« PreviousContinue »
JOSHUA Xxiv. 15.
"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
SUCH was the exhortation which the valiant and patriotic Joshua addressed to the assembled congregation of Israel, he being at that time well "stricken in age," and about to go the way of all flesh. He therefore calls for them in their families and tribes, the warriors of Israel, the mean and the noble, and recounts unto them all the singular and great mercies which God had vouchsafed unto them.
* This Sermon was preached on the first Sunday in the year.
They had witnessed the power, they had partaken of the marvellous lovingkindness of the Lord, and therefore were they to feel, and to be deeply and individually interested in the alternative which was here so plainly laid before them. They were to become well persuaded of the necessity of making a right choice, of making a noble and holy resolve to serve the
We do not find that the people at that moment were inclined to dispute or cavil at the grounds upon which their grateful obedience was demanded. The circumstances under which they were placed, the knowledge that he who was now speaking to them was probably addressing them for the last time, conjointly conspired to render them open to conviction, and their hearts were evidently softened; and the spirit of turbulence and discontent, of misrule and worldly selfishness, was hushed; and the gallant and victorious bands of Israel stood forth as one
man to answer to the appeal of their great captain, and to declare, solemnly and unanimously to declare, "The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.”1 A noble and a glorious determination this, my brethren; a resolution every way fitting and becoming a christian people, and which, as we would prosper, as we would not be utterly cast off by the Lord in displeasure, we must be prepared this day ourselves to make. Joshua, in this his admirable address, calls on his countrymen to make a choice. They were to choose whose servants they would be. In too many instances they had chosen the evil way. Too often had they shown themselves a faithless and stubborn generation, a set of men little deserving the tender regard, the pitying forbearance, so long in exercise towards them from the Lord. Nevertheless, they had been preserved; the good of all the land was now set before them; and now were they solemnly ad
1 Josh. xxiv. 24.
jured to decide, as became them, in regard to their future conduct.
It will not be unwise in us, my brethren, to place ourselves here in like manner before God, to consider well the choice which we on this very day are called upon to make, and to see the vast and important interests which may hang on the wisdom of a right choice; whether our determination be still to go after the gods of this world, or to resolve with the heroic Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua's countrymen had long been signal instances of that merciful forbearance and lovingkindness which the Almighty hath ever exercised towards the children of men. And what our faith, my brethren, what our knowledge, if we own not, and feel not, that to us also "the Lord is gracious and merciful, long-suffering, and of great goodness"? If, my brethren, we believe the truth of the Gospel, we must know
2 Psalm cxlv. 8.
that therein are plainly set before us life and death, and good and evil. We must know, our own hearts must plainly tell us, that it is not through ignorance of what is right, or of what is for our interest, that we so often do what is wrong. No, the melancholy fact is, that we too often sin with our eyes open. We know the better way, but we will not exercise our better judgment; we will not summon up resolution enough to follow and adhere to this good way. And this is the more shameful and disgraceful, because that, in the greater number of instances of our yielding to temptation, and falling into sin, the provocation thereto is contemptible, the gratification very doubtful, the worldly profit small indeed, if any. Against those crimes which are of crimson hue and foul atrocity, the voice of society, outwardly Christian, and not yet wholly given up to atheism and profligacy, may deter us and our own consciences likewise, not yet" seared with a hot iron,"