The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 18/A Learned Comment Upon Dr. Hare's Excellent Sermon











"I have got a set of Examiners; and five pamphlets, which I have either written or contributed to, except the best, which is the Vindication of the Duke of Marlborough,' and is entirely of the author of the Atalantis." — Journal to Stella, Oct. 22.

"Comment on Hare’s[1] Sermon by the same woman; only hints sent to the printer from Presto, to give her." — Ibid. Nov. 3.



I HAVE been so well entertained by reading Dr. Hare's sermon, preached before the duke of Marlborough and the army, in way of thanksgiving for passing the lines and taking Bouchain, that I cannot forbear giving part of my thoughts thereupon to the publick. If a colonel had been to preach at the head of his regiment, I believe he would have made just such a sermon; which before I begin with, I must beg leave to consider the preface, and that stale topick in the publisher, of "printing a discourse without the author's leave, by a copy got from a friend; being himself so modest, that he would by no means hear of printing what was drawn up in so much haste." If the thing be not worth publishing, either the author is a fool, or his friend a knave. Besides, the apology seems very needless for one that has so often been complimented upon his productions; of which we have seen several without either art or care, though published with this famous doctor's consent. A good argument, indeed, is not the worse for being without art or care; but an ill one is nothing without both. If plainness and honesty made amends for every hasty foolish composition, we should never have an end, and every dunce that blotted paper would have the same plea. But the good doctor's zeal for the continuation of the war must atone for the rest of his defects. His politicks and his divinity seem to be much of a size; there is no more of the last in his sermon, than what is to be found in the text; he is so great an enemy to a partition, that he scorns to divide even that.

He begins, p. 62[2], "I cannot but think that one of the properest acknowledgments to God, for the manifest tokens we receive of his good providence, is to consider their natural tendency, and what is the true use which he has put into our power to make of them." May we not very well query whether this be sense or truth? The properest acknowledgments to God, for the manifest tokens, &c. is to offer him thanks and praise, and obey his laws.

P. 63. "Persevere bravely in the just and necessary war we are engaged in, till we can obtain such a peace, as the many successes he has given us naturally lead to, and, by the continuance of the divine favour, must end in, if we be content to wait his leisure, and are not, by our impatience and misgiving fears, wanting to ourselves." At this rate, when must we expect a peace? May we not justly inquire, whether it be God's or the duke of Marlborough's leisure he would have us wait? He is there in an army well paid, sees nothing but plenty, nay profuseness in the great officers, and riches in the general. Profuseness, when they every day in their turns receive the honour of his grace's company to dinner with them. At that sumptuous table which his grace once a week provides for himself and them, the good doctor never considers what we suffer at home, or how long we shall be able to find them money to support their magnificence. I should think the queen and ministry, next under God, the best judges what peace we ought to make. If by our impatience he meant the army, it was needless and absurd; if he meant our impatience here at home, being so far removed from the scene, and in quite another view, he can be no judge of that.

P. 64. "One would think a people, who, by such a train of wonderful successes, were now brought to the very banks of Jordan, could not be so fearful as to stop there, or doubt with themselves whether or no they should try to pass the river [quere, Senset or Scheldt?], and get possession of the land which God had promised them; that they could, with their own eyes, take a view of it [applied to Picardy], and behold it was exceeding good, &c." Our case and the Israelites is very different. What they conquered, they got for themselves; we take a view of the land, as they did, and "behold it to be exceeding good," but good for others. If Joshua had spent many years in conquering the Amorites (with the loss of infinite blood and treasure), and then delivered the land over to the Gibeonites, the Israelites might have had good reason to murmur; and that has been our case.

Ibid. "It seems incredible, that men should for many years together struggle with the greatest difficulties, and successfully go through innumerable dangers, in pursuit of a noble end, an end worthy of all the pains and trouble they are at; and yet lose their courage as they gain ground, &c." Though this be a falsity; yet to lose courage as we gain ground may very probably happen, if we squander our courage by the yard, and gain ground by the inch.

Ibid. "Of all the virtues human nature would aspire to, constancy seems to be that it is least made for. A steady pursuit of the same end for any long time together has something in it that looks like immortality," [hath not this flight something in it that looks like nonsense:] "and seems to be above the reach of mortal man." [How does a steady pursuit look like immortality? If it looks like immortality, it certainly seems to be above the reach of mortal man.] The "earth we live on, the air we breathe, the nourishment we take, every thing about us, is by nature subject to continual change; our bodies themselves are in a perpetual flux, and not a moment together the same as they were. What place then can there be for a constant steady principle of action amidst so much inconstancy?" If these reasons were true, it would be impossible not to be inconstant. With this old beaten trash of a flux, he might go on a hundred pages on the same subject, without producing any thing new: it is a wonder we had not the grave observation, "That nothing is constant but inconstancy." What does all this end in? His first heat and edge shows us indeed a flux of what we did not expect.

