Righteousness Exalteth a Nation
By Amos Berve
(Reprinted from “The Saints’ Herald,” August 20, 1938)
Editor’s Note: with the seemingly constant discussion and/or argument over the recent years whether or not the United States is any longer a Christian nation, and at the urging of recent counsel given to the Remnant Church through revelation regarding the “political upheaval, and economic adversity, decline in morality, and even natural calamities,” which have been prophesied are at our door, perhaps it is timely to reflect upon this article penned by Brother Berve many years ago. While somewhat dated, it provides a glimpse into the thoughts of our early heritage faith and the urging of the author for the Saints to give duitful thought to what truly can make a nation righteous.)
“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34
By righteousness is meant general moral integrity, the sum of such private and social virtue as truth, purity, honesty and brotherly love. In what ways does such righteousness exalt a nation?
In promotes its material prosperity. Such prosperity grows out of a complex conbination of conditions, such as rich resources and a vigorous race of intelligent people; but the main root of such prosperity is moral integrity. The simple process of production or exchange rests upon the honesty of those engaged in it. The relation of employer and employee or of seller and buyer is vitiated and may be wrecked if one or the other party in any degree lies or cheats. Men trust one another at a thousand points in these relations, and if such trust were weakened or rendered impossible our whole undustrial system would go to pieces. The first and greatest word in business is not capital and labor, or profits and wages, but truth, that trust which is the common ground on which all men can stand and do business together. It is such truth that makes our banks safe, that guarantees every contract, and assures the workman of his wages. The slight impairment of this trust makes capital hesitate, and a deep shock to it, precipitates a panic. But when this trust is universal and strong, business grows rapidly and ever larger wealth is produced.
A second way in which “righteousness exalteth a nation” is in promoting its social solidarity. One of the greatest dangers that can befall any country is for its people to become separated and crystalized into social classes. We see the local outcome of this system in the castes of India that separate society into horizontal layers that are each impervious to the other. Two of the most deadly of these class divisions are the rich and the poor. Get all the rich people into one class and all the poor people into another, and then get these two classes to hating each other, and that country is ready to blow up in terrible explosion like the French Revolution.
The welfare of a country depends on the nobility of its people, moving feely among themselves like the drops of water in the ocean in which the lowest drop can rise and float and flash on the crest of the topmost wave. We have largely been saved from class division by reason of our complex origin and over democratic ideals and development. But such democratic ideals rest at the bottom on moral principles, especially on the worth of men and brotherhood of men. Righteousness asserts and practices these principles, it declares and defends the equal rights of all men before the law, and strives to give each one free and full opportunities. It puts up the bars against class privileges, and strives to keep the field of life open to all. Especially does it seek to maintain relations of sympathy and brotherhood among all classes and knit them into unity.
We have succeded in an unusual degree in maintaining this social solidarity. Yet there are some unwelcome signs of social divisions. The rich are withdrawing themselves into their own society and flaunting their wealth, and the laboring classes show signs of class consciousness. We need to guard against the development of such division and crystallization by insisting on the righteousness that gives to every man justice, and emphasized our common brotherhood. Only in such unity can we have strength and endure.
United we stand, divided we fall.
Righteousness exalts a nation by promoting the higher life of the spirit. The body acts upon us with the persistent power of gravitation to drag us down into the life of flesh.
Wealth is often a weight added to this gravitation so that the richer an individual becomes the more sudden and deeper may be his fall into vice. The same danger besets a nation and history is full of warning. Rome poor ruled the world; but Rome rich grew corrupt and fell.
The main standard that measures a nation is not its resources or wealth or material greatness but the character of its people. Character it that diamond that scratches every stone, the mark and measure of all worth.
Righteousness produces character of the highest type. It puts the emphasis on the moral and spiritual side of life and uses all things only as soil to grow this finest blossom and fruit.
It asserts the fundamental and eternal worth of a man independently of his circumstances and makes his worth consistent in his soul and spirit. All righteousness, while it may begin as mere moral integrity, yet cannot confine itself to his world, but overleaps the horizon into the eternities. It thus links man with God and makes him live a divine life, doing all eartly things in celestial ways.
Such a principal exalts a nation above the level of this world, and clothes us with some of the greatness of God. Such a nation will stand the stress and storm of such internal troubles as befall every people. And such a nation will be as strong abroad as it is at home. International influence is measured in some degree by wealth and warships, but in a great degree by the righteousness that marks a nation in all ways.
The place we need to put intenser emphasis in this country is not on bigger warships or on greater wealth, but on increased righteousness – righteousness in public life, righteousness in business, righteousness in the home, righteousness in private character. Only such is true patriotism, and will exalt us as a nation.
Righteousness must begin with the single unit from the individual to the group. And one of the greatest and most dynamic in its influence towards a righteous nation, is a righteous home. So may God help you all to start the day righteously, doing right all the day through.