Wesley on war

by Richard on November 12, 2012

“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)

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


Pam 11.12.12 at 9:35 pm

Last night I was reading a Geoffrey Blainey book, and in a chapter on “Two Open-Air Voices: Wesley and Whitefield” I came across these lines:

“While Whitefield created no sect of his own, he promoted the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists and a sect called the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion.” Inspirational name for this blog?


steve 11.13.12 at 4:44 am

“True, but just you consider, most all of us are simple folk. And in France too the majority of men are labourers, workmen, or poor clerks. Now just why would a French blacksmith or a French shoemaker want to attack us? No, it is merely the rulers. I have never see a Frenchman before I came here, and it will be just the same with the majority of Frenchmen as regards us. They weren’t asked about it any more than we were.”
All Quiet on The Western Front, - Erich Maria Remarque

When will we ever learn? Haven’t we enough examples already?


Richard 11.13.12 at 7:46 am

Connexion was the way connection was spelled in the 18th cent. British Methodists have kept the usage, hence the name of this blog. The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion still exists, as do the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, now more commonly known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales.


Pam 11.13.12 at 8:45 am

Thanks for that information Richard.

This is the best war (or more correctly anti-war) poem I’ve ever read:

Beach Burial by Kenneth Slessor

Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailor come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under
But morning rolls them in the foam.

Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;

And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin -

‘Unknown seaman’ - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of the wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men’s lips,

Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.

El Alamein.


Richard 11.13.12 at 9:33 am

Powerful stuff indeed, Pam. You have an astonishing range of poetry at your fingertips!

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