And if it seem evil to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve…
From the tone of these words we see that they are not the voice of one man only. There is about them a concerted determination, they bear evidence of deliberation having been had, and a combined resolution come to. There is something even of triumphant union about them, something of a challenge to Israel to look and see whether they of whom they are said did not fulfil them by serving the Lord. Every member of a household, whether among children or domestics, has a place assigned by God and a solemn account to render to Him. I will touch on this portion of our subject — the duties of the members of a household, and their reflection on those who are set at the head of it. If I were to ask what is the first duty of a child to a parent the answer would be one and uniform. All would say, obedience. Yet is this quite understood? At all events, is it generally acted on? What I understand by obedience being the first duty of young persons to their parents is this — that, irrespective of all concurrence of their own individual approval with what is ordered, there is a sacredness about a parent's word, because it is so, which ensures prompt and ready compliance. I would say, then, to my young friends, guard carefully and with all diligence this your chief jewel and treasure — constant and scrupulous obedience. It is the bloom of your whole character. Nothing becomes you so well — nothing contains so great promise for your future days. It is a link which, between a loving and wise parent and a Christian child, is never dissolved; and I know of no sight so pleasing as to see men and women, moving in life and filling important posts which God has assigned them, and yet with reverence and affection retaining the pious habits of childhood and youth — observing the wishes and ruling themselves by the guidance of an aged parent. I am sure I need not remind ourselves who are parents how very solemn is the position of one who is thus to be obeyed — how necessary the wisdom which is from above to guide us in guiding them. I need not say how much love, how much consistency, how much temper is required to lead up and train this sacred principle of obedience, so that it be not relaxed on the one hand nor overstrained on the other. Before I pass on to the other great division of the members of a family, let me say a word to young persons as to the direct subject of the resolution in our text — the service of the Lord. You will some day know and feel, on looking back over these first years of life, that it is the memory of the service of God which constitutes the real charm of your recollections of home. And if it is but fitting to say something of those others who dwell under the roof of a household to minister to their wants, I would say to the servants in our households, Your gracious Father in heaven has called you out of your own country and from your own father's house, and He has caused you to be adopted into other families, of a rank and situation in life different from your own. If you are His servants your position is one full of interest, and full of honour. He has put you in reach of many blessings, both temporal and spiritual, to which others of your family have not access. And more especially is this so ii your lot is cast in a household where God is feared and served. But as the servant's life is one of much and undoubted privilege for good, so is it one of enormous temptation to evil. There is no class of persons in our days the contemplation of whom more fills the Christian mind with sadness, or suggests more forcibly the frightful account which the votaries of fashion and pleasure will one day have to give. How many souls have the ungodly heads of a household helped to ruin, or been the means of ruining altogether? God sent to them, to be kept and influenced for Him, dependents whose souls were as valuable as their own; whose account before Him will be as solemn, their condemnation or justification as final, as theirs. They came to them from the Sunday school and the village pastor's instructions; they came with the Bible which was to be the guide of their lives, with the prayer which had been the practice of their childhood, with the resolution which the last communion prompted and the mother's parting words urged forward. Where are those Bibles now? What is become of that daily prayer? Where, but under your roof, and with your sanction, was that resolution laughed to scorn? Who made it impossible for them to keep up those monthly communions? If you have in your family and before your dependents denied Christ, He also will deny you. And let servants themselves remember that no circumstances can excuse them in unfaithfulness to Him whom they have once learned to know and to serve; that on themselves the ultimate burden must rest, and the final condemnation come, if they allow themselves to be laughed or tempted out of Christian habits of life. I would willingly think, too, that I am speaking to some of this class whose lot God has mercifully east in families such as that in our text, where their souls are cared for, and their moral and spiritual welfare attended to. Then I say to you, Blessed indeed is your lot, and great in proportion will be your accountableness.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh."