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instrument may, by the concurrence of accidents, have it in his power to bring a whole kingdom to the very brink of destruction, and is at this present endeavouring to finish his work ; and hath agents among ourselves, who are contented to see their own country undone, to be small sharers in that iniquitous gain, which at last must end in their own ruin, as well as ours. I confess, it was chiefly the consideration of that great danger we are in, which engaged me to discourse to you on this subject, to exhort you to a love of your country, and a publick spirit, when all you have is at stake; to prefer the interest of
your prince and your fellow subjects, before that of one destructive impostor, and a few of his adherents.
Perhaps it may be thought by some, that this way of discoursing is not so proper from the pulpit. But surely, when an open attempt is made, and far carried on, to make a great kingdom one large poor-house, to deprive us of all means to exercise hospitality or charity, to turn our cities and churches into ruins, to make the country a desert for wild beasts and robbers, to destroy all arts and sciences, all trades and manufactures, and the very tillage of the ground, only to enrich one obscure ill-designing projector and his followers ; it is time for the pastor to cry out, “ that “ the wolf is getting into his flock,” to warn them to stand together, and all to consult the common safety. And God be praised for his infinite goodness, in raising such a spirit of union among us, at least in this point, in the midst of all our former divisions; which union, if it continue, will, in all probability, defeat the pernicious design of this pestilent enemy to the nation ! But hence, it clearly follows how necessary the love
of our country, or a publick spirit, is, in every particular man, since the wicked have so many opportunities of doing publick mischief. Every man is upon
his guard for his private advantage ; but, where the publick is concerned, he is apt to be negligent, considering himself only as one among two or three millions, among whom the loss is equally shared ; and thus, he thinks, he can be no great sufferer. Meanwhile the trader, the farmer, and the shopkeeper, complain of the hardness and deadness of the times, and wonder whence it comes; while it is in a great measure owing to their own folly, for want of that love of their country, and publick spirit and firm union among themselves, which are so necessary to the prosperity of every nation.
Another method, by which the meanest wicked man may have it in his power to injure the publick, is false accusation; whereof this kingdom hath afforded too many examples : neither is it long since no man, whose opinions were thought to differ from those in fashion, could safely converse beyond his nearest friends, for fear of being sworn against, as a traitor, by those who made a traffick of perjury and subornation; by which, the very peace of the nation was disturbed, and men fled from each other as they would from a lion or a bear got loose. And it is very remarkable, that the pernicious project now in hand, to reduce us to beggary, was forwarded by one of these false accusers, who had been convicted of endeavouring, by perjury and subornation, to take away the lives of several innocent persons here among us : and, indeed, there could not be a more proper instrument for such a work. Another method, by which the meanest people
may do injury to the publick, is the spreading of lies and false rumours; thus raising a distrust among the people of a nation, causing them to mistake their true interest, and their enemies for their friends : and this hath been likewise too successful a practice among us, where we have known the whole kingdom misled by the grossest lies, raised upon occasion to serve some particular turn. As it hath also happened in the case I lately mentioned, where one obscure man, by representing our wants where they were least, and concealing them where they were greatest, had almost succeeded in a project of utterly ruining this whole kingdom ; and may still succeed, if God doth not continue that publick spirit, which he hath almost miraculously kindled in us upon this occasion.
Thus we see the publick is many times, as it were, at the mercy of the meanest instrument, who can be wicked enough to watch opportunities of doing it mischief, upon the principles of avarice or malice; which I am afraid, are deeply rooted in too many breasts, and against which there can be no defence, but a firm resolution in all honest men, to be closely united and active in showing their love to their country, by preferring the publick interest to their present private advantage. If a passenger, in a great storm at sea, should hide his goods, that they might not be thrown overboard to lighten the ship, what would be the consequence? The ship is cast away, and he loses his life and goods together.
We have heard of men, who, through greediness of gain, have brought infected goods into a nation ; which bred a plague, whereof the owners and their families perished first. Let those among us consider this and tremble, whose houses are privately stored with those materials of beggary and desolation, lately brought over to be scattered like a pestilence among their countrymen, which may probably first seize upon themselves and their families, until their houses shall be made a dunghill.
I shall mention one practice more, by which the meanest instruments often succeed in doing publick mischief; and this is by deceiving us with plausible arguments, to make us believe that the most ruinous project they can offer is intended for our good, as it happened in the case so often mentioned. For the poor ignorant people, allured by the appearing convenience in their small dealings, did not discover the serpent in the brass, but were ready, like the Israelites, to offer incense to it; neither could the wisdom of the nation convince them, until some, of good intentions, made the cheat so plain to their sight, that those who run may read. And thus the design was to treat us, in every point, as the Philistines treated Sampson (I mean when he was betrayed by Dalilah) first to put out our eyes, and then bind us with fetters of brass.
I proceed to the last thing I proposed, which was, to show
you that all wilful injuries done to the publick, are very great and aggravated sins in the sight of God.
First, It is apparent from Scripture, and most agreeable to reason, that the safety and welfare of nations are under the most peculiar care of God's providence. Thus he promised Abraham to save Sodom, if only ten righteous men could be found in it. Thus the reason which God gave to Jonas for not destroying Nineveh, was, because there were sixscore thousand men in that city.
All government is from God, who is the God of order; and therefore whoever attempts to breed confusion or disturbance among a people, doth his utmost to take the government of the world out of God's hands, and to put it into the hands of the devil, who is the author of confusion. By which it is plain, that no crime, how heinous soever, committed against particular persons, can equal the guilt of him who does injury to the publick.
Secondly, All offenders against their country ļie under this grievous difficulty, that it is impossible to obtain a pardon, or make restitution. The bulk of mankind are very quick at resenting injuries, and very slow in forgiving them: and how shall one man be able to obtain the pardon of millions, or repair the injuries he hath done to millions ? How shall those, who, by a most destructive fraud, got the whole wealth of our neighbouring kingdom into their hands, be ever able to make a recompense? How will the authors and promoters of that villanous project, for the ruin of this poor country, be able to account with us for the injuries they have already done, although they should no farther succeed? The deplorable case of such wretches must entirely be left to the unfathomable mercies of God: for those who know the least in religion are not ignorant, that without our utmost endeavours to make restitution to the person injured, and to obtain his pardon, added to a sincere - repentance, there is no hope of salvation given in the Gospel.
Lastly, All offences against our own country have this aggravation, that they are ungrateful and unnatural. It is to our country we owe those laws, which protect us in our lives, our liberties, our properties, .