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Lev Tolstoy
The Kingdom of God is Within You / Christianity and Patriotism / Miscellanies

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU

Or, Christianity Not as a Mystical Teaching but as a New Concept of Life

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John viii. 23).

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. x. 28).

Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men (1. Cor. vii. 23).

In the year 1884 I wrote a book under the title, My Religion. In this book I really expounded what my religion is.

In expounding my belief in Christ's teaching, I could not help but express the reason why I do not believe in the ecclesiastic faith, which is generally called Christianity, and why I consider it to be a delusion.

Among the many deviations of this teaching of Christ, I pointed out the chief deviation, namely, the failure to acknowledge the commandment of non-resistance to evil, which more obviously than any other shows the distortion of Christ's teaching in the church doctrine.

I knew very little, like the rest of us, as to what had been done and preached and written in former days on this subject of non-resistance to evil. I knew what had been said on this subject by the fathers of the church, Origen, Tertullian, and others, and I knew also that there have existed certain so-called sects of the Mennonites, Herrnhuters, Quakers, who do not admit for a Christian the use of weapons and who do not enter military service, but what had been done by these so-called sects for the solution of this question was quite unknown to me.

My book, as I expected, was held back by the Russian censor, but, partly in consequence of my reputation as a writer, partly because it interested people, this book was disseminated in manuscripts and lithographic reprints in Russia and in translations abroad, and called forth, on the one hand, on the part of men who shared my views, a series of references to works written on the subject, and, on the other, a series of criticisms on the thoughts expressed in that book itself.

Both, together with the historical phenomena of recent times, have made many things clear to me and have brought me to new deductions and conclusions, which I wish to express.

First I shall tell of the information which I received concerning the history of the question of non-resistance to evil, then of the opinions on this subject which were expressed by ecclesiastic critics, that is, such as profess the Christian religion, and also by laymen, that is, such as do not profess the Christian religion; and finally, those deductions to which I was brought by both and by the historical events of recent times.

I

Among the first answers to my book there came some letters from the American Quakers. In these letters, which express their sympathy with my views concerning the unlawfulness for Christianity of all violence and war, the Quakers informed me of the details of their so-called sect, which for more than two hundred years has in fact professed Christ's teaching about non-resistance to evil, and which has used no arms in order to defend itself. With their letters, the Quakers sent me their pamphlets, periodicals, and books. From these periodicals, pamphlets, and books which they sent me I learned to what extent they had many years ago incontestably proved the obligation for a Christian to fulfil the commandment about non-resistance to evil and had laid bare the incorrectness of the church teaching, which admitted executions and wars.

Having proved, by a whole series of considerations and texts, that war, that is, the maiming and killing of men, is incompatible with a religion which is based on love of peace and good-will to men, the Quakers affirm and prove that nothing has so much contributed to the obscuration of Christ's truth in the eyes of the pagans and impeded the dissemination of Christianity in the world as the non-acknowledgment of this commandment by men who called themselves Christians, – as the permission granted to a Christian to wage war and use violence.

"Christ's teaching, which entered into the consciousness of men, not by means of the sword and of violence," they say, "but by means of non-resistance to evil, can be disseminated in the world only through humility, meekness, peace, concord, and love among its followers.

"A Christian, according to the teaching of God Himself, can be guided in his relations to men by peace only, and so there cannot be such an authority as would compel a Christian to act contrary to God's teaching and contrary to the chief property of a Christian in relation to those who are near to him.

"The rule of state necessity," they say, "may compel those to become untrue to God's law, who for the sake of worldly advantages try to harmonize what cannot be harmonized, but for a Christian, who sincerely believes in this, that the adherence to Christ's teaching gives him salvation, this rule can have no meaning."

My acquaintance with the activity of the Quakers and with their writings, – with Fox, Paine, and especially with Dymond's book (1827), – showed me that not only had the impossibility of uniting Christianity with violence and war been recognized long ago, but that this incompatibility had long ago been proved so clearly and so incontestably that one has only to marvel how this impossible connection of the Christian teaching with violence, which has been preached all this time by the churches, could have been continued.

Besides the information received by me from the Quakers, I, at about the same time, received, again from America, information in regard to the same subject from an entirely different source, which had been quite unknown to me before.

The son of William Lloyd Garrison, the famous champion for the liberation of the negroes, wrote to me that, when he read my book, in which he found ideas resembling those expressed by his father in 1838, he, assuming that it might be interesting for me to know this, sent me the "Declaration of Non-resistance," which his father had made about fifty years ago.

This declaration had its origin under the following conditions: William Lloyd Garrison, in speaking before a society for the establishment of peace among men, which existed in America in 1838, about the measures for abolishing war, came to the conclusion that the establishment of universal peace could be based only on the obvious recognition of the commandment of non-resistance to evil (Matt. v. 39) in all its significance, as this was understood by the Quakers, with whom Garrison stood in friendly relations. When he came to this conclusion, he formulated and proposed to the society the following declaration, which was then, in 1838, signed by many members.

DECLARATION OF SENTIMENTS ADOPTED BY THE PEACE CONVENTION, HELD IN BOSTON IN 1838

"We, the undersigned, regard it as due to ourselves, to the cause which we love, to the country in which we live, and to the world, to publish a Declaration, expressive of the principles we cherish, the purposes we aim to accomplish, and the measures we shall adopt to carry forward the work of peaceful and universal reformation.

