Saturday, July 3, 2010

a moral obligation-Christian Patriotism cont...

It is Independence Day eve (and BU's birthday)...Nathaniel Frothingham's sermon on the occasion of the passing of John Adams, continued...

"But there is a species of patriotism,—the true, —which finds itself nourished by the instructions, protected by the beneficent genius of the faith we profess. That faith commands us to think and act for the general welfare ; to do good to all, but especially to those who are the nearest; to be interested in whatever concerns the improvement and happiness of man, but chiefly in the scenes that surround us, in the objects on which we can most readily act, in the persons with whom we stand anywise connected ; not to be disheartened at dangers, nor reluctant at sacrifices, nor slow in endeavours, but to fulfil all the duties of the social state with a zealous devotedness, and at whatever cost. Does it not thus lay the foundation principles of genuine patriotism ? It would have us susceptible, grateful, thoughtful of times past, venerating the memory of the worthy men who rendered services to the community in former generations, and alive to its best interests in the generations that are to come after. Are not these the very affections, that kindle and keep alive the love of one's country ? When it enjoins the duties of the citizen and encourages the worthiest sentiments of the man, does it not imply all that is needed to form the virtue of which I am speaking ? It does, or we are only disputing about a name. For what is it to be patriotic ? It is not to conceit that " we are the people," and there are none like us. It is not to give vent to a foolish exultation, as if no others have ever been so great, so enlightened, so free, so happy. It is not to be clamorous on political high days. It is not to canvass with swelling words for a vulgar popularity. It is not to abuse or despise the institutions of foreign countries, to cavil at their peculiarities, to turn over with satisfaction the darker leaves of their annals, and to eye their movements and manners with a jealous dislike. If it were this vapouring, turbulent propensity, nothing need be said to recommend it. Nothing could recommend it. It is as far below the standard of good morals and an intelligent mind, as it is of the Christian faith. We might leave the defence of it, with its practice, to the violent, the uninformed and the designing. But it is in truth an entirely different thing. It is a rational love of the land, in which God has marked out the lot of our habitation, in which we first saw the light, by whose usages we have been formed, at whose bosom we have been nourished,—where our kindred and friends dwell, and where are the low dwellings of our fathers ;—a rational love of this land, not a blind partiality, or a heated fancy, or a proud pretension. It is a principle of attachment to it as our own. It is the feeling of well-wishers towards it, and the resolve to do the little that we can for its service,—by obeying its laws, by aiding its good establishments, by seeking, in all the ways by which we can contribute to them, its advancement and peace. Country is a relation, in which the Almighty Providence places us ;—as truly so as family, occupation, friendship. Patriotism is faithfulness to that relation in heart and deed.— It can be no more than this. It can be no other than this. It is then a duty, as plain as the rest. It is not of a visionary character; it is not a mere political excellence, but a moral obligation, under which a man is laid by the necessity of circumstances and the spirit that is in him.

Shall we be told, then, that this sentiment is not akin to the precepts of Christianity ? We might answer that the charge lies only against its counterfeits and abuses. Or shall we be told that it tends to narrow the compass of human benevolence, to thwart the gloriously Christian project of universal philanthropy ? We might answer, that it will rather serve to promote that great design, for it will expand instead of checking all the kind affections. Those affections do, in the course of nature, spread from parts to the whole. It is through parts that they are exercised ; and their action must begin with what is palpable and near, and gradually reach out to what is abstract and distant.

" Self-love but serves the virtuous mind to wake,
As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake ;
The centre moved, a circle strait succeeds,
Another still and still another spreads ;
Friend, parent, neighbour, first it will embrace,
His country next, and next all human race ;
Wide and more wide, the o'erflowings of the mind
Take every creature in, of every kind."


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