« AnteriorContinuar »
thankfully enjoy this rank, and its emoluments. But when, instead of doing so, he, in advanced life, resigns these, he is likely to be taxed with something beyond mere imbecility,—the remark of Festus to St. Paul will scarcely be thought too severe for a person acting thus at variance with common feelings and practice. As this remark may possibly be applied to me; I hope, though I have no pretensions to the learning of tbe Apostle, that I may be permitted to answer in bis words, that "I am not mad, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness."
To account for a conduct so perfectly strange and unusual, is a duty I owe to Your Majesty : but before I proceed to discharge this duty, it may be proper to examine how far I may lawfully, under any circumstances, withdraw myself from my profession.
In whatever light I regard my balf-pay, I am duly sensible that my engagement to Your Majesty and my country is one of a very sacred nature, and that I ought to be able to adduce weighty and satisfactory reasons for the step I am taking. I cannot be ignorant that such a line of conduct, if generally adopted, would produce very important consequences to society in all nations: I therefore feel it, not only an imperative duty to Your Majesty, to my brother-officers, and to the world at large, but also a most sacred duty to my Maker, that I should, with the greatest plainness, state my reasons, or rather my apology, for a proceeding which as far as I know, is in modern times unprecedented. In doing this, it will be my most anxious wish and endeavour to observe that deference and profound respect justly due to Your Majesty's person, and to the elevated and important station you fill. Should I fail in doing this, I entreat you, Sire, to believe that my failure does not arise from a wish to withhold from Your Majesty the honour justly due to you; but from an overpowering anxiety to “ render unto God the things that are God's."
Although, Sire, I feel the fullest conviction that the case I am going, hypothetically, to slate, could not under any circumstances happen to me; yet permit me to suppose, though living under your protection, that I should so far forget my obligations and my allegiance to Your Majesty as to unite myself to your enemies. Were I, by any possibility, implicated in a transaction so truly degrading, I should consider it as iny first duty; as soon as I hecame sensible of the enormity of my crime, to make the most ample and the most public reparation for it. Though my doing so might subject me to the charge of cowardice and treachery; yet, unquestionably, it would be my bounden duty to retrace my steps and return to my allegiance to.you, my lawsul sovereign; and it would be equally my duty to do this in the most public manner.
In some points iny own real situation appears to me very similar to the imaginary case I have here stated. With much zeal and sincerity I entered into the Naval Service of Your Majesty's revered Father, and swore allegiance to him. This allegiance is now, of course, due to Your Majesty, as his lawsul successor.
When I entered into this solemn contract, I entertained no apprehension that I was acting in opposition to the principles of the Christian religion; nor did any apprehension of this kind ever arise in my mind during tbe time I was actively employed in the service of my country. Nay, so far from suspecting that I was departing from Christian rectitude, it appeared to me almost certain, if I should lose my life in the service of my king and my country, that this would serve as a kind of passport to
the favour and acceptance of God. This opinion, which has been frequently inculcated by ministers of the Gospel of Peace, as well as by pagan writers, is, I believe, generatly entertained by those who think at all when they enter the naval or military profession.
Those, Sire, wbo live much in the world are imperceptibly led to think, and act, upon the principles of those with whom they associate. Though, in the busy scenes of naval service, I never entertained an idea of my profession being irreconcilable with the religion of Christ; yet, after passing several years in retirement bordering on seclusion; and after more closely inspecting the Christian precepts, and reviewing my past life, it appears to me that wbile I have been serving my king and my country, if not brilliantly, yet faithfully, I have been actingin open disobedience to the plain and positive commands of another and a superior Master,-a Master whose claims upon my allegiance are prior, and paramount, to those of Your Majesty, or of any earthly sovereign.
Christianity being considered as a part of the laws of the land, it would seem reasonable to conclude, that so long as a subject obeys the precepts of the divine Founder of this religion, he can hardly fail in any important duty to his sovereign. In other words, if a subject is careful to "render unto God, the things that are God's," it will be bardly possible for bim to witbhold from his sovereign those things that are lawfully due to him. In Christianity, one duty implies the other; and thus the duty to the Prince is placed upon the most solid foundation, as forming an essential part of a Christian's duty to God. But, Sire,permit me with great deference and respect to observe, that the claims of any earthly sovereign, parent, or benefactor, to oar gratitude, our love, and
our obedience, ought not, for a moment, to be put in competition with those of our Maker. And it is, Sire, not only our bounden duty, but also our highest interest, to ren, der unconditional and absolute obedience to God alone.
During the latter part of those years of retirement · which I have mentioned, this and other Christian truths have become strongly impressed on my mind; and conscience has told me, that, however honourable my profession may be considered, it is impossible for a man to be at the same time a faithful follower of Christ and a warrior by profession. The moment a man sells himself to his sovereign, or to his country, for the purpose of human destruction, he loses caste (if I may be allowed the expression) as a Christian. He forfeits that liberty, that freedom to think, to speak, and to act, on moral and religious principles, which, as a Christian, it is his privilege, as well as his duty, to maintain.
If a subject may be permitted to inake the remark, Your Majesty appears to entertain opinions similar to these. In confirming the sentence of a Court Martial held on a foreiga station on two officers for disobedience of orders, Your Majesty most justly observes that, “IF RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES WERE ALLOWED TO BE URGED BY INDIVIDUAL OFFICERS AS A PLEA FOR DISOBEDIENCE OF ORDERS, THE DISCIPLINE OF THE ARMY WOULD SUSTAIN AN INJURY WHICH MIGHT BE DANGEROUS TO THE STATE.” Surely, Sire, this is equivalent to saying that men who are imbued with RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES, or Christians, are unfit for the military service. Of the justice of Your Majesty's remark, or of the equity of the sentence of the court, no one conversant in inilitary discipline can entertain a doubt. Thinking men who believe that their professional duty interferes with their duty to God, ought not to halt between two opinions. Since I have been led to the examination of the foregoing opinions, my convictions from reflection and from reading, especially from reading the Holy Scriptures, have become established. Indeed there is scarcea ly a chapter in the New Testament that does not virtually condemn war,--scarcely a command, or a precept, to which a professed warrior can pay unconditional obedience. I therefore, Sire, as a Christian, looking forward to existence beyond the grave, feel myself compelled to resign, and lay at Your Majesty's feet, that commission in your Naval Service, which I Jaboured with diligence and fidelity to attain ; and on which, when attained, no one placed a higher value than myself. I see no alternative, Sire, between doing this and relinquishing those glorious hopes of immortality which our Saviour holds out to those, and to those only, who obey bis precepts.
. In camps and fleets, and in the busy scenes of public life, the awful threats and the cheering hopes of the Gospel do not receive the serious consideration they deserye. Withdrawn from those scenes, my mind has become more and more impressed with the clearest conviction, that for men to devote themselves to the military profession, and to assemble by thousands for the avowed purpose of deliberately shedding human blood, is as clearly contrary to the plain and positive precepts of Jesus, as it is abhorrent to those natural feelings of bumanity that, till blunted or perverted by education, are in mercy impressed on our hearts by our wise and benevolent Creator. Entertaining these opinions; believing that they will be approved by my future Judge; and, as a Christian, determined never to draw a sword, or pull a trigger, for the purpose of shedding human blood; nor yet to return a blow for a blow,