"We cannot acknowledge allegiance to any human government… We recognize but one King and Lawgiver, one Judge and Ruler of mankind…

"Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity, only as we love all other lands. The interests, rights, and liberties of American citizens are no more dear to us than are those of the whole human race. Hence we can allow no appeal to patriotism, to revenge any national insult or injury…

"We conceive, that if a nation has no right to defend itself against foreign enemies, or to punish its invaders, no individual possesses that right in his own case. The unit cannot be of greater importance than the aggregate… But if a rapacious and bloodthirsty soldiery, thronging these shores from abroad, with intent to commit rapine and destroy life, may not be resisted by the people or magistracy, then ought no resistance to be offered to domestic troublers of the public peace, or of private security…

"The dogma, that all the governments of the world are approvingly ordained of God, and that the powers that be in the United States, in Russia, in Turkey, are in accordance with His will, is not less absurd than impious. It makes the impartial Author of human freedom and equality unequal and tyrannical. It cannot be affirmed that the powers that be, in any nation, are actuated by the spirit, or guided by the example of Christ, in the treatment of enemies: therefore, they cannot be agreeable to the will of God: and, therefore, their overthrow, by a spiritual regeneration of their subjects, is inevitable.

"We register our testimony, not only against all wars, whether offensive or defensive, but all preparations for war; against every naval ship, every arsenal, every fortification; against the militia system and a standing army; against all military chieftains and soldiers; against all monuments commemorative of victory over a foreign foe, all trophies won in battle, all celebrations in honour of military or naval exploits: against all appropriations for the defence of a nation by force and arms on the part of any legislative body; against every edict of government, requiring of its subjects military service. Hence, we deem it unlawful to bear arms, or to hold a military office.

"As every human government is upheld by physical strength, and its laws are enforced virtually at the point of the bayonet, we cannot hold any office which imposes upon its incumbent the obligation to do right, on pain of imprisonment or death. We therefore voluntarily exclude ourselves from every legislative and judicial body, and repudiate all human politics, worldly honours, and stations of authority. If we cannot occupy a seat in the legislature, or on the bench, neither can we elect others to act as our substitutes in any such capacity.

"It follows that we cannot sue any man at law, to compel him by force to restore anything which he may have wrongfully taken from us or others; but, if he has seized our coat, we shall surrender up our cloak, rather than subject him to punishment.

"We believe that the penal code of the old covenant, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, has been abrogated by Jesus Christ; and that, under the new covenant, the forgiveness, instead of the punishment of enemies, has been enjoined upon all His disciples, in all cases whatsoever. To extort money from enemies, or set them upon a pillory, or cast them into prison, or hang them upon a gallows, is obviously not to forgive, but to take retribution…

"The history of mankind is crowded with evidences, proving that physical coercion is not adapted to moral regeneration; that the sinful disposition of man can be subdued only by love; that evil can be exterminated from the earth only by goodness; that it is not safe to rely upon an arm of flesh … to preserve us from harm; that there is great security in being gentle, harmless, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy; that it is only the meek who shall inherit the earth, for the violent, who resort to the sword, shall perish with the sword. Hence, as a measure of sound policy, of safety to property, life, and liberty, of public quietude, and private enjoyment, as well as on the ground of allegiance to Him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, we cordially adopt the non-resistance principle; being confident that it provides for all possible consequences, will ensure all things needful to us, is armed with omnipotent power, and must ultimately triumph over every assailing foe.

"We advocate no jacobinical doctrines. The spirit of jacobinism is the spirit of retaliation, violence, and murder. It neither fears God, nor regards man. We would be filled with the spirit of Christ. If we abide by our principles, it is impossible for us to be disorderly, or plot treason, or participate in any evil work: we shall submit to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake; obey all the requirements of government, except such as we deem contrary to the commands of the gospel; and in no wise resist the operation of law, except by meekly submitting to the penalty of disobedience.

"But, while we shall adhere to the doctrines of non-resistance and passive submission to enemies, we purpose, in a moral and spiritual sense, to speak and act boldly in the cause of God; to assail iniquity in high places and in low places; to apply our principles to all existing civil, political, legal, and ecclesiastical institutions; and to hasten the time when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever.

"It appears to us as a self-evident truth, that, whatever the gospel is designed to destroy, any period of the world, being contrary to it, ought now to be abandoned. If, then, the time is predicted, when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks, and men shall not learn the art of war any more, it follows that all who manufacture, sell, or wield these deadly weapons do thus array themselves against the peaceful dominion of the Son of God on earth.

"Having thus briefly, but frankly, stated our principles and purposes, we proceed to specify the measures we propose to adopt, in carrying our object into effect.

"We expect to prevail through the foolishness of preaching – striving to commend ourselves unto every man's conscience, in the sight of God. From the press, we shall promulgate our sentiments as widely as practicable. We shall endeavour to secure the coöperation of all persons, of whatever name or sect… Hence we shall employ lectures, circulate tracts and publications, form societies, and petition our State and national governments in relation to the subject of universal peace. It will be our leading object to devise ways and means for effecting a radical change in the views, feelings, and practices of society respecting the sinfulness of war, and the treatment of enemies.

"In entering upon the great work before us, we are not unmindful that, in its prosecution, we may be called to test our sincerity, even as in a fiery ordeal. It may subject us to insult, outrage, suffering, yea, even death itself. We anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, calumny. Tumults may arise against us. The ungodly and the violent, the proud and pharisaical, the ambitious and tyrannical, principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places, may combine to crush us. So they treated the Messiah, whose example we are humbly striving to imitate… We shall not be afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. Our confidence is in the Lord Almighty, not in man. Having withdrawn from human protection, what can sustain us but that faith which overcomes the world? We shall not think it strange concerning the fiery ordeal which is to try us, as though some strange thing had happened unto us; but rejoice, inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ's sufferings. Wherefore, we commit the keeping of our souls to God, in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. 'For every one that forsakes houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for Christ's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.'

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