It Is Wrong To Take The Sword (Moses Lard on War; Part 7 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For previous parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)
War Defined and Examined (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)
The Will of God is Wholly Against War (Part 6 of 11)

It Is Wrong To Take The Sword

My fourth argument is drawn from the two following passages:

Then said Jesus to him: Put up again thy sword into its place; for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.

Matthew 26:52


He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed by the sword.

Revelation 13:10

If these two passages do not settle the question, then I must despair of ever seeing it settled, at least by holy writ. I cannot imagine how a passage, unless it ran in the words, “you shall not go to war,” could be more decisive than these are. To my mind they are final.

But let me analyze the passages. And, first, we have the broad general assertion: “all that take the sword shall perish by the sword.” This language is without limitation, and must hence be taken in its most comprehensive sense. It does not apply merely to men who take the sword for this purpose, but not to men who take it for that. It applies to all men who take the sword, whether in the kingdom of Christ or out of it, of today or tomorrow. No matter what they are, or when they live; if they take the sword, the decree is gone forth, they must die by it. This is absolutely indisputable. Why, now, has Christ decreed that all who take the sword shall die by it? The sole reason is, because it is wrong to take the sword. If it were right to take the sword, then it would be wrong to decree that he who takes it shall die by it. To die by the sword is appointed to be the penalty of taking it; it is the punishment due him who uses it. But this it could not be, if using the sword were right. It is hence wrong, universally wrong. No Christian, then, may use it. Consequently, no Christian can go to war. This conclusion seems to me wholly invulnerable. It is incapable of refutation.

Next, the specific direction: “Put up again your sword into its place.” But why put it up? Because, says the defendant of war, it was not allowable to use it in furtherance of Christ’s kingdom. Granted. But this is not the reason assigned by the Savior for putting up the sword. That reason is, “for all that take the sword shall die by it.” Clearly the train of thought which yields the specific direction is this: All who take the sword shall die by it, because it is wrong ever to take it. Then, Peter, you must not use it. Therefore put it up.

Now how antagonistic to this position of the advocate of war. He does not say to the Christian, who stands in the battle rank, with drawn sword, ready to strike his fellow down: Put up your sword. Not at all. He says rather to that Christian: Draw your sword and strike. Why? Because he who takes the sword shall not die by it; for it is right to take it. It is idle to say more here.

To the same effect is the language cited from Revelation: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity.” Now it can hardly be held to be right to go to war, but wrong to lead a captured warrior into captivity. This is certainly deemed, by such as defend war, to be one of its most legitimate consequences. Yet the passage settles that “he who leads into captivity shall himself go into captivity;” and his going into captivity is clearly determined against him as a retribution or punishment in kind for his deed. But how can he who leads into captivity be punished in kind, unless leading into captivity is itself wrong? The answer is clear. To go into captivity is a just punishment for leading into captivity. Hence leading into captivity is wrong. But leading into captivity cannot be wrong, and war, out of which it grows, be right. Hence war itself is wrong; and, therefore, the Christian can take no part in it.

But the remainder of John’s language is still more decisive than this: “He that kills with the sword shall be killed by the sword.” How, in the teeth of this, the Christian can persuade himself that he can innocently go to war, is a mystery I never expect to be able to show. There is but one way, it seems to me, in which he can possibly approve his deed himself, or make it appear to be right. If he can show that to be killed by the sword is not punishment, but is in itself right and approved by Christ, then it may be he can show that the killing of others, from which it springs, is right also. There is no other way.

The only possible reply to this, which I can think of, is, that the killing which leads to being killed is the killing, not of a public, but of a private personal enemy. Should anyone take this position, I have simply to say, that for him I am not writing. I am writing for fair men and reasonable; no others.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s fifth argument against war here:
Love Your Enemies (Moses Lard on War; Part 8 of 11)

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