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OCCASION OF WOOD'S PROJECT *.
WRITTEN IN 1724.
GALATIANS vi, 1o. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all
NATURE directs every one of us, and God permits us, to consult our own private good, before the private good of
person whatsoever. We are indeed, commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves, but not as well as ourselves. The love we have for ourselves, is to be the pattern of that love we ought to have toward our neighbour ; but, as the copy doth not equal the original, so my neighbour cannot think it hard, if I prefer myself, who am the original, before him, who is only the copy. Thus,
* "I never," said the dean in a jocular conversation, “preached " but twice in my life : and then they were not sermons, but “pamphlets." Being asked on what subject; he replied, “ They “ were against Wood's halfpence." Pilkington, vol. 1, p. 56.
if any matter equally concern the life, the reputation, the profit of my neighbour, and my own; the law of nature, which is the law of God, obligeth me to take care of myself first, and afterward of him. And this I need not be at much pains in persuading you to; for the want of self-love, with regard to things of this world, is not among the faults of mankind. But then, on the other side, if, by a small hurt and loss to myself, I can procure a great good to my neighbour, in that case his interest is to be preferred. For example, if I can be sure of saving his life, without great danger to my own: if I can preserve him from being undone, without ruining myself; or recover his reputation, without blasting mine ; all this I am obliged to do: and, if I sincerely perforin it, I do then obey the command of God, in loving my neighbour as myself.
But, beside this love we owe to every man in his particular capacity under the title of our neighbour, there is yet a duty of a more large extensive nature incumbent on us; which is, our love to our neighbour in his publick capacity, as he is a member of that great body the commonwealth, under the same government with ourselves; and this is usually called love of the publick, and is a duty to which we are more strictly obliged than even that of loving ourselves; because therein ourselves are also contained, as well as all our neighbours in one great body. This love of the publick, or of the commonwealth, 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 to 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 nor 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
Have we not seen men, for the sake of some petry employment, give up the very natural rights and liberties 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 piece 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 to betray or 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 : by 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 publick 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 showed (all circumstances considered) such high constant marks of loyalty, in all their actions and behaviour, as we have done : and at the same time, no people ever appeared more utterly void
of what is called a publick spirit. When I say the people, I mean the bulk or mass of the people; for I 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 show . the love you have for your country, by endeavouring, in your several stations, to do all the publick 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 publick welfare.
I therefore undertake to show you three things :
First, That there are few people so weak or mean,
who have it not sometimes in their power to be useful to the publick.
Secondly, That it is often in the power of the
meanest among mankind to do mischief to the publick.
And, lastly, That all wilful injuries done to the pub
lick, are very great and aggravated sins in the sight of God.
First, There are few people so weak or mean, who have it not sometimes in their power to be useful to the publick.
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
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 publick is the better. Whoever is blessed with a true publick spirit, God will certainly put it into his way to make use of that blessing, for the ends it was given him, by some means 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 kingdom hath often been owing to those hands, whence it was least expected.
But, secondly, It is often in the power of the meanest among mankind to do mischief to the publick: and hence arise most of those miseries with which the states and kingdoms of the earth are infested. How many great princes have been murdered by the meanest ruffians ! The weakest hand can open a floodgate to drown a country, which a thousand of the strongest cannot stop. Those who have thrown off all regard for publick good, will often have it in their way to do publick evil, and will not fail to exercise that power whenever they can.
. The greatest blow given of late to this kingdom, was by the dishonesty of a few manufacturers; who, by imposing bad ware at foreign markets, in almost the only traffick permitted to us, did half ruin that trade; by which this poor unhappy kingdom now suffers in the midst of sufferings. I speak not here of persons in high stations, who ought to be free from all refiection, and are supposed always to intend the welfare of the community : but we now find by experience, that the meanest