P. 66. "And though the end we aim at be the same it was, and certainly nearer." This puts me in mind of a divine, who, preaching on the day of judgment, said, "There was one thing he would be bold to affirm, That the day of judgment was nearer now, than ever it was since the beginning of the world." So the war is certainly nearer an end to day than it was yesterday, though it does not end these twenty years.

Ibid. "Such fickle, inconstant, irresolute creatures are we in the midst of our bravest resolutions. When we set out, we seem to look at what we are aiming at through that end of the perspective that magnifies the object, and it brings it nearer to us; but, when we are got some way, before we are aware we turn the glass, and, looking through the little end, what we are pursuing seems to be at a vast distance, and dwindled almost into nothing." This is strange reasoning. Where does his instrumentmaker live? We may have the same constancy, the same desire to pursue a thing, and yet not the same abilities. For example, in hunting, many accidents happen; you grow weary, your horse falls lame, or in leaping a hedge throws you: you have the same reason to pursue the game, but not the same ability.

P. 67. "Their zeal perhaps flames at first; but it is the flame of straw, it has not strength to last. When the multitude once begin to be weary and indifferent, how easily are they then seduced into false measures! how readily do they give inro suspicions against those who would encourage them to persevere, while they are fond of others, who, to serve themselves, fall in with their complaints, but at the bottom mean nothing but their own interest!" How base and false soever this reproach be, I have set it almost at length, that I may not be charged with unfair quotation. By the company the doctor keeps, and the patrons he has chosen, I should think him an undoubted judge when people mean their own interest, but that I know, conversing only on one side generally gives our thoughts the same turn; just as the jaundice makes those that have it think all things yellow. This writer is prejudiced, and looks upon the rest of the world to be as self interested as those persons from whom he has taken his observation. But, if he means the present ministry, it is certain they could find their own interest in continuing the war as well as other people; their capacities are not less, nor their fortunes so great, neither need they be at a loss how to follow in a path so well beaten. Were they thus inclined, the way is open before them; the means that enriched their predecessors, gave them power, and made them almost necessary evils to the state, are now no longer a secret. Did their successors study their own interest with the same zeal as they do that of the publick, we should not have the doctor in these agonies for fear of a peace; things would be then as he would have them; it would be no longer a flame of straw, but a solid fire, likely to last as long as his poor countrymen had any materials to feed it. But I wonder he would talk of those who mean their own interest; in such an audience, especially before those "who fall in with their complaints," unless he had given it quite another turn, and bestowed some of his eloquence in showing, what he really thinks, that nothing in nature is so eligible as self interest, though purchased at the price of a lasting war, the blood and treasure of his fellow subjects, and the weal of his native country.

P. 68. "This is a misfortune, which free assemblies, and popular or mixed governments, are almost unavoidably exposed to; and it is for this reason, so few nations have ever steadily pursued, for any long time, the measures at first resolved on, were they never so right and just; and it is for the same reason that a single power seldom fails at long run to be too hard for a confederacy." A very good argument for this war; a good overture and warning, to make a general for life. It is an excellent panegyrick upon arbitrary power; at this rate, the French king is sure to get the better at last. This preacher must certainly be an admirable judge of popular assemblies, by living in an army. Such poor writers get a rote and commonplace of talking by reading pamphlets, and from thence presume to make general observations upon government, and set up for statesmen. If the duke of Marlborough be Moses, what promised land is he bringing us to, unless this sermon be preached only to the Dutch? He may have promised them land, and they him something else, and both been as good as their words. In his allegory of the people brought out of Egypt, does the doctor mean our army? The parallel must then be drawn to make the war last forty years, or else it can be no parallel: we may easily see how near the comparison grows. Moses was accused by certain Israelites; "Is it a small thing," say they, "that thou hast brought us out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?" Hath the duke of Marlborough been suspected of any such design? Moses was wroth, and said unto the Lord, "Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them[3]." And to the same purpose Samuel, "Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes with? and I will restore it you[4]!" Does the British Moses speak thus to the people? is there any sort of agreement between them? Nor are we sure of God's commands to go up against the Amorites, p. 69, as the Israelites were; and we have fifty times more reason to murmur. They were carried from the wilderness, "into a land flowing with milk and honey;" we from such a land into the wilderness, that is poverty and misery, and are like to be kept in the wilderness till this generation and the next too are consumed, by mortgages, anticipations, &c.

P. 71. Where the doctor says, "the country itself was much too narrow for them," he must certainly mean the Dutch, who never think their frontiers can be too much extended.

