25 MARCH (PREACHED 25 MARCH 1787)
‘Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.’ Proverbs 14:34
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Proverbs 14:12–35
The usual judgement of mankind on almost every important point is so very different from the decision of Scripture, that both cannot possibly be true. National prosperity is more commonly estimated by the extent of dominion, by the success of arms in war, and the increase of riches and commerce in peace; whether righteousness flourisheth or not, is seldom taken into account. And the prevalence of sin, of infidelity, dissipation and profligacy, is deemed a small reproach compared with a diminution of power and wealth. When our fleets and armies triumphed over all resistance and spread terror and desolation to the remotest parts of the globe, and the treasures of the East began to pour in upon us with an almost boundless profusion, this nation was supposed to be highly exalted. But nothing less than the progress of righteousness and the suppression of sin can render us truly honourable or take away our reproach if the Word of God, the great Governor of the earth, be truth. And this happy change would do it, though we should lose one province and one empire after another, and we should be deprived of our boasted consequence among the nations of the earth. The sentences in the book of Proverbs are for the most part contrasted and we may therefore fix the sense of righteousness in this passage by considering it as the opposite to sin. Sin, which is the reproach of our nature, of every person, family, village, city and kingdom in which it is found, is that inward principle of the heart and that outward course of conduct which is contrary to our relation to God as his creatures and to the tenor of his revealed will. A right disposition of heart towards God and a conduct in all points regulated by the authority and rule of his Holy Word, is this righteousness which exalteth a nation, and so far is this wanting, the most powerful, opulent, civilized and enlightened empire, with all its supposed attainments, advantages and distinctions, is clearly the subject of reproach and contempt.
FOR MEDITATION: ‘I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation’ (Psalm 40:10).
SERMON: PROVERBS 14:34 [1/7] [FOR THE ANNUAL CHARITY SERMON]