Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
I. STATE THE QUESTION CLEARLY. By religion, as exalting a nation, is not meant either the religion of a cruel man, a superstitious person, or an enthusiast. Religion and righteousness must be taken in the true sense of the terms. It is not affirmed that the true religion is so necessary in all its doctrines, and in all the extent of its precepts, that there are no instances of the flourishing of societies which have not been wholly regulated by it. We only affirm that the most sure method that a nation can take to support and exalt itself, is to follow the laws of righteousness and the spirit of religion. It is not affirmed that in every particular case religion is more successful in procuring some temporal advantages than violation of it. We only affirm generally, that the more a society practises virtue, the more prosperity win it enjoy. By "exaltation" is not meant that sort of elevation to which worldly heroes aspire. If we understand by "exalting a nation," whatever governs with gentleness, negotiates with success, attacks with courage, defends with resolution, and constitutes the happiness of a people, then a nation is only exalted by righteousness. It is not affirmed that the prosperity of such a nation would be so perfect as to exclude all untoward circumstances. An argument against us is taken from the abuses which religion has caused in society. This is removed by taking away false ideas of religion. Another objection is taken from the case of some idolatrous nations, that have arrived at a great height of worldly glory. A third from some particular instance in which vice has proved of more advantage to a state than virtue. A fourth from extravagant notions of glory. A fifth from the evils which the most virtuous societies suffer.
II. SHOW THE GROUND OF THE MAXIM OF THE WISE MAN. Open six sources of reflections.
1. The idea of society in general.
2. The constitution of each government in particular.
3. The nature of arts and sciences.
4. The conduct of Providence.
5. The promises of God Himself.
6. The history of all ages.
Parallel VersesKJV: Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.