The doctor tells us, p. 72, "The justice and necessity of our cause is little short of the force of a command." Did God command to fight, because the chaplain general will have no peace? He asks, "what is bidding us go on, if our successes are not?" At this rate, whenever any new success is gained, or a town taken, no peace must be made. The whole exhortation against peace, which follows, is very proper for the chaplain of an army; it looks like another Essay of the Management of the War. "These successes have generally been so much wanted and so little expected." If we have been ten years at this vast expense getting successes that we could not expect, we were mad to begin this war, which hath ruined us with all this success. But why this acclamation? is taking one small town such great success as points out to us the finger of God? Who is his God? I believe the general has no little share in his thoughts, as well as the present ministry, though upon a quite different consideration. " The clouds have never this war thickened more or looked blacker than this year: things looked so black on every side, as not to leave us the faintest glimpse of light. We apprehended nothing less than the dissolution of the alliance." Whatever the doctor may be for a preacher, he has proved but an indifferent prophet. The general and army may be obliged to him for the dissipation of these clouds, though the ministry are not. Were they the cause that such clouds gathered, "as made him fear an universal storm, which could no way be fenced against? To hear him run on in praise of the wonders of this campaign, one would scarce believe he were speaking to those very persons who had formerly gained such memorable victories, and taken towns of so much greater importance than Bouchain. Had the French no lines before? I thought Mons, Lisle, &c, had been once esteemed considerable places. But this is his youngest child: he does like most mothers, when they are past the hopes of more; they dote upon the youngest, though not so healthy nor praiseworthy as the rest of the brethren. Is it our fault, that "three of the princes in alliance with us resolve to call their troops?" p. 76. We brought our quotas, if our allies did not. By whose indulgence was it, that some of them have not been pressed more closely upon that head, or rather have been left to do as they please? It is no matter how hard a bargain people pretend to make, if they are not tied to the performance.

P. 75. "If the enemy are stronger than they were," how are we so near our great hopes, the promised land? The affectation of eloquence, which carries the doctor away by a tide of words, makes him contradict himself, and betray his own argument. Yet, by all those expressions, p. 75, we can only find, that whatever success we have, must be miraculous; he says, "we must trust to miracles for our success," which, as I take it, is to tempt God: though, p. 77, he thinks, "the most fearful cannot doubt of God's continuance." We have had miraculous success this nine years by his own account; and this year, he owns, "we should have been all undone, without a new miracle; black clouds, &c. hanging over our heads." And why may not our sins provoke God to forsake us, and bring the black clouds again? greater sins than our inconstancy! avarice, ambition, disloyalty, corruption, pride, drunkenness, gaming, profaneness, blasphemy, ignorance, and all other immoralities and irreligion! These are certainly much greater sins; and, whether found in a court or in a camp, much likelier to provoke God's anger, than inconstancy.

Ibid. "If we have not patience to wait till he has finished, by gradual steps, this great work, in such a manner as he in his infinite wisdom shall think fit." I desire the doctor would explain himself upon the business of gradual steps, whether three and twenty years longer will do, or what time he thinks the general and himself may live; I suppose, he does not desire his gradual steps should exceed their date, as fond as he seems of miracles. I believe he is willing enough they should be confined to his grace's life and his own.

What does he mean, p. 78, by the natural and moral consequences that must lead us? If those moral consequences are consequences upon our morals, they are very small. "Whatever reason there can be for putting an end to the war but a good one, was a stronger reason against beginning it." Right! so far we allow. "And yet those very reasons, that make us in so much haste to end it, show the necessity there was for entering into it." I am in mighty hope to get out of a squabble, and therefore I had reason to get into it; generally the contrary is true. "What condition should we have now been in, had we tamely let that prodigious power settle and confirm itself without dispute?" It could never settle and confirm itself but by a war.

P. 79. "Did we not go into the war in hopes of success? The greatest argument for going on with "the war is that we may have more success." According to the doctrine laid down by our author, we must never be inclined to peace till we lose a battle: every victory ought to be a motive to continue the war. Upon this principle, I suppose, a peace was refused after the battle of Ramillies.

Ibid. "How can we doubt that we shall not still succeed, or that an enemy that grows every day weaker and weaker, &c." The doctor's zeal overbears his memory: just now the enemy was stronger than ever.

