Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance.…
This text holds in its grasp the secret of our own national prosperity and superiority among the nations of the world — if we have such — and its teaching, if departed from by this nation, will cause our present glory to depart like the glory of ancient Rome, or Sidon, or Tyre.
I. When the text states that the nation is blessed whose God is the Lord, and when we say to you that religion is the promoter of peace and prosperity, and the only foundation for our national permanence, the infidelity of our times and your knowledge of things suggest, that THERE HAVE BEEN NATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN DESTROYED, AND THAT ARE NOW OPPRESSED BECAUSE OF THEIR RELIGION, Then let us carefully distinguish. There are many religions, but only one Christianity, and therefore we use the word religion; we use it because by general acceptation it has come to represent in our land and to our thoughts Christianity or the religion of Christ, and when we have drawn this distinction we must not forget that much that has come to the world in the name of Christianity is not of Christianity. You think of the cruelties, of the superstitions, and of the fanaticisms that are abroad in the world and doing their work in the name of religion, and you say, "These are not a blessing to the nation, these are a curse." Very true. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." While this is but another announcement that religion is the power that elevates and blesses a nation, we will not forget that men in the past have gone forth armed with the civil sword, destroying all who doubted the truth of their systems; they have placed violence before demonstration, and have sought to establish the truth of religion as a Mohammed would establish the doctrine of the Koran. Spain and France and Italy, and Scotland and England, have each and all felt the power of the sword, the axe, and the torch in the name of religion. No, this is not the religion that blesses a nation. The religion that blesses the nation is forbearing to error and heresy; it is kind and patient and gentle; its grand characteristic is benevolence and fraternal love.
II. In discussing the blessings that come to a nation by the acceptance of religion, blessings that can come through no other medium, I DO NOT MEAN TO SAY THAT THERE ARE NO INSTANCES OF THE GREAT ADVANCEMENT OF NATIONS THAT HARE NOT BEEN REGULATED BY RELIGION, Infidelity is ever ready to point us to Egypt, to Persia, to Assyria, and to Old Greece and Rome, and say, "These were all great nations, prosperous nations, without your religion." This I readily acknowledge, but a careful study of the history of these nations will show that their false religions contained some principles of rectitude in common with our holy religion, and in the practice of these principles great prosperity came to them and continued with them until they departed from those principles; then did their power and their glory depart from them. Would you know the secret of Egypt's glory for ages and ages? "The father of history" tolls us that such was the spirit of benevolence in Egypt that he who refused to assist the suffering when he had it in his power to do so was punished with death. When an Egyptian died a session was called to inquire how he had spent his life, so that true merit should have its full mead of public praise, and that all due respect might be paid to his memory. Her amusements were ordered for the strengthening of the bodies and the improvement of the minds of her subjects. Her proverbs called life a vanity, the homes of her people inns, in which they served to lodge for a night, and their sepulchres habitations in which they were to abide for ages. DO you wonder that Egypt became great? In Persia a falsehood — even a political falsehood — was considered in the most horrid light, and a liar was looked upon as the meanest and most disgraceful of men. Persia conferred favours on the nations she conquered, and left them to enjoy all the emblems of their former grandeur. She educated her children so wisely that they were taught virtue even as other children were taught letters, and grief was prohibited for such youths as were of sufficient strength and had reached proper years and yet died uneducated. Do you wonder that Persia became great? Rome in her best days bent all her energies for the general good, so that the best of everything was reserved for the public — temples, baths, highways, aqueducts — all looked toward the nation's good and the nation's glory, and were the most magnificent, while all things for the use of the individual citizen were plain and unpretentious. "A citizen, of Rome who would present any product of the soil for sale that proved inferior to what he commended it to be, said citizen would lose his credit in all the marts in Rome and would lay himself liable to be whipped in the marketplace." And this law that applied to the products of the soil applied equally to all branches of trade. The motto was, "No citizen of Rome must in any way wrong his brother citizen." Do you wonder that Rome became great? It will be seen that those nations, though they did not make the Lord their God, and though they were nations with false religions, yet those false religions did contain some principles of righteousness in common with our holy religion, and these principles were the fountains of their success.
