« ForrigeFortsæt »
tures would be happy, as far as the benefits of society car make them so. At least, we find so many blessings naturaliy flowing from this noble principle, that in proportion as it prevails, every nation becomes a prosperous and flourishing people.
It may be yet a further recommendation of this particular virtue, if we consider, that no nation was ever famous for its morals, which was not, at the same time, remarkable for its public spirit: patriots naturally rise out of a Spartan or Roman virtue: and there is no remark more common among the ancient historians, than that, when the state was corrupted with avarice and luxury, it was in danger of being betrayed, or sold.
To the foregoing reasons for the love which every good man owes to his country, we may add, that the actions which are most celebrated in history, and which are read with the greatest admiration, are such as proceed from this principle. The establishing of good laws, the detecting of conspiracies, the crushing of seditions and rebellions, the falling in battle, or the devoting of a man's self to certain death for the safety of his fellow-citizens, are actions that always warm the reader, and endear to him persons of the remotest ages and the most distant countries.
And as actions that proceed from the love of one's country, are more illustrious than any others in the records of time; so we find, that those persons who have been eminent in other virtues, have been particularly distinguished by this. It would be endless to produce examples of this kind out of Greek and Roman authors. To confine myself, therefore in so wide and beaten a field, I shall choose some instances from holy writ, which abounds in accounts of this nature as much as any other history whatsoever. And this I do the more willingly, because, in some books lately written, I find it objected against revealed religion, that it does not inspire the love of one's country. Here I must premise, that as the sacred author of our religion chiefly inculcated to the Jews those parts of their duty wherein they were most defective, so there was no need of insisting upon this; the Jews being remarkable for an attachment to their own country, even to the exclusion of all common humanity to strangers. We see, in the behaviour of this Divine person, the practice of this virtue in conjunction with all others. He deferred work
ing a miracle in the behalf of a Syro-Phoenician woman, until he had declared his superior good-will to his own nation; and was prevailed upon to heal the daughter of a Roman centurion, by hearing from the Jews, that he was one who loved their nation, and had built them a synagogue. But, to look out for no other instance, what was ever more moving, than his lamentation over Jerusalem, at his first approach to it, notwithstanding he had foretold the cruel and unjust treatment he was to meet with in that city! for he foresaw the destruction, which, in a few years, was to fall upon that people; a destruction not to be paralleled in any nation, from the beginning of the world to this day; and in the view of it melted into tears. His followers have, in many places, expressed the like sentiments of affection for their countrymen, among which, none is more extraordinary than that of the great convert, who wished himself might be made a curse, provided it might turn to the happiness of his nation; or, as he words it, "of his brethren and kinsmen who are Israelites." This instance naturally brings to mind the same heroic temper of soul in the great Jewish lawgiver, who would have devoted himself in the same manner, rather than see his people perish. It would, indeed, be difficult to find out any man of extraordinary piety, in the sacred writings, in whom this virtue is not highly conspicuous. The reader, however, will excuse me, if I take notice of one passage, because it is a very fine one, and wants only a place in some polite author of Greece or Rome, to have been admired and celebrated. The king of Syria lying sick upon his bed, sent Hasael, one of his great officers, to the prophet Elisha, to inquire of him, whether he should recover. The prophet looked so attentively on this messenger, that it put him into some confusion; or, to quote this beautiful circumstance, and the whole narrative, in the pathetic language of Scripture, "Elisha settled his countenance stedfastly upon him, until he was ashamed: and Hasael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he said, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong-holds wilt thou set on fire, and their men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hasael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath showed me, that thou shalt be king over Syria."