P. 80. "If we consider that our strength is from God; &c." Though all men ought to trust in God; yet our Saviour tells us, we ought to regard human means: and in the point before us, we are told, "That a king going forth to war against another king, sitteth down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand; or else while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an embassage, and desireth conditions of peace[5]." Our Saviour was a preacher of peace; Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you, &c[6]." But the doctor chooseth rather to drive on furiously with Jehu. He answers to the question, "Is it peace?" as that king did to the horsemen, "What hast thou to do with peace? Get thee behind me." He saith, "Our ingratitude and impenitence may defeat the surest prospects we have." May we not ask him, whose ingratitude? As to impenitence, I think this paragraph is the only one wherein he vouchsafes, and that but very slightly, in his whole sermon, to remind the people of repentance and amendment; but leaves "a subject so little suited to a day of joy," p. 81, to encourage them to "go on to obtain the end toward which they have made so many happy steps." We differ about that end; some desire peace, others war, that so they may get money and power. It is the interest of some to be in action, others to be at rest: some people clap their finger upon one point, and say that alone can be a good peace; we say there may be many sorts of good peace, of all which we esteem the queen and ministry to be the best judges. The doctor tells us, "Our sins may force us to put an ill end to the war." He should explain what he calls an ill end; I am apt to think, he will think nothing good that puts an end to it, since he saith, "Vengeance may affect not only us, but generations yet unborn." That they have taken care of already. We have pretty well mortgaged posterity, by the expenses of this devouring war: and must we never see an end to it, till there is not an enemy left to contend with, for so our author would intimate? In what a condition must we expect to be, long before that? It is very happy for the nation, that we do not lie at the mercy of this gentleman; that his voice is not necessary toward the great end we pant after, the unloading of our burden, and the mitigation of our taxes. A just and necessary war is an ostentatious theme, and may bear being declaimed on. Let us have war; what have we to do with peace? We have beaten our enemy; let us beat him again. God has given us success; he encourages us to go on. Have we not won battles and towns, passed the lines, and taken the great Bouchain? what avails our miseries at home; a little paltry wealth, the decay of trade, increase of taxes, dearness of necessaries, expense of blood, and lives of our countrymen? are there not foreigners to supply their places? have not the loss of so many brave soldiers been offered to the legislature as a reason for calling in such numbers of poor Palatines[7], as it were to fill up the chasm of war, and atone for desolation among our subjects? If we continue thus prodigal of our blood and treasure, in a few years we shall have as little of the one as the other left; and our women, if they intend to multiply, must be reduced, like the Amazons, to go out of the land, or take them husbands at home of those wretched strangers whom our piety and charity relieved. Of the natives there will be scarce a remnant preserved; and thus the British name may be endangered once more to be lost in the German.

Were it not for fear of offending the worthy doctor, I should be tempted to compare his sermon with one that some time since made so much noise in the world[8]; but I am withheld by the consideration of its being so universally condemned, nay prosecuted, on one side. Perhaps the chaplain general will not like the parallel: there may be found the same heat, the same innuendoes, upon different subjects, though the occasion be not so pressing. What necessity was there of preaching up war to an army, who daily enrich themselves by the continuation of it? Does he not think, loyalty and obedience would have been a properer subject? To have exhorted them to a perseverance in their duty to the queen, to prepare and soften their minds, that they may receive with resignation, if not applause, whatever her majesty shall think fit to transact. The doctor, without suspicion of flattery, might very well have extolled their great actions, and congratulated with them upon the peace we are likely to enjoy; by which they will be at leisure to reap the harvest of their blood and toil, take their rest at home, and be relieved from the burden and danger of a cruel war. And as our gratitude will be ever due to them, for delivering us from our distant enemy the French, so shall we have reason to bless whoever are the authors of peace to these distressed nations, by which we may be freed from those nearer and much more formidable enemies, discontent and poverty at home.

  1. Dr. Francis Hare, bred at Eaton, was a fellow of King's College, Cambridge, where he had the tuition of the marquis of Blandford, only son to the duke of Marlborough; who appointed him chaplain general to her majesty's forces in the Low Countries. He afterward obtained first the deanery of Worcester, and then that of St. Paul's; in 1727 was advanced to the see of St. Asaph, and in 1731 translated to Chichester; which he held till his death, in 1740. "He has written three small pamphlets upon the management of the war, and the treaty of peace," says Swift, vol. III, Examiner, No. XXVIII. He was the author of "The Barrier Treaty Vindicated," and of four treatises against "The Conduct of the Allies." He was also a writer in the Bangorian controversy; and drew upon himself the severest of bishop Hoadly's treatises, under the title of "The Dean of Worcester still the same." His works were collected, in 4 volumes, 8vo, in 1746.
  2. These references are adapted to Bp. Hare's Works, vol. I.
  3. Numb. xvi, 15.
  4. 1 Sam. xii, 3.
  5. Luke xiv, 31, 32.
  6. John xiv, 27.
  7. The pernicious consequence of calling in these foreigners is described by Dr. Swift, vol. III, Examiner, No. XL, and XLIV. And in his History of the Four last Years of the Queen, vol. IV, p. 148, "the publick was a loser by every individual among them."
  8. The well known sermon of Dr. Sacheverell.