ON DOING GOOD TO OUR COUNTRY.
From SWIFT'S SERMONS.
TEXT—Gal. vi. ver. 10.
BUT, beside this love we owe to every man in his particular capacity under the title of neigh∣bour, there is a duty of a more large and extensive nature incumbent on us; which is, our love to our neighbour in his public capacity, as he is a member of that great body the commonwealth; and this is usually called love of the public, and is a duty to which we are more strictly obliged than even that of loving even ourselves; because therein ourselves are Page 277also contained, as well as all our neighbours, in one great body. This love of the public or of the com∣monwealth, or love of our country, was in ancient times properly known by the name of virtue, because it was the greatest of all virtues, and was supposed to contain all virtues in it: and many great examples of this virtue are left us on record, scarcely to be believed, or even conceived, in such a base, corrupted, wicked age as this we live in. In those times it was common for men to sacrifice their lives for the good of their country, although they had neither hope or belief of future rewards; whereas, in our days, very few make the least scruple of sacrificing a whole nation, as well as their own souls, for a little present gain, which often hath been known to end in their own ruin in this world, as it certainly must in that to come.
Have we not seen men, for the sake of some petty employment, give up the very natural rights and li∣berties of their country, and of mankind, in the ruin of which themselves must at last be involved? are not these corruptions gotten among the meanest of our people, who, for a price of money, will give their votes at a venture, for the disposal of their own lives and fortunes, without considering whether it be to those who are most likely betray or to defend them?
But, if I were to produce only one instance of a hundred wherein we fail in this duty of loving our country, it would be an endless labour; and therefore I shall not attempt it.
But here I would not be misunderstood: but the love of our country, I do not mean Loyalty to our King, for that is a duty of another nature; and a man may be very loyal, in the common sense of the word, without one grain of public good at his heart. Witness this very kingdom we live in. I verily believe, that, since the beginning of the world, no nation upon earth ever shewed (all circumstances considered) such high constant marks of loyalty in all Page 278their actions and behaviour, as we have done: and, at the same time, no people ever appeared more ut∣terly void of what is called a public spirit. When I say the people, I mean the bulk or mass of the peo∣ple, for I have nothing to do with those in power.
Therefore I shall think my time not ill spent, if I can persuade most or all of you who hear me, to shew the love you have for your country, by endea∣vouring, in your several stations, to do all the pub∣lic good you are able. For I am certainly persuaded, that all our misfortunes arise from no other original cause than that general disregard among us to the public welfare.
I therefore undertake to shew you three things.
First, That there are few people so weak or mean, who have it not sometimes in their power to be use∣ful to the public.
Secondly, That it is often in the power of the meanest among mankind to do mischief to the pub∣lic.
And, lastly, That all wilful injuries done to the public are very great and aggravated sins in the sight of God.
First, then, there are few people so weak or mean, who have it not sometimes in their power to be use∣ful to the public.
Solomon tells us of a poor wise man who saved a city by his counsel. It hath often happened that a private soldier, by some unexpected brave attempt, hath been instrumental in obtaining a great victory. How many obscure men have been authors of very useful inventions, whereof the world now reaps the benefit? The very example of honesty and industry in a poor tradesman will sometimes spread through a neighbourhood, when others see how successful he is, and thus so many useful members are gained, for which the whole body of the public is the better. Whoever is blessed whith a true public spirit, God will certainly put it into his way to make use of that Page 279blessing, for the end it was given him, by some mean or other: and therefore it hath been observed in most ages, that the greatest actions for the benefit of the commonwealth, have been performed by the wisdom or courage, the contrivance or industry, of particular men, and not of numbers; and that the safety of a nation hath often been owing to those hands from whence it was least expected.