What is Necessary to Constitute a Great Nation?10 min read

by Jillian Diffenderfer
What is Necessary to Constitute a Great Nation?<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">10</span> min read</span>
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This day of Independence, July 4, 2020, let us look to the wisdom of Reverend Abiel Abbot, a graduate of Harvard University, as we celebrate our great country and the liberty we’ve been given. Reverend Abbot’s discourse, given 221 years ago, conveys wisdom and understanding still relevant to our country today.  Given just 23 years after America gained her independence, Americans were fighting against some of the same forces which plague our nation today. Read the following excerpts* from Abbot’s discourse below to discover more about the issues threatening American freedom and see how the wise Reverend believed the danger would be thwarted.

*bold markings are ours.

A discourse, delivered at North-Coventry, July 4th, 1799.

The twenty-third anniversary of American independence by Abiel Abbot, 1765-1859.

THIS joyful anniversary and the aspect of this assembly promise me a candid attention, while I endeavor to show what is necessary to constitute a great nation, point out some alarming signs of danger to our national greatness and glory, and call upon you to avert these impending evils.

Of this propitious and unprecedented opportunity the enlightened people of this country appear to have reaped the highest advantage. The individual states have constitutions on the most liberal principles, which secure the most precious rights and privileges of every citizen, without any unreasonable restraint. Elections are frequent, which gives the people opportunity to displace those who are either unqualified or unfaithful, and to promote to office the wise and honest. If the people are faithful to themselves in the exercise of their privileges, their rights and liberties will remain on an unshaken foundation.

Our rights and liberties derive a greater and higher support and security from the constitution of the United States. By the union which is formed between the several states, each state participates the power and privileges of all the others; and thus an energy is given to the separate parts, as well as to the combined whole of this great republic. The federal government is as truly the government of our own formation, as that of this or any other state in the union. It was framed and adopted by “the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.” These patriotic and glorious designs have been effected in a degree beyond the calculation of its most sanguine admirers. This government effectually preserves the rights, while it secures the order and prosperity of the citizens. Where any right is given up, the individual receives an hundred fold in the protection of his person, property, and other privileges.

Nothing then is wanted in the forms of our government to make us a great and happy nation. “If we,” says our worthy President, “compare the constitutions of other nations with those of the United States of America, we shall have no reason to blush for our country; on the contrary, we shall feel the strongest motives to fall upon our knees, in gratitude to heaven, for having been graciously pleased to give us birth and education in that country, and for having destined us to live under her laws.”

But unavailable will prove a temperate climate, extensive and productive territory, and good forms of civil government to national greatness and happiness, unless accompanied with a sense of moral and religious obligation. By the greatness of a nation we may understand its strength, its order, and the result of these, its happiness. All this is expressed in one word, religion. Religion promotes union and confidence, and thus gives strength to a nation. It attaches the people to the government, and the government to the people. This union and mutual confidence of public and private characters is the most formidable position, which a nation can take to face her enemies. A sense of moral obligation is highly conducive to success in all the operations of a good government. Men thus influenced will be faithful to their trust and discharge with punctuality and energy the duties of their office. Religion will make good rulers and good citizens. Such rulers and such citizens strike terror into their enemies. There is no access to them, but through the path of honor. Religion is the strength of a people more sure than this; it secures the protection of the God of armies. That people is invulnerable, which is so protected; the fortress is impregnable, which is so defended.

Religion promotes union and confidence, and thus gives strength to a nation. It attaches the people to the government, and the government to the people. Click To Tweet

An essential requisite to national greatness and glory is good order. And good order is but the political name for religion. Wherever religion spreads an universal influence through society, there is nothing out of place; there is no crowding for the highest seats. It teaches each one to think others better than himself, and to wait unambitious, till he is bidden to go up higher. Religion lays such salutary restraints, as, if respected, there is no encroachment upon property, nor upon liberty. One neighbor seeks the good of another, and there is a lively circulation of love and kindness through the community. Religion must therefore be the happiness of a people; it cannot fail of this consequence; for when there is security against enemies abroad, and order, love and harmony at home, crowned with the gracious smile of heaven nothing is wanted to complete the picture of national felicity. Righteousness exalteth a nation. That religion sacredly regarded is essential to the prosperous existence of a nation is witnessed from the experience of all ages. The states of Greece flourished, till a sense of moral obligation was weakened, and the way opened for the corrupting and successful influence of the gold of Philip. Rome was powerful and prosperous till the poison of Epicurean sentiments pervaded the nation; and then she became a nursery of corruption and crimes, and an easy prey to her enemies. Thus religion will prove the strength, order and happiness of a people. And no religion has been so favorably calculated for the rectitude, support and comfort of the individual, or for the order, improvement and honor of society, as the Christian. This maintained in its purity will effectually promote the prosperity of a nation.

