Wesley on war

by Richard on November 13, 2011

“But there is still greater and more undeniable proof that the very foundations of all things are utterly out of course in the Christian as well as the heathen world. There is a still more horrid reproach to the Christian name, yea, to the name of man, to all reason and humanity. There is war in the world! War between men! War between Christians! I mean, between those that bear the name of Christ, and profess to “walk as he also walked.” Now, who can reconcile war, I will not say to religion, but to any degree of reason or common sense?

Here are thirty or forty thousand men gathered together on this plain. What are they going to do? See, there are thirty or forty thousand more at a little distance. And these are going to shoot them through the head or body, to stab them, or split their skulls, and send most of their souls into everlasting fire, as fast as they possibly can. Why so? What harm have they done to them? O, none at all! They do not so much as know them. But a man, who is King of France, has a quarrel with another man, who is King of England. So these Frenchmen are to kill as many of these Englishmen as they can, to prove the King of France is in the right. Now what an argument is this! What a method of proof! What an amazing way of deciding controversies! What must mankind be, before such a thing as war could ever be known or thought of upon earth? How shocking, how inconceivable a want must there have been of common understanding, as well as common humanity, before any two Governors, or any two nations in the universe, could once think of such a method of decision! If, then, all nations, Pagan, Mahometan, and Christian, do in fact make this their last resort, what farther proof do we need of the utter degeneracy of all nations from the plainest principles of reason and virtue; of the absolute want both of common sense and common humanity, which runs through the whole race of mankind?”

John Wesley, from the sermon ‘Original Sin’ (1762)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 11.13.11 at 9:33 am

“You never cast out evil by evil. You can’t conquer violence by more violence, or fear or terror.”

“War is an element in a society, it is part of a system, the output of institutions that are inseparable from the use of armed forces. To renounce war must therefore involve the dismantling of the social and economic structure which not only encourages it but also demands it. By the same token peace too is part of a system, the output of institutions which depend on the use of nonviolent means….. Peace is the fruit of justice and can grow on no other tree. It is impossible to graft it on to a society which is unjust. The rejection of war must go hand in hand with the rejection of the systems which have required war as a continuation of politics by other means.”

– Donald Soper


Jonathan Marlowe 11.15.11 at 3:06 am

Thanks for posting this. It is one of my favorite Wesley quotes. Just to be clear, however, in case anyone ever wants to look this up, this quote does not appear in Wesley’s sermon ‘Original Sin.’ It appears in his treatise on Original Sin (1756), which is something different.

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