The pulpit of the Free States has almost unanimously been in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the present war, and has vehemently urged Christian men, on Christian principles, to cast aside all considerations of property and life, and throw themselves unreservedly into the bloody work of putting down the rebellion of the secessionists of the Slave States. A few clergymen have dissented from the vast majority of the order to which they belong, not on the general principle of the rightfulness of subduing the Southern outbreak by fire and sword, but on the question whether the belligerent course is or is not Christian. They admit that a supreme State necessity, overriding everything else, compels every man, religious or irreligious, to be willing to serve his country in a military capacity; but they insist that in doing so he acts from human and not from Christian inspirations. They think that the ideas and sentiments of Christianity, which inculcate non-resistance to the most flagrant wrong, which teach us to bless those that curse us, and when we are smitten on one cheek to turn the other to the smiter, are too precious to be identified with any cause, however noble, which is to be sustained by the sword.

We have too much respect for those who, in times of great excitement, resolutely affirm “eternal principles” against the impulses of the hour and the day, to treat their statements and arguments with the slightest discourtesy. They are persons who are not to be deluded by the sophism of the “American Peace Society,” that the 150,000 armed men called out by President Lincoln are merely an addition to “the police.” They honestly say that, for the present, the principles of Christianity should be held “in abeyance,” and that we should kill the enemies of freedom, of government, of civilization on purely human maxims, keeping our Christianity for a more appropriate season.

The objection to the theory of these clergymen is fundamental. They admit that resistance to Jefferson Davis is a necessity of our social condition. But necessity is another name for the commands of God. What we cannot help, God ordains. Necessity implies that all individual will, opinion and caprice, is nullified by Divine Providence. What events absolutely force us to do, God manifestly intends we shall do. Necessity, unless we interpret the word in an atheistic sense, is the impulse given to our wills by our Creator. If it leads us to battle, God is the leader; and if, after we are killed, he punishes us for obeying Abraham Lincoln rather than Jesus Christ, we can only bow to the decrees of a Power which is both inscrutable and omnipotent.

But we do not think that the intelligent will of man is under the dominion of necessity. If we thought that the present war was not Christian, we should not hesitate to denounce it, regardless of all seeming necessities of the State. No human being who has consciously acknowledged Christ as his Master, has the right to heed any proclamation of the President of the United States which palpably contradicts the commands of Christ. He had better suffer all that man can inflict than violate the conditions of his eternal salvation.

But, in truth, the teachings of our Saviour in regard to the war may be all condensed in the statement that we should never be animated by a feeling of personal vindictiveness and revenge. If Jefferson Davis of Mississippi strikes John Davis of Massachusetts, on one cheek, let John Davis offer the other; but if Jefferson Davis strikes at the community of which John Davis is a member, there is not a word in the New Testament which forbids John Davis to lead a hundred thousand men to annihilate Jefferson Davis and his rascal crew. John has no Christian right to cut down Jefferson from motives of personal revenge, but he has a Christian right to destroy him as a public enemy.

Fortunately we have the express commands of our Saviour on this point, in the text—”Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Among the things that peculiarly appertain to Caesar is the armed defence of the community he governs against those who would inaugurate anarchy in the place of civil government. This necessarily implies the use of force; and a necessary antagonism is introduced between Caesar and Christ, if war is under all circumstances unchristian. If you give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, you must occasionally be ready to fight; but do you, in this conjuncture, necessarily violate the command to give unto God the things that are God’s? We should say that by rendering unto Abraham Lincoln, who is our Caesar, the things that are Abraham Lincoln’s, we obey a Divine command, and God, we suppose, never commands anything unchristian.

Leaving all these considerations of the meaning of texts, and striking at the essence of Christianity, it is plain that, since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we have had no such manifestation of the Christian spirit as we have witnessed within the last few weeks. The essence of Christianity consists in self-sacrifice and in the conscious belief of the immortality of the human soul. As regards the latter, the “legal tap of the drum” has been like the resurrection trumpet, waking the dead to life. It is customary to say that the “spirit” of the people has been roused. And the term is mataphysically exact. It is no material, animal spirit, such as ordinarily characterises times of peace, but the immortal, indestructable spirit of Man, which underlies the phenomena of common existence. A great occasion has called forth that quality in human nature which is independent of bodily conditions, and which is felt to be superior to all mishaps that may befall the body. Every man of our “braves” who marched to Washington felt that he bore within him that immortal soul, that instinct of Right, Justice and Truth, which pistol bullets and cannon balls cannot harm; and every servant of God bade him God speed in his holy pilgrimage. The body, the mere environment of the undying soul, is for once felt to be nothing in comparison with the awful guest it contains, and the peaceful minister of Christ blesses, with unwonted humility, the rough soldier whose practical Christianity so far exceeds his own.

In respect to the other characteristic of Christianity, self-sacrifice, the indications have been so overwhelming as to amaze its “authorized” preachers. The rapidity with which a whole population, seemingly immersed in sensual comfort, and indifferent to any ethics but those involved in the transactions of trade, has sprung to arms,—the suddenness with which property has been sacrificed and domestic ties been severed, at the call of duty—and the instantaneous adaptation of wives, mothers and sisters to the altered circumstances of their lot—have astonished the accredited expositors of the Divine Word. They felt that to withhold the blessing of God on such an unexpected development of Christian heroism, would be blasphemy of the worst kind.

We think, therefore, that the war in which we are now engaged, is eminently a Christian war, to be defended on Christian principles, and that it has furnished an occasion for the exercise of Christian virtues such as no man believed to exist in our people, until the exigency called them forth. All the true religion there is in the free States is now on the side of war, and not a vital principle of Christ is violated in prosecuting it to the end.