Images de page







Proceedings of the Fifteenth Anniversary Meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace.

THE Anniversary Meeting of this Society was held at the Friends' Meeting-house, White Hart Court, Gracechurch-street, on Tuesday evening, the 17th of May.

W. Allen, Esq. one of the Society of Friends, having been called to the chair, said, he merely consented to occupy it that the meeting might be organized, and proceed regularly to business. He should have preferred a chairman who was not a member of the Society to which he belonged, its sentiments having been known to the public on this subject ever since it was a Society.

The Rev. T. Wood, the Secretary, then proceeded to read the Report. The Rev. Dr. J. P. Smith said, he

had the honour to move,

That the Report now read be printed, and distributed under the direction of the


It surely could not need much recommendation, nor the putting forth of much effort, to induce assent to the motion. The very fact of their presence within those peaceful walls, where every thing reminded one of the spirit of love and peace, was, to a great degree, a pledge of their



principles, and concurrence with the sentiments of the Report. Yet he must say a word or two, not to impress their minds with the importance of the subject, but to give vent to some feelings of his own. ciple of our holy religion, that our were too prone to overlook one prinobligation to do right and good should not spring from the prospect of actual success. We ought to anticipate in every course of holy exertion, obstructions, perplexities and disappointments. Such was the inherent principle of our fallen nature, and the righteous decree of God, that difficulties were necessary for us. It was necessary that those who were engaged in the holy warfare of mild love, and peace, and piety, against brute force, ignorance, and wickedness, should have severe trials to put to test their sincerity, and to distinguish solid principles from adventitious opinions. He was far from being disposed to underrate success; but he cautioned his own mind, and the friends of the cause, against looking too much to cheering prospects or beclouded anticipations. Let us not look to one or the other. Let us do right, upon the eternal and incontrovertible foundations of truth and justice. The moral laws that bound together the whole intelligent


universe, did not depend on adventitious circumstances, were indebted to no accident, and could not cease to be binding on all nature. What was the object of this Society but a warfare of peace against cruelty, a warfare of holiness against sin, of faith against unbelief, and of the cause of God against that of brutality, malignity, and impiety in every form? And could they not discern a manifest progress towards brighter and more glorious days, which had not only been anticipated by pious and eminent men, but which the sure word of heaven confirmed? It was not now practicable to induce two great and enlightened nations to think

it their interest to be the enemies of each other. It was not long ago said, that the English and French were born to be enemies; that rivalship was natural to them, and that France and England were natural enemies, and that the various countries of Europe were parcelled out into natural friends and natural foes. It was not now practicable to make that go down with reflecting men; and even children, it appeared from the Report, were beginning to think on the subject, and were instrumental in diffusing the principles of peace. It could not be doubted that this silent and unostentatious society would prosper. Causes of various kinds had led the great ones of the earth to admit that war was unnatural, mischievous, and hurtful. Not many ages ago, the promoters of personal war were held in general honour; but now that man would not be deemed rational, who, in the streets of London, or on 'Change, having a contest with his neighbour on a question of commerce, or what not, should desire to settle the difference by trying which possessed most brute strength, or which was most like a wild beast. Such conduct now would excite a smile. There were, in former ages, wars between the families of the lord barons,

and the poor people were led out to commit spoliation, and every form of aggression upon their own neighbours, and their wives and children, for that of which they knew nothing, and what was often worse than nothing. But this had ceased; and personal war was now also scouted. It was gratifying to see national war on the decline, and preparing, as he trusted, for its eternal departure; and though we could not but be touched with the dreadful contests at present proceeding in the East, yet the steady advance of pacific principles was such, that we should not despair ; and though we did not make success the measure of our encouragement or duty, we saw much of success that was inviting and attractive,— and a more enlightened regard to the consequences of war was gone abroad, and that must be viewed as a very encouraging symptom. He felt peculiar pleasure in hearing that so many tracts,-those messengers of peace,--had been issued by the Society; and that, in the whole, almost half a million of those little arguments in favour of reason, truth, piety, and love had gone abroad. It was impossible to form a conception of the ultimate benefit of these, though many of them, perhaps, had been destroyed. Yet, in many instances, they would be eminently under the guide of that great benevolent Being whose omnipotent hand was the mainspring of all human exertion; who sees at once the amazing combination of human societies and human hearts, and what trifling causes produce the most magnificent results for time and eternity: this great Being, beyond a doubt, was working all things after the counsel of his own will for the furtherance of his own glory. He concluded, by expressing his gratification at the spirit of piety and devotion which pervaded the report, and by exhorting them, in the exercise of prayer and faith, to commit their cause to the Great Supreme.

