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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Self-Defence

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Implies not only the preservation of one's life, but also the protection of our property, because without property life cannot be preserved in a civilized nation. Some condemn all resistance, whatsoever be the evil offered, or whosoever be the person that offers it; others will not admit that it should pass any farther than bare resistance; others say, that it must never be carried so far as hazarding the life of the assailant; and others again, who deny it not to be lawful in some cases to kill the aggressor, at the same time affirm it to be a thing more laudable and consonant to the Gospel, to choose rather to lose one's life, in imitation of Christ, than to secure it at the expense of another's in pursuance of the permission of nature. But. "Notwithstanding, " says Grove, "the great names which may appear on the side of any of these opinions, I cannot but think self-defence, though it proceeds to the killing of another to save one's self, is in common cases not barely permitted, but enjoined by nature; and that a man would be wanting to the Author of his being, to society, and to himself, to abandon that life with which he is put in trust.

That a person forfeits his own life to the sword of justice, by taking away another's unprovoked, is a principle not to be disputed. This being so, I ask, whence should arise the obligation to let another kill me, rather than venture to save myself by destroying my enemy? It cannot arise from a regard to society, which, by my suffering another to kill me, loses two lives; that of an honest man by unjust violence, and that of his murderer, if it can be called a loss, by the hand of justice. Whereas, by killing the invader of my life, I only take a life, which must oterwise have been forfeited, and preserve the life of an innocent person. Nor, for the same reason, can there be any such obligation arising from the love of our neighbour; since I do not really save his life b parting with my own, but only leave him to be put to death after a more ignominious manner by the public executioner. And if it be said that I dispatch him with his sins upon him into the other world, which he might have lived long enough to repent of, if legally condemned: as he must answer for that, who brought me under a necessity of using this method for my own preservation; so I myself may not be prepared, or may not think myself so, or so well assured of it as to venture into the presence of my great Judge; and no charity obliges me to prefer the safety of another's soul to my own. Self-defence, therefore, may be with justice practised,

1. Incase of an attempt made upon the life of a person, against which he has no other way of securing himself but repelling force by force.

2. It is generally esteemed lawful to kill in the defense of chastity, supposing there be no other way of preserving it."

See Grove's Moral Philosophy. Also Hints on the Lowfulness of Self-defence, by a Scotch Dissenter.


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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Self-Defence'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/cbd/s/self-defence.html. 1802.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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