תמונות בעמוד

vious, that were it pardonable to omit it on this occasion, it would not be mentioned.

There is no pleasure in viewing the follies and distractions of former times; nor is there any advantage, unless it be that we may grow better and wiser by the examples which history sets be ore us. In the present case we have the experience, which cost the nation dear, to warn both rulers and subjects how carefully they should avoid all occasions of division. The true way to act is, for each side to maintain its own rights without encroaching on those of the other; for the constitution must suffer whenever the rights of the crown, or the liberties of the people, are invaded : this point enlarged on. Concluding observations.

asion, it

ractions be that


history eerience,

subjects . The

Preached before the House of Lords at Westminster Abbey,

Jan. 30, 1733.

ts with

on must

of the ng ob.


If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

[ocr errors]

Though these words are read in the gospel, yet they have not their authority merely from thence; but for the truth of the observation contained in them, there lies an appeal to common sense and experience. Our Saviour indeed, by using this maxim, has approved it; and he could not appeal to the judgment of all men in this case, without, at the same time, declaring his own.

As observations of this kind depend on a great number of facts, so are there in the present case a great number to support it. The many kingdoms and countries weakened or ruined by intestine divisions, are so many proofs on record of the truth of this assertion. And did we of this country want to have this truth cleared by such instances, it would be but reasonable to produce the proofs. But we have examples of our own growth, and stand in need of no assistance from foreign history, . This island has often changed its inhabitants; but the new ones. never got possession till the old ones made way for them by their mutual hatred and animosities; and the nation has, under very unpromising circumstances, maintained itself against foreign enemies, whenever it was so happy as to preserve peace and tranquillity at home,

The late unhappy times of Charles the First were attended

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

with this almost peculiar felicity, that no foreign nation was at leisure to take advantage of our divisions. Europe was in arms; and the great powers too much in awe of each other, for any one to conceive hopes of success, had his ambition inclined him to lay hold of the opportunities which our distractions offered. But though there was no enemy to ruin us, yet ruined we were. Such is the malignity of intestine division !

When national quarrels grow extreme, and appear in arms, it is easy to foresee the sad consequences; and the coldest imagination may be able to paint to itself the miseries that must follow. And whoever looks back on the many years of distress under which this country labored in the late times ; let him view them with impartial or with partial eye; will see enough to convince his judgment how fatal a thing it is for a kingdom to be divided against itself. It will therefore be of little use to enlarge on this part of the argument; and I the more willingly pass it over, as it will save you and me the pain of viewing various scenes of woe, which that time, fruitful in misery, would present before us.

But there are other evils, less discernible, which spring from the same bitter root, and naturally prepare the way for the greater mischiefs to follow after : they are the first symptoms of public confusion; and as they influence greatly the virtue and morality of a nation, they are in a more especial manner the preacher's care.

National divisions are sometimes founded in material differences, such as affect the well-being and constitution of a government; and sometimes owe their rise to accidents, and trifles unworthy of the concern of the public. In this respect therefore every case must stand on its own bottom, and is subject to no general observation. But all divisions, bow different soever in their commencement, grow in their progress to be so much alike; partly from the common depravity of men, who have not virtue enough to act honestly in an honest cause; partly from the cunning of designing men, who seldomi want the art to direct the public dispute to the service of their private views; that there are evil effects which



generally ascribed to all divisions, as the fruit which they naturally produce.

1. The zeal and warmth which attend public quarrels, are apt to get possession of men's minds and affections so far as to render them in great measure unable to form a right judgment of things and persons.

Without a right judgment in these respects, it is impossible for men to be of any service to their country. For a foundation for public good can never be laid in a wrong judgment of things and persons. And yet, when contentions run high, so hard is it even for the coolest heads to form right judgments, that it is hardly possible for them to get right information in any thing: the very language of the country is perverted by the zeal of parties ; honor and honesty are words which lose their natural meaning, and become merely relative to the notions of him who uses them; and when a person is represented to us under these fair and engaging characters, nothing can be certainly concluded, but that the man so highly praised and his orator are both of aside.

With as little justice are terms of reproach dealt about, though commonly with a more liberal hand, as the resentments of anger and contempt are usually keener and more active than those of love and esteem. Men of discernment on all sides see the folly and iniquity of this practice; yet they carry on the work, without giving credit to themselves, for the sake of the multitude, who are greatly influenced, and often prepared for mischief, by these devices. If we look into the large list of malignants, delinquents, and persons suspected, or perhaps without suspicion, charged as papists in the late times, we shall find among them some of the wisest and best of the nation; who, could they have had the influence in public affairs which their worth and merit intitled them to, would have saved both their king and their country from oppression. But these men were made useless : and in like circumstances the best men will always be so; for it must ever be their choice rather to sink under such artifices, than to thrive by the use of them; and the times leave them no other choice.

As it is with persons, so it is with things. To see how obstinately and perversely men approve or disapprove almost every thing by the vitiated taste of party, one would think that truth and reason had left the world, or that men were universally fallen blind. But neither have truth and reason left the world, nor are men otherwise than wilfully blind. But when the appeal is made, as in popular cases it is, to the multitude, the leaders find it much easier to direct their passions than their understandings. And what reason is there to expect that men should take the direction of their own eyes, when they refer themselves to the opinion and approbation of those who have none ?

This blind attachment to things and persons tends gradually to destroy the very notions of right and wrong, and to render virtue and common honesty of little or no significancy in public affairs. The lower part of the world soon grows to be insensible of the difference; and by a habit of following a false rule of judging, they become incapable of making use of the true one. And when designing men observe that by doing right they cannot please their adversaries, by doing wrong they cannot offend their friends, they will soon disregard a distinction of so little use either to their interest or reputation. And hence proceeds that hardness of mind, which no reason, no convietion can subdue.

How fatal an influence this must have on the virtue and niorality of any people, will appear by following this evil a few steps farther into some of its natural and obvious consequences,

II. One great guard to virtue, and placed in the minds of men by the hand that formed them, is the sense of shame when we do ill; of the same kind, and a twin of the same birth, is the pleasure arising from the praise of having done well. When men, through the corruptness of their own hearts, get rid of these natural impressions, they are, in the opinion of the world, profligate and abandoned. Of this kind the instances are but few. But then, to make their natural passions of any service to us, they must be kept true to their proper objects, good and eyil; and whenever the judgment is so corrupted as to lose sight of this difference, the love of praise and the fear of shame will become not merely useless, but mischievous and destructive. And this must be the case whenever a false standard of reputation is set up. And when a nation or kingdom is divided,

« הקודםהמשך »