upon a night attack. To use the emphatic language of holy writ, there "he smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus;" and to show that the discomfiture was complete, it is added, “he brought back all the goods, and his brother Lot, the women also, and the people.” This action is enhanced, when the principle is examined, which induced it. Abram fought, not for his own profit, but for the welfare and credit of his country. When rewards were tendered, he refused them. “I have,” said he unto the King of Sodom, “lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich."
The valour and success of a religious Captain are also shown during the hostile advances of the Israelites through the wilderness, nearly five hundred years after the event just recited. Among other opponents, Sihon, the Amoritish King, endeavoured to dispute
We do not discover that recourse was had to tedious and doubtful negotiations. It was
probably shown to the Israelitish leader, by divine
At all events, an immediate battle took
Joshua, like all other good men, lost no time in doing a good ac
He did not let the grass grow under his feet. He came on the enemy "suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth to Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah."- What is, in some respects, more singular, the Israelites were subsequently delivered from a foreign yoke by the heroism of a reli