The Almighty's Position On the Morality of War—John Jay


JOHN JAYAmerican Founding Father John Jay served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and as its President, as one of the negotiators and Signers of the Treaty of Paris following the Revolutionary War, as one of the co-authors of the New York State Constitution and of the Federalist Papers, as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, as Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court and as the First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, as Governor of New York, and in his retirement, as Vice-President, and later as President, of the American Bible Society.

It was while serving as Vice President of the American Bible Society that he responded to a letter from John Murray, Junior, regarding the Moral Law and the Almighy’s position on War, a position Jay believed was consistent, rather than evolutionary as some opponents and even some advocates of Christianity claim today:

Whether war of every description is prohibited by the gospel, is one of those questions on which the excitement of any of the passions can produce no light. An answer to it can result only from careful investigation and fair reasoning.

It appears to me that the gospel not only recognizes the whole moral law, and extends and perfects our knowledge of it, but also enjoins on all mankind the observance of it. Being ordained by a legislator of infinite wisdom and rectitude, and in whom there is “no variableness,” it must be free from imperfection, and therefore never has, nor ever will require amendment or alteration. Hence I conclude that the moral law is exactly the same now that it was before the flood.

That all those wars and fightings are unlawful, which record institutions, declarations, and interpositions of
the Almighty which manifestly evince the contrary. If every war is sinful, how did it happen that the sin of waging any war is not specified among the numerous sins and offences which are mentioned and reproved in both the Testaments? To collect and arrange the many facts and arguments which relate to this subject would require more time and application than I am able to bestow. The aforegoing are hinted merely to exhibit some of the reasons on which my opinion rests.

It certainly is very desirable that a pacific disposition should prevail among all nations. The most effectual way of producing it is by extending the prevalence and influence of the gospel. Real Christians will abstain from violating the rights of others, and therefore will not provoke war.

Almost all nations have peace or war at the will and pleasure of rulers whom they do not elect, and who are not always wise or virtuous. Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

This well reasoned and biblically consistent position of John Jay bears witness not only to his own scholarship and faith, but is but part of a larger collection from his fellow Founders which bear witness as to their profound and thorough understanding of the Holy Bible, the Moral Law taught within its pages, as to how that law ought to apply as to the Laws of Nations, and of their deep and abiding faith in God.

Source: John Jay. Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Volume 4, Letter to John Murray, Junior, dated 16 October 1816.

They Were Believers is researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional commentary and explanatory notes) by Steve Farrell, Founder and Editor In Chief of The Moral Liberal. Copyright © 2012-2014 Steve Farrell.