presbyter or deacon that employs himself in a military life shall be deposed." a
The same principle of separation with reference to Christ's ministers has ever been recognized by Christian governments and people. It was so under the Roman Empire. b It was so even under the feudal system. c From this we see how the ministers of Christ's kingdom have ever been regarded and treated, both in the church itself and by governments calling themselves Christian.
As Hallam states, the voluntary departures from it in the darkness and fierceness of feudal times by ministers giving actual military service were contrary to both civil and ecclesiastical laws. The same principle is held by the Church of England, which at the time of the Reformation never departed from the ancient universal view in regard to the separation of Christ's ministry from secular pursuits. Her seventy-sixth canon declares: "No man being admitted deacon or minister shall from thenceforth voluntarily relinquish the same, nor afterward use himself in the course of his life as a layman, upon pain of excommunication." In secular pursuits she most assuredly includes, as did the Primitive Church, military service, which has ever been considered more inconsistent than all other secular pursuits with the character and calling of the Christian ministry, and the English Government has ever recognized and supported here in this position.
the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States derived her existence through the Church of England and is identical with her as to fundamental principles. She holds, and ever has held with the Church of England and the Primitive Church, the separation of the Christian ministry and the obligation resting on them by their ordination vows to abstain from secular pursuits, especially from engaging in war and shedding of blood. Their ordination vows imply the principle of separation. It has hitherto needed no formal declaration in rules and canons. It is the common law of our church and a part of her vital principle of action. A candidate applying to be ordained and declaring that if called on he would take up arms and shed blood would be refused ordination.
On these accounts our ministers abstain from engaging in ordinary business, from holding public offices, and participating generally in politics. For these very things they are generally noted throughout the country. Any who do otherwise are exceptions to our practice. On these grounds, then, it is contrary to their consciences as officers of Christ's kingdom to bear arms as soldiers and shed blood. Their doing so would be essentially contrary to their duties as ministers of Christ's kingdom, and in the last degree inconsistent with their character as ambassadors of the Prince of Peace to a fallen world.
Of our position as to the separation of our ministry we, in convention assembled, testify to you by the accompanour ministers cannot be properly included under the exemption clause of the present enrollment act for those having conscientious scruples, we would then appeal to your personal favor as Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States.
Trusting in your desire to treat with equal justice all classes of people, we refer to you the case of our clergy with reference to the
a Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, B. IV, c.4; B. XVII, c.5, paragraph 4, paragraph 11.
b Gibbon, Vol. II, p.283.
c Guizot's History of Civilization, p.131; Hallma's Middle Ages, p.88.