(From “The Family at Home” (Familiar Illustrations of Various Domestic Duties), 1833)
A Christian ought never to be a noisy, disputing politician, but he ought to be a patriot. Every man who shares the blessings and protection of a civilized country, ought to have its interests at heart: he is bound to pray for the peace and prosperity of the land he lives in; he is bound to cultivate and exemplify that righteousness which exalts a nation, and to discountenance and weep over that sin which is a reproach to any people, and which, sooner or later, brings down the judgments of a righteous God. When the Lord was about to pour forth his dreadful judgments on the wicked Jews, the few truly pious and patriotic were thus distinguished: “And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”
A friend often said that he reckoned my father a true patriot: father was surprised at this, and said he thought it belonged only to great and learned men: “No,” said his friend, “that is quite a mistake; even a poor and unlearned man may be the support and honor of his country, while he guides his affairs with integrity and discretion; while, by his patient industry, he renders the natural produce of the land available to the supply of the community in general, as well as his own; while he rules well his own household, and trains up a family of good subjects to the state; and while he prays for kings and all that are in authority, that they may rule over men in the fear of the Lord, and that all the subjects of the land may lead quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and honesty. Such a man is a true patriot, and has as loyal and patriotic an interest in ‘his own hearth-stone,’ ‘his own vine and fig-tree,’ as a noble has in his splendid mansion and extensive estates.
‘Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, than he who is perverse in his ways, though he is rich.’ Sometimes it is seen that ‘though the rich man is wise in his own conceit, the poor who has understanding searches him out.’ Solomon tells us that ‘there was a little city, and few men within it, and there came a great king against the city and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now, there was found in it a poor wise man, and he, by his wisdom, delivered the city. Then, said I, Wisdom is better than strength;’ and ‘by a man of knowledge and understanding the state shall be prolonged.’
“Remember, then, everyone may be a true friend to his country—not by blustering about politics, and shouting at elections, but by acting well himself, and setting a good example to all around him. The best reform will be, when everyone sets about, in earnest, to reform himself. ‘When everyone sweeps before his own door, we shall soon have a clean street;’ and when every man is what he ought to be, we shall have a whole nation fearing God and working righteousness; meanwhile, let everyone look to himself, and do his part towards it.”