Econlib

The Library

Other Sites

Front Page arrow Quotations arrow Other Quotes arrow Week of 27 December, 2012

Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

This quotation is part of a series for “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on the theme of “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men” [Luke 2:14]

In three major works Erasmus presents a devastating critique of war, especially when waged by Christians. There is the standard denunciation of the impact war has has on ordinary working people, “the poor, the unoffending common people”, whose lives and property are destroyed by the armies led by aristocrats, mercenaries and even bishops of the church. To Erasmus, all war was a form of fratricide with fellow humans killing each other, but it was doubly fratricidal when fellow Christians killed each other, or what he called “this fit of insanity”. When Christian killed Christian he believed this violated Christ’s “own peculiar law”, the law of love or charity. Even when a military leader like King David fought wars “against the wicked, and at the command of God” he ended up with blood on his hands and was thus “a sanguinary prince” and therefore not invited to build God’s temple. He reminds his readers that at the birth of Christ “the angels sung not the glories of war, nor a song of triumph, but a hymn of peace.” In the Europe of his own day the people were “satiated with everlasting wars” and it was now time to “indulge at length a longing after peace.”

Other quotes about War & Peace:

27 December, 2012

Erasmus_Duerer_300

The 3rd Day of Christmas: Erasmus stands against war and for peace on earth (16th century)

Read the full quote in context here.

In his polemic against war (date?) the Dutch humanist scholar and theologian Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) denounces war for its destructiveness and its violation of fundamental Christian doctrine. He reminds Christians that at the birth of Christ “the angels sung not the glories of war, nor a song of triumph, but a hymn of peace”:

If there is in the affairs of mortal men any one thing which it is proper uniformly to explode; which it is incumbent on every man, by every lawful means, to avoid, to deprecate, to oppose, that one thing is doubtless war. There is nothing more unnaturally wicked, more productive of misery, more extensively destructive, more obstinate in mischief, more unworthy of man as formed by nature, much more of man professing Christianity….

Solomon was a type of Christ. But the word Solomon in Hebrew signifies the Pacific. Solomon, on this account, because he was pacific, was chosen to build the temple. David, though endeared by some virtues, was rejected as a builder of the temple, because he had stained his hands in blood, because he was a sanguinary prince, because, in a word, he was a warrior. He was rejected for this, though the wars he carried on were against the wicked, and at the command of God; and though he, who afterwards abrogated, in great measure, the laws of Moses, had not yet taught mankind that they ought to love their enemies.

At the nativity of Jesus Christ, the angels sung not the glories of war, nor a song of triumph, but a hymn of peace. “Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace; good-will towards men.” The mystic poet and prophet foretold before his birth, Factus est in pace locus ejus.” (And his place is in peace)

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

ANTIPOLEMUS; or, the PLEA OF REASON, RELIGION, AND HUMANITY, AGAINST WAR.

If there is in the affairs of mortal men any one thing which it is proper uniformly to explode; which it is incumbent on every man, by every lawful means, to avoid, to deprecate, to oppose, that one thing is doubtless war. There is nothing more unnaturally wicked, more productive of misery, more extensively destructive, more obstinate in mischief, more unworthy of man as formed by nature, much more of man professing Christianity.

Yet, wonderful to relate! in these times, war is every where rashly, and on the slightest pretext, undertaken; cruelly and savagely conducted, not only by unbelievers, but by Christians; not only by laymen, but by priests and bishops; not only by the young and inexperienced, but even by men far advanced in life, who must have seen and felt its dreadful consequences; not only by the lower order, the rude rabble, fickle in their nature, but, above all, by princes, whose duty it is to compose the rash passions of the unthinking multitude by superior wisdom and the force of reason. Nor are there ever wanting men learned in the law, and even divines, who are ready to furnish firebrands for the nefarious work, and to fan the latent sparks into a flame.

Whence it happens, that war is now considered so much a thing of course, that the wonder is, how any man can disapprove of it; so much sanctioned by authority and custom, that it is deemed impious, I had almost said heretical, to have borne testimony against a practice in its principle most profligate, and in its effects pregnant with every kind of calamity….

But grant that the heathens might be hurried into all this madness and folly by anger, by ambition, by avarice, by cruelty, or, which I am rather inclined to believe, by the furies sent from Hell for that very purpose; yet how could it ever enter into our hearts, that a Christian should imbrue his hands in the blood of a Christian! If a brother murder his brother, the crime is called fratricide: but a Christian is more closely allied to a Christian as such, then a brother by the ties of consanguinity; unless the bonds of nature are stronger than the bonds of Christ, which Christians, consistently with their faith, cannot allow. How absurd then is it, that they should be constantly at war with each other; who form but one family, the church of Christ; who are members of the same body; who boast of the same head, even Jesus Christ; who have one Father in Heaven, common to them all; who grow in grace by the same spirit; who are initiated in the same mysteries, redeemed by the same blood, regenerated at the same font, nourished by the same holy sacrament, militate under the same great Captain of Salvation, eat of the same bread, partake of the same cup, have one common enemy, the devil, and are all called to the same eternal inheritance?

Where are there so many and so sacred obligations to perfect concord as in the Christian religion? Where so numerous exhortations to peace? One law Jesus Christ claimed as his own peculiar law, and it was the law of love or charity. What practice among mankind violates this law so grossly as war? Christ salutes his votaries with the happy omen of peace. To his disciples he gives nothing but peace; he leaves them no other legacy but peace. In his holy prayers, the subject of his devout entreaty was principally, that, as he was one with the Father, so his disciples, that is to say, all Christians, might be one with him. This union is something more than peace, more than friendship, more than concord, it is an intimate communion with the Divine Nature….

Solomon was a type of Christ. But the word Solomon in Hebrew signifies the Pacific. Solomon, on this account, because he was pacific, was chosen to build the temple. David, though endeared by some virtues, was rejected as a builder of the temple, because he had stained his hands in blood, because he was a sanguinary prince, because, in a word, he was a warrior. He was rejected for this, though the wars he carried on were against the wicked, and at the command of God; and though he, who afterwards abrogated, in great measure, the laws of Moses, had not yet taught mankind that they ought to love their enemies.

At the nativity of Jesus Christ, the angels sung not the glories of war, nor a song of triumph, but a hymn of peace. “Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace; good-will towards men.” The mystic poet and prophet foretold before his birth, Factus est in pace locus ejus.” (And his place is in peace)


[Editor’s Note] Psalm 76:1-4 “Notus in Judæa Deus; in Israël magnum nomen ejus. Et factus est in pace locus ejus, et habitatio ejus in Sion. Ibi confregit potentias arcuum, scutum, gladium, et bellum.” (In Judea God is known: his name is great in Israel. And his place is in peace: and his abode in Sion: There has he broken the powers of bows, the shield, the sword, and the battle.)

[More works by Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536) and on War and Peace]