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On the Love of our COUNTRY.
[Preached 18th April, 1793, on the day of a National Fast ap
pointed by Government, on occasion of the War with the French Republic.]
PSALM cxxii. 6, 7, 8, 9.
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem ; they shall prosper
that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sake I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy peace.
nature, that continued enjoyment of the highest blessings is apt to depreciate them in our esteem. This unhappy weakness shows itself, not only with respect to the light of the sun, and the beauties of nature, which we have been long accustomed to behold, but also with respect to health, peace, religion, and liberty. Let any one of those blessings have been long familiar to us; let a tract of time have effaced the remembrance of the distress which we suffered from the want of it; and it is surprising how lightly men are ready to prize the degree of happiness which they continue to possess.
In the midst of that peaceful and secure state which the inhabitants of this land have long enjoyed; surrounded with the chief blessings that render life comfortable; how few have any just sense of the gratitude they owe to Heaven for such singular felicity? Nay, is it not much to be lamented that there should have sprung up among us an unaccountable spirit of discontent and disaffection, feeding itself with ideal grievances and visionary projects of reformation, till it has gone nigh to light up the torch of sedition? When government has now, for wise and proper reasons, called us together in a religious assembly, our thoughts cannot be more
, suitably employed than in reviewing the grounds on which, as good Christians and faithful citizens, we have reason to entertain the warmest affection for our native country, and to put a just value on that constitution of government, civil and sacred, under which it is placed. - In the words of the text you see with what zeal the heart of the pious Psalmist glowed for the prosperity of his country. By the accumulation of expressions which he employs, and the variety of topics he suggests, you see the fervour with which this subject animated his heart. It will be proper to consider, first, the grounds on which love for our country rests: and next, the duties to which this affection naturally gives rise.
But, before entering on any of those topics, it may be proper to take notice of the speculations of some pretended philosophers, who represent the love of our country as hardly entitled to any place among the virtues. They affect to consider it as a mere
. prejudice of education ; a narrow attachment, which tends to operate against more enlarged interests. We ought, say they, to view ourselves as citizens of
the world, and extend our benevolence, equally to all nations and all mankind. — Nothing can be more empty and futile than such reasonings. The wisdom of our Creator hath linked us by the ties of natural affection ; first to our families and children ; next to our brothers, relations, and friends; then to our acquaintance, and to the several societies and communities to which we belong. By instincts implanted in our nature, He has formed our hearts to enter readily into their interests; and has thus directed our benevolence to act primarily within that sphere, where its exertions can be most powerful and most useful. It is evident, that by acting on this plan, the general welfare is promoted in a much higher degree, than if our social affections had no particular direction given them, but were to float, as it were, in empty space without any more determined object on which to act than the whole human race, where they never could act with any effect.
He who contends that he is not bound to have any more concerns for the interests of Great Britain, than for those of France, or any other country, ought to hold, on the same grounds, that he is under no obligation to consult the welfare of his children and family, his brothers and friends, more than that of the most distant stranger; being equally connected, as he holds, with all, by the common brotherhood of the human race.
It is much to be suspected, that this wonderful extensive philanthropy is only the language
of those who have no affections at all; or perhaps, that it is the language assumed by some, who, bearing in their hearts a secret preference to the interests of another country above their own, but a preference which they choose not to avow, affect to
cover it under this disguise, of a liberal, enlarged spirit.
Let us, my friends, disclaiming all such refinements of false philosophy, and following the dictates of plain good sense, and natural affection, resolve to love our native country, and in every proper way to show our attachment to it. This was the spirit which so honourably distinguished patriots, heroes, and legislators of old, and has transmitted their names with veneration to posterity; while they who felt no affection for the country to which they belonged, or who were treacherous to its interests, have been stigmatized with infamy among all civilized nations. I admit that there have been occasions, on which attachment to a particular country has been pursued to a very unjustifiable length. Wherever it has led the natives of one country to state themselves as enemies to the rest of mankind, and to endeavour at aggrandizing themselves by ruining all around them, the pretended love of their country is then become no other than a conspiracy against all other nations, and, instead of being a virtue, is the offspring of ambition, pride, and vanity.
I proceed now to show the just grounds on which it becomes us to be zealous for the welfare of that happy island, to which we have the honour and the blessing to belong. Let us consider our native country in three lights; as the seat of private enjoyment and happiness; as the seat of true religion; as the seat of laws, liberty, and good government.
I. As the seat of all our best enjoyments in private life. There, my brethren, after we first drew breath, was our tender infancy reared with care ; there, our
innocent childhood sported; there, our careless youth grew up amidst companions and friends; there, our dearest connections were formed; there, after having passed the happiest years of our life, we look forward for our old age to rest in peace. These are circumstances which endear and ought to endear a home, a native land, to every human heart. If there be any names known among men that awaken tender sentiments in the breast, the names of father, mother, spouse, child, brother, sister, or friend, these all recall our thoughts to our native land, and cannot, even in idea, be separated from it. When we name our own country, we name the spot of the earth within which all that is most dear to us lies. To be long absent from it, is a circumstance of distress; but to be excluded from the hope of ever returning to it, sinks the spirits of the worthy and the brave into extreme depression. Its very dust appears to them to be precious. Its well-known fields, and mountains, and rivers, become, in their eyes, a sort of consecrated ground; the remembrance of which often touches the heart with sensations of more tender joy than can be raised by scenes more rich, and objects more splendid, in any foreign land.
These are feelings which nature, or rather the God of nature, has implanted in the mind of man; and base and vile is he who studies to erase them, intimately connected as they are with our very best affections. Can we think, my friends, how long we have sat under our vine and our fig-tree, in peace
and joy, encircled by our families and friends, in that happy land we possess; and, with this pleasing remembrance dwelling on our minds, can we think with indifference of any danger which threatens the