Friday, July 2, 2010

Christian Patriotism...

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson famously died on July 4th 1826, fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  This sermon was delivered in Boston on the death of Adams by Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham, the very model of  "Boston Unitarianism."  Excerpts over the next three days... 

"Christian Patriotism"


The old patriarch Jacob, who had spent many of the best days of his life in exile, and was now finishing the poor remnant of it in a foreign country, turned his last thoughts towards the place of his birth. Circumstances had long ago made him a pilgrim to other lands, and a stranger in his own. He was now dying, of extreme age in one of the pleasantest provinces of Egypt, but he was unwilling that his bones should rest in that distant spot. It might seem nothing to him whether the Nile or the Jordan was flowing before the eyes that would close in a few hours upon all earthly objects. Here he had every thing that could comfort his decline, and do honour to his grey hairs. Joseph, the royal favourite, was his son, and all his children were about him. But his heart went back to the past, to the scenes of his first love, to the home of a thousand* endearing recollections, to the north country of Judea. The text is a part of his dying injunction to those whom he left behind. "lam to be gathered unto my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah. There they buried Abraham, and Sarah his wife ; there they buried Isaac, and Rebecca his wife ; and there / buried Leah."

"Bury me with my fathers." The feeling that dictated these words enters largely into the sentiment which we call patriotism. That sentiment is mainly dependent on early remembrances and habits ; it dwells on the hallowed names and services of individuals ; it is drawn towards our fathers' deeds and sepulchres. Thus, the love of one's country has its foundation in some of the first principles of human nature. It is connected with many of the secret, but ineffaceable impressions of the human heart. The Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament abound with fine examples of its spirit ; and though they nowhere enjoin it, they yet contain frequent indirect testimonies in its praise. The old prophets were the patriots of their times. The great prophet himself declared that he was sent peculiarly to the house of Israel, and he wept when he thought of its coming desolation. The sacred songs of the Hebrews are eminently national. The fragments of their history offer us here and there the most beautiful expressions of attachment to the places in which they first drew their breath. Where, indeed, has there ever been a people of any cultivation, whose gifted men have not thrown out in eloquence and song those sentiments of this kind, which were felt and responded to by the humblest of their countrymen ? Where was ever a generous and susceptible mind, that did not number among its warmest affections a fondness for its native land, cherishing many tender and sacred associations with the thought of it, and interested personally in its well-being ?

There have been some, however, to deny that patriotism has any thing morally estimable in it. It ought not, they say, to be encouraged ; because it is a partial and narrow principle; because it counteracts that spirit of universal benevolence which we should endeavour to excite in men's hearts. It has even been mentioned among the high recommendations of the Christian religion, and as an evidence of its divine origin, that it neither inculcates nor countenances a fictitious virtue, which is said to come of pride, to engender rivalries and hate, and to disunite by one strong passion more the different tribes of the earth. But fortunately we have here but a description of false patriotism ; the lessons of our holy faith are most at variance with this, while they recognize and sanction that which is true.

It is one of the glories of the gospel, one of the signs of its divine character, the proofs of its divine source, that it does not favour, but plainly opposes that exclusive and party feeling, which passes so freely in the world under the name of love of country ...which makes men boastful, and keeps them prejudiced;—which spirits up unfriendly dispositions towards those who live under different institutions, or use a different speech ;— which perpetuates hostility between one people and another, and, because a mountain intervenes, or a river or a sea separates them, alienates them from good will and good offices. Christianity has come, not to loosen in any respect, but to strengthen in all, the bands of brotherly kindness, not to contract but to expand every generous sympathy of our nature. It does not present itself as the privilege of a nation or a class, but as the common friend of mankind. It does not found its promised happiness on social advantages or public prosperity, but on truth and holiness. It has in view no political reforms, but only those of personal character ; no civil establishments, but the universal kingdom of God. If this were not its temper and scope, it manifestly could not have come down from the Father of all. The legislator, the teacher, the reformer, the Saviour of a race, could have had little to do with geographical lines, and national distinctions. Though he devoted his whole ministry "to his own, who received him not," he yet lived and spoke for all. It was for him to dispense, with impartial hands, his light and his joy, the whole fulness of his blessings...(more tomorrow)



Bill Baar said...

Thanks for the post... Many UU's always seem conflicted to by the very Americaness of our Heritage.

This post a nice way to reflect the Heritage.

slt said...

Thank you Bill,
I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday! Blessings, BU