Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XVI / The Wager of Battle. A Tale of the Feudal Ages. >> Page 368

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Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription 368 SOUTHWARD HO !
I am grieved, old man, to hear you speak this language,"
was the grave censure of one who, from his garments, seemed
to be very high in authority and the church. " What thou say-
est is in direct reproach of holy church, which has frequently
called in the assistance of mortal force and human weapons to
put down the infidel, to crush the wrong-doer, and to restore
that peace which can only owe her continued existence to the
presence ever of a just readiness for war. Methinks thou
bast scarcely shown thyself enough reverent in this thy bold
opinion."
Holy father, I mean not offence ! I do not doubt that war,
with short-sightedness of human wisdom, has appeared to secure
the advantages of peace. I believe that God has endowed us
with a strength for the struggle, and with a wisdom that will
enable us to pursue it with success. These we are to employ
when necessary for the protection of the innocent, and the res-
cue and safety of those who are themselves unwilling to do
harm. But I am unwilling to believe that immortal princi-
ples�the truth of man, and the value of his assurances� are
to depend upon the weight of his own blows, or the address with
which he can ward off the assaults of another. Were this the
case, then would the strong-limbed and brutal soldier be always
the sole arbiter of truth, and wisdom, and all moral government."
We need not pursue the argument. It has long since been
settled, though with partial results only to humanity, as well by
the pagan as the Christian philosopher. But, however inge-
nious, true, or eloquent, was the venerable speaker on this occa-
sion, his arguments were entirely lost upon that assembly. He
himself soon perceived that the effect was unfavorable to his
cause, and exposed his veracity to question. With a proper
wisdom, therefore, he yielded promptly to the current. But
first he asked :
And what, may it please your majesty, if I decline this
ordeal ?"
Death !" was the reply of more than one stern voice in the
assembly. Death by fire, by the burning pincers, by the
tortures of the screw and rack."
The venerable man replied calmly.
" Life is a duty ! Life is precious !" He spoke musingly,