When the representatives of thirteen original American colonies met together in the Continental Congress trying to devise a plan for a strong union of the states, Benjamin Franklin addressed George Washington, who was presiding: “I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live the more convincing proof I see of this truth: that God rules in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall without his notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without his aid?” The founders of this country sought to establish a “nation under God.” It used to be popular to sing: God bless America, land that I love; Stand beside her, and guide her, Through the night, with the light from above. (John Gipson)
That God has blessed America can hardly be questioned. But will God always bless America?
Three Irrefutable Truths
God does indeed rule in the affairs of men. “Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord…The Lord looketh from heaven, he beholdeth all the sons of men” and Jeremiah reminds of God’s power to “speak concerning a nation…to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it…” and of his speaking “concerning a nation…to build and to plant it” (Psa. 33:12f; Jere. 18:7ff).
Men are of limited capabilities. The best diplomacy of statesmen and the keenest judgment of rulers cannot themselves guarantee the survival of nations. The further men try to go without God the more helpless they are. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps” (Jere. 10:23).
Righteousness is a nation’s hope for survival. “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
The trend in America is away from belief in a Supreme Being.
State and secular colleges and universities teach atheistic infidelity in many departments. Amazingly, this is also the case of many religious institutions. The wide spread teaching of evolution as if it were scientific fact is undermining trust in the Scriptures among an entire generation.
The United States Constitution mentions the “Supreme Being” four times. No doubt, however, if it were being written now such references would be omitted. As a public document, if it were not itself the Constitution, the courts would declare such references as “unconstitutional.”
Patrick Henry, the American patriot who is famous for saying, “Give me liberty or give me death,” also said: “It is impossible that a nation of infidels should be a nation of free men; it is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.” Those Communist governments, which have a national policy against religion, make slaves of their people.
The trend away from belief in God fuels the growing emphasis on materialism to the exclusion of spiritual values. Worldly wisdom assumes that if there is no God, no judgment, no heaven or hell, all that matters are the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life.” Is it not a great irony that a nation that stamps “In God we trust” on its money in reality stamps “in money we trust” on its heart. Theodore Roosevelt warned: “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”
Another writer has observed that, by and large, the objectives of America today are success, status, and security, followed closely by self-indulgence, pleasure, and comfort.
This is to the neglect of spiritual values. Paul wrote of those who are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4), and of those who “seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s” (Phi. 1:21). Will God always bless a people who covet more of His goodness while ignoring moral and spiritual responsibility?
Freedom and Duty
The freedom of the citizenry is a precious heritage and ought to be used as the freedom to do what is right. Today freedom is widely interpreted to mean license to almost anything without regard for what is right, leading to excesses of sensuality. The liberty our forefathers intended was not a casting away of moral restraint, but that is how it has come to be interpreted.
“Choice” has become the rallying cry for hateful abominations. Millions of infants are slaughtered on the altar of “a woman’s right to choose.” The blood of innocents drips from the hands of abortionists, while courts and congress and society are complicate in the crime. A “right” granted by courts and Congress does not make wrong right!
We do hear voices of national concern over such things as alcohol, illicit sex, and drug abuse, but the emphasis seems more for health concerns. Moral implications are largely ignored. It is right, certainly, to be alarmed about harm to the mind and body, but should it not also be urgent to guard the soul?
Arnold Toynbee, the famous historian, said, “Of the twenty-one civilizations fallen, eighteen of them have fallen by the time their moral standards had reached those of America today.”
Where is a nation’s strength? It is not in the size of its armies. Joab reminded David of this when the king decided to number (measure the strength) of his people (2 Sam. 24:2f). It is not in the strength of its weapons. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
It is not in its prosperity and resources. “The Lord maketh poor, maketh rich: he bringeth low and lifteth up” (1 Sam. 2:7).
It is not in scientific achievement. Someone said recently that unless the United States gives greater prestige to science we might as well “write this country off the books.” But if science is all we have to trust in, this country is already “off the books.”
It is not alone in our freedom. Our free choices can either save us or destroy us. Only when freedom chooses to do right is there strength in freedom.
What, then, is a nation’s strength? The right kind of people is the greatest strength a nation can have. “Righteousness exalteth a nation…” The Frenchman de Toqueville is reported to have said, “America is great because she is good; when America is no longer good she will no longer be great.” Another writer said, “A nation’s greatness is found in the quotient of its goodness.” Historians have noted that most civilizations have decayed from within and that the outward manifestations of their decay were drunkenness, idleness, and immorality. Virile civilizations have been characterized by sobriety, industry, and clean moral living.
We do not understand God’s specific purpose and plans for our nation, or any other. We do not pretend to know, for example, why God allows some extremely evil powers to continue as long as they do. But we do understand that men and nations are blessed who seek the favor of their Creator.
(No originality is claimed for these observations. They are from notes from various sources that I had collected for a sermon. – David Pharr)