Thus religion will prove the strength, order and happiness of a people. No religion has been so favorably calculated for the support & comfort of the individual, the order, improvement & honor of society as the Christian. Click To Tweet

We, my friends, enjoy the privileges of this religion, and may derive unspeakable advantages from complying with its duties. The pure streams of truth may flow to us from this fountain, and purify our hearts and refresh us in the journey of life. No religious privileges for the promotion of individual or national rectitude, improvement, glory and happiness, can be found on the globe superior to what we enjoy.

Neglect of the institutions of religion evidently indicates that its obligations are not duly felt, nor its duties performed. It shows a coldness to the gospel and its glorious Author, and leads to a general neglect of moral obligations. It is too manifest that neglect of religious institutions is too prevalent, and is truly alarming.

Growing laxness of sentiments and morals may be mentioned as a subject of alarm. Innovation and reform, a prostituted word, are the order of the day; and people are as desirous of licentiousness in religion, as in government. They will have a religion all reward and no punishment, as well as a government all protection, and no energy or expense. Indeed the religion of the present day is made to appear much like its politics. A party uncandid spirit is mixed with both of them; and thus is waxen cold brotherly love, that cement which binds in a sweet and safe union both citizens and Christians. This laxness of sentiments, this breach of love, and spirit of party and intrigue carry a threatening aspect to the greatness and glory of our country.

I have mentioned causes enough for the decline and fall of our country, if they be not checked; but I have yet to mention what fills many thoughtful and judicious people with the deepest apprehension. These vices of profaneness, this breach of the sabbath, this neglect of religious institutions, this defect of love and charity, are apt enough to thrive in any society, and at any time. But to what height will they grow, when fostered by the hand of revolutionary and atheistical men? This I firmly believe is the danger, is the fate of our country at this moment. I would spare party and politics, till I see the ark of God, and my country in danger; then to be silent would be infidelity to my trust, especially on this occasion. The moment is come, when in our country, and in every Christian one, politics and religion are blended. The dagger is aimed at our government through our religion.

A bolder and more fatal blow has been aimed at the religious principles of the nation. Corrupt the mass of people, and the corruption of the government follows of course. There is not a surer policy to ruin a nation, than this.

…Let the celebration of this anniversary remind us of the worth of our independence and national privileges, and impress our minds with the importance of using all means and of grudging no expense to preserve them. Though we love peace, let us be prepared for war, and at the call of our country gird on the harness, and manfully defend our altars and our government. May God disperse the clouds, which now obscure our political horizon, and cause our national greatness, glory and happiness to become as clear and resplendent as the noonday.

Closing Thoughts for Our Nation, July 4th, 2020

Just as Reverend Abbot was concerned about the neglect of the Christian religion in America in 1799, we too pray for American citizens to discover the freedom that comes only from Christ. Recently, we wrote a blog about the Biblical account of Noah, and his experience in “quarantine” in the Ark. Since its publishing in early April, 2020, the blog has been shared around the world. The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is one of hope, a message desperately needing to be heard in today’s culture, just as it was needed in Reverend Abbot’s time.

One aspect of Dayspring Christian Academy’s mission is to remind Americans of their unique heritage of liberty that is founded on biblical principles. By referencing primary sources such as this, we can learn from those who have gone before us, relay the Gospel message of hope, and rekindle the flames of liberty across our nation.

At Dayspring Christian Academy, we are committed to raising up the next generation of Christian leaders who acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of life, demonstrate a biblical worldview, become citizens of excellence in Christian character and scholarship, and aid in the restoration of America’s biblical foundation. If you would like to learn more about Dayspring Christian Academy, please contact Karol Hasting at 717-285-2000 or visit our tours page to learn about upcoming opportunities to learn more about Dayspring using the button below.


Works Cited:

 A Discourse, Delivered At North-Coventry, July 4Th, 1799, Being The Twenty-Third Anniversary Of American Independence. / By Abiel Abbot.”. Quod.Lib.Umich.Edu, 2020, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=evans;cc=evans;view=text;idno=N26372.0001.001;rgn=div1;node=N26372.0001.001:2. Accessed 1 July 2020.