Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).
This proverb is verified in the whole history of the nation of Israel, and in those promises and threatenings that received their fulfillment in the events which befell them.
Some allege, that God dispenses no rewards and punishments to the nations, but such as are the native consequences of their behavior, without any particular direction of providence, from a regard to their good or bad conduct; and that the history of the things that befell Israel as a nation, affords no example unto nations that are not under the Mosaic covenant. But, besides that Providence has affixed prosperity or misery to virtue or vice, as their natural consequences, we find God punishing many nations on account of their sins, by calamities that were not the native results of their sins. The histories of Genesis, and Exodus, and Joshua, and the predictions of all the prophets concerning the heathen nations, might be quoted in proof of this point: and even under the New Testament, we find prophecies of the miseries that would come upon public bodies for their sins*.
Great is the regard which a righteous God has for righteousness. The virtue even of heathen nations has been rewarded with prosperity, and their vices have brought reproach and ruin on them. Righteousness, such as heathens could practice, made Greece and Rome to flourish, and exalted them to glory. But the last of these nations, after it was advanced to the highest pitch of worldly grandeur, was soon brought to extreme misery, and debased to the most wretched servitude, when corruption and wickedness, in opposition to the dictates of natural light, was become common in it. Let us all, therefore, if we love our country, oppose wickedness to the utmost of our power, for a remnant of righteous persons may sometimes prove for a time the pillars of a land*.
It is the interest of kings to promote righteousness, and to discourage iniquity among their subjects; and this they will do, if they deserve that noble title.
*Matt. xxii. 1.—7. Rev. viii. 21
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).
If it be not beneath statesmen to take lessons from the Bible, let them deeply ponder this sound political maxim, which commends itself to every instinct of the unsophisticated mind; Indeed it would be a strange anomaly in the Divine administration, if the connection between godliness and prosperity, ungodliness and misery, established in individual cases, should not obtain in the multiplication of individuals into nations. The Scripture records however–confirmed by the result of impartial and extended observation—clearly prove this to be the rule of national, no less than of personal, dispensation. The annals of the chosen people, as they were a righteous or sinful nation, are marked by corresponding exaltation or reproach. Not the wisdom of policy, extent of empire, splendid conquests, flourishing trade, abundant resources—but righteousness—exalteth a nation. It is both ‘he prop to make it subsist firm in itself, and a crown to render it glorious in the eyes of others.’
Greece in her proud science; Rome in the zenith of her glory—both were sunk in the lowest depths of moral degradation. Their true greatness existed only in the visions of poesy, or the dream of philosophy. Contrast the influence of righteousness, bringing out of the most debased barbarism a community, impregnated with all the high principles, that form a nation’s well-being.§
…But sin is a reproach to any people. No nation is so low, as not to sink low under it; while to the mightiest people, it is a blot in their escutcheon, that no worldly glory can efface. What an enemy is an ungodly man to his country! Loudly as he may talk of his patriotism, and even though God should make him an instrument of advancing her temporal interest; yet he contributes, so far as in him lies, to her deepest reproach.
§ The Missionary Records of New Zealand and the South Sea furnish ample proof of