III. THERE ARE SUPPOSED BLESSINGS, AND THERE IS A SHRINE OF DESIRED PROSPERITY THAT IS BETTER PROMOTED WITHOUT THAN WITH THE RELIGION MY TEXT COMMENDS. There are instances in which state crimes have been successful, and have been made the steps to worldly glory. There have been times when virtue was considered an obstacle to grandeur, when worldly heroes were exalted and tyrants were elevated; instances when wanton and arbitrary power marched with burning torch across the world and demanded of the peoples submission to a yoke of slavery that made them inferior to the beasts of the field. If such nations, such peoples, such rulers may be called blessed and prospered, they were obliged to ride over every principle of our holy religion to clasp that prosperity.
IV. THE REASONS WHY THAT NATION IS BLESSED WHOSE GOD IS THE LORD WILL READILY APPEAR WHEN WE CONSIDER THE PRINCIPLES ON WHICH THE PEACE AND PROSPERITY OF SOCIETY IS BUILDED. IS it necessary that the good of the many should be prepared before the interests of the few, and where private interests clash with the public good, the public good should prevail? Is it necessary for the peace and prosperity of society that all the members of that society shall consider themselves naturally equal before the law, and that, without regard to country or colour, each shall receive the succour and protection that the law affords? Is it necessary that there should be sincerity between man and man lest deceit should serve for a veil to conceal the evil doings of the wicked from the eyes of the just? Is it necessary for the highest and best good of society that each member cultivate to the utmost his own talents and then seek to use those talents for the general good of the whole society? Then what shall so inculcate these principles as the religion my text commends?
V. If we consider the various forms of government we shall find that EACH NATION WILL BE HAPPY OR MISERABLE IN ITS OWN MODE OF GOVERNING ACCORDING AS IT SHALL HAVE ACCEPTED OR REJECTED THE PRINCIPLES OF RELIGION. It requires more than a form of government; more than extensive territories; more than millions of population to make a strong, blessed and a happy nation. Some nations have committed the supreme power to one whom they call a monarch. Other nations have committed the supreme power to a few magistrates, senators or nobles. Other nations have committed or distributed the supreme power among all the members of society, and they talk of a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." Each of these forms of government have their excellencies and their weaknesses; but each of them are a blessing or a curse in proportion as they accept or reject the principles of our holy religion.
VI. WHATEVER ENTERS INTO AND CONSTITUTES THE BLESSING AND PROSPERITY OF A NATION IS CULTIVATED BY OUR HOLY RELIGION. Commerce will flourish, because the principles of religion hold back the man of business from rash speculations, which ruin families and destroy whole communities, and, in a wider application, bring to a whole nation what is known as "hard times." The men of business will possess such characters for truth-speaking and truth-dealing that general credit and confidence will be established, without which such a thing as commercial prosperity is Dot known. The mechanical arts will flourish, forasmuch as those who are prompted by religion will seek to improve all inventive genius for the welfare of the general public. All agricultural interests will flourish, and all mechanical appliances will lend arms of strength and hands of skill to the tillers of the soil, and the products of the soil will be all the richer, and the harvests all the more plenteous among that people who acknowledge that "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." All the liberal arts and sciences will flourish, and all their blessings will be poured out upon the nation whose God is the Lord. Rhetoric will find its inspiration in the burning Words and thoughts of prophet and psalmist. Painting will find inspiration in Moses' mountain view, in angelic visitors, in the judgment day, when assembled worlds will be gathered at the call of the King Eternal; and on the Mount of Transfiguration, where heavenly visitors talk with Jesus, and enraptured disciples desire to tarry. Sculpture will find inspiration in Moses, and it will breathe such life into the marble that Angelo's "Dead Christ" will make all beholders weep. Music will find inspiration in the subject of Creation, and of Elijah and of the Messiah. Haydn so sings to us of Creation that we are startled by the marching forth of worlds "when God says let there be worlds and there were worlds." Mendelssohn so sings to us of Elijah that we hear the rumble of the chariot of fire, and the clatter of the hoofs of the horses of fire, as up the way of light the deathless prophet is borne to the city of God. Handel so sings to us of the Messiah, of His sufferings and of His death, that the heart feels indeed that "He was bruised for cur iniquities," etc. If success in commerce, in the mechanical arts, in agriculture, and in the liberal arts and sciences constitute a nation blessed, then are the nations blessed whose God is the Lord.
(W. Fawcett, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.