George Washington, in his farewell address to the nation in 1796, constructed his encouragements to the American people on the basis of virtue. Only a virtuous people, Washington believed, could cause the American experiment to succeed among the family of nations. Virtue, for Washington, could only occur through the twin pillars of religion and morality. He stated:
“Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?”
Washington was no fool. He understood that the guiding hand of Providence [God] was necessary to the flourishing of a free and happy people. Indeed, as the ancient psalmist said, “Only a fool would say, ‘There is no God!’ People like that are worthless; they are heartless and cruel and never do right.” Whatever Washington’s true personal sensibilities were about theology, he did believe that belief in God along with the Scripture’s moral guidance were needed for a fledgling nation. The people’s ability to recognize and engraft religion into their lives would be a must for America.
Becoming untethered from God leads to vice; enjoining God and following him leads to virtue. It is not wise to ignore the God of all creation. But through daily attentiveness and devotion to the Lord, moral and ethical ways can take root and produce justice, reconciliation, and peace.
Sovereign God, you rule the nations through your wise and benevolent reign. Help me to participate with you in your grand kingdom enterprise so that I can make decisions consistent with true morality, for the sake of Jesus. Amen.