The Rev. Ingram Cobbin regretted that the task of seconding the motion had not devolved on some other individual, as he had not entered the meeting_until after the greater part of the Report had been read. He had been very much impressed with the title of the Society,-"The Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace." It had produced in his mind very opposite feelings; feelings of grief, and feelings of pleasure. Of grief, that at this enlightened period of the world, it should be necessary for such a Society to exist and he only wished it were possible, consistent with the views of the Society, to remove the chairman, and never place him in that situation again. It was, indeed, a matter of grief, that at this period of refinement of manners, and march of intellect, and growth of knowledge, the thunders of war should be shaking à considerable part of Europe; and that the powers who were at peace could calmly look on, and see others mangling and destroying each other, without any effort to soothe the lion down to a lamb. Since they last met, how many thousands, and tens of thousands of mangled corses had been stretched upon the plain! how many bones had been bleached in the field! how many families had been made wretched! how many widows had scarcely now dried their tears! and how many orphans had been cast upon the world! And he feared, before another year expired, the same things would occur again,-the same horrible transactions would again take place. But he did look forward with pleasure to the time when the objects of the Society would be accomplished, and he hoped much sooner than the most sanguine mind anticipated. The progress of Divine knowledge had been very rapid in the last thirty years, and the object of this Society was a divine object, and perfectly consistent with the object of the Saviour's mission, as declared at his

birth, "Peace on earth, and good will towards mankind." The world, at this moment, presented a scene at which angels might weep, and he thought he saw their tears dropping with the dews of heaven on the warrior, sent into eternity without an opportunity to calm his perturbed passions, or to cry, "Lord, have mercy on my spirit!" If angels rejoiced at the conversion of sinners, it was not too much to suppose, if for a moment it could be admitted that they could weep in heaven, that they dropped a tear at such a scene. But, on the contrary, how must they smile to behold such an assembly as this! Surely here was something to afford them joy. Perhaps it was not too much to believe that they were hovering over it, and participating in our pleasure, while we looked forward to the period when wars should cease for ever, when swords should be turned into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks. And this was the object in view, and the object every individual ought to promote, who knew his own interest, and was desirous of removing the sufferings under which the world labours at the

present moment. Why were a multitude of persons crying out for reform,-for the removal of the burden of taxation? It was in consequence of ruinous wars. But the spring of the evils of which they complained was not sufficiently regarded: men's minds were not sufficiently enlightened on the subject, or they would know that our heavy taxes were not contracted by the internal exigencies of the state, but by war, which had closed the hand of benevolence in many instances, and would make us feel, unto the third and fourth generations, what were the calamities of this cruel custom. The time was coming when the artful modes of making war look splendid would no longer deceive, and it would be looked upon as a misfortune. The lower orders had been too much deluded

by the colour of a red coat, and led to think it something honourable to march at the sound of the drum; the higher orders were too well-informed to be deluded by such a bauble as this; but they, too, had their baubles, -stars, ornaments, and titles, and were praised because they mangled and destroyed their fellow-creatures. This was, however, passing away, and men were only becoming great as they became good and exercised a kindly feeling towards their fellow creatures. Why did we, at the present moment, look with so much approbation upon Louis-Phillippe ? Because he was not a warrior, like Buonaparte, marching through the world with the fire-brands of war, but because he desired to be at peace. Why did we set our hearts so much on our noble monarch? Because he was endeavouring to promote the same object. But this Society was for the promotion of peace. Alas! the object was not yet accomplished, and the question ought to be, how is this object to be effected? In the propagation of our holy faith, God had employed the instruments of the voice and the book. He sent forth his disciples to preach the gospel of peace, and caused the page of inspiration to be circulated among all people. We lived in that happy period when these efforts had wonderfully succeeded; and we had pioneers in the Scriptures, which were diffused over the face of the whole earth. In those Scriptures we find, indeed, that the Jewish nation were addicted to war, and therefore Peter took his sword to cut off the servant's right ear; but our Divine Lord said, "Put up thy sword!" The Son of Man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. The Jewish nation were employed as the executioners of heaven upon wicked and idolatrous nations; but there was no such authority given to any nation now: there was no command given in the New Testament to go into one