I might enforce these reasons for the love of our country, by considerations adapted to my readers as they are Englishmen, and as by that means they enjoy a purer religion, and a more excellent form of government, than any other nation under heaven. But, being persuaded that every one must look upon himself as indispensably obliged to the practice of a duty, which is recommended to him by so many arguments and examples, I shall only desire the honest, well-meaning reader, when he turns his thoughts towards the public, rather to consider what opportunities he has of doing good to his native country, than to throw away his time in deciding the rights of princes, or the like speculations, which are so far beyond his reach. Let us leave these great points to the wisdom of our legislature, and to the determination of those who are the proper judges of our constitution. We shall otherwise be liable to the just reproach, which is cast upon such Christians as waste their lives in the subtle and intricate disputes of religion, when they should be practising the doctrine which it teaches. If there be any right upon earth, any relying on the judgment of our most eminent lawyers and divines, or, indeed, any certainty in human reason, our present sovereign has an undoubted title to our duty and obedience. But supposing, for argument's sake, that this right were doubtful, and that an Englishman could be divided in his opinion, as to the person to whom he should pay his allegiance; in this case, there is no question, but the love of his country ought to cast the balance, and to determine him on that side which is most conducive to the welfare of his community. To bring this to our present case. A man must be destitute of common sense, who is capable of imagining that the Protestant religion could flourish under the government of a bigoted Roman Catholic, or that our civil rights could be protected by one who has been trained up in the politics of the most arbitrary prince in Europe, and who could not acknowledge his gratitude to his benefactor, by any remarkable instance, which would not be detrimental to the British nation. And are these such desirable blessings, that an honest man would endeavour to arrive at them through the confusions of a civil war, and the blood of many thousands of his fellow-subjects? On the contrary, the arguments for our steady, loyal, and affectionate adherence to King George, are so evident from this single topic, that if
every Briton, instead of aspiring after private wealth or power, would sincerely desire to make his country happy, his present Majesty would not have a single malecontent in his whole dominions.
No. 6. MONDAY, JANUARY 9.
Fraus enim astringit, non dissolvit perjurium. CICERO.
AT a time when so many of the king's subjects present themselves before their respective magistrates to take the oaths required by law, it may not be improper to awaken in the minds of my readers a due sense of the engagement under which they lay themselves. It is a melancholy consideration, that there should be several among us so hardened and deluded, as to think an oath a proper subject for a jest; and to make this, which is one of the most solemn acts of religion, an occasion of mirth. Yet such is the depravation of our manners at present, that nothing is more frequent than to hear profligate men ridiculing, to the best of their abilities, these sacred pledges of their duty and allegiance; and endeavouring to be witty upon themselves, for daring to prevaricate with God and man. A poor conceit of their own, or a quotation out of Hudibras, shall make them treat with levity an obligation wherein their safety and welfare are concerned both as to this world and the next. Raillery of this nature is enough to make the hearer tremble. As these miscreants seem to glory in the profession of their impiety, there is no man, who has any regard to his duty, or even to his reputation, that can appear in their defence. But if there are others of a more serious turn, who join with us deliberately in these religious professions of loyalty to our sovereign, with any private salvos or evasions, they would do well to consider those maxims, in which all casuists are agreed, who have gained any esteem for their learning, judgment, or morality. These have unanimously determined that an oath is always to be taken in the sense of that authority which imposes it; and that those whose hearts do not concur with their lips in the form of these public protestations; or who have any mental reserves, or who take an oath
against their consciences, upon any motive whatsoever; or with a design to break it, or repent of it, are guilty of perjury. Any of these or the like circumstances, instead of alleviating the crime, make it more heinous, as they are premeditated frauds, (which it is the chief design of an oath to prevent,) and the most flagrant instances of insincerity to men, and irreverence to their Maker. For this reason, the perjury of a man, who takes an oath with an intention to keep it, and is afterwards seduced to the violation of it, (though a crime not to be thought of without the greatest horror,) is yet, in some respects, not quite so black as the perjury above-mentioned. It is, indeed, a very unhappy token of the great corruption of our manners, that there should be any so inconsiderate among us, as to sacrifice the standing and essential duties of morality, to the views of politics; and that, as in my last paper it was not unseasonable to prove the love of our country to be a virtue, so in this there should be any occasion to show that perjury is a sin. But it is our misfortune to live in an age when such wild and unnatural doctrines have prevailed among some of our fellow-subjects, that if one looks into their schemes of government, they seem, according as they are in the humour, to believe that a sovereign is not to be restrained by his coronation oath, or his people by their oaths of allegiance; or, to represent them in a plainer light, in some reigns they are for a power and an obedience that is unlimited, and in others, are for retrenching within the narrowest bounds, both the authority of the prince, and the allegiance of the subject.
Now the guilt of perjury is so self-evident, that it was always reckoned among the greatest crimes, by those who were only governed by the light of reason: the inviolable observing of an oath, like the other practical duties of Christianity, is a part of natural religion. As reason is common to all mankind, the dictates of it are the same through the whole species; and since every man's own heart will tell him, that there can be no greater affront to the Deity whom he worships, than to appeal to him with an intention to deceive; nor a greater injustice to men, than to betray them by false assurances; it is no wonder that pagans and Christians, infidels and believers, should concur in a point wherein the honour of the Supreme Being, and the welfare of society, are so highly concerned. For this reason, Pythagoras, to his