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embracing a period of nearly six hundred and fifty years, the temple was closed but once, and then for only six years, which implies that Rome was engaged during that long period in an almost uninterrupted series of military operations.
It had been a maxim among the Greeks that no more acceptable gifts can be offered in the temples of the gods than the trophies won from an enemy in battle. Such a sentiment could not fail to be a powerful incentive to aggressive warfare. History, in fact, exhibits the various Grecian communities engaged in incessant wars. Among them not less than among the Romans, a citizen and a soldier were synonymous terms; and with the exception of, perhaps, Egypt alone, this is equally true of all the nations of antiquity of which we have any record. The Prophet Isaiah, in portraying the life of the coming Redeemer, enumerates among His distinguishing traits, His pacific character and mission : "A Child is born to us, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace."2 The song of the angelic choir at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem foreshadowed His twofold mission on earth: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will."
And these predictions of the prophet and the angels are fully borne out by the example and precepts of our Saviour. The Gospels and Epistles
1 Dion Chrysostom, Or. II. De Regno.
2 Isaiah IX., 6.
habitually inculcate peace and good will, charity and benevolence, patience and self-denial, forgiveness of injuries and the returning of good for evil. They condemn with equal force, hatred, resentment and retaliation, enmities and warfare. They recommend the settlement of difficulties by peaceable arbitration rather than by recourse to arms or litigation.
"Blessed are the meek; for they shall possess the land. Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God."1
"Ye have heard that it was said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."2
"Ye have heard that it was said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say to you: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you: that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh His sun to rise on the good and the bad, and raineth on the just and the unjust."3
"James and John said: Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them? And turning, He rebuked them, saying: Ye know not of what spirit ye are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save."4 "Jesus answered: My Kingdom is not of this
world. If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My Kingdom is not from hence."1
"The works of the flesh are manifest which are . . . enmities, contentions, rivalries, wrath, quarrels, disputes, sects, envying, murders, . . . and the like; of which I forewarn you that they who do such things, shall not obtain the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, ... peace, patience, mildness, goodness, long-suffering. . . . Against such there is no law."2
"Whence are wars and contests among you? Is it not hence, from your lusts which war in your members? Ye covet and ye have not: ye kill and envy, and ye cannot obtain: ye fight and war, and ye have not, because ye ask not." 3
Indeed war and enmities are so strongly deprecated in these and other passages of the New Testament, that a few of the early Fathers regarded all war as unlawful for Christians, and some of the primitive converts to Christianity conscientiously abstained from military service as intrinsically wrong. While the Church never considered a military life as incompatible with the profession of the Christian religion, and while admitting that war may be sometimes necessary, she declares that hostilities undertaken even in a just cause, are always to be deplored because they involve great calamities, and are rarely
exempt from acts of injustice and inhumanity. She forbids churchmen to take up arms, applying to them the words addressed by Christ to Peter: "Put thy sword into its place, for all they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.”1
In advocating the reign of peace, the Church has always labored at a great disadvantage. From the foundation of Christianity till the peace of Constantine in the beginning of the fourth century, the Church herself was pursued with unrelenting fury, and was obliged to struggle for her very existence:
"Oft doom'd to death, though fated not to die."
She had, consequently, no voice in the councils of the nations; and her influence for peace was confined to individuals and to the secretly-assembled congregations of the faithful.
The incursions of the barbarians preceding and following the extinction of the Roman Empire in 476; the rise of Mohammedanism in the seventh century; the warlike spirit and rapid invasions of the Saracens, were all disturbing elements on the face of Europe, and they hampered the ministers of religion in proclaiming the Gospel of peace. But if Christianity could not at once subdue, it tempered the fierce spirit of the invaders of Europe. The sons of St. Benedict converted swords into ploughshares in many country districts of Italy, France, Germany and England, and diverted the minds of thousands
from warlike pursuits to the peaceful occupations of agriculture and manufacture.
And during the middle ages, especially in the turbulent period of the eleventh century, when civil war broke out so frequently between the princes and their vassals, and among the feudal lords themselves, the Church, while unable to stop bloodshed, succeeded at least in checking the ardor of strife by establishing the "Truce of God." By this Truce it was decreed that from Wednesday evening till Monday morning of each week, and during the whole season of Advent and Christmas Tide, and also from the beginning of Lent till the octave of Pentecost, all military contests should be suspended under pain of excommunication. By this pacific compact, reason had time to assert its sway, and habits of amity and good-will were gradually engendered. And later on we find the Roman Pontiffs one after another laboring incessantly for the preservation or the restoration of peace. "They rebuked the passions and checked the extravagant pretensions of sovereigns; their character as the common fathers of Christians, gave to their representations a weight which no other mediator could claim; and their legates spared neither journey nor fatigue to reconcile the jarring interests of courts, and interposed the olive of peace between the swords of contending armies.”1
By proclaiming the universal brotherhood of mankind and by fostering social and friendly relations
1Lingard, Edward III., Vol. III.