another's territories and destroy each other. All was peace and mildness there; and we were to endeavour to do good to all, and to promote peace: and in proportion as Christianity prevails, will those principles prevail. The Society proposes to promote permanent and universal peace; but in what way? By preaching the principles of the Gospel; and let pastors do so in every pulpit, urging an abhorrence of the practice of war. Then, again, it was to be done by the circulation of tracts and the Sacred Scriptures. He wished to add, there was one way more to promote the object of this Society-by attending to the principles of the rising generation. He went, a few months since, into the house of one of the body called Friends, and a little boy came swaggering up to him, with a toysword, threatening to run him through. He remonstrated at once with the venerable grandfather, at whose house the child was, against furnishing those kind of toys which had a tendency to generate warlike notions. It was the little drop coming out of the fountain that helped to swell up the river, and passed on to the boisterous ocean; and therefore we should pay attention to these apparently trifling_matters, and not suffer the gun, or drum, or sword, to be found among our children's toys. A friend and brother in the ministry made a judicious remark to him, in reference to Sir Walter Scott's Grandfather's Tales, a work he had read with some pleasure, but he would not suffer it to go into the hands of his children, because the author relates, with considerable glee, the warlike exploits of his ancestors, without any suitable remarks; such' books ought not to be placed in the hands of children, unless accompanied by qualifying_remarks. It was true that our children should be acquainted with the history of their country; but when they read of the battles of Cressy, Poictiers, and other contests, they should be

taught, at the same time, to regret them, and look forward to the time when the object of this Society should be accomplished, and the nations learn war no more.

The resolution was then put, and carried.

Mr. H. Dunn, Secretary to the British and Foreign School Society, proposed the second resolution:

That as the principles of peace are like leaven, gradually making their way among the nations, every Christian is called upon for a faithful discharge of his duty, by publicly inculcating the meek and forbearing principles of his Divine Master, and thus so to make his light shine before men, that he may glorify his Father who is in heaven.

If he understood aright the object of the Peace Society, it was this,— to rectify public opinion with respect to the lawfulness of war- to diffuse more widely information with regard to the character of the Christian dispensation, as bearing upon war, and to lead men to hate and to abhor it-not merely because it was expensive, not merely because it was inconvenient, or even dangerous; but because it was sinful and odious in the sight of that Holy Being, who was pre-eminently a God of peace and love. If he understood aright the practice and proceedings of the Peace Society, it went at once to the source of the evil. Despairing of success by any other means, it made its way direct to the fountain, and there threw its healing branch into the stream of public opinion. Convinced that all other motives were but temporary and evanescent, it appealed at once to the principles and motives of the Gospel. It might be supposed, at first sight, that such a society could have no opponents— that every hand would be open to offer its assistance, and every heart rejoice in its prosperity. This, how ever, was not the case. On the contrary, a host of objectors started up; some exclaiming that such a society was needless, and others that it was useless. The first said it was

unnecessary, at least among Christians, for as soon as a man became a Christian, he was necessarily a lover of peace, and a hater of war. To a certain extent this was true, and he regretted that it was not fully so, to the extent which some persons imagined. But a reference to past history, or an acquaintance with modern opinions, would, he feared, prove that there were many, even among professing Christians, who yet needed to learn in this respect the first principles of the Gospel of Christ. And why was it so? Because Christians, like others, were too much influenced by public opinion. We none of us, perhaps, knew the extent to which we were influenced by the feelings and sentiments of those by whom we were surrounded. It was, indeed, no easy thing to stem the torrent of public opinion. Be it right, or be it wrong, we were always in danger of being carried away with it without due reflection. Now, it did not need much argument to prove, that public opinion had for many years been decidedly wrong in reference to war. Of the wars which had within the last half century desolated Europe, the majority were popular wars, supported by the suffrages, and inflamed by the shouts of the people. He granted that a change in this respect had taken place, a very decided one; but, he feared, not much to be relied upon as founded on principle. It was effected only by pecuniary loss.*

That there may be a considerable mixture in the motives which induce the present aversion to war among the great European powers (for it is not confined to this nation), we do not deny ; but we confidently believe that public opinion, influenced by more correct moral principles, is not the least prominent among these motives. The evils to which Mr. Dunn adverts, have, as the Report of the Peace Society observes, been been always concomitant with war; must, therefore, look for some other and adventitious cause to account for their present operation on Governments; that other cause is deference to public opinion, the power of which Mr. Dunn so forcibly describes.-EDITOR.


« PrécédentContinuer »